How Can “Apple-Shaped” Bodies Lose Weight? (Step By Step Guide)

Many of my clients say they have an “apple-shaped” body and want to lose weight. So, below, I’ve put together the ultimate resource for both my clients and you.

Key Takeaways

  • Like other body shapes, genes, hormones, and age influence fat distribution in apple-shaped bodies.
  • Weight loss is possible through diet and lifestyle modifications regardless of body shape.
  • Losing weight (and keeping it off) requires changes in dietary habits, physical activity, and stress management.

What Is An Apple-Shaped Body?

apple shape is someone who carries most of their body fat in their upper body

Body shapes are used to describe body types based on physical appearance. Different body shapes also have other health implications because of fat storage patterns. 

“Apple-shaped” (also known as an android distribution) describes fat accumulation around the waist and abdomen, not to be confused with “Pear-shaped” (or a gynoid distribution), which refers to fat distribution around the hips and thighs.

Those with an apple-shaped body have a higher waist-to-hip ratio, meaning the circumference of their waist is greater than that of their hips).

According to the Center for Disease Control, a waist circumference greater than 35 inches in non-pregnant women or 40 inches in men is linked to a higher risk of developing health problems.

For this reason, those with apple-shaped bodies are at higher risk of death from all causes than those with pear-shaped bodies.

What Causes An Apple Shape?

what causes an apple shape?

Four main factors lead to a person developing an apple shape:

1. Genetics

Genetic variants influence all aspects of body shape, including height, hand size, leg length, hair color, and fat distribution. They also affect how fat is stored and metabolized in the body. Common genetic variants (particularly the FTO gene) seem to be associated with the development of obesity.

While we can’t change our DNA, we can significantly influence our genes by focusing on modifiable life factors such as diet, exercise, and other habits.

The choices we make — like what we eat and how active we are — can affect whether specific genes are more or less active. Gene activity can influence factors related to weight and fat distribution.

2. Hormones

Fat patterning is due to the link between hormones and regional fat distribution. Men are more prone to fat accumulation in the abdomen, creating an apple-shaped body. 

It’s unclear why men are more prone to accumulating fat in the abdomen. Evidence suggests that the way the body processes dietary fat in the gut differs between men and women, but the exact reasons for this difference are poorly understood.

Women tend to store more fat in their hips, thighs, and buttocks because estrogen is linked to gynoid distribution. However, this changes as women age, which is why many women who are 50+ have apple-shaped bodies (which we’ll discuss next).

3. Stages of Life

Fat quantity and distribution change as men and women undergo different life stages, which changes their body shapes.

During pregnancy, for example, more fat is distributed to the abdomen.

As women age, their estrogen levels decline, leading to fat distribution changes.  

After menopause, women tend to shift fat storage from the lower body to the abdominal region, increasing the risk of visceral fat accumulation.

4. Diet & Lifestyle

Ultra-processed food and drink products (such as breakfast cereal, cakes, cookies, chips, and soda) are high in calories, refined carbohydrates, added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. 

Frequent consumption of these foods is linked to a higher risk of obesity because of the excess calories they contain. These extra calories lead to fat gain, likely accumulating in your abdomen, causing an apple-shaped body.

A sedentary lifestyle also contributes to fat accumulation by reducing overall energy expenditure. According to one study, television viewing is an example of a sedentary lifestyle habit that is positively associated with fat accumulation.

What Are The Recommendations For Healthy Diet And Physical Activity?


According to the USDA guidelines, added sugar should contribute less than 10% of total calories per day, and no more than 10% of total daily calories should come from saturated fats. 

Based on a 2000-calorie diet, this would mean less than 50 grams of added sugar and no more than 22 grams of saturated fat daily.

Salt intake should be no more than a teaspoon per day (roughly 6 grams).

Additionally, you should consume alcohol in moderation; men should limit intake to 2 drinks or less daily, and women should limit intake to 1 drink or less daily.

Physical Activity

Active behaviors and lifestyles are encouraged over sedentary behaviors and lifestyles

Researchers have not yet reached a consensus on the definition of sedentary behavior or a sedentary lifestyle because it’s difficult to quantify such behaviors. 

Some studies use self-reporting questionnaires of sedentary time while others use activity tracking devices, resulting in disagreements on the cut-off of daily sedentary time. (for example, 7h/day in one study and 4h/day in another).     

General recommendations for a healthier lifestyle are to avoid long periods of sedentary behavior and to follow CDC guidelines for physical activity.

The CDC defines the minimum amount of activity required for adults to be healthy as 150 minutes of moderate activity weekly, with two weekly muscle-strengthening sessions. 

Some examples include:

  • Brisk walking 30 minutes, 5 days a week, and 2 full-body resistance training workouts.
  • Gardening at moderate intensity for 30 minutes, 5 days a week, and 2 pilates workouts.

If engaging in endurance sports at vigorous intensity (e.g., swimming, running, cycling), the minimum amount is 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) every week rather than 150 minutes.

