Women: You’ll Get Bigger Before You Get Smaller

I had the same conversation with a woman on Saturday that I tend to have with at least 25% of every woman who starts working out with me or who takes one of my classes.

“I think I might,” (choose one): “stop/ease up/workout less/take a break from weight lifting/bootcamp/crossfit/strength training because I’m starting to get bigger. I don’t like getting bigger/the way my clothes are feeling.”

I can’t believe that I haven’t actually written about this before because I tend to have this pep talk a LOT.


You ARE Getting Bigger and there are a few reasons why. 

Women with little to no muscle will typically increase their muscularity rather quickly. I’m not talking about “I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder,” muscle; I’m talking about the normal amount of muscle every woman NEEDS to age well and stay healthy throughout life.

According to Zatsiorsky and Kreamer in Science and Practice of Strength Training, women need to train with heavy weights not only to strengthen the muscles but also to cause positive adaptations in the bones and connective tissues. –via www.crossfittt.com

The thing is, a lot of women get freaked out when they start lifting weights (especially when lifting weights is NEW) because they start to build muscle before they lose the fat surrounding the muscle. When a woman notices herself get bigger, typically the first thing she does is STOP whatever she thinks is making her bigger.

I know a lot of women who have stopped working out because they think they’re getting bigger. 

The reality is this: it’s REALLY hard for women to get big and bulky without doing hormonal treatments to be more anabolic. Women who lift get smaller. What’s happening, and why women tend to freak out after a few weeks of lifting, is that the body is in a state of transition. Most women will in fact gain weight after they start lifting–maybe 5-10 lbs. They’re building muscle and that’s awesome! And really, do I have to say, muscle weighs more than fat?!

Before and after a heavy weight training program -- likes.com
Before and after a heavy weight training program — likes.com

So what happens NEXT–if you are patient–is that same muscle will start burning double the fat! It’s not uncommon to gain 10 pounds and then lose 30! Every women who starts lifting needs to give her body time to transition from fat storing to fat burning. Once you’ve got some muscle on that bod, the fat will start melting off–especially if the diet is even halfway decent.


If there’s one piece of advice that I’ve neglected to give, or wish I could tell people who have quit, it’s this: give your body time to adjust. Yes, you might gain a little weight after a few weeks, but in a few more weeks, consistent effort in the gym will give you the results you’re really looking for–that smaller, stronger, toned-looking body you’re after. So don’t give up!

Are there exceptions?

Sure. There’s always an exception. I’m writing this for the average woman. I’m not writing to the woman who is out to compete, whose goal is to build mass, or to the girl who spends more time squatting than she does on anything else in life…cough, cough, wink. ;) For the average woman who just wants to get stronger, look toned, lose weight, and feel as phenomenal as she already is, this is all you need to know. Lift weights, and be the spectacular YOU that you always wanted. :D 

Throw out the scale! 10 lbs heavier and much more toned! http://www.zapbin.com/crossfit-women-before-after-2-6245.html/2
Throw out the scale! 10 lbs heavier and much more toned! Photo credits:  http://www.zapbin.com/crossfit-women-before-after-2-6245.html/2

Attention: we have received several questions stemming from this article about how to properly train and how to fix a slow metabolism. Click here for our latest article on how to fix a slow metabolism and find details on how to get our free 12 week training programs designed specifically to build muscle, lower fat, and not damage your metabolism.

Also: As we have talked with more and more women that have experienced getting bigger before smaller, we have learned some other potential reasons for slow progress. Click here for Part II of Why You Might Be Getting Bigger and Not Smaller!

Revamp Your Health



I bet you want to lift some weights now, don’t you?! Here’s your workout for tomorrow–throw some weight around and get a fantastic sweat going!

Tuesday’s Strong Figure Conditioning Workout:

Three Rounds for Time:

  • 400 meter row (or run)
  • 21 Kettlebell Swings (American or Russian style–go heavy, with GREAT form of course!)
  • 12 Push-ups

If you don’t have equipment or if your space is limited, sub 40 burpees for the row/run, 21 squats (hold something heavy that you have in the house), and 12 push-ups. If your shoulders are too tired from the burpees, (in which case your chest should hit the ground with every burpee performed) you can sub out sit-ups or hollow rocks.

And if you are doing push-ups but you’re still working on push-up form, try negatives! Start in a plank position on your toes and hands, and lower yourself to the ground slowly. You can use your knees to push back up to start, but always start the negative on your toes! Build that upper body muscle!!!!

Editor’s UPDATE: There are some REALLY good questions and comments at the bottom of this post. If you’re interested in more info or you find yourself relating to these words, keep reading! It only gets better!

Have you had this same experience–getting bigger before getting smaller? Please share with us in the comments below about your experience and help other women stay positive and motivated!

PS: If you like this article, you’ll love this post: Why Under-Eating is Making You Gain Weight

New comments on this post are no longer being accepted due to the fact spammers seem to target older popular posts. However, we really want to help people who still need help. The comments below have some incredibly valuable information. If you still need help, feel free to contact us or refer to our nutrition coaching page!



  1. Rachael says

    Yes I’m experiencing it now, went from a zero to a two and a bit freaked out. I feel the muscle is harder, but I barely fit in my jeans, when am I going to get the smaller back?

    • Stephanie Walker says

      The transition is different for everyone, Rachael, and I am guessing it can take anywhere from 2-6 months. If you went from a zero to a 2 though, it sounds like you probably put on more muscle than fat and I bet you look fabulous as is!

      • Kelly says

        Hi Stephanie! I have a question and I was wondering if you could help me with it? I started going to the gym an lifting weights, and also swimming, because I’m ready for a healthy life! The only problem is I’ve been told that because I’m not really skinny, I weigh 165 and am 5 foot 4 inches, I have to do cardio and that I can’t do weight training because I won’t lose weight. Thank you for the help! And I absolutely love this website!

        • strongfigure says

          Hey Kelly, this is Erik. The belief that you “have to do cardio” and that you “can’t do weight training” to lose weight is completely false. In fact, many people we have trained and coached have lost weight despite very little cardio. I personally would recommend HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) which is a form of cardio combined with heavy weight training and walking to most people in your situation. The truth is most forms of training will work for novices in the beginning but the body will adjust quickly and adapt to the various training protocols. We have found that a combination of HIIT and resistance training to be the best at producing real results. And of course nutrition is perhaps even more important than anything you will do in the gym. Thanks for your comment and good luck!

      • sahki says

        I started to workout about 2 years ago and I did some pilates, cardio and weight lifting and I lost about 22 lbs. I’m currently 132 lbs and I’m 5’2 . Now I have started to lift more weights 4-5 times a week and I do less cardio, but I feel like I’m not losing any fat. I have a small upper body, but my legs are really thick. I have muscles, but they are not showing because I have a layer of fat covering them. I eat 1500 calories in a day or more and sometimes I try to eat 1200. I’m not sure how many calories I should eat to lose weight.

        • Stephanie Walker says

          Hey Sahki, I think your calories are too low. If you’re lifting a good 4-5 times each week, you should be in the 1680-1750 range. Email me at strongfigure@gmail.com if you think you want a more detailed outline of your macros. I definitely think you need to up those calories to reach the full benefits of fat burning. Your body needs more fuel!

      • says

        Is there something I can do to lose muffintop fat? We went on a cruise and I ate a lot of pizza and packed on some weight there… do situps work? I know it’s not related to arm muscle, but I’m really anxious to know if there’s something I can do?

        • Stephanie Walker says

          Gretchen–quickest way to do that is through super clean eating and lots of sprint/interval work. Also drink a ton of water. Avoid sugar and excessive carbs other than veggie sources and starches such as sweet potatoes and such. You could hit this hard core for a couple weeks and probably drop a couple pounds and feel mentally/physically better, and then get back on your typical routine. Don’t be afraid to hit the weights as much as you want/need. Heavy lifting always helps.

      • Tay says

        Hey ,Stephanie. I have a chronic illness called pots. It just makes me weak and hard to do anything. I’m always going back and forth between going and stopping. Which gets upsetting not to see results. I also used to have anorexia so I get paranoid not to get into that again. I started exercising a lot more frequently again. Hopefully it’ll show. How long does it take to usually see results? I do 3 days of distance and sprint running a weak. And weightlifting everyday except sundays. I also do yoga everyday as well as it helps on my weaknesses. I just started more frequently about a week and a half ago. It sucks because before it was more of maybe 3 or 2 days a week of workouts. It’s just kept me no where. I’m worried I still don’t eat enough or to eat too much. For example. Today I ran about 6 miles and I didn’t mean to. I forgot I had to run back which is stupid. Earlier in the morning I did a longer weight training session of about a hour ish and maybe 10 or 20 mins over. I ate around 1300 c. I stuffed in the last part because my body is in a weird state of probably needing extra nutrition. I ate and was full but was still hungry. Not craving anything either. I’m hardly the person to even get hungry. I’ve gotten better about getting my nutrients in too and clean eating I’ve always been bland. I also take iron pills if that makes any difference. Idk I’ve always had my obliques as the problem that stands out from everything. I look a lot fatter now. But I know I have some muscle considering my shoulder and upper part of my body itself. I lift 35ibs. I don’t want to get too muscular. My goal is ( this is a weird one to pick from) in one of the alien movies there’s this Spanish chick. She’s badass and has awesome tone and muscles. That’s something I’ve always gone for. I just really need help not to get into bad experimentation. I’ve been bed resting for almost 3 years because of it. If you could get back asap thankyou.

        • Stephanie Walker says

          A high percentage of people who have suffered from anorexia continue to have body dismorphia issues. I would suggest starting here. Perhaps you could talk to a eating disorder expert first and then get referred to a nutrition coach and/or health coach.

    • says

      Hi Rachel, I am curious if you are back to your size 0 now or are still at a size 2? I am noticing this for myself. I am a size 2/4, depending on the brand/designer. On some tops I’m a 0. I don’t really want to buy new clothes :/

    • marlayna says

      Why in the world would u want to go from a 2 to a 0?? I took YEARS all through high school and the rest of school to be exact…just to get over 100 lbs. At 120 I was a 5-6 jeans and still wanted to be bigger. Had to have 2 kids to get into an 8 and LOVE wearing an 8…now I just need to tone it all up while keeping on all the size I DO NOT want to lose size or weight my scare is that Il start working out and LOSE what iv waited so long to gain.

    • Elizabeth says

      The exact same thing is happening to me. I’ve been cardio-crazed for years and have recently made the change from cardio to calisthenics. I went from 0 tall with no muscle (skinny fat) and now that I’m focusing on building muscle I can’t fit into my skinny jeans comfortably anymore. Just bought a pair of 2 and it’s killing me. I’m hanging in there, but mentally it’s been really rough.

      • cressonpa says

        I always say, skinny fat women look great in clothes but strong women look great out of clothes.

      • Ladan says

        This is too funny!!! you sound dumb. Some people are dying from world hunger and here you are talking about how hard it is to be size 2. Don’t work on your body, work on your brain!

  2. Sonya says

    Omg! Iam going through this! I recently googled why are my thighs getting bigger?? The answer even though I’m working out 5 days is week was that it takes fat longer to burn then it takes muscle to form. The article ended with watch your calories and push the fork away. I am all in now!!

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      That’s awesome Sonya–I’m glad you are “all in” and sticking it out! I’d be eager to follow your journey–let us know when you start to see the fat-burning transition!! Thanks for commenting! –Steph

      • monica says

        Im not lifting weights but doing lots of interval training..rowing and skipping for 30 min…getting such strong legs…help…

        • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

          Monica, please explain to me the problem? Getting strong legs is the goal!

          If by strong you mean too big, then I would suggest you do lower reps of whatever exercise you choose. Females develop sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (fluid in the muscle) from volume. If you don’t want inflated muscles then do not do high reps. It would be more beneficial to do lower repetitions with heavier weight.

          • Shelley says

            How much weight do you recommend using? I just purchased a 20lb kettle bell to work with. I was using 10lb.
            I am 60 years old recovering from a back injury last June. I had lost 30 pounds, Weight training watching my diet and using the treadmill. Just starting to get back at it, my muscles are responding well but I do feel like I am getting bigger instead of smaller. I’m going to try heavier weights less reps.

          • Stephanie Walker says

            Hey Shelley! You’re doing it right! Give your muscles time to adjust. Heavier weight with less reps will do the trick…the more muscle you build the more you’ll burn in the long run so just keep doing what you’re doing and be patient. That (and the healthy food choices) are the two toughest parts!

  3. Alison says

    This is happening to me. I am eating a similar diet but instead of losing weight 3 weeks into an intense weight lifting program I am gaining and even my waistline feels bigger. My pants feel tight and on the scales right after lifting and exercise I weigh even more. It is discouraging but after reading I am now more determined to not give up and that I am on the right track!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Oh I am so glad that you aren’t giving up Alison!!! Yes, just give it some time and make sure you’re getting enough water…if your diet is good you’ll be great in no time!! Come back and let us know when you start seeing a difference!

    • sam says

      I am going through the SAME thing right now. I feel huge! how long does it take for the fat to burn off??

    • Ryanne says

      Did you stick with it Allison? Did things finally change? i’m in the same situation..3 weeks in and gaining..up 5 pounds now

  4. Liv says

    I’ve been eating clean and lifting for 8 weeks now and to begin with I was getting smaller everywhere except my thighs which are my problem area and they even started to feel bigger. However after reading this article I stuck with it and about 2 weeks ago something in my body switched and the fat started melting off them and they’ve now caught up with the rest of me. I couldn’t be happier with my results so far so to anyone out there feeling demotivated give your body a chance and keep lifting!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Liv! This is so awesome to hear! I am so glad you read this and beyond happy you stuck with lifting. So so happy that you are happy and that you can now help spread this message to women who are scared of lifting! Way to go!

  5. heather says

    I don’t know about this. I had been lifting heavy for 2 years. A few months ago I went on vacation and when I saw my pictures I was shocked! I had muscle-y arms and thick! strong thighs and a thick (but firm) stomach. I looked muscular and thick. I am 5’2. This is NOT what I was going for. I wanted lean and curvy. I wish I could show pictures because I am not exaggerating.
    I am now 3 months pregnant and besides a little walking I haven’t been able to lift (severe nausea&vomiting). I notice Ive dropped inches everywhere and my body looks better! At least for now Ha! I don’t understand. People say it takes time to lose the fat but two years? Really?
    I know I was eating in a deficit because I was crazy and weighed everything I ate and used a calorie counter. I was a thick114lbs. I had lost 24 lbs and still had the same size thighs..maybe even a tad bigger from squatting. So what’s up with that????

    • strongfigure says

      Hey Heather,
      Sounds like maybe a variety of different things to think about. If you were lifting consistently for two years and putting on that much muscle, you may have a mesomorph body style–which is actually pretty cool IMO because it means you can put on muscle better than any other body type. You could be like me…I’m an endomorph–I put on muscle AND fat really easily and if I don’t have my nutrition spot on (which I struggle with sometimes) I can still gain fat easily. Coupled with when I was consistently powerlifting (and doing not much else but that), I got bigger because my muscles got a lot bigger. And then when I injured my foot and took off all of November, I actually dropped about 11 pounds and felt even more confident in myself, despite the fact that I lost a LOT of strength. I’m sure it was the muscle mass that I lost that made me look smaller…which I’m not really proud about. I also know with my body type, no matter how much I lift, interval cardio plays a HUGE role in my leanness. Sometimes I get angry that it’s so easy for some people to lift and look great where I have to make sure my lifts are super heavy, my nutrition is spot on, and my intervals don’t get skipped. With my body style and genetic history, it’s just harder for me than most women (which the piece is written for). Maybe you’re actually more like me? (Sorry! ha!)

      My advice in this piece is mainly for women who don’t have experience lifting and those who get freaked out when they stand on the scale and notice they’ve gained weight after two weeks of lifting and eating right. Most women I see get discouraged and stop lifting. And the majority of women do get smaller from lifting.

      You also say you were eating in a deficit and it’s really possible that with all your muscle mass, you weren’t actually eating enough (I’ve been through this too and have caused myself metabolic damage), and your body could have been in a fat storage mode. Just recently, one of my very muscly friends had her macros re-evaluated (by our ambassador, April, if you’re interested) and April realized she wasn’t eating enough. As soon as April adjust her macros, not only did she feel more full during the day, but she dropped weight immediately. She wasn’t fueling her muscle mass properly. A lot of women see an increase in size and immediately (myself included) start cutting calories–which can actually be the worst thing sometimes. One article I read on T-Nation.com said that there are a few stages of metabolic damage and depending on which stage you are in, several ways to fix it. One of those ways was to eat less and workout less. When I did that, not only did I feel a little better but I also felt like my hormones fell back into balance. It sounds like since you’ve taken some time off from lifting and have been suffering nausea and vomiting, you’ve essentially done the same thing–eat less, workout less. Maybe you had some metabolic damage?

      I’m going to get Erik to look at your question and also respond…see what he thinks…but in the meantime, it sounds like you have the perfect opportunity to rest and maybe even do some research and find out exactly what made this different for you vs the other women. I do understand what you’re saying and I feel like I have been there before, for sure. Best of luck and keep me posted!

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Heather, without knowing you it is really difficult to assess your concerns. 5’2″ and 114lbs when you have muscle sounds too little — in that muscle typically weighs quite a bit. And I can’t imagine this looking “thick.”

      But let’s assume you do look “thick.” Perhaps you are not an ectomorph (as Steph points out) and your body type might not fit into some social ideal that the world around you has constructed as beautiful — your words “lean and curvy.”

      Another consideration, is exercise mixed with eating at a deficit can wreak havoc on your metabolism. Moreover, your hormones could be a mess as well. This would explain why pregnancy has actually improved your aesthetics. The pregnancy has likely stabilized your hormonal balance and repaired the metabolic damage caused by the low calorie-high exercise plan.

      After pregnancy it will be important not to repeat the metabolic damage. I strongly recommend talking to someone more familiar with you and your situation that understands macros and metabolism. Steph is right, April would be a great person to talk to. She could help you figure out what exact macronutrients you should be eating to keep your metabolism burning high. Good luck! And congrats on the new baby!!

      • Heather says

        Both replies are AWESOME! Thank you! It gives me a lot to think about through the next 6 months ;) I’ve favorite-ed this site and will definitely be back after baby is born.
        It’s not that I want to fit a certain mold, at my height that’s certainly out of the question, but I just want to be happy seeing myself in photos. We travel a lot and I don’t want to cringe seeing myself in a bathing suit. I am naturally bottom heavy (a true pear shape) so I just seem to get bigger and bigger as I lift.
        I read the article and saw the pictures of those women and just thought, ‘well why the heck do I not look like them when I lift??’. So I had to comment :)
        Anyways, thank you again. YES, so excited for our baby!

        • Stephanie Walker says

          You remind me of myself so much, Heather…short, naturally a pear shape, and I just want to be happy in a bathing suit–lol. I SO get it!!!! GOOD LUCK and congrats again! :) Keep us posted after your little one is here, and thanks so much for bookmarking us! :D

        • Lise-anne says

          If your’re bottom heavy focus on gaining upper body strength. working on your chest, arms, back and lats to even out your bottom heavy look.This will also make waist appear smaller, You need to eat in a surplus to make these gains.Lift heavy and lower reps :)

          • NatBrat says

            This thread is a few months old, but I have to comment. I am 5’2 and it makes me cringe a little when someone the same height and 115lbs refers to themselves as “thick”. I’m just under 150, a size 8 -sometimes 6-, pear shaped and have been doing crossfit 7 months. I FREAKED out when my arms were swollen like sausages and I could barely get in my jeans, but I have stuck with it and am JUST now starting to see changes. Dem thighs! My diet is decent with the exception of my weekend pizza hut and beer, but I’m eating in line with my goals and realize I’m in it for the long haul. Anyway, I used to pray to have a body like yours and while I realize everyone is different, I just wanted to give you another perspective. Imagine how I feel walking around short and truly”thick”. I’m not stopping because this is literally the best I’ve looked for MY body in a very long time. Crossfit on!!

      • Amanda says

        This got me thinking … I am having the same issue, except my fat is carried in my stomach (all over, not just the lower portion) rather than in my hips and thighs. I have been working out with a trainer twice a week since Sept. 2014. We do strength training, arms on Tuesdays and legs on Fridays. I do ab exercises (bicycles, flutter kicks, toe touches and side plank lifts) at home (daily for the past week). In addition, after each session with the trainer I do HIIT on the treadmill for 3 intervals, bumped up to 4 this week.

        I am a mesomorph – I put on and retain muscle easily, and don’t gain fat quickly but it is hard for me to lose it once it’s there. Only my belly has excessive fat – my arms, legs, back and butt look fantastic. I have good ab muscles, but unfortunately the fat prevents me from seeing them! I should add that I haven’t dropped any sizes since I started working out; however, my body looks much more toned and feminine.

        I think where I’m messing up is my diet. I have a big sweet tooth and often eat junk in addition to healthy stuff. However, I only drink water, and am not overweight but am within the “normal” BMI/body fat range. I don’t want to start counting calories, weighing meals or otherwise become obsessive about food – I had an eating disorder in high school and fear that could be too triggering. I don’t take any diet pills or supplements, and have never done a formal diet plan. I have considered seeing a nutritionist. I want to continue to improve my body in a healthy way, but just lose some of the belly fat. Is this at all possible? I have tried not eating after 7 p.m., which does seem to help a lot – until my mom comes home with a container of ice cream. Ice cream at night is a HUGE weakness for some reason!

        • Stephanie Walker says

          Craving ice cream at night may be a trigger that you’re aren’t getting enough of “something” else during the day. How much protein do you eat? And what about your carb intake? I know you don’t count calories or anything like that, but it’s pretty easy to say to yourself, “I’m going to eat 20g of protein with every meal and snack.” You aren’t counting calories but you’re consciously aware that you are eating enough protein. I used to crave a lot of sweets at night but once I upped my carbs (just by eating more things like sweet potatoes, beans, etc.) during the day, I craved less sweet things at night. So maybe you can play around with your nutrition that way. Another thing I’ve learned through helping a lot of women is that those who tend to carry their fat around the middle tend to either do too much cardio (which doesn’t sound like your problem) OR they eat too little so their bodies store the fat there. Again, you don’t have to start counting anything, but if you focus on each meal and snack and make sure you’re getting enough food to fuel your workouts and your lifestyle, that might help a lot. When you look at a plate, divide it in half. Fill one half with veggies, beans, a little fruit, and a small amount of grains if you prefer them. Basically your carbs. Then take the other half of your plate and divide that in half. Fill one part with protein. Fill the last part with healthy fats. This should help you without having to count anything. I hope this helps you!

    • marlayna says

      5’2 and 114 lbs seems extremely small. I also feel your very lucky to be bottom heavy because that’s how most ppl like to look now days. At least where I’m from lol I love having big hips and butt and any lifting/exercise I do will be to get them BIGGER never smaller. Congrats on baby I just had a baby girl in Dec :)

  6. Kelly says

    Hello, I am 54, 5’2, 118 pounds. Have been lifting heavy for almost 5 months, 3 times per week. Not much cardio lately other than warm up before lifting and kettlebell swings. Since I started lifting, I have gained 5 pounds. I am definitely gaining muscle, my rear is awesome, thighs are much firmer and bigger, arms are harder. I eat fairly well, am working on increasing protein intake and drinking more water. My problem….my pants are too tight, I have quite a belly roll that I tell myself is because I gave birth to 7 children, but I hate that roll. Also, I have rheumatoid arthritis, which is in remission right now. when I started lifting, I had some muscle atrophy due to the arthritis so I am quite pleased with my muscle gain. But my elbow joints in particular hurt a lot from the lifting and I still have the batwing thing. Is there hope for me to lose those 5 pounds soon with this routine? If I lift a bit lighter for my elbow joints, will I lose the gains I have made? By the way, my body shape is hourglass.

    • strongfigure says

      Hey Kelly it sounds like you are doing great! My first thought on all of this is drink more water. You even note that you are working on this but here is why: There are three potential reasons for the extra “belly roll” the first is you have given birth 7 times. Increased water intake will hydrate your skin and make it more elastic (lotions can help with this too but water will have a better effect at the cellular level) and contrary to popular belief drinking more water will help you to retain less water (which is the second reason for an extra belly roll). If you do have extra skin in the belly area (and I cannot imagine how you would not after 7 births) water retention will likely hold itself in that area. So any bloat you may have will seem exaggerated. I normally recommend to drink one to 1.5 ounce(s) for every pound of body weight. You can drink more if you feel like your skin is really dehydrated but do so carefully. Drinking that much water could flush out necessary minerals. So you might want to supplement with something like Drip Drop if you will be doing an exceptionally difficult workout, drinking alcohol, or other types of activities that may add to mineral depletion. And if there is an event where you will have to show your belly (beach trip etc…) cut your sodium two-three days out. This will help with that belly bloat feeling. The third reason is genetic body fat storage. Based on your shape I would imagine you store most of your body fat in your hip area and maybe even your bust (consider yourself lucky) so this might not be a concern of yours. At only 118lbs I cannot imagine you have too much body fat. But any you do have may seem to show more due to extra skin and water retention. I would try to increase your musculature in your abdominals. I would start by adding planks of about 20 seconds on and ten seconds off and repeat for a few minutes. Do these daily and make sure your body is slightly leaned forward (actually I will have Steph comment more on the proper technique here she is the expert at coaching such moves — this is Erik by the way.) And I would also work on squats where the weight is in front of you. If you are a new lifter start with goblet squats (in which you hold a dumbbell or kettle bell in front of you like a goblet) and you might try holding the weight a little further out in front of you on a few reps to add extra work to the core muscles. If you are a more experienced lifter then try replacing your back squats with front squats. Both have great positives on the abdominal core area but the front squat forces those muscles to work a little harder; whereas, with the back squat sometimes your lower back muscles will pick up some of the load. And if you are really advanced you might even consider the zercher squats, in which you hold the barbell at the front of the elbow joint — you will likely want to hold off on these though until your joints start to feel better as they can be painful for any lifter. But it should be noted, sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis typically show a decrease in symptoms with increased exercise. But obviously, if its painful don’t do it. Stick with barbell front squats or goblet squats — and planks.

