Frustrated Because You’re Losing Inches Not Weight?

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Written by Penny Cooper

Being a part of the fitness industry, I’ve seen so many people struggle with weight loss. But it can seem odd if you think you’re losing inches not weight.

If you’re feeling frustrated because you’re not meeting your weight goals, don’t worry. It can be a letdown when you step on the scale but maybe that is the problem.

You’re relying on the wrong metrics and losing inches but not weight may actually be a good sign that you’re doing something in the perspective of your overall fitness.

Fitness goals aren’t dependent on your total weight. Losing weight and fat loss can be the prime reason and motivating factor for exercising but it’s not everything.

If you feel you’re doing a load of physical activity, are eating well and think the body size to weight ratio is all wrong – that is, you’re getting thinner but not stronger – it might be a good idea to check things out with a doctor for peace of mind sake.

Reasons for Weight Gain When Trying to Lose it

Fat vs. Muscle

So, you’ve been to the gym. Sweating away in a cardio class or better still HIIT sessions – yeah, love ’em. Then to compliment your regular you’ve started doing some strength training – recommended.

Maybe you lost some pounds at first, but now you’ve seen a plateau in weight loss You’re starting to look good around the waist and thighs but the weight has stayed the same or increased. Agh!

I’m here to tell you, don’t worry. If you’ve been building muscle, your weight may not change. What is likely and excellent news is that your body’s composition is beginning to change – for the better.

Muscle is denser than fat, which is great news as we’ll discuss a bit later.

A Bit About Fat

Fat takes its time. Imagine it as a frozen stick of butter. It won’t melt into liquid if you don’t do anything to it. It needs time and heat. Just like that butter, the heat from your body exercising helps to break down fats.

In simple language, body fat is stored in special areas just below your skin. When your body needs fuel, it releases cells that carry those fats to the muscles. When we work out, those fats are burned and used as energy. We burn fat, literally!

Building Muscle Burns Fat

One of the greatest benefits of being fit and working out is building muscle mass. At my age, it’s important to keep up with strength training.

We, older women tend to lose muscle as we age. This can be one reason it is so hard to lose fat.

Woman working out with dumbbells

Losing inches and not weight may be partly because our bodies want to have fat on them. By toning your body, you will see a better visible result.

A significant advantage of building muscle is fat control. That’s right! Having healthy, lean muscle on your body can help to burn fat.

Every cell in your body metabolizes the fuel we get from food into energy. Each movement and each decision to make that movement requires energy.

This is why you need a certain amount of calories a day, even if you are sedentary. Your heart, lungs, and brain need calories to function. Muscle needs it, too. If you have more muscle, your body will naturally burn more calories and losing fat will become a lot easier.

Water Retention

If you’re seeing unexplained weight gain, it might simply be water retention. Maybe you’re feeling a little swollen, your socks are cutting into your ankles, or you had to move your wedding ring up a finger.

A normal, healthy person can have approximately 5 pounds added to their scale by water weight. It can cause slight swelling because water is stored between the cells and around the fat in your body.

Since drinking between 2.5 and 3 liters of water a day is recommended, you might also be seeing ‘stomach water’ weight.

One way to combat this is to drink your water slowly throughout the day. Water is important for healthy bodily functions, so you don’t want to try to lose weight by avoiding it.

Benefits of Fitness in Your Life

Maybe you have an excellent reason for wanting to lose weight. Perhaps it is purely aesthetic or maybe health-related.

You might be looking to help control diabetes, high blood pressure, or acid reflux. Or maybe fighting infertility or heart disease.

Whatever the reason it’s a good idea if you feel you’re “overweight“. It isn’t always easy, especially when you’re worried that you are not losing weight although the tape measure says otherwise.

Want to get fit but don’t know where to start or can’t maintain the motivation? We have a guide and tips for getting fit in 2024.

Fitness Goals

Daily Weighing: Good or Bad?

In some studies, it’s suggested that daily weighing can lead to better habits. Participants in one study weighed themselves every day.

They lost almost 13 pounds more than those who weighed less frequently.

This would be great news if many other studies didn’t show that daily weighing does not increase the likelihood of losing weight.

So, what’s right for you?

I personally weigh myself in the morning and the last thing at night. I’m lucky as my weight is fairly constant and I don’t need to lose any weight. I just find it interesting to follow the shallow ups and downs of the body’s weight.

