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Most people don’t like looking in the mirror and feeling like they’ve gained weight. Sometimes, this can even happen without the number on the scale moving even a little bit, and it can really leave you wondering why.
Why do I look fatter without gaining weight?
You are most likely to look fatter without gaining weight because of water retention. However, bloating, lost muscle mass from being sedentary, and even the clothes you are wearing can change how fat you look. Weight fluctuations are normal and shouldn’t discourage you if you’re working toward a specific fitness or weight loss goal.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at these five reasons your weight stays the same but you look fatter. In most cases, you’ll see it has little to do with your weight at all.
Why Do I Look Fatter Without Gaining Weight?
The most likely reason for looking bigger even though you haven’t gained weight is that you’ve eaten recently and are experiencing water retention. However, water retention can happen for a number of other reasons, too.
Additionally, you may look bigger without actually putting on weight because of bloating or lost muscle mass. Even how you dress can change how fat you look. Plus, weight fluctuations are normal!
Reason 1: Water Retention
Water retention is probably the most likely reason you look fatter without gaining weight. It’s very normal to experience water retention after a meal, which is one reason that you might look fatter after you eat. The bulk of your food does not generally cause it unless you’ve eaten a lot.
Water retention from eating happens because your body requires water to process carbohydrates and sodium. Some other causes of water retention include hormones (especially during that time of the month for women), being in hot weather, whether you’ve been sitting or standing, the balance of electrolytes in your body, and a number of other factors.
Something to keep in mind is that while you can take steps to balance your electrolytes, eat less sodium, get enough sleep, drink enough water, and do all those things that help with water retention, some water retention is normal. People’s weight does fluctuate from day to day.
Reason 2: You’ve Lost Muscle Mass
You’ve probably heard people say that muscle weighs more than fat as a reason that you lose weight but still look the same. This isn’t necessarily true, since a pound of anything weighs the same as a pound of anything else. However, it is true that muscle takes up less space than fat.
Basically, this means that if you aren’t using your muscles (like if you quit working out or lead a really sedentary lifestyle), your body is going to look flabbier and less toned than it would if you had more muscle mass.
This is one of the reasons that people who are underweight look fat sometimes- being skinny doesn’t necessarily mean you are healthy.
Reason 3: You’re Bloated
Bloating is something that most people experience throughout their lives. It can be caused by a number of things like the foods you eat or even running outside when it’s hot. Hormones, stress, or PMS can also cause bloating.
That being said, the most common culprit of bloating is intestinal gas. When your body breaks down food, especially certain foods, it creates air bubbles in your digestive tract.
This is most likely to happen when eating beans, legumes, onions, garlic, cruciferous vegetables, or carbonated beverages. Bloating also happens if you have a food sensitivity or allergy, which is most common with foods like gluten or dairy.
Even if you’re bloated after eating a big meal, keep in mind that this still doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve gained weight. It takes a whole 3,500 calories surplus of what your body needs to gain a pound.
This means that to gain a pound per week, you’d need to eat 500 calories in excess of your body’s needs every day without increasing your physical activity at all.
Reason 4: Your Clothing Can Change the Way That You Look
Fashion makes a big difference when it comes to how you look and how you feel. Honestly, I can say there were times when it was my outfit (not my self-esteem) that made me feel confident. And honestly, that’s okay because confidence has to start somewhere!
While I always say there are no hard-and-fast rules for fashion and that you should be able to wear anything you want, there are guidelines that you can follow to help you dress well as a fat person. For example, while I wouldn’t say to stay away from stripes or polka dots altogether, there are different ways to style them that look better on a plus size body.
The same thing can be said of certain clothing items. You can absolutely wear things that people say fat people shouldn’t wear like crop tops or pleated skirts, but sometimes you can feel more confident in them if they are styled a certain way.
In addition to clothing, even the mirror that you’re standing in front of might make you look fatter or different depending on things like the type and thickness of the mirror, the lighting of the room, and even the angle of the mirror relative to your body. It’s all about perception and has little to do with your actual weight.
Reason 5: It’s Normal for Your Weight to Fluctuate
At one time, I’d be the first to talk about how discouraging it would be to step on the scale and see that you haven’t reached your weight loss goal. It’s even more discouraging to go up a few pounds.
I’ve learned though, that it’s pretty unrealistic to expect yourself never to gain weight. People’s weight fluctuates, even when they are eating all the right foods and getting enough physical activity.
That is one of the reasons I advocate not weighing yourself too often when losing weight, or even taking your measurements rather than looking at the number on the scale. In my opinion, your BMI and physical weight aren’t usually the best indicator of how healthy you actually are.
Why Does My Face Look Fatter When I Haven’t Gained Weight?
Like in the case of your body looking fatter, sometimes, the simplest answer to why your face looks fatter without gaining weight is water retention. Water retention happens all over your body, including your face.
Your face also might look fatter if you haven’t been sleeping well, are not hydrated enough, or are not getting enough nutrients from your diet. Things like this, as well as lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking, or even not wearing sunscreen, affect your body’s ability to produce collagen.
Collagen is responsible for the plumpness of your face. When collagen levels are low, it makes wrinkles more apparent and can give you looser skin, which makes your face appear fatter.
If you’ve changed your hairstyle or shaved your face, it can also change the roundness and how your face looks. Some people also find their face looks fatter after shaving because of skin irritation or the products that they used.
Why Does My Weight Stay the Same But I Look Fatter?
As I’ve mentioned, there are a number of reasons that you look fatter even though your weight is the same. Water retention, bloating, and lost muscle mass could all cause this.
Plus, sometimes people just look bigger at the end of the day because of the effects of gravity. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve gained or lost weight.
When it comes to your weight, those day-to-day fluctuations are normal and have little to do with actual weight gain. Just like losing weight typically takes work, gaining actual weight takes consuming more calories than you need without burning those calories off.
Hopefully, this article has been helpful in answering your questions about why I look fatter without gaining any weight. While it can be due to bloating, lost muscle mass, or even your clothing, the most likely culprit is water retention.