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.

Health Mental Health Transition Support

Building A Team to Support Your Gender Transition

Transitions are hard, but you don’t have to do it alone. Though it is largely a personal journey, it can be extremely helpful to find the right people who can help you navigate the physical, emotional and social challenges required by a transition.

One theme I keep coming back to is how much there is to learn when transitioning genders. Even after a couple of years, I was still finding out how little I knew about certain subjects, and how much I was still learning about myself. Having a group of people I can rely on as new challenges arise helps to keep me emotionally and physically healthy.

These professional roles are in no particular order, but I’ve found each to be a really important and ongoing part of my life. The upside of COVID is that it is now easier than ever to build a support network of people who may not live in the same city as you; especially if you are in a part of the US that is increasingly transphobic, you can find and work with people who are accepting of you.

A Therapist

I know of many people who have transitioned without the help of a therapist, but this is one of those supporting relationships that I can’t imagine doing without. More than anything, gender transition is about integrating a lifetime of traumas and fundamentally changing the way you look at yourself and your place in the world. Doing this alone is incredibly difficult.

A good therapist is someone who can help us reach a new perspective on our lived experience which has so often been warped by the negative influences of the people in our lives. On my own journey, the hardest part of transition has been dealing with the constant sense of shame and failure that I’d lived with for a lifetime. For example, having someone who could tell me, from the outside, “that makes sense why you would want to grow breasts” was a shockingly validating experience; I had lived for so long thinking I was crazy.

Finding a therapist is more than making an appointment; you need to build a relationship with someone you can trust and work with long-term. It took me almost three years of seeing my therapist once a week before I felt like I could talk about my gender identity.

I would recommend searching for someone who is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), even if you’re not married or in a relationship. They typically have more experience dealing with the types of family trauma common to trans people, as well as training that you will find helpful when navigating your own interpersonal relationships during transition.

A Primary Care Physician

Transitions take a toll on your body, and in some cases can lead to unexpected health consequences. Finding a good primary care physician who can help you make informed decisions about your health is a long-term win. You’ll want to find someone who has direct experience working with trans patients, and can to tailor your hormone regimen along with other lifestyle changes to help you meet your goals.

I know many trans people who have worked exclusively with an endocrinologist during their transition, but I think there is great value in finding a primary care doc with a wider range of knowledge and experience beyond the effects of estrogen and progesterone.

Transitions involve more than your hormones; for example, do you know when to start and how often you should get a mammogram? There is actually a lot of conflicting advice on this, with some doctors saying trans women don’t need mammograms as the breast tissue is different, more typically gynocomastic, than cis women. Other doctors will advise you to get a mammogram as often as cis women (yearly depending on age) as the breast tissue actually is similar and includes the ducts and lobules where breast cancer tends to start.

Obviously, the consequences of getting bad advice here are obvious. Questions like these can and should be answered with the advice of a good primary care doc well versed in the standards of care for trans patients.

A Professional Coach

Managing a career is a tough prospect for anyone, and those transitioning genders face some unique challenges. Having a dedicated career or professional coach can be an important source of support and advice as you attempt to navigate your professional and personal relationships.

I frequently encounter people frustrated that they have to spend a lot of time managing others’ feelings when they decide to transition. This is absolutely true, but honestly, is not really different than what any successful person has to be doing constantly in their career. Managing other people and their emotional reactions (either formally as a boss, or informally as a peer or subordinate) is just part of the game.

What can help is having someone you can vent to and brainstorm with on how to handle those particularly tough relationships that require the most care. At the end of the day, there will always be people who control your success to some degree, and avoiding the conflicts and finding the opportunities within those relationships is what long-term success is built on. A practiced career coach is the person to help you do this, and help you hold yourself accountable to your own goals.

Your Informal Support Network

Last, but certainly not least, is your informal support network. Each person has their own version of this: it is your spouse, children, family, co-workers and friends. These are the people you can rely on for support in challenging times, or just to make you feel good on a Saturday afternoon.

Having and strengthening these relationships during your transition can be immensely gratifying, and is an opportunity to invite the people you love to grow with you on your journey.

