How to Reduce Thigh Fat

Updated on January 30, 2019
Abby Campbell profile image

Dr. Abby Campbell is a Naturopathic Doctor & President of 911 Body ResQ, an online store providing organic and non-GMO supplements.

As a professional fitness and sports nutritionist and personal trainer, I receive a lot of questions from women on body transformation. Some of the most popular questions revolve around thigh fat. While holding a chunk of their leg in hand, they will ask:

"How do I get rid of this thigh fat?"

"Will the cottage cheese ever go away?"

"What exercises can I do to get rid of these thunder thighs?"

"What am I doing wrong? I have been exercising for years but the fat on my thighs won't go away!"

If you've asked these questions, then you've come to the right place for answers. You will learn why you accumulate thigh fat and why it's so difficult to remove. Moreover, you will learn how to reduce thigh fat with the right diet protocol and exercises.

Learn how to reduce thigh fat.
Learn how to reduce thigh fat. | Source

Thigh Fat - The Female Hormone Issue

We ladies have often been envious of the opposite sex due to their gifted genes of never seemingly gaining thigh fat. However, we have been gifted with the ability to bear children. Paired with certain hormones is the only way we can have this wonderful gift, though it may not always feel like a win-win when observing one's self in the mirror.

Though you most likely have already attributed hormones as being the great contributor to thigh fat, they are necessary for pregnancy, child bearing, and breast feeding. Both estrogen and progesterone play a role. Estrogen is mostly responsible for fat storage around your thighs and derriere, while both estrogen and progesterone are responsible for larger breasts. If you didn't know, breasts consist mainly of body fat.

Estrogen and progesterone balance, as well as how those hormones interact with other hormones (i.e., cortisol and insulin), is key to reducing thigh fat. If you carry most of your body fat in the thigh and butt region, this is an indication that you have higher estrogen levels compared to progesterone. Larger breasts with smaller thighs and butt may indicate the opposite balance of hormones (i.e., higher progesterone compared to estrogen). Your menstrual cycle may also be a clue to your hormone balance. You may have an imbalance with higher estrogen compared to progesterone if you suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) with the usual symptoms like fatigue, depression, moodiness, breast tenderness, and bloating.

Though estrogen may seem like the evil of the two hormones, it is very necessary for proper function of your body. Too much or too little of it is not good. However, the right balance can help you lose body fat from all the right places, build muscle, and regulate insulin levels. No worries on the 'muscle building.' We women only have a fraction of the testosterone levels of men which build 'big and bulky' muscles.


Where do you carry your body fat?

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Estrogen Dominance Causes

What causes estrogen dominance? There are actually a number of things that create hormonal imbalances in women, especially estrogen dominance:

  1. Age
  2. Stress
  3. Food
  4. Environment

Unfortunately, we all age. With that, our hormones also change. Living a healthy lifestyle through low stress, right food choices, and exercise may help prolong your youth. However, the days of of childbearing will diminish with age. Thus, hormonal imbalances will occur. Other than age, your lifestyle choices may contribute to imbalances as well. The consequence of stress, bad food choices, and environmental chemicals is estrogen dominance. Certain food and environmental chemicals contain estrogen mimicking compounds.

While age and lifestyle choices (i.e., stress, food, and environment) all contribute to hormonal imbalance, your fat cells also push your body towards estrogen dominance through an enzyme called aromatase which is found in fat cells. While all these contributors are taking place, your human growth hormone (HGH), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) hormone, and progesterone decline. These particular hormones help your body to stay slim and build muscle. All create a perfect storm for gaining body fat in the thigh and butt regions.

Estrogen dominance occurs in the first half of your menstrual cycle - usually Day 1 to 14 on a 28-day cycle.
Estrogen dominance occurs in the first half of your menstrual cycle - usually Day 1 to 14 on a 28-day cycle. | Source

Ways to Restore HGH

  1. Adequate protein.
  2. Weight or resistance training.
  3. Rest and sleep.

Diet and Exercise Myths

If you're one who has contended to a low-calorie diet and an extensive aerobic exercise plan to lose thigh fat, then this information is very important for you. Unfortunately, this approach to losing thigh fat is a myth when it comes to estrogen dominance.

