Losing Inches But Not Losing Weight

Losing Inches But Not Losing Weight

Alex Brecher

One of the most frustrating things in the world is trying to lose weight but not seeing progress on the scale. It can feel so unfair to work hard on your diet and exercise program, and not to hit your weight loss goals. This is especially true after such a commitment as bariatric surgery.

But there may be other answers. There are times when the scale is misleading. In fact, it is possible to improve health and lose body fat without losing weight. Here is what you should know about losing inches but not losing weight after bariatric surgery.

Weight Loss After Bariatric Surgery

After bariatric surgery, weight loss may be fast. It may be very fast! This can be due to having such a dramatic change in your diet. After weight loss surgery, some patients may be eating only a few hundred calories a day for a while due to trouble eating. Even if you are at your goal of 1,000 to 1,200 calories, that is low enough to drop pounds quickly.

While the weight loss trajectory is different for different patients based on type of surgery and individual factors, weight loss will eventually slow down. That happens as your body gets closer to goal weight. It can also happen if you eat more, as your stomach or pouch is able to handle more food. Sometimes, weight loss even stops.

Some Facts About Body Weight

To better understand what may be happening with your body and weight loss (or lack of weight loss), let’s look at body weight. When you lose weight, you might be losing body fat, and that’s usually a good thing. 

Another part of your body that has weight is muscle. Muscle is denser than body fat because muscle is largely made up of water. If you gain healthy lean muscle but your body fat amount does not change, you can gain weight according to the scale.

Why the Scale Can Be Misleading

We tend to use the scale to assess a weight loss diet, but the scale doesn’t tell the whole story. That is, you can be healthier without losing weight. And your weight on a given day doesn’t show how well you stuck to your program.

Your weight goes up and down daily depending on factors such as how much sodium you had the day before, whether you are retaining water, and whether or not you are dehydrated.

Here are some more reasons why the scale can be misleading.

  • The scale does not tell you whether your muscle or fat is changing. If you lift weights, you might gain muscle (and body weight) but be healthier.
  • The scale includes the food in your belly, which doesn’t reflect your body composition.
  • The scale does not tell you how healthy you are or whether you exercised yesterday.

Measuring Inches Lost

Even if the number on the scale does not go down the way you hope, you might be losing inches. That means your body is smaller, and often, that means your body is healthier!

If you want to measure inches lost, you can choose a few sites on your body and use a tape measure at regular intervals, say every two weeks. These are some common sites.

  • Waist
  • Chest
  • Hips
  • Thighs 

Be sure to record your values so you can track your progress!

Other Ways to Measure Progress

If your body weight and your lost inches are not enough to convince you that your bariatric surgery diet is working, there are more ways to measure progress. These are some examples.

  • Body fat percentage can decrease as you lose fat and increase muscle.
  • You might feel more energetic and confident.
  • You may fit into your clothes better, or need to purchase new, smaller clothes.
  • You may have more strength and a toned appearance.
  • Other people may notice that you look thinner or healthier.
  • You may start to like the way you look in photos more than you did before.

How to Be Sure You’ll Lose Weight Eventually

Whatever the scale says, and regardless of how you choose to measure progress, it’s important to keep up with the choices that you know are right. That way, you will eventually lose weight, even if the scale seems reluctant to bring you good news.

For example, be sure to follow the instructions that your surgeon or nutritionist gave you.

It is also important to keep logging all of your food just like you might have done right after weight loss surgery. That way, you know that you are eating exactly like you are supposed to. Also, keep being physically active, assuming your healthcare provider approves of your exercise regimen, so you keep burning calories and toning your muscles.

Something else you can do to keep yourself on the right track is to add new goals. Instead of focusing only on outcomes, such as body weight or inches, you might consider adding goals that focus on actions. You might, for example, have goals around which foods to eat, or how often and how long you will exercise. These goals are behaviors, and behavior is more controllable than your body weight.

While the scale may not always show you what you want, and that can be frustrating, there are other signs of progress after weight loss surgery. Losing inches, even while not losing weight, can be a sign that you are getting healthier and making smart decisions for yourself.

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