The ketogenic diet is one of the most effective weight loss tools and has proven to have many health benefits. Most people are delighted in the first couple of days of their keto journey when they see that initial weight loss reflected on the scales. Even though most realize this loss is mostly water weight, it can be extremely discouraging if the weight doesn’t continue to fall off as quickly every step of the way.
A keto diet weight loss stall can be very frustrating, but it’s no reason to give up or even get discouraged. There are some quick ways to troubleshoot a keto stall and get yourself back on track. First, lets figure out what’s going on and why a stall is even happening.
Keto Weight Loss, its not a steady downward drop
Losing too quickly can shock the body and throw it into a metabolic spin, which is never a good thing. You want your metabolism to be a highly efficient and stable system, not one that has crazy ups and downs. Keeping this in mind, general recommendations for weight loss are 1-2 pounds a week. This is much easier on your body than dropping weight in mass amounts. Shedding weight too fast will leave you with vitamin deficiencies, muscle loss, headaches, saggy skin, excessive hair loss, and many other issues.
After the initial (water) weight loss, your body is working very hard at reinventing itself and trying to catch up with what you’re telling it to do now. In reality, you’re reprogramming your whole body to work differently and this doesn’t happen overnight. It took years for your body to learn to store its fat, it will take time for it to relearn this new programming. We can’t expect to change our ways and instantly see our body magically transform into a fit and trim version of our former selves.
There will be times that the scales will not move and may even show a gain, BUT in all likelihood, you’ve lost inches! Fat has turned to muscle, things are happening behind the scenes that can not be measured by that scale. Sometimes the transformation of losing weight is nothing to do with the number that you see on that scale.
If you’re at the point that it’s been several weeks and the scale still isn’t budging, read on for some reasons that might be getting in the way of weight loss.
Possible Reasons You Are Not Losing Weight on a Keto Diet
- Carb creeping
Your carb intake may be too high. You have to be really disciplined and aware of all carbs that go into your body. It’s a little nibbling here and there and the little extras that can lead to a carb creep, so make sure you count all carbs. Even when a label says sugar-free, doesn’t necessarily mean its carbs-free! Know the 56 different names for sugar and avoid them at all cost.
- Protein is Too High or Too Low
Making sure your protein level is right is a balancing act to say the least. Too little and your body will not be satisfied and you will be hungry, which often results in a cheat mentality. In this case, your body may turn to consuming its own muscle for a source of needed nutrition. If your protein levels are too high, the excess protein can convert into glycogen and disrupt ketosis. Keep in mind that eating too much protein is not easy to achieve, you will have to eat a lot more than an extra 10-15g for this to happen. Its most often seen in people who consume protein drinks and bars. Eat high quality animal protein and fat and this should not be an issue.
- Too Many Calories via Macros
While a ketogenic diet that is high in fat is also one that will not usually allow you to overeat, is still possible to eat too many calories. This is usually the result of a very high fat intake and for some people, too much dairy or nuts. The goal of ketosis is to burn your stored fat, not excess fat from your diet. We eat a diet high in fat to achieve this, but that doesn’t mean opening a bottle of MCT oil and chugging the entire contents. Determine the number of calories you need per day by way of macronutrients. While you don’t have to count calories when you’re in Ketosis, keep in mind that not all calories are equal and there’s still such a thing as too many. Fat contains twice as many calories as carbohydrates and protein, so it’s important your fat intake lies between the recommended ranges. There is no diet that lets you consume unlimited amounts of calories and still lose weight.
It is harder to over-eat fat, just because of how filling it is. Its easy to see yourself eating a full bag of potato chips or Doritos (carbs), but if you try to do the same thing with healthy fats, for example bacon, your body will tell you its full way before you eat the entire package. Listen to your body and your own macros, use fat to conquer your hunger. Don’t eat fat just because its there.
On the flip side of this, you may not be eating enough calories. This usually occurs in somebody who is looking at the ketogenic WOE as a diet and are eating minuscule portions, or those who are exercising too much. The body slows down its metabolism in response to a lack of food and/or excessive amounts of exercise. I know this doesn’t fit with the norm of breaking a weight loss stall, but if either of these scenarios sound like you, try adding 300-500 calories of fat and protein to your daily count for a few days, and see what happens.