      I would continue to stay off the steady state cardio and maybe add in some more intense work — such as increase your KB swing weight and do them at a sprinting like intensity. Recover fully to almost a resting heart rate and then repeat. And walking more is always a great way to burn body fat. But definitely continue to stay away from the steady-state cardio at this time.

      For the issue with your joints, are you taking fish oil? If not I would read this article linked here and start taking immediately!

      Drinking more water will also help with the arthritis. When your cartilage is low in water, it shrivels and forms ridges. Well cartilage needs to be smooth so they can glide over each other (the fish oil helps with this too) but when these ridges rub into other ridges you get an abrasive effect which leads to pain and inflammation, which leads to more pain.

      Also, you might want to try taking glucosamine (if you are not already.) I would check out a product like this link here. and see how that works. The only problem with glucosamine is it normally takes a few months before you start to see positive effects. The body has to get used to it and depending on the person this sometimes takes awhile. Unfortunately, this sometimes makes people think it doesn’t work and they stop taking it before the benefits start to show. A lot of people swear by it and it is a pretty cheap supplement so it is certainly worth a try. Just make sure you are consistent with taking it.

      Good luck and I will ask Stephanie to elaborate more on the planks and maybe offer her suggestions as well!

      • Stephanie Walker says

        Steph here….not much more I feel I can add…Erik, you ROCKED this answer. As far as planks, you want to start by getting your hands right underneath your shoulders.Your feet should be together and you need to think about lifting your stomach up while pulling your glutes down–essentially “locking” your core in place. Then shift your body forward about six inches and if you can, lower down to your forearms, keeping your palms face down on the floor. That should put you in a GREAT plank position. Remember to squeeze the inner thighs and keep the glutes, abs, everything, activated! GOOD LUCK Kelly and thanks Erik for a great reply!
        BTW, 7 kids??!!?! That’s a whole new level of STRONG right there. My hat’s off to you, K!

  7. Carla says

    I am so happy I found this article. I started my weight loss journey 2 months ago and weight loss has been very slow. I decided to add weights to my routine 3 weeks ago and am starting to get discouraged. I feel and notice my legs and arms getting harder but they are also getting bigger. I am currently 149 pounds and only 5 feet tall. I have very big arms already and fear that strength training is going to make them even bigger. I am using resistance machines set at 20 pounds for arm work outs and 50 pounds for legs. I am getting very discouraged and feel like I getting bigger. Help! Am I using too much weight? Am I doing something wrong? Any advice?

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Hey Carla, thanks for the comments. It is questions like this that is the primary reason Steph wrote this article. The number one absolute biggest myth in resistance training is that women will get bulky or big from lifting weights. Unfortunately, the female bodybuilding world is full of steroid users that take artificial hormones to look the way they do. Sadly, this makes women think the same will happen to them if they lift weights. I say sadly because the absolute number one training technique a woman can do to lose weight and improve her body composition is resistance training.

      Women simply do not have the hormones to achieve a bulky look. You have likely experienced some muscle growth (hypertrophy) and maybe even some sarcoplasmic hypertrophy — which essentially is increased fluid into your muscle. Ironically, you are likely lifting too light for too high of reps. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is the result of volume. The more volume the more fluid build up. This is not entirely bad. When your arms begin to lean out (and they will) you will likely have a nice full looking muscle.

      But because you are still in the beginning stages of this program you haven’t had the leaning out effect YET. The reason why lifting weights is so great for fat loss is it raises your resting metabolic rate. Meaning you burn more calories just because of the new added muscle. I just got finished reading a study where they tested the metabolic increase caused by 45 minutes of resistance training and the metabolism in these participants stayed elevated for up to 39 hours after the training session! (I actually will get into this study, this topic, and much more in our upcoming eBook.)

      That essentially means these participants continued to burn more calories for 39 hours after working out!

      My advice would be to focus more on myofibril hypertrophy — this is where your muscle fibers become more dense and essentially you become stronger. The best way to achieve this is to lower your repetitions but increase the weight you are lifting. Also full body movements are better for achieving better metabolic change. Because you are still a novice lifter I would try goblet squats. Here is an image here

      Just remember the absolute best thing for losing weight and body composition in general is nutrition. But the best training technique is resistance training. If you are doing cardio make sure it is super intense and not steady-state cardio (this is complicated but many women will have much better results from high intensity interval training aka HIIT.)

      And yes some of this can be a little complicated and sciency — and way too hard to cover fully in a “comment reply” but there is a ton of great information out there. And as I said, we do have our new eBook coming out (hopefully in March) which will try to simplify a lot of this.

      Good luck and definitely keep lifting!

  8. Lisa Stillwell says

    I am 5’5 and weight about 135 now. I’ve been really lifting hard for about 6 weeks now and Im getting fatter. I’ve always been a runner and decided I wanted a much more toned body. I started lifting to achieve this but I look father and my clothes are tighter. Not the look I’m going after. I love to run. I will never quit. So please don’t tell me steady state cardio is the problem. I mixit up. I do steady state and HIIT. I JUST WANT TO LEAN OUT. IM FFRUSTRATED!! I used to weigh around 123 to 125. My goal is 118 to 120.

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Hey Lisa, it sounds like you have been warned about steady state cardio in the past and perhaps there is a fix for you to keep doing steady state cardio and get the results you want. The primary reasons more and more fitness experts are warning against steady state cardio is because of the hormonal impact and the prolonged catabolic state your body is in. To make sure you are not having a negative hormone related issue I would ask your doctor to have your T3 levels checked. T3 is a hormone that helps regulate metabolism and prolonged cardio has been shown to limit the production of T3. There are other hormonal issues as well but this one is serious and should be checked and it would certainly reflect weight gain.

      But let’s assume you have healthy T3 levels for your age, the catabolic effect of a prolonged steady state cardio is perhaps more likely the issue here.

      Catabolism is closely associated with a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that your body produces whenever it encounters stress. Cortisol has anti-inflammatory properties and this is one of the ways your body copes with stress such as the catabolic effects of exercise. Actually, cortisol is a necessary hormone that a healthy functioning body should have; however, when your cortisol levels remain high for a long extended period of time (such as jogging) your body thinks it is going through a tragic event. Your body thinks holy crap this must be bad. I think we will need a lot of stored fuel to get us through whatever hell we are experiencing. What do we do for fuel? Store body fat. Obviously, that is not good.

      So to cope with the pro-longed catabolism, your body is storing fat. And there are likely some insulin sensitivity issues working here as well.

      To minimize this impact you need to be causing more damage to your muscles. Your body needs to use this stored up fuel to repair the damaged muscles. If you can use resistance training to break down your muscle fibers then you will likely start to see some positive effects and maybe return your metabolism to its healthy levels.

      This is somewhat of an oversimplification and without working with you it is hard to tell what might be the problem. But what you are experiencing is very common (in women especially.) I can share with you some studies on this if you would like.

      You also might want to consider reviewing your macronutrients and consider that you may have some metabolic damage from too much exercise (lifting hard and running) and not enough calories.

      Good luck!

  9. Weiss says

    Hi! So I am exercising now for a bit over 3.5 months and I have gained around 12 pounds. I am 5’4 and 132 pounds now (used to be 120 pounds). I am doing HIIT mixed with strength training for around 30 min 5 d a week. My tights and arms are bigger :-( However, i do feel firmer. But it is frustrating…
    I don’t always eat clean but i am eating around the same as I did before. I also didn’t drink enough water in the beginning but this has changed in the last few weeks.

    In your experience what is the average time to start getting smaller? And losing weight?? Any real examples of people going through the same as me?? Because most I read is that people start by losing weight and then gain, I started gaining after a couple weeks training…I continue to just gain…
    Thanks for these posts, I am trying to keep motivated.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      In my experience, I’ve actually met quite a few ladies who gained weight before losing any weight. Bodies are different and some people just want to hold on to those stubborn fat cells longer. If you just recently increased your water intake, I’m guessing that will help. Give it another month and continue to clean up your diet a bit. It’s really hard to just throw out random advice without knowing you and your history with food and exercise or even your body type, but if you’re eating enough calories to support your exercise (AKA, not starving yourself) and you focus on good quality wholesome foods and enough water, you’re definitely on the right track. It does take some people longer than others, but heavy lifting (make sure you are lifting heavy enough–high reps with light weight will NOT work) and interval cardio is what works best! Keep at it and I’m sure you’ll notice results soon!

      • Weiss says

        Thank you for your quick reply! I am not starving myself :-) I will come to leave another comment in a couple of months to let you know how i am doing and hopefully will be smaller by then :-)

        • Stephanie Walker says

          Good luck! I definitely understand your struggles…that’s what led me here in the first place. I’m a natural gainer. But I’ve noticed that when it comes down to it for me, unfortunately it’s all about the food. I LOVE food and it doesn’t love me. So I just try to eat as clean as I can and make my whole foods fun! :D

        • MelissaC says

          Weiss, Just wondering how things are going for you? Your comment sounded very close to what I am experiencing. Its been 4 months since I started lifting and I just keep gaining weight, my summer clothes don’t fit! I stopped eating wheat for 3 full weeks and didn’t lose 1 lb. Enough about me…have you seen any weight loss? Thanks!

  10. Lasey says

    I’m 23, I’ve played soccer from 4 years old to senior year in high school.
    About 2 months ago I started working out on a daily basis, I work Monday-Friday from 9-4 and go to the gym from about 4:15-6:10.
    I start with jogging/running 2-3 miles and finish with the weight machines.
    My thighs have gotten slightly bigger which I get but the problem is my stomach area. I went from a size 9 to 13+ just because of my belly. I have had to buy maternity pants because my stomach is so big but if I buy sized pants that would fit extremely big from my thighs down, it looks like I’m 6+ months pregnant, only I’m not expecting not have I ever never had a child. I can squeeze into my stretchier size 9 pants but the waist band is just not having it with my belly.
    I’m not a super healthy eater, I only eat about 2x a day because I’m constantly busy at work but i don’t eat fast food it’s always homemade food and I make sure not to over eat.
    I don’t know what is causing this or why it’s happening.

  11. Erik WalkerErik Walker says

    Lasey, I am guessing you had significant weight gain between 18 and 22? I was confused if you were a size 9 in your senior year or did the weight gain occur more recently?

    Weight gain can be due to so many things — stress, hormone changes (the pill or nutrition can cause this), a sedentary lifestyle, lack of sleep, poor kidney function, insulin issues, t3 issues.. the list goes on and on and on…

    Most strength and conditioning coaches who are being honest, will tell you body composition is 90% or more nutrition. Nutrition matters more than anything.

    Unfortunately, nutrition is a little too complicated and broad of a topic to respond to in this format. I could write a book on nutrition. Oh wait, we are doing that right now :)

    This is a major over simplification and it doesn’t completely apply if you follow a solid training program; however, my best one sentence advice would be to anyone looking to lose weight —
    if it doesn’t swim, run, or fly, or isn’t green and grow in the ground, don’t eat it.

    Now, I wouldn’t do this to the point of restrictive eating. It is best to follow such a strict plan only about 80-90% of the time. Restrictive eating will lead to disorders and binges. So please cheat from this list at least 10% of the time. And this is way too over simplified for someone doing serious resistance training.

    But if you want a simple rule to follow for the masses to lose weight. That is the best way I could sum it up in a short reply — 80-90% meat and veggies; 10-20% everything else.

    Again, this is way too complicated and I bet even some of our contributors and even principal editor might give a different one sentence explanation. The point is you can’t realistically sum up nutrition advice in a blog post reply, let alone one sentence. I would have to know you, assess you, look at your current eating, your body type, etc..Moreover, you sound like the perfect person who will benefit from Strong Figure’s Total Health and Fitness Makeover. So sign up for a subscription in the sidebar and start keeping your eyes out for pre-order details. My guess is that will happen in April.

    Good luck and thanks for the comment.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Lasey, Erik gave a reply very similar to what I would say. The first thing I would want to know is what your daily food intake looks like. What’s your current weight, how many calories are you eating, and what are your food choices? And do you only eat twice a day during the work day, or twice a day total? I would want to see your nutritional intake before giving more advice. One thing that stands out to me is that if you by chance aren’t eating enough OR are eating too many of the wrong foods, and doing steady state cardio (jogging) for 30 minutes and finishing with 30 minutes of machine work–that could signal your body to hold onto the food you’re consuming (steady state cardio can sometimes cause women to gain weight around the middle, as would not consuming enough calories) and instead of gaining muscle you may be burning muscle and gaining fat. I would back off the jogging and maybe do a mile to warm up (or walk for 30 minutes–walking burns fat not muscle) and then start mixing in your weight machines with some dumbbell/kettlebell work. Aim for heavier working sets and really challenge yourself with your weight routine. And when done there, go back to the treadmill and work on some interval/speed work (no more than 15 minutes worth). This burns fat for days whereas a steady jog may promote fat gain…especially…around the middle. Like Erik said, our book due out soon will actually explain a lot of this further as will include methods of training and a lot of nutritional info/suggestions. Keep a lookout for this! Thanks for the comment!

  12. Kat says

    I’ve been so depressed the last two weeks cause of this! I’ve been busting my butt 5 days a week, gave up fried and fast foods, eating better, lifting weights at the gym for the first time and tons of cardio. I have gained 10lbs! Can’t fit into any of my dang clothes! I can see muscle. I feel like my muscles are swollen and tight. This is depressing to me.

      • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

        There are a lot of potential reasons why you have gained weight but one strong possibility may be that your body is storing body fat –because you are doing tons of cardio. Cardio, especially for long periods of time, requires a lot of energy. Your body will adjust to be able to handle “tons of cardio” by storing body fat. I would shorten your cardio to brief but very very intense intervals.

        Until you begin to lose weight, I would not recommend steady-state cardio, which is the culprit in fat storage for a very high percentage of females. (It can be worse in men but that is a whole different story.)

        Sprint. Rest. Repeat.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      I agree with cressonpa and Erik. Lift heavy heavy weight and do sprint intervals (or some sort of cardio intervals) on and off for no more than 15 minutes. This morning I hopped on a rower and I rowed 30 calories (about 2:30?) and then did 20 burpees. I repeated that two more times. My conditioning (and this is after an hour of strength training) lasted right under 12 minutes and I was sweating profusely and gasping for air. Loved it.

  13. Hollie says

    So glad I found this article! I’ve been fit for quite some time but have always had trouble keeping the extra “fluff” off as I like to call it. Between counting calories and totally stressing out over everything I put in my mouth and then making sure I exercise enough, I’ve just about driven myself nutty! Lol I’ve always stayed away from lifting weights because of fearing I’ld get bulky…..but through much thought and research I started adding in heavy weights. I’m naturally bottom heavy and I’ve noticed my pants getting tighter for sure and I’ve noticed the gains on the scale. I wasn’t happy about it at all. But after reading this article I feel much better. I’m so hoping I’ll start seeing some fat melt away soon…. I’ve probably gained about 10 lbs over the past 3 weeks of lifting, as I’ve tried to lift as heavy as I can. I’m new to lifting and need all the info and encouragement I can get. I’m so hoping that lifting heavy will help me win the war on fat as well! Lol Cardio just hasn’t done the trick consistently (though I enjoy it) and I am hoping this will be the secret weapon!

      • Hollie says

        Thanks! I do have a question though… I’m assuming the 10 lbs I’ve gained is some fluid retention and swollen muscles? As I don’t think I could possible gain 10 lbs in 3 weeks. Can I expect to feel my cloths getting tighter as I continue training? I lift at least 3 times a week as well as do HIIT training about 3 times a week. Just wanting to prepare myself for any additional unexpected changes. Though I’m extremely excited that I’m not getting fatter just stronger!

        • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

          As Steph points out, the muscle gain happens before the fat loss. There is a transitional period where you will have the muscle and still be leaning out (just keep this in mind.)

          You are right, you are likely holding on to fluid. And this is most likely water. I would increase your water intake to about 75-100% of your total body weight in pounds to ounces of water you should drink. So for example, if you weigh 150 pounds, drink daily 112-150 ounces of water. If you have a high sodium diet, then drink in the high range of that spectrum. Contrary to popular belief, the best way to reduce water retention is to drink more water. The only other thing you may want to consider with a 10 pound weight gain (in 3 weeks) and water retention issues is the timing in your monthly cycle.

          And you are right. Getting stronger is super exciting!

          • Hollie says

            Thank you so much for your help and the info. Love this site and I will be visiting often! Looking forward to my progress.

  14. strongfigure says

    Hollie thank you for your kind words and thank you for following us. Good luck in your quest to become a healthier and stronger you!

    Feel free to tweet at us questions you might have — @strongfigure
    We are always looking to write the articles that will help our readers the most.

  15. Noemi says

    Hi, I have a question. I am 32 yo have had 5 kids, 4.11″, 120 lbs I really want to get a toned body I don’t care about loosing weight I really prefer to be more on the curvy side but being a stay at home mom it’s really hard to find the time to go to the gym so I want to start doing the body beast program, what are your thoughts about this program, do you think I can achieve my goals my home work outs? Thank you in advance

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Hey Noemi, if I was in your position I would invest in a kettlebell. For your size, I would guess that you can handle a 20 lb. to 25 lb. kettlebell. The caps brand at Amazon is very decently priced and if you have Amazon Prime — free shipping!

      Youtube can teach you how to do most of the main exercises if you are unfamiliar. And there is always 100 Hours of Kettlebells.

      A couple yoga dvds, take the kids for walks, a nice kettlebell routine, and you can produce a body you will be very proud of.

      Here are two basic kettlebell workouts to get you started.

      Odd days (based off calendar) — 5 minutes of Turkish Get-ups alternating sides.

      Even days — 10 swings, sprint 50 meters, 10 swings, sprint 50 meters…repeat until you have done 100 swings. Warm up before the sprints, which can be hard on the body.

      Stephanie always tells me you need to spend your age in minutes warming up. Sorry Noemi, you have to warm up for 32 minutes according to Steph. I wish I only had to warm up for 32 minutes.

      Last piece of advice, most of the Strong Figure Conditioning Workouts (SFCW’s) on this site are easily modified to be done at home. Have fun and good luck!!!

  16. Jen Wall says

    Thank you thank you thank you for this article and subsequent comments!! I’m hopeful that my 5 pound increase over the past two months is muscle gain. A little history: I had fallen into the trap that most women do, thinking that only cardio is the best to lose weight. I did intense cardio 6 days a week and eating 1200 calories a day. Yes I lost weight, but I lost mostly muscle. I was still flabby and lacked muscle tone and not at all strong. I decided to stop the intense cardio and focus on weight lifting 3 times a week with less cardio. I am 5’4″ and started at 115 pounds. I decided to do the stronglifts 5 x 5 program. Now, 2 months in and I have gained 5 pounds, yet feel as though I am leaner, tighter, a lot stronger. My flat rear has transformed into a higher and more shapely backside. My arms are tighter and my thighs are more sculpted. I still have a long way to go to get the definition that I want. My arms are not as lean as I would like them to be. my pants are still a little tight and I’m not sure if this article is meant for me? I know I’m supposed to gain weight when you gain muscle but if gaining muscle means a denser body then how do I need to change my routine to burn more fat without sacrificing muscle? Is this even possible? I eat 1700 calories a day as that is my maintenance number. I try to get a hundred grams of protein a day.

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Jen it sounds like you are doing amazing in only two months! Steph would know better about your macronutrients but 1700 calories and 100g of protein sounds about right. Keep up the good work.

      As far as your arms getting “leaner”, women typically have an easier time gaining in the legs and rear (this does depend on body-type) but most women take longer to see the changes they want in their arms. If you lacked muscle tone, and had that “skinny-fat” look, it will likely take longer than two months to see noticeable improvement unless you are genetically blessed and your nutrition is perfect. My best recommendation is to not worry about the arms as they will improve over time. Every upper body movement uses the arms — all presses and pulls, so its not necessary to focus on something like curls at this time in your weightlifting progression. Just challenge yourself with heavyweight on all your lifts, work on pull-ups or chin-ups, and add in daily push ups and those arms will lean out like you want.

      Good luck and great job!

      • Jen Wall says

        Thank you for your encouragement!! I had to bookmark this page for future reference whenever I get discouraged about my progress! It’s such an opposite mentality than I’m used to that it’s been an adjustment! I just have to keep on going and I’m gonna keep getting results! Thanks so much for your thorough and quick response! It’s much appreciated!!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Jen! It sounds like you are definitely making progress!! Good for you! As far as what Erik said about me taking a look at your macros–at 120 lbs, you should aim for around 110 grams of protein per day. And it’s hard to judge your caloric intake without knowing how many hours you train, how hard you train, and how active your life outside of the gym is, but at a quick glance it looks like you “could be” anywhere in the 1560-1800 range, not to mention you may have some metabolic damage to recover from if you spent too long eating 1200 calories a day. Feel free to contact me if you want to chat more! (strongfigure@gmail)

  17. Jackie says

    I had my daughter 3 years ago and never got back on track with working out. My pants have been uncomfortable and not been fitting right ever since so I started working out and watching my calories about 2 months ago and I STILL feel like I am gaining. I bought a pair of jeans a few weeks ago that were slightly bigger than the ones I have and I put them on today to find out now that they are too tight. I am angry and frustrated. I will keep pushing through but it’s very easy to get discouraged. When I was working out before my pregnancy I never seemed to gain first. This is new to me.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Jackie,
      If there’s anything I understand, it’s frustration. You might just be in that spot where the muscle is growing but the fat hasn’t dropped off yet. I recently attended a seminar where I learned a LOT more about nutrition in this respect as well as accelerating fat loss through training. We are going to be publishing a lot on this soon–so make sure you don’t miss out on this. In a nutshell, make sure you’re not “dieting down” too much and you can ramp up your strength training by keeping your heart rate up while you lift or even add some extra intervals to the end of your lift session. Keep pushing–you’ll get there I promise!! Oh and always feel free to contact me (strongfigure@gmail) if you want some some one-on-one assistance.

      • Megan says

        This is such a good article, great advice. I am so glad I read this. I have just started proper weight training almost a month now but I have been doing a lot of research prior to this so I can really nail my technique. My bf has been telling me eat more and now I understand why, started counting my intake on an app so I can track my meals (not calorie obsessively more carb/protein/fats ratio and minerals) but I am getting bigger and have been thinking why?? my arms look good, I am increasing my weights very very quickly (I was a dancer 10 years ago and did circus training so I was very fit a long time ago) but I have had real hormone trouble and weight lifting is recommended for androgen regulation. But the increase in size threw me as I usually associate my fluctuation with thyroid/hormone. I am stable now but I want to look after myself. 5’10 and I have no access to scales. 60kgs I was last time I weighed myself. Gym Cardio Machines bore me to tears so this is great news I don’t have to plod on a treadmill for ages. I don’t eat gluten and I am prone to really bloating and weight gain but only in my stomach/lower abdomen and very little elsewhere. However its very noticeable. Some days I look pregnant. Not afraid of muscle but the development is very good in the arms, legs are not what I expected and my stomach is still a wee beachball.
        I hear eating properly is the everything with this but I will definitely up my water intake now and just wear stretch loose fit while my body morphs into its future self. Great site. Thank you

  18. Stacey says

    This has been such a valuable read! Thank you! I’ve been discouraged lately due to my size gain. I went from daily cardio and 900cals to no cardio, weights 4times per week and 1500cals.

    I have done this for 10weeks now and have gained 8kgs (fat and muscle).
    I was ready to give up as I thought maybe my metabolism just isn’t going to adapt to the higher calories but reading your post about it taking 2-6months ill pull my head in! I thought 10wks was a long time, apparently not long enough! I feel relieved to know that is actually a normal experience thanks again!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      You are SO welcome Stacey! This makes me super happy you are sticking it out!!! Keep on lifting and fueling your muscles. You will have amazing results in no time!!!

  19. Michelle Pete says

    I love this article but i need some major help…i have lost almost 50 pounds the past two years (after the birth of my 4th). I workout 4-5 days a week these past two years and log all my foods. I weigh around 162-165 and I am 5ft8 1/2 and wear a sz 8..I carry most of my weight in my belly and inner thighs, but I am very happy with my “size” of legs. just want to lose all the jiggle. Belly tho looks like i am 4 months pregnant, even tho I eat very “clean”. Last year I started running and I LOVE IT! just a few miles a few days a week and I also did P90x3 and really toned up my body. Then winter hit here in Ohio and I kinda relaxed (workingout two times a week and low calorie (around 1300-1500 calories a day)….so now I joined a gym and started a weight program allternating legs, and arms, abs, 6 days a week, followed by 30 minutes of treadmill or elliptical or arc trainer ( i mix it up and I never do steady state, always HIIT). so I am feeling better 2 weeks in, arms are perfect! Butt is shaping, my waist is seaming to form and “shape” so I got on scale and I have gained a little over 10 pounds! I drink about 80-90 oz water (that is all I drink)…log all my foods and eat around 1400-1800 calories a day (burning around 500-700 calories a day thru exercise). I am 37 and past year my period is all messed up..I go months of no period, then 30-40 days on). My gyno has ruled out anythingmajor (scans, bloodwork etc) and said hormones and tried to get me on birth control pills which i dont wanna do..so I have an appt with new gyno. So is this normal? I wish I could show a pic of my belly, and it is NOT loose skin it is FAT that I can grab by the handful and shake….however it is looking much better and I can FINALLY feel hardness under there for once! So i keep telling myself once the muscle keeps grwoing it should finally burn that belly fat off little by little correct? I would love any advice!!!! I should also add that I am one of those people who can just “forget’ to eat or eat one meal a day and be fine..so logging my food really really helps me eat every few hours and protein after a workout etc…..

