Measuring your weight loss success may seem like an easy task – just stand on the scales, and you’ll see everything you need. However, in reality, scales do not tell you the whole truth. In fact, scales may be profoundly misleading. One of the sustainable practices for measuring fat loss is tracking the loss of inches in your waistline.
How many pounds does it take to lose an inch off your waist? Read this article to find out the speed of progress you can reasonably expect.
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How Many Pounds to Lose an Inch: Fat Loss vs. Weight Loss
Measuring your waist circumference is considered a reliable way of tracking your weight loss progress because, unlike your scales, it takes into account the distinction between weight loss and fat loss.
Weight loss is a decrease in your overall body weight. This weight includes muscle, fat, and water in the body. This is what your scales show you when you hop on them in the morning: you’ve simply lost some pounds. Fat loss, by contrast, is a reduction in body fat.
Waist circumference is a better indicator of fat loss than scales as muscles weigh the same as fat, but their size is different. This makes a lot of difference, particularly when you work out regularly and stick to a healthy diet at the same time.
When you train, you replace fat with muscles (3). Your scales won’t display this, but by measuring waist circumference, you’ll see quite a telling difference. One pound of fat equals one pound of muscle, and the scales won’t move. However, your waist circumference changes because muscles are smoother and more compact and they take up less space in your body.
What is a Healthy Waist Circumference?
A healthy waist circumference is less than 40 inches for men and less than 35 inches for women (4). If your waist circumference is larger than this, you should consult your doctor to make the next steps.
To measure your waist circumference, you only need a tape measure.
- Start at the top of your hip bone and bring the tape measure all the way around your body, level with your belly button.
- Make sure it’s not too tight and it’s straight, even at the back. Avoid holding your breath while you measure.
- Check the number on the tape measure precisely after exhaling.
How Quickly Can You Lose Weight?
A healthy weight loss pace is approximately 1-2 pounds per week (7). More rapid weight loss is likely to harm your body and won’t provide sustainable results.
How many pounds does it take to lose an inch? Generally, it takes approximately 8 pounds to lose your first inch. This is because most of it will be water weight.
A more rapid drop in pounds in the first weeks of your journey is normal, mostly because of water weight. When you get into a calorie deficit, your body gets the energy it requires by initially releasing its stores of glycogen, a type of carbohydrate that is stored in your muscles and liver (2).
Glycogen is stored with water, so when you burn that glycogen to get energy, it releases water, which causes rapid water weight loss. Your weight loss will become slower when you have gotten rid of that water weight. As a consequence, your waist size reduction will also slow down.
How Can You Lose an Inch of Belly Fat in Four Weeks?
As you’ve seen, the maximum healthy weight loss pace is up to 2 pounds per week, while your first inch requires a loss of around 8 pounds. Therefore, it is entirely possible to lose an inch in four weeks.
To do this, you need to maintain a specific calorie deficit. To lose one pound per week, you need to reach a total calorie deficit of approximately 3,500 calories per week, which equates to 500 calories per day. To lose two pounds per week, double that number to get a 1,000-calorie per day deficit and 7,000 calories per week (1).
This level of calorie deficit may be difficult to achieve without reducing your calorie intake to an unsafe level, so it’s recommended that you also include calorie-burning exercises as part of your daily activities. You can create a deficit by burning more calories and/or by reducing your calorie intake. By doing both at the same time, you won’t need to do either to the extreme.
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Can you lose inches off your body without losing weight?
Yes, you can lose inches off your body without losing weight due to a process called body recomposition (5). This process involves losing fat while simultaneously building muscle, which results in a leaner and more toned appearance, even without significant weight loss.
Muscle is significantly more dense than fat, which means that the same volume of muscle will weigh more than the same volume of fat. It is also more compact and takes up less space in the body. This is why someone can appear slimmer and more toned with a higher muscle mass, even if their weight has not changed.
How long can a weight loss plateau last?
A weight loss plateau can last anything from a few weeks to several months. This is because our bodies are designed to adapt and regulate, which makes it more difficult to continue losing weight at the same rate as when we first started our weight loss journey.
During a plateau, it is important to re-evaluate your diet and exercise routine and make any necessary changes. Sometimes simple adjustments such as increasing physical activity or changing your macronutrient ratios can help you break through a plateau and continue your progress towards your goals.
Why did I gain weight so fast after losing it?
Gaining weight fast after losing it may mean you have chosen a weight loss method that is not sustainable or healthy for your body.
Many fad diets and extreme calorie restrictions can result in quick initial weight loss, but this often has a rebound effect with rapid weight gain once the restrictive eating pattern is ended.
Most people don’t understand that weight loss isn’t the destination, weight maintenance is. Once you reach your target weight, you need a strategy to maintain it.
Focus on long-term, sustainable changes rather than short-term solutions when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off. Slow and steady progress may not be as exciting, but it is more likely to have lasting results.
How long does it take to lose 1 inch off the waist?
There’s no set timeframe for losing one inch off your waist and it’s impossible to predict where your body will lose fat first or last. The rate at which you lose inches off your waist is also dependent on factors such as genetics, age, and overall body composition.
However, a healthy and sustainable approach to weight loss typically results in a slow and steady reduction of body fat over time. This means that losing one inch off your waist may take anything from two to four weeks or more depending on your starting point and your consistency with diet and exercise (6).
The Bottom Line
How many pounds does it take to lose an inch? The first inch will take approximately 8 pounds, while the next will be slower to achieve. To get the most out of your weight loss project, follow a balanced diet and check these best exercises to reduce belly fat.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 10 Ways to Lose 2 Pounds a Week (2020, verywellfit.com)
- Getting past a weight-loss plateau (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- How Many Pounds Do I Have to Lose to Drop an Inch? (n.d., livestrong.com)
- How to Measure Your Waist (n.d., webmd.com)
- How many steps you should do a day, if weight loss or better body composition is your goal (2023,womenshealthmag.com)
- Lose an inch off your waist in a week by following these simple steps (2023,telegraph.co.uk)
- Losing weight (n.d., cdc.gov)