“Love handles” are one of the most difficult body parts to target. This is where fat resides at the top of your hip, and for some people, no amount of cardio, squats, or crunches will reduce it.

According to Jeffrey M. Willardson, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., professor of kinesiology at Eastern Illinois University, it’s not uncommon for people to struggle with this area.

“For men in particular, there are more fat cells in this region, making it a convenient depot for the body to dump excess triglycerides, the storage form of fat,” Dr. Willardson explains. “Fat wants to go to its house—to the fat cells—so that’s the place where you’re likely first going to put your fat.”

In scientific terms, your love handles have a higher ratio of alpha-receptors than beta-receptors. The beta-receptors help break down fat while the alpha receptors store it for future use. That’s why it’s difficult to lose fat in this area.

Age is also a factor. “Aging is inevitable,” says Mark A. Schusterman, MD, FACS, a plastic surgeon practicing at Texas Center for Breast & Body in Houston. “It is the one common bond we all share, yet it takes us each down a different path.”

So far, this has confirmed what you already know: it’s hard to lose hip fat! But knowing that it’s more difficult allows you to be selective in how you approach weight loss.

Avoid Processed Foods

Certain foods can make you gain weight, and if your weight is centered on your hips, it will be even more difficult to shed the extra pounds. Eating right is huge here.

“The most important part of losing any fat on your body, especially from your back and belly, is incorporating whole foods—nothing processed, packaged, or chemically altered—as your primary source of nutrition,” says Liz Lowe, C.S.C.S. and owner of her own fitness studio in Florida. “By focusing on fruits, vegetables, grass-fed meats and eggs, healthy fats and anti-inflammatory roots and herbs, you can create a nutrition plan that will shed your stubborn love handles.”

Consider Body Contouring

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with considering body contouring to smooth out your hips, especially if you’ve already tried everything else. Body contouring procedures are much simpler and leave minimal to no-scarring, so you can be in and out in less than a day and fully recovered in a matter of weeks.

If you’re eating healthy, exercising regularly, and striving to maintain a lean physique, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with undergoing a procedure that will allow your body to match your self-image.

Do These Exercises

Exercising regularly is important for losing weight and staying trim, but not all exercises are created equal. If you’re spending all your time on cardio, the upper hip and lower back can suffer.

“Cardio activity may work to burn calories; however, it won’t necessarily target the specific area you’d like to lose from. Although you cannot spot reduce, targeting certain areas with weight training may help to build lean muscle mass, decreasing overall fat,” explains Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN, in an Eat This Not That article.

Instead, focus on toning this particular part of your body using workouts that strengthen your core, particularly your oblique muscles, the side abs that you don’t use often. Here are some exercises you can try:

  • Woodchoppers: Using a single hand weight, move the weight diagonally across your body, starting to the side of one hip and ending above the opposite shoulder. Do at least 20 reps on each side daily. For a more intense workout, perform this exercise sitting on an exercise ball.

  • Russian Twists: Sit on the ground and raise your legs in the air, knees bending at a 45-degree angle with the ankles crossed. Your back should also be at a 45-degree angle from the ground. Holding a dumbbell with both hands, twist your body back and forth, using the weight to guide you and maintaining your balance. Keep your abs tight to avoid hurting your back and aim for 50 reps a day.

  • Side Plank: Keeping your core tight, lie on your side with your legs stacked on top of one another. Lift yourself onto one elbow, keeping your core tight. Rest your other arm on your side or raise it in the air. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat two or three times per day.

  • Bicycle Crunches: Lie down as if you were planning to do a crunch, with your hands behind your head. Raise your legs in the air and move your elbow towards the opposite knee. Your knee should be bent and slightly reaching towards the opposite elbow. Alternate the position. Do 25 reps on each side.

These are just a few of your options for saying goodbye to stubborn hip fat and ushering in a more toned, healthier physique. Getting rid of pesky love handles is only a matter of time.