Some Practical Challenges

I’m sure reading this, a lot of people will be thinking “sure, sounds great, but how do I find and pay for all these supportive people?” Transgender men and women are often struggling to just make ends meat, and these additional supports probably don’t feel like they’re in the budget.

As I mentioned above, COVID has dramatically changed how we connect with the people in our lives. Finding your support network is a lot easier today, where most therapists, doctors and coaches have been seeing clients remotely for the last year. This opens up a lot of opportunities to seek out those who you may not have considered prior to COVID.

The key thing about finding the right person who can support you is knowing what you are looking for. By far, the most important thing is finding people who you can be open and honest with, and who you feel respect you and your experiences. At the same time, you want people who have different areas of expertise and will challenge you, and not always in ways that are comfortable. The point of building a support team is to expand your source of knowledge and experience, and you can only do that with people who know more than you do about certain things and who you trust to tell you uncomfortable truths.

So how to pay for it? In my experience, most professionals in these positions are willing to be flexible with rates depending on your ability to pay. There is nothing wrong with seeking them out, building a connection, and being honest about your ability to pay. Some may decline, but most will be able to provide fees that work for your unique situation.

I’d love to hear what relationships you’ve found most helpful in supporting your transition.

Health Mental Health

Where are you on the transition spectrum?

Anyone who has worked to change their gender identity has gone through periods of self doubt. There are very few, if any, people who undergo a gender transition and feel immediately and completely sure of their decision 100% of the time. One of the hardest and most insidious forms of doubt comes from comparing the self you are and want to be with an external ideal of the gender you are moving towards. Sometimes, this is from being unable to change the parts of you that you want to leave behind; other times, its feeling like a fraud because you want to keep some of the ‘guy’ or ‘girl’ attributes you like.

As a trans person in my 30s, I struggled with this a lot (and still do from time to time). There was a tension between the ‘male’ parts of me I had grown to love and the external ideal of what it meant to be a ‘woman’ or ‘feminine’. Sometimes, it felt like a binary choice – either completely change everything about me to match a ‘feminine’ ideal, or I was a fraud.

I love trucks, woodworking and building things; not traditionally feminine activities (at least as I was raised). Emotionally, I am warm but a bit a reserved (thanks dysfunctional Aspergers family!) For a long time I felt torn; in order to be a real woman did I need to give these things up? Did keeping them as a part of my life somehow make me less of a woman?

Are you struggling with doubt? First, let me tell you that doubt is ok, and doesn’t mean you are on the wrong track. Second, whatever you decide is right for you, you’ve still ‘transitioned’. Third, you are a beautiful, whole person just the way you are. Any changes, however small, you choose to make to yourself in order to improve your mental health are significant and important.

There are many types of transition

Transition is complex, unique and individual, just like genders. In the same way we now recognize that people integrate different parts of gender into their identity, we also can accept that transitions fall into a broad range of experiences.

Why is this important? As you progress on your own gender transition, it is easy to get caught up in the same pattern of comparing yourself to an external ideal, just a differently gendered one. There is no ‘perfect’ female you have to be, just like there is no perfect ‘male’ ideal that you probably felt unfairly judged against.

I believe in a very broad definition of a gender transition: changing any part of your external appearance or actions to better align with your internal identity.

This can mean a lot of things. Some people embrace transition as an opportunity to completely change who they appear to be on the outside, including their names and gender pronouns. Others take a less aggressive approach, changing some parts of their appearance but ultimately keeping the majority of their current identity. Whatever you decide to do, there really is no wrong answer: transition simply means bringing your outward self into better alignment with your inner self.

It’s the journey, not the destination

The most important benefit from transitioning, I believe, is the process rather than then end result. In order to begin a transition, you first have to acknowledge to yourself and others that who you feel like on the inside is different than the person perceive you on the outside. Next, you have to have an affirmative picture of what you want to be to better reflect that person on the inside. Finally, you have to put it into action, and actually go through the process of evolution and change.

Each of these steps requires an enormous amount of self-reflection and growth. Regardless of where you end up, you’ll have done a lot of hard work engaging with and accepting who you are.

