Fat-Loss Considerations For Petite Females (And Those With Slow Metabolisms)

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Some people have it relatively easy when it comes to dieting.

We all know the type.

  • Your buddy from work decides to cut out beer and he loses 2 inches off his waist and 10 pounds in the first week.
  • Your sister decides to take up yoga twice a week, and she looks bikini-ready in a month.
  • Your buddy goes on a rapid fat loss protocol and gets the same results as you – in about a third of the time.


Life – and dieting – just doesn’t seem fair sometimes.

Some are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

Perhaps you fall into this category.

You’ve tried everything under the sun, and fat loss is elusive for you.

You’re tried high-carb, low-carb, high-fat, low-fat, high-protein, vegan, Paleo, Ornish, Weight Watchers, Atkins, fasting, juice cleanses, and the “Food Babe No-Chemical Food Enema”.

While dieting is never a piece of cake (sorry, bad pun), some people simply have it worse off than others.

Easily the most frustrating “dieting demographic” is the petite female.

There are a number of reasons why short females have an extremely difficult time getting lean – and staying lean.

The purpose of this article is to help them out and point them in the right direction.


What Makes Dieting More Difficult For Short Females?

Being in a calorie deficit is annoying.

You’re hungry, you’re cranky, and you’re often “hangry”.

But those are the breaks, right?

Dieting sucks for everyone – not just short females.

What are the characteristics of short females that makes it suck just a little bit more? (And trust me – we have many short females as online clients – and it DOES suck more for them……..)

Short female frustration #1:  A minuscule calorie maintenance.

It’s pretty much “the perfect storm”.

You take a normal female who is working a sedentary job, trains sporadically, and is trying to lose fat.

We’re going to assume this person isn’t adhering to silly nutritional dogmas and is aware that calories do actually count. Believe it or not, many still think coconut oil should go directly into beer bongs for consumption.

Anywho, this female embarks on a fat-loss journey.

She begins by estimating her calorie maintenance and setting up her macros.

There is an excellent chance her estimations will be off.

Many trainees make the mistake of thinking that training 2-3 times per week for an hour makes you move from the “inactive” label to the “active” label, which will increase your activity multiplier.

This is not the case.

Your hour in the gym on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday doesn’t erase the 45 hours per week you’re sitting in a computer chair.

We have seen working calorie maintenances as low as 1,500 calories in the case of sedentary, petite females.

In order to lose fat, you will have to consistently eat less calories than that, or burn some calories via activity.

It just doesn’t seem fair.

Short female frustration #2:  They have much less “wiggle room”.

It’s simple mathematics.

Take the case of Joe, a bloke with a 2,600 calorie maintenance.

  • Joe decides to diet on 1,800 calories per day.
  • That’s 800 calories under maintenance each day.
  • This would give Joe 5,600 calories under maintenance each week, if he were on point.
  • This would equate to around 1.5 pounds of fat lost each week.

What would happen if Joe “messed up” on Saturday night?

Let’s say Joe was “good” up until dinner.

At dinner, Joe went a bit crazy.

He had an appetizer, a few drinks, a meal, and when he got home, he plowed through a bag of Doritos.

All in all, Joe put down 4,000 calories in his “mess up day”.

What would happen?

  • The other 6 days, Joe was 800 calories under deficit, for a total deficit of 4,800 calories.
  • On his blowout day, Joe ate 1,400 calories over his maintenance (4,000 total calories – 2,600 maintenance calories = 1,400 over).
  • On 6 days, Joe had a 4,800 deficit.
  • On one day, they had a 1,400 surplus.

4,800 – 1,400 = 3,400 calories under maintenance for the week, even though Joe “screwed up”, big time.

Joe will still lose a pound of fat that week. 

Now, let’s take the case of Nicole, a 40-year old mother with a 1,600 calorie maintenance.

  • Nicole decides to diet on 1,100 calories per day.
  • That’s 500 calories under maintenance each day.
  • And Nicole messes up in the same way – 4,000 calories eaten on a Saturday night.

***Before you say “that’s not possible, this person won’t be able to eat as much” – consider this:

Two jumbo margaritas, some chips, a cheese-filled Mexican meal, and some snacks when you get home – that’s 4,000 calories EASILY.

It can be done without too much trouble.

Tsk, tsk, tsk. Not on a diet, you don't.
Tsk, tsk, tsk. Not on a diet, you don’t, Nicole…………..

So, what effect does a 4,000 calorie blowout have on Nicole?

The other 6 “on point” days equal 3,000 calories’ total deficit for Nicole –

  • 6 days x 500 calorie deficit per day = 3,000 calories total deficit for the week.

The “blowout day” is 2,400 calories over maintenance –

  • 4,000 calorie blowout – 1,600 maintenance = 2,400 calories overage for the day.

The total net deficit for Nicole gets reduced to almost nothing –

  • 3,000 calorie deficit for the week – 2,400 calories over for the blowout = 600 calorie net deficit. 

Joe loses a pound of fat even though he screwed up.

Nicole loses about a tenth of a pound of fat (nearly nothing) after her screw up.

