losing inches but not losing weight

Are you losing inches but not losing weight?

Over the past few decades, the number of individuals who are overweight or obese has tripled, and this trend continues to increase, even among children. This can largely be attributed to the changes in the global food system. People now have easy access to processed foods and beverages that are high in energy content, thanks to clever marketing by the multinational corporations that produce them. Additionally, personal lifestyle choices and socio-cultural factors also play a role. People trying to lose weight on their own, often come across various obstacles or have doubts, e.g. Why am I losing inches but not losing weight?

Overweight individuals are those who weigh more than what is recommended for their age, height, and sex, and have a BMI ranging from 25 to 30. Obesity, on the other hand, is a pathological condition where an individual is extremely overweight, with a BMI exceeding 30.

The obesity pandemic

The prevalence of being overweight or obese is linked to a significant increase in the risk of numerous modern-day diseases and conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes type 2, gallstones, sleeping disorders, depression, and spine and joint degeneration.

What connects overweight or obesity to these conditions and diseases is a process called chronic low-grade inflammation. Excess adipose tissue, or fat, releases pro-inflammatory cytokines and other molecules that can trigger an immune response in the body, leading to inflammation. This physiological state predisposes the body of developing additional health issues.

However, it’s important to note that not all individuals who are overweight or obese are in that state due to overeating. Certain factors such as genetics, underlying health conditions, or necessary medication use may predispose some individuals to gain weight, making it more challenging for them to lose weight, even with a healthy diet.

Despite this, it’s crucial to focus on the factors that can be modified in each person. As a physiotherapist with 23 years of experience, I have treated many clients who have experienced the consequences of being overweight. By providing the proper guidance, the majority of my clients were able to reverse their condition and regain their health and vitality. Many of them initially asked the same question: why am I losing inches but not weight?

What the research tells us

The research on different diets suggests that they work for the same reason – a calorie deficit. Although some diets, such as the low-carb high-protein diet, may lead to faster weight loss in the short term, they may not be sustainable in the long run. The key to losing weight is to create a negative energy balance by burning more calories through daily physical activity and consuming fewer calories by choosing natural, unprocessed foods in appropriate portions.

However, it can be challenging to achieve this on your own, and seeking help from healthcare professionals such as medical doctors, nutritionists, physiotherapists, personal trainers, psychologists, or health coaches is recommended. Each person may face different challenges, e.g., you’re losing inches but not weight, and different professionals can help with various aspects of tackling overweight issues.

According to scientific evidence, a weight loss program should include the following approaches:

  1. Caloric restriction: A calorie deficit is necessary for weight loss. This can be achieved through reducing calorie intake and/or increasing energy expenditure through physical activity.
  2. Diet modification: Choosing a healthy and balanced diet, with an emphasis on natural, unprocessed foods in rational portions, is recommended for long-term weight loss success. Some diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, are particularly effective for weight loss and improving overall health.
  3. Increased physical activity: Regular exercise, such as moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and resistance training, is recommended to increase energy expenditure and maintain muscle mass during weight loss.
  4. Behavioral modification: Changing behaviors and habits related to food intake and physical activity can help individuals achieve and maintain weight loss. Strategies such as goal-setting, self-monitoring, and social support are effective.
  5. Psychological support: Addressing emotional and psychological factors related to eating behaviors, body image, and self-esteem can help individuals achieve long-term weight loss success.

Where to start?

Starting a weight loss journey requires understanding the necessity to reduce health risks and improve quality of life. It is essential to take this matter seriously since research emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy weight.

Finding a diet that suits your needs and preferences is crucial to adhere to it. It is essential to follow scientific evidence-backed long-term diets such as the Mediterranean, flexitarian (vegan or vegetarian that allows for the occasional intake of animal foods), and DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diets that focus on natural, whole foods, sufficient protein intake, and healthy fats while restricting sugar and refined carbohydrates. A varied diet including all essential nutrients and fibers, promotes good digestive health.

strength training to lose weight

The third step is to increase physical activity. Depending on your physical state, starting with 30 minutes of brisk walking, weight or resistance training, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is recommended. Building up progressively is important to avoid injury, and seeking professional help is preferable. Resistance training and HIIT are considered superior training methods for weight loss. Building more muscle mass is one of the reasons why you are losing inches but not weight.