Its important to discover what is driving you from the inside. What is it you like, what is it you want? What attributes are you looking for, what makes you happy?

Finding an answer, any answer, that works for you is what matters, not meeting some external ideal. Ultimately, gender transition on its own isn’t going to make you happier; the hard work of identifying, accepting and embracing who you are as a person is what leads to happiness.

The gender transition spectrum

In my work as a coach, I find there are generally 3 motivations driving people who are exploring a transition.

  • Gender curiosity: wanting to explore alternative aspects of gender, primarily to decide what you like and don’t like.
  • Gender affinity: already identified aspects of a different gender you like and want to move towards. Think of the things about your identity (or desired identity) that give you pleasure and make you happy.
  • Gender dysphoria: specific aspects of your current gender identity or body that you want to move away from. These are the things that cause you distress that you want to change or remove.

Rather than isolated categories, you can think of these as different parts of a broad spectrum of motivations. Some people feel dysphoria much more strongly, but without affinity for a different gender; these people tend to move in the non-binary/androgynous direction. Others feel a strong sense of affinity without overwhelming dysphoria; they tend to transition later in life. Finally, those that feel strong dysphoria and affinity to another gender make a full transition earlier in life.

Each one of these is valid, and many people experience different aspects of these motivations at some point, or all together.

Practical implications for your transition

Though theory is nice, I’ve found there are a few tangible benefits this approach can have for making sense of, and peace with, your transition experience.

  • Name it to tame it – the old therapist saying actually has some value. Having a framework through which to view and structure the blob that is ‘transition’ can be really helpful in both understanding which motivations are affirming/positive vs dysphoric/negative.
  • Be free to be creative – because every transition is different, and every person’s collection of dysphorias and affinities is unique, transition can mean whatever you want it to.
  • Take it slow – figuring all this stuff out takes a lot of time. In my own experience, over time some things I though were dysphorias turned out to be more subtle. Likewise, affinities turned out to be short-term preferences rather than long-term needs.
  • Do what makes you happy – do and be the things you love, regardless of how you think others will categorize them, and whether or not they fit into a particular ideal. The goal is to be happy, not confined.

Lastly, you are perfect just the way you are today, and you will be perfect no matter what you decide to be in the future.

I’d love to hear, does this map to your experience of transition?


Natural Options for MtF Hormone Replacement Therapy

For any number of reasons, there are people who are looking for alternatives to the traditional prescribed synthetic HRT drugs. Maybe you have ethical concerns with using synthetic hormones, or maybe you simply have very bad side-effects from the specific pharmaceuticals. Whatever the reason, its worth understanding that there are natural supplements that can help you achieve similar results, though usually over longer time periods and with milder side-effects.

As a personal aside, I actually started my MtF transition using natural hormonal supplements rather than synthetic HRT. At the time, I was still exploring what types of changes I wanted to see in my body, specifically growing small breasts. Since I was older (35), had a family and career, I wasn’t yet comfortable with the idea of transitioning full-time, and wanted to see whether the mental and physical changes were actually good for me before I committed to longer, more permanent changes to my appearance. This approach allowed me to dip a ‘toe in the water’ and find out whether it was right for me, while saving a lot of money and removing the barrier of seeing a physician for a prescription.

I’ll be honest, I was pretty skeptical that over-the-counter supplements could have any effect on my body, let alone large impacts like growing breasts. But seriously, in about 6 months I went from nothing to almost AA cup breasts. This gave me the confidence that transitioning was the right thing for me, and I then started on HRT.

Longer term, you should always include a physician and a mental health professional as part of your support team helping you along the way. But for some, especially early on, these natural approaches may be a good way to start your MtF journey.

The Science of HRT

Prescribed HRT is the standard of care for trans women seeking to transition. HRT is usually a combination of two different drugs; an anti-androgen to block the production and effects of Testosterone, and an estrogen replacement. This combination provides a hormonal makeup similar to cis women, and usually lead to profound mental and physical changes.

