Eating for a Lean and Mean Summer Bikini Shape

I am really fascinated by today’s post about nutrition because for the last six months I’ve been on a life-changing journey of my own, having finally grown sick and tired of always feeling sick and tired.  I knew I was about 15 pounds overweight as my clothes reminded me every time I got dressed, but more than vanity I felt sluggish, lethargic and my joints hurt.  In January I decided to make a change at the same moment I was hit by a very fortuitous stomach bug that left me with low-grade nausea for two weeks. I couldn’t eat my regular sugar and carb-rich fare or drink my wine and as a result, after two weeks when I could go on regular food again, I didn’t want to.  My clothes felt looser, I had more energy and my appetite shrunk along with my stomach.  I embarked on a nutrition plan that would coincide with my addiction-free eating. 

Weight Loss before and after
Same girl, same bikini, one year apart

Six months later, I have lost 20 pounds, only sleep 6 hours a night, have more energy and muscle tone than ever before and am down three sizes to a 4-6. No small feat for a six-foot-tall woman. 

weight loss

Kim Porterfield is a certified nutritionist and fitness specialist and helps people like me not only discover their best selves but keep their bodies that way once they achieve their goals.  She writes in today’s post about the basics of nutrition and designing a program that works for her clients.  Tomorrow she will give us the skinny on all the diets out there you have heard of and most likely tried and tells us what she likes and dislikes about them.  Take it away Kim!

What’s the best eating plan out there for women over 40 who want to maintain their weight, lose weight or lose fat and gain muscle?

Everyone is always hunting for the one best plan.  The truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all diet that is successful for everyone– over 40 or otherwise.   What I mean by “successful” is that they only lose fat and do not lose any muscle mass in the process.  Sure, you can lose weight doing just about any diet plan, but the real trick is only losing body fat and saving your precious lean body mass. 

Fat loss

Most diets that you see in books and on the internet only focus on scale change aka weight loss. And in my opinion that is the lazy way.  Any diet can include quick-fix tricks to drop scale weight quickly (usually mainly water weight) but those diets may not be designed to get a fit and toned body in the end. Many of us following those diets don’t realize we are not only losing fat.  In the end, these diets can make a person skinnier but still fluffy.  Some may actually end up “skinny fat” which means they a have a lower amount of lean mass than they should for their height, a higher percentage of body fat, but at a lighter scale weight.  They do not feel tight and toned which can be disappointing after spending so much time and energy following a restrictive eating plan. 

Folake B, Kim Porterfield client

So how do you go about designing the best eating plan to optimize an individual’s health and personal goals?

The best nutritional plan is a custom one designed to support lean mass while losing fat that does not leave the person feeling deprived.  This plan must be done long-term or it will just be another diet and diets always have an end that typically does not end with the person keeping the weight off.  If you look at a diet plan and you see that you would have to give up entire food groups or eat crazy concoctions to get the weight off, close the book or internet article and walk away.  I promise you that you will either never follow through for long or you will regain the weight lost later by going back to normal eating.

Good diet plans include a moderate fat, moderate protein, and moderate carbohydrate diet that includes smaller, frequent meals. Women over 40 have a lot of variables to consider when a plan is designed for them that will work, these can include:

  • Physical goals—food combinations and amounts vary depending on the goal of either weight loss, muscle gain, or both.
  • Lifestyle—the plan has got to fit.  A one size fits all plan does not exist when lifestyles can be so radically different from one person to the next.  Some women over 40 work full-time jobs and others do not.  Some have children still at home and others do not.  Some may travel extensively for work and others are primarily near home at all times.  Eating plans must take these variables into consideration.
  • Medical history and medications – some medications and medical conditions can actually make it very difficult to lose weight no matter how hard someone tries.  For instance, a woman with PCOS will find weight loss very challenging due to her elevated androgen hormones and insulin resistance but I have worked successfully with PCOS patients for years.  If a woman is on an anti-depressant, she can expect strong cravings for sweets or processed carbs starting about 6 months after starting the medication.  And most will experience weight gain.  Bipolar disorder medications can cause a person to gain massive amounts of weight without eating differently. 
  • Hormones—these chemical messengers go haywire starting in the 40s and leading into menopause.  I am 54 and still not in menopause but I can tell you peri-menopause is not for sissies.  The hormonal swings I have experienced over the last 10 years have really humbled me.  What I used to do to get leaner had to be modified and it took some personal trial and error.  Same with clients.  Once again what works for one may not work for another because our hormones do not fluctuate predictably and in the same manner as others.
  • Food likes and dislikes—I personally could not follow any plan that forces me into a box with my food choices and I doubt many could stick to one designed like that for long.  I like variety and believe it is the key to long-term success.  I also have some foods I would never eat because I do not like them.  So, if for instance the plan was very specific and told me to eat beef + lentils + spinach at a meal (I dislike the taste of all 3) I doubt I would follow through.  So, a custom plan with personal choice added in would once again be in the best interest of most people like me.
  • Activity level and exercise- 80% of fat loss results will come through diet.  Exercise is the icing on the cake.  If someone exercises very little, they will need to eat less than someone that goes to spin class 5 days a week and works out with a trainer 4 days a week.
Diane F, Kim Porterfield client

