Everybody is unique and individual and the rate at which you lose weight on a low carb diet will be different from the person next to you who perhaps has the exact same diet as you. If you’ve been eating low carb for a while and have not managed to lose weight or have plateaued, there could be one or a whole host of reasons why this is.
One of my first recommendations is, track what you eat. By tracking can you see patterns or days when you snacked. A LOT.
Get yourself a tracking app like My Fitness Pal and record what you eat for a few weeks. Sticking to a similar pattern of eating will make this easier as you can enter the same foods and recipes each day. This is a little tedious but is an important step in understanding how different foods affect you and where bad foods might be sneaking into your day
My second recommendation is to, watch those little cheats that you think are nothing. Every little morsel counts. Do you remember that saying “a moment on the lips a lifetime on the hips?”
One last thing before we dive into the reasons you could be struggling to lose weight on a low carb diet.
If you’ve been, like me, a compulsive dieter you may have done some damage to your metabolism. This means that you burn fewer calories at rest and when you exercise.
All of the tips I give below are ways to possibly improve your metabolism. But if you have always struggled with losing weight it may just be that you are destined to keep your slow metabolism and in that case, you need to be mindful of what you eat and the energy you expend if you don’t want to put on weight.
For more about metabolism and if it matters in when you want to lose weight check out this post -
from Harvard Medical school and my own post,
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LOSE WEIGHT ON A LOW CARB DIET
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You stress a lot
Chronic stress elevates stress hormones such as cortisol. Cortisol is probably the single most difficult hormone when trying to lose weight on a low carb diet.
Having consistently high levels of cortisol is like holding your finger on the button that releases your hunger hormone, you always seem to feel hungry and have cravings for foods that definitely have no place in a healthy diet. Hello, hot chips, Halo Top ice cream and freshly baked Portuguese tarts.
Umm, well that's letting the secret out!
Mindful activities like meditation and deep breathing really do make an impact on your stress levels and they’re an easy and cheap way to de-stress.
You don't get your carbs from healthy low carb foods
Low carb does not mean you stock up on those low carb snack bars that are in the health aisle of your supermarket but are lucky to contain one healthy or wholesome ingredient.
If you’re serious about losing weight on a low carb it is important that you get your nutrition from real low carb foods. Choose from meats, fish, eggs, healthy fats and vegetables. These low carb foods that have had little to no processing.
And as a tip, you generally find these foods you find around the outside of your supermarket.
Don't be afraid, fat is good
If you are not eating enough fat you could be more hungry than you need to be.
By adding plenty of healthy fats into your diet you will find you have to eat less of everything else.
Make sure to stick to the good fats and not the saturated animal fats. If your body is not ‘fat adapted’(your body burns fat for energy) you may find that you actually put on weight or raise your bad cholesterol to unacceptably high levels.
Good fats are either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated and include olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds and coconut products. They definitely, absolutely and for good measure unequivocally do not include trans fat.
A small warning here. Nuts are very calorie dense so don’t go crazy. As a rule of thumb enough nuts to fit into the palm of your hand would be plenty in a day.
You are eating too much protein
A good low carb diet is high in fat, low in carbs and moderate in protein.
Protein is important but it is easy to get a little carried away. When we consume too much protein the body can turn its amino acids into glucose which can be used as energy immediately or stored as fat.
Sources of protein are not just the usual suspects such as meat and fish as some may think. There are also dairy and plant-based sources such as grains, beans, vegetables and nuts.
You don't get enough sleep
As with stress, lack of sleep will mess with your hormones.
Leptin curbs your appetite and encourages the body to burn energy. Sleep deprivation reduces leptin.
Ghrelin, on the other hand, triggers hunger and cravings for fatty sugar ladened foods and guess what when you're tired you're more likely to give in to those cravings. Ghrelin increases when you don’t have enough sleep.
You're doing the wrong sort of exercise or worse, none at all
Exercise is no longer about pounding the pavements every day on your 10km run or thrashing about in the gym until you're red-faced and dripping sweat. Those sort of workouts can be stressful and actually raise your cortisol levels
Think in terms of increasing your muscle mass, improving your cardiovascular health and boosting your metabolism.
is my number one exercise for women who are moving into their midlife years. It is great for correcting hormonal imbalance, increasing muscle mass, boosting your metabolism and strengthening bones.
If you do your reps at a slightly faster rate (without sacrificing form) you can count is as cardio too. I call that a win-win.
Rather than spending an hour sweating it out, do short sharp bursts of high-intensity exercise that will boost your metabolism.
Just move. This could be walking, biking, dancing anything that gets you moving and your heart rate up slightly.
For more on exercise see The Most Important Exercise For Women Over 50
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Medical conditions and medications that make it hard to lose weight
Some medical conditions can cause weight problems.
Examples of these could be:
An underactive thyroid or Hyperthyroidism which most commonly occurs in older women.
Insulin treatment for diabetes. A common side effect of this treatment is weight gain around your middle.
Steroids that may be taken for conditions such as asthma or arthritis have been known to increase the taker’s appetite.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome - one of the symptoms of this condition is weight gain.
You include too many starchy vegetables
In general, vegetables are high in fibre and nutrients. Starchy vegetables, however, are lower in fibre and often made up of high GI carbs which could derail any low carb weight loss or maintenance diet.
Starchy vegetables include potato, sweet potato, beetroot and corn.
The list for vegetables that can easily be included as healthy and low carb is long but amongst them are leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, zucchini, and radishes.
You eat too much fruit
The fructose in fruit is sugar, pure and simple. If you are trying to lose weight try to stick to a few berries on your cereal and perhaps the occasional bit of fruit for a treat.
If you are not too concerned about your carb intake, eat the whole fruit with skin on as the fibre will help carry everything through. Avoid dried fruit which is very high in sugar.
Fresh fruits high in sugar are
Mango 28 gm carbs per cup
Passionfruit 26 gm carbs per cup
Cherries 20 gm carbs per cup
Bananas 18 gm carbs per cup
Berries are your best low carb fruit and are higher in fibre so fit well into any low carb diet.
For more on sugar when you are trying to lose weight read
Artificial sugar, good or bad when you want to lose weight on a low carb diet?
While low-calorie sugars have their place especially while you transition to low carb they can play tricks on your mind. Sweet treats are not generally a regular part of a low carb diet but can be there to allow us to have a treat from time to time or on special occasions.
Eat for nutrition not because you ‘fancy’ something sweet. That is more likely to be a sign that you have a craving. Learn to recognise them and not give into them. If you are filling your body with nutrition eventually the cravings will ease.
How much caffeine are you having?
Caffeine gives you a nice adrenalin hit. This then signals the liver to release glucose to feed the muscles. With that energy swirling around insulin spikes and fat is stored instead of being burned off. I love my coffee but limit it to 2 per day. If you are not losing weight though try giving up even for a little while to see if there is any improvement.
Too much dairy can stall weight loss
Some dairy is fairly high in carbs, 5% in the case of milk. So a glass of milk, a large latte or a pottle of yoghurt can contain a hefty amount of carbs.
Dairy can also contain a lot of protein. Protein is high amounts can behave like carbs in the body raising your insulin levels and causing your body to store fat.
The makeup of dairy makes it particularly effective at spiking an insulin response even as much as a slice of white bread.
Include minimal dairy in your diet and if you do have a little try to contain it to a spoon of full-fat greek yoghurt or double cream on that special treat.
When you remove carbs from your diet you need to replace them with something else so you don’t feel hungry. That something should be one of the healthy fats that I mentioned earlier.
If you are struggling to -
lose weight on a low carb diet
it could be for any the reasons I have listed or for several at once.