Lastly, emotional and psychological support is essential to stay motivated and overcome difficult moments. Support can come from family, friends, healthcare professionals, coaches, and even apps.

Evidence-based online weight loss programs exist that incorporate all of these features and offer guidance and support from the comfort of your own home.

Top 5 Obstacles People who Want to Lose Weight Come Across:

Unhealthy Eating Habits: One of the most common obstacles to weight loss is the presence of unhealthy eating habits. Many people struggle with overeating, consuming high-calorie and processed foods, emotional eating, or not being aware of proper portion control. Breaking these habits and adopting a balanced and nutritious diet can be challenging but is crucial for successful weight loss.

Lack of Physical Activity: Sedentary lifestyles and a lack of regular physical activity can hinder weight loss efforts. Incorporating exercise into daily routines can be difficult for some, especially those with busy schedules or physical limitations. Finding an exercise routine that suits individual preferences and needs is essential for overcoming this obstacle.

Emotional Factors: Emotional factors like stress, anxiety, boredom, or sadness can lead to emotional eating or reliance on food as a coping mechanism. Addressing emotional triggers and finding healthier ways to manage emotions is crucial for successful weight loss.

Unrealistic Expectations: Many individuals set unrealistic weight loss goals or expect rapid results, leading to frustration and disappointment when progress is slower than anticipated. Setting achievable and sustainable goals and understanding that weight loss is a gradual process is essential.

Lack of Support: Attempting to lose weight without adequate support from family, friends, or healthcare professionals can make the journey more challenging. Support and encouragement can significantly impact motivation and adherence to a weight loss plan. Building a supportive network or seeking professional guidance can help individuals overcome this obstacle.

Are you losing inches but not weight? It’s essential to recognize that weight loss journeys are unique to each individual, and understanding and addressing these obstacles can significantly improve the chances of successful and sustainable weight loss.

Why Am I Losing Inches but Not Losing Weight?

Does the following apply to you: “I feel like I’m losing weight but the scale doesn’t show it”? Welcome to the confusing world of weight loss! We know how frustrating it can be when you’re trying to shed pounds, but the scale stubbornly refuses to budge—especially when you’re noticing that your clothes are fitting differently. It’s normal to feel worried or discouraged when this happens. After all, you don’t have time to waste on methods that don’t produce results. But don’t despair just yet! The truth is, there are several possible explanations for why you might be losing inches but not losing weight. 

Weight loss is defined as a decrease in body mass – that is, a reduction of total body weight. This includes a decrease in muscle mass, and fat mass as well as water retention, and minerals. On the other hand, inch loss is defined as a decrease in circumference measurements of your arms, legs, and waistline. Inch loss occurs when your body composition changes from more fat to less fat. This means that you may still have the same total body weight, but you will notice an overall decrease in inches measurement due to a decrease in body fat. However, there’s no reason to get discouraged if you’re losing inches but not weight.

Knowing how to differentiate between the two can be key in helping you reach your fitness goals. Here are a few questions to keep in mind:

  • How has my body shape changed?
  • Does my clothing fit differently?
  • Do I feel lighter or do I still feel heavy?

Indeed, the first sign of you being on the right track might not necessarily be a lower number on the scale. Better fitting clothes, feeling less bloated, experiencing less pain, feeling more energetic…are just some of the indicators that your body is becoming healthier. You see? No need to worry why you are losing inches but not losing weight.

