Losing inches but not weight: Why it happens and what you can do about it

Losing inches but not weight: Why it happens and what you can do about it

December 30. 2022

When you start a weight loss journey, you probably do it with a number – and ideal weight – in your mind. The desire to achieve that goal makes you constantly check your weight on the scale to see if you are losing pounds. When weeks pass by, and you do not see results reflected on the weighing scale, that can be very demotivating. Even more, if you stick to a low-calorie intake diet, practice intermittent fasting, and exercise daily. Where are all that strength training and healthy diet going?
We get that it can be frustrating not experiencing rapid weight loss. But the truth is that losing pounds on your scale is not the only way to measure the success of your weight loss efforts. Our experienced professionals at our weight loss clinic in Chicago affirm that if you’re losing inches but not weight, that is absolutely fine. You are not failing, and you should not feel discouraged.

Losing inches without weight loss often happens when you lose body fat at the same time that you are building muscle. That means progress is being made, only that it is not shown on the weighing scale. Besides this, other reasons you may not lose weight are water retention, bone density, or your particular body composition. But none of these reasons mean you are not moving toward your goal. Just think about it for a minute. When building muscle and burning body fat by strength training and eating healthier, you probably feel better than ever. Now your weight has not budged, but you are healthy and leaner. When trying to lose weight, most people only focus on the number on the scale. But here are many other factors that can indicate success and give you an accurate estimate of your progress.

Different ways to measure yourself

You likely start with tons of motivation when beginning a weight loss program. As the process continues, you can lose some of that first impulse. Since losing weight can be extra hard for some people, especially patients dealing with obesity, most of them resort to weight loss boosters such as phentermine for weight loss. The boost this weight loss supplement provides can make all the difference. Still, you can reach a point when you stop losing weight. Or you start to lose inches, but the number on the weighing scale does not change. That is no proof of you not making progress. Sometimes, the scale can be deceiving. That is why here are non-scale progress measurements you can use to verify your weight loss program is working:

Take pictures

Photos are a great way to see improvement. Take full-body pictures before starting your efforts to lose weight. As you go, continue taking photos from the same angles regularly – every couple of weeks or at least once a month. Of course, you will not see a huge difference right away. But after a while of constant work, you will notice the progress when comparing the first photos with the most recent ones.

Check your clothes

Are your t-shirts starting to fit more loosely? Or are you sliding into your jeans easier than before? Those are signs that your weight loss regime is working. If you go down a size or two or start to feel more comfortable in your clothes, that is a considerable achievement. You should be proud.

Consider other numbers

If you can not get numbers out of your head, consider tracking other numbers besides your overall body weight. Measure your waist circumference, upper tights, and arms at the beginning of the journey. After some time on your diet and exercise, measure yourself again. Did your waist circumference reduce? That is great news and proof you are making progress, even if you haven’t lost weight. It means you are losing fat and probably increased your muscle mass. Some people also opt to check their body fat or calculate their body fat percentage. You can do that with the help of a body fat scale. That way, you can know if your not reduced weight is due to getting rid of unhealthy fat loss, but at the same time gaining muscle which shows up on the scale. Strength training not only aids you in building muscle but can also increase your bone density. To know if that is the case, you can take a bone density test.

Reflect on your overall wellness

After sticking to your weight loss journey for a while, stop and think about how far you have come. How have everyday activities that used to be difficult due to your weight started to feel? Maybe running with the kids at the park does not leave you out of breath anymore. Simple things such as getting a better night’s sleep are indicators your overall health is improving due to your constant efforts. Consider forgetting about an arbitrary number and remembering that weight loss’s primary goal, besides appearances, should be staying healthy and feeling good in your skin.

Is losing inches but not weight a reason to be concerned?

When you are losing inches but not losing weight, you are losing fat and reducing your body fat percentage. And if you follow a strength-weight program, you are likely building muscle. That is perfectly fine since your focus should be on losing fat. Why? Because the excess of body fat increases the risk of suffering diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and certain types of cancer. Also, when your body cells are filled with extra fat, that can lead to inflammation. Inflammation and weight gain are directly intertwined. Chronic inflammation is a channel for many deceases related to obesity.

Your measurements decreasing because you are losing inches is good news. There is nothing to be concerned about. When you gain muscle mass and lose body fat, you shift your body composition positively and healthily. Sometimes, losing inches is crucial to stay healthy. For instance, numerous studies are showing that if your waist circumference (belly fat) is over 37 inches in men and 32 inches in women, it can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes, affecting some main organs.

Is the weighing scale misleading you?