With estrogen dominance, you must restore HGH in the body to attain leanness and firmness, as well as stay youthful. HGH is women's testosterone. It is the only thing a woman can count on once progesterone levels diminish due to menopause, stress, or other contributing factors. The stress of extended aerobic or cardio exercise, along with low-calorie diets, will only exacerbate hormonal imbalance. If you are currently following this regimen, you are doing more harm to yourself than good. Three of the most reliable ways to restore HGH is by eating enough protein, performing weight or resistance training, and getting enough rest and sleep.

Dieting to Reduce Thigh Fat


As you learned in the previous section, restoring HGH is most important in losing body fat and particularly thigh fat. One of the ways to do that is by getting adequate protein in your diet. A good rule of thumb for protein intake is multiplying your weight by 1 to 1.25.

Protein Intake Example:

  • Weight: 180 pounds
  • Protein Formula: 180 x 1 to 1.25
  • Protein Grams = 180 to 225 grams per day
  • 3 Meals & 2 Snacks = 36 to 45 grams per meal


Below is a table of some foods that are high in estrogen that you may want to limit. Most are starchy carbohydrates like whole and refined grains, sprouts, legumes, seeds, and peanuts. Some fruits and vegetables also contain phytoestrogens, but they also contain a host of other nutrients that counter estrogen promotion within the body. In a few minutes, the effects of estrogen and progesterone will be discussed on fat burning. In the meantime, it's good for you to know that insulin can wipe out any effects of fat burning from estrogen and progesterone. Therefore, it would be wise to limit your starchy carbohydrate intake. You can do this by eating them only twice per week 'after' your two most strenuous workouts. If your leg training days are your most strenuous days, then switch it up and make other body parts more strenuous. Starchy carbs will also help build muscles, and eating them after a strenuous leg workout will make your muscles stronger which will make them 'appear bigger' if the fat layer has not been burned first.

Starchy Carb Intake After 2 Strenuous Workouts Per Week

  • Approximately 50 to 100 grams.
  • If you're under 180 pounds, stick to 50 grams.
  • If you're over 180 pounds, you can gradually move towards 100 grams.


Essential fatty acids, especially Omega-3s, are also important to losing thigh fat. Try to get at least 3 to 6 grams per day in the form of fish oil or coldwater fish (i.e., salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, or sardines), or other seafood.

Foods High in Estrogen

soy beans & products
split peas
kidney beans
sesame seeds
lima beans
navy beans
poppy seeds
pinto beans
pinto beans
sunflower seeds
red beans
wheat flour
white beans
rye flour
mung beans
white rice
split peas
other whole grains
some fruits
clover sprouts
some vegetables
Weight training for women is a great way to reduce thigh fat.
Weight training for women is a great way to reduce thigh fat. | Source

Cardio and Weight Training for Thigh Fat


Your menstrual cycle makes burning body fat interesting. Estrogen is great for burning fat while exercising, though it is less efficient in burning sugar. Progesterone is the opposite in that it is counters estrogen's effect. Since longer low intensity exercise is better for burning fat, while shorter high intensity exercise is better for burning sugar, a combination of both types of cardio makes a good regimen. You can do this by incorporating both into your routine in a few different ways:

  1. Alternate low intensity and high intensity cardio exercise throughout the week.
  2. Do high intensity cardio for 20 minutes, followed with low intensity cardio for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, spread three times throughout the week.
  3. Do low intensity cardio during the follicular dominant phase (estrogen) of your menstrual cycle (first half), and do high intensity cardio during the luteal dominant phase (progesterone) of your menstrual cycle (last half). If you're on a 28 day cycle, you would do low intensity cardio from Day 1 to 14 and high intensity cardio from Day 15 to 28.


Weight training for women is just plain good for all. However, it is especially good to counter stress and build HGH. Remember our talk on HGH earlier? It's one of the three most reliable things you can do to help yourself in balancing your hormones and beating the stubborn thigh fat.