    • Michelle Pete says

      I should add, that last summer after p90x3 I dropped A LOT of BODY FAT, so I think that is when my hormones went awhack. However I still have lots of body fat I am sure..kinda what you would call “skinny fat”. My high school weight was always around 150, sz 6-8 with soft but nice flat belly.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Michelle, Steph here. I did a quick calculation of your calories and for your height/weight, 1400-1800 is way too low with the amount of strength training and HIIT you’re doing. I’m not a certified nutritionist, but I’ve been studying more and more on this recently and I 100% believe that you’re holding onto belly fat (that’s where most women want to store fat cells) b/c you’re not feeding your body enough. At the lower end of my calculations, I have that you should be eating (probably at a minimum) of 2106 calories a day, as well as trying to get at least 576 of these calories from protein = 144 grams/day. If you’re only used to 1800 max, I would slowly start increasing (maybe 100-150 calories at a time) until you reach the 2106 number and then stay there for a minimum of 2 weeks, if not longer, to see if you can start undoing some of the fat-storing damage. Once your body has enough time to process that you’re feeding it enough, it should start to burn more and work better for you–giving you the results you need. (And then we can go from there to get further results.) Feel free to try this and get back to me after a few weeks, or email me for more specific info and some one-on-one counseling. (strongfigure@gmail) Good Luck!

      • Michelle says

        Thanks so much!! That really makes a lot of sense and I am definitely going to do what you said and bump it up…it’s just so hard because eating so “clean” I feel like I am eating a TON!!!! But I will add more healthy fats and get my cal intake up! Also looking at my past logs I average 90 grams of protein a day..so I def need to work on that too! I will keep you posted!! Thanks so much for all the info..you rock! :)

        • Stephanie Walker says

          Thanks Michelle!! :D I know what you mean about eating clean and eating a ton. I’ve had to do the same thing and bump up my carbs and getting enough from whole foods is definitely like eating all day long. Sweet potatoes, grapefruit, veggies, veggies, beans, and veggies…agh! I’ve added in some oats, rice or quinoa, or even a protein bar as a treat or snack. That helps me get some extra carbs (that’s the hardest macro for me to hit). I’ve even found that eating bowl of cereal post lifting helps A) keep me happy, and B) helps me hit my numbers without negative consequences since I eat it post training. Anyway, play around with it and you’ll figure out how to hit your numbers in no time. Talk soon!

  20. Stephanie Walker says

    Hey Michelle, this is Erik. Steph logged in on my computer so I am just replying from here. This is actually a comment Steph should reply to since it seems nutrition based. It sounds to me like you are under eating which likely signaled to your body to slow metabolism and hold on to body fat. You could be even experiencing some metabolic damage. Anyway, Steph is really busy working on a protocol for this very problem. I will try and talk with her tonight and maybe she can reply with her thoughts.

    So keep a look out for her reply. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Nina says

    Hi ! I am all new to this weight training/strength training thing. I just started lifting weights with the machines 3 weeks ago. I alternate bottom /top every other day n do abdominals everytime im at the gym, also i incorporate free style weights . I do however start & end with cardio . I do this 4 days a week . Im 203 lbs & 5′ 4 im looking to loose weight & gain muscle i think to help me loose weight. I did loose 2 in off my waist so far but feel like i gained in my upper arms n thighs a little (im assuming thats the muscle growing)? Am i doing the right thing for weight loss?

    • strongfigure says

      Hey Nina, first of all congrats on starting your resistance training journey. A couple quick tips might help.

      Concerning the cardio, make sure it is HIGH intensity. Look up HIIT. This is the type of cardio you should be implementing into your training. If you feel like you are sucking in oxygen then you are at a good intensity; rest and repeat.

      Concerning the lifting, machines are a good starting point for a lot of beginning lifters. They will help build some foundation to progress to the type of lifting which will yield the most results. Soon you should be graduating to lifts that involve multiple muscle groups working together, such as the squat. These types of lifts have the most positive results on metabolic function and therefore body composition.

      I would start immediately working on the Goblet squat (google it) even if it is super light in the beginning and when you can manage sets of 45 pounds + on the Goblet with proper form then graduate to the barbell back squat. You may want to look into finding a coach for these movements early on just for a few sessions so that you do not develop bad habits early.

      Good luck and thanks for reading Strong Figure! We have a lot of materials coming out over the next few months for people just like you. You can sign up for a free subscription in the side bar so you don’t miss out on the awesomeness.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Nina! I would say, Yes, it looks like you are. Patience is going to be key. When you lift, make sure you’re lifting heavy and not just lifting to lift (that’s a big mistake I typically see). If you’re doing sets of 10, reps 8, 9, 10 should feel really hard to do, not easy. So make sure you’re choosing weight that’s challenging. And when you finish your workout with cardio, make sure you’re doing an interval based cardio or walking. Walking at a steady pace is fine and if you’re able to do high intensity interval cardio, that will for sure speed up your fat loss (and we’re actually getting ready to publish 6 weeks worth of interval workouts for people to add to the end of their training…PERFECT for you. Make sure you’re subscribed so you don’t miss it.) Keep doing what you’re doing, make sure your food choices are the best they can be for you and your specific needs, and make sure you’re also eating enough protein (.8-1g / lb body weight). This will work as long as you’re patient, consistent, and willing to understand and take on the “process.” Because it is without a doubt, a process. :) Good Luck!

  22. Ann says

    I am doing the Body Beast by Team Beach Body. This is my third week of the building stage. The next stage is five weeks of bulk. I have been eating a low calorie diet such as vegetables with chicken breast. I had noticed that in one week I had gained three pounds. I did not lose nothing at all. By me doing the program I do noticed my uniform pant in the thigh area is very lose. I always lose below my thighs and legs before my upper body. Is that normal? I work all my body including chest, shoulders, and back. Also I noticed that the back of my thighs feels tight. Is that normal as well?

    • strongfigure says

      Hey Ann, all of that sounds normal for a lifting plan and losing in the legs is more of an individual body type issue. I am not too familiar with the Body Beast program. Be careful cutting calories too quickly. This can have a huge slowing effect on your metabolism. Good luck and keep us posted on how this program works for you!

  23. says

    I started doing bodypump a month and a half ago; I did it for about a week and a half before I decided that heavy lifting was the way to go and to get me the results I was seeking. It has only been about three weeks, but I am already noticing so many changes in my body. I used to be one of those cardio bunnies… running is my passion…but I knew it wasn’t really doing anything for me, aside from increasing endurance.

    At any rate, I came upon this article because I have noticed that especially around my stomach, I feel/look bigger — more so like my stomach looks bigger from a side profile…but straight-on I can tell that I have narrowed out, especially around the hips. I used to be able to grab fat at the sides of my stomach and hips, but now I can’t pinch much of anything there.

    I’m not too worried about it, because I FEEL great, and nothing feels more often than going to the weight room and seeing my strength increase each time. I have been able to increase my weight on most lifts almost every time — except, my biceps and triceps are taking a little longer to progress.

    I personally wouldn’t stop lifting just because I temporarily feel a little bigger in areas, because to me, the feeling of being able to consistently do things I wasn’t able to do before is a much bigger reward. I was EXCEPTIONALLY weak my whole life — more so than most sedentary folks — despite how active I was with running. I can lift stuff at home that I couldn’t before, and it feels nice to know that I am on a path where I someday I won’t have to ask for peoples’ help to lift things and do things around the house! I am definitely the type of woman who has a sense of pride, and doesn’t actually LIKE asking her husband to do things — I don’t like feeling like the damsel in distress!

    I digress — my stomach seems bigger, but it’s also a lot harder — I guess for me, I care less about size and more about tightness/firmness and strength. I know a lot of women are so freaked out about size —
    The numbers really, really distort women’s body image. The numbers on your pants size and the numbers on the scale — shouldn’t be the determining factor — it should be how you FEEL.
    I know that sounds cliche, but you can be a size 2 and have a lot of unflattering body fat — or you can jump to a size 4 or 6, but have little body fat. I personally, would prefer less body fat than a smaller size… I think women fall into this trap that we are SUPPOSED to be “smaller” and more fragile. It’s like, engrained into our culture. Don’t fall for it!

    Just my two or three cents.

    • strongfigure says

      Hey Liu, thanks for sharing! It sounds like you are doing great and way to break from the outdated traditional roles of femininity — damsel in distress. Concerning the stomach, I imagine you have developed significant abdominal musculature. The stomach is a typical place that many of us store body fat and often just a small amount of body fat hides that six pack which lurks beneath. So it is not surprising that you feel your stomach is bigger. This is common in athletes that stress abdominal muscles — i.e. fighters. Google image a picture of legendary MMA fighter Chuck Liddell sometime — he is the extreme example of stomach musculature and to the untrained eye (since it protrudes) it looks like a “gut.” Several of the traditional lifts that yield the best results will build strong stomachs (like squats) but this is a great thing in that it helps us in so many positive ways.
      And speaking from a man’s perspective (this is Erik), I agree that a skinny-fat size 2 is typically less desirable than a size 6+ low body fat female.

      • cressonpa says

        The skinny-fat size 2 jogger looks great in clothes but the crossfit/weightlifter looks great naked.

        • Big Kitty says

          I would beg to differ. The skinny size 2 runner likely has no butt, no curves and IMO would not look good in or out of clothing.

      • says

        Thanks for the reply! I enjoy what you said about abdominal muscles and especially about traditional lifts like squats. While my stomach seems “bigger” it’s definitely getting stronger, harder, and tighter overall — so I’m okay with that! Prior to beginning heavy lifting, I did lots of crunches, planks, etc. — but it wasn’t until I started doing compound exercises with a barbell that I really noticed my stomach change. :)

  24. says

    Oh, I wanted to say one more thing for the other ladies reading this who are worried about getting bigger — Another thing to consider is if you’re eating ENOUGH. I know that sounds backwards, but if you are cutting your calories too much, that can actually give you the opposite results your seeking.

    You really have to find out what works for YOU. The first week or so I tried balancing my macros and all that jazz, and I have to tell you, it wasn’t right for my body. I felt lethargic, got nasty cravings, and got really bloated. I think it’s important to avoid processed/fake/pre-packaged foods and what not — but I don’t think that the same diet is right for everyone. I know, for me personally, I require a higher (good) fat intake than most people to stay slim. I eat a LOT of peanut butter, coconut/coconut oil, etc. A lot more than most people would recommend.

    It’s about staying in tune to your body, listening to your body, and honoring it.

    • strongfigure says

      Liu, you are exactly right. Under eating, especially when mixed with prolonged exercise, can cause your metabolism to slow and your body to store body fat.

  25. says

    I’m so glad I found this blog. I’m doing the New Rules of Lifting for Women and am on Phase 2. I have gotten a lot stronger (picking up 20-25 lb dumbbells as opposed to the 10 lbs ones I started off with), and it seems my shoulders have more tone. I have been discouraged that the scale hasn’t moved and I haven’t seen any other changes, other than my pants have gotten tighter instead of looser. I haven’t gained any weight at all. I seem to be maintaining weight just fine at 1600 calories a day on non-workout days (1900 on workout days). Those numbers were calculated through NROLW guidelines. I track my food through FitnessPall, weigh and measure everything, etc.
    Plus I’m meeting my protein goals. Just was getting frustrating to actually have pants get tighter!!!! Sigh. But this site encouraged me to hang in there. Eventually I’ll get smaller instead of bigger, right? I hope?? :-)
    I’m trying to stay focused on the fact that I’m lifting heavier weights and getting stronger. I can do 8-10 floor pushups!!! Yay!
    I have Spina Bifida btw and walk with one crutch, so I can’t do any deadlifts, squats, lunges or lifting barbells while standing or anything at all on two feet. I can do everything else seated though, so it’s been rows and push-ups and pull downs and lifting dumbbells, and lifting an ez curl bar (while seated). I pretty much do everything in NROLW that doesn’t involve those things and have incorporated other movements I can do seated. I figure if a wheelchair bound bodybuilder I saw can do it, I sure can. At least I can do HIIT on the stationary bike.

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Ybieberich, you sound like you are doing great! To meet these goals is impressive and very difficult to accomplish without the ability to do standing and compound lifts like squats and deadlift. You are amazing! Very few people know this but Steph, the primary author of Strong Figure, also has Spina Bifida but a very mild case. Even her mild case makes some movements very difficult or problematic. You really are an inspiration and I hope you realize that.

      Concerning the programming, I am a big fan of Alwyn Cosgrove, one of the authors of the New Rules of Lifting for Women. I have that book at home but its been years since I have looked at it. I know that it had a lot of great training information so I am glad to hear you are following good advice — at least as far as the workouts go. I do not remember the nutritional recommendations but I am sure it is better advice than most are getting. So it looks like you are right on track. And just be patient with the programming. I would continue your current plan and stay dedicated. When that is complete let us know how you are doing! If you are not satisfied we can talk about new strategies at that point. Sometimes just sticking with a program is the best thing you can do.

      Oh and HIIT on the airdyne is awesome if you have access to one.

      Good luck and I wish you all the best. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  26. says

    Thank you so much Erik! I really appreciate the encouragement. It’s great to hear that others with some physical challenges find ways to do what they can :-) I sometimes feel quite alone…and the odd one at the gym walking in with my crutch and proceeding to lift my 20 pound dumbbell.
    I have a mild form of Spina Bifida, too. It effects my right foot and leg as I mentioned. I’m healthy otherwise. A little more back story…I lost 40 pounds about three years ago from just doing an exercise bike and walking (I do walk with a crutch fine) plus changing my diet. Of course, the cardio was great for shedding the pounds, but I failed to do any strength training or the right amount of protein (didn’t know at the time how important all that was). I’m at 121 pounds now and am 5 feet tall, which is a pretty good weight, though I could stand to lose a bit more, maybe. I hit a wall with cardio and have some body fat that just won’t go away.
    I came across NROLW this year and was so excited. I’m LOVING weight lifting. I really am. I have to say, there’s nothing quite like picking up something that used to be heavy for me and finding it feels like a feather now. I’m constantly amazed by that.
    I also love the promise that through building more muscle that stubborn fat will one day start to go away.Patience is tough, I admit.
    I found this article at the right time. I was feeling frustrated, even though it felt like I’ve been getting it right so far and seeing improved strength. I guess we’re programmed to think it’s what the scale says that matters. I have no intention of giving up.

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Ybieberich, I am so happy that you are loving weight lifting. Sometimes the state of mind is the most important thing for our health — peace and happiness is very underrated when it comes to life in general. I would encourage you to address this issue of “patience” by embracing your new found love for getting strong.

      And your story is one that should be shared. Many of us use excuses like back pain, a bad shoulder, or a hurt knee to justify skipping the gym (all inflictions of mine) yet you are overcoming so much more. Thanks for sharing! And thanks for inspiring me!

  27. Kim says

    Sooooo happy I stumbled here. I have been lifting with a trainer since November and was 96lbs and 5ft. I am now 110lbs. Since November , my weight has been steadily climbing and I cannot lose 1lb even if I wanted to. We take measurements on a monthly basis and my measurements have also remained the same. The only difference I feel is thAt my jeans fill out nicer and I’m stronger. This is all fine and dandy except I don’t feel fine and dandy. I went up a dress size and just feel “huge” all over. We keep my cardio very low because I suffer from adrenal fatigue, hypothyroid and im
    Also on testosterone pellet therapy for my low hormones. If I do too high intensity of a cardio workout, I will crash. My weight seems to sit in my belly and lower body. My question is; what could be contributing to the weight gain and what is preventing weight loss and or even loss of inches? We do mainly resistance train, trx, a lot of squats.I drink shakeology for breakfast and eat mainly paleo for lunch and dinner. Because I’m on testosterone , can that cause me to “bulk”? I feel like I’m ready to throw in the town since all I’ve gained is weight but inches remain the same. I question why i bother to workout. Should I add in cardio?

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Kim without knowing more about your body composition (primarily body fat percentage and total fat free mass) it is really hard to see what the problem is with your weight? 110 sounds really small even for 5 feet tall. The body needs a certain percentage of lean muscle mass and visceral fat (the fat that surrounds your organs and keeps them healthy) to just be healthy. I am guessing the T-therapy has helped you to gain a little lean muscle mass. I worry you are paying way too much attention to the scale. The concept of “dandy” is ingrained in our culture but the truth is women need muscle. We are evolving past the days where women were supposed to be weak and submissive — thank god. The Fittest Woman on Earth, Camille Le Blanc, (and yes that is her legit title) is barely over 5 feet and she weighs 30 pounds more than you. Fit is sexy. Fashion Week in Australia this year has decided to replace all the models with athletes. We are in an exciting time where a woman’s health is more important than her frailty. So we need to throw away the shackles of the old concepts of femininity and embrace the fact that the days of women being weak and subservient are becoming an archaic construct. Focus on your health, building lean muscle mass, and keeping your body fat percentage at a healthy rate — don’t worry about the scale, which really is an inferior tool when it comes to assessing body composition and a tool that often causes more problems than it’s worth.

      • Kim says

        Thank you for the response! I agree that the scale needs to be chucked. However, the gain in dress size does concern me which led me to this article. We had been working out my back and I thought the point was to make it leaner. I hope it’s just that I’ll get bigger before I get smaller.

  28. Jennifer says

    So glad I found this article.. I have been doing crossfit for about 3 months. I try to go 3 times a week.I weigh 140 and I am 5’4, I recently have put on 5 lbs but I have noticed that I am losing inches. I just feel like my thighs and calfs are getting huge. I eat mostly chicken and lots of fruits and veggies. I have been taking protein shakes after a hard workout. Hopefully, I will start to tone more and my legs will not looks so huge to me.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Jennifer! It sounds like you’re doing everything right! Who cares about the scale as long as you’re losing inches, right?! I feel like it’s pretty typical for women who do a lot of squats/crossfit/lower body work to develop really shapely legs. I say shapely because the harder you work, the more “toned” they’ll get and the more fat you’ll end up burning off them. End result? Awesome legs! Everyone is different and everyone will lose fat differently, everyone will even gain muscle differently. But you’re exercising–with weights!–and you’re eating healthy foods. You’ve already lost inches and you’re getting stronger. Everything you’re doing is spot on. I would keep doing exactly what you’re doing!! If you think you’d like to try and speed up additional fat loss, check out the Macros HIIT 6 Protocol I developed (MH6). It’s a series of 6-weeks worth of 6-minute HIIT workouts to add to the end of your training to give you an extra 200 calorie burn. You may end up adding a couple of these to your workout each week just for a little boost when you feel you need it. Good luck on your journey and keep us posted! :)

  29. Darlene says

    I am so frustrated with my exercise and healthy eating results! I am 51, and I have weight lifted for 25 years. I have never gone beyond any certain point – I just love the feel of being so strong. I worked construction for many years as a helper. I didn’t look muscular, but I was/am strong. I am 5’5, small chest, short waisted, barely go in at the waist, wide shoulders, heavy thighs. I basically look the same top to bottom. I look proportionate, and people often think I weigh much less than I look. 7 years ago I dropped down to 135 (looked about 105) due to a divorce. I finally looked skinny and had visible muscle tone. I couldn’t believe my body could look so fit. About 4 years ago my lifestyle changed and I put on weight. I am now heavier than I have ever been at 155. I was eating “normal” after a few years of barely eating due to the divorce and stress. I am working harder than ever to lose weight. I eat sensible. Don’t count calories but do very little processed foods. I am at the gym 5 days a week. I do 20 minutes on treadmill (hate cardio), and 40 minutes weight lifting. I leave the gym drenched worse than a man. I free lift 20lb dumbbells. I pull press and do other arms at 70+lbs. I squat with 80+ lb bar/weight.. I leg press 215 lbs. I just love the feel of the challenge and intensity. I was never pear shaped, now I am. My stomach is so big. I look thick. I look soft, though my muscles are hard as a rock. I can’t get defined. Just too much fat on top of the muscle. I just had a physical – everything normal. Now I am adding Jillian Michaels ripped in 30. Trying everything. I just measured myself and I have gained inches everywhere except my waist. I am feeling hopeless. The only thing I don’t do is drink a lot of water (or anything). I juice in the morning (vegetables), and eat balanced meals. I just want to give up but I hate how I feel in my own skin, I dont’t want to feel worse. But I don’t know if all the weights are doing more damage than good. And I don’t want to believe that I am over 50 and it is just the way my body now is.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Darlene, it sounds like you’re working REALLY hard. I completely sympathize with your frustrations…it’s practically the reason I started strongfigure. You said you don’t count calories, but I’m curious at how much (or how little??) you might be eating, as well as the macro breakdown. Like, are you getting enough protein and carbs or maybe eating too much fat? If I were you, I’d track your calories (and protein/fat/carb breakdown) for at least one week to see where you stand on average with food. It may just be a diet tweak for you. Also, I wouldn’t do more than 15-30 min max of cardio a day and make sure it’s high intensity and not steady state. I just published the macro hiit 6 protocol which was designed to give people an extra 6 minutes a day of hiit training to boost fat loss…make sure you download it while it’s still free. But in the meantime, track your food for me. Then email me at strongfigure@gmail.com. We’ll figure this out. And keep lifting!!!! :D

  30. T says

    I started New Rules of Lifting for Women about 6 weeks ago and just finished stage 1. I had a history of power yoga and light upper body weight training and avoided lower body exercises for years. I’ve got a naturally tone waist but larger thighs and a bubble butt. My butt was very muscular prior to startin new rules. I started the program at 5’2 110 and gained 4 lbs in the first week and an additional two in week 5. My pants do not fit. I’m the heaviest I’ve been since I was in college 17 years ago. How long before I experience the whoosh? My work clothes were very expensive and I don’t want to buy new work stuff (think $500 tailored suits that don’t fit). I have gained an inch on each upper thigh. Waist is the same, hips are the same and bust is the same. I’m extremely small framed so extra weight is very noticeable.

    • T says

      I should add my calories have been around 1400 a day (tdee) and my macros are on point 90% of the time (40/30/30). I have not eaten processed food in 10+ years and eat organic, grass-fed, sustainable when it’s an option (again like 90% of the time).

      • Stephanie Walker says

        It sounds to me that your food is on point unless you wanted to experiment with a different percentage like 45/30/25? But honestly I think if you can add some/some more HIIT to your training after your lift sessions, you could really speed up this process. Maybe even within the next month. Check out this post I published last week: http://strongfigure.com/lose-fat-and-an-ebook-update/
        I think it might be exactly what you need. Hang in there…you’re doing it right!

        • T says

          Thank you for the speedy reply. Sometimes a little encouragement helps a lot. Honestly I feel the best I ever have and knowing that I’m squatting 115 lbs makes me feel like Wonder Woman! I’m looking forward to the eBook :)

          • T says

            I’ve stuck with it and I love lifting. My weight is still up though and my pants are still tight. I’m 12 weeks in at this point. I keep questioning if I’m eating too much, but I know 1400 cal a day isn’t a lot. Should I try to adjust it? Also I’ve been doing HIIT for about 6 weeks now post workouts.

  31. Heidi says

    Oh my gosh, I am so here right now. I’m used to being a diet fad/cardio queen and dropping 40 lbs of weight in 3 months. I started powerlifting 6 weeks ago and I swear I haven’t lost a pound. Frustrated and on the verge of quitting. Trying to do this right is making me so down.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Heidi! You can’t stop now! If there’s anything I’ve learned–whether business, fitness, anything–it’s when you’re at that moment of wanting to quit and give up, that’s where the changes start happening! Keep pushing, you’re doing things right! The reason it’s slow is because you’re doing things the proper way. It’s beyond tempting to just cut food and up the cardio to get fast results but the more we do that, the more we’re screwing up our metabolism. Trust me, I’ve been there and I’m combating severe metabolic damage now from those days, even though they were years ago. So hang in there. You’re doing it right and the slower the results, the healthier and long-lasting they will be!!!

  32. says

    Well I feel really bummed out because unfortunately none of this is true for me! My body has changed so much from lifting that I can no longer find clothes that fit me properly. I got bigger and never thinned out again, and I seem to gain muscle very evenly all over. I recovered from anorexia (the picture on my gravatar is old so trust me, I do not look like that anymore) and started heavy weight lifting. I also do lots of cardio and I eat healthy. I also eat a lot because I have a super fast metabolism. I have gained a lot of muscle but I also have a fat layer overtop so you can’t really see any muscle definition, which I fear just makes me look fat, and I wish I could lose that fat but I’ve tried everything to lose itin a healthy way and it just won’t leave, however a lot of people seem to comment on how strong and buff I look and how big my muscles are so I guess some people can tell that I’m not just fat. Although I’m sure if I wear certain clothes you might not be able to tell. I get really depressed because I don’t look like most athletes and fitness models do despite how fit I am and how much I work out. I am having such a hard time finding clothes that fit me. My muscles have given me an hourglass shape strangely enough (which I’ve never seen on any other muscular woman) so I have a womanly figure despite being so bulky and solid looking, I pack on muscle very evenly all over, very broad shoulders, defined waist and the weird thing is I also have big muscles on my hips that I haven’t even seen female bodybuilders to have (most don’t have any hips at all) but for me, my muscles are so prominent there that they extend out as much as my shoulders do. And my thighs and calves are gigantic now as well. I’ve had to buy XL sweatpants and start living in really stretchy clothes. Because trying to find pants that truly fit will probably never happen now, pants that fit around my thighs are way too big in the waist. And I can no longer find decent shirts because my shoulders are so big and it’s not like I want to buy big shirts because those don’t fit my torso, and I look so aweful in baggy clothes, and also my torso seems to have gotten longer, wider and more solid so I have to try to find shirts that are unusually long, but they seem to only make shirts for people that have short torsos. And I would have been happy if my arse filled out a lot more, but despite all the squats in the world, my thighs always end up being larger than my butt, which really annoys me.

