Q&A Wednesday: What Are Saddlebags? And, If I Have Them, How Do I Get Rid Of Them? | A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

Q&A Wednesday: What Are Saddlebags? And, If I Have Them, How Do I Get Rid Of Them?

saddlebags-demo

Q: What, exactly, are saddlebags?

In a post about the booty, I mentioned that a lot of women are holding onto a “big booty,” saying they don’t want to work out for fear of losing it, only to ignore the other issues that can come paired with it – like a large tummy or saddlebags.

But, as I was asked, what are saddlebags?

It can get confusing, but saddlebags are a very specific issue, and you know it when you see it.

Saddlebags appear on the thighs. They are not curves, in the sense of the coke-bottle shape. If hips – and you know what I mean by hips – are curves, then saddlebags are more like sharp angles.

The photo to the direct left shows “saddlebags.” These adorable little fat deposits get their name from the fact that people who have them apparently resemble horses with – yep, you guessed it – saddlebags on the back of a horse. The thick pink line shows the natural shape of this person’s body, while the black circles show what can be classified as saddlebags.

There is such a thing as simply having hips, but at the point where they protrude out like this, it’s saddlebags. Some also refer to it as “square booty.” Lots of women have fat on their outer thighs, but that’s just “outer thigh fat” and if you actually like the look it provides you, that’s okay. “Saddlebags” are a very specific kind of look, and if you want to change it, I have some advice.

It can come from a few things, the most important of which being when, as pictured, your booty rests on your thighs – notice the crease between the booty and the thigh – thereby pushing the fat that would rest in that space where your booty is outward toward your hips. It can alter the pattern of fat deposits on your body, thereby spreading it even higher up.

I had major saddlebags at my first start. I didn’t think anything of it – just thought it meant I had hips – but it wasn’t the same thing. I didn’t look the way I thought I’d looked. Now, with the tips I’m about to share, my thighs are much more shapely. Sure, there’s fat there, but I don’t mind it as long as I look the way I want it to look.

Now, I’ve seen explanations of saddlebags that said everything from “muscular displacement” to disorder, but my experiences were very different. Mine were, simply, fat.

I still have faint remnants of my old saddlebags, but three things are making a huge difference in their removal.

The first, is cardio. The reality of saddlebags is that, for most people, they’re fat accumulated along the sides of the body. Cardio, a beneficial component of fat loss, will help rid the body of them. The lower body won’t be the first place targeted for fat burn – depending upon how much fat you have to lose, it may start in the upper body first and work its way down – but once the body starts to burn in a more proportionate fashion, you can expect to see pretty awesome results after some dedication.

The second…is changing the way you eat. Something in your daily intake is contributing to that fat sticking to your thighs, so you have to be committed to changing how you eat in order to change that for good. Be willing to play around with that and find out what works best. (Here’s a tip – for me, I had to skip some of the refined carbs.)

The third and final tip? If saddlebags come from having a booty that rests a bit too comfortably on the thighs, then weight lifting will help to lift that booty up, up and awaaaaaaaay, thereby allowing the displaced fat to go back where it wanted. Squats, lunges, good mornings, dead lifts… all are exercises born to lift the booty and make you a happy camper. That’s also the fastest way to develop a “fit booty,” since a muscular booty – not one that is predominately fat – has less of a chance of “deflating,” going back to resting heavily on the thighs and pushing that fat outward again. Test it out yourself – look in a mirror, turn to the side. “Pick up” your booty cheek, now turn forward. Does the shape of the thigh change? Then go get your squat on!

Saddlebags are common in women who, as they age, the shape of their bodies change due to lack of activity. In other words, a thin woman with a “round booty” can wind up with saddlebags as she ages (the woman in the photo is actually rather petite) because of a lack of muscle and activity as well as a poor diet. They also appear in women who are simply accumulating a sizeable amount of fat. It happens.

If you’re not comfortable with it, it doesn’t have to stay that way. Try these tips and see how they help you!

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She now lives in New York with her family, and is working on her 4th, 5th and 6th certificates.

32 Comments

  1. Goldeelocks

    March 8, 2012 at 9:32 PM

    Very informative.I was often wondering what they were and how I can prevent it from happening to me!

