Changes in weight may mean you have to update your wardrobe. And indeed, some people use clothing size as a benchmark for losing weight. But if you're wondering how much weight loss it takes to lose a size, there's no straightforward answer.
That's because people have unique body types and compositions that don't necessarily cleanly correlate to clothing sizes. However, there is some connection between weight loss and dropping sizes — here's what you need to know.
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Targeted weight loss is a myth, according to the American Council on Exercise. Losing weight instead results in slimming down your entire body, rather than one specific part.
How Much Weight to Lose to Go Down a Size
Unfortunately, there's no perfectly accurate weight-loss, pant-size calculator. And there's likewise no straightforward answer for how many pounds there are between dress sizes or how many pounds is a dress size.
That's because clothing size doesn't just depend on your weight: It's also determined by other factors like height, sex and body type, according to older but still-relevant 2005 research in the Journal of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management.
For example, if you carry more weight in your hips, your waist might correspond to a size 6 jeans while your hips are more in line with size 10 jeans. Or you may wear a size 6 dress while someone shorter with the same weight wears a dress size 8.
In other words, quantifying dress size by weight isn't reliable.
Similarly, the type of weight you lose can influence how slimming down affects your body size and proportions. Muscle is denser than fat, per the Cleveland Clinic. So losing fat may have a more noticeable effect on your body size (and, as a result, clothing size) than burning muscle, even if your weight doesn't change much.
Besides, you want to build and maintain muscle to support strength and additional calorie burn as you lose weight, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Ratio of weight lost also matters: For example, someone who weighs 350 pounds may still wear the same clothing after 1o pounds of weight loss, whereas a 100-pound person who loses 10 pounds may drop a size.
As a result, understanding how many dress sizes corresponds to 15 pounds of weight loss, say, isn't straightforward.
What's more, clothing brands don't always have consistent or accurate sizing, according to July 2018 research in Obesity. For instance, your pant size may range from a size 16 to size 12 depending on the brand, even though your weight is the exact same.
Finally, other factors like excess skin can affect your clothing size. If you've lost a lot of weight, you may have sagging skin that prevents you from dropping a size or finding clothing that fits well, per the Cleveland Clinic. As a result, your weight loss may not directly translate to smaller clothes.
The takeaway? There's no good estimate for how much weight loss it takes to go down a size, as quantifying dress sizes in weight terms isn't consistent.
How to Lose Weight
The best way to lose weight to go down a pant size is by cutting calories through diet and exercise, per the Mayo Clinic.
Whether your goal is to lose three sizes or drop from a size 22 to size 8, how long it takes to drop a size depends on factors like diet, activity level and starting weight. In general, though, stick to the expert-recommended weight-loss pace of 1 to 2 pounds per week.
How Many Inches to Drop a Dress Size
When it comes to how many pounds it takes to lose a dress size, waist circumference is a more effective correlate to clothing size than weight, according to a December 2020 study in Preventive Medicine Reports. In short, the bigger the waist circumference (the waist is the first number on jeans sizes), the larger the pant size.
Typically, clothing sizes up for every two or three additional inches around your waist (in U.S. sizes), according to the Alzheimer's Association. In other words, weight loss that results in cutting two or three inches around your waist is how much may be needed to lose a dress size.
The question of how many pounds it takes to lose an inch, however, can vary based on your starting weight, body type and composition.
It's also important to remember that losing a specific number of inches off your waist still doesn't always reliably correlate to lower clothing sizes, as brands don't always use consistent sizing, per the Journal of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management research.
For example, two dresses from different clothing brands may have the exact same measurements, but one is labeled a size 10 while the other is labeled a size 6.
Still, you can generally expect that your clothing size may change if you lose inches around your waist.
Remember, your wellbeing and worth aren't determined by the number on your clothing label. So while dropping a size may keep you motivated, what's most important is that you feel your best physically and mentally no matter your weight.
- Journal of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management: "Journal of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management"
- Obesity: "Normalization of Plus Size and the Danger of Unseen Overweight and Obesity in England"
- Mayo Clinic: "Why do doctors recommend a slow rate of weight loss? What's wrong with fast weight loss?"
- Preventive Medicine Reports: "Body shape and pants size as surrogate measures of obesity among males in epidemiologic studies"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Body Mass Index and Body Fat"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Weight Loss: The Lowdown on Losing Weight"
- American Council on Exercise: "Myths and Misconceptions: Spot Reduction and Feeling the Burn"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Excess Skin Removal"
- Alzheimer's Association: "Standard U.S. Apparel Size Chart"
- Rush University Medical Center: Is There 'One Trick' to Losing Belly Fat?