Not Losing Weight on a Low Carb Diet? Here’s What To Do

A man screaming at the scaleAre you on a low-carb diet, but not losing weight?

Perhaps you lost some weight in the beginning but now the scale won’t budge?

This article will show you how to get that thing moving again.

Not Losing Weight on a Low Carb Diet?

I like low-carb diets.

I honestly think they are a strong weapon against some of the biggest health problems in the world.

That being said, we’re all unique and it doesn’t work for everyone.

Some people don’t like it, but most of those who give it an honest try do great. Most people even lose a lot of weight without restricting calories, at least in the beginning.

Then, after a few weeks/months, the dreaded plateau may show up. The weight “melted off” in the beginning but suddenly it has come to a grinding halt.

Here are a few suggestions for you to try if you’ve plateaued or aren’t getting the results you expected.

Weight Loss Isn’t a Linear Process

Our bodies are made up of many different tissues. The fat tissue under our skin and the large hunk of fat inside our abdomen are those that we are trying to get rid of.

However, our bodies are made up of 60% water (give or take) and other tissues such as muscle and bone also contribute to a significant portion of our total body weight.

If you’ve recently started exercising, then good chances are that you’re adding some muscle mass to your frame.

If you’re female, then your weight may fluctuate slightly according to your hormonal cycles.

Your weight may also be affected by what you ate yesterday, your hydration status, how long since you visited the toilet. All those things can cause minor fluctuations in body weight.

Therefore, even if the scale doesn’t budge a few days or even weeks, it doesn’t mean you’re not losing body fat.

How to Know if You’re Actually Stalling

The scale is a useful tool, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

What I recommend is to have your body fat measured once every month or so. You can also use a simple measuring tape to measure the circumference around your waist, arms and thighs.

A great idea is to also photograph yourself in the mirror every 2-4 weeks or so, without clothes. You might be surprised at the progress you’re making.

Some people don’t even use a scale. They go by how they feel, how they look and how their clothes fit.

Let’s Look at The Diet

Are you really eating low-carb? Does your diet consist of whole, natural foods? Are you “cheating” more often than you should?

These are all questions you should ask yourself.

If you want to make sure you’re actually eating within your carb range, then you can create a free account on Fitday and log your food intake for a few days.

If you’re eating more than a 100-150 grams per day, then this is likely what is causing your plateau.

There are some foods that can be problematic. Nuts and high-fat dairy products like cheese are generally acceptable, but they are still very high in calories and easy to overeat on.

If you’re eating nuts and/or cheese every day, between meals, in large amounts, then you should probably cut back and see if the weight doesn’t suddenly start moving again.

I’m personally not against potatoes and some healthy non-gluten grains from time to time, but to break through a weight loss plateau you might want to eat nothing but protein, fat and low-carb veggies for a while.

Cheat meals can be problematic. I’m not entirely against the occasional cheat meal if it is moderate and doesn’t make you go 5.000 calories over your expenditure for the day.

Try sticking to whole, natural carbs instead of junk food during your “cheat” meals. If that doesn’t work, skip the cheat meals altogether for a while.

When it comes down to it, weight loss is still a matter of calories. Again, try logging your food intake for a while to see how many carbs and calories you are taking in.

If they greatly exceed your requirements, then maybe you’re just eating too damn much.

Exercise – Are You Doing it?

What you eat is the most important aspect of losing weight. However, exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle and can definitely support your ongoing process when eating healthy.

A combination of strength training and cardiovascular exercise is best here. If you’re not lifting weights at least two times per week and going for regular walks, jogs, runs or whatever, then start.

If you’re completely sedentary, then you are (in my opinion) effectively broken. You’re not living life even close to your genetic potential. Get moving!

Is Your Lifestyle in Order?

The often ignored sleep and stress levels are very important.

You should get adequate sleep, every night. You should do your best to avoid any unnecessary stressors in your life, or simply change your attitude so that it doesn’t affect you so badly.

Poor sleep and stress can chronically elevate your cortisol levels, which is bad and can hinder your weight loss.

Try going to bed earlier, try meditating from time to time, go for walks, read a book instead of watching TV, try quietly drinking your cup of coffee while enjoying the moment instead of checking your facebook news feed.

Realistic Expectations

Losing fat takes time. A pound per week is a reasonable goal. Two pounds per week is perhaps too ambitious for some people.

We’ve all heard stories of those people who lose a ridiculous amount of weight in a short amount of time.

