Are you losing inches but not weight?
Right now you and I are going to cover just why the *%$& that is happening.
I used the symbols there to insinuate a bad word because if you are reading this right now I probably know how you are feeling.
You are working your a** off.
You’ve made changes to eat healthier, watch your food intake, and even track your calories.
Each week you are going to the gym or working out in your house consistently.
You have seen some progress. Your clothes fit differently and you are losing inches.
Yet that god forsaken scale just won’t go down.
Well, you are going to learn exactly why in this article today.
You are going to leave here not only understanding what is going on, but also what to do moving forward to ensure you see the results you want to see.
My only thing to you is I need you to skip around in this article. I know, it is very tempting to just scroll away, look for the one sentence answer, and be on your way.
I urge you not to do that. If you read this entire article I guarantee you will leave better off than when you came here.
Just read the entire thing, ok? Let’s jump in.
Losing Inches But Not Weight
First, What Does The Scale Measure?
Before we dive into anything else, I want to establish something that is going to play a role in the rest of this article.
When talking about losing inches but not weight, I want to talk about what the scale measures. You may think it is obvious, but I want to be crystal clear.
Your scale, the little piece of plastic with numbers on it that causes you so much anxiety, stress, and frustration, measures one thing.
Your total bodyweight.
I know, shocker right?
But hear me out.
The scale measures your total body weight. That’s it.
Yet the scale does not measure the difference in composition of that weight.
For example, things like your muscle to fat ratio.
The scale isn’t going to tell you how much vs fat you have on your body, it just tells you your total body weight.
Which, as you can see below with one of my online coaching clients Christina, the scale doesn’t always tell the whole truth.
Christina clearly looks massively different in these two pictures, yes?
Guess what though. In between these pics, she didn’t lose any weight.
Gasp! How dare I speak such truth!
Yep, she didn’t lose any weight. In fact, she actually gained I believe 1 or 2lbs in between these two pics.
Why is this? Well we will get to that shortly, but I just wanted to prove a point that the scale doesn’t tell the whole story.
The Scale Also Doesn’t Measure This…
This one is really important.
The scale measures your entire bodyweight, not your entire self worth.
Unfortunately all too often I talk with people who base their entire self worth off of a number on the scale.
Listen, there is much more to you than a number on the scale.
You are an amazing mother or father, a caring best friend, a great co worker or boss.
You are kind, caring, and supportive of the people you love.
The number on the piece of plastic you step on in the morning does not measure who you are as a human being and what you bring to this world.
It measures your total f*cking bodyweight, that is it.
Therefore, I beg of you, stop letting it control your life.
I know this weight loss journey can be an incredibly emotional, frustrating, and overwhelming one at times.
Yet please remember that there is so much to you than what a piece of plastic with numbers on it says.
The quicker you realize that, the quicker that scale stops controlling your life.
Now, let’s dive into the meat and potatoes of why you are losing inches but not weight.
Losing Inches But Not Weight : 3 Main Reasons Why
When it comes to losing inches but not weight there are 3 main things that are going on to have this happen.
Read carefully to each one so you can understand what to do moving forward for yourself to see progress.
#1 – You Are Losing Fat & Gaining Muscle
This is the Mecca, this is truly what is happening is you are losing inches but not weight.
I am going to go in depth here, so please, read each line carefully.
You might think “Well Eric, if I am losing fat, why is the scale not going down?!”.
Logically speaking I understand why you have that questions, it seems counter intuitive to lose fat but not lose weight.
Yet here is what is going on.
If you are losing fat and building muscle at the same time you have to remember that muscle weights the same as fat.
No, muscle does not weigh more than fat, I don’t know where that came from.
1lb of muscle weighs the same as 1lb of fat. Just like 1lb of feathers weighs the same as 1lb of bricks.
The composition might be a bit different, there are a bazillion feathers versus maybe 1/2 of a brick, but they both weigh a lb.
Same thing with muscle and fat. They both weigh the same, but the composition is different.
Muscle is more dense than fat. This means it takes up less space on your body.
Since it weighs the same, if you lose 3 lbs of fat, but gain 3 lbs of muscle, the scale isn’t going to change at all.
Yet this is why you are losing inches, you look different, and your clothes probably fit better.
Your body composition is changing. Recall how we talked about the scale measures your total bodyweight and doesn’t take into consideration your body composition?
This reigns true again here when talking about losing fat and building muscle. It won’t tell you that you lost 3lbs of fat while gaining 3 lbs of muscle, it will just read 184 regardless.
This is why educating yourself on the scale and what is going on is massive (kudos to you for reading this!!) so you can understand what is going on.
Also, By The Way
If you are losing fat and building muscle at the same time, please give yourself a pat on the back.
Seriously, go ahead and do it right now.
