You’ve committed to working out regularly, eating right, and taking care of yourself, yet judging by the scale, you don’t seem to be making any progress. While you may want the satisfaction of watching the numbers on the scale trend downward, that may not be the best measurement of success. “Although it’s counterintuitive, you can actually lose inches without losing weight,” Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club, told POPSUGAR. So, even if the scale hasn’t budged, you can see positive changes in your body, and those are actually a more reliable way to track your fitness and weight-loss goals.
“The scale is not a measurement of fat, but rather tells you how much everything in your body weighs, including fluid, muscle, bones, fat, and all of your organs,” explained Lainey Younkin, MS, RD, LDN, a Boston-based weight loss dietitian and owner of Lainey Younkin Nutrition. “Five pounds of muscle and five pounds of fat weigh the same: five pounds. But muscle takes up less space. Therefore, if you gain muscle and lose fat, you can lose inches without losing weight.” In fact, in some cases, you can actually gain weight while losing inches.
It all depends on what you’re doing and how that routine affects your body composition. Melissa Mitri, MS, RDN, a Connecticut-based registered dietitian and owner of Melissa Mitri Nutrition LLC, explained that strength training regularly and following a reduced-calorie, higher protein diet can help you to simultaneously gain muscle and lose fat. “This can result in your clothes feeling looser without seeing any actual changes on the scale,” Mitri told POPSUGAR.
Paying attention to how your clothes fit is one way to track your progress. You can also measure your waist circumference using a simple measuring tape, or use a body fat skinfold caliper to measure your body fat. But the most important measure of success is how you feel. If you’re happy with the way your body looks and you’re feeling healthy and energized, then you are clearly doing something right, even if the fancy tools are telling you otherwise.