Possible reasons for losing inches but not weight

When you’re on a diet, it’s not uncommon to notice that you’re losing inches but not weight. This can be frustrating, but it’s important to understand that weight loss isn’t always just about the number on the scale. Here are some reasons why you may be losing inches but not seeing the scale move:

  • Muscle weighs more than fat: When you start a new exercise routine, your body may be building muscle, which weighs more than fat. This can lead to a decrease in body fat percentage and an increase in muscle mass, resulting in a smaller waistline and other measurements, but not necessarily a decrease in weight.
  • Water weight fluctuations: Your body’s water weight can fluctuate due to a variety of factors such as salt intake, hormones, and stress. When starting a diet, the body may shed excess water weight before losing fat, which can result in a decrease in inches but not a significant weight change. This is especially true for low-carb diets, as carbohydrates hold onto water in the body.
  • Food intolerances: Although you might be only eating healthy, whole, and unprocessed foods, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have an (undiagnosed) intolerance to one or some of them. You can have an intolerance to all kinds of fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. If so, this creates a type of chronic inflammation in your digestive tract that can lead to fluid retention. Trying an elimination diet for 2 to 4 weeks to remove all possible triggers is the only reliable way to detect food intolerances.
food intolerance causes weight gain

  • Inaccurate measurement: The way you measure your progress can also affect what you see. If you’re only relying on the scale to track your progress, you may not be getting the full picture. Taking measurements with a tape measure or using progress pictures can help you see changes that aren’t reflected on the scale. Losing inches but not weight indicates your body is already changing.
  • Plateaus: Weight loss plateaus are common and can be frustrating, but they’re a normal part of the weight loss journey. Your body may need time to adjust to the changes you’re making, so don’t get discouraged if you’re not seeing progress as quickly as you’d like.

Remember, losing inches but not weight is still progress, even if it’s not reflected on the scale. Keep track of your progress in different ways, and don’t give up if you’re not seeing the results you want right away.

Why BMI is not an accurate indicator of overweight

You might be confused why you’re losing inches but not weight and your Body Mass Index isn’t changing. This is because the BMI – which is a calculation of your weight-to-height ratio – is not an accurate indicator of whether someone is overweight or not.

There are many other factors that have to be considered when determining your overall health and wellness:

  • lean muscle mass
  • body fat percentage
  • waist, hip ratio
  • bone density
  • physical activity levels
  • daily caloric intake

These metrics all contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of your health. For example, someone might have a high BMI, but an otherwise healthy body fat percentage because muscle density carries more mass than fat. And it might appear as if you haven’t dropped in weight, but you’ve actually gained muscle and lost fat. As is often the case when you are losing inches but not weight. So, the BMI calculation would not accurately reflect your overall health.

Is it worth taking food supplements?

Taking weight loss supplements can be a useful addition to your program if you’re losing inches but not weight. With the abundance of diet trends, an even greater number of weight loss supplements are being promoted nowadays. However, based on research, which supplements are truly beneficial to consume while pursuing weight loss?

  • Phaseolus Vulgaris or white kidney beans extract (3000mg/day) and Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) from green tea (500mg/day) can reduce the absorption of nutrients. 
  • Caffeine (300mg/day) and chrologenic acid (200mg/day) derived from coffee can help reduce the appetite and increase energy use.
  • Capsaicinoids from chili pepper (10mg/day) and L-Carnitine (2g/day) can increase fat mobilization.
  • Resveratrol (200mg/day) and Conjugated linoleic acid (4g/day) help inhibit fat formation. 
  • Lipoic acid (600mg/day) helps lower blood glucose levels. 
  • Probiotics, that help improve gut health, are helpful in reducing body weight, BMI and waist circumference.
  • Mushroom extracts help lower blood lipids and cholesterol, boost immune function, and have anti-inflammatory potential, ideal to battle the chronic low-grade inflammation often present in people with overweight or obesity. 

Always consult your physician or medical weight loss specialist before taking any supplements, as they might interfere with some types of medication.

Check out these Best-Selling Weight Loss Supplements

As you might have understood, losing weight is often not a simple, straightforward process. There will be some obstacles on the road, but with the right guidance, they can be overcome. Initially you might only be losing inches but not weight. But as you understand now, that is not something to worry about. Only extreme cases require more invasive approaches, e.g. surgery.

Don’t be afraid to get all the necessary help you need to let you succeed and reach your goal. The hard work is well worth it!


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