That is the dream of every fitness enthusiast, myself included. Not only is it the dream, but it is the hardest thing to accomplish.
That is what we all want let’s be honest!
Not everyone can lose fat and build muscle at the same time , but you my friend, you are.
Do you comprehend how difficult that is?
I never liked school so I am not sure why I am using this analogy, but losing fat and building muscle at the same time is the equivalence of graduating law school while getting your masters in biology at the same time.
Needless to say, that sh*t is hard. Not everyone can do that.
Therefore if you are doing it, seriously be proud of yourself. It is the pinnacle of health and fitness.
YOU are the pinnacle of health and fitness. How does it feel to be on top up there?!
#2 -Strength Training Causes Inflammation
Now this point is going to piggy back off of the main point that you are losing fat and building muscle at the same time.
To do that you are clearly working out and or strength training because the only real way to build muscle is through strength training.
This is going to sound weird, but stick with me here.
When you workout you create micro tears in your muscle fibers. You literally tear your muscle fibers apart.
I know, what the heck? I thought we were growing stronger, more defined muscles, not tearing them apart?
Well you are doing that because that is how your body grows stronger and more defined muscles.
When you workout you tear your muscle fibers apart, this is a necessary thing because your body then has to recover from these tears.
You are putting a stress on your body and since your body’s main job is to keep you alive it has to adapt to this stress.
It doesn’t know you are working out to get healthier and in better shape, it just knows your crazy a** is trying to kill it!
So what does it do? It adapts by growing stronger and more defined muscles to endure the stress you are putting on it.
This is how babies are.. I mean, this is how you change your body!
Yet what comes along with this recovery process is what can cause your weight to be a little wonky.
In order to repair your muscles to grow stronger and more defined, your body has to send inflammation to your muscles.
Think about if you sprain your ankle. You know how it gets all swollen up?
Inside your muscle cells the same thing happens, just at a more micro level.
Your body sends inflammation to push nutrients, water, and blood flow to the muscles, allowing them to recover to grow stronger.
Yet what comes along with this inflammation is water weight.
You are going to store some extra water weight during this time because your body is inflamed trying to repair your muscle cells.
This is especially common in the more beginner stages, I’d say in the first 2-6 weeks of starting a workout routine, but it will happen throughout your journey.
This is not a bad thing and actually it is a necessary, good thing in order to help change the way your body looks.
Just know in the short term this can lead to some water weight retention. You don’t need to do anything to “get rid of the water weight”.
You need this to happen to achieve your true goal, which is not really weight loss, it is to look good naked. Let’s be honest.
#3 – Strength Training Increases Muscle Glycogen
We just learned that you are going to store some extra water weight.
Let’s now talk about something called “glycogen”.
Glycogen is essentially an energy storage bank. It is a form of glucose that gets stored and used as energy.
In the context of this conversation, glycogen will get stored in your muscle cells because you are working out.
Your muscle cells need this energy and fuel in order to perform the workouts you are doing!
Again, this is a good thing. Your muscles need this glycogen so that they can perform at their highest ability because guess what.
If your muscles can perform at their highest ability, you are going to see the most change in your body.
Ie if you do more reps, lift more weights, run farther, push harder, well then your body is going to be adapting to that stress and changing baby! You better believe it!
You are crushing it! Great work!!
How does this involve the scale and losing inches but not weight?
Well with this extra muscle glycogen being stored in your muscle cells, there comes some water weight as well.
Since the glycogen a form of glucose, which glucose is a form of a carbohydrate, carbohydrates store water.
For every 1g of carb you eat you store 3-4 g of water weight.
When you start a strength training routine, you will store extra muscle glycogen which is going to mean storing some extra water weight.
Again, this is especially in the beginner weeks of you starting a strength training program.
Also, again, this is not a bad thing. This is a good thing, you need and want this if you want to see your body change. If you want to achieve that lean, toned, defined, aesthetic physique you are looking for.
Losing Inches But Not Weight : Please Hear Me Out, You Aren’t Doing Anything Wrong
The most common thing I see when people come to me asking why are they losing inches but not weight is that you think you are doing something wrong.
You are discouraged, upset, frustrated, etc because the scale isn’t going down.
Listen, while I get it, respectfully, f*ck that scale.
I am not saying don’t weigh yourself because I have my online coaching clients weigh in every single day for data gathering.
What I am saying though is please realize that if this is happening to you, you aren’t doing anything wrong.
You don’t need to change anything, or adjust your plan, or cut your calories even lower.
Everything you are doing is working.
You need to keep doing everything you are doing because it is working to a T. Remember how I said earlier losing fat and building muscle is the hardest thing for someone to do?
You are doing that. You don’t need to do anything different and you aren’t doing anything wrong.
Please, keep going. Keep doing what you are doing and know that you are kicking total a**.
You got me?