    • strongfigure says

      Sabrina, wow thanks for sharing! Ok first, your body is likely holding onto that fat because it feels it needs it for energy storage. This is common in people who have had long periods of calorie restriction and furthermore because you are requiring so much energy demands for things like “lots of cardio” your body is worried it will go into another starvation mode and will not be able to handle the energy demands you are putting yourself through.

      Also, please don’t compare yourself to other athletes and fitness models. I know this is hard and we all do it. But in all of the photos you see in fitness magazines and most websites, the models are photoshopped, dehydrated, and they don’t look like that in real life. I am always surprised when I see some of the “big names” in person how normal they look. Aspiring to look like genetically blessed people, who are photoshopped on top of that is a recipe for disappointment.

      In regards to your extreme muscle acquisition, this one is quite interesting. My best guess is you are holding on to fluid in your muscles. Assuming you do not like this look (based on your comments), I would dramatically lower your reps and increase your weight. High reps of resistance training (like more than 8) will cause a build up of sarcoplasmic fluid in the muscle over time — this is why bodybuilders will often lower the weight and do many more reps. Or you could be mesomorphic to the extreme, which is something most men would kill for but sadly our oppressive beauty ideals we put on women tend to not like alpha females.

      Concerning your rear, quad dominance is common in a lot of lifters. My best recommendation is to activate your glutes before you squat. Look for easy glute activation exercises and when you feel that lactic acid burning feeling in your rear then squat. This will trigger for your glutes and hams to take on more of the work. Right now your quads are doing it all. You might want to have a strength and conditioning coach check your form too.

      Good luck. I wish you well. And I hope I addressed some of your concerns. I think the most important thing is to be happy with yourself. The body does not function well with stress and unhappiness. If you are overly stressed about how you look or how you don’t look than you are increasing your body’s cortisol levels over a long extended period of time and this can absolutely slam the breaks on any gains you are trying to make. You should check out this link from Eats and Exercise by Amber. Paul Chek talks about people who have improved their body composition by simply becoming happy. Sounds strange but there is empirical proof.


  33. julie says

    I recently started a to workout and watch my food intake. I notice myself getting bigger. I’ve been at it for about 5 weeks. I am 5’7″ and 122lbs. When can I see myself slimming down with definition instead of getting bigger?

    • cressonpa says

      Maybe getting bigger is a good thing? Unless you have very little muscle, 122lb sounds light for 5’7″

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Hey Julie, 5 weeks is a really small amount of time to see noticeable change. That said, because you are very small to begin with you will likely build muscle fairly fast (assuming you are following a proper training regimen) and once you have sufficient muscle, if you are eating enough to feed that muscle, the body fat you have will disappear. Like I said in the last comment and multiple times through out these comments, do NOT under-eat. Thanks for the comment!

  34. Tina says

    I am 5’3″ 112lbs. I am happy with my size but not my belly. I’ve had 3 babies and seem to carry a good portion of extra fat right out front, mainly due to too many years of undereating and cardio only. I’ve since gotten educated on proper nutrition but still the belly. I do not want to lose anymore weight. What should I do?

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Hey Tina, let us assume your issue is a body fat storage issue and not a loose skin-torn abdominals issue. In this case we are talking about subcutaneous fat (the fat we want to get rid of — fat under the skin). Because you said you had years of undereating this is likely the case. When we restrict calories the body gets good at storing fat to account for the loss in energy. Anyway, your belly fat could be reduced by slowly bringing your calories back up to a healthy level for you, plenty of movement, walk walk walk, sleep 8 hours a night, drink plenty of water, and reduce life’s stressors…honestly anyone of these things could be causing you to hold on to body fat. I am guessing you have room to add more muscle (based on your weight) this will also help to reduce that extra belly fat. More muscle means a more efficient metabolism. Feed that furnace! Also, check out Steph’s MH6 protocol it is free for another week or so. Just sign up for a subscription and it will be a link on the Thank You page. Good luck and thanks for sharing!

  35. says

    This truly helped me. I was a runner or should I say I am, but right after my half marathon was over this year, I started doing hII training, lifting 3x’s a week, and I do spin once a week, run once a week. since then I have gained 6lbs, my clothes are so tight I want to scream and I don’t eat bad, I eat super clean at least 65-70% of the time.. I was about to quit this.. Because it has been about 6 weeks, I mean even my tummy feels fat, and we do tons of ab work.. However reading this helped me, not give up..

    • Stephanie Walker says

      I am so happy this has been able to help you! Definitely keep training hard…good things will come. It’s a process and you must not only be patient but trust the process! And definitely pick up my Macros HIIT 6 Protocol–it’s only free until May 7!

  36. Jennifer says

    I’m currently a pilates and piyo instructor. I teach everyday- sometimes twice a day. I’m trying to get a more muscular look and started lifting 3 weeks ago. Went from 117 to 122. Havnt really changed anything else. I’m 5’3″ and just want to make sure I’m on the right track. Thanks!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Jennifer! As long as you’re hitting at least 1500 calories each day you’re definitely on the right track!!! Keep lifting, eat lots of protein, and fuel those muscles!!

  37. says

    Hello! This is a problem I have been encountering since I started going back to the gym in February after a three-months break. I go to the gym between 3 and 4 times a week and I usually lift (heavy with low reps) and go to a cardio class after. I don’t weigh myself (due to a past of eating disorders) but my clothes feel tighter and I have gotten a lot of stretch marks in the past few weeks (which never happened to me before when working out, only during my teenage years when I was growing) on my thighs and my hips. Should I make my diet more strict to lose more fat? Should I lift lighter? Am I doing something wrong?

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Definitely don’t lift lighter and definitely do not add too much cardio–depending on what kind of cardio, you may actually be doing too much. Check out this article about cardio and fat loss–it’s excellent: https://www.t-nation.com/training/final-nail-in-the-cardio-coffin. Also, if you haven’t grabbed our MH6 Protocol, do it NOW before it’s not free anymore: http://strongfigure.com/lose-fat-and-gain-muscle/. You may want to consider switching one of these workouts to your routine post lifting instead of the cardio class. You’ll save a lot of time that way too. And I would not try to make your diet more strict. In fact, it could be too strict as is. Do you know approximately how much you’re eating each day? Since you are lifting heavy, your body requires more food to rebuild your muscles and we all know building more lean muscle leads to greater and faster fat loss. You might be surprised with your progress if you bumped up your calories…if calories are too low (especially protein and carbs) we can actually hold onto weight instead of losing it. And I have zero issues with eliminating wheat as long as you aren’t eliminating all carbs. I used to be the person terrified of carbs but going through a similar experience has taught me that my (and all of our) bodies need the carbs for post training. Something you may want to consider (after you know you’re eating enough) is timing your food for optimal intake. For example, can you eat 50-60% of your carbs around your training? Eat less fat post training, and make sure you’re getting sufficient protein throughout the day??? All these can add up in the long run but only if you’re doing the first two right: heavy lifting, proper eating. I’ve seen too many chicks continue to cut calories in an effort to lose more weight and they stall their progress even further–making it tougher to bounce back from. If you want some one-on-one help with this, feel free to email me at strongfigure@gmail.com. And here’s my coaching page too: http://strongfigure.com/nutritional-coaching/. GOOD LUCK!

  38. Ashley says

    Hi there :)

    I have been lifting for a few months, started lifting harder, heavier, and varying my reps with the higher I go about a month and a half ago at first 30 mins then sometimes 1 hour beacuse I wanted to get away with eating more lol. I recently also started adding 30 mins of HIIT training mainly beacuse the fat on my stomach is being stubborn.

    I am 21 and 5′ 2″ and I 100% realize that when you start lifting your body is not determined by the scale but instead you body fat percentage. I have gained about 5 pounds of musle (yay!) and went from 100 to 105. But my BF is like 20% which annoys me, I want 14-15 %.!I’ve always had a fast metabolism so i.e. been tiny all my life, it started slowing down a few years ago which annoyed me as well and I started gaining fat a lot easier.

    Anyways, so I want to be fit, have a toned body, especially my stomach. I have gained musle easily in my arms and thighs which I don’t mind, but my stomach like I said is being stubborn. I have almost no fat around my arms and a little around my thighs. An I think I’m building musale on my stomach (I see definition when I suck in) but I feel like not only am I having trouble losing fat but I think gaining musle there as well. Why is that?

    Oh also about me: I lift or atleast add weights to my training if i have to cut it short for some reason usually 5-6 days a week, I have been doing carb backloading (it works great for me beacuse I used to always feel starving when I ate carbs first half of the day). Maybe I’m not eating enough in generally or maybe enough fats, I eat healthy for the most part and try to aim for foods that will make me feel fuller for longer unless it a snack(a little over half my weight in fats both good and not depending on my backloading, my body weight plus sometimes a bit more in protein) along with some carb filled food post workout whether it’s as simple as pasta or having some ice cream (this is where I’m not sure how much to have, I’ve read aim for your body weight or a little more when lifting).

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Hey Ashley, I am the resident carb backloader here so I am probably best suited to answer this. I will be honest though, personally, I rarely prioritize body fat percentage so I am not necessarily the best for talking about carb backloading as a leaning out eating plan. In fact, although I don’t eat to lose weight, when I had my macros evaluation done I found out that I was actually eating too few carbs and a little too much fat (my protein was perfect). This was blasphemy to my “carbs are evil” mindset. But when I took a closer look at my eating I realized I really wasn’t maximizing my metabolism. My best advice with CBL is to play around with your body — some do better on more carbs and some do better on CNS (Carb Night Solution.) But the more I read, and the more I talk to folks who have found success, the more I realize the answer is not calorie restriction. Long term this sets you up for failure. Look closer at your macros and make sure you are getting sufficient calories in all three. One final note, not sure if you drink alcohol but lately I have been hypothesizing that drinking alcohol post a backload will stop the backload and cause the body to instead process the alcohol. So all those carbs just get stored as fat. I haven’t proven this but it seems to make sense. I will have to look through some of Kiefer’s posts on alcohol and see if this reasoning has been empirically proven.

  39. Catherine says

    I NEEDED this article!! I have been hitting the gym a minimum of 5 days a week, heavy lifting and light cardio. I lost one size and 20 pounds after about two months but then I gained 12 lbs back within 3 weeks (8 lbs overnight.) Recently I’ve had several people that I see at the gym all of the time, stop me to tell me that I look amazing. I was flattered and flabbergasted being that I’ve put on weight AND my pants dont fit! Like dont fit as in way too tight in legs and stomach (had to double check that they were mine!) Then I realized it had to be that the muscle had increased but when was the fat going to leave?! Soon I’m hoping!!!! :)

  40. Heather P says

    I was so happy when I ran across this article. I’ve read the comments and I feel your pain! LOL! I’ve been working out now steadily 3-4 times a week for the 2 months. For the last 3 or 4 weeks, I have has intense interval training , cardio, and resistance/weight training. I am in personal training in which I do things like (lifting, pull ups, push ups, wall balls, running, and core exercises). I just started CrossFit recently. Right now, I feel good and much stronger. I do notice some muscle developing in my legs and some under the fat still on my stomach! Also, I know there is muscle somewhere hidden under the fat in my arms. I am 5’5″ 159 lbs. I feel I am gaining weight 5 lbs maybe and my clothes fit tighter. The fat on my stomach hasn’t gone done yet despite being able to do many reps of all kinds of exercises. I am also eating healthy…the idea diet. I’m trying to eat clean and healthy as possible. Am I doing everything right? Should I do more of something, less of something else?

    My diet:


    Oatmeal, Apple, 4 pieces of turkey bacon, water, maybe a whole grain waffle


    Grilled chicken, veggies like broccoli, carrots, 1/2 cup of brown rice. Water, and a piece of fruit


    Tuna, vegetables/a salad, piece of fruit, small baked potato.

    Snack…I’ll eat a piece of fruit, or some baby carrots, or table spoon of wheat things and natural peanut butter.

    My typical gym workout:

    4 rounds of: 15 jump up squats off a step, 15 squat wall balls, run around a half track twice, and lifting and throwing down that heavy weighted rubber ball. Then 3 rounds of: those big bull rope exercises, 30 squats, then 14 lbs medicine ball sit ups. And with all of that there are various core exercises.

    I don’t know if I am eating enough. I try to eat 1500 calories. More than that is hard for me as I have never been one to eat much.

    What should I change to start seeing results?

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Heather…I think you solved your own problem..you aren’t eating enough. My base calculation would put you around 1900-ish calories. Your metabolism is probably slowed down a bit and I bet your body is trying to hold on to all you’re giving it. I think the first thing you should try to do is make sure you’re eating enough protein and fiber. Aim for 140 grams of protein daily and 25-30 grams of fiber and that would be a great starting place. If you want to talk more, email me at strongfigure@gmail.com and we can look at nutrition coaching. I think that’s your biggest issue…figuring out what to eat and even when to eat it. For example–you eat a TON of carbs in the morning. Do you work out in the morning? If not, I would advise you to think about eating the bulk of those carbs around your training rather than so early. There are lots of little tweaks to make you more successful, but I think upping your calories and eating enough protein will be a good start. Good luck and email me if you want/need further guidance!

  41. Jade says

    Hi, I’m 20 years old and in Jan I choose to change my lifestyle. I grow up in a family where everyone is overweight and very unhealthy. I did not want this for myself. I have been fit all my life, I played soccer and basketball all growing up. I quit basketball in 10th grade and just focused on soccer. I got really big legs and butt from soccer. Super strong even. Well high school ended and I turned down my soccer scholarship being done playing soccer. After highschool though I had to find other ways to get fit. I turn to running of course. I ran about 3 miles a day everyday. btw I am 5 7′ 140 pounds at this time. Basically all through high school I was 135-140. Never feeling fat or discomfort about my body.
    Well in Jan of this year, I really wanted to change my lifestyle, my mom side of the family is heavily over weight and very unhealthy same with my mom. I did not want that for myself. So I started eating alot healthier. I didnt lose any weight eating healthier. Before I ate pretty healthy anyway. Well about 2-3 months ago I choose to get into lifting after seeing my brothers amazing results. He is ripped from eating chicken, rice, broccil, tuna, and protein drinks. That diet was a bit extreme for me, but I choose to lift and keep my healthy eating going. Well I weigh now 152 lbs, I weight 12 pounds more. My butt is huge. I didnt think it could get any bigger. Even my husband said my butt has gotten so much bigger. I barley fit in my jeans, there uncomfortable, its almost summer and I dont fit in my shorts. I’m FREAKING OUT. I feel buff and stronger, but I feel like I have my old fat too. When will other fat burn off? I’m really not loving that I dont fit in my 6 size shorts, jeans. I’d love to hear from anyone.

  42. Laila says

    Hi, its such a great post! I was freaking out because started crossfit 2 months ago, and now my parents were saying i look bigger, arround shoulders and arms, and reading this text help me a lot! To acept this for now and se the results next! Thank you!!!!

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Thank you for commenting Laila! It sounds like you’re already getting some great results–muscles!!! Keep us posted on your journey!

  43. Catherine says

    Please help! I am getting very discouraged! I started my weight loss journey at the beginning of sept 2014. I started at 220lbs (I had 3 babies in 4 years). From sept-december I lost 18 lbs (per my scale.) Then my weight plateaued before it started to go back up! Since December, I have put on 18 lbs and it has almost been overnight. I do lift heavy on most muscles with low reps (legs 145+) chest (45+) Back (45+) Tri (25) Bi (15). I always start my workouts with weights and then finish with cardio (except on leg days.) I go to the gym mon-fri without fail and work hard! I lost a size at first and then nothing. Since then ive gotten alot of compliments that I look great but, I cant figure out why since I dont seem to be losing any more inches (not on my waist or thighs anyway).

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Honestly Catherine–workout wise, it’s sounds like you’re doing everything right. What’s your nutrition looking like?

      • catherine says

        Thanks for responding Erin :) Breakfast consists of a MusclePharm protein shake with water. I use one scoop of protein with 8 oz. I may have a cup of coffee with sugar but, its not a necessity and if Im going to run that day, I dont because I get heartburn. After workout is another shake of the same and maybe some peanut butter toast. Im always starving after my workouts (like I didnt eat breakfast starving!) I’ll eat another shake later in the day with some tuna, a little mayo and relish or i’ll make a fish taco with tilapia and white or brown rice (depends on what I have on hand.) Dinner is usually whatever hubby and I decide to have but I cook a minimum of 5 dinners a week. Dinners are where the bulk of my calories come in. I dont snack after dinner unless its fruit or a yogurt. We may have fast food on a saturday or sunday if we are out and about but, over all my cleaning habits have really cleaned up compared to what they were.

  44. Franny says

    This article made me feel better about my situation; however…
    I am 16 years old, 5’9.5″ and about 130 lbs. I have also been very thin until this past year because I was actually underweight (I modeled…) Anyway, after realizing how malnourished I was I started to eat a lot more and become healthier… But I don’t like gaining weight, especially after being so thin and fit. After a year of barely working out and eating foods higher in calories than before ,I notice that my toned body and thin frame is disappearing and I feel sad a lot now looking at my body. Recently For two weeks almost without a break (maybe one or two days) I have gone to many classes at the gym (yoga, Zumba, bodyattack, bodystep) for about 2 hours each go. I can definitely notice that some muscles in my legs are trying to show but there must be too much fat over my body to show much more. I need to exercise a lot because I eat a lot and I understand muscle weighs more than fat so I barely stand on the scale because thst just makes me even more unhappy, but I want to be small with really toned legs and stomach and whatever, just like a Victoria’s Secret model just perhaps a bit healthier. Is this even possible? Please help me :(

    • strongfigure says

      Hey Franny thanks for sharing. I think aspiring to look like a Victoria Secret model is a recipe for disaster. As you are probably aware, since you come from the modeling industry, all Victoria Secret images are photoshopped. And according to a recent study, over 99% of all magazine images are touched up in someway. So holding yourself to the standard of an artificially created image is not possible since the models in those pics do not even look that way themselves. I think you sound perfect at 130lb for your height. I imagine modeling caused you to under eat and this likely affected your metabolism but if you maintain a healthy calorie intake, your metabolism will correct itself (benefit of being so young). With a healthy metabolism and realistic expectations you will achieve something very few women in our society are able to — the ability to be happy with your body. Society puts so much on women and connects a person’s self worth to these absurd standards. Just remember to love yourself, eat a nutritious diet, and the world will be yours. Good luck Franny and thank you for sharing your comments!

  45. Rach says


    I am really glad that I found this blog post. I have been following the stronglifts 5×5 workout plan for about 3-4 months and have managed to get my squat up to 55kg, barbell row 30kg, bench press 27.5, overhead press 22.5 and deadlift 55kg. The workout is three times a week and I have been able to feel myself getting stronger.

    I am a UK size 16, 5″6, 90kg and always had pretty toned legs but carry all of my excess weight in my torso. My diet isn’t as good as it should be but its getting better and I’m trying to get my water intake up as well. I have been really disheartened to have been sticking with the lifting so well but all of my clothes as now tighter particularly around my chest and back.

    I used to run fairly often and lost some weight that way and before I read this article was planning on giving up the weights and going back to running instead.

    Reading this has given me back the motivation to stick with the weights and try and clean up my diet some more to see if it starts to work. I think it’s just so frustrating feeling like you’re really trying but the opposite effect is happening!

    Thank you again for the article!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Stick with those weights Rach!!! Good things are around the corner…it just takes time, patience, and persistence. One of the best tricks to speed up fat loss is to throw in a little conditioning work at the end of your lifting…if you like running, do sprint intervals, nothing more than 6-10 minutes worth, and make those intervals hard and fast! That will help! Be on the lookout for our MH6 Protocol to return…we’re updating it and putting it in our bookstore soon! It contains 36 6-minute fat-burning conditioning workouts! Stay strong Rach!

  46. Abbie says

    Hiya :)

    I used to be a low carb cardio girl until about 4 weeks ago. I realised I wasn’t eating enough (less than 1000 calories a day and less than 50g carbs) and decided I wanted a healthier figure. I started carb cycling and weight lifting. I lift heavy on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On those days I eat between 90-110g carbs and at least 100g protein (I weight about 121 lbs). On Tuesdays I do boxercise and Thursdays I do a spin class, on these days I still eat at least 100g protein and between 25-50g carbs. Weekends are generally low carb days and I try to get some cardio and abs in. I have noticed I am building muscle, especially in my legs, but they just look fat. I lift as heavy as I can for 3x 5/6 reps. Am I doing the right thing? Will I start to lean out? I don’t know whether to switch up my lifting and go lighter? There is so much contradictory information out there and I’m worried I am just adding size. I am just concerned that the excess food is being turned into fat and I’m going to end up looking bloated rather than toned.Thank you :)

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hi Abbie! Since you’ve been so low calorie and low carb for so long, I’m guessing your body is just adjusting to all the new calories. Typically when I coach someone who’s been so low carb/low cal for so long, I reintroduce the carbs slowly (sometimes by only 10% per week or every other week) just so their bodies don’t automatically try and store everything. I think you’re doing just fine–especially with the carb cycling, tho just IMO, 25-50 grams still seems really low, even on non-lifting days. (I can say this b/c I used to be the exact same way.) What’s your fat intake looking like? Just off the top of my head I’d say you could/should be somewhere around 105 g protein, 50+ grams of fat and at least 150+ grams of carbs per day–give or take some for carb cycling. (again that was totally off the top of my head, I’d have to sit down and eval further for accuracy.) Keep lifting heavy, make sure ALL your cardio is in an interval format and not steady state, and just be persistent. It may take time (nothing happens over night) but as soon as your body adjusts and metabolism starts working right again, everything should work itself out.

      • Abbie says

        Thanks for the reply! Ahh yeah I hadn’t thought of that, my body is probably still a bit shocked. I eat quite a lot of fat (healthy fats) on low carb days but not as many on high carb days. Ok thank you, I’ll try upping my carbs on low carb day and see how that goes. Thanks so much for the advice it’s been so helpful :)

  47. says

    Hi everybody, I love this blog, post and thread! Have any of you done the 21 Day Fix Extreme program? I am doing it now, though not super strictly. I already eat quite healthy and am just looking to tone up and maybe lose some fat. I wanted a good, short workout that I didn’t have to think about or plan (I have 3 kids, job, etc). I work out 4-5 days/week using the program. Recently, I’ve noticed that my waist seems to be slightly bigger? And my shorts from last summer don’t fit very well!! The scale is exactly the same. I definitely think my butt is higher (yay!) and I have no “crease” at the cheek/leg, but my thighs and legs seem to be getting bigger, which isn’t what I am looking for!! Thoughts? Experiences? I do gain muscle quite easily in my legs. They could use some toning in the thighs, which is what I was going for… but I don’t want to buy larger clothes or have bigger thighs! I am about 3 weeks into this program, rotating its workouts 4-5 days per week.

  48. Molly says

    JUST the article I needed to read. I’m a 42 year old mom of three. After nearly 2 years of ultra low carb and rounds of the hcg diet, it all stopped working. I got down to 167 but was gaining weight (back up to 178) on 900 cals ULC. I ’bout lost my mind! I realized that I had totally trashed my metabolism. I started eating more and added back in carbs. I did it way too quickly after such prolonged deprivation, I went alittle crazy and back to 100-150gcarbs a day. I also went back to the gym at the same time, (it had been years) and started weight training. I started with as much as I could lift for three sets of ten. At first it felt and looked like I was disappearing. I was giddy happy. What? I get to eat AND lose weight? Just before this I had puffed up into my standby size 14s. (big hips, little waist) After 2 weeks, I was back in my 12s (even though the scale was now pushing 181) and giggly as I went off to the gym in the morning. Well, that didn’t last long at all. Now in week four, I’m back in my 14s!!! I know it’s just a number, yadda yadda. But I feel like a summo wrestler. I feel like I walk with a stomp! Like the jolly green giant! Here I was all set to show off to my bf when she came into town how tight and compact everything was getting and poof. So I needed to know that this is expected, normal and will go away. I threw out the scale. It’s hard enough to wrap my mind around the fact that carbs are not, in fact, evil. I tried one weight lifting session on 20g carbs….um, no. Wasn’t happening. Anyway, now I am trying to figure out calories. I weight train 5-6 days a week 40-50 minutes (heaviest I can for 3 sets of 10 and moving into free weights from machines) and after creating a muscle base, I have broken it up into arms and back day and leg and abs day, alternating. After this I might move to 2 sets of 8 thinking that’s one reason I’m so swollen. I have been doing 40 minutes of elliptical after (I still had energy, so why not!) I don’t think I will do that tomorrow. I’ll do 15 mins of HIIT on the treadmill. I’m really hoping (even though I’m still soooo early in the game) to get this trend reversed. I don’t care about the scale. I’ve seen some healthy, sexy women who weigh 150. No big. In fact, great. That’s only 30 I need to lose!
    What I’m trying to figure out now is calories. While I’m not in a hurry, I’m not into wasting my time, either. The first two weeks I ate 1800- 2200 calories a day. Two days I hit 3k (on heavier leg days) due to being able to go out to eat for the first time in several years. Then I started puffing up and yesterday dropped it to 1800 cals. I wasn’t suffering, but I could have eaten more. Today at the gym I went down in some weights. So I’m considering going up to 2000. My TDEE is “supposedly” 2488. My goal isn’t fast weight loss. I’d rather build muscle first. I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a “bulk” but when I’m honest with myself, I just want to eat and eat after such long deprivation. I’m not sure as a beginner a bulk is something I should do. (but if you say yes, I won’t cry.)
    This has been mindblowing, really. For instance, how the heck are my 14s snug again, yet my waist “looks” even smaller than it was. That top tummy roll? Almost gone. My double decker hips, smoothing out into one round hip. My butt? Higher than it was before my first kid! My calves are enormous, and I could slap you across the room with my arm waddle. That makes me sad. I just don’t get it. I’m bigger, my ‘fat’ clothes are tight, yet I see changes. Anyhoo, if you could input a bit on the calories, that’s be great. I eat 140-160g protien a day as a rule and with calories lower, stay around 140g carbs. I can’t seem to drop below 70g fat, all good fats. On higher days I was hitting 180-200g carbs. It’s easy to snap back to “drop calories! drop carbs!” when I feel these pants cutting off my circulation. But I feel better at higher cals and carbs and I sure as heck make better gains with weights. Would love your input!