  2. Tiffany

    June 13, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    THANK YOU for sharing this! I felt alone. I honestly thought these were enlarged hips. I am so embarassed to say that. Noone could give me an anwer they just said I was “spreading”. So I thought I was stuck with them since I will be 30 this year..

  3. Tonya

    June 27, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    OMG, I’m filled with so many emotions right now. I too have saddle bags that I thought was hips! I’m built like a runner so I don’t have much hips to begin with so I heavily relied on my “saddlebags”. I want to laugh and cry at the same time. lol… Thank you for making us aware of this. Now it’s time for me to do something about it!

  4. Lauren

    July 15, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    Weird, I always thought saddlebags were the extra flab around the mid-section around the belly.. Guess I will just have to rename them my love handles or muffin-top. Be careful when you lose your saddlebags, though. I got rid of my outer thighs (stubborn stubborn inner thighs) through cardio, but I traded them in for stretch marks x_x.

  5. LDB

    September 28, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    I’ve been trying to figure out how to get rid of mine as well. What makes it worse is that on top of the saddlebags I have another dreaded misshapen body parts that people are calling high hips. If I was slimmer and didn’t have saddlebags the lower part of my torso would look sort of squarish. Unfortunately, working out doesn’t seem to be helping much. I’ve been reading a lot about waist training to help curve the waist more and flatten the belly to get rid of my little pooch that doesn’t seem to want to go anywhere.

  6. Cherished131

    November 22, 2012 at 12:52 AM

    I have been working out now for 3 months (classes like Zumba, Total Body Workout and Piyo. I haven’t lost any pounds in numbers but from doing cardio I have lost my saddlebags and whatever you call the fat that hangs out the bottom of your underwear that isn’t shaped. I will take our advice and continue to shape this area through weight training.

  7. Cherished131

    November 22, 2012 at 12:55 AM

    I have been working out now for 3 months (classes like Zumba, Total Body Workout and Piyo). I haven’t lost any pounds in numbers but from doing cardio I have lost my saddlebags and whatever you call the fat that hangs out the bottom of your underwear that isn’t shaped. I will take your advice and continue to shape this area through weight training.

  8. soso sweet

    January 16, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    What would you recommend for those of us with bad knees? Its hereditary. We lose cartilage early in the knees. This means i can’t do lunges or squats properly. And while I have a lot of weight to lose, I want to incorporate the muscle building activities early in my process. I can’t afford a gym membership right now either. Help!

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      January 27, 2013 at 1:13 PM

      Honestly, I’d probably suggest calisthenics. Yoga, pilates, something of that nature. Something that will softly and slowly help you build the muscles around where you’re losing cartilage, without the additional impact.

    • Nichol Campos

      May 8, 2013 at 11:28 PM

      Maybe swimming????

    • Maria Khan

      January 14, 2014 at 12:22 PM

      Hi, I think the best thing for those looking to lose weight and shape up with less impact on joints is swimming! it will work wonders.

      • Erika Nicole Kendall

        January 16, 2014 at 11:03 AM

        I think swimming is a fantastic option but, oftentimes, the fact that pools are rare presents a challenge. Inner city environments often don’t have pools, most people don’t own their own, and most times gyms with pools are hosting classes – which is great! – which would make it difficult to have a free-swim period.

  9. Girl Who Cried Skinny

    February 17, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    Thanks for this post! I’m in the middle of losing 100 pounds, and as I’ve lost weight, I think I’ve actually ACQUIRED saddlebags that I didn’t have before! I mean, I think I was just all-around round, and now that excess fat is leaving (you’re right; it’s totally from the top down!), the saddlebags have become really pronounced and obvious. Ugh. Thanks for your clear words on this topic.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      February 18, 2013 at 8:48 AM

      Yep! It’s just the way you’re losing fat is pushing fat into places its never been. The good thing is, as you continue to lose, the rest of THAT fat should start moving out, too!

  10. Bezzymates

    May 8, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    Loathe my saddlebags. Lots of running and weight training works wonders.

  11. Annabanana

    May 10, 2013 at 2:40 AM

    I am a pretty slender girl but I still have saddlebags that look odd on my skinny legs, tried everything

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      May 10, 2013 at 11:48 PM

      Slender and skinny don’t exclude you from the possibility of having a high body fat percentage, which is what contributes to saddlebags, and is why cardio and muscle development helps alleviate them.

