8 Reasons You Lost Weight But Look Fatter

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Reasons You Lost Weight But Look Fatter

A lot of the changes people make to lose weight take a lot of work. This is why it can be discouraging to look in the mirror and not see the results immediately.

I feel like a lot of us have been there, wondering why what we were seeing in the mirror didn’t match the numbers going down on the scale. Does this mean that our hard work isn’t worth it?

And how can I have lost weight, but look fatter?

People might look fatter even after losing weight if they’ve lost water weight or muscle mass, instead of fat. Sagging skin, bloating, or water retention might make you look bigger. You may even look fatter because of when you’re looking for results, your own perception of your body, or because your routine isn’t working. 

Below, we’ll dive a little deeper into these 8 reasons that you might look fatter after losing weight. I’ll also go over why you might look the same after losing weight and when you should expect to see results of eating better or working out.

Why Do I Look Fatter After Losing Weight?

The truth is, there are a lot of different reasons you might look fatter after losing weight. The number on the scale isn’t always an accurate portrayal of what you weigh and there are a number of things that affect what you’re seeing in the mirror, ranging from belly bloat to your own perception of your body. Let’s take a closer look at these and other reasons.

Fat vs. Muscle

The problem that a lot of us have with weight loss is that the number on the scale doesn’t really reflect what’s going on with our bodies. There are so many things that affect your weight, including water retention, how much muscle you’ve built, and how much fat you’ve actually lost.

While some exercises are great for helping you lose fat, they don’t help with building muscle. When you build muscle doing light (or heavy) lifting and or calisthenics like pushups or pull-ups, muscle is then going to replace lost fat.

While muscle doesn’t necessarily weigh more than fat, it does change how your body looks because a pound of muscle takes up more space than a pound of fat.

Your Skin Hasn’t Bounced Back Yet

When people gain weight, fat accumulates under the skin. This causes your skin to stretch. As you lose weight, this stretched skin doesn’t bounce back into place.

While anyone can have trouble with skin “bouncing back” with weight loss, it’s most common in people who have been overweight for a long time and people who gained weight rapidly, like pregnant women. Older men and women also may struggle with this because of the natural loss of collagen that happens with age.

Saggier skin makes you look fatter because it doesn’t show off the definition of your muscles. It can also make your face look fat underneath, which makes you look older.

Adding collagen-boosting foods to your diet, exfoliating, and using a firming moisturizer could help get rid of some of that loose skin. Some people also opt for plastic surgery to remove loose skin once they’ve met their weight loss goals.

Water Retention

Even though our bodies are made up of mostly water, they can hold onto more water than they need. Like you can be dehydrated from not drinking enough fluids or replacing fluids in your body, you can also be over-hydrated.

Water retention happens for a number of reasons. It’s really common to notice swelling in your feet and legs caused by trapped fluids if you’ve been on your feet for longer periods. Things like hormones and salt intake affect water retention as well.

Like water retention can make you appear fatter, it can also make you think that you’ve lost more weight than you actually have. You might not notice bodily changes if the weight you’ve lost is from losing fluids.


In addition to water retention making you look fatter than you are, bloating could be the reason you aren’t seeing the results you think you should. Bloating is a relatively common symptom that people deal with. It’s also something that should go away with time unless there’s an underlying medical condition.

You might look bloated for a number of reasons. While eating a lot of food can make you bloated, the types of food you eat might make you bloated, too. Even when you look in the mirror changes how you look, because most people look fatter at night.

Some people have sensitivities to certain foods (like red meats, gluten, processed sugars, eggs, or dairy) that trigger inflammation. This inflammation gives you a bloated appearance.

Bloating can also happen after a large meal, or even for several hours after you eat. It takes the body a long time to digest food fully, and it can be as long as 36 hours before it exits your body.

Finally, you might look bloated if you swallow too much air. Everyone swallows some air when eating and drinking, but things like chewing gum, eating too fast, and even having anxiety can make you swallow excess air that causes abdominal pain and stomach bloat.

You Just Finished a Workout

There are plenty of people on social media that seem like they take the perfect after-workout selfies. This can make it discouraging if you end up looking flabby instead of fit after you’ve been running or hitting the gym.

For a lot of people, an intense workout raises your body temperature and opens up your blood vessels, helping your heart pump blood through your body during your workout. This expansion of your blood vessels can actually result in your looking expanded from the heat, like in people who get runner’s belly.