No matter what, don't beat yourself up if you've been following the diet and exercise myths. You can reduce thigh fat by beginning now.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

  • I have three times the amount of estrogen needed. Therefore, I'm seeing a naturopathic doctor and eating right to cleanse my liver. I cant see a change and am very frustrated with my weight. What are the best supplements to take to decrease estrogen?

    I'm sorry you're having problems losing weight. Hormones can wreak havoc on weight. The concept of losing weight before getting healthy is a misnomer. Therefore, I would recommend you focus on your health right now. As your body begins to heal, your weight will drop if you are indeed eating a healthy diet. As far as cleansing, I would never recommend detoxing your liver to begin. You should always start with a digestive/bowel cleanse. Without this particular cleanse, a liver cleanse will do nothing for you but possibly back you up with further toxins. Once you've completed a digestive/bowel cleanse and can eliminate three good stools per day, then a liver cleanse may be beneficial. Remember to always start from "bottom to top" and "inside to out" for detox cleanses. Regarding your estrogen issues, I would recommend chaste tree berry and maca to begin. They are two great botanical herbs for regulating a woman's hormone levels. It may take a few months of consistency to feel changes, but it is well worth the try. Please let me know how things for out for you.

  • I am seventeen-years-old. I have stubborn fat around my butt an thighs. I'm thin up to my mid-belly, and my body below is fat. I don't consume more than 1,300 calories a day. I have 432pg of estradiol. Which type of doctor should I consult? A gynecologist?

    Good morning. Your high level of estrogen is what’s causing lower body fat. You may want to see your gynecologist or an endocrinologist to help you work on lowering your levels. A naturopathic doctor may also help you balance your hormones naturally which is what I recommend. You may also try herbal supplements like chaste berry (vitex) and maca as they are well known for balancing female hormones. It does require consistency of taking them, and allow three months to see proven results.

  • I work out six days a week with a mix of cardio and weight training. My food is a mix of carbs, proteins, and fats. However, I still get no results. If anything, I have gained weight. What do you think is the issue? I am 49-years-old, and understand that hormones play a huge part in this, but I just cannot reduce body fat. What are your thoughts on this?

    I'm glad you're working out, but it's difficult to determine what the problem is for you. You didn't mention how much you're working out or at what intensity. Plus, you didn't mention the types of foods you eat. If you're working out at a high intensity for hours six days per week, this could be part of the problem if you're not eating enough calories. Regarding food, most everybody's diet is a mix of carbs, proteins, and fats. The types of foods you eat also matter even if you're eating the right macro ratio for your body type. I would recommend whole foods, especially with lots of greens and vegetables. Reduce sugars as much as possible. At 49- years-old, you most likely are having changes in your body - especially if you're a woman. The average age of menopause is 52, but you shouldn't be gaining weight. However, a standstill weight is possible during the year of menopause and the year after. Therefore, I would recommend that you check your level of fitness, the types of foods you eat, as well as getting a baseline of blood labs completed to see if there is anything else that could be contributing to your weight gain such as adrenal or thyroid function.

  • Is someone with high estrogen doomed with a bigger lower half forever?

    High estrogen may contribute to a pear shape figure in women, but it also contributes to other health problems. If you have high estrogen, you may want to speak with your personal health practitioner to be sure you don’t have other underlying conditions contributing to your high estrogen levels.

  • Should I consult a gynecologist for high estradiol levels?

    You may see a gynecologist or endocrinologist to help with high estrogen levels. A naturopathic doctor may also help with balancing hormones naturally. You may also try chaste berry (vitex) and maca which are herbal supplements known for balancing female hormones. Be consistent with taking them, and give it three months to see proven results.


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    • profile image

      Jaswinder Kaur 

      14 months ago

      I have irregular periods nd pcod .. plz help for regular for irregular periods

    • profile image


      18 months ago

      Hi Abby,

      What a great read! This was extremely helpful and tied a lot together for me. I am a 30 year old women who has worked our regularly most of her life. I am 5' 9" and about 160lbs. I have broad shoulders, flat stomach and stubborn thigh fat. I have been counting calories (~1500 cal per day) ,increasing my weight training and have seen little results. I currently work out 4-6 days a week. I warm up work about 20-30mins on the arch machine, burning about 300-400 calories, and then move to resistance training. I can comfortably leg press 300lbs, have fairly toned abs and arms. But I am looking to take my body to the next level. How do I to loose this side butt of mine??? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Feeling very motivated to make progress.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Hi Abby,

      I also have stubborn thighs I do weight training that focus particular muscles group in week . Out of which I have one day for thighs.