100 pounds in a year? Wow, impressive, but this is the exception, not the norm.

When you get closer to your goal weight, losing those last pounds becomes multiples times harder. Those last few stubborn ounces of body fat over your abdomen may seem impossible to get rid of.

When you reach this point, I think it is time to take it easy. Continue eating healthy, continue exercising, live your life to the fullest and stop focusing too much on those last few pounds. Hopefully, they will go away with time.

We also have to be realistic. Not everyone can lose all the weight they want. People who have been obese for a long time may not be able to completely reverse it.

Perhaps the best thing to do in that scenario is to just enjoy your improved health and wellbeing and maintain this for life.

You will live longer, feel better and have a peace of mind knowing that you did everything you could.

Tips and Tricks

I don’t really talk much about intermittent fasting on this blog, but I do know that it is a technique that can improve health and accelerate weight loss.

If this is something you want to try, then skipping breakfast and lunch and not eating until dinner one day of the week may make a large difference.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is another technique that can get things moving. Sprints, hill sprints, even rope skipping or cycling, doing these intervals can be very effective.

Conclusion

When it comes down to it, it is still all about eating healthy, exercising and living a healthy lifestyle.

If you’re not losing weight or have reached a plateau, then these pointers above should keep you busy for a while trying out new things in order to get that damned scale moving again.

Have you ever gone through a weight loss plateau and managed to break through it successfully? Please tell us all how you did it in the comments.


 

35 Comments

  1. Chance Bunger says:

    Good post Kris – there is no question from my own experience and those of friends who have faced plateaus that doing an intermittent fast 1-2 times per week is a GREAT way to keep the metabolism high. My favorite way to do this is to have a good size piece of protein for dinner at night and then not eat the next day until I’m hungry (which usually is not until after 1 or later) and then I break the fast with a salad full of veggies or a bowl of low carb chili. This never fails whenever I feel like I’m not moving at the rate I think I should be !

  2. Caroline says:

    Hi Kris, Love your articles. Do you have any thoughts on alcohol consumption and weight loss? Looking forward to hearing from you. Thanks, Caroline

    • Kristjan says:

      Hello Caroline. I am going to write a post about that soon.

      It’s okay if you stick to the cleaner varieties (not beer and fizzy sugary drinks).

      It also helps if you manage to stay away from the junk food while you’re at it. Maybe have a large, healthy meal before you go out.

  3. Amit Sharma says:

    Hey,

    This is Amit from India. I think i have reached a plateau. Not sure whether i have. I was 116 kgs.. Now i am 95 kgs.. Its been 2 weeks.. My weight is not going down.. I am doing the same exercises, burning more calories NOW.. spending more time on the floor.. One thing that i have cut down is – weights.. is that what is causing my weight to be still at 95kgs?
    Please suggest anyone.

    Thanks,
    Amit

    • It’s possible. Maybe you’re not really plateauing but just adding some muscle. Like I mentioned in the article, having circumference and body fat percentage measured regularly can give you some perspective. The scale doesn’t tell the whole story.

  4. To overcome my plateaus in the past I just eliminated junk food and decrease my calorie intake.

  5. I feel there is no reason that you cant get all the way to your weightloss goal- but you do need to really examine what you are doing in your program.

    Sometimes this takes re-assessing your program- what you did to get you to where you are may not be enough to get your further to your goal.

    Sometimes this takes re- assessing how compliant you are being to you program- as time goes on often little shortcuts and cheats creep in that just weren’t there before.

    Using both of these principles you can totally transform your body.
    Vix

  6. Thorey Thor says:

    Hello Kris,

    Thanks for all the articles, I just start this low carb program a few days ago, later I will let you know how it will go (sorry about my English).

    Best regards,
    Thorey

  7. Hi Kris…
    Although not all bases can be covered in every blog, I believe when at a weight loss platue after say 12 weeks of strict dieting, re-feeds can be very beneficial to kick start the metabolism again. So after 12 weeks eat healthy but increasing the calories to maintenance or above which also helps psychologically.
    Also another factor is the bodies hormonal body fat set point and knowing that you have reached this instead of a platue is the difference between losing muscle drastically or not… Love your blogs keep them coming

  8. God i am blessed to read your articles. Thanks for these gems. Lotsa motivation here!

  9. Troy Adashun says:

    Hi Kris,

    I love your aticles. It is soooo very true that many people are struggling on low carb diets and I think that you offer some great suggestions to people who are dealing with the ups and downs of this diet. I also believe it can be an explosive catalyst to fat loss when paired with a good training regimen. They key is to find other sources of energy to train at your peak while minimizing carbohydrate intake.

