After a patient has been doing low carb for a while one of the most common issues they come to me with is a weight loss stall. They’ve been happily going along with their new lifestyle, enjoying lots of nice food – meat and eggs and cheese and lots of other exciting foods that maybe they have been trying to avoid for years… and weight has been coming off – sometimes quickly, then usually a slow-down, until finally weeks are going by with no weight loss. They are getting frustrated…
My job is to try to figure out why this might be happening – and there are a few possible reasons and solutions which I’ll outline below.
- Carb creep – this is the number one reason for weight loss stalls. I recommend keeping a food diary (either paper or via an app) for a week to check that you are as compliant as you think you are. What is your daily average carb intake? Get back into checking labels – remember sugar free doesn’t mean carb free! Increasing carbohydrates while still eating a higher fat diet can be a recipe for disaster – no weight loss – even some gains!
- Too much dairy – dairy can be insulinogenic – meaning that even though it doesn’t affect your blood glucose it may promote an insulin response, and this can slow your weight loss. Some forms of dairy (I’m looking at you cheese) are also calorie dense, and an excess of calories will definitely affect your weight loss. If you are using milk in your tea or coffee make sure you are measuring and tracking those carbohydrates to as they can add up fast. If relying heavily on dairy, consider reducing/cutting it out completely.
- Too much fat – although we don’t promote calorie restriction an excess of calories will still prevent you from losing weight. Look at your fat intake. I recommend using fat to flavour and enhance your foods, and always choose full fat versions of products such as yoghurt, cheese, sour cream, cream cheese or milk. However, I don’t recommend excessive amounts of fat such as adding butter to coffee or making fat bombs as treats.
- Processed low carb foods – there is a wealth of low carb products out there, which can make life a lot easier. It can be useful to have some low carb bread, wraps or crackers sometimes, but check that these things are not being consumed every day, at every meal. The basis of your meals should be a high quality protein, some low carb vegetables and a good source of fat. A perfect example is steak with broccoli and asparagus cooked in butter – quick and easy to do in a single pan.
- Fasting – Are you doing any fasting? You should be having a minimum of 12 hours overnight without eating eg. dinner before 7 pm, breakfast after 7 am. If you have successfully mastered this it is worth considering adding in some longer periods like 14-16 hours a day of fasting, relatively easily done by skipping/delaying breakfast.
- Physical activity – Look at your activity levels. This is very personal – maybe you have some injuries or other reasons for low activity, however if you can add in some extra movement to your day it would be beneficial. If you can exercise and you aren’t now is the time to add in some exercise, preferably some resistance training, but even some walking is a good start.
- Snacking – Are you snacking between meals? Try to avoid snacking and make sure to eat enough at each meal to sustain you until the next meal. This can be a learning curve and you may need to up the size of your meals to achieve this. We have all had in mind for so long that the next eating opportunity isn’t far away, so now we need to move away from that mindset. Aim to be having 2-3 nourishing meals per day with no snacks.
- Treats – this one goes hand in hand with snacking. It can be tempting to trawl the aisles of the supermarket looking for low carb treats (by treats I mean things like substitutes for chips, or chocolate bars or biscuits), and there’s quite a few around these days. If you have been including some treats, but the weight loss has stopped, now is the time to reduce/cut out any treats, even low carb ones, that might have been creeping in.
- Non scale victories – sometimes there is a lot going on inside that’s not showing up on the scales. Is your waist smaller? Are your clothes feeling looser? Maybe tying your shoelaces isn’t as difficult as it once was? The changes happening inside your body are even more important than what is happening on the outside and can be going on while the number on the scale stays steady.
If all these possible causes have been addressed and you are still not losing weight, or you need some personalised advice to navigate your weight loss stall, make an appointment to see one of our team– we have plenty of ideas to keep you on track to achieving your health and weight loss goals. The important thing is to keep moving forward, keep on track and long term you will see results.