      I am eating healthy balanced diet from last 3 months. As I am vegetarian my protien basically comes from beans , pulses, dairy products, chia seeds flaxseed and all.

      But as per your article I am worried just because all of them are listed for high estrogen levels.

      Please help me out as in 3 month I am able to reduce only one inch.

    • Abby Campbell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Hi SaraLily07. Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate your comment.

      As far as weight training everyday, I would say that your body needs at least 1-2 rest days per week. If you are doing full-body workouts, I would suggest 3 days per week. If you are doing half-body workouts, you can do each half twice per week making that 4 sessions per week. If you are targeting muscle groups, you can do each muscle group up to twice per week. Never do the same muscle groups two days in a row.

      I would suggest limiting your weight training to less than 60 minutes per day. Go intense instead of focusing on length of time. I would also suggest doing cardio after strength training as you'll have more energy for a focused and intense weight training session. Though some people like cardio beforehand. You may want to try both and see how you do. There's nothing wrong with switching it up sometimes.

      As far as cardio training based on a menstrual cycle, there's a lot to be said about this. As you know, we women do go through our hormonal ups and downs. Because there is so much to be said about this, you've given me an idea for a new future article, so stay tuned. Thank you!

      Some examples of high intensity cardio are plyometrics (i.e., burpees, jump squats, jumping jacks, etc.). Even jump roping is great for high intensity cardio.

      I appreciate your questions and interest. I haven't been on HubPages much as my mother has been going through treatment for breast cancer. Hopefully, I will be back to writing soon. I look forward to more of your comments. :-)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This article is extremely helpful. I have been struggling with thunder thighs for years and I have followed a low calorie diet and high cardio workout to no avail. I will be cardio training based on my menstrual cycle.

      I have a couple of questions:

      1) Should I do weight training everyday?

      2) How many minutes a day should I do weight training for?

      3) Should I do weight training before or after cardio?

      4) How many minutes should I do low intensity cardio on estrogen dominant phase days 1-14 ? High intensity cardio on progesterone dominant phase days 15-28?

      5) What are some examples of high intensity cardio that I can do at home indoors (Its winter where I live right now so I can't do outdoor cardio) ?

      Thanks you so much for writing an informative article!

    • Abby Campbell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina


    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Any pear shaped women get results?

    • Abby Campbell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Thank you for the comment, Hezekiah. You are right as it's difficult for most women to bulk unless they are taking sports enhancing supplements (legal and illegal). We just don't have enough testosterone to do so. Have a great day!

    • Hezekiah profile image


      6 years ago from Japan

      Nice tips there, and ladies never be afraid of heavy muscle workouts. Unless you are a body builder, most people will not bulk up that easily. It can actually burn for fat than jogging etc.

    • Abby Campbell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Thanks for stopping by, mommyhood. Your hormones should go back to normal now that your postpartum. I bet you'll find that you lose the "thunder thighs" quickly with exercise and nutrition. Please keep me posted on how you're doing. You may be interested in one of my other hubs with some exercise for legs and glutes:

    • mommyhood profile image

      Karla D 

      7 years ago

      Gosh I have been struggling with having bigger thighs than most women for quite some time..dubbed "thunder thighs" lol it was great when I was in shape but not so much now postpartum. I will keep these tips in mind now that I will be starting a workout regimen, thanks for the info, voted +++ !

    • Abby Campbell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Hi Colin. Thank you for stopping by. I'm glad to be back as well. I was on vacation for the last couple of weeks in Panama City Beach, Florida. So, I'm getting my feet wet again here at HubPages.

      LOL on being a "hot blooded man." I would hope that you would be. ;) LOL. Yes, I agree about figure skaters. They have the most beautiful bodies... and thighs. LOL.

      Sending you, Little Miss Tiffy, and Mister Gabriel huge hugs tonight.

