Appearance Body Modifications Exercise Health

Basics of MtF Weight Cycling

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As I’ve posted before, there is a lot more to creating a feminine figure than just growing boobs. Breast growth is one of the fastest and most prominent changes you’ll notice when you’ve been on HRT for a few months, but other changes are also working through your body. After the first year on HRT, you’ll notice that your figure is a little different. Your tummy might start to get smaller, and your hips a little wider. Though a slow process, the fat in your body is slowly shifting to a more feminine pattern.

Though fat distribution can’t change your underlying bone structure, it plays a much bigger role in feminization than most people think. Though women do have wider pelvises, much of the width in their hips actually comes from fat, not bone structure. Men on the other hand, store fat primarily on their trunk above the waist (stomach, back and chest), which makes the chest, ribcage and waist appear larger.

Where fat is on your body can be one of the biggest and best feminizing changes you can make, and you don’t have to wait years for results. You can speed this up with a concept called ‘weight cycling’.

The Physiology of Fat

Your hormones are the main determinant of how your fat is distributed around your body. So as your hormones change under HRT, your body’s fat stores will slowly go from what’s called ‘android’ to ‘gynoid’.

But how does it work? First, a little detour into the physiology of fat. Fat cells, or adipocytes, store and release lipids into the blood stream based on the complex signals of your endocrine system. But generally, if you eat fewer calories than your body uses, your adipocytes will shrink; if you eat more than you use, your adipocytes will grow. So when your weight changes, this is adipocytes growing and shrinking the amount of lipids they contain; you don’t actually lose or gain fat cells (unless you gain a lot of weight).

Also surprising? The number and location of cells in men and women isn’t really that different – men have the about the same number of fat cells in their thighs and hips that women do. But the fat cells in men and women are activated by different hormones. Estrogen causes the cells in women’s thighs and hips be much more active, and store a lot more fat, than in men. The inverse is true for men – testosterone causes fat cells in the trunk to be a lot more active than elsewhere in the body.

Over time, as you naturally gain and lose weight, you’ll notice you slowly put on fat in new places, and start to slim down in other places. But because fat cells like to stay fat, it is a very, very slow process.

The Theory of Weight Cycling

The concept of weight cycling has been around in the fitness/body building world for a long time. The idea is that you intentionally increase calorie intake to gain weight (or ‘bulk’) to trigger and support cell growth, and then decrease calorie intake to lose weight (the ‘cut’) to reduce the size of fat cells and decrease overall body fat percentage. A great book that covers the basics, if you’re interested, is Thinner, Leaner, Stronger by Michael Matthews

We can use this same concept to speed up the process of fat re-distribution in our bodies. When we cycle weight in this way, we dramatically speed up the process; each time we cut, we lose fat more quickly in the android areas, and each time we gain weight, we add more fat in the gynoid regions.

What You’ll Need To Get Started

First things first, you need a way to count calories. The best way to do this these days is with an app. There are a lot of great ones out there, but I’ve used Lose It!; it has a great built in library of common foods and makes adding your daily intake a breeze.

You’ll also want a scale in order to monitor your weight. I also recommend a good old fashioned tape measure and caliper to monitor body composition as well – a lot of people will forget to exercise (see below) and will end up losing most of their weight in muscle mass rather than fat; measuring your body composition (body fat percentage) is a good way to ensure you’re losing the right type of weight.

A Basic Weight Cycling Routine

A weight cycle is made up of a period of calorie restriction and weight loss, the ‘cut’, combined with a period of calorie increase and weight gain, called the ‘bulk’. The length of these cycles depends on how much weight you want to lose and how quickly, but typically you’ll be able to lose between one and two pounds per week. Gaining weight can happen faster, but its usually good to try and keep the weekly increase in the same one to two pounds per week ballpark.

Unless you are unusually fit, you’ll want to start your cycle with a cut in order to lose weight. This means reducing the amount you eat until you reach a target weight, typically 5 or 10% of your total body weight. Then, you’ll do the opposite, and increase the amount you eat until you gain 5-10%.

So here’s what my latest weight cycle plan looks like:

Starting Weight: 137 pounds, around 2000 daily calories.

Cut Phase

  • Target weight: 125 pounds
  • 1450 calories per day, 1 1/2 pounds per week
  • Length is 7-8 weeks

Bulk Phase

  • Target weight: 135 pounds
  • 2400 calories per day, 2 pounds per week
  • Length is 5 weeks

One of the key aspect of your cut will be integrating some frequent exercise routine. The reason for this is you want your body to maintain muscle mass as much as possible, and only make up for the calorie deficit with fat. If you restrict your calories, but don’t exercise, your body will lose a lot of weight by consuming muscle instead of fat; exercise helps to maintain muscle.

I hope this helps get you started! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll try to help.

