10 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight on Keto
When you first start browsing around the web looking for info on keto, there are incredible weight loss stories around every corner. It would be easy to tell people not to get carried away with their expectations when it comes to keto, but it’s human nature. The fact of the matter is the vast majority of people following a keto diet will lose a considerable amount of weight. That means when you’re not losing weight on keto, people are quick to start doubting themselves or the diet. “Maybe Keto doesn’t work for me. Am I doing it right?” This needs nipping in the bud early as it will eventually end up as resentment for the diet. It’s not the diet’s fault! Most of time, it’s something that can be addressed by making a few adjustments.
1. You’re eating too many carbs
This should be the starting point for anyone not getting the weight loss they want. It might seem simple to seasoned ketonians, but the keto diet is high fat, low carb. When I first had people follow a plan from The Keto Pro, it shocked me how many people were overdoing the carbs.
Considering what we do is meal plan based, this might seem silly, but many people get stuck on skim reading some detail and then go half assed into failure. Keto is not about all eating vegetables for example. There are many vegetables that you won’t be touching if you’re doing a strict low carb diet (Sweet Potato, Swedes and Turnips I’m looking at you!).
2. You’re not eating enough fat/you’re eating too much fat
Depending on where you are on your keto journey, you could either be eating not enough fat or too much fat (confusing right?).
When you first start on the keto path your primary objective is to change from using glucose (sugar) for energy to using fat and ketones for energy. This process of change is often called becoming fat adapted, or keto adapted. Becoming fat/keto adapted is achieved by aggressively limiting your intake of carbohydrates and increasing your intake of fat. The objective is to get into a state of nutritional ketosis (you can read about that in a previous blog post) which turns you into a fat burning machine.
Once you’re keto adapted, if you’re on a weight loss journey then you need to pay attention to how much fat you’re adding to meals. Eating fat will make you feel fuller than consuming the same amount of carbohydrates and it’s a real benefit of keto that you don’t have to cope with the hunger pangs of low fat dieting. That said, too much fat – particularly when eating beyond when you’re just nicely full – might get in the way of you achieving your goals. That’s because if you’re trying to lose weight you want your new fat burning machine body to be burning your most abundant fuel source: body fat!
When you get to your desired weight, you maintain your weight by adding more fat. It’s pretty straightforward really. The one part that our clients seem to struggle with the most is getting their head round eating fat until they’re full in the first place as that’s counter to everything they’ve ever been conditioned to do. That’s most of the work I do with them initially. Playing around with reducing and increasing fat levels once they’re keto adapted usually goes a lot more swimmingly and they tend to get pretty good at reading their body’s signals.
3. You’re eating something that’s spiking insulin
Insulin is your body’s way of maintaining blood sugar levels within a normal range. When your body takes in any type of food, insulin levels will rise. Some foods and chemicals cause it rise more than others and to stay high for longer periods of time. The whole point of eating a ketogenic diet is to regulate your insulin levels and minimise the times that it triggers. It would appear to be pretty straightforward: stop eating carbs and stop insulin triggering. Unfortunately, as is very often the case with nutrition or the human body, it’s not that simple!
Frustratingly, dairy products like Cheese and Cream – which are one of the best things about eating a keto diet – can cause problems for some people doing keto. This will mean some trial and error and to do that you’ll need a blood glucose and ketone meter. Don’t bother with urine strips or breath analyser, just get the Freestyle Optium Neo (it’s called the Precision Xtra in the US and Freestyle Precision Neo in Canada).
4. You’re eating some rogue chemicals
When you’re eating low carb, it’s easy to either retain bad habits or to skim the detail and head for the artificially sweetened foods and drinks. Diet versions of fizzy drinks are a classic. The reason that you’re restricting carbs on a keto diet though is to get insulin under control. It’s all about hormones. Carbohydrates aren’t the only thing that can spike your insulin levels and drop your ketones quicker than you can say Pepsi Max. Many of the sugar replacement chemicals can give you a significant insulin spike too and you need to know which ones to completely avoid.
Artificial sweeteners: there are the good, the bad and the downright ugly. There was a fantastic Keto Talk podcast recently which covered this topic in great detail. Dr Adam Nally referred to his long standing article that covers this in detail if you want to get down with the relative science of each of the individual sweeteners.
Whatever your views are on the safety of individual sweeteners (we won’t be going through that here) there are ones to just avoid from a keto perspective. One such sweetener is acesulfame potassium, also known as acesulfame K. Whatever your feelings are about aspartame. It doesn’t fair too badly on the insulin spike front, although there remains health concerns after many years of research. The good are definitely the naturally occuring erythritol and stevia. Make sure you get the liquid version of the latter though, the powdered versions often come with bulking agents – again which can cause an insulin spike.
When working with clients, we would always recommend that they eat real, whole foods where possible and avoid man-made chemicals as part of the food or drink they consume. However, we are all human and when you fancy a cheesecake then you’ve got to have somewhere to turn other than the Cheesecake Factory. We usually introduce more favourable sweeteners to the clients that like this sort of thing once they’re keto adapted and they’re well on their keto journey on on their way to achieving their goals.
