When you’re losing weight, losing some size will be inevitable. Unfortunately, you can’t exactly choose which parts of your body you lose fat from, so your curves may indeed suffer more than you’d want them to.
The good news, however, is that the parts that make you curvy (i.e. your hips, booty, boobs, and torso) are largely made up of fat and muscle. So, although you can’t choose where you burn fat, you do have the option of growing specific muscles to both be curvy and lean.
So… what to eat to lose weight but keep curves, you ask? You’re looking at foods that will help you burn fat but maintain muscle mass.
These include foods that are rich in protein, of course, but you’re going to need a healthy amount of fat and carbs as well. Foods that help keep your hunger and cravings in check are also a great idea because they make eating less feel so much easier.
I’m going to give you some good examples of those in a moment but I’ll also let you in on some exercises that go well with those foods to help make keeping your curves while slimming down so much easier.
What to eat to lose weight but keep curves
There’s a reason why you see all these models and athletes have eggs in their diets — it’s simply amazing for your physique!
First of all, it’s loaded with protein and healthy fat without having a lot of calories. In fact, 1 large egg will get you over 6g of protein, 5g of fat, and less than 75 calories (per the USDA).
It’s largely because of its nutritional profile that I, as well as a lot of others, think eggs are one of the best appetite suppressing foods for weight loss.
One study even shows how eating eggs for breakfast can help you control your appetite all the way up to dinner.
Plus, eggs are perhaps one of the most versatile ingredients to have in the kitchen. They’re cheap, widely available, and can be cooked in a variety of different ways. I mean, that’s just incredible!
First of all, there’s a study that shows how shrimp improves the levels of your “good” cholesterol vs. your “bad” cholesterol, as well as reduce your triglyceride levels. That should dispel the myth about shrimp supposedly being bad for your cardiovascular health.
Now, for keeping your curves… Shrimp is packed with protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Fairly low calorie, too. Per NutritionData, 100g of shrimp should get you over 20g of protein, 540 mg of omega-3s, and only 106 calories.
To me, the best part about all this is the top-notch omega-3 content. Per study, these fatty acids boost protein synthesis while reducing protein breakdown. Those effects are exactly what you want to have when you’re trying to lose weight while keeping your curves because it helps promote muscle growth.
Continuing with our trend on seafood, oysters are great for your figure, too!
Though I personally don’t like them all that much, I can’t deny how dense with nutrients these mollusks are. As a matter of fact, just 6 medium sized oysters will net you about 6g of protein, 565mg of omega-3, and 76mg of zinc (per NutritionData).
The zinc found in Oysters is particularly eye-popping because that’s more than 500% of what you need in a day. Crazy, right? The National Institutes of Health even says that oysters have more zinc than any other food on this planet.
This is noteworthy because research suggests that ingesting more zinc leads to better BMI, weight, triglycerides. Moreover, multiple studies have long since associated more zinc with more testosterone and more testosterone has been linked to better muscle growth.
Ladies, do not be afraid of this. The zinc in oysters, or any other natural source for that matter, won’t take your T levels beyond normal levels. They will only help you maintain healthy levels of the anabolic hormone to make it easier for you to maintain/grow muscle while losing weight.
Fatty fish like salmon are great sources of omega-3 which, as already mentioned, improves how your body handles protein. This, in turn, makes it great for growing and/or maintaining muscle mass and curves.
Salmon is packed with protein, too. I see this combination as somewhat like gasoline and engine oil in cars. The protein fuels your muscle growth whereas the omega-3 fatty acids help make sure your muscle growing mechanisms are running smoothly.
For your reference, 100g of Atlantic wild salmon holds 20g of protein, 6g of fat, and only 142 calories (per the USDA).
Tuna’s a little easier and probably cheaper to get than salmon which I think makes it a better option for fish to some people. Plus, it has slightly more protein and a little less calories.
It is, however, a leaner type of fish compared to salmon. Specifically, 100g of yellowfin tuna should get you a little more than 24g of protein, about 0.5g of fat, and only 109 calories according to USDA records.
Of course, these values can vary especially if you’re buying it canned. In this case, I recommend buying tuna in water, like StarKist’s Chunk Light Tuna, rather than those in oil. This helps keep the calories down.
Let’s take a break from seafood and turn our heads towards poultry.
Like eggs, it’s fairly affordable, highly available, and has a ton of healthy recipes just floating around the internet.
Also, chicken, or chicken breasts to be more specific, has been a staple of the fitness community for decades — perhaps even centuries — because it’s one of the leanest sources of protein you can get.