  49. Samantha says

    I’m so glad I read this article.

    I’ve been working out for years, but just recently (6 months ago), ‘upped’ my game and started lifting weights 4-6 times a week.

    I started out 5’8 150lbs, but my hips, waist and arms were mostly the lovely soft flubber we all stare at with disdain in the mirror. Today I weighed and measured myself, with slimmer thighs, waist and hips and arms (and a lot of muscle definition) and the scale read 165.

    Butt of course, none of my skinny jeans fit. (pun purposefully placed.)

    So I was very discouraged and googled ‘girls who lift cant fit into jeans?’ and this article helped me because as much as I LOVE workout clothes, I can’t wear them EVERYWHERE (can i?).

    So after reading this article I’m thinking maybe if i continue my work in another 6 months the flub that still remains might just….evaporate….slowly…into thin air? (a girl dreams, oh can I keep the twins though?)

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Samantha,
      I JUST had a convo two days ago about how women tend to gain about 10 lbs when they start lifting. This is such a huge scare to SO many women that a lot stop! I hate that! Building up that lean muscle mass is SO so important. Some of the women in the convo were saying that they gained but stayed in the same clothes, some said they gained but ended up in smaller clothes, and others said they gained, went up a size, but then came down two sizes (or more) later. So definitely keep doing what you’re doing…we’re all different and can’t compare to everyone else, but you’re doing it right! Oh–and one of the girls in the convo also said that (and she’s been lifting super heavy for a few years now) that she’s heavier than she’s ever been but leaner than she’s ever been in her life–including when playing college sports!!

  50. Jen says

    I was led to this article after completing a 5-week “transformation challenge” yesterday (and my own 12-week results which ended at the same time coincidentally). I really cannot express how thrilled I am to see this article because I was so upset and frustrated yesterday. My story is a little different from what I’m seeing in the comments – I started at 201lbs and I’m 5’7″. My bodyfat was somewhere north of 40%. Over the past 12 weeks I’ve lifted heavy and do HIIT 6 days a week. I’ve nerded out with macros, protein of at least 150g with carbs and fat in balance after that (still tweaking here and there). Using calculators and my activity, I eat about 1850 calories daily to be in a deficit but not too low. I get 96-128oz water daily. I’m currently at 195lb and I know in that tiny 6lbs difference there bodyfat lost and muscle gained (I’m having that tested tonight; It was 39.7% on 5/18/15). I don’t really care about the scale though. My measurements have gone down a bit; it’s not that my clothes are any tighter, it’s that they were barely moving at all after the initial de-bloating in the first 6 weeks. I’ve been giving it my all for the past 5 weeks specifically and when I took my pics I saw NO difference which really upset me. I don’t mean “I’m picky”, I mean that the pics were literally identical. I stayed the same on my chest measurement (fine, as it’s probably my lats and delts growing) but only lost an inch, inch and a half on my waist and hips. Anyway, to my point, some people explained to me that what you wrote about is very real if you begin really lifting and while I’m pretty savvy on fitness, I never knew this. I feel a lot better. I was just wondering if maybe you could weigh in (pun not intended) on my macros/calories (because I’m still not sure I’m eating enough) and do you have any advice for when I might begin actually seeing results in getting leaner? I do see exciting definition in my back and shoulders but as far as waist/back rolls/hips/thighs, all that muscle I’m building is stubbornly still hiding under fat. Thank you again for this article.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Jen,
      Thanks for reaching out..I’m glad you were pointed to us. Just glancing at the info you presented here, it looks like you’re possibly undereating a bit still. Granted, I don’t know your history prior to the 12 week hiit program and I don’t know what your workout looks like now, so this is a super raw estimate on my part. Depending on your dieting history, you could be dealing with metabolic damage, or if you don’t have a dieting history, you could even be restricting too much right now to keep up with the workouts you’re doing. Lots lots lots to consider. If you’re keeping up with 6 day a week hiit and strength training, I would put you around 2100 cals, at least 178p, and probably keep you around 148 carbs..maybe more depending on the types of workouts…again that is a total estimate. I have a coaching page so if you want to discuss further and maybe try and get these numbers a bit more exact. Let me know! You are definitely headed in the right direction and if there’s anything I know, it’s that you want to be able to eat as much as possible to support your workouts and lifestyle AND without gaining weight. Undereating too much right away can set you up for early plateaus and then you don’t have much to work with after than other than reverse dieting. So let me know if you want to talk further. If not, try bumping up some of your calories…maybe that will help.

  51. Jennifer says

    I was directed to this article after finishing a 5 week transformation challenge yesterday and taking pics that showed no difference at all. I’ve been working out, lifting heavy and HIIT for 12 weeks now, 6 days a week and couldn’t believe it was such a negligible change. But I see now its not just me. After a lifetime of wrecking my metabolism on diets (I’m 31, and I also had gastric bypass surgery when I was 24) I’m sure my body is still adjusting to bring fed properly. Unlike most comments I’m seeing, I’m not getting bigger; I have enough body fat to lose that I’m still seeing SMALL numbers of inches lost overall. I was just upset and devastated my work wasn’t (seemingly) paying off. I was wondering, now that I know this, if you wouldn’t mind weighing in on how I’ve done so far and when I might expect to see actual “leaning out”. I started at 201lbs and body fat north of 42%. I’m 5’7″. On 5/18/15 my body fat was 39.7% and I’d gained 4lbs of muscle to replace it (weight stayed 197 from 4/25 to 5/18). I’m having it checked again tonight for the challenge I just ended. Anyway, I do see some exciting definition in my back and shoulders, and my calves currently. After the initial 6 weeks of de-bloating though, my midsection, hips and thighs haven’t moved much, maybe an 1″ smaller. I just want to see some of this fat go away so I can see the muscle. I don’t really care about the scale number, but fwiw I’m 195 today. My macros are about 140+ g protein daily with fats/carbs split after that (leaning toward good fats). With calculators online and my activity level I’ve been aiming for 1850 cals/day to be in an aggressive but not detrimental deficit but I’m still not sure of the numbers, as I’ve spent my whole life aiming closer to 1200…eating this much is foreign to me. I also drink 96-128oz water daily. Would someone be able to maybe advise if I’m on the right path at least, since I’m not seeing the changes I thought I would from working out so hard for 3 months now, and if you have any tips or maybe even thoughts on when that magical switch might flip and I will start really leaning out? Thank you again for such a great article, I honestly feel a lot better now.

  52. Jaye says

    Hi everyone I hope someone can help. I know this post is rather old. But I’m a 15 year old, not sure on my height or weight as I’m not very confident. So I’m not very keen on stepping on a scale. I’m lifting very light at the moment but would like to start lifting heavier to firm up my butt and thighs. I exercise everyday except Sunday’s. I’m a horse rider aswell and I’m looking into doing other sports (like dancing and parkour) so I’m pretty active, and my diets pretty good. how many times round about do you lift? Round about how heavy? I’m quite a tomboy so don’t mind lifting heavy,

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Jaye, I would suggest to anyone that lifting 3-5 days a week is very normal, 30-45 minutes per session, even up to an hour is fine. If you subscribe to our site, you’ll actually be emailed three 12-week lifting programs…one for beginning, one for intermediate, and one for advanced. Print them out and go get your lifting on!!!!

  53. Izzy says

    I just turned the haunting 30 last October and I immediately noticed my metabolism slowing down so I hired a personal trainer. I have been training for about 10 months now and when I started I weighed 129 and now I’m up to 134, I’m 5’4 btw and had never lifted weights just worked on cardio. I do two sessions per week that include leg day and arm day and then do about 3 days of light to moderate cardio on my own. I can definitely see muscle in my legs and butt and they’re so strong. My arms have been taking a bit longer to gain definition but still I see a bit of muscle peeking out. I eat clean during the week but give myself a break on the weekends. The number on the scale is really messing with my head because it’s been 10 months and no downturn on the weight. My question is, is this normal after so many months? I don’t want to have to live rigoursly and lose my weekends of break from watching my calorie intake but I do want my abs and scale to move down so if that’s what I need, that is what I will do! Thank you.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Izzy,
      It’s hard to tell for sure without knowing how much you’re taking in during the week and then how much you’re enjoying on the weekends. Let’s say you take in 1200 calories of healthy foods during the week (which would be way too low) but then have 2500 calories on the weekends (likely too high). It’s amazing how one can off set the other. I would look for maybe pursuing a more balanced approach. For example, you can take in a lot of carbs post strength training without negative consequences. So if I want to have something sweet, a carb-loaded dinner, or a beer (whatever you’re craving that day) I would save it post training. And then the weekends you can still enjoy yourself but you’re less likely to go overboard. I’ve totally been where you are. I wanted SO MUCH to look awesome but I still wanted to live life too! I would eat incredibly clean all week (even ultra low carb) and then go out on the weekends and enjoy pizza, beer, and ice cream. My weekends would off set my hard work and I’d spend all week trying to play catch up. In the end I screwed up my metabolism. This is actually a big topic of our book scheduled to come out soon “The Total Health and Fitness Makeover” where I’m trying to teach people to live a healthy balanced life. Try incorporating more of what you crave post workout, and still enjoy your weekend but do so without going overboard. Back to that calorie example of 1200 vs 2500….Try aiming for 1600 (or whatever your equivalent might be) each day. I hope this helps!

  54. Klare says

    It’s nice to stumble upon articles like this. I am 5’2 152 lbs and 30 yrs old. I work out 5 days a week lifting every day and doing some HIIT for maybe 20 minutes 2x a week. I have been doing this for maybe 4 months now, previous to that I was doing weights maybe twice a week and more cardio. While I have noticed nearly no change in my weight my muscle definition especially in my arms has been fantastic and my legs are getting there. My PR for back squat is 180, I’m definitely putting in work. My diet consists of lean protein, brown rice, quinoa and all the other classified healthy foods. I also supplement with protein shakes to make sure I’m getting enough, I average around 120-150g of protein daily. I guess my question is when will the scale move? Is there anything else I can do? I am not going to quit regardless bc I’m not doing this to lose weight its a lifestyle change but just hoping you may be able add something.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Klare,
      You say you do HIIT for 20 minutes twice a week? How about adding 3 more sessions, 3 times a week, that are no more than 6-10 minutes? We published a document recently called the Macro Hiit 6 Protocol which contained 36 6-minute 200-calorie burning workouts. We took it down b/c I’m revamping it and making it even better, but keep your eyes open for this when we bring it back. I think that just simply adding in some more hiit, in any form that choose, for as little as six minutes a day can speed up this process for you. Good luck!

  55. Madison says

    I’m just wondering if you could tell me whether or not my situation seems typical of the situation just described. I have always had high body fat, even when I was really skinny. I had twins and packed on some pounds. I was 5’2 and 141 pounds at my heaviest. I started eating clean and hoping that would be enough to lose weight. I lost about three pounds over the course of two months, so I finally decided to start exercising (grudgingly, haha). I did a low-impact 4 week program in order to build some strength, and lost about another pound, but definitely had gains in strength; enough gains to start a higher intensity 8 week “fat burning” program. I am in the third week of this program– so seven weeks total. I’ve lost another 4 pounds and noticed *some* slimming especially through my mid-section. My t shirts didn’t hug me as tightly and I was able to put on some tighter shirts, although I was sstill flabby underneath. Now suddenly my t shirts are fitting tightly again and I can’t wear those tight shirts because they cling to my fat. I know it’s not “bloat” because when I bloat my neck/underchin gets quite pronounced, and right now my face is still looking thin. However, when I get on the scale, I haven’t actually gained any of the weight back. My belly is just bigger again for some reason. I’m so hoping it’s because I’ve began to gain some real muscle! I definitely feel stronger..
    By the way, I’m doing alternating HIIT/strength training 5 days a week and averaging 1200-1500 calories a day.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      I think your workouts sound great Madison…HIIT and Strength = spot on. Your calories sound too low. And I’m willing to guess that’s exactly what’s making you hold onto belly fat– which is exactly the spot women tend to store fat when either under eating while training hard OR doing too much cardio. Just a quick estimate based on all you gave me, I wouldn’t eat under 1600 cals a day….I’d actually probably put you more towards 1650-1800. Check out my coaching page if you think you may want some additional guidance, but I really think that upping your calories (ensuring you’re hitting at least 120g of protein daily) will be key for you.

  56. Sonal says

    Hi there, great article!! I just had a general question. I’m a little new to weight lifting and actually started lifting to add some muscle mass to my body, since I’m an ectomorph. So I wanted to know how I can KEEP the weight I gained ?? Any diet changes or other workouts I should consider? Thanks in advance!!

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Sonal, thank you so much for your kind words. And thanks for your question! Ectomorphs are called “hard gainers” for a reason. It is really really hard for true ectomorphs to gain and keep muscle. The fact that you have been able to acquire some muscle already though is promising. For ectomorphs I think the best thing to do is eat very high nutrient dense foods such as green veggies, make sure you are eating LOTS of protein in real forms (such as lean meat), and get simple carbs in your system after lifting weights — a two to one ratio carbs to protein after your strength training (2 carbs to 1 protein) will greatly assist you or anyone in building lean muscle mass. I would normally recommend 40 simple carbs (from healthy sources such as a browning banana or sweet potatoes but if you eat dessert then this would also be a good time for this, especially if you lift weights later in the day) and 20 grams of protein, my preferred choice is whey protein during this hour window since it will process quicker. I hope this helps! Good luck. Just remember it is fun to be an ectomorph. Yes we have to work harder for muscle but it is more rewarding when we acquire it!

  57. Becky hall says

    I have been doing cardio jiu jitsu and weight lifting Monday – Thursday and I see I’m losing weight but my inches in my core went up a half an inch on the waist and abdominal area.. Is this normal since muscle is building before the fat?

    • strongfigure says

      Becky, well it could be normal but it could be you are doing A LOT and maybe not getting enough calories to meet all of those demands. Holding on to body fat in the stomach area is a sign of under-eating. Your body is adapting and storing body fat to meet the high demands of cardio, jiu jitsu, etc… I would take a look at your calorie intake and make sure you are eating enough calories to meet your high energy demands. Another potential cause, is you are developing significant musculature in your abdominal area. Jiu Jitsu is great for developing core strength and if you have built muscle under the fat, before the fat begins to disappear, then you could see inches increase in the waist. Long story short, without knowing more about your calorie intake, current weight, and activity level outside of all this training, it would be tough to give you an accurate answer. Good luck, you may want to try with SLOWLY adding more calories to your diet — particularly in and around your workout and see how that works for you. Thanks for the comment!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Becky,
      Yes–we all store weight differently–this could be the spot that’s holding onto excess and you might lose it here last. Another thought that crossed my mind when reading this is that if you workout really hard but don’t take in enough calories (especially the right combo of calories) your body will store weight, especially in the belly region for women. Make sure you’re getting enough protein, good fats, and an appropriate level of carbs for your training needs. Evaluating your nutrition may help!

  58. Kasey says


    I really love this article; it really helped me understand my weight gain. I’ve been lifting heavy for three weeks and have gained 4 pounds. I work out about 5-6 days a week (at least 4 of those days are heavy weights). In addition, it seems that my belly will not go down and this has never been a problem as much as it is now.
    Over the past three months I started running. I may run anywhere from 3-5 miles a week. In addition in do HIIT(incline waking/sprints). Also, I’m a vegetarian and eat pretty clean 80% of the time and try to hit 2000 calories s day. I’m trying to get better on water. Some days are 64oz and occasionally I try to get 1 gal. I weigh 180 at 5’9 and was 176 before I started heavy. I have an hourglass shape so I am okay with the weight gain because I know I’m not eating horribly and only drink coffee and water. What can I do for my belly to go down? Like another reader, I look 4 months pregnant. So is this tied to my new found love for running? I run maybe 2x a week, should I stop? Thank you in advance.

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Hey Kasey, I would check two things: 1) since you are a vegetarian make sure you are eating food that your body treats as a protein. This means that the food has more protein than carbs or fat. For example, let’s suppose you eat 1 tbs of peanut butter and it is 8 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbs, and 5 grams of protein. You may think you are eating protein but your body is going to process that as a fat source or perhaps you should read that as — your body is going to process that as a fuel source. Carbs and fat are great fuel sources but sometimes we eat more than we need. It is virtually impossible to add body fat from eating lots and lots of protein; whereas, it is quite easy to store extra body fat from eating too many carbs and too much fat. It is really really hard as a vegetarian to make sure you are eating plenty of protein and not replacing the lost calories with carbs and fat. 2) the fact you are hour glass shaped means your body might not respond well to prolonged cardio such as jogging. Your body will be in a raised cortisol (stress hormone) state for the entire time you are running. Here is a link to a study that shows women who have prolonged exposure to stress having body fat in the abdominal region (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/16353426/ and the cortisol is cortisol. It will spike from any type of stress, emotional or physical. For your HIIT and weight lifting the response is short and will even help in muscle gain, but for jogging the stressed state will be prolonged and could lead to fat storage.
      I would closely look at your macronutrient intake, make sure you are getting adequate calories from the proper macros, and consider replacing your jogging with sprinting and walking. Good luck and thanks for the comment!

  59. Rose says

    At the beginning of June I stopped eating junk food and started eating (a) at regular intervals (b) with more fruit and veg (c) replacing “white” pasta and rice with “brown” pasta and rice (d) keeping an eye on portion sizes, (f) drinking plenty of water (I get through at least 1.5 litres a day) and (e) keeping a daily record.

    I also started walking to and from work every day (30 mins each way), got into the habit of using the stairs instead of the lift, started doing crunches, plank and leg raises 3 days out of 4 (building the number of reps gradually each time), and have been making time to go for a run (alternating intervals of running and walking, building up to run for longer each time) at least once a week.

    I haven’t gained any weight (I’m 80kg which I think is 176 lb? My height is 5’2″) but I haven’t lost any either and all of my measurements have increased by about an inch. I really want to lose inches (especially off my belly!) and kilos so this is all very frustrating, but maybe it is just that it’s early days???

    What would you advise?

    • Stephanie Walker says

      It sounds to me Rose that you’re doing everything right. In fact, you’re doing everything I would tell someone to do who’s just starting out the journey for a health makeover. The only thing I would say is you must be patient. Log your food and really pay close attention to portions and you’ve GOT to make sure you’re eating enough protein. I’ve gained weight before from eating all the healthy foods without restriction–just thinking as long as they were healthy, I was fine. At 172 lbs I’d suggest at least 150 grams of protein per day and keeping your calories between 1700-1900 calories. If you’ve ever dieted (and especially for a long period of time) in the past, you could be dealing with metabolic damage, but really it sounds to me that you just need to give it time, track your foods, and ensure your protein is good. Let us know how it goes for you!

  60. Joanna says

    Thank you for this. A few months ago I was going through this. Again. I’ve never before understood what was happening or why so always gave up after the first month or two or three. This post gave me the insight and encouragement to keep with it. I’ve been strength training for about 6 months and have finally seen some results. And best of all I feel great. Thank you!

  61. Jennifer says

    Hi there, so glad I found this page. I’ve been eating clean and doing HIIT for about 8mths now and in the last 4 weeks or so I’ve starting adding heavy weights. And I to am now experiencing thick thighs and huge arms. I was literally, starting tomorrow, going to stop lifting because of this. Not now! But I do have a few questions. I do love the 12 mins of HIIT I do, can I still do this and if so, on days I lift or on the off days? How many days should I look to lift? 3, 4, 5? My normal routine is 12 mins of HIIT, then 30-40 mins of lifting, arms and shoulders on day, chest back the next, then legs, repeat with one day off a week. I know I was not eating enough calories, only 1600, I’m 145lbs, 5’8. I was starving all the time and this last week completely fell off the wagon and have eaten every high cal.high carb food in sight :(

    But feeing determined again, thank you!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Jennifer,
      Keep lifting and lift heavy. I would say that with your style of lifting (by body part) you can probably lift heavy a good 5 days of the week and you can probably add your 12-min hiit routine to the end of each lift session. On off days, I would work on mobility and long walks. Don’t be afraid to eat! I think you should probably be in the 1700-1750 range and make sure you’re eating enough protein…probably about 136+ grams per day. Time your carbs so that you eat 50-60% of them before/after your training (even some during your lifts if you choose) and that will help you get the results you’re after. Definitely don’t stop lifting–just give your body some time to adjust! Good luck!

      • Jennifer says

        Thank you Stephanie for the reply! I should have put “1400” for calories and was starving all the time, then up’d it to 1600 or a little more and felt much better.

        Do you recommend lifting heavy total body or stay with what I’m doing? I have printed out really great total body lifting routines but would like to maximize my results. What do you recommend?

        • Stephanie Walker says

          Honestly Jennifer, as long as you’re putting in the work, it really doesn’t matter. It’s pretty much up to your personal preference. For example, I love powerlifting and crossfit, so I focus my strength work (mostly) on squats, deadlifts, and presses and then do crossfit for my conditioning. A lot of people find that aesthetically, the bodybuilding style of workouts do really well to help achieve maximal body composition. (Which is what you’re doing.) As long as you are lifting heavy and sticking to your plan, you should be fine. Also, if you subscribe to our site, you get three different 12-week training programs that I put together for our readers and each program comes with HIIT work at the end. Make sure you sign up so that you can get those for free!! Look them over and see if it’s something you think looks enjoyable. :) Also, if you feel you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, I have plenty of people who can put together custom programs for you and really decent prices, so LMK if you think you are looking for anything a little more tailored to your needs.

          • Jennifer says

            Signed up!!! Thank you again, feeling super motivated tonight, did my 45mins of lifting, went to failure in the 3rd set and felt awesome, 12 reps was all I could get in so I believe I’m lifting heavy enough, 9, 10, 11 I was gritting my teeth! Then finished off with an intense 12 min HIIT. Love the 12 mins HIIT you have listed, thanks again!

  62. Radhika says

    Hey All!

    So I’m not sure if the following will help anyone:

    After 3 months of waking up at 5:30 and weight training before work, watching my jeans get tighter, having to rotate between two pairs of pants because they were to only stretch pairs I own, and finally the kicker, having my momma tell me I’m looking heftier- its finally happened!!!! I’ve finally felt the start of what what feels like the magical conversion, ha! I’ve finally been getting smaller around my midsection. There is ABSOLUTELY NO dramatic change as of yet, but now things are a bit looser, just a bit, which I’m happy with especially after WEEKS of disappointment with my puffy, sad, protein-ed-up self. The reason I wanted to comment on this is the effect my monthly cycle has on me, especially since I have PCOS.

    A week before my period starts I get slightly hungrier and and depressed. This makes it hard for me to eat 100g of protein a day- which I unfortunately feel the effects from the following day when i weight train- so it derails me a week prior to me even seeing the start of my period. During menstruation I i get SUPER bloated, so much water-weight across my torso, including my back and my upper arms, not to mention not working out those 3 days, because even doing baby yoga hurts and its the most i can push myself. Why is this important to mention- because in the beginning, I was getting bigger for the reasons Steph so eloquently explained, add an event that makes me look/feel HORRID for 13 days in a row, almost half of the darn month- it would make anyone quit this journey. But I just wanted to tell anyone reading this to keep going, stay strong, don’t let the mirror trick you, its OK to look fluffy, it is not permanent.

    Things to look forward to: feeling stronger, back muscles- I’ve never had any before, targeting muscle groups you want to sculpt (bigger booty anyone?), eating real meals and not stressing- i used to try those stupid detoxes which would just royally eff up my metabolism. Also, i can now see that everything is lifting, my entire shape is kinda different in a good way. Having sculpted shoulders rock :) This’lift’ in my figure really explains why everything I wore- especially pants- were so tight the first few months.

    Did i mention feeling stronger? its feel incredible. I also love being a regular at the gym and having my lifting groove. I do a tiny bit of HIIT to warm up (15 min on stepper) and the rest is me attempting and sometimes succeeding in lifting heavy weights. The best is when you find that what was hard a few weeks ago is now cake. IT ROCKS!!
    Please don’t give up, keep going. I hope my horrendously written spheal helps someone. I will report back in a few weeks to let you all know what is up.

