Greater height is a goal for many, especially for male-identifying folk. And one surprisingly common assumption about height is that inches taken from the middle find their way to the top.

This is just not true. Once you reach adulthood, your chances of losing inches are far greater than your chances of gaining any.

Can you lose weight to gain height?

Short answer: No.

Slightly less short answer: No, but it can make you appear taller.

Notably less short answer: No, but if there’s more difference between your height and your width, you may look taller, thanks to the illusion of proportions.

Obesity also has links to some joint- and posture-related issues that could be keeping you from standing at your full height. Plus, if you’re a teenager, you may be able to adjust some aspects of your lifestyle to encourage a few extra inches.

For post-pubescent folks, though, actual height gain is nearly impossible. The best you can do is to make better use of the feet and inches you already have.

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However, losing weight might change your perceived height. Get ready for some dietary Penn and Teller sh*t as we delve into the smoke-and-mirrors relationship between weight and height.

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Image by Wenzdai Figueroa

A 2011 study suggests that there is “no association between adult height and weight status.”

But there *are* a bunch of ways that having a higher or lower weight can impact both your standing height and perceived height. Plus, “you can’t eat yourself taller” applies only after puberty. Your diet in childhood and adolescence can play a role in your height as an adult.

(It’s not the deciding factor, though, and you don’t have a time machine, so don’t dwell on it.)

We’ll preface this by saying that you should never feel pressured to lose weight to make other people happy. Everyone has a right to love their body, no matter the shape.

But if your height (or lack thereof) gives you anxiety and you think *feeling* taller would make you happier, losing/gaining weight to bring your shape more in line with the BMI average for your height may help.

If weight loss is your goal, getting there will involve healthy eating and exercise (which we’re all about). And even if it doesn’t change how you feel about your height, you may experience some health benefits as a result of the effort.

There were a lot of issues with the size-zero culture of the ’90s and ’00s, but the need for “Attack on Titan”-style walls to keep out giants wasn’t one of them.

What *does* affect height, then?

Height is complicated. It varies over the course of your life, and not just because you grow from a child into an adult.

Here’s a brief overview of all the stuff scientists think factors into your height:

  • genetics (which may be anywhere from 40 percent to 79 percent responsible for your height, according to ongoing research)
  • nutrition in childhood/adolescence
  • physical exercise in childhood/adolescence
  • sleep habits in childhood/adolescence
  • general health in childhood/adolescence (you see the pattern here, yeah?)
  • aging, both through posture and bone density reduction
  • certain medical conditions like osteoporosis (which can lead to bending of the spine and bones in the legs and hips, directly translating to lost inches)

Your MeeMaw wasn’t always a tiny, adorable raisin person you could fit in a gym bag. They called her Lofty Lou-Anne Ladder-Legs back in the day for a reason.

If you’re a double-leg amputee, you can also use your prosthetics to pick your height. That sounds like something we made up, but it is 100 percent a thing people can do.

After all, learning to live post-amputation presents many challenges. Why wouldn’t you take the occasional silver lining? As the old saying goes, when life gives you lemons, use medical science to add inches to your height.

But that’s your actual height. Your perceived height is a little different. This is where things like posture and the difference between your waistline and height start to factor in.

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Let’s cut to the chase: A 2013 study suggests that taller people appear thinner and thinner people appear taller. But in the latter category, the illusion is far less strong. The same study found that this general perspective trick also works with objects like filled cubes and cylinders — but much less effectively.

In short, our monkey brains associate thin monkeys with tall monkeys. Losing weight may make you seem taller to other people, provided they don’t think about it too long and you’re not standing next to real-deal tall people.

The perceived difference will also be pretty slight. If you don’t already have to duck through doorways, that’s unlikely to become a problem for you.

Does gaining weight make you shorter?

This is where the relationship between weight and height becomes pretty blurred. While losing weight technically doesn’t make you taller, gaining weight to the point of clinical obesity can make you physically shorter without intervention.

Studies have shown that, contrary to traditional belief, obesity can contribute to weakened bone metabolism and structure. This can lead to osteoporosis, particularly in the hips, joints, and back.

Osteoporosis happens when your bones get so weak that they bend and break super easily. Do you know what it has links to? Yep: height loss.

Gaining weight on its own isn’t going to make you shrink. But if your weight causes complications that compromise the health of your bones, you may develop conditions that lose you a few inches.

But still, there’s no such thing as the “right” weight. You can love your body no matter your size, and the best way to show that love and appreciation is by living your healthiest life.

If you’re a human-plant hybrid, you can root yourself in soil and stand under the sun for a few hours. But the rest of us can really only gain height up until puberty finishes its work.

Folks under 25 years of age (when puberty has come to a full stop for most people) can try several things to become less short.

The farther away you are from the end of puberty, the more effective these measures will be. Generally, living healthfully (eating a nutritious diet, getting plenty of exercise, and maintaining a regular sleep schedule) up to and during puberty can add a few inches onto what your genes gave you.

Beyond your developmental years, gaining height is more or less about sorting out your posture. Look into ergonomics and maybe consult a healthcare professional. Slouching or hunching your back regularly can lead to height loss over time.

If you’re not in the mood for medical spine-bending, yoga is a great way to maintain good posture.

We’ve established that losing weight isn’t going to make you the Iron Giant anytime soon. But if you still want to lose weight (despite the no-go on the grow-grow), here’s a step-by-step guide to what to do:

  1. Burn more calories than you consume.

That’s it. That’s the whole list. There are eating plans and diets that go into specifics, but they mostly boil down to the same thing: building up a calorie deficit. That means consuming fewer calories than your body is burning.

There are literally thousands of diets out there, though, and not all are created equal. Do some research or talk with your doc to find one that best suits your needs and lifestyle.

You can’t gain height by losing weight. But you can lose weight by living healthfully. This, in turn, might reduce your risk of losing height in later life due to obesity-linked conditions like osteoporosis.

If you’re still going through puberty, healthy eating, eating, and sleep habits can directly contribute to increased height in adulthood. If, for you, living healthfully means losing rather than gaining weight, then doing so could mean you can largely avoid stepladders in your 40s.

There’s not really any way to make yourself taller once puberty is in your rearview mirror. But losing weight can make you appear taller to other people. Posture correction and yoga are also worth looking into if the slouchies are taking away from your height.

So that’s the long and short of being long and short.