Your Perception of Your Body

Thins like the mirror you are looking at yourself in, what you are wearing, and even how you are standing is going to affect the overall appearance of how you look. Additionally, if you think you look fat, then there’s a good chance that your mind will trick you into thinking that you actually are fat, too.

Sometimes, the way you are seeing your body might also be caused by having a negative body image. Struggling with feeling confident is a great motivator for people to lose weight, but it can be discouraging to make healthy changes and still not feel confident when you look in the mirror.

How Do I Know if My Diet and Exercise Routine is Working?

With all these reasons that you might have lost weight but still look fatter, it can be hard to know when whatever you’re doing is working. Plus, everyone’s body is different and it’s important to have an eating and exercise routine that works for you.

If you are making healthier eating choices and not exercising (or exercising without making better food choices), it’s possible you aren’t doing enough. However, it’s also possible that you need to give your body a little longer to start showing certain results.

Rather than focusing on the number on the scale, it’s a lot more accurate to measure areas like your arms, thighs, hips, butt, and waist if you are trying to lose fat. Here’s a video that shows you how to do some of that.

And for people who are trying to get healthier by losing weight, you’re also likely to notice a difference in the way you feel. For example, it’ll get easier to breathe when you’re up walking around and you’ll have more energy during the day.

Why Do I Look the Same After Losing Weight?

The reason you might look the same after losing weight is that you see yourself every single day. Weight loss is something that happens gradually and over time, rather than something you’ll see the results of the same day.

This means that as minor changes happen, you probably don’t really notice them. You’re a lot more likely to see differences by measuring yourself weekly to see if changes are happening and you aren’t seeing them.

Another way you can measure weight loss is by taking before and after photos. For accuracy, take these wearing the same clothes, in the same place. The reason you want to be consistent with where you’re measuring results is that you look different in different mirrors.

How Long Will it Take to See Results of a Diet and Exercise Routine?

It’s hard to put a time stamp on when you’re going to see results. Everybody’s body is unique. Things like what weight you are starting at, how much and the types of exercise you are getting, and the calories and types of foods you are eating are all going to play a role.

There are even other factors that affect your weight, including if you’re under a lot of stress, how much water you are drinking, and if you are getting enough sleep at night. Underlying health issues might affect any results you are or aren’t seeing, too.

For this reason, the best thing to do is be patient and focus on making healthier decisions. If you do want to lose weight and are struggling, work with your doctor, a nutritionist, or a personal trainer to help you tailor a routine that’s going to work for your body and fitness goals. There are also apps that can help.

Do You Look Fatter Before Losing Weight?

Yes, some people do look fatter before losing weight. The foods you are eating could play a role, especially if you are making big changes. Your body might need time to adjust to eating better, more fiber-rich foods and this can cause gas and bloating that makes you look bigger.

You also might look fatter before losing weight if you’re increasing your water intake. This is a good tool for staying hydrated, helping reduce snack cravings, and keeping your metabolism running well.

Finally, this could be caused by the way that your body is changing. Some people experience fat loss first, so they are dealing with loose skin that makes them look fatter before they are able to build up muscle.

Why Do I Look Fatter But My Weight is the Same?

There are a lot of reasons you might look fatter but your weight is the same. If you’ve experienced muscle loss and that has been replaced with fat, you’ll look bigger without a change in weight because muscle takes up more space than fat, but a pound of fat and muscle weigh the same.

You also might look fatter because you are bloated. As I mentioned earlier, there are a number of reasons for bloating, including water retention, undigested food, inflammation, being in the heat or exercising, and more.

Final Word

The reason you may have lost weight but look fatter could be water retention, bloating, or even your perception of your body. It’s also possible that you are expecting too much too fast, or that your routine just isn’t working for your body.

It’s important to remember as you strive for your weight loss goals that any progress is good progress. It can take time to see results and a lot of times, one of the first things you’re going to notice is how much better you feel when you start to get healthy.

Plus, the number on the scale doesn’t always accurately reflect the changes that are happening inside and outside of your body. Hopefully, this has given you some new perspective on how to tell if your workout routine is really working.

Camila R.

Camila is a body positive blogger and fat activist that's focused on helping people of all sizes live life big! That means accepting yourself at any size and just enjoying life! She lives in New Mexico with her husband and two chihauhuas.

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