Why Does Weight Loss Slow Down After a Few Weeks on Keto?

One of the more common questions I get about the Ketogenic Diet is why does the weight loss tend to slow down after a few months?  To answer that question, we first need to look at what happens in those first few months and what changes moving forward.

The First Few Months

In the first few weeks or months on keto, your body undergoes some fairly significant changes.  The biggest one as far as weight loss goes is your body begins to use up the glycogen stored in the muscle which causes your body to dump a lot of water.  As your glycogen stores dwindle, the amount of water in your muscles decreases causing fairly significant weight loss.  This is why it is so important to drink more water and eat more salt, especially in those first few months as your natural stores of those resources are reduced.

But after that initial period where your body adjusts to this new way of life, what happens?  Why does it seem like weight loss slows to a crawl and what can we do about it.

Your Body is Remodeling Itself

As the weight begins to come off, your skin begins to loosen.  Your body has a natural process that will begin harvesting this loose skin and tightening it up.  This is why people who lose weight with Bariatric Surgery tend to have MUCH looser skin over time than people who lose weight through more natural means.  When the weight comes off in a hurry, especially if you do it through calorie restriction which often means mild malnourishment, your body just doesn’t have the chance to lose weight at its own pace and make those necessary repairs throughout the process.  Allow your body the freedom to do what it needs to do at the pace it needs to do it, just keep giving it high quality foods that don’t raise blood sugar and plenty of fat.  Your body will know what to do from there.

Your Body is Repairing Itself

If you are morbidly obese, it is safe to say that your metabolism is broken.  It is also safe to say that you probably have more things amiss in your body than you are even aware of.  Your body wants to fix all that but it takes time and energy.  Fortunately now that you are eating a nutrient dense diet with plenty of healthy fats, you are supplying the necessary energy and now you just need to allow for the proper passage of time.  When I was losing my 200 lbs, there were whole months where NOTHING happened on the scale.  I mean no movement whatsoever.  But when that long journey was all over I was able to go back and look and see a fairly consistent weight loss of 10 lbs every 2-3 months so even when it looked like nothing was happening, something was going on the background, I just didn’t always know what it was.

Your Body is Protecting Itself

Did you know that rapid weight loss is a risk factor for a heart attack?  When you were eating crappy carbage and packing on the pounds, your body wasn’t just storing fat in your fat cells, it was also packing away excess toxins in those cells to protect your health as best as it could.  If you lose a ton of fat in a very short amount of time (Looking at you Bariatric Surgery) your risk of a cardiac event in the short term goes up.  (It comes back down over time as the other health benefits of losing weight come but still, you gotta survive those first few weeks.)  Your body knows that it can’t flood your system with toxins so weight loss is slowed so those toxins come out little by little where they can be filtered by the kidneys and liver.  You can support this process by eating more cilantro or parsley and of course, drinking more water.

Your Body is Balancing Itself

When you were eating a Standard America Diet, your hormones were all over the place.  Insulin was constantly elevated, Leptin was high, Ghrelin was ignored, cortisol was all over the place.  In short, hormonally you were a mess.  And that’s just if you are man, women already have hormone cycles at play that throw a further monkey wrench into this.  Your body wants your hormones regulated and now that you aren’t spiking your insulin 6 times a day, it can do that but it will take time.  It has to reregulate hormones, rebalance the acid and base balance in the blood, and rebalance the mix of certain enzymes.  It’s a lot of work but it is necessary to regain your health.

Your Body is Building Itself

Something that is not common knowledge is a ketogenic diet is muscle sparing.  In other words, you will grow muscles easier and maintain them longer on a ketogenic diet than on a SAD diet.  Add to this that on keto you will have more energy and want to move more, it’s not uncommon for you to put on more muscle mass even if you don’t think you are exercising more.  The kicker is that muscle weighs twice as much as fat so as muscle comes on at the same rate fat leaves, the number on the scale can stay the same or even creep up.  That’s OK!  This is why it is so important to not just weigh yourself but also measure yourself, especially your waist circumference.  You want to track that because a reduced waist is even more important than a lower number on the scale.

What has been your experience so far on keto?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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What to Do When You Hit a Weight Loss Plateau

What to Do When You Hit a Weight Loss Plateau

What to Do When You Hit a Weight Loss Plateau

Weight loss plateaus happen.  They have happened to me and they will happen to you.  Believe me, if there was a way that I could ensure that the little tracking line in my weight loss app was one smooth consecutive downward line, I would be doing that but that’s just not how weight loss works in the real world.