  12. Shannon

    May 10, 2013 at 6:54 AM

    This has helped me feel a bit better about my saddlebags…That maybe I can get rid of them. I have read a lot of people with them have hormone imbalances from various conditions, which I happen to have (polycystic ovarian syndrome). Ever since my teen years when I was pretty small my thighs where always the biggest part of me (and noticeable so, I was an extreme pear). They also have been. And when I lose weight, it’s always from my waist which is the smallest part, and a bit from my chest and hips. But the legs seem to have little difference.

    In fact, when I first started going to the gym I took my measurements and everything had gone down, expect my thighs which seemed to have gotten bigger (since I had been doing squats, leg press etc). I freaked out and started to basically do cardio and would only use upper body machines to work out.

    But seeing this here makes me feel like maybe I will be out of proportion for awhile, but eventually my legs will get better. My biggest fear is that I will lose weight, but nothing from my legs and I will look monstrously disproportionate.

  13. Gelgamark

    May 16, 2013 at 5:27 PM

    Can I make love until they disappear??

  14. ally

    May 20, 2013 at 3:33 PM

    I run all the time and I just started noticing that I have saddlebags right bellow my butt on the side. I hate them and I literally hate looking at myself. Can someone please tell me what to do? I really just want skinny thighs but I have cellulite and everything. I also have a very skinny upper half. It’s just my thighs and butt that I hate. I have a big butt.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      May 21, 2013 at 10:34 AM

      Squats. Lift the skin around your behind, and it tugs at the skin on your hips and re-shapes it all. Your butt probably isn’t particularly muscular if you have saddlebags, so my guess is that you just need to commit to a good squat routine.

  15. Cristina

    September 13, 2013 at 12:56 AM

    What is a good squat routine?

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      September 13, 2013 at 6:29 PM

      Depends on your specific goals and what resources you have available to you. If you have access to a gym, your workout shouldn’t look like someone who has to rely solely on calisthenics, you know?

  16. Kathy

    September 21, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    Information was really helpful, and its good to know that its possible to get rid of the “saddlebags”.

  17. MiraB

    December 15, 2013 at 8:13 PM

    Thank you for all the info! I have saddle bags and a pretty round, big booty, I want to lose my saddle bags without my butt shrinking! (I like my big butt, and so does my boyfriend lol) Are squats the answer to this problem?

  18. Kat

    January 5, 2014 at 12:28 PM

    This is the BEST description of what they are, how they got there, and a realistic “what you can do” to change it if you want. Thank you!!!!!

  19. Kate

    February 2, 2014 at 12:27 PM

    Do you think cardio and exercise is more effective and faster when your younger and start to notice “things changing shape.” so getting to it before it gets to bad?

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      February 2, 2014 at 2:30 PM

      “More effective” and “faster” are relative, I think.

      Is it helpful to be more active in your youth so that the benefits are long-lasting? Absolutely. I think an active life can keep things from “changing shape.” I also think that being active and eating healthier, in your youth (pre-40s) plays an integral role in how you experience life AFTER your forties – muscle, skin, agility and flexibility, so on and so forth – but I don’t think there’s a realistic way to compare the two, if that’s what you meant. The variables aren’t entirely the same.

  20. Charlotte

    April 5, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    I have saddlebags and have had them since I was 14 years old or so. The few women who I know have them had them at a very early age. Some of us were thin! I think that anyone who does not have them in their twenties should not be afraid to get them. I know a lot of people who are overweight and do not have them. Of course the 3 tips are very important for a healthy lifestyle. I follow these tips as well as I can but I have to say that the cardio and eating well has not made my saddlebags disappear. That being said I will still do cardio on a daily basis eat well and try to tone and look for a miracle.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall

      April 7, 2014 at 11:59 AM

      ” I follow these tips as well as I can but I have to say that the cardio and eating well has not made my saddlebags disappear.”

      If your body fat percentage is still pretty high, it likely won’t. Cardio and eating clean likely won’t guarantee any disappearances on that front if your body fat percentage is still above 20-25%.

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