5. You’re eating too much protein
It’s thought within the low carb community that everyone has their own tolerances. Tolerances for carbs are often talked about, which is why you might hear some people eating 5g carbs a day and others 50g carbs per day. Also tolerances for protein too: men need more than women, athletes need more than the sedentary. If you’re insulin resistant, you may lose weight initially by just cutting carbs and increasing fat. You’ll probably get to a point where you stop losing weight. This would be a good time to experiment with a more moderate protein intake.
There’s a huge amount of discrepancy over what each person’s level should be. And as I said before, it’s widely acknowledged there’s huge individual variation. So there will always be a little bit of experimentation that either you or your nutritionist will have to do with your meal plans to understand and work around your thresholds.
6. You’re old
If you’re in your twilight and turning to a keto lifestyle for a better quality of life, it’s an all-round great decision. There’s likely to be positive effects on your mood, health and indeed additional benefits like increased flexibility. Unfortunately, when going down the keto route as an older person for the weight loss benefits, the diet isn’t as forthcoming with the benefits.
Insulin resistance, when the body has cells that don’t use insulin effectively to absorb glucose (sugar), can often lead to type 2 diabetes (a problem much more common among the elderly than in the general population).
There seems to be strong correlation between getting older and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. 4% of those living in England, Wales and Scotland have diabetes. In the 60-69 group, a staggering 26% of the population have diabetes. 90% of all diagnoses of diabetes in the UK are for type 2. With insulin resistance seemingly playing a significant role here, and with the longer time period for older people as glucose burners, it can mean challenges.
So rather than weeks and months, you can be talking a number of years for insulin to regulate properly and to see the kinds of weight loss you may have wanted.
7. You’re a woman
Unfortunately, women don’t get it as easy as men when it comes to keto.
It takes women longer to lose weight on keto as it takes a lot longer for her hormones to get under control. Keto Talk 39 with Jimmy Moore and Dr Adam Nally covered this in a lot of scientific detail.
“Men make testosterone, and that helps in weight loss generally. Men have larger muscles -specifically larger smooth muscles around the heart – and they produce more of a hormone called Atrial Natriuretic Peptide (ANP). This peptide is one of the back doors into burning body fat as it speeds up the release of fat from the fat cell.”
There you have it from the Doc himself!
In our experience with clients, we often see a slower weight loss in women initially than in men. Once their hormones are controlled things end up pretty much on an even keel. It does require some patience though and a sense of belief that you’re on the right journey. You will get there, it just takes more time for certain individuals.
8. You’re cheating
I work with clients all the time who aren’t true to themselves. They’ll tell themselves (and then consequently me) anything to justify poor decisions regarding food that they make. Unfortunately, a lot of this is borne out of sugar addiction – and as always addiction can bring out the most unsavoury behaviours in all of us (I should know – I am recovering!).
Most ketonians are going to cheat from the time to time. If you’re cheating, then you need to get straight back on the horse. But if you are cheating, you also need to acknowledge that this is going to stall or in some cases reverse your progress. One day spent off the wagon can take you a whole month to recover from, so cheating isn’t something you should do lightly. Again, there’s a chance if you’re having a sneaky cake once a week or slices of pizza when your other half brings one in from their night out – then it could be stalling your weight loss progress or in some cases completely undoing it.
Under no circumstances should you cheat in the first couple of months of your keto journey. You’re still changing from being a sugar burner to a fat burner, so this process known as becoming keto adapted (or fat adapted) needs to run it’s course. Otherwise, you’ll be starting from scratch again once your cheat is over and you may have to embark on another journey across several weeks to become fat adapted.
Once a couple of months are up, for most people the odd rogue food here and there as long as it’s quickly corrected isn’t the end of the world. But you’ve got see through the first part of the process in a really strict way.
I covered cheating on keto in a lot of depth in a previous blog post.
9. You’re snacking
What you eat and the level of carbohydrates will directly impact on the amount of insulin that’s released and over what period. That said, when you eat anything, your body releases insulin into your blood stream to help bring your rising blood sugar under control (it’s just less and over a shorter period of time with fat). And while your insulin is up and your blood sugar is up, your ketones will be down and you won’t be burning as much fat which is not what you want.
You really need to be sticking to having either 2 or 3 meals a day if at all possible. You can use snacking tactically if you’re feeling like you really need it while you’re becoming keto adapted, or as something to stop you cheating if you’re feeling particularly susceptible to cheating on a particularly dodgy day as a hack to stay on track.
This will give your body the maximum time each day to be in a state of ketosis and optimised for fat burning rather than having a constant stream of insulin being dumped in response to yet another daytime snack.
10. You’re eating too many calories
We really don’t recommend that our clients count calories. One of the beauties of the ketogenic diet is that most of the time it’s simply not needed. Keto works by restricting calories without even trying because fat makes you feel fuller than carbs, which in turn reduces the amount of calories you take in. There’s also good evidence to show tat the hunger hormone (ghrelin) is controlled when eating keto, which also means you end up eating less as you simply don’t feel hungry as often.
However, if you’re being really disciplined in following the diet, you’ve been through all of the points raised further up in this article and you’re still not losing weight on keto then additional calorie restriction may be worth trying as a last result.
If you’re at this last outpost, then log your food for a period of time (using MyFitnessPal or similar) and experiment with dropping 500 calories or so from what you’re consuming to see what the impact will be. I reinforce this should be the last port of call though and if you end up in this position it may be worth getting some tests done by your GP as there could be some other health issue at play that’s interfering with your hormones.