    Steph- thank you for this article. so many people post garbage about girls not getting bigger, but we totally do fluff up initially. I hope to lean out someday soon. Thank you for your encouragement!!!!!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      I am SO thrilled to hear this!!!! This makes my morning. I am so proud you just kept pushing forward and now it’s all starting to come together!!! Love love love this. Continue to keep us posted–this is excellent info!!! :D

      • Radhika says

        Hey Steph!! Reporting back :)

        I took a body comp test again, and 2.5 months later, progress has been made, but little, BUT, the conversion has started, I am officially getting smaller, my waist is down for 30.5 to 29. Also, my waist is higher on my torso. Does that make sense? Is that normal? So the smallest part of me is now higher up on my torso if that makes more sense. Bodyfat% has gone down from 32 to 30.1. They said I only gained .2 lbs of muscle, which makes no sense to me since so much more is there when I flex. I have lost only 2 lbs of fat. Overall I think my butt and legs are a bit better which ROCKS!! I hate having chicken legs and wide shoulders/broad big back. I think my figure around my hips looks a lot better. I know we have this culture of wanting nutso results in 8 or 12 weeks, but I need to ask, is my progress too slow? Any tips to speed it up? I weight train 40 minutes on leg days, rest of 20 seconds between 3 sets of 8/10. On upper body days i only do lat pulldown, triceps, row and shoulders. That takes me 25 mins tops, and the rest is yoga. I do some HIIT, but mainly dance a few days a week for 40 mins for my cardio. I ready your metabolic damage article and i have 1500 cal a day, with atleast 100 g, if not 120 g of protein. Am I doing something totally off? Any tips you could offer?

        As always, THANK YOU for you amazing articles, you have NO IDEA how much they help and motivate me, especially the comments.. You’re so understanding and helpful. Please keep writing!!!! :) Happy wishes from tampa, FL!!!

  63. Jen says

    This explains a lot. While I am not lifting weights, I am heavily active just in the past couple months. Living in a city where it is necessary to walk everywhere (mostly uphill), I end up walking at least 5 miles a day, some days double that! It has gotten to the point where it hurts to walk up the stairs, yet I have gained weight!

    My diet has changed as well, so I thought maybe I was gaining weight because of what I’ve been eating…. but honestly, I always feel hungry and thirsty! I have been at loss for what is going on.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Jen! I wrote some posts on how to figure out a base calorie intake and protein intake — go back and read those and that might give you some insight on how much to eat to keep up with your busy lifestyle!

  64. Carrie says

    I have been working out strong for exactly 1 year. I started wanting to lose 20 to 30 lbs, to get back down to my normal weight. A year later, I’m 20 POUNDS HEAVIER. But my body is smaller, so much muscle, and I have a serious ass lift. It’s difficult to process how instead of losing weight on the scale, I’ve gained weight. Never in my life have I ever weighed 180 lbs. I’m wearing medium shirts and large shorts because I have so much muscle gain in my rear. It’s psychologically taking a toll on me though seeing that number.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      So when I read this, all I could think of was, “Damn that’s awesome!” Even if you just put on 10 lbs of muscle (though it sounds like probably a lot more), that’s incredible! Your body is smaller AND the ass lift…hell, throw out the scale and embrace that bod! It sounds to me like you’re killing it! Who cares about the number when you have transformed yourself like this!

  65. Erika Cluff says

    Last year I turned 40 and noticed my metabolism was slowing down. I decided to start heaving lifting again. In the past, I have started and stopped several weight lifting regimens because I was getting fatter, in my opinion. I even had a personal trainer tell me it was ridiculous to think I would gain a bunch of weight if I started a weight lifting routine. Well I did gain weight and it played with my mind and still does. In February, I started the New Rules of Weight Lifting for Women. I know I need to clean up my diet, but it’s not that horrible so imagine my displeasure to see the scale up 6 pounds after 5 months. I have basically nothing to show for all my hard work, other than I feel really strong and am steadily increasing my weights as I move thru the program. However, my clothes are tight and I look pregnant. Even my arms and shoulders appear larger. I have been pregnant three times, one regular and 2 C-sections (one of those with twins) and I am trying to hold out hope I can flatten up my stomach again. After reading all these posts, I know I should be patient, but honestly I feel like I am bloated and getting fatter and it is never going to change. (I have seen my doctor to rule out any other health concerns). I guess I just need some confirmation that a change will come and I am not wasting my time.

  66. Sarah says

    I have been crossfitting 5-6 days a week for 2 yrs I know I’m making gains in the gym as my 1 rep maxs keep getting higher. The prob is my weight I started at 165 5’3 wanting to lose weight instead I’m now 180. I look so puffy I can’t recognize myself. My arms and waist have always been smaller and now they are just as big as everything else. I’m hypo thyroid and have pcos but it’s all under control. Im up every morning at 5 am to do the 6 am class eat healthy low carb and in last yr I’m getting worse at my metcons which I think is from the weight gain. Any advice would be great!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Sarah, my best guess is that you could be eating too low carb or too low calorie. Check out my posts about figuring out how many calories you need to be eating, how much protein, and then how much carbs/fats (they’re all on the home page of the blog). These will give you a better idea of where you need to be food-wise. It sounds like you’re doing everything right in the gym….we’ve just got to get your food intake straight. Read these articles–they will help give you an idea of how much to eat and of what. LMK if you have further questions after reading!

  67. Erika Cluff says

    Hi, I stumbled onto this blog and I love it! I have started and stopped several weight lifting programs over the years because I always gain a bunch of weight and feel fatter. Recently I turned 40 and started the New Rules of Weight Lifting for women. I have been doing this program for about 5 months and gained 7 pounds. The scale is messing with my head as it has done in the past. I have been taking measurements and using calipers to check fat loss and nothing has changed. My clothes are tighter and, if I wasn’t able to have kids anymore, I would think I was pregnant. My waist measurement is up by 1 1/2 inches. So I guess my question is, shouldn’t something be visible by now? I feel really strong and am progressively moving up the weights in my routine, but after almost 6 months of virtually no changes that I can see, it is a little frustrating. I am currently working on cleaning up my eating and being more mindful of what I put in my mouth. I’ve never had a terrible diet to begin with, but I do have a sweet tooth. Any advice would be great!! I have loved reading through the other ladies experiences, it does give me lots of hope. Oh by the way, I am 5 ft. 2 inches tall and currently weigh 135 lbs. Thank you!!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Erika, it takes a different amount of time for everyone to even out. I’ve seen it take anywhere from two months to a year. What’s your food like? If you aren’t eating enough to support the lifting, your body could be storing more. Also, are you doing HIIT cardio to round out your lifting? This could help immensely!

  68. Feli says

    Hello, i just found your website, it s very interesting and i susbscribed myself. Thank you for all the great information!
    As i read the article and the comments, i remember reading some time ago that for those looking to get more muscular/bigger it is realistic to talk of getting about 2 pounds of pure muscle in a month…and that’s when they are eating with a surplus and are beginners…later on they say it would be more realistic to think of a pound a month….
    That’s why i don’t understand these gains of around 10 pounds most women talk about being muscle gains…is there an explanation for this? Thank you!

  69. Erika Cluff says

    Hi Stephanie – I do HIIT on the days I don’t lift, but I do have trouble eating enough protein. And I am beginning to wonder if that could be affecting my progress. As much as the scale messes with my head, so does the” eating more” mentality when it comes to lifting weights. Plus I haven’t really been sure how many grams of protein I need to be eating on the days I lift. Or if I continue eating that same amount of protein on the days I don’t lift. Thank you for replying, I am going to keep moving forward!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Erika,
      You’ll need to aim for at least 122 grams of protein EVERY day. This might help you out a lot! Don’t worry about the “eating more” mentality–you have to think that you are fueling your muscles, or eating for performance, not for weight loss. Set goals in the weight room–not for your body–and you’ll start thinking of food differently and I am betting your results will happen faster than you know it. :)

      • Erika Cluff says

        Thank you for the advice, I started upping my protein today. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have found this page! I really thought I was doing something wrong, but now reading that it can take upwards of a year to see a transformation, I am willing to be patient. And I love reading about everyone’s experiences. It keeps me motivated. Thanks again!

        • Stephanie Walker says

          That’s great to hear Erika! So happy we can help and beyond happy you see the value in being patient and working towards your goals!!! Keep us posted on your progress!

  70. says

    I have been workingout 6 days a week for the past 7 months and eating healthy. I do cardio, weights, hiit and Tabata throughout the week. I drink nothing but water and the occasional cup of coffee, I eat clean , no processed foods and NO SODA. I have done just about everything I can to get healthy and fit and I have noticed some positive changes in my legs and hips as well as my blood pressure and I’m pleased with myself HOW EVER my belly will NOT change/go down. I do have PCOS and I know that makes weghtloss even harder but it’s becoming very discouraging. im beginning to slip into that ” why do I bother” mindset. I know how dangerous the belly fat is and I’m trying to get rid of it but nothing works. PLEASE HELP.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Rain,
      Like anything, all of this is a process. Patience is KEY. And I don’t know much about PCOS but I do know that it can cause insulin resistance which will make this harder for you–as you know. It’s really hard for me to tell you what you’re doing wrong (if anything!!) without really knowing more about your training, your food choices, even the timing of your food choices. I’ve felt this way several times throughout my own struggles with fat loss and for me, there have been tons of tiny bits of info that have helped me. For example, when I started eating the bulk of my carbs around my workout and eating lower carb/higher fat the rest of the day, that helped me. Figuring out I was actually undereating carbs and adding more healthy carbs to my diet helped. Learning to not mix fat and carbs together has helped me. Even understanding that my body does not need carbs first thing in the morning has helped me with little changes. I like following a macro-based program where I know exactly how much protein, carbs, and fat I need each day and I always try and eat the bulk of my carbs around my training. I know that belly fat (and hips) are my most stubborn area and when I want to be my leanest, not only do my food choices have to be the very best but I need to incorporate lots of sprint work to my training (which I really do not like–lol). So you can see–this isn’t a “just do this and you’ll fix the problem” issue…it’s a combination of tons of things to think about. Try not to stress about it–it seems like you’re doing the right things. Keep doing all that you’re doing, have a treat if you’re craving something, but don’t fall off the wagon! Keep pushing and trying new things. You WILL figure this out. We’re all different and it just takes time.

  71. Erika Cluff says

    Stephanie – I have another question. I have upped my protein the past few days to 120 grams. And my calories are about 1600 a day. Do I always need to eat that much protein or only on days I lift heavy? Also, on my off days, should I still eat 1600 calories or should I consume less. Thanks!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Erika, eat 120 grams of protein EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. If you want to eat about 10% less carbs on your off days, that’s fine but you don’t have to. If you’re hungrier on your off days and you do want to cut some carbs back, you can up your fat by about 7-10% to keep you full.

  72. Sim says


    I found this blog after searching for reasons why I’m gaining weight while exercising and it’s been really positive and helpful! I was really hoping you could give me some advice on my current situation, as it’s really getting me down.

    I’ve been doing HIIT routines for 9 weeks now, doing a mixture of cardio/abs/legs/arms, 5 days a week for roughly 35-40 minutes, and have found that I’ve actually gained weight! My diet is quite healthy- I don’t really eat junk food or have takeaways a lot (usually once a month) and have started eating more fruit and vegetables.

    My jeans and trousers are all tight as my legs are now bigger- I’ve gone up a trouser size. This is really getting me down and I don’t understand why it’s happening when I’ve been working so hard. I read on a different site that increased water weight is common for the first few weeks but I’m now moving on to week 10 so this surely should have stabilised by now?

    I’d be super grateful for any help/information you could give me.

    Thanks :)


    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Sim,
      Even though it doesn’t feel like it, you’re still early in this journey. I’ve seen things take 6 months with some women–not to discourage you–just understand we’re all different and this is a process. It sounds like you’re doing things right–you’re lifting (the heavier the better) and you’re eating good foods. That’s the main goal! It’s definitely common to hold on to weight for a big and even though it sounds odd, drink even more water. If you’re holding onto water weight, drinking more water will help flush the water out. Just be patient…never forget this is a journey and a process. I wish we could lose weight as fast as some of us can gain but unfortunately we’re all wired differently and things will work out they way they’re supposed to for YOU. Just be patient and don’t stop lifting and eating well!!

  73. Meg says

    Love the article and the replies. I found it trying to answer this question; why is my body fat % going up despite adding weights to my weekly routine? In January I started a walk/run routine 3-5 days a week and cover about 3 miles in 30 minutes. After several months I started gaining weight and my body fat % increased by 4%. I did tons of research and changed my diet a bit, added in omega 3 vitamin, and stared lifting weights 2 days a week. I should add that I eat very clean and was/am counting calories. After 2 months of doing the full body weight training with 10-20 lbs weights, no change at all. I have backed off the walk/run and now doing a slow 2-3 mile stroll and haven’t lifted a weight in about 4 weeks. The scale is finally almost back to my normal weight and the body fat has not changed. I have consulted my physician and ruled out any medical issues. But, I still have no answers. I want to run and lift because my goal is to be fit. I am desperate for answers.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Meg, it sounds like you need to up the lifts, back off the slow and steady state runs, and add in interval sprints. Steady state conditioning may cause body fat increases. Sprinting, or interval conditioning is your best fat burner. Lifting heavy weight is IMPORTANT because the more muscle you have, the more fat you CONSISTENTLY burn. You can burn several hundred more calories per day just by increasing your muscle mass. And many people–women especially for some reason–typically gain muscle before they start burning fat. So yeah, the scale will go up. Ditch the scale for a while and stick to a CONSISTENT routine of lifting and sprinting. After a while, things will even out, the numbers on the scale will go down, and you should have more of a look you’re going after. But constantly monitoring the scale and quitting lifting is the reason I wrote this article in the first place. Don’t freak out, keep pushing weight. You’ve got to give it time for it to work.

  74. says

    Hey!! I just came across your article because I actually googled why I have increased a dress size even though I have been eating right and hitting the gym. I have never been good at gaining weight, I am self-conscious and was starting to feel exactly the way other women do when the first put on weight. Your article has really helped me and I definitely will keep up with lifting now.

    Thanks for the advice!!
    Roxanne xo

  75. Sophie Williams says

    OMG this article is just what I’ve been looking for!!!! 2 months ago I decided to ditch the obsessive, routine 6k running and start Kayla Itsines’ BBG workout. I’ve always avoided squats and lunges like the plague because I was convinced I would get a bulky bum and thighs. I am coming to the end of month 2 and all I have noticed is my arms have got bigger (not toned) and my thighs are HUGE! Not the nice, shapely kind, but the kind where my inner fat seems to have increased so much! I eat extremely clean, no cheat days or meals what so ever! I’m just wondering whether there’s going to come a point where the fat starts to leave and he muscle (which I can really feel in my legs) is going to start defining my legs. Please help. I’m feelin so demotivated right now.

  76. Hajar says

    Hi Erik,
    Im the opposite, i am think ing to gain more weight so it would looks more better in clothes or even without it. I have a banana shape, i wish i have bigger thighs and butt. Im thinking to lift weights but im afraid when i gained more weight i will lost it after a fee months, is what its written here. I need to keep the pounds that i will gain i don’t wanna lose them. Im 115 lbs and 5’3, i want to be 125 lbs, specific lower part, i don’t wanna get thicker shoulders.

    Please help!!

  77. Erik WalkerErik Walker says

    Hey Hajar, thanks for the comment. It is really hard for women, especially with your body type to add a lot of muscle. Make sure you are consuming a lot of calories (PROTEIN especially) in and around your workout, make sure you are doing 2:1 (carbs to protein) post-workout, and increase your time under tension (high reps– a mix of slow sets with explosive sets seems to work best for most athletes that are looking for hypertrophy, which is what you want.) Just keep the mindset, the longer I take under tension the more muscle I will build. You will still have the leaning effect of the gained muscle but you’ll add muscle where you want it. I would look for a solid lower body hypertrophy program. Check out someone like Christian Thibodeaux or even some of your classic bodybuilder programs for specific training programs. I suspect squats and deadlifts should be your two best friends for the foreseeable future — but high reps if you are looking for size.

  78. Jen says

    Hi there! Thank you so much for this article. It’s quite encouraging and exactly what I needed to read. I have recently started “Orange Theory fitness” (“60-minute group classes that rotate through high-intensity intervals, while running on treadmills, indoor rowing, suspension training (like TRX), and using free weights. Everyone wears a heart rate monitor to make sure he or she spends at least 12 to 20 minutes in Zone 4/5, otherwise known as the Orange zone or 84 percent or higher than your max heart rate.

    I started at thene of May going once a week for about 9 weeks. I have since increased to 2x a week for the last 5 weeks. I generally eat well, but don’t monitor as much as I probably should. For each class, I have burned an average of 750 cals per session.

    I have also noticed that my clothes are not fitting and it’s so disappointing. I am new to this type of thing. Any idea when this will adjust itself? Thanks!:)

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Jen–we’re all different. It’s too hard to say. I like that you bumped up your training from one day to two. Can you bump that to three? I would add in a lot of walking on your days off–maybe an hour of walking or a couple of miles at least 3-5 times per week. I have no idea what your nutrition is like but if you’re making healthy decisions at least 90-95% of the time, you will be well on your way in no time. Just be patient and stick it out!

  79. Mandy says

    Hi thank you for this article. For the first 7 months of this year I done cardio to loose weight and got down to 8 stone from previous 12 stone and in the past 2 weeks have started doing weights my routine is Monday abs and 30 min treadmill Tuesday lower body no weights Wednesday day off Thursday upper body with weights and Friday abs and 30 min treadmill. I eat healthy and clean but noticed my legs and tummy area have got bigger my question is am I doing it right or should I change my routine. Any advise would be much appreciated

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Sounds like you’re on your way! If you’ve only been lifting for two weeks, you have a lot of time ahead of you to get to your goals. Don’t forget that this is a journey–never a quick fix. You’ll see your body go through all sorts of changes over the next few months. The important thing is that you stay the course. I would recommend lifting even more and cutting back on the treadmill. BUT–I would make your treadmill sessions tougher. Do interval work like 30 seconds sprints with 60 seconds walking. The sprints should be so tough that you have no choice but to walk for that following minute. And I wouldn’t do that for any longer than 10-15 minutes. If you can do it longer than that, you did it too easy. That will be a big difference maker for you.

      • Mandy Waller says

        Hi Stephanie thank you for your reply. Can I just clarify a couple of things I workout at home have dumb bells and ankle weights when you say lift more do you mean add in more sessions ? Plus the treadmill should I stick with 2 sessions a week at 10 to 15 mins or only once a week ?

        • Stephanie Walker says

          I would try to lift 3 times a week and do the interval cardio treadmill sessions 2-3 times a week as well for best results. And depending on the access you have to equipment, lift in sets as heavy as you can! Like 3 sets of 8 at a heavy weight–if possible. If you don’t have weights heavy enough, do higher reps….with the goal on advancing!!

  80. Jessica says

    Hi, I read this article and feel it’s very informative and glad to hear I should continue with the strength training/lifting weights. Before I started, I was about 127 pounds. I am 5’4, 26 years old and now weigh about 132-135. I started training for about 5 months now. I work out about 5 times a week. I have the chest/triceps days, back/biceps, legs, and ab/Cardio days and whatever I started with the beginning of the week it’ll be the workout I do twice. So it alternates which workout I do twice a week. My diet is pretty clean but I do have one cheat day. Overall I drink mostly water, green tea, and coffee. I noticed that I have bulked up quite a bit although it’s been 5 months. I understand it happens towards the beginning, but I don’t know why the fat is taking quite some time to come off even after 5 months. I do notice more muscle development in my arms, back, and legs but it seems the fat is still all there, therefore making me look bigger and bulkier. My thighs/quads have gotten very big but my inner thighs are still loose and have a lot of fat. My arms are more defined in the bicep area but my triceps are still quite loose and contain a lot of fat as well. The weight I use steadily increases in a reasonable time period to make sure I get a “challenge.” I do not care too much about what the scale says, I just don’t understand why the fat is not coming off and just seems to be adding muscle with it. I hope I am descriptive enough and would love advice on how I can work on the fat loss and firming my problematic areas. I definitely see muscle buildup but as mentioned, fat is still all over and hasn’t seemed to decrease at all. Thanks for your time and I greatly appreciate this article and the advice!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Jessica, make sure you’ve subscribed to our site–I don’t want you to miss our next project we’re are so closed to finishing. We’ve been working on a program designed to hit exactly what you’re talking about here. We’re hoping that it comes out mid-October…a way to boost the stubborn fat loss while lifting and building that awesome muscle!!!!

  81. Ryanne says

    I came across this article (along with many others) on my research as to why I’m gaining weight.
    When you “think” your doing everything right..watching what you eat, eating clean, eating enough ..water..sleep etc. Then your weight keeps creeping up and up…its very discouraging
    I’m 2.5 weeks into a new weight routine..New routine, not new to weights. I did weight training p90x3 style and 21 day fix style before. Now I’m doing purely weights.
    I’ve gone up 5 pounds in that 2.5 weeks, and it still went up even this morning. Clothes are tight, i all round feel gross…opposite of my expectations.

    How long can I expect this to carry on..I’m about ready to ditch it and go back to p90x3..on top of being only 30 minutes it worked for me.

    I’m 5 foot 6 inches. at my peak i was able to get to 130 pounds, I liked how i looked and was happy. But i couldn’t maintain it. I’d be happy with 135 ish ( and toned obviously….I’m an athletic build and will never be “skinny”). Right now i’m about 141…

    • Stephanie Walker says

      You’re 2.5 weeks in…you’ve got to give it a couple months. Strength is so important to overall body function–from cell development to balance, bone mass, aging well….so stick with your new routine. Patience is KEY. Struggling for a little bit is much better than struggling permanently. Keep your interval cardio alongside your weight routine. When you’re done lifting, add 10-15 minutes of HIIT cardio. This will help.

      • Ryanne says

        Thank you for your reply
        I should have added i am a runner too and run 4 times a week. So this is in addition.
        A couple months of weight increasing will reek a lot of havoc on me mentally (if i’m being honest :) . To watch the scale go up every day this long has been hard. The thought that this trend may continue for months..yikes. I will be considered obese in terms of weight if this trend continues.
        I thought maybe 2-3 weeks while my body adjusts …i’m a little shocked. My clothes are getting tight! something has to give here soon :(
        Feeling discouraged

        • strongfigure says

          Hey Ryanne, this is Erik. Thanks for the question. The transition discussed in this article is really referring to the fact that your muscle builds faster than your fat disappears. It is hard to tell from your initial question, did you have body fat? Because lifting weights will not make you gain body fat. If you are gaining weight, that could be muscle. But if you are gaining body fat, which is how I am reading this, perhaps there is another reason. Best guesses are 1) hormonal imbalance (which is common in runners) 2) metabolic damage (which is common in runners and dieters and lifters and P90x’ers OR 3) changes in diet. All that said, we are only talking about 2-3 weeks. Most women I have worked with fluctuate a lot in such a short period of time so I will echo Stephanie’s advice of patience. And I will add to it, if you feel lifting is not working than give it up. I am not saying this because I think it won’t work for you but if you are stressing over how it will not work, then it will definitely not work. The body hates too much stress and all the stress from running coupled with the stress of your new routine plus the stress of gaining 5 pounds will just lead to more and more cortisol release(this has been discussed previously in this thread but more cortisol will lead to body fat storage for many). I will admit, I am reading between the lines here and making some assumptions based on the limited information I have.

          And as awesome as lifting weights is for your overall health, it is not worth it if causes stress to your life. For many, what a person believes mentally is working will work better better than what physiology would suggest, simply because the body works best in non-stressed environments. And for you that might be running.

  82. Bee says

    Same problem for me. I’ve worked out on and off for about 7 years and have actually gone from 130lbs to around 160lbs (I am 5’5”). My clothes don’t fit (I think I’ve gone up 2 dress sizes – chest area and 1 dress size trousers / skirts.) I’ve done P90X, gym programs and so much more. After about 2 or so months, I get discouraged and then stop. I don’t lose much then either :-( I then tend to feel mortified, and start the process again.

    I do know that I retain muscle fairly well and I can increase my lifting weights quite easily. I am apple shaped so have great legs but have a lot of fat under my belly muscles. Now, to make matters worse, my arms (generally slim) are looking really chunky. I eat fairly well (99% vegetarian, organic diet – and am very well versed with good nutrition.)

    I’ve started working out again. Heavy lifting 3 times a week. I cannot do high intensity cardio if it involves jumping / running around as I’ve had a medical issue, but I’ve increased my brisk walking to an hour a day (with lots of hills etc.) I’d like to get to around 130lbs. What am I doing wrong???

    • Erik WalkerErik Walker says

      Most vegetarian diets are too low in protein, which is the only macronutrient that does not easily store as body fat.

      Without knowing more about your situation, that is the first red flag. I would refer to some of the articles that Stephanie has written on macronutrients and this may help pinpoint your issue. Body fat storage in the case of someone working out like you are, can normally be connected with either hormonal/metabolic imbalances or too low of protein. I would start with the protein since it is an easier fix.

      • Bee says

        Thanks for your quick reply Eric.

        Yes, I do have hormonal imbalances and I have to lose weight to bring the imbalance under control – and I am finding that losing weight is really difficult.

        I will look into the macronutrient articles – thank you. I do know that most vegetarian diets are low in protein however, I have a lot of low fat milk, yogurt, eggs, lentils, a handful of nuts etc. I make sure that with every meal I am taking in a good amount of protein. I have tried chicken and fish but I don’t see any change in my weight with that either :-(

        Any more tips will be welcome as I’ve been battling this for over 10 years!

        • Stephanie Walker says

          Most low fat milk products and yogurt actually contain a lot of sugar–big red flag for fat storage. And nuts have a little bit of protein but your body actually gets more fat grams from nuts than it does protein so it’s not really a great protein source. I’m not sure of your weight right now, but let’s say you are at 160 lbs., I would suggest eating a minimum of 144g of protein per day and not to exceed any more than 185 grams of carbs. If you can try that for a while (2 weeks to a few months) that may allow you to see some progress/change. Also, since you’ve been battling this for over 10 years, you may want to think about seeing an endocrinologist if you haven’t already. You may be at a point where you have sufficient metabolic damage that only a doctor can rectify.

