In our society, the most common images we see of human bodies are those of Photoshopped models. And this affects how we see and think about our own bodies! You may have noticed that your belly fat is kind of lopsided or uneven. Is this normal?
Uneven belly fat is not usually a cause for concern. Human bodies are not perfectly symmetrical. However, if your abdomen has a “lump,” this could be a symptom of a hernia, hematoma, cyst, tumor, or other serious conditions. Check with your physician if you’re concerned about these possibilities.
Below, I’ll explore what determines your personal fat distribution, what’s normal when it comes to uneven weight loss, and whether you should be concerned about your stomach being bigger on one side than the other!
Uneven Fat Distribution
We all have a different fat distribution.
Some of it is based on our sex: Males tend to store more fat in their lower abs and back, while females tend to store more fat in their hips and thighs.
Fat distribution also varies from individual to individual. Some men store more fat in their legs than others, for example. And it’s possible to have a predisposition for extra fat on the left or right side of your body, too.
Another big factor in where you store body fat has to do with your hormones—which, again, are mostly out of your control.
So for the most part, where you store fat on your body is out of your control. You can do your best to lose body-fat overall—but you can’t really control where your body stores the fat it has, or where it burns fat from first.
Uneven Love Handles
Another interesting cause of uneven belly fat and uneven back fat reveals itself when we ask about uneven “love handles.”
As the Muscle Master blog explains: Uneven love handles can result from one hip bone simply being higher than the other. This can result from simple issues like one of your legs being a bit longer than the other.
This can also be an issue of uneven muscle development. It could be an issue of posture, or a result of habits like driving, where your legs are used differently on a regular basis.
There’s also the potential issue of issues like scoliosis causing an unnatural curvature of your spine, raising one hip bone and “love handle” up higher than the other.
Is It Possible to Target Fat Loss to a Specific Area?
If you’ve got uneven or unsymmetrical fat distribution, you may want to correct it with “spot training.” Spot training is the idea of trying to lose belly fat by doing abdominal exercises like sit-ups, for example.
The general consensus is that spot training does not work. Instead, fat loss happens as a whole-body process.
To lose body-fat, you need to create an overall caloric deficit in your body. You need to burn morn calories than you consume. When that happens, your body will burn away your fat deposits in a specific order based mainly on your genetics.
There have been some challenges to this general wisdom—there’s some evidence that intermittent cardio exercise can specifically burn more fat from the lower body.
But overall, there’s not much evidence to support spot training or spot reduction (source). So I wouldn’t count on it working well. My advice: Accept your body’s asymmetrical quirks, and just go for a healthy, lean physique overall.
Is Uneven Weight Loss Normal?
Uneven belly fat and uneven weight loss is pretty normal, and it’s not a big concern by itself (source). Our bodies are not all perfectly symmetrical, and this is fine. We’re not all going to look just like a model when we lean down.
That said, keep reading for other signs that you may have a condition that should cause some more concern.
One Side of My Stomach Sticks Out More
If you’ve noticed that one side of your stomach is bigger, my first question would be: Is it actually due to body-fat? Or do you have an issue with a hernia, a mass or cyst, a bulging organ, or other problems underneath?
Would you describe your uneven belly as a “lump”? If so, these other explanations become a bit more likely, and it may be worth asking a physician about it.
For example, one of the tell-tale symptoms of an abdominal hernia is a bulge or lump (source). In this case, the bulge may disappear when you lie down, or it may only be noticeable when you take certain postures or poses.
If the bulge is discolored and follows from an injury, it could be from a bulge of blood under the skin. This is known as a hematoma. A normal skin-colored fatty bulge could be a benign growth called a lipoma (but these are not common on the abdomen).
A bulge on the left side of the abdomen could also be an enlarged spleen (splenomegaly). This could be caused by various infections and disorders—so best to get it checked out if you’re concerned.
If you have have other symptoms or pain, this uneven abdomen becomes a bit more concerning, as well.
You can use WebMD’s Symptom Checker to put together some symptoms you’re experiencing. Here’s their list of conditions that include a distended stomach, lump or bulge.
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Lipedema: A Condition of Uneven Fat Distribution
Can uneven fat distribution be due to a disease? Yes, in some cases!
Lipedema is actually a somewhat common condition, estimated in 11% of women (source). It often goes undiagnosed, as it’s mistaken for obesity in general. But one of the tell-tale signs is the uneven fat distribution.
Lipedema is a lymphatic disease that often results in a great accumulation of fat in the legs. But the extra fat can sometimes accumulate in other places, like the arms, instead. (source)
The signature characteristics of a lipedema patient are “tree-trunk-like legs and a slim upper body” (source). It also includes swelling in those areas with extra fat, and often, pain.
If that sounds like the uneven fat distribution you have going on, you can read more about lipedema and ask your physician about it.
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