Why Am I Losing Weight, But Not Belly Fat?

I need to lose belly fat, but the scale only shows that I am losing overall weight.

This is a very common question among people who are new to fitness and/or are trying to lose weight.

This article will explain why the scale may not show any change in your body composition (less belly fat) after working out for weeks or even months, despite dropping pounds on the scale.

Unfortunately, belly fat is tough to lose because it is usually the last place that your body digs in for fuel.

Why does belly fat come off last?

The reason why belly fat often is last to go is simply because of its location. Your body stores fat in different areas based on genetics, hormones, and the environment you are living in.

This means that it’s possible your belly fat loss may not show much progress until after the rest of your body has slimmed down.

When you start working out, you’ll begin to burn more calories, and as a result, you will lose weight. This might mean a couple of pounds here and there at first.

However, if you’re eating the same amount of food as before your workout routine started, then it probably means that these initial couple of pounds are from water weight.

Water weight is also what makes the numbers on your scale seem to jump up and down. Belly fat tends to hold water easily. However, just because the number on your scale is not consistent doesn’t mean you aren’t making any progress.

You may also see a fluctuation in the number on the scale if you haven’t had anything to eat or drink for a while (this can be by accident or due to intermittent fasting).

woman grabbing belly fat
It’s so frustrating when you’re doing everything “right” – eating healthy and exercising regularly – but the belly fat just won’t go away.

How to measure progress in losing belly fat

It is important to understand that the scale might not be accurate when it comes to measuring your overall weight loss.

Circumference measurements

One way you can track how much belly fat you’re losing is by taking circumference measurements of your waistline with a measuring tape.

Every two weeks measure your waistline in four different spots:

  • Right above your belly button
  • Left side of your belly button
  • Right side of your belly button
  • Left side of your belly button (basically the mirror image of the first measurement)

Take all four measurements and then calculate an average by adding them together and dividing by four.

For example, let’s say your measurements are 34 inches.

34/4 = 8.5 inches for your waistline measurement.

8.5 + 8.5 + 8.5 + 8.5 = 34 inches in total .

Write down your measurements so you have a record for future reference.

use measuring tape to accurately measure belly fat
Use a tape measure to accurately measure your waist size. Belly fat increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems, so it’s important to track your progress and make sure you’re on the right track.

Looking in the mirror

Another method, which some people prefer, involves looking in the mirror and seeing if you can notice a difference. You can do this by standing in front of the mirror naked or wearing only underwear.

Stand with your legs together and pull out your belly as much as you can without sucking it in.

Another visual option is to take pictures of yourself so you can document your progress.

How your clothes are fitting

You should also pay attention to how your clothes are fitting, as changes in your waistline will likely affect what size you buy.

If you notice your pants are getting looser, then you might be losing belly fat.

If you don’t see any changes in your waistline it could be a sign that you need to increase your workout intensity and add in some non-exercise activity.

It may also mean that you need to reduce your calorie intake for belly fat loss to occur.

Body fat calipers

You can also track belly fat loss is by using body fat calipers, which will give you an estimated percentage of fat in that area.

However, you should keep in mind that this technique is not the most accurate.

The problem with body fat calipers is that the measurements are highly dependent on who is performing the test. In addition, you need to make sure the person taking your measurements is trained and knows how to use a specific caliper.

It is also imperative that you use the calipers on the same spot each time, or else the readings would be off.

Using a combination of the methods mentioned here is the best way to measure progress in your quest to burn belly fat.

Tips For Losing Belly Fat Faster

Since you don’t feel that your belly fat is budging, give these strategies a whirl and see what happens.

Try intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting helps you lose belly fat by changing your body’s hormone levels. There isn’t a more efficient way to shed that annoying fat around your waistline, and research backs this up.

In a study conducted by the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, participants were divided into two groups:

One group practicing alternate daily fasting (eating 500 calories/day 1 day, then eating whatever they wanted for 24 hours 2 days), and one engaging in regular calorie restriction (75 percent of normal intake 5 days/week)—and the alternate-day fasting group lost over eight times as much deep belly fat as the calorie restrictors.

Learn more about intermittent fasting here.

Cut back on alcohol consumption.

Consuming excess amounts of alcohol will make it difficult for you to lose belly fat. Alcohol stops your body from burning fat and increases your body fat percentage by interfering with your metabolism.

Eat more fiber-rich foods.

Fiber can help you lose belly fat by making you feel full, which helps you take in fewer calories throughout the day. And, as you know, creating a calorie deficit is crucial for burning belly fat.

Fiber is also good for weight loss because it helps you regulate your blood sugar levels and keep you regular, banishing belly bloat.

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water, while insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. Foods that contain soluble fiber include oats, peas, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, and beans. I like to call these “fat burning vegetables“.

Whole grains also provide a good amount of fiber.

Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as wheat bran, whole-wheat bread, vegetables, and whole-grain cereals.

Eat more fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Fish such as mackerel, tuna and salmon are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids.

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil help burn fat and prevent the storage of belly fat. In addition, they also reduce inflammation throughout your body, which can also help shrink your waistline.