  83. Shannon says

    You have no idea how much I needed to see this!

    I am a week shy of working out with Kettlebells for 3 months. (Stats – used 10lbs for less than 1 week, 18 lbs for 1 month, and now using 22 lbs). I work out 5 days a week, 30-40 minutes each workout without fail. My diet is pretty good. Whole, real foods, 90 percent home-cooked. No drinks other than water most of the time.

    While I noticed CRAZY improvement in my upper back and a slightly tighter butt within 3 weeks, I feel like I stalled. I’d like more than just a nice upper back, and other than that, I pretty much look exactly the same.

    My weight has also pretty much stayed the same, I normally gain and lose the same 2-5 pounds. I was thinking by now, after 3 months, I would be smaller but my clothes fit the same. I know not to go by the scale but I was hoping my clothes would at least fit looser. The only thing that has been keeping me going is my love for the kettlebell workouts.

    Reading this is the reassurance I needed that I’m doing the right thing. Just gotta keep pushing…

    Former Cardio Bunny

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Yes, yes, and YES! Keep pushing!!! And I love kettlebells–such an amazing tool! I post workouts every single morning on Instagram (@strongfigure) and most of them involve a kettlebell (in case you stall for workout ideas). Thanks for commenting and GOOD LUCK! You’re on the right path!

  84. zlmom2 says

    I keep coming back to this article, daily even to try and get my mind straight. I am at a loss right now and feeling defeated. A back story. I am an ex Paleo lifestyle cardio addict. Like 6 days a week sometimes 2 adays and I ate low calories (1100 or under!) 3 of those 6 days I did a plyometric/light weight (15lbs) large set 60 minute class…loved it…still do. The other 3 I do a cycle (spin) class. I was coming off a very serious illness as I went very strict Paleo and even though I had amazing energy and dropped fat 134lbs-121lbs I am a deceivingly tall 5’6″ hourglass figure (I looked amazing) my body had other plans and 3 months into it my immune system crashed, I lost my hair, my vision and was pretty much bed ridden and I lived at the doctors trying to pinpoint what was going on. I was a little TOO strict with carb intake and pretty much cut so much out of my diet that I was not even coming to close to nutrient dense even though I ate lean protein, good high fat and tons of veggies-no fruit, really really low complex carbs etc. Anyway, a year later and changing my diet back to a somewhat normal- I still have a carb phobe Im dealing with (thanks PALEO!!!) I have yet to get my period, my body has hung on to every bit of calorie I give it and I gained weight and when I say normal I eat whole clean foods-no processed, no sugar.
    I had a moment when I looked in the mirror (3 months ago) and hated what I saw. I was still sick, heavy, working out to the point I was sore and miserable and wasnt eating enough calories because I kept cutting in hopes my body would rid itself of the fat..that never happened and I just hated what I looked like. I saw a random post from my friend who was heavy lifting and her body looked amazing. Strong, healthy, fit, muscular. Everything I wanted mine to look like that I got mad. I was mad at myself. For as much as I worked out and little I ate I was thinking-I SHOULD LOOK LIKE THAT. I called her trainer that day.
    I am now almost 12 weeks into heavy lifting. I cut my cardio down to 3 days a week (that plyo class I love) I heavy lift 3 days a week and he mixes it up (leg day, upper body etc) The heaviest deadlift I have going is a one max of 225# and I lift 195# 10 x’s for 3 reps just to give an idea.
    I have no idea if I am eating right anymore. My body is so messed up, my hormones are still not functioning at a normal-I have light hair loss still and my period has yet to come back. I am eating at 1400 calories give or take a day with my carbs at 110-140, Protein 110-135 and fat 25-50g. This is a huge jump from where I was 12 weeks ago (cals 1100 or less, carbs 60g or less and same fat) I know my body is probably trying to figure out what is going on and adjusting to me giving it more nutrients and food but it still feels like it is not budging. I havent lost any weight (I gained, just not sure where I am at-too nervous to weigh myself) but I would gauge 135 range. My measurements have not budged either! I still have yet to get my period back since I bumped calories and macros and cut back on cardio for 12 weeks now. Everyone around me who trains like I do is losing fat and looking amazing and don’t eat NEARLY as clean as I do if clean at all!

    I feel defeated. I feel huge. I am not happy with what I see. My trainer tells me to stick with it. I know I am stronger. I can feel it. I progressive overload every time I am in the gym with him . I have a different contour to my body and from my pics yes I can see changes but there is nothing happening on the tape measure side or the scale side except going up…hence me reading this article almost every day. I feel lost. I feel like my body isn’t mine anymore because I have no control over it. I have been scouring the internet to see if there is anyone like me out there that can give me a perspective. To tell me that yes the science behind it will burn through the fat…all I feel is myself getting bigger, my thighs getting bigger, my pants not fitting. I want to run back into the arms of cardio again because I know how my body reacts to it but I am also committed to idea that one day my body will connect to the weight lifting and blast through the fat.

    Maybe I am looking for something that just isn’t there? I keep reading what you say and hope to find hope in your words…in every article.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Did you read the most recent article we published this past week? The “WHY you’re getting bigger” post? I think you’re actually at the metabolic damage stage in your relationship with food and exercise. You may benefit from seeing an endocrinologist. If I were you, I would look up the nearest endocrinologist in your area. I would also continue to stick with your training–your heavy lifting–just like your trainer says. And most important–the hardest part–you’re going to have to be very very patient. If you put your hormones in such distress that you’ve been hospitalized and still haven’t gotten your period–you have a long way to come before rebuilding your insides to a healthy state. I know that sounds disheartening, but it sounds like you’re on the right path right now. I too did the super strict paleo, too low carbs, even avoided fruit. It is taking my body a long time to adjust too but I can tell that every day I’m getting better and my metabolism is slowly working its way back. Focus on eating the foods your body needs for whatever it is about to do. Are you going to have a lazy Sunday where you sit on the couch and watch football all day? You can eat lower calorie and lower carb that day. Are you going to the gym to do 10×3 heavy deadlifts? Eat the carbs your body needs for energy that day. Replenish your muscles the protein and carbs they need to rebuild after the lifting. If you put your health first–meaning you’re eating for whatever it is you’re about to do–you can’t go wrong. You may feel frustrate for a while but eventually things will even out. Another tip–you sound like you’re at a breaking point. It’s really hard to say this because I’ve been there, but you’ve got to take a step back, find things you love about yourself and start appreciating what you do have. You’ll never be satisfied if you can’t at least try to like yourself. Work on your emotional health while working on the physical and nutritional. It’s a 3-way system that has to work together. Once you take some of that stress out of your life–the stress of constantly being on edge and hating yourself–you might be surprised to see some of the changes you’ve been looking for. Hope this helps, and don’t forget to look up an endocrinologist if you think a complete work up / eval may help! Take care!

  85. kmy2015 says

    I’m so glad I found this site. After years of doing a pitiful 20 min daily treadmill or elliptical workout and alternating phases of under-eating with over-eating.. I decided it was time to get healthy and strong instead of trying to be a skinny weakling. I started Kayla Itsines’ resistance program the Bikini Body Guide and it has challenged me and grown my strength more than anything ever has. I know I am so much stronger than I was before. I finished the first round of the program – 12 weeks. I ended the program bigger than I was when I started and it has been a bit discouraging as I’ve seen other girls have more success in only the first 12 weeks and was expecting the same thing. I’m 5’4 and have weighed 120 in the past but I was on extremely low calorie diets when at my lowest weight and despite my lowest caloric intakes I have always had the stubborn belly fat that’s never gone away. When I started the weight training program I was at about 135lbs and after about the first 4 weeks I gained and have been at about 140-145lbs since. I know it is muscle, but my chest and butt has grown in size as well! I’m not fitting in my clothes and my mom and sister keep telling me I’m bulking up too much and they are concerned that I’m getting bigger. I’m trying to tell them that I think I will get bigger before I get smaller but it’s not easy when I don’t feel like I’m seeing any changes even after 12 weeks. I’m about to start the program again tomorrow and I hope that another 12 weeks, alternating HIIT cardio for my cardio days (instead of 45 min at a stable state) will help. I’ve been trying to watch my calories at 1500 lately, wondering if that’s the right amount. Also interested in tracking macros but I’m having a hard time figuring out what my exact numbers for that would be as I tried several online calculators and got different results. Any advice would be much appreciated!!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      So it looks like if you’re around 140-145, your calories may be a bit low. I would shoot for 1640 at the bare minimums. Go into our FAQ page and look under Nutrition FAQs, there are some really good articles there that will help you figure out exactly what you should be eating and why–especially since YOU know your background and your workout routine/intensity, etc. If you are still having trouble after that, contact us via the contact form or the nutrition coaching page, and we can go from there. I think restarting your workout routine and adding in some extra hiit work (nothing excessive, just a few mini sessions per week) can really help. So check out that FAQ page and then let us know how we can help further! good luck!

  86. Jessica says

    So thankful to read this article. Ok, so I’m 29, 5’2″ and currently 130. 1.5yrs ago I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I had just lost all of the weight from my 1yr old (2nd born) child – pretty much as soon as prednisone was introduced I began to gain pure fat – and in areas I had never gained before. Belly fat hadn’t been a problem (I’m pear shaped – very big butt & thighs, small waist & very small chest) but I gained there & all over.

    OK – Jan. 2015 I started doing a program called 21day fix on bodybuilding.com. Very strict eating of protein & veggies only, 1200 calories. My weight came down a little, definitely toned up all over. Then rheumatoid issues, vacation & some depression issues set in – bad eating & inconsistent exercise = fat gain again. The past month I have been consistent with my exercise – 30min cardio (usually jogging/walking intervals or steady state jogging), 10min on stair climber and 20-30min heavy lifting. I wasn’t seeing changes in fat/weight and panicked -so the last 2 weeks I’ve only eaten 500-700 calories and continued exercise 5 days a week. I know thats terrible, and I know its wrong. I am just so sad with the amt. of fat on me (even though there is muscle underneath). I keep looking at my wedding photos 8yrs ago (2 kids ago) where I was 105 lbs …
    I’m starting back today to my usual calorie range because I know 500 isn’t healthy (back to 1200 calories of balanced whole foods). Anything over 1200 has always produced an immediate gain on the scale. Seeing 130 on the scale makes me want to cry. I am still on 2 RA meds, the pill, and now on wellbutrin. I just want help – I’m so tired of reading different information online. Calories in vs out, nutrition, more cardio, less cardio, more protein & no carbs, more weights… I would love to see a nutritionist, but its hard adding another dr visit as a stay at home mom of 2 toddlers.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      I think when you say “anything over 1200 calories makes you gain weight…” that’s because you’re used to keeping your body in a deprivation state. At 5’2 130 lbs, and working out, let’s say 5 hours a week, your minimum amount of calories your body needs each day just to function well is going to be around 1600 calories. Even if you did zero exercise and you sat around most of the day, you’d need 1400 calories. That’s not even taking into consideration that you are running after a couple of small children too!! I think you’re looking at some bad metabolic damage and…and possibly a lot of hard work to overcome–not to mention some major mental barriers. Email me for more advice–strongfigure@gmail.com–we’ll need to chat more.

  87. Aidee says

    Hi I’m 5’0 180 lbs I just started dating and working out I’m doing crunches and sit-ups for my belly cuz after my las bby I have a hanging stomash and I don’t like so I work out more for my stomach but I feel like I’m getting fater but my scale says I’m lossing weight

    • Stephanie Walker says

      I would definitely do a combination. You want to strength train because building muscle burns fat…and it burns it a lot faster than steady state cardio. Lift, and then finish each lifting session with 15-20 minutes of intense interval cardio. This is your best combo. Make healthy food choices, don’t starve yourself, and take 2-3 rest days where you go on long walks and practice yoga/stretching for recovery. You’ll meet your goals much sooner than later!

  88. BethM says

    I am 49, 129, 5’3″. I have been lifting for a while and saw nothing so decided to really push it and lift heavy while keeping good form in order to gain strength and lean down. I am NOT that strong at all and it’s been challenging to even add 5 pounds each week and keep good form. For instance today I did chest: warm up with just bar, 2 sets at 8 reps with 65 lbs, 2 sets with a spotter at 85 lbs (4-5 reps) 1 set at 80 lbs 3 reps, 1 set @ 65lbs 4 reps). I am hoping to do at leas 85 without a spotter within a couple of weeks then increase to 90-95 pounds. Improvements in lifting heavier is so slow and frustrating.

    I have been clean eating but don’t count calories. Lots of egg whites, meat, fish, salads, quinoa, beans, etc. Work out with weights 5x week, Hour cardio 1 day, and shorter cardio 2-3 other times for about 30 minutes. I have been doing this for only about 3 weeks, but have only lost about a pound and my thighs are actually bigger (can tell from my jeans). From reading this it sounds like I may be getting bigger before smaller (hoping anyway). Will this last long? It is so discouraging.


    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Beth,
      It sounds like you’re doing everything right. The fact that you’ve actually lost a pound but your muscles are growing is a REALLY good sign. Yes, your thigh muscles ARE growing faster than the fat is melting off them. The good news is that since you’ve lost a pound through heavy lifting, it means your body is responding ideally to lifting weights. You will get smaller the longer you stick it out. That said, we all have “trouble spots.” Your trouble spots could be your thighs and it may take longer to notice a difference there. Trust me when I say that you’ve got to just keep pushing!! On a side note, and not to discourage you, some women–especially if they’re smaller to start with–will get bigger thighs from working out. It’s kind of an “in” thing now anyway–which is awesome, right?! I don’t know your size, shape, or history, but there’s always a chance that even if you burn all the fat off your legs, you could still grow some big muscles. Again, not trying to discourage you and I don’t think this is what’s happening, but it’s not uncommon for some women to build up their legs. Don’t get discouraged!!!! Besides, the more muscle you have on those legs, the more fat you’ll burn off them. Odds are, even if they reshape themselves, they’re going to look AMAZING! So don’t give up–you are on track to success!!! :D

  89. Kari says

    I’m going through this right now and it’s extremely difficult to Continue pushing forward… I’m 5’7″ 130 lb, when I began working out, I was 122 lb. I know that’s a low weight, and it was accomplished through restriction, so I began working out and increasing my calories.

    I began working out from home in July using online workouts focusing on weights, but I wasn’t very Consistent. Around November, I joined a gym and began attending spin classes about 2x a week… I fell in love with it, but wasn’t seeing any results. Starting January, I began going to hour long spin classes 4x a week (usually using a really high resistance) and began Pilates reformer classes 3-4 x a week. From July until today, I have gained 8 pounds, but not any inches. My clothes still fit with the exception of the upper thighs and booty being a tiny bit more snug. I know this post is about weight training, but is it possible that since I’m still fairly new to working out I could be experiencing the same results? I feel like I should be losing by now but instead, I feel like I have a layer of fat just hanging out on top of all my hard work.

    I guess I’m just curious what gaining weight, while exercising consistently, but not inches means??

    • Stephanie Walker says

      If someone came up to me out of the blue and said “I’m gaining weight but not inches,” I’d say heck yes! You’re gaining muscle and burning fat! And that’s what I’m assuming, without knowning any more, is possibly happening. Just because you aren’t using a barbell doesn’t mean you aren’t working your muscles. I’d say good things are happening. And 5’7 130 lbs sounds healthier to me than 5’7 122 lbs. I would keep doing what you’re doing (think about throwing in more weight training when you’re ready) and keep the nutrition on point. This is good Kari!

  90. Jessica says

    OK! I need some reassurance =)! please! I have worked out for a while and in fact have lost over 125 pounds over 3 years. I have done all sorts of training and working out and lift ‘lighter’ — ie usually 30 pounds in any movement.

    3 weeks ago : I weighed in at 128lbs ; i’m 5’4″ and 36 years old

    three weeks ago a gal at my gym offered to have me shadow her as she prepares for her physique body building competition. It’s turned honestly into her taking an interest in training me.

    Not really any cardio (although this week I have added in 20 – 30 mins 4/days of HIIT)

    2hours of work usually a day — one body part usually. And we tend to throw in light ab work. Sunday is rest day but is a full work hour of abs.

    I am lifting maybe 4x what I used to on average. Today marks 3 weeks. I am following about 1600 – 1700 calories a day. I want to lean out but instead literally I have gained 8 pounds and this morning I’m tipping the scale at about 135.5lbs. It doesn’t seem to go down, just go up.

    preworkout – usually cottage cheese and fruit
    post – a shake (protein) and some sort of fast acting sugars (about 100cals)
    then I have three to four more meals – protein, veg mainly and i’ll throw in a complex carb – like sweet potato or bran muffin (homemade) at one or two of those 3 meals.

    aside from tht I drink a lot more water, I’m using BCAA mix during and post workout and trying also to throw in a scoop of glutamine throughout the day in my water.

    Strength is defintely up. that’s for sure, but the weight gain has me paranoid and I really wanted to shed fat and see leanness and not go up in weight. I have it in my head I should weight in at about 120 pounds

    any advice and help would be great. Everything on this program is so different than I used to eat. I did follow IF for a while and that honestly helped me drop that last 10 pounds last year but now that 10 is already creeping back up.


    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Jess,
      Whoever is training you seems to know exactly what she’s doing. At 5’4, 120lbs, you’d have no muscle! It’s time to let go of the scale and now only measure yourself by how you feel, how you look in the mirror, and how your clothes fit. It’s not uncommon for many women to start lifting heavy weights–like you’re doing–gain weight, but lose inches and drop a pants size. And I have a feeling if you’re doing what your trainer is having you do, you may be on this path. It’s never a quick or fast path, but it’s one you may be on. I wouldn’t change anything you’re doing other than throwing out your scale. I know, coming from someone who gained weight, lost it through cardio, and THEN learned how to get strong and put on muscle, seeing the scale move back up is terrifying. My best days are still the days I don’t get on a scale –they’re the days I put on my jeans and feel fabulous or I see my muscle definition in the mirror. So ditch that scale, keep lifting and eating good wholesome foods, keep your calories where they are, and work on loving that awesome body of yours. You’ve worked so hard and it’s only getting better. Good luck and tell you’re trainer that she’s awesome. :D

      • Jessica says

        Thanks Stephanie for the thoughtful response. It so hard to think about throwing the scale out. I put on a pair of jeans last night that I had not worn and they weren’t tight, in fact they were loose. So … I guess the weight gain isn’t going to my hips so to speak. I’ll look forward to seeing what the next 15 weeks brings. Yesterday was the start of my 4th week. I leg pressed an awesome 300 pounds. And I’m sore – I honestly haven’t stopped being sore in the first 3 weeks. Every day.

        I’ll keep you posted on my progress. You’ve been great with a very thoughtful reply


        ps ; i still have not broke the scale weighing habit. I’m trying. I spiked up another pound .. but am trying not to focus on it!

  91. Carolan says

    When ever you start a fitness program that includes weight training, you will be a little uncomfortable at first–soreness, tiredness and clothes feeling a little tight. When you get past that phase, and it will pass, you’ll begin to focus on how good you look and how much better you feel. Your body will move like a ballet dancers.

    All around weight training/aerobics is the best thing for you, and you can adjust your body mass by eating less or more. You will have to learn to eat healthy though, and lower your fat intake, and remember sugar is the worst thing you can eat (look for hidden sugar in processed foods)–like poison, they say.

  92. Jodi says

    What or how much is recommended for “heavy lifting?” I’ve been doing 5lbs each hand with squat lunges and 10 lbs kettleball but afraid I’m not lifting heavy enough??

  93. Melanie says

    I’m experiencing the same thing, and it has me worried. I’m 51. I started martial arts training, two sessions per week, back in June. This January I added weight lifting back into my life — 2 days per week — I do split body — lower body Tuesdays and upper body Thursdays. I lift my max (3 sets, 10 reps to failure), and at first I dropped 6 pounds, but now the six pounds has come racing back. I am 15 pounds overweight. I do notice parts of my body looking stronger, and I have been able to lift heavier and add more exercises per muscle group, but my belly fat looks like it has gotten worse and some of my upper back and chin/neck. I’m totally discouraged. I also added some cardio and some swimming here and there. I’m not going to quit, but am frustrated. Thanks for this article. I will keep going. Could it be because of my age? I’m a very young 51.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Melanie–there could be so many factors that contribute to this–it’s so tough to say. Age, hormones, previous dieting and exercise history, genetics, how your body responds to training and to food…we’re just all different. Just by what I’m reading, it sounds like you’re building muscle–which is AWESOME. A lot of people will experience the same…weight drop because they got into fitness and it’s totally new for the body, then muscle gain because of what you’re actually doing, and then somewhere along the way things have to get tweaked so that the food balances out the exercise and vice versa. Also, you say you’ve added some “cardio and swimming.” Make sure all your cardio is interval cardio that doesn’t last more than about 10-20 minutes max, and the same with swimming. There’s a lot of evidence out there that steady state cardio (as well as swimming) actually causes women to gain and hold onto belly fat. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with either–some of my closest friends live for long runs and swims, but if you’re doing this for aesthetic purposes, I’d (personally) ditch the swimming (unless completely done in a HIIT fashion) and make sure all your cardio choices are short, intense interval bursts. Other than that, I think you should keep doing what you’re doing and stay positive. Sometimes the more stress we’re under, the more we can end up holding on to that excess weight, so try not to think too much on it, but instead focus on what you’re proud of–your strength, confidence, ability to do what you’re doing!

  94. andria says

    I don’t understand why it seems I am the exact opposite of what you describe in this article. I have been lifting heavy for several years off/on and have gotten serious again over past 9 months and I have only gotten bigger, clothes tighter. Scale weight is up and inches are NOT down. I am 5’2.5″ 118# and i look terrible and dumpy in my skinny jeans (thighs too big). I eat anywhere from 1800-2100 cals/day.; strength train 4d/wk, walk 10-20k steps/day; 1-2 d hiit. My Fitbit says I burn 1800-2500 depending on the day.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hi Andria,
      I did some super quick calculations based off your current weight and activity level and I think your calories might be too high. Granted, that’s said off of only what I gather from your comment, and that’s keeping in mind that I don’t know much about you, your history, how your body responds to certain foods, etc. So only going off this, I’d say your calories are too high. At 118 lbs, depending on how heavy you lift, for how many hours per day, for how many days per week and then how active you are outside of work (which seems very active) I’d put you anywhere between 1550-1900. On the flip side, could you be overtraining?? Sometimes our bodies need less exercise. I had to learn this the hard way when I was overtraining out of fear of gaining the weight back that I had lost and actually gained weight due to training so much. My body just held on to it all because it was constantly under stress. And speaking of stress–there are so many lifestyle factors that coincide with weight–where it’s gained, how it’s stored, etc. There’s never really a clear cut answer unless you want to see a specialist such as an endocrinologist. Also, 118 lbs at 5’2 is not big by ANY stretch of the imagination. Google image Camille LaBlanc–she’s about 5’2, weighs well over 118, and is gorgeous and strong.

      • andria says

        Hey, thanks for the reply. I know I am not big or overweight. I hope my comment doesn’t offend someone who feels they have more to lose. I have weighed as little as 109 #and felt most comfortable at 112#, so having the extra 6-9 lbs makes me uncomfortable and my wardrobe too tight.

        I think I may be eating too much and just need to realize that! I definitely don’t think I am overtraining since I mostly walk and lift weights (not high intensity cross fit style, either). The Hiit workouts are, admittedly, a bit more hit or miss. Calorie counting drives me batty, but I need to think of a way to manage my intake.

        Do you have any input on eating style? Unfortunately, I’ve gotten a bit hung up on eating to follow the Whole30/strict Paleo. While I do agree with a lot of the fundamentals I think the restrictive nature of the diet is causing me to overeat healthy foods so I do not get hungry and crave unhealthy foods (sweets/desserts are my undoing). Even still I find I will go off the deep end and eat a bunch of sweets. It’s like I can’t find a balance. I feel like I almost don’t know how to eat unless I follow a WOE that has instructions, lol!

        It would be great if you could point me to any articles/links/resources for someone who counting calories or following a strict diet backfires!! Thanks again :-)

        • andria says

          Oh and Camille La blanc is gorgeous, but a bit too big for how I would like to look. Just adding for some perspective. :-)

  95. CK says

    Your article was interesting and I’m hoping it is right!!! I am 5’9″ and probably weigh around 220 (it’s been a few weeks since I’ve weighed because it is going up up up). I carry my weight well (meaning no one would ever believe that I weigh this much) and it’s evenly distributed in thighs, hips, butt, stomach at times.. I started a crossfit gym in January (so going for past 2 months) and have been consistently going 3-4 days each week. I swear I am growing.. My jeans feel so tight in the butt and thigh area.. I have read all the comments and the answers consistently say, keep going and it will eventually start to burn fat. It is very discouraging to not see or feel any loss. I know my endurance has excelled and I am getting stronger I think, but just not seeing any other results at this time. Can you give me some words of encouragement and if I’m doing what I should be doing as far as the 3-4 days? Also, how much should I be eating? Anything else would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey CK,
      Definitely keep going–you’re only two months in!!! Every person is different and we all take longer to adjust to new routines, eating habits, etc. Consistency produces results and there’s no other way around it. I’ve talked to thousands of men and women over the years and they all say the same thing: consistency is key. We all gain differently, we all lose it differently, and sometimes it’s quick, and sometimes it takes a lot patience. Be patient!!
      As for food–a quick calculation says that in order to maintain 220 pounds doing CF 2-3 times/wk, you’d need at least around 2640 calories a day. I know your goal is to lose, but I wouldn’t drop too far under this number…and this is all depending on whether or not you’re even eating anywhere near this right now. If you have a good idea already of your calories, you may actually have to eat more or less. (If you’re under eating, work on increasing calories and if you’re overeating, work on very very slow decreases–not more than 100-150calories per week.) And don’t forget that the body will store fat cells if it isn’t getting enough food to burn. Lots to think about and consider–good luck!

