Love handles, in colloquial or slang speech, are a layer of fat that is deposited around a person's midsection, especially visible on the sides over the abdominal external oblique muscle. They are called "love handles" because they provide a soft place to rest one's hand while one's arm is around a person, or perhaps because they can serve as places to hold on while copulating.
The term first appeared in the late 1960s, and is defined in the Historical Dictionary of American Slang
as a bulge of fat at the side of the waist.
Both men and women tend to be image-conscious regarding love handles, sometimes leading to a negative body image. While many products are marketed for eliminating love handles, it is generally agreed that spot reduction is impossible, and that the best way to reduce them is to lose fat by being more active (through activities such as cardiovascular exercise and weight training) and consuming fewer calories.
Use in print media
In July 2007 The Washington Post
published an article simply titled "Love Handles"
which claimed that, while weight gain was once blamed on genes inherited from one's parents, a study had shown that people were 57% more likely to become obese if a friend did first, and in August of the same year, Britain's Daily Telegraph
newspaper ran a story with the headline "Nicolas Sarkozy love handles 'airbrushed'"
which claimed that a photograph of the French president Nicolas Sarkozy
had been edited when they were published in a magazine owned by one of his friends. The expression was also used by CBS News
in March 2008
in an article entitled "When Lions Get Love Handles"
which described the difficulties zoos are having in ensuring a balanced diet for the animals in their care.
Love handles are also colloquially called a spare tire
due to the enlarged tire
-like shape around the midsection. Other synonyms are midriff bulge
and muffin top