Losing Inches But Not Weight FAQ
I know you probably are going to have some questions, so I am going to answer the most common ones I get on this topic below.
When Will The Scale Eventually Go Down?
This answer is my favorite answer of all time, it depends.
It depends mainly on how much body fat you have to lose.
You saw the picture above of one of my online coaching clients Christina and how she actually gained weight in between her two pictures.
I am going to put another picture here below of a client of mine Michelle (Michelle is a freaking beast. Seriously. I don’t think I could keep up with her in her workouts!!!).
During these two pictures Michelle didn’t lose any weight, she pretty much stayed around the same 1-3 lb variance.
But she lost a total of 4 inches across her body and as you can tell looks completely different. She looks freaking amazing!!
This is another one of my clients Maricela.
As you can see once again, Maricela looks freaking amazing. Just incredible work on her part!!
In between these two pics she “only” lost 6lbs, but as you can see, looks legit like two different people.
These pics were taking 4 months apart. During this time the first 4-6 weeks she really didn’t drop much weight if any at all.
Then, after about the 4-6 week mark, she slowly but surely started dropping some weight.
Remember earlier how I told you about especially in the beginning your weight might not drop a ton? This is a perfect example of that.
To answer this question, I would say it depends on how much body fat you have to lose.
If you have say 15+lbs to lose, after the first 4-8 weeks you should see your weight start to drop as long as you are in a calorie deficit.
(Btw, if you need to know how many calories to eat to lose weight, you can head to my free calculator HERE).
If you have less than 15lbs to lose, you could very well lose fat and build muscle at the same time in perpetuity and never see that scale change much, like Michelle and Christina above.
But remember, if you’re inches are continuously going down, but the scale isn’t, please for the love of God don’t change anything.
Your plan is working and you need to keep going.
Which, brings me to the next question.
How Do I Know If I Am Losing Fat & Building Muscle At The Same Time?
If you are losing inches but not weight, that in of itself lets you know you are losing fat and building muscle.
There are a few others variables too that might be able to tell you if this is happening.
The first one is tracking your workouts. If your scale isn’t moving much but you are losing inches and you are getting stronger in your workouts, that is a sure fire way to know you are losing fat and building muscle.
Because if you are getting stronger by doing more reps and or lifting more weight, you clearly have to be building muscle or you wouldn’t be able to do that.
Therefore that coupled with losing inches would let me know that you are losing fat and building muscle at the same time.
This is why I am such an advocate for tracking your weights, sets, and reps in your workouts because you can have that data to go back and look at.
This is also why I am such a fan of following a real, structured, intelligently designed strength training program to ensure you see progress.
If you need help on creating a program, you can head HERE for a free video on how I program for my clients.
When Should You Make A Change?
Oftentimes I get asked at what point should you make a change if your weight is not going down.
First off, I did an entire video on this, you can check that out HERE if you want to.
But briefly I will lay out the answer here.
To make myself clear again, if you are losing inches, I would not make a change yet. If I have a client who is losing inches but not weight, I don’t make a change. I keep going because what they are doing is working.
Also because measurements, particularly waist measurements, are the best indicator of fat loss. Therefore if those are going down then I know they are losing fat.
Now, when to make a change?
I would say if it has been over 21 days with no scale weight change and no measurement decreases, then from there I would look to make a change.
This is assuming you have been at least 90% consistent with your plan over that 21 day span. If you haven’t been at least 90% consistent, then you don’t need to make a plan, you just need to be more consistent.
What I would look to change is either one of two things.
Decrease calorie intake or increase energy output.
- drop calories by 50-150 per day
- Increase energy expenditure by adding in daily step goals or adding in 15-30 min of cardio 2-3x per week
Side note : you want to start with the minimum effective does.
So rather than dropping 150 calories off the bat or adding in 30 min of cardio 3x a week, start with the minimum effective dose of what I prescribed there.
Why? Because if you cut 150 calories and then again it stalls out, you are now going to have to cut again from a lower calorie limit.
Or if you add in 30 min of cardio 3x per week, and you stall again, then you’ll have to add on top of that.
That is going to make it very hard t stick to and you are making it worse on yourself.
Start with the minimum effective dose, rock it out, be consistent, and you will see progress.
Yet again, final reminder, if your measurements are going down then do not change anything.
PS: I would take measurements every two weeks, progress pictures every 4 weeks, and daily weigh ins.
Losing Inches But Not Weight : Final Word
Whew, you made it!
Congrats for reading this far, really. Most people have the attention span of a nat so if you read all the way through, kudos to you.
I hope this covered everything you need to know about if you are losing inches but not weight.
If you have any further questions, drop on down below.
If you think you might like some extra help with your own journey, you can head HERE to see if we may be a good for coaching.
Other than that, hope you learned something, and look to chat soon.