Will I be hungry on one of your plans?

Absolutely not! We feed people a lot of food and many think they may be over-eating but after getting leaner they agree they were wrong about that perception. We do not starve people skinny. We feed them to get leaner.

Is it possible to dine in restaurants and follow your plan?

Absolutely! We teach you how to make the best choices and even give you a Dining Out Guide with restaurants all over Houston in it.

Is it possible to drink alcohol on your plan?

Yes. If that is important to you, we will teach you how to work it into the program.

What is a safe and reasonable weekly weight loss amount?

We aim for 1-2 pounds of fat lost per week (not scale weight). We find that clients still hold their lean mass and are better able to maintain their results at that rate. In the beginning, some may lose at a faster rate than that but 1-2 pounds per week is a great result for long term success.

Skinny Chicken Breast Marsala

What are some examples of crave-able recipes we all love that are reworked for fat loss?

Well, taste preferences vary from person to person as do cravings Some like savory, some sweets, and some like salty crunchy. Our recipe packet and cookbook are full of recipes that taste amazing and help you lean down too. I am building my personal collection of recipes on my blog right now that has become quite popular among clients. It will be growing over time. But one of the most popular is my Get Lean Classic Lasagna—I must say it is fantastic! Another one for sweets is my Banana Cream “Cheesecake in a Cup”—great for sweet cravings. Looking for an amazing chicken dish? My Chicken Marsala is definitely crave-able. I had it for breakfast one morning because it is so good. Check out the Recipe section in the blog and watch for updates every week. If you fill out the contact information, you will be notified once a week when new posts are up. Click here for the link to the recipe index.

But the options are endless if someone tells me what they are craving I can more than likely design a leaner version for them.

high protein banana cream cheesecake

Once you visit the blog for recipes, be sure to check out the other topics too. There is a section on Lifestyle & Motivation, Health & Nutrition, Fitness, Product Recommendations, as well as, recipes. Finally, there is a testimonials page that I believe anyone considering a consultation should see.

About the Institute of Eating Management:

The Institute of Eating Management and Relapse Prevention Center has been in business for close to 40 years.  It was founded by my partner Keith Klein, CN, CCN and many here in Houston have heard of us and maybe even been to the clinic.  We design custom eating programs to the needs of the individual but always with relapse prevention in mind. 

Clients that see me will be at the office for an hour at their first visit.  I will ask about 20 minutes of questions about goals, lifestyle, medical conditions, medications, exercise, food likes & dislikes, and typical meals.  All of that is taken into consideration when the plan is designed.  After asking the questions, I do a body fat percentage measurement on the client and explain the results.  I then take the information I gathered and decide what makes the most sense to get started with that day.  I typically teach about 3 concepts at the first session including one designed to set the foundation for relapse prevention.  A client goes home with an eating program, a recipe packet, a dining out guide, and any handouts that go with what was discussed at the session.  The client should expect to return for at least 4 follow-ups so we can cover important lessons for that person.  Some come for longer than that, but we really recommend not coming for less than 4 times.  Our goal is to not just get you leaner but to teach you how to maintain your result long term.

Appointments can be made with Kim Porterfield by calling 713-621-9339.  Her blog can be found at

Kim Porterfield
Kim Porterfield

Tomorrow we will post Kim’s expert analysis of the most well-known diets out there and learn which are worth the effort and which you should avoid!

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