    In my opinion, if you are on a low carb diet QUINOA is one of the best things to eat to keep you energized and give you muscle building benefits.

  10. Michelle says:

    I recently stopped smoking after 25 yrs. I didn’t want to gain any weight since I am already overweight therefore I started going to an exercise class 5 days a week. I haven’t gained any weight but I cant lose a pound. I’m confused as to why I’m not losing any weight when I have stopped fast food completely, I’ve been counting calories and carbs. I’m very frustrated and I Want to give up. Any advice?

  11. Michelle says:

    Ive been told the reason im not losing any weight is because my metabolism slowed way down when I stopped smoking. Not sure if I believe that.

  12. Kris,

    I think people may start to plateau when they go from really strict dieting into maintenance mode, but then relax a little too much and start cheating more frequently, upping carb intake, etc. There is a fine line between fat loss and fat gain and everyone should know where this line is for them.

    Alykhan

  13. oh I really like this article.
    Hmmm, I’ve been doing this low-carb diet thing and I’ve lost about 25 pounds since I started a couple months ago(late march?)
    I just wanna say, for ppl who are fustrated don’t give up! Sometimes it doesn’t kick into action right away, your body has to asjust slowly but surely. Try being really strict for a few days and then you can jump start it. I mean JUST MEAT and GREEN veggies. WHat I eat: egg and mushrooms, salad, steak and bacon. SOmetimes on I days where I was really strict I didn’t lose anything -.- and somedays when I cheated I did lose some o.0 I just average out for the most part I’ve losing weight REGULARLY on low carb. Potatoes are good for you but I found I didn’t lose any weight on days I ate potatoe or rice(nor gain). When I stick to the diet I lose a pound every other day which a really fast pace so stick strictly to the low carb diet and you can lose weight really fast. Sometimes I cheat but if everything else is really strict it won’t effect you as much. SOme foods are healthy but just don’t help weightloss: potatoe, rice, nuts, fruits, starchy veggies like carrots
    I eat these just occasionally as a healthy cheat.

    BUT I also wanna say, I did do the intermiddent fasting thing, for about 2 days I probably ate only one meal and lost like 5 pounds. It wasn’t for weight loss reasons but religious reasons and I wouldn’t reccomend it for someone being active, I was seditary at the time. See here’s another thing, I don’t care if I’m hungry if I’m busy praying, studying or being lazy lol so I can go a day skipping meals, but I find I lose more weight eating more so don’t go crazy skipping meals.
    If you disagree with anything you should tell me so I don’t mislead anyone plus I like learning other ppls experiences xD.

  14. Hi Lily, It seems we started about the same time – the end of March. Initially I gave up grains and sugar and lost about 5 kilograms that way. I was eating a lot though – including a large plate of fruits and cheeses for supper! Then I read about the Whole30, which also cuts out dairy and any form of sweetener, even natural ones. I decided to try it andI lost another 5 kilos over the 30 days. More significantly, I lost my sugar craving completely, which is a huge bonus! Now I’m eating meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, vegetables and some fruit (dried sultanas with a handful of macadamias are my biggest downfall!). I’m not losing much weight, but my clothes fit so much better and some are definitely far too big for me now. I do walk the dogs most days and do a few pushups every 3rd day using the kitchen workbench to push up from. Other than that, I don’t do much exercise. Hopefully, when I lose a bit more I’ll be able to do more. Still, for someone my age (68 next month) I’m pleased with the results so far. It’s just so easy to do this!

  15. Oh, I eat plenty of fat too – especially coconut oil!

  16. Hey, Kris!

    What about nutrition bars? For example, Fiber One, Kellogg breakfast bars, Nature’s Valley Granola w/oatmeal etc…}

  17. I have been reading these posts this morning and I’ve been wanting to go low-carb. I have a belly now because I was on Prednisone for 10 months and gained 70 pounds in that time period. What can I do to lose this weight? Is low-carb the answer for that? Or something else since it was Prednisone?
    Thanks!

  18. zeaabaaz says:

    hi,
    i am 22 years old and i m 77kg wgt. i am going to be married within 2 months and i want to loose weight. i dont eat almost anything. i only eat break fast that is 2 piece of brown bread with egg white and a glass of orange juice. i trued to loose weight but i cant. i want my weight go to 66 kg. i am 5’8″ and i am 77. what can i do to loose my weight as it could be healthy for me.please help me out.

