How to Lose Inches, Not Pounds

How to lose inches without tipping the scale up… or down 

Losing weight is not just shredded pounds. On a healthier scale (pun intended!), it's better to lose some inches instead of the pounds. In this article, we will dig up the truth of weight and scale and answer the hows to lose those inches!

Zero pound dropped off on the scale despite time consistently invested in the gym, money spent paying off coaches and trainers, and adhering to a healthy lifestyle and depriving oneself of treats most days of the week. You think you have slimmed a bit down but numbers don't lie, do they? Working on a weight loss program without seeing any visible improvement on the scale is definitely frustrating and demotivating especially when you know you're giving it your all. 

This problem is not actually uncommon. But here's the thing: slimming down without any scale tipped is healthier than actually losing the pounds. Despite not shedding off weight, losing inches indicates a good bodily response from all of the healthy diet and proper exercise you do! This means that all your efforts have been not for naught. 

The truth about weight, weight loss, and the scale 

Going down the road of health and fitness and looking only at your weight and slimming down of your body to determine your success may leave you frustrated. 

First of all, the definition of slimness is not always seen as actually losing weight off the scale. It's definitely possible to slim down without any scale budges. This happens when you lose fat and gain muscle instead. This is a good indication of a responsive system towards diet and physical activity. I will tell you as many times as I could, do not put a number on the scale as your standard of success. 

"I understand that the scale is not everything but I still want to lose weight!"


Point 1: Losing weight =/= being healthy  

Losing weight is not always reliable and indicative of good health. At some point when you're trying to lose weight, you also want to lose it fast and then it becomes more of a concern rather than a celebration. According to experts, a healthy and safe rate when losing weight is around 1-2 pounds per week or in kilograms, that is less than 1 kilogram weekly. If you're losing more than that, it just means that you could be sacrificing fitness for the sake of seeing a progressively decreasing number. But this number can be deceptive. 

What you see on the scale is a totality. That means you don't know what you're actually shedding since it's a combination of muscle, fats, water, bones, and organs. T

ake for example bodybuilders whose weights are relatively off chart because of extra built muscles. This does not automatically fit them into the fat or overweight category. Or professional fighters like boxers cutting off pounds before a fight by dehydrating themselves - a non-fat weight loss that could be dangerous for the body.

If you do not know what you're shedding, chances are you'll be celebrating a scale down on your weight even though in reality you could still have unhealthy levels of body fat because what you actually lost was muscle weight.

When you're losing muscle over fat, you're doing it wrong. Knowing and being aware of your body composition is crucial information to achieve the results you want. 


Point 2: There are fluctuations in our weight. That's normal. 

Second is that it doesn't account for weight rhythms. Weight changes from time to time throughout the day sometimes as much as 10 pounds depending on your water intake, how often you go to the bathroom or if you're retaining water. Not only throughout the day, weight also fluctuates throughout the whole week. If you're putting the scale as your sole motivator, you will find it futile. But note that the scale also has some important uses. In a 2016 published review, people who have lost weight said that regularly weighing themselves have proved to help them maintain that weight loss. 


Point 3: Your scale is not always correct! 

Third, there are scale errors. Multiple researches have shown that bathroom scales vary results in a minimum 1.5% and could go even higher. This may not sound much but if you've been on this road before, you would know how small changes can be big disappointments. 

How do you lose the inches without losing the weight? 


Instead of looking to lose from a totality such as weight, focused effort on losing fat will far be more beneficial. Losing weight, as discussed earlier, you also risk losing water and muscles which are much needed body composition. On the other hand when you lose body fat, it brings a more permanent change to your body, allowing you to gain more of the muscles. 

Fat loss is also more visible than muscle or water loss. Fat weight is only a third of muscle weight at the same volume but looks thrice as big which is why for every pound of fat lost, the loss is much more visible but does not give any budges in scale. 

Why do we exactly want to lose the fats and gain the muscle?

Fat is an energy storer and can slow down and kill your metabolism which evidently leads to more fat while muscles burn the energy, boosts your metabolism, and also burns those excess fats. Fat is also one of the culprits in many medical conditions that cause inability to lose weight. Fat may lead to inflammation causing weight gain as the bodily processes regulated by the cells are damaged. It also increases the risk of diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers. 

Is it possible to lose the fats and gain muscles at the same time? 

It is actually possible despite the problematic conflict of caloric deficit (use of pre-existing stored fat for fuel) to lose fat and caloric surplus (surplus for energy boost) to gain muscle. 

In order to that, here are some tips you can follow:

  1. Sustain your caloric deficit to lose fat. 
    Do so while eating enough protein to keep your muscle mass.
    When you go on a caloric deficit, it pulls out energy from preexisting fat stored AND muscle reserve which is why you need to take in enough protein to rebuild your muscle. This is also to prevent you from a caloric surplus which may be stored as fat when not properly burned.

  2. Do strength training.

    Challenge your muscles to build them and train them heavy. In an article published by menshealth, Curtis Shannon emphasized the benefit of training heavy. He said, "Heavy training challenges the muscles not only concentrically but eccentrically. If dont right, the stimulus of heavy weight going down with control and going back up will cause greater muscle tear and rebuild." You can opt to lift heavier weights with less repetitions (instead of the other way around but you can still do either). 

  3. Work big, not small.

    Go ahead and challenge your body by doing "multi-joint" movements instead of focused or isolated exercises targeting one muscle at a time. In addition, building multiple muscle groups also allows you to lift more weight needed for your strength training. You can try squats, deadlifts, pullups, and bench presses. 

  4. Again, stack up on proteins.

    Do not skip proteins in your meals as they are good agents in rebuilding your muscle tissue. There are rough guides of protein needs based on your weight that you can check out to know how much needs to be in your diet.
  5. Drink before you exercise.

    In a study done in 2001 at the University of Texas, results showed that those who had shake intake (with amino acids and carbohydrates) before the exercise had an increased protein synthesis than those who drank after. Kevin Tipton, Ph.D. and an exercise and nutrition researcher at the University of Texas noted the science behind this. He said, "Since exercise increases blood flow to your working tissues, drinking a carbohydrate-protein mixture before your workout may lead to greater uptake of the amino acids in your muscles.”

  6. Eat every 3 hours.

    Of course, this does not mean a buffet type meal every 3 hours! This just means you have to at least eat something and often enough to help your body build new protein. That is around 20 grams of protein every 3 hours, in general. Or you can take your total calorie intake per day then divide by six. 

  7. Get some (low-fat, low-sugar) ice cream after your workout session.

    This is probably the best tip out of everything on this list and it's not a scam! A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that ice cream triggers insulin surge compared to other food. Insulin helps out on breaking down your protein.


In the era of body positivity, of embracing the shape you have, people are becoming less concerned with the numbers on the scale Rather, they’re more focused with actual fitness of the body which is what losing inches is all about. So don't be a slave of the numbers! Instead, focus on getting those muscles and being more fit. 

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