- Too Many Low-Carb Treats
Coconut flour, almond flour and Psyllium husks seem like a life saver in the world of Keto, but know that you can eat too many low-carb treats. Going keto or low-carb doesn’t mean you can feast 24 hours a day on low-carb breads, cupcakes or muffins. Although these items may have low carb values, they can add up and they may still cause cravings. You should keep these items as ‘on program’ rewards and not daily food items. Your base diet should centre around real food; eggs, fish, meat, leafy vegetables, cheese and some nuts.
- You’re close to your goal weight
Its harder to lose weight when you don’t have a lot to lose. Often in the Keto world, you will hear of people losing great amounts of weight in a short period of time, this is most often a person who has a lot of weight to lose. Losing fat gets more difficult as you approach your ideal weight. That’s because the deficit of energy needed for fat loss gets smaller as your weight goes down. It doesn’t mean that you won’t continue losing if you have weight to shed, but you may have to have more patience and diligence and wait for it to happen.
Don’t underestimate the role that stress plays in your weight loss. Your body produces a hormone called cortisol when you’re stressed out, and cortisol is responsible for storing visceral fat, which is the fat located around your stomach area. We live in a stressful world but living in a constant state of upset can wreak havoc with your body and your mind. Try giving yourself a block of time each day to focus on your stressors and for the rest of the day, don’t allow yourself to wallow. Incorporate anti anxiety mind-body techniques into your life, such as yoga, meditation, taking a mini holiday from work and always have fun things to look forward.
- Lack of Sleep
If you’ve ever noticed that you tend to feel energized and drowsy around the same times every day, you have your circadian rhythm to thank. Your circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It’s also known as your sleep/wake cycle.
Weight can stall if we don’t get enough sleep. Regular interruptions in sleep that affect our circadian rhythms can also affect health and weight loss. Lack of sleep can also increase cravings because our bodies are trying to find extra sources of energy when we haven’t gotten enough rest. Maximum fat loss is only achieved with adequate sleep and controlled diet. Aim for 7-9 hours a day, even if this is not your normal amount of sleep.
Getting past the stall
As you can see, the reasons for a weight loss stall can be very complicated. The best place to start is with taking care of your body as a whole and eating real, healthy low-carb ketogenic foods. The keto way of life can be very rewarding, especially when the pounds are melting off your body and everything is going as planned. Give yourself permission to go slow and do it right. Know there will be times when the scales will go up and down by an increment of one pound. You will feel like you’re just spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere. This is all normal, we all go through it. Its part of a healthy weight loss process.
Sometimes, we just need to be patient with our bodies while our bio-system adjusts. Get familiar with the whoosh effect. Often, our body thinks it knows us better than we know ourselves. It sees us shedding fat and thinks ‘here we go again, this is just a temporary loss, there must be some junk food around the corner’. So, it temporarily replaces lost fat with water as a placeholder while it waits. After a few days of waiting, your body realizes that the junk food isn’t coming and will release the extra water and empty the fat cells. Then we wake up to an overnight weight loss of 3-7 pounds.
Change your way of thinking about the scales, they are not your friend and you are so much more than the number it shows you. Your body may be morphing and you may be losing inches while that number on the scales stays the same. You can be losing fat and gaining muscle, which if anything, will show a weight gain on the scales. Judge yourself instead on how your clothes fit you and inches you are losing.
Finally, and this is most important, the success of losing weight and improving health is about learning new habits and sticking with them. Lose that mentality that you’ve been a good girl/boy for a week and you now deserve a food cheat day. That’s the equivalent of a person quitting smoking and then celebrating by having a cigarette. Its counter productive, self destructive and not fair to the new you. Find other ways to reward yourself, a good book, take a relaxing bath, a date night, it doesn’t have to be centered around food. Change the way you celebrate and realize your celebrations don’t have to be food based. Realize that you were broken and unhealthy before and going back to your old self will cause you to gain weight and then all your old unhealthy symptoms will return. After all the work I’ve done you’ve done, it’s just not a smart thing to do.
If you are experiencing a weight loss plateau, just hang in there. Evaluate your diet, tweak where you can, and try to wait it out. You are a work in progress and you’re making steps in the right direction. Most of all, be patient and kind to yourself and give your body (and mind) a break. You are so worth it!!