Losing inches but not weight?

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This article has been reviewed by certified personal trainer Paul Sawh scientifically and practically.

It can be frustrating to go on a diet and exercise regularly but step on a scale and see no changes in your weight to motivate you to continue your regimen. But things start to feel confusing when at the same time, your clothes are fitting more loosely. This article is for you if you wonder why you’re losing inches but not weight.

Weight isn’t a reliable measure

Weight isn't a reliable measure


The first thing you may want to reconsider is your reference to assessing your health. Your body weight is the weight of your muscles, bones, organs, fat, water, and food. To remain healthy, you want to lose the weight of your fat mass and not that of your muscles. So, your total weight is not really what should concern you when trying to get fit.

The other reason is that our bodies go through something called a weight rhythm. It means the body loses weight through the weekdays and gains weight through the weekend. This fluctuation can reach 10 pounds.

It is also possible to stay the same weight or even gain weight while getting thinner. Here are the main reasons why.

You may be losing fat and building muscles at the same time

You may be losing fat and building muscles at the same time


If you follow a fat loss plan that contains working out, especially strength training, you are building muscles while you are losing fat. Muscles are leaner and denser tissues in comparison to fat. Therefore, a pound of fat makes you look bigger than a pound of muscle.

If this is the case, you do not need to change your diet and workout plan. Losing inches but not fat means your body is getting stronger, healthier, AND hotter!

Your bone density might be increasing

Weight training makes your bones denser and stronger, hence heavier. This weight gain is minimal but combined with the muscle weight; it can be misleading. This also means you are on the right track to a healthier body.

It might be just water weight

It might be just water weight


Our bodies tend to retain water due to different reasons such as sodium consumption, hormonal changes, some medications, or increased stress level. Water retention can add up to 5 pounds to your weight. This is temporary, and your body will bounce back to normal once the causing factor is eliminated. Here are some tips to reduce water retention in the body.

  • Eat less salt
  • Get more magnesium from foods like nuts, whole grains, dark chocolate, and leafy green vegetables.
  • Increase your vitamin B6 intake by eating bananas, potatoes, chickpeas, walnuts, and tuna.
  • Foods rich in potassium like bananas, oranges, avocados, and tomatoes help reduce water retention.
  • Eat less refined carbs like white bread and pasta and substitute them with whole grains.
  • Walk and exercise more.

Whatever you do, do not lower your water intake. Your body needs enough water to maintain health and burn fat.

You may be going through hormonal changes

You may be going through hormonal changes


A weight-loss journey has ups and downs, especially for women. Women’s bodies go through hormonal changes during the monthly cycle, leading to water retention and weight fluctuation. You can weigh yourself during the same week of your menstrual cycle every month for more accurate results.

your body may be suffering from chronic inflammation

your body may be suffering 

Chronic inflammation may be caused by stress, lack of quality sleep, certain medications, environmental pollution, allergies, food intolerance, and consumption of refined carbs, gluten, sugar, and processed foods. Chronic inflammation is one of the main reasons for obesity, as well as digestive system problems such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and stomachache. Here are some simple tips to protect your body from inflammation.

  • Cut back on inflammatory foods like trans fats, refined sugar, and processed foods. A healthy and balanced diet is crucial here.
  • Eat more anti-inflammatory foods like fresh vegetables, fruits, olive oil, spices such as ginger and turmeric, and food containing omega-3s such as salmon, tuna, and walnuts.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Manage your stress. Doing yoga and meditation is helpful. If you suffer from chronic stress, you might need to see a psychologist or psychiatrist.
  • know the foods you are allergic to or intolerant to.

You may have to make your diet and exercises more intense

You may have to make your diet and exercises more intense


If you are on a calorie-deficient diet for a long time, your body might adapt itself to the diet and slow down the metabolism. This means you have hit a weight loss plateau in your weight loss journey. While this is absolutely normal, you can lower your calorie intake or rev up your workout if you want to keep losing weight. Use this bodyweight planner to better plan your weight loss process without muscle loss, lowered energy levels, or health damage.

You may be suffering from hyperthyroidism

You may be suffering from hyperthyroidism

If none of the methods above works, you might be suffering from Hyperthyroidism, meaning your thyroid gland is underactive. You can gain up to 30 pounds due to this condition, most of which is water weight. You should consult a doctor since it is not an easy condition to diagnose.

What should I measure when trying to lose weight?

What should I measure when trying to lose weight?

Knowing that weight is not such a reliable reference might be unsettling, but there are better measurements that can give you a more thorough knowledge of your health. Here they are:

Body composition

What really matters is your body composition, which is the proportion of your bones, muscles, and fat. Two people might weigh the same while having utterly different body compositions making one healthy and the other overweight.

If you want to have a better insight into your body composition, it’s time to swap your regular scale for a bioelectrical impedance scale. A bioelectrical impedance scale can estimate your body composition and the percentage of your fat mass and muscle mass by sending a weak electric current through your body.

While body composition is a good reference, you should take into consideration that it can be affected by factors such as age, hormones, genetics, and sex. If you don’t get enough exercise, your body will lose muscles as you age. Men usually have less body fat due to testosterone. Your inherited body type might have more fat than others.

Body fat mass

You can also use an online body fat calculator to determine your body fat mass. These calculators ask you to enter some measurements of your body parts and estimate your body fat percentage. This includes the essential fat your body needs to maintain health and the stored fat reserved in your adipose tissue. The table below can serve as a reference for body fat percentages for men and women.

Description Men Women
Essential fat 2-5% 10-13%
Athletic 6-13% 14-20%
Fit 14-17% 21-24%
Average 18-24% 25-31%
obese 25%+ 32%+

Body measurements

The real reason we diet and exercise – apart from being healthy- is to drop size and look thinner. So instead of relying only on the scale, measure yourself weekly. Stand up straight with your feet together and your weight balanced on both feet. Use a plastic tape measure and measure your chest, waist, hips, thighs, and arms. Write the numbers down to keep a record of your improvement.

You can also take weekly photos to see how your body is changing as you go on. Take the pictures in the morning before breakfast, in the same place, and at the same distance.

Final tips

Always weigh yourself after your morning bowel movement and before breakfast to get a more reliable scale weight.

Instead of worrying about weight, focus on your health. Make sure to develop healthy eating habits and do a combination of aerobics and circuit resistance workouts regularly to maintain a healthy body.

If you find yourself obsessing about being overweight too much, you might want to stop weighing yourself for a while to prevent unhealthy obsessions.

Use technology to your advantage. Many apps and gadgets can help you track and monitor your food intake, water intake, exercise, burnt calories, heart rate, blood pressure, etc. The more insight you have into your health facts, the easier you can follow your weight loss goals.

Have a food diary to make sure you count every calorie you are eating.

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