Generally, the specific drugs used are Finasteride or Spirolactone as the anti-androgen; Estradiol as the estrogen replacement. Incidentally, Finasteride is a drug often prescribed to cis males and used to treat male-pattern baldness, which is also caused by Testosterone. The anti-androgens prevent the body from using Testosterone, by limiting production (in the case of the testes) and blocking other testosterone receptors throughout the body. Estradiol is metabolized by the body into estrogen, and circulates at levels normally seen in cis women.

Spirolactone has a growing negative reputation in the trans community because of its side-effects, including significant mental impacts like depression. Its not clear how necessary a large dose of anti-androgen is to begin with, and alternative protocols, like that developed by William Powers are starting to replace anti-androgens with high doses of intramuscular injected or transdermal estrogen, which inhibits testosterone production.

While all of these drugs are produced by pharmaceutical companies, there are natural alternatives to each that can have similar effects. Let’s take a look at each.


There are a whole class of supplements which have anti-androgenic effects. Probably the most effective among them is the Red Reishi mushroom, followed by White Peony. These two plants have been used for centuries for their anti-aging properties, but more recently have been studied for their ability to limit Testosterone production, and block testosterone receptors in tissues like your testes.

Anti-androgens will have an immediate impact on your sex-drive and other male functions like spontaneous erections. This is not necessarily a bad thing; I found profound relief being free of the constant sexual urges caused by Testosterone. Any impacts usually resolve themselves in a few weeks after you stop taking the supplements.


Estrogens exist in almost all plants and animals. This means that there are some plants that create phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) that are functionally similar or identical to the human hormone. These phytoestrogens can have many of the same effects as human derived estrogen, including tissue growth.

One of the best phytoestrogens sources is the plant Pueraria Mirifica (or PM). Long used for its anti-aging and skin softening properties, PM has a powerful estrogenic effect, and is used primarily by cis women for increased breast growth.

There are also other sources of estrogens, including those derived from wild yams and isolated from bovine ovaries. I have less experience with these, so make sure to do your research and consult a health care provider.

Like any oral estrogen, PM can increase the risk of blood clots and Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) because of the impacts on the liver. So, if you are older or have a history of blood clots, its definitely best to consult your physician first.

Other supplements

If taking any of these supplements, you’ll want to add in a calcium and magnesium supplement to your daily regimen, as well as a D3 and Omega 3.


There is a lot of great information online, and some really smart people who are using supplements to start their transition or improve results from traditional HRT (breast growth is a particular focus). Check out the forums at BreastNexum for great resources and stories from folks who have used different types of natural hormones for feminization.

Have you had any experience using natural supplements to support HRT? Let me know in the comments.

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.


Daily Core Workout to Support your MtF Transition

Building core strength is important to your overall health, but can also be a key part of your transition strategy. Whether you are trying to accentuate your breasts by pulling in your tummy, or controlling your mid-section for a smaller waist, core exercises will make you feel more feminine and happier about your body.

Best of all, a good core workout can be done in 15 minutes a day or less. If you’re just getting started, take it slow and build up the time required for each exercise so you give your body time to recover and grow.

I’ve used these exercises to good effect in my own transition; they’ve helped me manage my natural Android fat distribution around my tummy and added definition to my waist.

Here’s the basic routine. I’ve included YouTube videos for the exercises for reference in case you’re not familiar. Spend anywhere from 15 to 45 seconds on each exercise, then rest for 30 to 60 seconds, the move onto the next one. For an added workout, repeat the entire set 2 or 3 times, or add dumbbells for extra resistance.

  1. Plank to downward dog. This is a basic warm up exercise that will also help to build out your core abs.
  2. Side arm twist and reach. Works your obliques and hip flexors, while also increasing mobility in your shoulders and back.
  3. ITYs (can do on the floor without the yoga ball). Great for mobility and posture, especially for those who use computers all day long!
  4. Hip Thrusters. Works your glutes and ham strings to make your butt bigger.
  5. Bicycle crunch. Engages your core abdominal muscles and builds coordination.
  6. Forward Lunge. Works your glutes and quads.
  7. Chair Squat. The best exercise for building a bigger butt.

What exercises do you do to improve your figure or health and well-being?