Does Losing Weight Make You Taller (or Shorter)?

Weight gain is a problem in the modern world. For the average adult it is easy to pile the pounds on without realizing it, through poor nutrition and a lack of willpower to exercise or sign up for a gym membership.


It is important to understand the the link between an unhealthy weight and back pain is prominent in overweight or obese women and men. Where you carry excess fat answers to this, as around the midsection poses a greater risk of health problems. This can lead to several muscular and skeletal issues that affect our mobility.


As time goes by, if left untreated these problems can worsen often leading to further issues, and in some cases lead to limited mobility for a lifetime. Some of the conditions caused by obesity will speed up the process of height loss. However, if treated sooner rather than later, a normal, functional weight can reverse these problems.


The Truth About Weight Loss And Height Gain

If you're marginally overweight, then losing that weight isn't going to make a difference to your height. Yet if you lose a considerable amount of weight (especially around the stomach area) there will be less weight pulling you forwards and pressure on the spine. Your posture will improve and a little height can be gained.


does losing weight make you taller

How To Determine If You Are Overweight?

Healthcare professionals use your body mass index (BMI) score to gauge the amount total body fat. This score is also an indicator of many health risks. So, to understand which weight category you fall into it is important you check your BMI. It calculates by dividing your weight in kilograms by height in meters squared to work out if your weight is normal.  You can check your BMI here or monitor it yourself at home.


What Age Do You Stop Growing?

To understand how weight affects height it is important that we do not confuse this with natural height growth. So, this poses another question - when do we stop growing ? 


Due to our genetic makeup guiding this process, it is impossible to determine exactly when this will happen.


But, as a general rule of averages, females will stop within a few years of starting their menstrual cycle. This averages at around 15 years of age, but growth can last until 16 or 17. Males tend to stop growing by 18, but in rare cases can experience growth as an adult into their early 20's.


The reason we stop growing is the closing of the epiphyseal plates (growth plates). To determine whether your growth plates have fused it is possible to have an x-ray. If they are still open then there is still a possibility to grow.


Does Weight loss Stunt Growth?

As long as you are eating healthy meals with essential vitamins and minerals to maintain bone and muscle health then cutting weight will not stunt your growth. Your body needs feeding like anything else, and if it does not get the right nutrients then it will start degrading. 


It is important when losing weight to make sure you follow a plan which ensures you remain healthy.


Weight Loss And height Loss

There is some evidence to suggest that when you lose weight your feet become smaller, and alongside this the fat pads that run along the soles of the feet become thinner, and this can cause a slight loss of height. Therefore it is normal to shrink in height when you lose weight if the weight is carried on the soles of the feet.


The only other way you could become shorter through losing weight is if you are not feeding your body with the right nutrients to maintain spinal health, but this would happen over a long period of time. 


Of course, this is different for everyone. It depends on your physiological make-up.

 

Studies

There are limited studies concerning if people gained height after losing weight. However, there have been studies focused on the spine and how obesity affects disc-space height. 


One study focused on 72 participants who went through magnetic resonance imaging, measuring spinal disc height from segments L1–L2 to L5–S1. It concluded that obesity was associated with reduced disc height in the lumbar spine. (1)


tall giraffe measuring

Another study also investigated the relationships between obesity and disc height. Disc-space height was measured before and 1 year after weight reduction surgery. ’Obesity was associated with reduced disc height in the lumbar spine’. The findings indicated a very slight increase in disc height 1 year after the weight loss of participants. (2)


These studies suggest that being obese puts excess pressure on the spine that can lead to disk height reduction, so if left untreated excess pressure on the spine could potentially speed up the process of height loss.


Weight Loss And Spinal Disc Height


Spinal Compression 

Due to aging the vertebrae path extending down the spine tends to weaken. We will also gradually lose bone mass. Obesity pushes the body into postures that change the natural shape of the spine and which can speed up this process. Spinal compression ranges anywhere from your neck (cervical spine) down to your lower back (lumbar spine). This includes nerve compression, and also compression fractures, causing vertebral bones to decrease in height up to 15-20% (3). Symptoms of spinal compression range from numbness in the legs, the thighs and arms and loss of sensation in the feet.


the spine perfect shape

Degenerated Discs

Spinal disks act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae of your spine. They function to help your back stay flexible, with supple movement. Once a disc has degenerated it can’t regenerate, so prevention is vital for spinal health. By the age of 60, most of us will have experienced disc degeneration to some degree, as a gradual height loss occurs.


This can cause pain ranging from minor to crippling! In some cases, excess weight can impact this.

Excess weight places extra stress on the spine and can speed up the process of disc degeneration, and height loss.


Symptoms range from acute pain that makes the normal movement of the back difficult, such as bending, lifting, or twisting. Also, increased discomfort when sitting and the need to change positions when lying down are possible signals of degenerated discs.


Spinal Curvature

In overweight or obese individuals, loading weight on the joints is altered because fat will deposit around the body. To compensate for the excess weight, over time, the spine can become sloped unevenly. As a result, the back may lose its proper support, and an unnatural curvature of the spine may develop.


Excess abdominal fat is an area of particular concern, as range of motion to bend forward becomes shorter and restricted. This creates an imbalance of weight on the spine which can cause lower back problems. If your BMI is within a normal range, this can help to prevent spinal curvature. In some instances spinal curvature can correct itself by losing weight, which will help with your posture and to stand straighter.  