Your weight loss journey is much more than just losing pounds. The weighing scale can mislead you and trick you into believing you are not on the right track. You have to remember that the scale shows you your overall body weight. Organs, bone density, water retention, and recent food you ate – all those elements show up on the scale number. Focusing on fat loss, gaining more energy, increasing mobility, or whatever your goal is will help you stay motivated and not fall into the scale rabbit hole. Weighing yourself repeatedly and obsessing over a number will only lead to frustration. Here is how the scale can be deceiving you from actual results:

  • It measures everything: As mentioned before, the scale takes everything into account. The number you are seeing is your body fat, muscle, water retention, organs, and bones.
  • It does not show the changes in your body: Losing fat and building muscle when following a diet are the results of practicing strength training and cardio. That body constitution change is not shown or explained on the scale.
  • It does not display your health: Two people can weigh the same while one is healthy and the other is not. Weighing scales does not know the difference between fat and muscle. A bodybuilder can have a high body weight because they are very muscular. The number on the scale does not reflect their health. In the same way, losing a high amount of body fat, which leads you to lose weight, is not enough proof of being healthy. Having a healthy percentage of body fat is crucial to stay healthy.
  • Scale weight changes throughout the day: Have you ever wondered why we weigh less in the morning? The numbers the scale shows you are just a snapshot. Throughout the different moments of the day, your body weight changes. For instance, in the morning, our bodies are empty of food and fluids. That is why we see fewer pounds on the weighing scale number.

4 possible reasons the number on the scale is not going down

You are gaining muscle

As explained before, building muscle while losing body fat is one of the main reasons the number on the scale is not changing. When this happens, your body composition switches – that process is also known as body recomposition. Your weight will stay the same or only budge a little, and you will lose inches. All those factors are excellent indicators that your efforts are starting to pay off. The scale number may not go down, but you are building muscle and getting stronger and healthier. The overall result is looking pretty good.

Water weight

In adult men and women, water counts for around 50% to 60% of their body weight. If you are experiencing water retention, that will definitely show on the weighing scale, preventing the number from going down. Many reasons can cause water retention: consuming foods high in carbs and sodium, physical inactivity, certain drugs, and medications. You can lose that water weight by staying active, changing or adjusting your diet, and drinking enough water throughout the day.


Does constipation cause weight gain? Not directly, but it can still have an effect on your overall weight. How? If you do not have proper bowel movements, the stools and fluids your body retains will add up on the scale. But it does not mean you are gaining weight; once you start having regular bowel movements again, that extra weight will disappear. Nonetheless, most of the common causes of constipation also lead to eventually gaining weight. If you have been constipated for over a week, check with a healthcare professional and see how to fix it.


This reason mainly affects women trying to lose weight, especially during or before menstruation. Hormones tend to become unbalanced during this time. Also, the body retains more water than usual, making you feel bloated. This can show up on the weighing scale, but do not worry. After your period, all these symptoms will go again, and your eight will be rebalanced.

What can you do to lose weight while losing inches?

Even though losing inches and not weight is a positive outcome, sometimes you need to boost your weight loss program to actually achieve weight loss. Here are some tips you can try to lose weight while losing inches:

  • Use weight loss supplements: If you feel stuck or at a weight loss plateau, it is all right to ask for help. Numerous dietary supplements can fit your needs and assist you in reaching your goal. Ozempic and weight loss is the perfect match everyone is talking about nowadays. But you can ask a healthcare professional for the right supplement and weight loss program.
  • Get enough sleep: It may seem like not a big deal, but getting a full 8 hours of sleep can make all the difference on your weight loss journey. Sleep deprivation tends to increase appetite, which translates into eating more and having a higher calorie intake.
  • Manage your stress: Stress is also a big enemy of weight. It can either make you lose or gain pounds. The stress hormone cortisol affects your metabolism creating more appetite. It also causes cravings for unhealthy foods such as sweets and salty foods. You do not want stress to be messing with your weight goal. But at the same time, we understand that stress is not something easy to handle. Try practicing meditation, journaling, or exercising to lower stress levels.

Final thoughts

A weight loss journey is not a straight and smooth trip. You can face many challenges, such as losing inches and not weight. Anyway, now you know that when this happens, it is not an indicator that you are failing. On the contrary, losing inches by burning fat and building muscles says your weight program is working.

When feeling concerned about your weight loss, you can schedule a call with us. We can assess your situation and guide you on how to move forward—giving you more detailed advice on how to cut down some pounds and finally make that scale number go down.

Nurse Walton


Nurse Walton

Born and raised in Chicago, IL, Chanay received her Practical Nurse licensure and went to work in clinical specialties such as Home Health, Assisted Living, Long-Term Care and Dialysis Centers. Through this work, she realized the importance of diet, nutrition and weight loss among her patients. This led her to open A Better Weigh, Inc. Medical Weight Loss Center in 2009.

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