If you are trying to lose weight, using a scale to track your progress can be confusing, especially if the numbers are not changing even though you are losing inches.
Learn about why you may be losing inches but not weight and what you can do about it.
Why am I not losing weight even though I am losing inches?
You may be gaining muscle mass
Being fit is not just about losing weight. It has more to do with body composition—having more muscle mass and less fat mass.
When you eat a healthy diet rich in protein and combine that with strength training workouts, your muscles start to bulk up. As you gain more muscle mass, you may also lose body fat. Sometimes, muscle gain may even surpass fat loss and you may notice that you are gaining weight.
Therefore, stepping on the scale may not give you an accurate picture of how your body composition has changed over time. You can get your body composition analyzed at a health and fitness center in order to get a better gauge of your ratio of fat to muscle.
You may have water retention
Besides fat and muscle, water contributes to your body weight. Most weight loss fluctuations that occur over short periods of time are caused by water retention because water retention can make you feel heavy. Causes of water retention include:
- High-salt diet
- Stress (high cortisol levels)
- Menstrual periods
- Certain supplements or medications such as creatine, steroids, diabetes medications, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
You may have hit a weight loss plateau
A weight loss plateau occurs when you do not see a change in weight despite changes in diet and exercise. When your body is in a calorie deficit for too long, your metabolism slows down and you burn fewer calories than you used to.
Your scale may be inaccurate
Sometimes, your scale may be faulty. If your scale is old or has stopped functioning properly, it may not accurately reflect your weight. Try weighing yourself on another scale to determine whether your scale is actually working.
What to do if you are losing inches but not weight
Not seeing expected results can cause you to feel stressed and unmotivated. However, here are some key points to keep in mind:
- Figure out your body composition. You may be gaining muscle mass, which is a good sign in your fitness journey.
- Do not be obsessed with just your weight. A number on a scale is just one piece of the puzzle. Losing inches is a sign that you may be losing fat and gaining muscle.
- Make sure you get enough sleep. Getting at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night is essential for weight loss.
- Manage stress. Meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises can help you lower stress levels.
- Watch your salt intake. Avoid packaged foods and added salt because it can cause water retention.
- Track your calories. You may be underestimating your calorie intake. Seek the help of a dietitian to help you calculate an appropriate calorie deficit for weight loss.
- Seek medical help if required. Certain medications and health conditions such as thyroid diseases, Cushing’s syndrome, and polycystic ovary syndrome can make losing weight more difficult.
- Take a break. You may need a slight increase in calorie intake because prolonged calorie restriction may have slowed down your metabolism.
How often should you weigh yourself?
Most fitness experts recommend weighing yourself weekly, preferably in the morning after you have used the restroom. For accurate monitoring, wear light clothes when weighing yourself—preferably the same or similar clothes each time.
Regular weighing helps you track your progress and focus on your fitness goal. It can also keep you motivated to do better. However, keep in mind that weight alone is not an indicator of fitness progress. Other aspects of improved health include better stamina, flexibility, body image, sleep, and reduced stress.
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