Fish oil supplements can also be helpful for weight loss if you’re not a fan of eating fish. Some good fish oil supplements are cod liver oil, or Carlson’s fish oil (my favorite, which you can purchase through our affiliate link on Amazon).

Increase your protein intake

Food high in protein increases your TEF (Thermic Effect of Food), which is the number of calories you burn digesting food. Increasing your protein intake will help you lose belly fat even faster because it increases TEF.

Some good protein sources for burning belly fat are chicken, whole eggs, salmon, and lean beef.

Eating a protein-packed power breakfast every day jump-starts your metabolism for the day, which allows you to burn more fat throughout the day.

It also prevents you from making unhealthy food choices later in the day because you’re just not hungry.

Do intense cardio once or twice a week.

High intensity cardio training is a great way to boost your metabolism and improve cardiovascular health. Studies have also shown that adding an HIIT session to your routine can help you burn belly fat faster.

Lift weights at least twice a week.

Weight training is important for everyone, even those trying to lose belly fat. Studies have shown that lifting weights can improve body composition and help with weight loss efforts.

If you’ve made it this far in the article, congratulations! We’ve got even more for you below.

6 key elements to keep in mind when working on losing belly fat:

#1. Muscle weighs more than fat.

The first thing I want to point out is that muscle weighs more than fat. One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories, but one pound of muscle is only about 15% of that (so 500 calories).

Thus it’s not hard to see why the scale won’t budge if you are trying to lose weight by burning off calories, but it won’t make much difference if you are losing body fat or muscle.

#2. Muscle is more dense than fat.

The other thing to point out is that muscle is more dense than fat. How much you weigh isn’t just determined by what kind of tissue it is but also the density and size of that tissue.

An easy way to think about this would be to imagine a pillow and a rock: which weighs more?

One pound of muscle is much smaller and denser than one pound of fat.

The point I’m trying to make is that if you’re losing weight by burning calories, as you lose weight the size and/or density of your body will change so that your overall weight doesn’t change much.

If this still isn’t making sense, imagine this: you drop a gallon of maple syrup and a gallon of water on the ground – which is going to make a bigger splat?

Now imagine dropping them from waist height. The outcome will be the same but the size of the splats will be different.

#3. A change in body composition doesn’t necessarily mean a weight change.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a change in body composition doesn’t necessarily mean your scale weight will go down.

I’m not saying it won’t, but just understand that any time you’re dealing with these types of changes to your body, the numbers on the scale may not tell the whole story.

There are plenty of other factors that could be changing besides weight, so you should focus on the results your body is getting instead.

If you’re losing inches around your chest, waist, and thighs then it’s obvious that something positive is happening. The belly fat will come off with persistence.

#4. A drop in water weight can cause the scale to go down but not fat loss.

A drop in water weight can cause the scale to go down but not fat loss. While this sounds confusing, it makes sense when you step back and think about what you’re doing when you’re practicing diet and exercise.

The first thing your body wants to do if you start restricting food intake is held on tightly to the water it has in storage. There’s nothing you can do about this, it’s simply a survival mechanism your body uses when around dehydration.

The thing is that water weight fluctuates and can cause the scale to go up and down without any change to actual fat loss: if you’re having a bad day but still want to weigh yourself then keep in mind that you would be better off using a different indicator such as inches lost.

In fact, drinking water has been shown to be beneficial for weight loss.

#5. Belly fat has more to do with health than looks.

Although we’re focused on the vanity aspect of losing belly fat here, it may add more fuel to your motivational fire to know that belly fat is a health indicator.

If you take two people who weigh the same but one is more overweight than the other, it can be said that the fatter person is in worse shape.

So when you’re looking to lose weight remember that losing fat, in general, is what’s important, not any one spot on your body.

#6. Losing belly fat takes dedication.

Losing belly fat takes dedication because it’s the hardest place for your body to lose weight, just like how gaining muscle in any one spot requires more work than doing so on another part of your body.

You have to know your limits and be patient but also aggressive in what you’re trying to do when it comes to losing weight – especially those last few pounds.

It’s easy to get down on yourself and think about how much weight you have left to lose, but remember that if you started at 300 lbs then losing 100 lbs is a huge deal.

If you can just take it one pound at a time and remind yourself of this whenever you feel like giving up, eventually you’ll get there and all of your hard work will be worth it.

It might take time, but it’s important to remember that you’re worth the wait – just like how your body is worth the weight loss!

Author

  • Mike Collins CPT- ISSA. Specialist in Performance Nutrition. Expert Fat Loss Consultant. Founder of MCNewsletters- Weight loss for Women, and co author of the Black Book of Secrets, Dirty Little Book of Dieting, and Man on a Mission. Has held the World Championship Title of Fitness Professional for 23 years. Got hooked on turning ordinary bodies into extraordinary bodies in the gym at night, while working his way through school. Now he observes the nuance and distinctions that generate success and slings insight straight to you from his laptop while eating pizza in Brooklyn or fish tacos in Sausalito. Easily Bribed w/ Tickets: U2. Baseball. Football. Basketball. Tennis. ✈ NYC ✈ Nor Cal ✈