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Why is it soo difficult to tone up as a petite person?

kontehhalimakontehhalima Member Posts: 25 Member Member Posts: 25 Member
Hello all! I'm going through a phase where I feel very frustrated and feel as though I should change up my routine and diet. I'm 5'2 and about 130llbs and I am trying to get tone and get rid of some lower belly fat and arm fat... im what people would call "skinny fat". Last year I had lost weight and weighed about 115llbs but still had that belly fat and this year I gained weight through bulking and have gotten bigger, but now I want to cut and tone up a lot more. I know I need to be on a caloric deficit and burn more calories then I eat, but the problem is if I go with this logic I need to eat 1000-1200 calories since as a petite person my body just doesn't burn as many calories even with cardio. I was doing this last year with body weight exercises and HIIT and although I lost weight and looked smaller I still had fat. Right now I really want to get tone and get rid of that belly pudge that just doesn't want to go away and ultimately build a physique that is more curvaceous and tone. I know I should be doing more strength training which I have been but I am so confused with how to combine it with my caloric intake and cardio.

Replies

  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Member, Premium Posts: 25,449 Member Member, Premium Posts: 25,449 Member
    Even as a petite person, you should be able to eat more than 1,000 calories if you're active. Yes, we burn fewer calories than larger people . . . but many of us can eat more than 1,200 and reach a moderate deficit (which is what you should be shooting for at your current weight).

    Someone of any height who wants that look of a toned body with not much fat (note: you will always have SOME fat, it's essential for your bodily processes) is going to have to be consistent and patient. It's the sort of thing you're going to be measuring in months, not weeks. I'm not sure why you decided to bulk if you were already unhappy with your body fat level, but bulking is typically going to add both muscle and fat, so you'll want to be aware of that before deciding to bulk and then getting frustrated.

    Do you know how many calories you need to maintain? I'd build a moderate deficit off of that (say, 200-250 calories). For me, with my activity, that would be about 1,700-1,800 calories a day. I don't know what it would be for you, but if you currently aren't sure where you would eat to maintain, that might be a good start.
  • kontehhalimakontehhalima Member Posts: 25 Member Member Posts: 25 Member
    Even as a petite person, you should be able to eat more than 1,000 calories if you're active. Yes, we burn fewer calories than larger people . . . but many of us can eat more than 1,200 and reach a moderate deficit (which is what you should be shooting for at your current weight).

    Someone of any height who wants that look of a toned body with not much fat (note: you will always have SOME fat, it's essential for your bodily processes) is going to have to be consistent and patient. It's the sort of thing you're going to be measuring in months, not weeks. I'm not sure why you decided to bulk if you were already unhappy with your body fat level, but bulking is typically going to add both muscle and fat, so you'll want to be aware of that before deciding to bulk and then getting frustrated.

    Do you know how many calories you need to maintain? I'd build a moderate deficit off of that (say, 200-250 calories). For me, with my activity, that would be about 1,700-1,800 calories a day. I don't know what it would be for you, but if you currently aren't sure where you would eat to maintain, that might be a good start.

    Thank you for the advice, this was helpful! I'm not entirely sure what my maintenance is because every time I input it on those calorie calculators different websites give me different results, but I've came to the general consensus that it's about 1700-1900 calories. I'm now starting to realize i need to eat more than 1200 calories, it's just not sufficient or healthy to do this. The reason why I bulked is because I am going for a more curvaceous figure and while my hips and butt did get bigger so did my stomach, at the time I figured I'd just bulk and eventually cut later.
  • steveko89steveko89 Member Posts: 1,947 Member Member Posts: 1,947 Member
    Even as a petite person, you should be able to eat more than 1,000 calories if you're active. Yes, we burn fewer calories than larger people . . . but many of us can eat more than 1,200 and reach a moderate deficit (which is what you should be shooting for at your current weight).

    Someone of any height who wants that look of a toned body with not much fat (note: you will always have SOME fat, it's essential for your bodily processes) is going to have to be consistent and patient. It's the sort of thing you're going to be measuring in months, not weeks. I'm not sure why you decided to bulk if you were already unhappy with your body fat level, but bulking is typically going to add both muscle and fat, so you'll want to be aware of that before deciding to bulk and then getting frustrated.

    Do you know how many calories you need to maintain? I'd build a moderate deficit off of that (say, 200-250 calories). For me, with my activity, that would be about 1,700-1,800 calories a day. I don't know what it would be for you, but if you currently aren't sure where you would eat to maintain, that might be a good start.

