Why am I getting thinner but the scale says I weigh the same?
April 13, 2012 6:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm dieting and not exercising. Why am I getting thinner but not losing weight?

I've been doing the "eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full" diet. I also don't eat after 7pm each night to prevent stomach aches in the morning. I haven't incorporated exercise because it's not something I stick to, and I want a diet to shed the pounds by living basically the same lifestyle but cutting the calories. I've been eating healthier, cut out the sweets fast food etc.

It seems to be working - I'm fitting into clothes I haven't fit into in awhile. But the scale says I've lost less than a pound and it's been two weeks. How can this be? Google says it's muscle, but how can I be gaining muscle if I'm not exercising? I'm trying to understand because I'm starting to feel like maybe the fitting into older clothes was a lie - what if I could fit into them for awhile through some natural weight loss but just hadn't tried them on in awhile? I need to know if I need to be doing something different to reach my weight loss goals or if I'm A-OK. I don't look any thinner but I don't expect to yet.
posted by biochemist to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There are days to days variation in your weight. Furthermore, your scale might have fluctuations of its own: I know that I can weigh myself on my bathroom three times in 15 minutes and get 3 different readings - some varying by as much as 3 pounds.

In addition to all this, 2 weeks is not enough to clearly show a trend. Give it a bit more time and trust the clothes, not the scale for now.
posted by aroberge at 6:28 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

The scale isn't a great measure of what you care about, which is volume. The best way to track this is to have done measurements at waist, hips, thighs, arms, but clothes are also usually a good indicator. The scale isn't a great measure for a lot of reasons - maybe you're better hydrated, or the better diet gave you more fuel for muscle growth. Believe the clothes, and take some measurements if you want to see your future progress.
posted by ldthomps at 6:35 AM on April 13, 2012

Eating healthier can also leave you less bloated (especially if it's resulted in lessening your carb and salt intake), which will help you fit into clothes a bit better.

Give it more time, but if you don't continue to see size changes/weight changes then you probably want to start counting calories. Humans are notoriously bad at estimating calorie intake.
posted by schroedinger at 6:35 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe eating healthier is giving you more energy, resulting in you moving more/faster, getting more done, and increasing your metabolism, thus you are exercising in a way.

As others have said, the scale doesn't mean crap. When I met my wife, I weighed 145 pounds (at 6'4"). I now wear 186 pounds due to eating better, exercise, and lots of upper body strength from carrying kids around all the time--and I wear the exact same size clothes I wore when I weighed 40 pounds less (yes, I have had the same, worn-out wardrobe for a decade now).
posted by TinWhistle at 6:48 AM on April 13, 2012

You should get an indication of what your caloric intake is generally; it's quite possible that you're either:

- Not cutting out as many calories as you think;
- Cutting out so many calories that your metabolism is slowing down to compensate.

The latter especially is of concern to people who diet; your body adapts to 1200 calories a day because it has to, so a caloric deficit greater than a couple of hundred calories will slow your progress.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 7:02 AM on April 13, 2012

Sometimes changes in the type of food you're eating can affect your weight even if the calories don't seem to add up - or that's what I've found to be true, anyway. I've lost weight a couple of times while eating like a pig and doing only my usual exercise when I was eating lots of fatty but natural foods with plenty of protein (also plenty of carbs, just little sugar-the-ingredient and no HFCS). I also tend to lose weight when I'm happy and busy, no matter how many slices of vegan chocolate fig cake I devour.

Anyway, individual bodies are individual. If you continue to shrink slowly (which is the best way to shrink), just carry on.
posted by Frowner at 7:03 AM on April 13, 2012

I vote for weight fluctuations. Weigh yourself first thing every morning and keep track of that for two weeks. You should see a difference.
posted by Dragonness at 7:09 AM on April 13, 2012

Have you been weighing yourself daily, or you just checked in after 2 weeks and the number's the same? My personal experience as a female person is that the day my period starts I magically gain 3-4 pounds, but that doesn't affect the way my clothes fit.

Another thing is that when I'm paying attention to the way I eat, and thinking healthy thoughts, I tend to get more exercise. Not that I magically fall to the floor and start doing pushups, but that I feel "bouncier", I walk with more enthusiasm, I am more manually engaged and less likely to spend Sunday lying on the couch with a novel. So maybe you're exercising more than you think?
posted by aimedwander at 7:10 AM on April 13, 2012

About 61% of your body weight is water. If you happen to eat something salty then your body will take on more water to compensate. The size of the weight fluctuations created in this way can dwarf - in the short term - the relatively small changes instigated by a diet. John Walker's "The Hackers Diet" has a good explanation of this and other types of statistical noise that can hide your dieting progress - his suggestion is to use weighted moving averages to help determine a trend. (This all assumes that you wish to continue weighing yourself often - others get round the problem by staying away from the scales and waiting for the moment when they suddenly find their clothes are too big).
posted by rongorongo at 7:12 AM on April 13, 2012

(Ms. Veg)
Losing weight is very slow. (Says a weight watcher long term member who loses. very. slowly.)
Are you eating enough fiber?
And are you cutting sodium?

Both of those things can contribute to your results. Good luck!
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:20 AM on April 13, 2012

I have sort of the same thing happen when I lose weight. Not exactly the same, but similar. I've lost about 30 pounds in the last two years, dieting for a couple of months, then plateauing for a couple of months before ramping up the diet again.

Throughout, I noticed an odd trend. Say I lose 10 pounds. For the first month or so, my clothes fit the same. My face, though, is noticeably thinner, and people notice the weight loss. Another month goes by, with no further weight loss, and now my pants are looser. I have a vague theory about storing short-term fat reserves in my face and neck and long-term reserves in my belly, but I don't know if there's any biological basis for it.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:05 AM on April 13, 2012

I'm going to second schroedinger on the bloating. When I eat "cleaner" than usual for even a few days, my stomach tends to shrink a bit and make my pants fit better - but my actual scale-weight doesn't fluctuate any more than ever (and yes, weight normally fluctuates a couple pounds from day to day).
posted by celtalitha at 9:14 AM on April 13, 2012

Scales suck. When they're not giving you false reasons to relax your iron discipline for a while, they're giving you false reasons for terrible despondency. Chuck the bastards out.
posted by flabdablet at 9:42 AM on April 13, 2012

Two weeks really isn't enough time to be sure of anything, weight-loss wise. There are so many reasons this could happen. My first guess is you lost, say 3-4 lbs and that weight came off in places where the fit of your clothes will be noticeably affected by a small loss, like your waist/stomach. But then maybe you're retaining 2-3 lbs of water in a place where your clothes are looser, like your legs. Or maybe your scale is unreliable. Again, two weeks (unfortunately, because it would be nice to get that motivation right away) is nothing.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 9:49 AM on April 13, 2012

Two weeks really isn't enough time to be sure of anything, weight-loss wise.


Also, don't go by the scale or the clothing size (unless it's substantial -- a single dress size or waist size is fairly meaningless. I can go from a tight 34" waist to a happy 32" over the course of a day.)

Take mostly-naked pictures of yourself today (from multiple angles) then again every 2-3 weeks or so. Mirrors, scales, and sizes lie.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:23 AM on April 13, 2012

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