Exercise Lists Mental Health

How To Cope with the Lows of Your MtF Transition

Some days suck. For a variety of reasons, or no reason at all, you’ll feel lonely, inadequate, ugly, fearful, listless, or unmotivated. You won’t have the energy to practice anything, and it will feel hopeless anyway. The worst days are when you question yourself or your choices, and wonder if it all would have been easier if you’d continued repressing your true gender identity.

Sound familiar? Don’t worry, you’re in good company. Every woman who has transitioned has had these days. Transitioning is an incredibly hard process, and there are bound to be some days where you just don’t feel up to the task.

And that is perfectly ok. Some days you don’t have to be up to the task. Some days, it is perfectly ok to dress in your old clothes, forget about bras and makeup, and just watch TV.

Generally when I’m feeling this way, it is for some common reasons:

  1. Lack of sleep: whenever I don’t get enough sleep, my mood and motivation take a nose dive. Everything feels hard, even simple things that I usually enjoy doing. Even an hour less a day can have this impact, and it usually takes a few days to fully recover.
  2. Over-exercise: when I exercise too much and don’t rest enough, I feel really anxious and, obviously, tired. Over-exercise raises cortisol levels and creates that sense of overwhelming fatigue that makes regular things feel impossible.
  3. Hormone changes: I notice that any changes to my HRT regimen can cause a few weeks of pretty bad moods. Spikes, or dips, in testosterone or estrogen can cause both euphoria or depressive feelings.
  4. Alcohol and unhealthy food: I notice that my mood can be materially impacted by what I ate, particularly if I’ve been drinking alcohol and eating really fatty foods. Both can have a really profound impact on my mood, and this seems to be getting worse the older I get. A few drinks and I don’t sleep very well, leading to a rough morning.

And then, sometimes, I’m just having a bad day for no reason I can identify.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, here are a few things you can do.

  1. Take a nap: if you really are exhausted, a nap can do wonders. Especially if I’m in a really bad mood, I find an hour long nap can really make me feel a whole lot better. Don’t sleep too much though, or it might affect your sleep cycle, which can lead to more fatigue.
  2. Take a sick day: mental health is just as important as your physical health. In the same way you shouldn’t hesitate to take a sick day if you can physically function, you shouldn’t hesitate to take a sick day if you can’t mentally function. It is totally ok, and in fact, demonstrates that you care for your whole self, not just your body. Sleep, watch tv, go out to eat, visit a museum; do whatever you need to do to recharge and build up your mental reserves again.
  3. Do some light exercise: it may seem counter-intuitive, but light exercise can actually make you feel more energized. Take a walk, or do some stretching or light yoga; anything that gets your heart rate up.
  4. Lean on your support network: nothing can make a bad day better than a hug from someone you love. Your friends and family are there to help you in times like these, so lean on them. Even if you are estranged from those you love the most, there is someone in your life who thinks you are great just the way you are and will be happy to tell you that if you ask.

And lastly, don’t forget: you are wonderful, brave, capable and beautiful. No matter what you feel in this moment, it will pass, and you will feel better. Until you do, be gentle with yourself, and know that its ok to be whoever you are in this moment.

Exercise Health

Best MtF Exercises for Smaller Waists

A slim waist is something most trans women struggle to obtain. Thanks to broader ribcages and smaller pelvises, achieving a feminine hip-to-waist ratio can be a real challenge. Though you might not get to a truly tiny waist without the help of a corset or surgery, you certainly can help to slim down your waist using daily, easy-to-do core exercises.

Exercises can help by pulling in the abs and obliques, ensuring that your waist is as small as your frame will naturally allow. The key here is consistency; shorter daily workouts are better than infrequent longer routines.

Here are a few of my favorites.

Side-leg lifts

This is a great exercise to work your obliques and hips and glutes all at the same time. This will help to pull your tummy in, while also increasing tone and size of your hip region. Start with alternating sets at 20 seconds and work up from there.

As a bonus, you can add ankle weights for extra muscle building resistance.

Bicycle Crunch

This is a dynamic exercise that provides a rotational component in addition to working your upper abdominals. This rotation engages your obliques and hip stabilizers, helping to bring everything in toned and tight.

Start with 30 seconds, and work up each day until you reach fatigue.


This may sound counter-intuitive, but lunges are a great full-body workout that will help to bring your core tight and tummy in. Focusing on good form will ensure your hips and glutes are also getting worked.

Side Plank Twist

The side plank twist is the upper body variation of the side-leg raise. Make sure to focus on keeping your obliques tight through the whole range of motion – your hips should never touch the ground.

Start with 20 seconds each side and add 2 seconds each day until you reach fatigue.

Remember, just a little bit every day can have big impacts when they add up over time.

What core exercises do you do for your waist? Let me know in the comments.