    Thank you for the advice, this was helpful! I'm not entirely sure what my maintenance is because every time I input it on those calorie calculators different websites give me different results, but I've came to the general consensus that it's about 1700-1900 calories. I'm now starting to realize i need to eat more than 1200 calories, it's just not sufficient or healthy to do this. The reason why I bulked is because I am going for a more curvaceous figure and while my hips and butt did get bigger so did my stomach, at the time I figured I'd just bulk and eventually cut later.

    To ultimately get to where you want to be you'll likely need to gain muscle but trying to do so if your body composition isn't where you'd like it probably isn't the best path. Building appreciable muscle will take time and being able to fully dedicate to that process without worrying about excess fat can be important (I know it is for me).

    If you're new to lifting you should be able to see body comp improvements at maintenance or a mild deficit. Strong Curves is a popular strength program among women and plenty of users here have seen good results with it. I used it as the basis for the program I wrote for my wife to support her running performance and physique goals.

    As far as calories go, I wouldn't go as far to say that 1200 /day is unhealthy at your size, though probably not necessary to lose fat if you're active. You'll also want to prioritize protein to support lifting and preserve muscle during the fat loss phase. 0.8 g/lb body weight is sufficient per most studies. Some may prefer more but there's limited science backing any substantial benefits. The best tool for figuring out maintenance calories is going to be your own data. If you're not already doing so, log exhaustively and weigh yourself daily using a trend app like HappyScale. Get a solid six weeks of data (through a full menstrual cycle) and assess what you're weight has done compared to the total calories you ingested. Using the 3500 cal/lb approximation that should at least get you in the ballpark of a true maintenance level for your activity during that time. There's also a google sheet that can help with that in the wiki of the r/fitness subreddit. I've been using that sheet since July 2017 and I've never used anything else that provided as much visibility and control for my weight.
  • steveko89steveko89 Member Posts: 1,947 Member Member Posts: 1,947 Member
    This is also a great thread to browse with plenty of successful lifting stories:
    https://community.myfitnesspal.com/en/discussion/977538/halp-heavy-lifting-made-me-supah-bulky
  • claireychn074claireychn074 Member, Premium Posts: 465 Member Member, Premium Posts: 465 Member
    steveko89 wrote: »
    Toning is fitness/diet industry marketing BS. To be "tone" you need to have above average muscle mass and lower-than-average body fat. At 5'2", to get the physique you're describing, you're probably better off losing fat and maintaining in that 115 lb range, if not lighter depending on your preferences. To avoid the look you saw the last time you were at that weight starting lifting now. Focus on getting stronger and build the body you want. Exercise to shape your body, control your diet to control your weight.

    I agree with most of this but just wanted to say that 115 isn’t a golden number, and actually looking “toned” is more about your muscle bulk than actual number on the scales.

    To answer some of the OPs points: why is it difficult to look toned as a petite person? Fat can show easier when you’re short, and I know that my short stumpy legs never look toned to me!

    Can petite women eat more than 1200? Yep, and there’s a whole thread on that if you search. A load of us put our stats and calories in there - I eat c2200 cals per day, am 122 pounds and 5’3.5 for instance. Body fat is c 21%. But I store ALL my fat on my lower half so my legs always wobble 🤷‍♂️

    Can you develop a curvaceous figure? It partly depends on your genetics. I’m pear shaped and no amount of training or dieting will give me an hourglass figure.

    Weight training will help to get the “toned” look you want, and over time you should be able to work out your tdee based on your daily requirements. Then you can work out your 250 cut per day if you want to lose weight. But just be aware that the fat usually comes off the very last point we want it to 🤣
  • cwolfman13cwolfman13 Member Posts: 39,105 Member Member Posts: 39,105 Member
    Hello all! I'm going through a phase where I feel very frustrated and feel as though I should change up my routine and diet. I'm 5'2 and about 130llbs and I am trying to get tone and get rid of some lower belly fat and arm fat... im what people would call "skinny fat". Last year I had lost weight and weighed about 115llbs but still had that belly fat and this year I gained weight through bulking and have gotten bigger, but now I want to cut and tone up a lot more. I know I need to be on a caloric deficit and burn more calories then I eat, but the problem is if I go with this logic I need to eat 1000-1200 calories since as a petite person my body just doesn't burn as many calories even with cardio. I was doing this last year with body weight exercises and HIIT and although I lost weight and looked smaller I still had fat. Right now I really want to get tone and get rid of that belly pudge that just doesn't want to go away and ultimately build a physique that is more curvaceous and tone. I know I should be doing more strength training which I have been but I am so confused with how to combine it with my caloric intake and cardio.