Same screw up, much different result.

Still wondering why petite females get frustrated?

Most of us, if we eat mindfully enough, can keep the fat loss train moving down the tracks.

But petite females (like Nicole) get royally screwed.

500 calories is nothing in this society full of processed crap.

A few trips to the office vending machine per day (or one meal dining out per day) can screw it all up.

So, what can Nicole (and others like her) do?

What tips do we have for petite females to make continual improvements?

How can those with low calorie intakes set themselves up for success?

Here is a list of tips that can help:

Helpful Fat-Loss Tips For Those With A Low Calorie Maintenance

Tip #1: Eat 3 meals per day, max, and eliminate snacks completely

Hopefully by now we all know that eating “6 meals per day to stoke your metabolic fire” is a myth.

We generally don’t advise female clients to use intermittent fasting, as it can cause issues over time.

But lowering your meal frequency is still a great way to eat bigger, more satisfying meals and to “feel” less like you’re dieting.

A 2 or 3 meal set up will help you feel more satiated after your meals, and will reduce the chances of snacking in between them.

But the complete elimination of snacks is a requirement in these situations.

Snacking, grazing, etc. is a nasty habit – and it’s a habit that will undo your intentions, no matter how noble they may be.

Stay fully hydrated, and sip on some low calorie, sweet beverages if need be.

Calories are the name of the game here, and every calorie counts. You cannot afford to waste any.

Possible meal set-ups:

  • 2-meal set-up:
    • Meal one:  10 am – 12 pm
    • Meal two: 5 pm – 7 pm
    • **Can have a snack between meals or after second meal, if it fits into your calories/macros.
  • 3-meal set-up:
    • Meal one:  7 am – 9 am
    • Meal two:  11 am – 1 pm
    • Meal three: 5 pm – 7 pm

Tip #2:  Screw low carb, go low fat.

Yeah, I know, carbs cause inflammation and insulin spikes.

And with insulin spikes, you cannot lose any fat because of high blood sugar.

Because insulin is a storage hormone.

Which will cause cancer, because all carbs turn into glucose and cancer eats glucose.

All of that is wonderful, except that it’s bullshit.

Yup, it's bullshit.
Yup, it’s bullshit.

Calories matter over all else, and if you’re a petite female, you have a limited number of calories to work with.

A fitness coach is nothing more than a pattern analyzer.

We look closely at each demographic and try to see if any trends can be spotted.

Most petite females attempt to tackle their waistlines by going low-carb. Fat is good, carbs are bad, and that’s that.

The big problem with thinking “fat is good” is the caloric density of fat.

Fat has over twice as many calories per gram as protein or carbohydrates.

Are you currently shunning carbs in favor of salmon, beef, eggs, avocados, coconut oil, and nut butters?

Bad move.

If you’re a petite female, and you’re “low-carbing”, you would be better suited “low-fatting” instead.

Time and time again, when a client comes to us and we max out carbohydrates, they begin losing fat once again.

Yes, you heard that right.

Carbs – potatoes, rice, fruit, and pasta – are a girl’s best friend, as long as you keep your fat low.


Tip #3:  Throw away your scale. Seriously. Now. Do it! (I’ll wait……)

I have probably written about a dozen times in various articles on this site about why the scale sucks and you need to track your progress with a body tape measure.

And yet, nearly nobody does this.

Are you frustrated with your own fat loss? Have you heard this advice before? Have you said, “Yeah, that’s a great idea!” only to turn around and not follow this advice?

Well? What are you waiting for?

Everyone thinks this advice is for “other people”, when in actuality, this advice could be for YOU. Yes……..YOU!

The scale can be so faulty for those who are targeting small amounts of weight loss each week. Just a bit too much sodium can cause a 2 pound swing. When you’re aiming for 1 pound per week’s worth of fat loss, you’re blind if you’re not tracking body parts with a tape measure.

It’s tough to give up the “control” of monitoring your weight.

But you’ll never “fly” unless you “jump” first.

No, no, no, no, no!
No, no, no, no, no!

Tip #4:  Mind your macros and make adjustments wisely.

Let’s say you’re plugging along, crushing your macros, measuring with your tape measure, and nothing is happening.

Four weeks pass by and you have nothing to show for it.

What should you do?

If we ran into this problem and the person had bunches of calories to work with, we might simply reduce their calories. That’s an easy fix.

But with a lowered calorie intake, we would prefer to go another route.

Here are a few options:

  • Option 1:  Macro tinker.
    • Keep the calories the same, and change the macro grams (within reason).
    • If you’re eating low carb/high fat, switch that up and go with high carb/low fat.
    • If your protein is unnecessarily high (0.8 grams per pound of lean body mass is about all you need), lower it and give yourself more of another macro.
    • If you’re eating “extreme” – (vegan, no-carb, keto, etc.), try a more moderate approach.

Often, this is all that’s needed to give your body a boost in the right direction.

