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Lost the Inches but Not the Weight? Here's Why

It's an age-old question: how come my pants feel looser but I weigh more now than before I started exercising? A POPSUGAR reader turned to the experts for an answer and shares her findings below.

Q: "I know everyone is always looking at the scale, but in my case I am slimmer than ever but the scale shows I am almost the same weight as I was on my son's first birthday — [I was] two sizes up [then]. I do two 50-minute exercise sessions per day five times per week; in total I exercise about 500 minutes per week if not more, and do a mix of plyometric exercises, Pilates, and hand and ankle weights. I can see my body is getting firmer and slimmer, but the scale takes my mood way down the higher it goes up. Is there a difference with different people's muscle mass density they build?" — Michele

A: Hi, Michele! This question is an important one, and one that I have heard numerous answers to (although even I am not sure which one most accurately answers this). For help in responding, we turned to clinical exercise physiologist Jeff Dolgan.

"The human body tends to have a favorite weight that it functions most efficiently at," explains Dolgan. Scientists have termed this phenomenon the "set point" theory, which means the human body will adjust the components of mass to keep within a certain range. This allows for our center of gravity to stay the same and is helpful in maintaining biomechanical function, says Dolgan. Instead of worrying about the scale, says Dolgan, you should pay attention to your body composition instead. If you haven't had your body fat tested yet, it may be a good idea to have a professional take this more objective measurement for you.

In looking at your current workout schedule, Dolgan noted that although you are not completing any "traditional muscle building" activities, plyometric exercises place a large load on muscle mass and could be causing hypertrophy (muscle mass increases).

You also mention using hand and ankle weights during your workouts. I would advise against the use of a strapped on weight (at joint level, which can cause excess strain and wear on your joints and don't target the muscle as effectively) and instead start incorporating the use of dumbbells and/or resistance bands instead.

And finally, Dolgan says, remember that different people can build muscle at different rates. "This is mostly a product of which type of muscle fiber is dominant in an individual's body. Type I muscle (slow twitch aerobic) doesn't tend to grow as much or as rapidly as Type II muscle fiber (fast twitch explosive). Plyometric training will predominantly train type II muscle fiber."

So keep working out, Michele; it may just be time to change up your routine and incorporate more strength training along with cardio (and celebrate the fact that you are 'slimmer than ever'!). My favorite 'weight loss' workout is Total Body Tune Up – this is the type of workout I do and I use with my female clients looking to decrease body fat and burn more calories in less time, without having to separate cardio and strength training sessions.

Hope that helps clarify this important question for you! Keep up the great work!

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Kitty14868487 Kitty14868487 2 years
Honestly...I'm surprised that they didn't suggest that you were working out too much. I'm a huge advocate of Jackie Warner's workout/nutrition philosophies and there really is no need to work out as much as you do. I lost 30 lbs. in 4 months by eating clean most of the time and working out less than an hour a day 4-5 days a week. That's all it took. I lost weight and inches and have been told I look great and I'm going to be 50 in a few months. Unless you're an athlete...there's no need to work out so much.
Pollyvent Pollyvent 4 years
what is annoying to me is that i keep reading articles like 'i've gone from a size whatever and now i'm 12 stone and a size 12' for example.\u00a0 well i'm 5'5" and have gone from 12'3" to 10'8" and i'm still a size 16 before i was a 18 at the top and a 16 at the bottom
Michele-van-der-Vyver Michele-van-der-Vyver 5 years
Hi, to answer your question on how I manage to exercise so much in one day; I schedule my workouts in advance and change it every 2 - 3 weeks. I get up in early in the morning while it is still dark and my husband and son is sleeping and then exercise my first 50 minute + session for the day before making breakfast for everyone. I used to do my second 50 minute + session in the afternoon but decided to schedule this in the mornings after breakfast as it is now mid winter in my country South Africa and keeping motivated during the cold months takes extra effort. You just have to stick with something which works for you Regards Michele
Michele-van-der-Vyver Michele-van-der-Vyver 5 years
Hi, to answer your question on how I manage to exercise so much in one day; I schedule my workouts in advance and change it every 2 - 3 weeks. I get up in early in the morning while it is still dark and my husband and son is sleeping and then exercise my first 50 minute + session for the day before making breakfast for everyone. I used to do my second 50 minute + session in the afternoon but decided to schedule this in the mornings after breakfast as it is now mid winter in my country South Africa and keeping motivated during the cold months takes extra effort. You just have to stick with something which works for youRegardsMichele
teriblearns teriblearns 5 years
Thank you for this article...I needed it too. One question though...How in the world does Michele workout THAT MUCH a day!?! Keep up the good work!
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