What Challenges Exist When Losing Weight With An Apple Shape?

As discussed above, having an apple-shaped body (central fat distribution or central obesity) is multifactorial because several factors contribute to its development.

Therefore, one might have to overcome a few challenges to lose weight.

One challenge is that central fat distribution (as in apple-shaped bodies) is associated with certain health conditions (e.g., cardiovascular disease ) and the risk of premature death, which might affect weight loss efforts. 

For example, if you have a heart condition and are on prescribed medication, then it might limit your food and exercise options.

Social and environmental factors can also impact your ability to lose weight. For example, social expectations during celebrations of family gatherings can pressure you to conform to unhealthy behaviors, such as overconsuming calorie-dense foods or binge drinking (drinking a lot of alcohol in one sitting). 

Another challenge might relate to busy and stressful lifestyles. For example, being stressed because of a high workload may lead to unhealthy eating behaviors such as fast food consumption and neglecting healthy meal preparation.

One study found that long work hours and overtime are linked to weight gain. Another study found that working shifts might hinder healthy eating (due to processed food consumption) and having a stable meal structure. 

Other challenges that make losing weight difficult are easy access to high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and unhealthy food marketing/advertising (as we live in an obesogenic environment). 

Is It Possible To Reverse An Apple-Shaped Body?

Yes, it’s possible to alter an “apple-shaped” body to some extent, but genetics plays a significant role.

One should combine physical activity, dietary strategies, and lifestyle changes to reduce abdominal fat and achieve a more balanced body composition.

The aim is to create lasting habits through increasing your energy expenditure and controlling your calorie intake. 

While you can’t entirely change your genetic predisposition regarding fat distribution and how quickly you can lose or gain weight, some strategies can help you achieve a healthier body shape and reduce overall body fat.

Top 5 Nutrition Tips For Losing Weight With An Apple Shape

nutrition tips for losing weight with an apple shape

Here are our top 5 nutrition tips for losing weight with an apple-shaped body:

1. Replace Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbs are often processed foods, high in added sugar, calorie-dense, low in fiber, and high GI (meaning that they cause blood sugars to rise and fall quickly). 

Consuming high amounts of added sugar over time, including sugar present in sweetened beverages,  is associated with overweight/obesity. This eating pattern might also increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Aim for most of your staples to come from foods that are rich in fiber and starch, such as:

  • Yams, oats, quinoa, brown bread, and brown pasta

Also include foods that are rich in protein and fiber, such as: 

These foods (in combination with other food groups) provide sustained energy, promoting satiety (e.g., foods rich in B-glucans, a type of fiber found in oats and rye), making it easier to achieve a calorie deficit to lose fat.

2. Eat More Protein

Protein is the most essential nutrient for fat loss because it is the most satiating and encourages muscle gain and retention, boosting metabolism.

As such, aim for 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily to lose fat and maintain or gain muscle.

For example, a 180-pound person would aim to consume between  144 and 180 grams of protein daily. 

Setting a protein goal for each meal makes reaching this target easier.

To determine how much to consume at each meal, divide your daily protein intake by the number of meals you consume.  

In our example, let’s say our 180-pound person aims for 160 grams of protein daily.  If they eat five meals per day, that would equate to 32 grams of protein per meal. 

Here are some examples of foods containing approximately 32 grams of protein:

  • A 3-egg omelet
  • Greek yogurt (170g) with 4-5 nuts
  • A chicken filet (90-110g cooked)
  • A salmon filet (140-150g cooked)
  • Cottage cheese (150 g) with 3-4 Ryvita crackers
  • Cooked lentil and bean soup (150-200g)

Remember that these protein guidelines are based on active individuals meeting the physical activity guidelines (mentioned above). 

The protein requirements for sedentary individuals are lower, but if you truly want to change your body composition and improve your health, you should work toward these protein and activity goals.

Related Article: Is 1 Gram of Protein Per Pound Enough? (What Science Says)

3. Eat More Fruits and Veggies

Fruits and vegetables are whole foods that provide various benefits, including a role in health and weight management. Yet, according to the CDC 2019 report looking at fruit and vegetable intake among U.S. adults, fruit and vegetable intake was low, with one in 10 adults meeting either recommendation. 

On top of being packed with nutrients vital for your body to function optimally, fruits and veggies are not as calorie-dense as other foods, meaning they fill you up with fewer calories. 

Some research suggests that increasing consumption of these foods (without necessarily decreasing other foods) encourages weight maintenance or loss.

Additionally, regular consumption of these foods is associated with long-term health benefits such as reductions in total fat, including visceral fat, which is the fat that surrounds organs, in those who are overweight and obese. 

4. Replace High-Calorie Drinks

Choosing calorie-free (or low-calorie) beverages helps with weight loss because they don’t contribute to extra calories from added sugars or empty calories often found in sugary drinks. 

