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Getting in Shape Doesn’t Have to Mean Losing Weight

LIVESTRONG.COM is dedicated to empowering and inspiring people of all ages to live an active, healthy life. In light of that mission, the Editorial Team has teamed up with to create content that promotes health and wellness for teens.

Getting in Shape Doesn't Mean Losing Weight

Have you ever scrolled through Instagram or flipped through your favorite magazines and found yourself envying someone's bikini abs or smooth, toned legs? Do the pictures ever make you feel like you need to lose weight — and fast?

It's possible you should work towards a healthier weight. But what if I told you that getting the look you're after didn't necessarily require losing any weight? Sometimes, looking more firm doesn't involve any weight loss. For some people, looking firmer actually requires weight gain. This may sound impossible, but it's true.

3 Reasons Looking Fit Doesn't Always Mean Losing Weight 

1. Looking fit is different than looking thin. It's true that some people need to reduce their body fat to reach a healthy weight and look more fit, but that's only part of the journey. Looking like you’re in great shape and feeling firmer happens when you build and tone the muscles under your skin.

[Read More: Is There Such a Thing as "Unhealthy" Exercise?]

2. The scale doesn't tell you about strength and muscle tone. Muscle tissue is denser than fat. If you looked at a pound of fat and a pound of muscle next to one another, you would see that a pound of muscle takes up a lot less space. Two people who weigh the same can look totally different because one could have a higher percentage of body fat, while the other could have a higher percentage of muscle.

As you get stronger and leaner from working out and eating better, you can lose pounds from fat, but gain pounds of muscle. The scale won't tell you how strong you are or how much more toned you look.

3. Loose skin can be the culprit. If you recently dropped a bunch of weight (50 or more pounds), you’re likely well on your way to better health — so long as your weight loss doesn't take you below your physician's recommended weight for your height — but sagging skin can prevent you from getting the toned results you want.

[Read More: Filling in the Facts About Thigh Gaps]

Skin stretches with weight gain and it doesn't necessarily "snap back" after significant weight loss. If you think this might be an issue, speak to your doctor about your options.

Getting fit and healthy doesn't have to mean losing weight.

How to Start Getting Toned:

* Get to know your body composition. When it comes to toning, understanding your body composition, which includes your body-fat percentage and muscle percentage, is important in creating a meaningful fitness plan. Health-care providers, along with certified personal trainers and licensed nutritionists, can help you figure out if you need to lose weight or if you should just be focusing on strength training.

Doctors and fitness experts will evaluate your BMI (body mass index), a common measure of whether your body is at a healthy weight, and they will likely do additional tests to measure your muscle and fat percentages.

Read More: 7 Ways to Get Fit Without Going to the Gym

You might be tempted to use a DIY BMI calculator online, but stick to personalized, expert advice on this topic instead. BMI calculators can be misleading because they will not give you the details of your body composition or your true fitness level. Aside from talking to your doctor, you can check with local gyms to see if they have any free workshops for teens or if they do free, individualized consultations.

* Eat healthfully. Nutritious food keeps you energized for your workouts and for life in general! Make sure you're eating balanced meals that include servings of lean protein to help build muscle.

* Exercise. Strength-building exercises are the key to toning your muscles. If you aren't sure where to start, ask your school counselor or doctor.

* Focus on your own progress. Pictures of other people might inspire you to get in shape, but when it comes to tracking your progress, don't compare yourself to others. Everyone is different and comparisons don't help you improve. Pay attention to how healthy and strong you feel and how your own endurance grows.

– Kimberly


Readers — Did you know that you can gain weight when you’re working out and getting in shape? Do you pay attention to the numbers on a scale or how you feel? Do you ever compare yourself to other people? If so, why? Leave a comment below and let us know!


Kimberly Wolf, M.Ed., is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of, a new health, wellness, and lifestyle destination just for teenage girls. Kimberly graduated from Brown University, where her senior thesis exploring the history and evolution of sexual health content in girls' magazines earned honors in Women's Studies. She also holds a master's degree in human development and psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she studied adolescent health and media. She is a national speaker and has been quoted in online publications, including, WebMD and 

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About BMI for Children and Teens.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 July 2014. Web. 18 Dec. 2014. 


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