In fact, 100g of cooked chicken breasts have around 31g of protein according to the National Chicken Council.
Per research, that’s roughly the amount of protein you need in a meal to maintain muscle mass. So, if you’re still wondering what to eat to lose weight but keep curves, I highly recommend keeping chicken on your short list.
As you might have guessed, turkey has a similar nutritional profile to chicken. Strictly about keeping your curves while losing weight, I think they’re interchangeable.
However, they do have minute differences. Turkey has less slightly more protein, less fat, and less calories, making it the marginally leaner choice. Although, it’s also more expensive and harder to find where I live, so I generally just stick to chicken except on special occasions.
In any case, either choice should do just fine.
8. Protein shake
After all this talk about protein being great for your curves, this shouldn’t be surprising.
Per research, ingesting more protein leads to stronger and bigger muscles when paired with resistance exercises. It also helps preserve muscle mass when you’re on a caloric deficit (or a weight loss diet).
These are important notes to consider because working out specific muscles while eating less calories and more protein is exactly how you’re going to maintain your curves while shedding pounds — and a top-notch protein shake does just that!
I’ve been using Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard 100% Whey ever since and I haven’t had any issues with it. But, if you’re vegan, don’t worry. There’s a lot of other choices for you, too, and we’ve detailed some of the best ones in our list of the Best Plant-Based Protein Powders for Women.
9. Whole grain anything
I’m talking bread, pasta — and heck, even rice!
Maybe someone told you to avoid carbs whenever you’re trying to lose weight but listen to me: carbs are your friend!
Especially if your goal is to keep your curves, they might even be just as vital as protein. In fact, there are studies suggesting how carbs and protein together amplify muscle growth versus protein alone.
However, I highly recommend choosing whole grain when it comes to carbs. Whole grain options — like brown rice, whole grain bread and pasta, for example — have lower glycemic index scores compared to their “white” counterparts. So, your body digests and absorbs them at a slower rate.
This also makes them a more stable source of calories and energy, so you don’t go hungry as fast.
10. Boiled sweet potatoes
Speaking of low GI scores, this also makes sweet potatoes a great source of slow-digesting carbohydrates.
However, you want these bad boys boiled. Not fried, not roasted, and especially not baked.
Per the University of Sydney, boiled sweet potatoes have a GI score of 44 (low) but when you fry, roast, or bake it, the numbers suddenly shoot up to 76, 82, and 94 respectively. Interesting how the way you cook them changes what they do to your body, huh?
What’s more is that sweet potatoes have more calcium and fiber than your regular potatoes. The fiber helps with satiety so you don’t crave for more food and calcium is heavily involved in muscle contraction.
Like sweet potatoes, brown rice, and whole grain bread, oatmeal is another amazing source of carbs when you’re wondering what to eat when trying to lose weight.
However, be wary of what oatmeal you buy. Stay away from instant oats as they’re the most heavily processed kind of oatmeal. Instead, look for steel-cut oats as they’re the least processed or rolled oats because they’re somewhere in the middle.
Steel-cut and rolled oats have lower glycemic index scores than instant oats, so having them for breakfast will get you a steady source of energy throughout the day.
The first time I tried quinoa, I legitimately thought I was eating dirt. It tasted that bad.
Granted, I’m not the best home cook in the world but just from asking around, I’ve already gathered that quinoa is a lot like beer in that it’s an acquired taste. Plus, I don’t know what my wife does to it when she cooks but her product somehow tastes better.
That being said, if you have the tongue for it, quinoa is a great source of plant-based carbs and protein. To me, that’s exactly what makes it so great for your figure.
You see, whenever you’re working out (which I highly recommend you should), you’re using up precious glycogen stores for energy and you need to recharge those batteries if you want to grow and/or maintain those muscles.
According to research, carbs plus protein combined is better for glycogen resynthesis over carbs alone, making quinoa and other whole food sources of these macronutrients great for maintaining your curves while on a diet.
Per the MayoClinic, these include beans, peas, and lentils. Legumes are also amazing plant-based sources of protein, fiber, and just a little bit of fat. Pretty versatile little things, too. You can use them as snacks (like I do with peanuts), serve them as a side dish, or make them a part of your main meals.
Legumes are also staples of the fitness community and how a lot of the women you see on the internet have maintained their curves while leaning out their physiques.
For protein, I highly recommend chickpeas. Just 100g of this stuff is going to get you 20g of protein and a good 63g of carbs (per USDA). Other great legumes you might want to add to your diet are black beans, red kidney beans, and edamame.