Posture Issues

When asking 'does losing weight make you taller', posture can’t be overlooked. One thing is for sure - if you are overweight the extra kilos will pull your belly forwards and body down towards the ground, making it more difficult to stand upright. You might feel shorter because of this, and you will appear shorter than if standing with a correct posture.


Extra weight can cause the natural curve of the lower back to become exaggerated. This tilts the pelvis too far forward, placing extra stress on the spine. Other postural Issues such as rounded shoulders AKA 'Mom posturedevelop by daily tasks in the modern world. This can weaken muscles and cause issues in the neck, back, and spine.


If you are using a laptop, smartphone, or tablet and sitting for long periods, or if you constantly carry heavy objects then you are more at risk of developing posture issues. 

Treatments

A regular BMI will combat the effects of obesity. The below treatments can help you to stand taller when losing a lot of weight. It is advisable to talk with your doctor about which treatment path to take for your particular back pain-related symptoms.


Chiropractic Adjustments For A Straighter Spine

The sound of a 'crack' has never been more satisfying, as adjustments to the back can be beneficial for pain control and posture issues.

an overweight man with back pain and posture issues

Manual manipulation therapy by a chiropractor will help your spine to function normally. In fact, this is one of the best ways to help many health-related issues, especially those with complications of obesity.


Due to excess pressure on the body, issues with circulation, balance, energy flow, and breathing can occur. This can be a painful experience and also limit mobility. Manual manipulation therapy can counteract these issues. Patients should start to feel more energized and be able to go about their daily lives and routines in a less stressful way.

 

Pilates For Improved Posture

Focusing to improve spinal coordination, Pilates is an excellent form of exercise to maintain spinal health. It will help you to become more flexible, and balanced through strengthening your core muscles. This will help you to endure the pressures of excess weight through day-to-day activities.


Pilates also helps to alleviate pain caused by degenerated discs and other back-related problems. This is a lifelong practice and is something that needs to be worked into your daily routine for the benefits to really shine, though.


Physical Therapy For Range of Motion

Physical therapy can be beneficial in many ways. This will influence you to push your body to physical limits to regain range-of-motion and mobility. It should help you to lose weight, strengthen your muscles, and improve an overall sense of well-being.


Also, due to their training, physical therapists can instruct you on proper walking, lifting, and sitting techniques. They will teach you the correct way to stretch your muscle tissue and raise flexibility in your spine. They will be a good support for your weight loss journey as they are able to help you develop a fitness plan to achieve your goals.


Acupuncture For Energy Flow

Dating all the way back to 100 BC in China, acupuncture is one of the oldest treatments still used in the Western world. The premise centers around energy and how it flows within the body. Energy 'chee' is channeled throughout the body to create balance. The more weight we carry, the greater the risk of body imbalance, such as musculoskeletal problems.


So, acupuncture can help reduce muscle tension by stimulating the body's natural healing abilities. It works by inserting a small needle into the problem area, and in response the body deposits a connective energy flow providing circulation to that area, promoting healing and pain control.

 

Massage Therapy For Pain Relief

Massage therapy has many benefits, which include relieving anxiety, boosting immunity, increased blood circulation and joint flexibility. It helps to relax muscles, allowing them time to heal faster. Studies have shown that combining acupuncture and massage therapy on obese patients can help to encourage weight loss.  


So, these treatments seem to go hand in hand with each other. Also, due to the stress and pain relief that massage therapy can provide, it will help with a positive mental attitude. This will also help maintain mobility, aiding you to stay motivated and working hard towards your weight loss goals.


Self-confidence And Carrying Yourself to Look Taller

Self-confidence is gained through doing things that give rise to self-respect. Remember, the journey is an equally important part of the puzzle as the final result, which can be life-changing.


Due to putting in effort and working hard towards accomplishing a goal, knowledge is gained through learning new skills. 


This can raise our confidence and push us forward to start achieving new things. We will feel good and be proud of ourselves, and rightly so. You will start to carry yourself differently, which may help you to look taller. If you feel that you need guidance along the way then there are options for you.  For instance, you can hire a weight loss coach who can be with you every step of the way until you reach your goals.


losing weight makes you look taller

A Taller Slimmer Figure

As you start to look slimmer and leaner it will create an illusion of a taller figure. Your body ratio will give the first impression of height rather than width.

 

You will also stand more upright as your body isn't being pulled forward with excess weight. The fitting of your clothes and the colors you wear are also important aspects of appearing taller.


Tips 

  • Make sure you are performing exercises the correct way by maintaining correct form 
  • Eat nutrient rich foods which are going to ensure healthy muscles 
  • Buy supplements which support spinal health, such as a glucosamine and chondroitin mix
  • Find a routine and stick to it, and if you are feeling down then push through it
  • Have 1 day per week where you relax and eat some of your favorite foods

Summary

So, does losing weight make you taller? If you're only slightly overweight, losing that weight isn’t going to make a difference to your height. But, working on your core back muscles is something to consider and may help you to stand straighter.


If you are in the obese category, though, losing a considerable amount of weight can help the spine return to normal function. This will flourish when combined with a dedicated fitness routine to strengthen your core muscles. You will stand straighter and feel more lean.


So, due to there being less compression within the body, and the improved posture gained from losing weight, it is very possible that you will gain a little height.


References

1: Spine: Obesity Is Associated With Reduced Disc Height in the Lumbar Spine but Not at the Lumbosacral Junction


2: National Library of Medicine: Intervertebral disc height changes after weight reduction in morbidly obese patients and its effect on quality of life and radicular and low back pain


3: Atlantic Spine Center: What Obesity Does to the Spine