    What does that mean?..."still had fat". Outside of a very lean physique, everyone has fat...an extremely lean physique is also something that will be a ton of work as biologically, it's not something the human body desires to maintain. It takes a great deal of work and often extremes. I know some bikini competitors, and it's a ton of work for them...their diet and their fitness regimens are extremely rigid, especially in season. They also do not maintain that level of leanness all of the time because they start losing their menstrual cycle among other things.

    My wife is 5'2"...as a former collegiate athlete, she does have more than average muscle mass for a female and usually maintains around 130-135 where I'd say she's neither lean nor fat. She occasionally has cut to around 125 or so and while not elite lean, she is pretty lean and the muscles are popping...but she still has more than just essential bodyfat on her for sure...and she looks great. She also cuts weight comfortably at around 1600-1800 calories per day...I've never in my life seen her do 1,000-1,200 calories to lose weight.
  • ExistingFishExistingFish Member Posts: 1,139 Member Member Posts: 1,139 Member
    I am 5'0" and losing weight at 1500 calories, you don't have to go super low.

    When you say bulked, did you just gain weight or did your lift weights and build muscle?

    If you want shape, you need to build muscle - you need to lift weights. It is the only way to change shape, within reason. Fat loss just makes you bigger or smaller, but no control over shape.
  • kontehhalimakontehhalima Member Posts: 25 Member Member Posts: 25 Member
    I am 5'0" and losing weight at 1500 calories, you don't have to go super low.

    When you say bulked, did you just gain weight or did your lift weights and build muscle?

    If you want shape, you need to build muscle - you need to lift weights. It is the only way to change shape, within reason. Fat loss just makes you bigger or smaller, but no control over shape.

    Yess I was lifting weights and attempting to build muscle. I was eating about 2300-2500 calories and 130 g of protein, somedays it was a little less. I also gradually increased the weights and it worked. I went from 35in around my hips to 37in. Because I gained inches around my waist too, I want to get rid of that stubborn belly fat and cut a bit
  • kontehhalimakontehhalima Member Posts: 25 Member Member Posts: 25 Member
    cwolfman13 wrote: »
    Hello all! I'm going through a phase where I feel very frustrated and feel as though I should change up my routine and diet. I'm 5'2 and about 130llbs and I am trying to get tone and get rid of some lower belly fat and arm fat... im what people would call "skinny fat". Last year I had lost weight and weighed about 115llbs but still had that belly fat and this year I gained weight through bulking and have gotten bigger, but now I want to cut and tone up a lot more. I know I need to be on a caloric deficit and burn more calories then I eat, but the problem is if I go with this logic I need to eat 1000-1200 calories since as a petite person my body just doesn't burn as many calories even with cardio. I was doing this last year with body weight exercises and HIIT and although I lost weight and looked smaller I still had fat. Right now I really want to get tone and get rid of that belly pudge that just doesn't want to go away and ultimately build a physique that is more curvaceous and tone. I know I should be doing more strength training which I have been but I am so confused with how to combine it with my caloric intake and cardio.

    What does that mean?..."still had fat". Outside of a very lean physique, everyone has fat...an extremely lean physique is also something that will be a ton of work as biologically, it's not something the human body desires to maintain. It takes a great deal of work and often extremes. I know some bikini competitors, and it's a ton of work for them...their diet and their fitness regimens are extremely rigid, especially in season. They also do not maintain that level of leanness all of the time because they start losing their menstrual cycle among other things.

    My wife is 5'2"...as a former collegiate athlete, she does have more than average muscle mass for a female and usually maintains around 130-135 where I'd say she's neither lean nor fat. She occasionally has cut to around 125 or so and while not elite lean, she is pretty lean and the muscles are popping...but she still has more than just essential bodyfat on her for sure...and she looks great. She also cuts weight comfortably at around 1600-1800 calories per day...I've never in my life seen her do 1,000-1,200 calories to lose weight.