Different kinds of nuts are packed with all sorts of different nutrients but they’re generally packed with protein, fiber, and healthy fat.
The fact that nuts are packed with fat also means they’re generally more calorie dense than other weight loss foods. So, take them in moderation.
Aside from nuts, avocados are another amazing source of fat. Most of the fat found in this fruit is monounsaturated which is largely considered the healthiest type of fat.
You need fat in your system because 1) it helps maintain a healthy hormonal balance, and 2) it helps your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E, and K.
Each gram of fat also holds 9 calories. That’s a lot compared to carbs and protein that only have 4 calories per gram each.
I think this is important to take note of because when you’re trying to lose weight but still be curvy, calorie dense foods help make sure that you don’t lose too much weight and end up looking too skinny than you’d want.
Or, more specifically, you want fruits that are high in fiber and water. These include watermelon, grapefruit, apples, and berries.
The fiber and water in these fruits make them incredibly satiating which, in turn, helps you eat less calories throughout the day. Oh, and they’re pretty low-calorie themselves, too, in spite of their amazing natural sweetness.
Plus, different fruits pack different vitamins, minerals, and compounds that help cleanse your system of harmful toxins. And, with less of these toxins, your body functions more optimally, leading to a faster metabolism.
These effects are actually why I think fruits are among the healthiest foods you should eat everyday to lose weight.
Another type of food you want to add to your plate is vegetables. You’re looking at celery, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, and leafy greens like spinach, kale, and many others.
Like fruit, these vegetables are loaded with fiber and water that help keep your appetite in check while also bearing several key vitamins and minerals.
Leafy greens, in particular, are rich sources of vitamin K that may be able to support weight loss according to studies. Moreover, research on leafy greens also show how they can help improve your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio to help keep you away from disease.
Of course, adding these foods to your daily diet is great but also just as important is their proportions. This brings us to the next question you should be asking:
How much of each macronutrient should I eat to lose weight and keep my curves?
First of all, losing weight is all about being on a caloric deficit — or eating less calories (food) than your body burns. Per the MayoClinic, you need to cut about 500-1000 calories a day to lose 1-2 lbs per week, which many experts agree is a safe pace to lose weight.
For example, if you’re eating about 3000 calories per day right now, you need to cut your portions so you’re only eating 2000-2500 calories daily.
Now, how much of those calories is made up of protein, carbs, and fat is the tricky part.
We have more details about this in our How Long Does It Take To Get A Bigger Butt article but basically, here’s what research says your daily calories should be made up of if you want to retain muscle mass while cutting weight:
- Carbs – 55-60%
- Protein – 25-30%
- Fat – 15-20%
For protein, another research suggests ingesting 1.2-2.0 grams of protein per kilo of your weight to build or maintain muscle. I recommend using this as a guide to make sure you get enough protein. Also, keep your carbs and fat at the lower end of their suggested percentages to make sure you stay in a caloric deficit.
Workouts to maintain curves
Working out achieves 2 things:
- You burn more calories which helps you lose weight
- You stimulate protein synthesis to build or maintain muscle
I have to reiterate the 2nd benefit because I keep hearing people say “I want to lose weight but i don’t want to lose my curves”. Well, ladies, working out is how you do it.
That being said, cardio is great for overall weight loss but without resistance training, there’s no way you’re holding on to that muscle and, consequently, your plump shape.
That being said, you’re going to want to workout your entire body. You want wider lats and shoulders, a rounder butt, and a perkier chest to fill out the fat you lose while on a diet. Developing these parts of your body will also give the illusion of a slimmer waist which accentuates the hourglass shape that you’re after.
Here are a few exercises you can do:
Per research, hip thrusts are among the few lower body exercises that have a high level of glute activation. This basically means it’s one of the best workouts for growing your glutes.
Start by sitting on the ground and directly in front of a bench. Next, make sure your feet are flat on the floor then lean back so your upper back or shoulder blades touch the edge of the bench. You may place your arms on the bench for stability.
Finally, move your hips straight up until your thighs are parallel with your torso. At this point, make sure your shin is perpendicular to the floor. If it’s not, move your feet front or back until it is.
Slowly go back to the starting position and repeat.
Per the same study, step-ups, as simple as they are, significantly activate more of your glutes than do more popular exercises like squats, deadlifts, and of course, hip thrusts. So, be sure to include this the next time you work on your legs.
Start by standing directly in front of a bench. If you’re working out at home, a stable chair or whatever elevated platform you have is going to work just fine.