Before we get in to this, I want to address the Mayo Clinic’s advice which is:

When the calories you burn equal the calories you eat, you reach a plateau. To lose more weight, you need to either increase your physical activity or decrease the calories you eat. Using the same approach that worked initially may maintain your weight loss, but it won’t lead to more weight loss.

This is absolutely terrible advice and should not be followed.  Weight loss is not a Calorie In/Calorie Out proposition and all eating less and exercising more will do is make you hungry.  Weight loss is primarily about your hormones and the most important hormone is your insulin which is your “fat storage” hormone.  If you decrease the amount of insulin your pancreas has to secrete, you lose weight over the long run.  It’s this one simple truth that has enabled me to lose 150 lbs over the last few years and 50 lbs so far this year.

So let’s take a look at some simple action steps you can take to fight through when you hit a plateau.

Don’t Panic

Seriously, take a deep breath.  I totally know how it feels to see the numbers on the scale begin to inch back up and wonder if you are about to undo all the hard work you’ve put in to your health.  That’s not going to happen.  Stick with the program, keep eating real food, make sure to avoid carbs like sugars, grains and starches and relax.  It will come, I promise.

Plan your meals

One thing that was very helpful to me in the beginning especially was to plan out what I was going to eat the next day in a little notebook.  I could visualize my meals and take the necessary steps to make sure I had access to the healthy food I needed the next day.  Sometimes that required me to make meals in advance, sometimes I had to run to the store to get the food I needed, sometimes I looked at my plan and realized I was planning on eating the wrong foods.  It was incredibly helpful to see that information on paper beforehand.  Then, once the day was over, I looked back at the plan and assessed what I actually did.  Did I eat a snack that wasn’t on the plan?  Did I cheat? Why?  Answering these questions day by day gave me a better understanding of my cravings and how to deal with them.

Check Your Water Intake

In the early days of cutting the carbs out of your diet, you are going to lose a lot of water.  As you burn through the glycogen stores in your muscles, your body also releases the water the glycogen was stored in.  It’s not uncommon to double your trips to the bathroom in those early days so be sure you are replenishing your water as you go.  Also, the bowels and kidneys are 2 of 4 ways your body expels toxins and excess fat,  (The other 2 are through the skin and exhalation) and water is a key component to making sure that process happens quickly and efficiently.

Track Your Food Intake and Weight Loss

This one step probably did more for my sanity when I hit a plateau more than anything else I did.  Once I planned my meals out, I then went back and wrote down what I actually ate, then I weighed myself at the same time every morning.  So every time I hit a plateau or even gained a little weight, I was able to go back and track down what caused the issue.  It was doing this that caused me to realize that I was far more sensitive to corn than I ever thought possible.  It didn’t matter if I eat corn on the cob or had a corn tortilla, if I had corn in any form I was done losing weight for a few days.  I can guarantee you that your body reacts differently to different foods.  You may have issues with dairy, eggs, soy, gluten, nuts, or who knows what else and not know it because it’s not a debilitating reaction and the only way to discover it is to go in for a battery of tests at the doctor or start tracking your food and weight in one place.  You won’t have to do it forever, just until you discover the issue.

Change Up Your Exercise

Exercise is a terrible way to lose weight and you shouldn’t rely on exercise as your main means to shed a few pounds.  However having said that, exercise has a lot of other benefits that aren’t directly related to weight loss like increasing your insulin sensitivity and improving your mood.  Change things up but be careful to avoid injuries.  Concentrate on compound exercises that exercise large groups of muscles at once like squats or bench presses.  If you don’t have access to a gym, do the squats without weight, burpees, or just go for a walk but do something.

De-Stress

Cortisol is your body’s stress hormone and is great in short bursts like when you are being attacked by a lion but most of us are under constant stress so we have large amounts of cortisol and adrenaline rolling around in our bodies at all times.  Unfortunately, cortisol not only drives weight gain by triggering cravings but it also tells our body to store that weight in the worst possible place, right near the midsection.  So do something to lower your stress level.  Perhaps thats a walk in the sunshine, or a few deep breaths, or meditation or yoga.  The point is to do something to get that stress out of your system and get back to the business of losing weight.

I hope you found these simple steps to follow to get out of a weight loss plateau helpful to you.  If so, please share it with your friends!

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