  • Option 2:  Add in activity.
    • Add in 2-3 days of cardio, your choice.
      • Can be in any form.
      • Our recommendations:
        • Low-impact, steady state – walking, moderate cycling, elliptical (45 minutes – an hour)
        • High-intensity, interval training – sprints followed by a recovery period (20 minutes)
        • Play a sport (varies)
      • Anything to get you active and burn off additional calories.

Tip #5:  Pay no attention to your “macro app”.

I could make a fortune if someone gave me the email addresses of everyone who downloads My Fitness Pal and also has a low-TDEE (total daily energy expenditure).

I would simply shoot ’em a message two months later with the subject line:

Frustrated yet? I can help.

With almost no wiggle room for dietary mishaps, you need to be accurate whenever possible.

Macro apps have limitations that cannot be denied.

They take mindfulness and proper decision making out of the equation.

They drastically overestimate calorie burn, which can cause problems.

It’s best to avoid the tech.

Nothing works as well as a pen, a notepad, and your own, real world, empirical evidence.



Tip #6:  Weight train with volume and frequency.

When starting your fitness journey, we often advise minimalist routines.

Short routines – 8-12 sets per session, combined with low frequency – 3 sessions per week, and an intelligent diet can give you fantastic results.

But there are a few factors which make us reconsider this approach for petite females.

Without sounding too sexist, petite females won’t be able to lift as much weight as other trainees.

This fact means there will need to be more sets, reps, and exposure to movements to create the same adaptive response.

This shouldn’t be too much of a problem, though, as the lowered weights will allow for quicker and more effective recovery.

Our recommendations:

  • A minimum of 3 sessions each week, 4 or 5 may be superior in these cases, even when dieting.
  • Focus on 2-4 compound movements per session. Strive to put more weight on the bar for these moves.
  • 1-3 isolation moves to pick up any “trouble areas” – or to just have some fun.

Sample workout:

  • Sumo deadlifts – 3 sets of 4
  • Dumbbell overhead shoulder press – 4 sets of 12
  • Close grip lat pull-downs – 5 sets of 12
  • Reverse grip dumbbell bicep curls – 3 sets of 15
  • Bench dips – 4 sets to failure

This set-up gives 3 compound movements (deadlifts, shoulder presses, and pull-downs), two isolation moves (bicep curls and bench dips) for a total of 19 sets. It should take roughly an hour with rest periods just long enough to catch your breath and go back at it.

Create similar workouts for the other 2-4 days per week and you’ll be all set up.


Tip #7:  Play the long game.

Yes, we understand. You want it all “now”.

But that’s not likely to happen for you, unfortunately.

If you have a low TDEE, you need to play the “long game” and keep the eye on the prize.

This likely won’t happen “super fast”.

You’ll have set backs and mishaps.

You’ll have frustrations.

You’ll eat the cake and ice cream at a birthday party, and it’ll seem like it sets you back a month.

Remember the “big rocks” – and tackle them religiously.

  • Train without fail.
    • Don’t miss training sessions for invalid reasons.
  • Go hard when you’re in the gym.
    • Really push yourself.
  • Rest appropriately and take an active part in recovery.
  • Eat whole foods 99% of the time.
    • “IIFYM” may not be for you…….
  • Crush your “normal” days.
    • If you don’t have a social event and you’re not dining out, you need to be 100% on point.

But you need to live the “lifestyle”.

Don’t program hop, don’t change your methods, don’t try forty different diets.

Be smart, intelligent, and rational.

Which reminds me, there is one more item to discuss:


Bonus Tip – #8:  Your “Mess-Ups” MUST Be Fast And Quick!

Listen carefully…………..

If you are an emotional eater, and you allow your emotions to guide your eating, AND you are a petite female, your odds of long-term success are not good.

There are two types of dieters out there.

Dieter 1:

Oopsie, I cheated today. I had a glass of red wine and a handful of peanuts!  Golly!

Dieter 2:

Shit. I just ate a half-gallon of ice cream and washed it down with a 128 ounce vodka infused milkshake. On Monday. And then Tuesday rolled around and I was pissed off at myself so I went to Wendy’s and then…………….

Petite, short females CANNOT be Dieter #2. 100%, it will not work.

Your “off meals” cannot be binges. If you mess up, it cannot last longer than one meal.

You cannot be self-loathing, you must forgive yourself quickly and move on.

You must keep trying to have string more and more “perfect days” in a row, macro-wise.

You must keep working on habits, being mindful, and controlling your urges.

Your caloric deficit must be in tact nearly every day, since your deficit isn’t large to begin with.

Hopefully you don’t misconstrue this in a negative light.

You CAN do it, just be aware what you’re up against. 

And technically speaking, the odds ARE stacked against you. It will take lots of hard work, but it will be worth it.

It might take you years to get to where you want.

But you’ll get there.

You want some help?

All of the testimonials and pictures you have seen have come from clients of Anyman Fitness.

Each and every one of them had frustrations – the exact same frustrations you are having.

They weren’t sure what to eat, how much to eat, or how to set up their training plans.

And we helped eliminate those frustrations, and show them exactly how it’s done.

Talk soon.

Yours in true health,


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