    When I say "still had fat" I mean that I still have very stubborn belly fat that I want to flatten. I don't want or care to have washboard abs I just want to get rid of that extra belly pudge and also tone my arms a bit more too. I now know that 1000-1200 calories is wayyy too small so I will be increasing my calories to 1500-1600. I'm just soo confused as to how much cardio and weight lifting I should do. Should I focus more on weights or slightly more on cardio, I have no idea. In the beginning of this month for about 2-3 weeks I was doing HIIT for 30mins on the Elilptical 3 times a week. Now I've been doing more moderate cardio (20-25min) and slightly more intense strength training. I'll be totally honest I have been a bit careless with my diet the past couple days because after a while it takes a toll on me, but I'll be sure to get back to it. As a petite person I've read that I should focus more on strength training but sometimes I feel like I need to do intense cardio to burn off the fat from my body
  • kontehhalimakontehhalima Member Posts: 25 Member Member Posts: 25 Member
    steveko89 wrote: »
    Toning is fitness/diet industry marketing BS. To be "tone" you need to have above average muscle mass and lower-than-average body fat. At 5'2", to get the physique you're describing, you're probably better off losing fat and maintaining in that 115 lb range, if not lighter depending on your preferences. To avoid the look you saw the last time you were at that weight starting lifting now. Focus on getting stronger and build the body you want. Exercise to shape your body, control your diet to control your weight.

    I agree with most of this but just wanted to say that 115 isn’t a golden number, and actually looking “toned” is more about your muscle bulk than actual number on the scales.

    To answer some of the OPs points: why is it difficult to look toned as a petite person? Fat can show easier when you’re short, and I know that my short stumpy legs never look toned to me!

    Can petite women eat more than 1200? Yep, and there’s a whole thread on that if you search. A load of us put our stats and calories in there - I eat c2200 cals per day, am 122 pounds and 5’3.5 for instance. Body fat is c 21%. But I store ALL my fat on my lower half so my legs always wobble 🤷‍♂️

    Can you develop a curvaceous figure? It partly depends on your genetics. I’m pear shaped and no amount of training or dieting will give me an hourglass figure.

    Weight training will help to get the “toned” look you want, and over time you should be able to work out your tdee based on your daily requirements. Then you can work out your 250 cut per day if you want to lose weight. But just be aware that the fat usually comes off the very last point we want it to 🤣

    Yes height is a huge thing. When me and my sister were at the same weight I looked bigger because I was shorter. I now recognize that 1200 calories is wayy too low and i am eating about 1500-1700.

    I just never know how much cardio and how much strength training I should do. Before I was doing intense cardio and moderate strength training, but now I'm doing more moderate cardio and more intense cardio.

    My ultimate goal is to cut and get more tone and eventually build my hips and butt more. I know this may sound like a stretch and some people may say it's impossible but I really want 40 in hips and 28-30in waist, I feel like I'd look a lot more proportionate (even 39in hips would be fine). But at the same time I want to be realistic, so I'm not sure how attainable that is.
  • claireychn074claireychn074 Member, Premium Posts: 465 Member Member, Premium Posts: 465 Member

    I just never know how much cardio and how much strength training I should do. Before I was doing intense cardio and moderate strength training, but now I'm doing more moderate cardio and more intense cardio.

    My ultimate goal is to cut and get more tone and eventually build my hips and butt more. I know this may sound like a stretch and some people may say it's impossible but I really want 40 in hips and 28-30in waist, I feel like I'd look a lot more proportionate (even 39in hips would be fine). But at the same time I want to be realistic, so I'm not sure how attainable that is.

    So there’s a lot of questions in your response - and the ultimate answer is going to be (sorry!) none of us know! Ultimately whether you can get 40 inch hips and 28 inch waist will depend on tonnes of factors, including your genetics, the ability of your body to build muscle (that varies person to person - I struggle to build muscle for instance), the programme you follow, your diet, and your weight training programme.

    Re cardio vs weights - again each person will respond differently. Ultimately both combined are great for health. How about picking what you enjoy the most and sticking with it for a while, then tracking your appearance?

    It’s not a bad idea to have measurements in mind, but you might not get to exactly where you want. And it is difficult for us internet bods to prescribe an exact process for you to achieve your goals, even a top personal trainer would have to prescribe, monitor and adjust.

    I would recommend picking a moderate calorie deficit using MFP calculator, picking exercise you enjoy and seeing what happens over time. Changing your body’s appearance with weights can actually take years (despite what IG influencers say) so it’s not a quick process. And if you don’t enjoy the process it will be a miserable time for you!

    You’ve made great progress so far, so see if you can enjoy the exercise and over time you’ll be able to suss out what your body is capable of 👍
  • DancingMoosieDancingMoosie Member Posts: 7,112 Member Member Posts: 7,112 Member
    I'd do a very slight deficit, lift heavy 2-3x weekly, and cardio on off days.oj0aq7z07wfb.jpg
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