    • Abby Campbell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      I totally agree with you, Claire. I absolutely detest synthetic drugs as I have seen so many side effects that require more drugs. I was on birth control in my early 20s, and I had a ton of issues with it... all led to having cancer at the age of 24. There are always alternatives to conventional medications. I'm glad you're seeing all this and educating yourself too. ;)

    • clairewait profile image


      7 years ago from North Carolina

      I'm currently reading "The Hormone Cure..." by Sara Gottfried. This book outlines (in a lot of depth) different symptoms of specific hormone imbalance and lifestyle, dietary, herbal, and medical remedies.

      On a completely personal note, my first line of defense in all the hormone mess was getting off birth control. I seriously think our society is largely unaware of the health problems caused by controlling our most basic human cycle with synthetic drugs.

    • Abby Campbell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Good morning, CyclingFitness. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Some alternative ways to reduce estrogen dominance were given in the article like staying away from particular foods. The best way towards weight loss has also been given with building HGH levels by making sure you're getting adequate protein each day, including weight or resistance training, and getting enough rest and sleep.

      Yes, competitive female cyclists (as well as male cyclists) tend to gain larger muscles in the thighs with prolonged cycling (usually years). This article is not particular for them but for those who have a tendency to gain body fat in that region. If a female cyclist wishes to reduce the size of her thighs and has little body fat, she will have to re-determine her goals to include reducing the muscles. She can do that with less resistance training (cycling) as well as less weight training while including more less-resistant cardio (i.e., running, elliptical) and plyometrics (i.e., jump squats). Eliminating starchy carbs after leg workouts will also help to reduce muscle size since carbs feed muscle.

    • Abby Campbell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Thanks for commenting, Faith. I'm so sorry you had to go through cancer. I am also a cancer survivor... almost 20 years. It's really strange how hormones can affect us in so many ways. Have a wonderful day. :-)

    • Abby Campbell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      LOL. Well, thank you for stopping by and commenting, Insane Mundane. I appreciate your comment and the smile this morning. :-)

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 

      7 years ago from Nottingham UK

      What are some alternative ways to reduce estrogen dominance- are there any particular foods to consider or techniques considered towards weight loss?

      From my sporting background we tend to find that competitive female cyclists often have a prominence towards larger muscles thighs due to long term muscle development in many riders.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      7 years ago from southern USA

      Oh, me, well I commented and then it went away! Anyway, this is a very useful and informative hub here.

      It was the estrogen in my own body that fed the type of cancer (DCIS) I had. And due to that type of cancer, I cannot whatsoever eat soy, as it is so very bad. So, I appreciate these aspects of your hub.

      As far as the thighs, I am thankful that I have really long longs, which helps a bit. But alas . . . sigh

      Thanks for this really great hub here.

      Voted up +++ and sharing

      Blessings, Faith Reaper

    • Insane Mundane profile image

      Insane Mundane 

      7 years ago from Earth

      Well, I'm not a female either, but I did show up for the illustrations... ;)

    • Abby Campbell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Hi Claire. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I wish more doctors researched more for their patients... as well as women for themselves. BTW, I noticed you're from North Carolina. I am too... the Charlotte area. It's nice to meet someone from my neck of the woods. :-)

    • clairewait profile image


      7 years ago from North Carolina

      I like that you are discussing hormones as the impetus for women's weight issues. I'm beginning to understand how they control just about everything. I appreciate your approach from this perspective. I think it is difficult to nail down a generalization based on large thighs, breasts, or belly, but again, I appreciate the hormone discussion. Wish more doctors (and women, ultimately) were invested in research and natural balancing remedies in this area.

    • Abby Campbell profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Thanks for the smiles, Bill. I appreciate your comment very much. :-) Also, I so appreciate you being a loyal follower. Though I try to write most of my articles for both genders, this is a question that was often raised to my attention over my vacation. Therefore, I thought I would address it.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      The mere fact that I am here reading this article should tell you that I am one of your loyal followers. LOL I have no thigh fat and even if I did, at my age I'm not sure I would care. :) Still, good article from a lady who knows what she is talking about.


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