Next, place your right foot on the bench and use that to step up and onto the bench. Lower that same foot back on the floor followed by the left foot.
Repeat for 8-12 reps then do the same thing with your left foot now leading the movement.
While the above exercises are 2 of the best at growing your gluteus maximus (your biggest butt muscle that’s also largely responsible for how plump those cheeks get), research says that crossover step-ups are better for activating your gluteus medius (or what a lot of people refer to as the “upper butt”).
While not as prominent, you need to develop your gluteus medius because it’s going to help you get a rounder butt.
This time, start by standing beside a bench or whatever platform you have at home. Next, move the foot that’s farthest from the bench across your body and onto the platform. Using that same leg, prop yourself up on top of the bench. Finally, move that same foot back on the floor followed by the other leg and the rest of your body.
Repeat 8-12 times then do the same thing but lead with the opposite foot.
Note: For both step-ups variations, make sure that the platform you use is high enough that when you put 1 foot on top of it, your thighs are more less parallel to the floor. This helps ensure that you maximize glute activation.
Hip abduction (sitting on a machine or lying on the floor)
Other exercises that will help you develop your gluteus medius and get more shapely peaches are different variations of hip abduction.
Using a machine, it’s fairly simple. Just sit down, position the leg pads outside of your thighs, and — I hope this doesn’t sound too dirty — begin spreading your legs.
You want to go as heavy as you can for 8-12 reps here because a study suggests that you recruit more of your gluteus medius when you do this with more weight. Going light, on the other hand, targets more of your gluteus maximus.
On the other hand, if you’re not using a machine, start by lying on one side of your body with your hips and knees bent. Now, slowly raise the top leg straight up and hold at the highest position you can accomplish without twisting your body.
Slowly move back to the starting position and repeat. Of course, repeat with the other side as well.
Wide-grip and close-grip lat pulldowns
These are old-school yet still one of the best ways to workout your lats. Surprisingly, there’s research suggesting that there’s actually no significant difference between the two when it comes to lats activation, so they’re equally great for growing that muscle.
Sit on the lat pulldown machine with your thighs under the pads to help make sure you stay in place then reach for the bar above you.
If you’re doing wide-grips, position your hands towards the ends of the bar with your palms facing forward. For close-grips, grip the bar closer to the center with your palms facing you.
Next, lean back a little then pull your elbows down and back until the bar is above your chest. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
These workouts also mimic pull-ups and chin-ups. According to Ace Fitness, these bodyweight exercises actually activate your lats more. So, if you have the strength to do them instead, go for it!
For the next exercises, let’s shift our focus to developing all the fibers — the anterior, lateral, and posterior parts — of your deltoid muscles. The exercises listed will also be based on what research says are best for activating these separate fibers.
That being said, the study says that shoulder presses are the best at stimulating your front delts.
First, grab a pair of dumbbells and sit on an upright bench. Prop the dumbbells up and to the side, making sure that your hands are level or slightly above your shoulders with your palms facing forward.
Next, push the weights straight up until your elbows are straight and the dumbbells are directly above your head. Slowly go back to the starting position and repeat.
Bent arm lateral raise
Moving on, the same research says that bent arm lateral raises are what activates the lateral fibers of your deltoids the most.
Start by grabbing a pair of dumbbells. Remain standing and with your arms beside you, bend your elbows about 90 degrees.
Next, raise your elbows sideways until they’re level with your shoulder then slowly go back to the starting position. Repeat.
Remember to keep your elbows bent throughout the entire exercise.
Per the same research, incline rows are one of the best exercises at targeting your posterior delts. Consequently, this exercise also targets your lats.
Start by tweaking an adjustable bench until it’s at a 45 degree angle. Grab a pair of dumbbells then lean onto it until your chest is resting on the bench. Leave your arms (and the dumbbells) hanging while you plant the ball of your foot firmly on the floor to make sure you have a solid base.
Finally, pull your elbows straight up as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. Stop when your hands are beside the lowest part of your ribs then slowly go back to the starting position. Repeat.
In a nutshell
Slimming down while keeping your curves is all about eating the right type of food with the right proportions and developing the right muscles with the right exercises.
When it comes to food, you want to primarily focus on protein but don’t stop eating carbs and fat. Food is your friend here because without it, you won’t get to keep your muscles with exercise, and therefore your curves, while you slim down.
And, if you’ve already slimmed down way too much and are wondering how to get curves back after losing weight, these same concepts apply except now, you need to consume more calories using the same proportions.
If you have friends who are having the same problem about their physique, tell them about us, will ya? Thanks!