  96. IslandGirl says

    Oh my goodness. I am so glad I found this website. I was panicking about the weight gain; my arms are getting bigger; legs/quads and glutes are also getting bigger. My size 0 linen pants are snug around my thighs and I absolutely hate it! I can’t fit into my little shirts because my arms are “huge” and my “skinny” jeans are tight around my calves. I’m 5′- 1″. I can feel my muscles under all the subcutaneous fat in my stomach area. I used to run a lot but did not have a lot of muscle and I am an ovo-vegetarian (used to be strictly vegan). I take in about 130 grams of plant-based protein shakes everyday (on my 2nd week) but I find it hard to eat sometimes because I get scared about gaining more weight so that stresses me out. I truly hope all the concurrent strength/cardio training that I do 5 times a week will help me! I’m on my 40th day :)

  97. IslandGirl says

    Hello! I am so happy to have found this website! I have been feeling the same was as a lot of other readers/commentators on this blog. I feel so big! I”m 5′-1″ and my size 0 linen pants are snug around my hips; my arms feel big and it’s hard to fit into my smaller blouses. I have been concurrently strength and cardio training (HIIT) 5 days a week. I’m an ovo-vegetarian (I allow myself to eat egg whites) and started taking in 130 grams of plant-based protein on the days that I work out. Sometimes I get scared to eat though because I’m so afraid to gain more weight. Is there anything else I need to do? Thanks :)

  98. says

    So my problem is my thigh and butt area. My diet is not the best, but I’m really trying and eat at least 1-2 healthy meals a day. I weight lift about 3-4x a week and everytime make sure to get 10 minutes of cardio on the treadmill at an incline of 10 and speed of 3 or 4 (I’m 5 ft, so I’m jogging). But I just cannot get rid of the fat of my thighs? Nor do I know what type of body I have? I feel like I am gaining muscle in my thighs but my fat is still covering it. I have a smaller waist my bottom half is just heavy. Help!

      • Stephanie Walker says

        Shannon, shoot me an email at strongfigure@gmail.com. It sounds like you’ve got an endomorph body type and your lower hip/thigh region is going to be your “trouble spot.” Don’t worry–we all have a trouble spot. I’ll need more info from you, but would love to chat nutrition. Your workouts sound great–just sounds like we need to tweak some macros. Email me!

  99. Debbie says

    So I have a question hopefully you might be able to answer. I’m 5’2″ weight 110lbs. In my early 50’s . I’ve been working out and slowly developing muscles on my arms and stomach. I can deal with the weight gain (clothes feel tighter) not sure what I weigh right now don’t really care because I just want to be healthy and tone up. I know it’s muscle weight anyway reading up on it. . What are your thoughts on menopause?? I know that they say women in their 50s gain weight because of the hormonal changes. Can that be prevented or is that something that will happen regardless. Just curious if that will somehow affect my workout. Thanks for your input.

  100. Jessica says

    So my issue is different. I loose weight too easily while I’m trying to gain. Right now I’m cutting all red meat out of my diet due to health it’s been a week of becoming pescatarian, drinking protien shakes and working out and I’ve lost six pounds. I’m 5’2″ and 114 lbs. Ughhhh I don’t want to loose any more weight just want to go back to 120-125 and gain muscle. Oh and i am staying away from cardio. Im just doing at home workout like squats, pushups, burpees etc. With weights. Help before I disapear!! Lol.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      You might want to look at following a powerlifting or bodybuilding style lifting program. I would use T-nation.com to research “mass” or “gaining” programs…and it doesn’t have to be for females. You can follow a men’s program. Also, as far as cardio–stay away from burpees–that’s still cardio no matter what kind of weights you do it with. For cardio, it’s important to keep walking. Walking saves your muscles and keeps you from burning off all those gains, yet still keeps your heart healthy too. (And it helps for peace of mind). Food wise, for those trying to gain, it’s very common to eat at least 500+ calories MORE than what you typically eat (or what calculators say you should eat for your size) in order to keep the pounds on. Make sure you’re eating plenty of carbs and fats…but the good ones. Lots of starchy veggies, beans, potatoes, whole grains, avocados, nut butters, trail mix, coconut oil, etc. Even combining carbs plus fats — eggs, avocado, whole wheat bagels — will help you retain lbs. Good luck!

  101. Debbie says

    Hi there,

    In my early 50s… 5’2″ 110lbs …what are your thoughts about women who gain weight from menopause? I’ve been working out and not sure if it’s muscle or the dreaded gain of menopause. How can you tell which one it is?

    Thanks for your feedback

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Debbie,
      How long have you been working out? I know a lot of women who said that when they reached menopause, because they had been working out for a long time, they were able to build more muscle and drop more fat once the hormones changed. I’m not super versed in menopause + weight yet, but a quick search on the internet led me to believe that exercise is going to help you much more than hurt. (Obviously, right?) I even found this on WebMD:
      Benefits of Exercise After Menopause
      Exercise has many other perks aside from weight loss, including:
      Lower risk of osteoporosis
      Lower risks of metabolic syndrome, heart attack, and other cardiovascular diseases
      Improved insulin resistance
      Keeps joints and muscles strong
      Helps bowels work well
      Relieves depression and anxiety
      Improves overall health

      That said, definitely stick with your routine–lift and build muscle, protect your bones and organs so you aren’t too frail and fall and break as you get older.

      • Debbie says

        Hi Stephanie,

        Thanks for the quick response. I only just started 3 weeks ago. I’m loving it. I’m so tired of being skinny and do not want to become flabby or frail as I get older. I want nice muscles . I have them on my thighs. Had them since I was 10. Now I’m slowy developing them on my arms and stomach. I have all the patience in the world so I’ll get them in time. I’m in no hurry. I won’t let menopause stop me either. So whatever hormonal changes is happening to my body I’ll try and deal with it as best as I can. That being said I saw this 77 year old body builder Ernestine Shepherd. She is my inspiration. If she can do it so can I. She looks AMAZING! WHOA! Nothing is stopping her :)

  102. Allison says

    I found this article last night when I was having a real panic attack. I have been working out consistently since February but have really stepped up my weight lifting these last two months. I tend to 4-5 x per week for 60-90 minutes which includes kettlebells, light weights, and machines for my legs and arms, and also 20 minutes of HIIT and 15 minutes of the rowing machine at its highest resistance.

    My diet is mainly protein and less carbs. I don’t drink beer or cocktails. But I almost cried last night when I couldn’t button up my jeans. The legs fit similarly, my stomach looks flatter, but I was so far away from zipping up. My muffin top has only seemed to increase! And my chest looks “meatier” in pictures.

    Could you give me some advice on if I’m doing something wrong?


    • Stephanie Walker says

      Without diving into more details it’s hard to give you a definitive answer on “what’s wrong.” It could be anything from needing to eat more carbs to needing to lift heavier. In my experience, “light weights” and sometimes even “machines” may help…but won’t get you where you want to be until you pick up the more challenging weights and barbells and go beyond comfort zones. You want to match your protein grams per day to your body weight but you don’t want to eat too few carbs–especially if you’re lifting heavy weights. The body needs them or it’ll store fat. Make sure your HIIT is truly HIIT–working at your highest capacity of interval training and instead of rowing for a steady 15 min at the highest resistance, try halving the resistance and working on sprint intervals…such as 250 meters as hard and fast as possible and then rest the same amount of time it takes to row that. (3-5 rounds of that)
      Honestly, you don’t want to be doing “too much” cardio because that can make your body want to hold onto fat — especially in the middle. 15-20 min of hiit per day with a solid hour of heavy lifting should be PLENTY.
      Lots to think about but the important thing is to NOT give up and keep pushing. We all need to make tweaks, learn, fail, and try new things to succeed. You’ll get there.

  103. Joanna says

    This is a very interesting article! Does it apply to people who doesn’t lift though?
    I’ve been working out at home for couple of months now, mostly body weight training, not too much cardio. I joined a crossfit gym too but stopped after a month due to the cost… I liked the workouts a lot (I enjoyed crazy cardio rounds,not so much lifting, my arms are soooo weak!), I hope to be back to crossfit soon. At the beginning it was all great, I noticed I’m loosing weight but recently it feels like I’m gaining it all back, and my pants won’t fit me anymore… I’ve been doing a lot of squats (without weight) and lounges, and I noticed my butt is lifted up, my thighs are firmer, I would enjoy it all if I could fit into my pants that I bought for the summer…! Pretty frustrating… I’m now in the point that I don’t know if I should start doing more cardio (and if yes, what type? I heard low-intensity, but longer workouts like running/jogging are the best to burn fat), or continue doing my workouts to build up muscles that will then burn fat, as in your article… I’m 5’1, a pear shape, that’s why I started thinking that maybe the exercises I’m doing are not for me…
    Unfortunately I don’t know my calorie intake per day, but I eat clean, a lot of vegetables, and I rarely ever drink alcohol or eat sweets.
    Thank you for your help! I think it great that you guys are so responsive!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Joanna! You just keep doing exactly what you’re doing and instead of adding running/jogging to your routine, add WALKING!! Here’s the thing: walking burns fat AND preserves muscle. Running and jogging are going to burn both muscle and fat. You want to lose fat but definitely not muscle. The more muscle you have the more calories your body burns per hour per day. If your body is responding well to squats and lunges and push-ups … all the bodyweight movememnts …keep doing them! That’s excellent!!! And then just make it a goal to walk either a certian number of miles or minutes per day. This is all you should have to do…plus be patient!!! It’ll work out! Good luck and keep pushing! :D

  104. Rita says

    WOW. I am so happy to have come across this article!! I have recently begun weightlifting religiously for the past month. I have lifted religiously before about 3 years ago went from 24% BF to 20% in about 6 weeks. I got to my goal and fell off the wagon and then yoyo-ed back and forth for the last 3 years between working with trainers to random cardio classes, and hot yoga, pilates etc. and finally decided to get back into it. I have been getting discouraged because I have gained about 10 lbs my clothes are fitting tighter, it is very mentally challenging for me. I measured and I did lose about 3.4% BF but haven’t lost any inches on my waist but my body definitely looks tighter and more muscular than ever before. I have been lifting heavy and plan on going heavier haven’t done insane amounts of cardio but cardio is always a challenge for me. Calorie counting makes me feel like a crazy lady so I generally make sure to meet around 150g of protein(I am 5’4″ 150 lbs currently~25% BF). If I had to estimate i’d say I eat between 1200-1500 calories. Based on this article I am definitely not meeting the necessary carbs which has clearly surfaced as an insane hankering for cakes, cookies, and candy. I want a flat tummy so I automatically think NO CARBS!! My diet is about 80% clean during the week with small cheat meals on the weekend and I drink about a gallon of water a day. I am just honestly afraid of eating such high calories- reading it makes sense but to do that as summer begins seems so scary to blindly hope that I’d drop weight by eating more!! Here are some of my stats for strength benchmarks I’ve met:

    Benchpress 3×12- 70lbs
    Deadlift-3×8- 105

    (I lift heavy 4 days a week sometimes more and occasionally 15-20 min on the stair master and always lead my lifts with sprints followed by small cardio circuits like for ex. 10 burpees & row 100m for 4 rounds with explosive effort- I used to do more aggressive circuits with my trainer but I find them very challenging to do on my own).

    Looking for some pointers and some encouragement here don’t want to stop lifting but these tight pants are really throwing me for a loop!!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Rita! I think you’re doing everything just right! (or mostly right!) ;)
      You said yourself you’ve decreased your body fat by 3.4% and IDK if you realize this, but that’s a HUGE FAT LOSS! You are doing what you need to do! I think your body may be holding on to some excess fat just because–again you said it yourself–you aren’t eating enough carbs. Now, there’s no need to bulk up or even feel like you need to calorie count, but add an extra serving of carbs (about 20 grams or so) before your workout and another serving (30-50g) post workout. This doesn’t have to be crazy–it can be a bowl of oats before and a fruit smoothie after. I would pick the good, complex carbs (those that contain fiber and digest slower) before your workout and the simpler, fast-digesting ones after (fruit, berries, etc.) And if you DO want a sweet treat, find one low in fat and then have it with your protein post training. Make sure you’re not doing “too” much cardio…I would alternate days of stair mill with sprints…you want to focus on lifting for at least 45 minutes and then doing HIIT cardio for 15-20 min. That’s honestly ideal for your goals. Don’t undereat–think of food as fuel for the body so you can get it to do what you want it to do. You’re doing the right things…let’s just tweak a couple parts of the workout and make sure you’re getting in some good carbs as fuel and recovery for the muscles. Stay patient…it takes time…but it works. Nice job on your successes thus far!!

  105. RLAL says

    Thank you for your post. I have been trying to figure out what is going on with me for awhile now.

    A little history- I am recovering from bulimia and anxiety/depression (not on any meds that could be altering my weight). I hit bottom and the short of it- I refuse to go back to ‘that place’. I need to love myself and love my body, make it strong and healthy. I started to work out about 2 months ago, I was about 114lbs, 5’4″, 34 yrs old, mom of two. I have never been an active person, I suppose you could say I spent my life as one of those skinny fat girls. I did want to lose some weight, I was much thinner when I was nursing my kids and all of my clothes fit my 112-115lb self- with no muscle or tone.

    I started running (was up to 4miles), toning and resistance training and weights with the limited supplies I have at home. I was feeling great, but my weight continued to creep up. I knew there was likely water retention happening so I held on. It felt like I had passed that stage and that the weight drop was likely going to come any time now. Suddenly, over the course of about a week and a half, my body crept way up and some of my largest pants I was comfortable in just over a week ago, now no longer even went up over my butt! I have not and can not weigh myself at this time as I fear that the number on the scale is attached to negative feelings about myself and my past ED, so I am purposely staying far away from the scale. I wanted to only let my clothes guide me, but now I have NOTHING to wear that fits anymore and it’s starting to set me off and I’m so scared of a backward spiral in my mental health over this.

    I’ve read that if you were previously slender, perhaps your muscle gain is more than your weight loss and this could cause your clothes to not fit, but then in the next article I read how hard it is for women to actually gain muscle and this is a myth. I can SEE much more tone in the mirror, I can FEEL it when I touch my body, even my husband has told me that I look visibly more toned than before, so what gives? I eat as clean as I possibly can, vegetables, fruit, few whole grains, beans, nuts etc, lean meats, all organic, non-gmo etc. I do not deprive and enjoy a frozen yogurt ice cream bar at 90cal every now and then, yes I have a weakness for sweets but I’m not devouring cookies or cakes or anything even remotely like that as we don’t even keep those in the house due to our healthy diets- even with the kids. I watch my calories but am not counting to an exact number due to a) fear of freaking out (lots of mental barriers, I get this), as well as just being so busy with the kids. I am mindful not to snack etc.

    Could this just be my new size with muscle or am I totally kidding myself that muscle could be making such a distinct and major change in such a short amount of time? I am trying SO hard not to be discouraged! Any advice would be amazingly helpful. Thanks!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hello! Thanks for commenting! This is a super tough question to answer without getting some extensive background info…so I’ll do my best to give you a few guesses.

      Without knowing exactly how much/hard/often you’re training and without knowing an estimate of how much you’re eating daily, it’s really hard to assume what the issue may be; however, I think the first thing is to make sure you’re getting enough food and good quality food. At 5’4 and assuming you workout at least 5 days a week and you’re taking care of kids…you’ll be in the ballpark of needing at least 1500 calories daily.

      Also, I noticed you said you’re doing a lot of running. I’m a HUGE fan of sprint intervals and walking long distances for fat loss…steady state running has actually proven to promote weight gain with women–especially around the middle–hips/stomach/thighs. You may want to think about transitioning to interval sprinting with walking, and definitely 100% stick to weight training–the heavier the better.

      Muscle promotes fat loss so don’t worry about lifting the big weights. It is really hard for women to “bulk.” Also, every person is uniquely different. You are right when you say that the muscle you’re gaining could be making a distinct difference and quickly–especially if this is new for you. Most women, when they start lifting, will see an increase in size and muscle gain rather quickly. Guys are jealous of this. It’s easier for us to gain muscle when we begin. It’ll get harder as you progress but your body wants muscle — it wants to be healthy and protect all your vital organs and tissues! So there’s no shame in any muscle you’ve gained–I would embrace it and as long as you FEEL GOOD and HEALTHY–that’s all that matters. And if you need to buy some more clothes that fit better, just embrace the new shape because I’m sure that muscle is making you look fabulous. Own it, revel in your new confidence, and go on a shopping trip!! :D

      Good luck!

  106. Debbie says

    Hello Stephanie,

    Ok…so I’ve been lifting weights 5 days a week anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour and I give myself a break on the weekends.

    I’m going on 8 weeks now. I noticed that my arms have muscles now (( YES!! )) and my stomach area is sloooooowly developing a 6 pack…I can see it ..it’s not 100% there…but it’s on it’s way. :)

    The problem is that lately I’ve been developing a headache each time I lift weights or use resistance bands or even doing push ups. This happens all the time. I’m not lifting heavy duty weights they’re only 10lbs each. ..and the resistance bands are ..well naturally they’re not heavy. ..and doing push ups ..it’s not like I’m doing 100. (( only 50)

    When I get the headache, it will be either be on my right temple or left temple or above my eye or top of my head. I decided to give myself a break from lifting for a week and decided to try the following week but it’s always the same thing.

    I’m breathing correctly so I don’t think it’s that and I’m drinking plenty of water.

    When I stop lifting the headache slowly goes away.

    Do you have any idea what I’m doing wrong? I don’t want to stop lifting weights altogether but if I have to I will and just stick to walking on my treadmill if I have to. I don’t want to stop exercising so if I can only use my treadmill without causIng any damage to my head, then I guess I’ll just have to stick with that.

    Any thoughts would be soooo appreciated.

    Thank you

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Yikes!!! Debbie, this is a first time question for me! I’m going to do some digging, but in the meantime, I found this article and thought it may help:

      Everything I know would say to make sure you’re breathing right (you said you are), make sure you’re hydrated properly (you said you are) and also make sure your form is SPOT on. A lot of tension headaches can be brought on by neck position and posture. From what you’re describing, it sounds like something in your form may be off? Can you get someone to check out your positioning in the meantime? (You’re more than welcome to video yourself and send it to me.) I’m going to keep digging…the only experience I’ve had with exercise headaches are from being under-hydrated, holding my breath on a big lift, or exerting myself in a harder-than-normal conditioning workout and getting a headache when the workout is over.

      Let me know if you come to any conclusions or need me to watch your form in the meantime.

  107. Debbie says

    Thank you for responding so quickly,

    Ok I’ll do that Stephanie.

    Oh by the way , I checked with my doctor today to make sure it’s nothing serious like the inside of my brain is about to burst , she seems to think that like you, my form could be off or when I lift I’m tightening up and causing these tension headaches. She could be right because I ALWAYS get a tightness on my left shoulder where I need to apply a cooling\heating gel. …and my Chiropractor says that I always seem to be out of alignment.

    She really doesn’t feel it’s anything serious where I need to have an MRI or stop lifting altogether.(( Thank goodness))

    I’ll double check my breathing again. I definitely know it’s not that I’m dehydrated because I have 2 large bottles of water with me and I take big gulps even before I’m thirsty when I workout.

    I’ll keep you posted.

    Again…..Thank you for getting back to me and I’ll read the article and check it out now.


    • Stephanie Walker says

      I’m glad you saw your doc, and that’s great that it doesn’t sound like anything serious!!! Keep me posted as you learn more…if it’s form or technique, it could just be a rather simple fix!! Exciting and good news!

  108. Stephanie Walker says

    It’s hard to tell. 5-10 lb weights for arms doesn’t sound like a crazy amount but if you’re not used to it, in my experience, anything women do that’s new, usually shows a quick response. And we do gain muscle faster than we lose fat. What are the weights like for your squats, lunges, and DL? I say stick to lifting (at least 45 minutes worth every time you go) and make sure you top off your lifting with a good 10-15 minutes of intesnse (not steady state) cardio. Stick with this and if your diet is even halfway decent, you should see a better balance soon.

  109. Stephanie Walker says

    Hey Priya, sorry for the delayed response. We got spammed and I’ve been sorting out spam comments from the real ones for a while now. What did you decide to do? I hope you stuck with CrossFit. Every person is so incredibly different. For some people, they’ll see changes in a month. For others, it can be 6+ months. It really depends on your dedication, persistance, and then all the little details such as hydration, food choices, even nutrient timing such as when you eat certain foods like carbs, etc. It also can depend on previous dieting history and how well your metabolism works. I know it’s probably not the answer you wanted to hear, but good things will happen if you’re patient. Building muscle is like building a safety net for your body and providing yourself with insurance as you age. You’re protecting vital organs and allowing yourself to age gracefully while keeping strength, beauty, and balance. So no matter what, I hope you’ve stuck it out!!

  110. Devon says

    Hi, great article. A month ago I started slow motion strength training at Inform Fitness, where you do heavy weight slowly. I feel good and am getting stronger already, my arms are toning nicely, but my thighs have gone up half an inch, slightly more by today’svmeasure. This shouldn’t be an issue, except that is my lifelong insecurity/problem spot and I am really starting to freak out. Probably no one else notices but i sure do. Should I stick it out or switch to something else? I really like the workouts more than anything I’ve tried and it fits with my schedule, so I’m actually sticking to something for once and feeling fit. On the other hand, I have heard that heavy weights can bulk you up and I don’t want that. Also I am being told its just water retention, I don’t know what to believe. So much misinformation out there. Why does it have to be THAT area.?!I’m 120 lb, 5’6 so i have never been overweight and only went up a pound or two without diet changes so far. Body fat went down 1%. I always ate pretty reasonable and minimized sugar. Any advice is much appreciated – thanks!

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Devon,
      Honestly, it sounds like you’re doing everything right. Body fat is down while weight stays the same or goes up slightly is pretty awesome–you’ve trained your body to burn fat and gain muscle simultaneously. The thing is, we all have our trouble spots. Usually, the “fat” on our trouble spots is the last to lean out. Think about it–the muscles in your legs are some of the biggest muscles your body has. It’s easy for your muscle to grow a bit before you drop fat around that area. I say be patient. If you’re super worried about it, just add in an extra walk each day. Can you add a 30-minute walk each day or every other day? Walking will burn fat without burning muscle (while going for a run may burn your muscle and preserve fat–many women try to “run the fat off” their legs.) Keep it up–be patient–you’re doing great things!

  111. Heather says

    Thank you so much for posting this! I really needed to hear this. I’ve done Crossfit for about a year (though somewhat inconsistently for a large chunk of it). For the last month or so I’ve been consistent. I go 3x/week and do something active (outdoor activity outside of the gym) 1x/week. I’ve made incredible lifting progress in the last 2 weeks and hit some PRs I was not expecting. For 1 RM, 155# back squat and 150# deadlift. I feel strong and healthy. However, I am huge right now. My shoulders/back are dense. My quads/legs in general are massive (compared to what they used to be). I weigh around 143ish lbs (was 125ish pre-Crossfit, I’m 5’2” F) but I did only cardio/light weights (Zumba, HIIT, barre, yoga, kickboxing) and couldn’t lift a bar to save my life.

    I’ve been feeling discouraged. Not because I am opposed to gaining muscle – not at all! I love gaining muscle, but I ALSO want to lose the fat, which is has historically been difficult for me unless I do high cardio/eat very healthy. It’s doable but I was wondering why it hasn’t happened at the same time and reading your article made me think – duh! Now that I’ve accumulated all this muscle it’ll start burning fat faster. That makes sense. I have to be patient, and keep at it, in order to get to the fat burning phase. Right? Would not mind some encouragement and motivation right now.

    • Stephanie Walker says

      Hey Heather–you’re absolutely right! The “magic” won’t happen overnight but if you’re patient and persistent and dedicated to building muscle, you’ll definitely see a difference soon! The toughest thing for most women in this position to accept is “how soon” they’ll see changes. For some, it’s as little as a few weeks, for others, it can be several months. And there’s so many factors that play into that–genetics, diet, previous history with weight loss and exercise–the list can go on and on. But the most important thing to remember is that no matter how soon/slow results happen–you’re doing something AMAZING for your health! You’re getting stronger, building muscle that will preserve your body as you age, and maybe even more importantly, building confidence and the ability to be fit and strong for life. That’s worth so so much! Take care, keep your patience, and stay strong!!!

      • Heather says

        Hi Stephanie, Thank you so much for the inspiration. I’m impressed that you are replying to the comments on this article 2 years after it was first published! I’m going to take this and post in my cube for a daily reminder. It’s so empowering to do an activity that is not only making me fitter for life now but also will help me as I age. I’m trying to spread this message to everyone in my family! :) All the best to you.

  112. Debbie says


    How long does it take for a woman to see a six pack? Do you really need to have extremely low body fat? I really don’t want low low body fat . I’m already small as it is. I’m 5’2″ 106lbs . I eat pretty good and exercise everyday ((weekends off)) . I have muscles on my arms and legs and really would like to see some ABs now. I do planks, sit-ups, Ab core, ……But it’s just not happening. :\

    Also, why do bodybuilders lower their calories when they’re exercising?? They’re always measuring their food. I don’t get it. . I would think it would be the opposite. I get really hungry 2 hours after I exercise and depending how close to lunch it is I’ll either grab a protien drink , fruit or eat lunch.

    I don’t understand. Aren’t you supposed to increase your caloric intake so it doesn’t mess up your metabolism?

    I’m so totally confuse.

    Anyhoo…any answers you have for me would be so helpful.

    Thank you :):)