Clearly, if you need so encouragement when trying to lose weight, always weigh yourself in the mornings. I sometimes lose 2 lbs overnight in my sleep. That’s not an excuse to lie in bed all day though.

When you weigh yourself every day, you can see fluctuations in water weight, metabolism and other factors. You may see an increase of a few pounds but it isn’t significant.

In another study, scientists weighed participants. The researchers falsely reported the weights, saying that either no weight was lost or weight was gained.

Even though they thought they were losing inches and weight, the subjects showed a significant slide into depression and a loss of self-esteem. Now, losing inches, gaining weight and feeling depressed would be the worst outcome.

Unrealistic Goals

Experts from Harvard Medical School suggest that a healthy weight loss process should not include losing 2 pounds a week. It can be tempting to sit in the sauna for an hour after an extreme workout to try to fit into that perfect weekend dress.

If you’re resorting to extreme dieting or sweating to lose pounds, you may find yourself doing more harm than good. If you lose weight very quickly, you are unlikely to keep it off.

fitness and weight management stuff

For weight management, slow and steady is best with proper well-balanced meals and regular cardio and strength training workouts.

How to Track Your Goals

It’s easy to step on the scale. They’re easy to read and you get fast measurements. You may have a fancy model of scale that can measure your body mass index (BMI), or one that connects to your smartphone.

If you really want to know that you’re losing inches and weight in a healthy manner, you’ll need to measure your body.

Find out about and check your body fat percentage as well – unfortunately, like me, you might be disappointed with the number you have to hit to get even in the average category let alone ‘athlete’.

How to Measure Yourself

Before I became a fitness coach, I worked in retail. Helping customers has always been my passion; it’s one reason I started working at a gym.

Between fittings rooms and locker rooms, I’ve taken so many measurements for people. If you’re looking for accurate dimensions to compare over your weight loss journey, take my advice.

First, find a measuring tape. Plastic will give more accurate readings, as fabric models tend to stretch. You can get more accurate readings with a friend helping, so you can stand up straight.

Stand up straight and balanced on both feet. Wrap the measuring tape around the largest part of the chest, entirely around the body. Breathe in and out a few times and find where your chest naturally falls. This is your bust measurement.

You can also measure under the chest and around the ribs. Women often gain weight around the breast area and upper back. You might lose inches here.

Repeat with any areas that you might want to record. I also recommend the waist, hips, and upper thighs.

Apps to Track Your Progress

Modern technology can be amazingly helpful. If you’re having trouble and are losing weight as well as inches, it may be because your diet and fitness regime aren’t working together. Luckily, there are many apps today that can help you track your progress and find healthy solutions to your problems.

My Fitness Pal

This application can track more than just your calories. Tracking your fitness is easy with the lists of exercises. You can add in daily water goals, save your favorite recipes, and get fitness advice. Of course, the main feature is the calorie and food tracker. It’s simple to use, just scan the barcode of your food product or search for it in their library of 11 million foods.


While most calorie counting apps can help you lead a healthy lifestyle, Lifesum can be tailored to you. It has features that make it unique, like a ketogenic or macro counting diet. Lifesum also boasts a 3 Week Challenge, that provides you with easy to make recipes and exercises to get you into shape.


How do you know you’re eating a balanced diet? If I wanted to eat 1200 calories a day, I could do it all in chips and soda. It wouldn’t be much food, but I could do it. Instead, why not look at what you’re eating a different way?

The MyPlate app gives you a broader look at your eating habits. It tracks not only how many calories but the categories of veggies, meats, carbs, etc. that you eat.


It can be frustrating losing inches but seeing no weight loss. If your initial goal was to lose weight rather than get fit, look at yourself in the mirror. Are you looking better, do you feel better? If so then continue what you’re doing but change the focus to getting fit rather than just losing weight.

It may be that your body composition is changing and if so losing weight in the areas where there is excess will become easier.

The most important thing is to keep in mind how you feel. Don’t forget, exercise and fitness activities have so many other benefits. Fighting diabetes and lowering blood pressure are amazing health boosts for your body! You will also sleep better and have more energy.

Photo of author
Penny is a Personal Trainer currently training as a wellness coach. She gained a BA in English at Edinburgh University. Redundancy from retail management hastened a move to helping people get fit and writing about all things fitness in middle age.

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