Fat loss and weight loss do not only show in one single way. There are many signs that potentially indicate that you are losing weight.
There is no particular weight loss or fat burning physical feeling or sensation so you have to rely on signs to see if you’re making progress.
These signs are often what people are really after anyway. A number on the scale is just that, a number on the scale. In reality, you probably want to be healthier, feel better, and look better.
You do have to keep in mind that these signs do not always mean you’re losing fat or weight. They are things you can keep track of and celebrate but they are not always completely objective.
1. Looser clothes
Gaining a lot of weight basically means that you’re storing more and more energy, measured in calories, in the form of body fat. After a while so much body fat gets stored that your old clothes don’t fit anymore, or they are a tighter fit.
By losing weight you slowly but surely get rid of these fat stores in your body. So when you’re losing weight you might notice that your clothes get less tight again. This can happen with everything ranging from shirts to even shoes!
The circumference of certain body parts is a good way to measure weight loss progress. You do have to keep in mind that your clothes could also feel looser because of something like less bloating. Losing inches does not always mean you’re losing weight.
2. You look different in pictures
The number on the scale isn’t the only sign things are changing. When you start losing fat you also start to look different. Regularly taking pictures of yourself can help you see whether you are making weight loss progress.
One study tried to find out how weight loss had to happen for someone to notice a difference in the persons face and attractiveness (1).
This study found that people are able to notice weight loss as soon as 1.33 kg/m² which is about 2.93 pounds / m² which is a BMI reduction in 1.33.
They also found that changes of about double that amount were necessary to improve attractiveness. So a change in BMI of about 2.38 for women and 2.59 for men.
There is an extremely important thing you need to get from this. If you see yourself one way or another every day, you will not visually see progress happening. Unless you manage to change your BMI by 1.33 in a day.
This means that you should not compare pictures with a few days in between. It takes longer than that to achieve a 1.33 BMI difference.
3. Compliments from people around you
Besides that it takes some time, another reason you often are the last to notice weight loss is simply that it’s often harder to be objective about yourself.
If you get 10 compliments from people who didn’t even know you were trying to lose weight you know something is happening. In a situation like this, you can probably conclude that you are indeed losing weight.
The absence of compliments of course doesn’t mean you’re not making progress. People that see you every day might be slow to notice all the progress you are making. The longer people have not seen you, the more likely they will notice your weight loss.
4. Lower body fat percentage
A different way to measure fat loss and weight loss is by measuring your body fat percentage. Body fat percentage is how much percent of your weight is due to body fat.
In numbers this is [weight from body fat] divided by [total body weight]. So if you weigh 200 pounds and 20 of those pounds are body fat you have a body fat percentage of 10%.
The problem with body fat percentage is that it’s usually harder or more expensive to measure accurately. In any case, a lower body fat percentage is another sign you are losing weight.
5. Daily activities are easier to do
Extra amounts of body fat can make daily activities more tiring. More body fat means extra weight you have to carry around and body fat also causes inflammation which can make you feel more tired.
The more fat you lose the more these feelings will go away. Everyday chores that used to leave you out of breath might be possible without any effort.
A lot of people underestimate how much better they can feel by losing some pounds of body fat.
6. Getting sick less often
Excess body fat increases the risk on heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension,…(2). It would be no surprise if being overweight increased your risk on basically any disease in some way or another.
Once you start losing weight you will most likely get sick less often. This sign doesn’t stand out for most people unless they are reminded of it. Are you getting sick less often? It might be because you are losing weight.
7. Spaces feel more… spacious
Another thing that stands out for many people who lose a considerable amount of weight is that it feels like there is more space around them. Which is true in some sense.
The seat on the plane, sitting in the car, and just moving around in general can feel better and better the more weight you lose.
8. Muscles and bones become visible
Once body fat starts accumulating on your body, many bones and muscles get hidden. Some people have not seen their collarbone in years. The same goes for muscles on different body parts.
The collarbone is a great example. If this bone becomes visible after years of hiding it’s a good sign you’re losing fat.
9. Better sleep
Being overweight has a negative impact on your sleep quality and duration.
One study looked at the effect of weight loss surgery on the sleep quality of 13 individuals (3). After these people lost weight their sleep quality improved drastically. This does not mean you have to get weight loss surgery to receive the same benefits. You probably get a larger sleep improvement if you lose weight without surgery.
If you are noticing an increase in sleep quality or duration that might be a sign you’re losing weight.
Do keep in mind that this could also be because of improvements in other areas of your life. Things like exercising a healthy amount and consuming the right amount of magnesium also improve your sleep quality and duration.
10. The number on the scale keeps moving down
Finally, the ideal way to know if you are losing weight is the scale. Whether that weight loss is fat loss isn’t always clear. You could be gaining muscle and water weight while at the same time losing fat.
One way to develop a healthier relationship with the scale is by focusing more on weight trends instead of individual measurements. Your weight will go up and down for reasons that have nothing to do with fat loss.
That does not mean you should never use the weight scale again. Weighing yourself is an easy way to get an extra point of data that can help you see if your current routine is making you lose or gain weight.
If you do stop using the scale it’s even more important to pay attention to the above signs and other non scale victories. Without any way of measuring you would never know whether or not you are making progress.