Replacing high-calorie drinks will help you reduce overall calorie consumption, which might aid in a calorie deficit. Some of these drinks include:

  • fat-free and low-fat milk
  • water
  • black coffee and tea
  • flavored waters (with no added sugars), including infused water

5. Drink More Water

Meeting fluid intake is essential, especially if you are physically active or exposed to warm climates. The National Academy of Medicine suggests an adequate intake of daily fluids of about 2900 ml and 2000 ml for healthy men and women, respectively.

Having said this, drinking more water in general may assist in weight loss, especially when having it with a meal.

One small study indicates that consuming around 500ml of water immediately before a meal may enhance the sensation of fullness during the meal and thus reduce energy intake. 

Therefore, consider having either one large glass of water or two smaller ones close to the mealtime, for example, 5 minutes before eating.

Top 4 Lifestyle Tips For Losing Weight With An Apple Shape

Here are our top 4 lifestyle tips for losing weight with an apple-shaped body:

1. Add Resistance Training

Resistance training can offer different benefits for weight loss that go above and beyond the numbers on the scale. 

Resistance training builds muscle, which in turn increases your basal metabolic rate because your body needs more energy at rest to function. As such, your body will require more calories.

Some long-term benefits of resistance training include increased strength, enhanced body composition, mental health, and metabolic health.

For example, if you are just starting with this type of exercise, aim to start with 1-2 sessions per week and be consistent.

Once you’re consistent with your workouts, focus on challenging yourself every week by adding an extra set, rep, or additional weight to each exercise.

Book a free consultation with one of our coaches if you want a personalized workout routine or diet plan.  

2. Aim for Consistency (Not Perfection) 

Aiming for consistency rather than perfection is the key to creating sustainable exercise habits.

One of the most common trends I see as a dietitian is clients giving up when things don’t go perfectly. For example, missing a planned workout and giving up for the rest of the week because the week is “already ruined.”

Rather than throwing in the towel when things aren’t ideal, focus on what you CAN DO to stay consistent long-term. 

You should also ensure you’re setting realistic expectations with your training so that you can be consistent with the goals you’ve selected.

3. Increase Non-Exercise Activity-Related Thermogenesis (NEAT)

Non-Exercise Activity-Related Thermogenesis (NEAT) is the number of calories you burn while doing daily activities outside of exercise. NEAT includes walking, standing, fidgeting, gardening, and grocery shopping.

Increasing daily NEAT can help burn extra calories without structured exercise. It also promotes better metabolic health and reduces the health risks of sedentary behavior.

For example, if you know you are going to be sitting at your desk all day, try setting an alarm that goes off every hour as a reminder to stand up and leave your desk for 5 minutes (e.g., grab a glass of water or coffee, toilet break, or even just a walk upstairs or around the office). 

4. Manage Stress

While much focus goes into training and nutrition, it is important to recognize stress management’s role in your fat loss efforts.

In short, there is a relationship between stress and energy balance. More specifically, stress can alter behavior, prompting the overconsumption of calorie-dense foods, leading to weight gain. 

Stress management involves various strategies, including exercising regularly, getting enough quality sleep, seeking social support from friends and family, or practicing meditation.

For instance, practicing simple controlled breathing exercises for as little as 5 minutes daily can significantly lower stress levels.  

Frequently Asked Questions

While we’ve covered a lot in this article, some specific questions often arise when talking with clients with apple-shaped bodies who have previously struggled with weight loss.

What Foods Should You Avoid If You Are Apple-Shaped?

There’s no need to avoid any specific food if you have an apple-shaped body. Instead, focus on long-term dietary quality, such as reducing the consumption of ultra-processed foods and replacing them with nutritious alternatives.

Where Do Apple-Shaped Bodies Lose Weight First?

Genetics impacts where one might lose weight first and how much. There’s some evidence that certain people might lose visceral fat first. 

Can Apple Shapes Lose Belly Fat?

Yes. Individuals with apple-shaped bodies can lose belly fat through dietary and lifestyle changes. How quickly belly fat is lost will depend on the overall weight loss achieved over time.

Can You Get Rid Of An Apple-Shaped Body?

With dietary and lifestyle changes, you can reduce the belly fat that leads to the “apple” shape.  However, other factors, like hormones and genetics, influence fat distribution. 

What To Read Next

Now that you have a good idea of how to lose weight with an apple-shaped body, here’s what you might want to check out next to strengthen your understanding of weight loss


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About The Author

Giulia Rossetto

Giulia Rossetto is a qualified Dietitian and Nutritionist. She holds a Masters in Human Nutrition (University of Sheffield, UK) and more recently graduated as a Dietitian (University of Malta). Giulia aims to translate evidence-based science to the public through teaching and writing content. She has worked 4+ years in clinical settings and has also published articles in academic journals. She is into running, swimming and weight lifting, and enjoys spending time in the mountains (she has a soft spot for hiking and skiing in the Italian Dolomites).

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