Losing inches but not weight? Here are the reasons



You might be using a scale to track your progress if you’re trying to reduce weight. If that’s the case, finding out you’re losing inches but not weight, even if you see non-scale clues like your clothes fitting looser or the need to tighten your belt, can be discouraging and disheartening.

This article examines why you may be losing inches but not weight, as well as possible solutions.

losing inches but not weight


You might be losing weight and gaining muscle

If you’re losing inches but not weight, while strength training on a regular basis, you could be reducing fat while growing muscle. Body recomposition is the process of developing muscle and decreasing fat at the same time.

The majority of scales don’t distinguish between body fat and muscle mass. Two persons can weigh 150 pounds (68 kg), but their body fat and muscle proportions are radically different.

Because muscle is denser and takes up less space than body fat, the person with a higher muscle to body fat ratio will generally wear smaller garments and have smaller body dimensions.

Strength training combined with a reduced-calorie and high protein diet favors muscle gain and fat loss, resulting in body recomposition (12Trusted Source3Trusted Source).

Gaining muscle while losing fat can lead to no weight reduction or a substantially slower weight loss over time.

This is one reason why you shouldn’t rely entirely on the scale to track your weight loss success. Furthermore, your muscle-to-fat ratio is a stronger sign of health than your body weight.

While it’s not completely accurate, you can measure your body fat and muscle mass at home using a body fat scale (4Trusted Source).

A body fat scale is like a typical bathroom scale, but it estimates your body composition by sending a weak electrical signal through your body (5Trusted Source).

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You might be experiencing water retention

Weight loss isn’t a straight line; it’s a series of peaks and dips.

Some days you may lose weight, others you may gain weight, and still others your weight may remain unchanged. Fluid changes or water retention are one of the reasons your weight swings.

Water can be retained for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Sodium. Eating a high sodium diets can cause your kidneys to retain water, which could increase weight (6Trusted Source).
  • Stress. Which could be from major life changes, relationship problems, or financial issues. Stress increases hormones that cause water retention (7Trusted Source).
  • Menstruation. Water retention and bloating are common during the menstrual cycle (8Trusted Source).
  • Creatine. While creatine effectively increases muscle strength and power, it can temporarily increase the amount of water in your muscle cells (9Trusted Source).
  • Medications. Certain medications, such as those for lowering blood pressure, lowering blood sugar, and managing inflammation, can cause fluid retention (10Trusted Source).

Water retention in these instances tends to be only temporary and go away on its own, but it can definitely make you feel like you’re losing inches but not weight.

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You may have hit a weight loss plateau

The majority of weight loss occurs within the first 4–6 weeks of calorie restriction(11Trusted Source).

Due to the loss of stored carbs and water, those who follow a low carbohydrate or keto diet lose weight more quickly than those who follow a low fat diet (12Trusted Source).

Weight loss might cause your metabolism to slow down over time, slowing down the rate at which you lose weight (13Trusted Source).

After months of calorie restriction, you may reach a halt in your weight loss. However, this drop in metabolism is usually not severe enough to induce a weight-loss stall (14Trusted Source).

Instead, a weight loss plateau occurs when you consume more calories than you expend on a daily basis, resulting in little or no weight reduction (14Trusted Source).

In other words, even if you think you’re eating less calories than you expend each day, you could actually be eating more.

As a result, tracking your calories for at least a week can help you establish whether your calorie consumption is too high for your needs.

Remember that as you lose weight, you’ll need to change your calorie intake based on things like your age, gender, and degree of activity.

Other circumstances, such as stress or a lack of sleep, might stimulate hormones that hinder weight loss and even promote weight growth if you’re maintaining a calorie deficit (15Trusted Source16Trusted Source).

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How often should you weigh yourself?

Weighing oneself is an effective approach to keep track of your progress.

It can also reinforce the idea that certain elements, like as food and exercise, help you get closer to your weight reduction target, while others, such as a lack of sleep and excessive stress, keep you from getting there.

People who weigh themselves and engage in other self-monitoring habits, such as keeping track of their diet and exercise, appear to be more successful at losing weight and keeping it off in the long run (17Trusted Source18Trusted Source19Trusted Source20Trusted Source).

Despite daily weight changes caused by things like water retention, most studies shows that daily weighing is more helpful for weight loss and maintenance than weekly or monthly weighing (21Trusted Source22Trusted Source23Trusted Source24Trusted Source).

This could be due to the fact that persons who weigh themselves more frequently are more likely to participate in healthy habits such as reading nutrition labels, eating whole grains, drinking less soda, and exercising vigorously (25Trusted Source).

While there isn’t a substantial correlation between self-weighing and negative body image, disordered eating, or anxiety, some people may suffer these side effects (26Trusted Source27Trusted Source).

If daily or even weekly weighing causes you to become discouraged or engage in compulsive activities, it may be more beneficial to track your progress in other ways.

In any event, keep in mind that your weight isn’t necessarily a good sign of your overall health.

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The bottom line

There could be a number of reasons why you’re shedding inches but not pounds.

You could be growing muscle and decreasing fat at the same time, or you could be suffering temporary water retention.

You may have reached a weight-loss plateau, requiring you to modify your calorie intake or improve your stress and sleep habits.

When compared to less frequent weighing, weighing yourself daily or several times a week has been linked to increased weight loss and weight loss maintenance, but you shouldn’t rely on the scale alone to determine your health.


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