    • Hi zeaabaaz,
      I’ve been eating clean for 3 weeks and I’m down 8 kg already! Crazy I know! My starting weight was 88.7 kg and I’m 178cm, I’ve been eating, breakfast omelette: lunch: salmon or chicken with salad snacks: fruit or nuts dinner: veggies or salad with fish or steak or chicken etc I don’t eat dairy, carbs, processed food, sugars, soft drink, or any sauces. You need to cut the bread out of breakfast and you need to eat every 4 hrs or so your body needs good food.

  19. hi!
    Thanks for the great tips!
    I started a low carb diet for my health, I wanted to avoid grains and dairies for two weeks and also to lose weight.
    I hardly shifted anything in one week and my cravings were so huge I had to reintroduce grains. I know I need grains in small amounts to function properly but I still want to lose weight and don’t know what I’m doing wrong because my carb intake was under 100 gr most days.
    too much fat?

    thanks for your insight

  20. I don’t understand why you are telling some people they can’t achieve their weight loss goals? Just because someone is obese for a long time does not mean they can’t lose all the weight they want. It may take more time. I think a lot of what you’re saying is from your experiences and not necessarily backed up.

  21. Hi

    I’m a 42yo woman that over the last 2 years has lost 35kgs. I started at 125kgs. About 4 weeks ago I started on a low carb diet and lost 2 kg in the first week but nothing for 3 weeks now. I am keeping my carbs at around 20gms per day and calories around 1500 per day. I don’t eatany junk food,.drink sugary drinks,.or eat processed low carb snacks. I exercise nearly every day, either an hour of cardio at the gym or I ride my push bike for 30 – 60 mins per day. What am I doing wrong?? I’m really frustrated.

    Julie

  22. Hi, I’ve kept my carbs to definitely under 30 a day and have even cut calories but haven’t been able to find much time for exercise. I felt a little thinner but my scales have not budged!! I’ve been doing this for 3 weeks. Any suggestions?? 160 lb 49 year old woman.

  23. Chuffy-Buns says:

    Hi,

    I have been following a very low carb diet for 4 months now as I need to lose 3 stone. I am on a deadline to get my BMI to 30 (I hate BMI’s as they don’t take into account build etc, but I have no choice here) by 10th December.
    As I said I am eating a very low carb diet and exercising on my cross trainer for 60 minutes every day, but despite doing all this exercise and cutting my food intake down significantly (I have no cheat days, no sugar, no wheat, virtually no carbs and only meat and a few veggies) I have still only lost 1 stone! I am starting to get very frustrated as I feel the weight should be dropping off me much quicker with the combination of exercise/low amount of food that I’m eating.
    I could lose 1-2lbs per week just doing a low fat diet and no exercise, so I really can’t understand why with all the exercise and low carbing I’m not losing more like 4-6lbs per week! I have to get to this deadline and the only way I can see me making it now is if I stop eating altogether!
    Does anyone have any idea why I’m busting my a** and I’m still losing weight incredibly slowly? It’s completely demoralising and making me just want to give up!

    Thanks

    • I’m no expert but I was having the same problem as you. I was told I wasn’t eating enough and sure enough my weight started moving again when I began eating more… Go figure :)

    • Did you have success previously with low-fat + exercise?

      Most people can do well on a low-carb diet, but a subset of people might do better with low-fat.

      Low-carb isn’t for everyone.

      • Chuffy-Buns says:

        Hi,

        I did lose weight on a low fat diet but very very slowly and couldn’t keep the weight off. This time I have a very strict deadline which is why I chose to go with low carb, but it’s just so frustrating. This week I put on 4lbs, and by my calculations I didn’t eat anywhere near 4lbs in weight of food even, so how can it be that the weight is not just falling off of me????

  24. Christine says:

    Hi everyone! I am 54 yo woman who is 5 ft. 7 inches and I weigh 338 lbs. I recently started eating low carb and have only lost 6 lbs. in the first month. I haven’t exercised but will start to walk today, even if for only 10 minutes.

    I am cutting out the cheese and nuts to see if I will lose weight faster but I find sometimes that I am eating even when I am not hungry so I have to break that bad habit!

    Also, we have started using a low carb biscuit mix and we are eating pizza and muffins that have only 2 net carbs per serving.

    We eat Atkins bars for snacks and sugar free popsicles. Shouldn’t we lose weight if we stay under 50 net carbs per day regardless of calories or should we be watching both? Thanks for your input!

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