This is a letter to everyone who has hit a wall with Keto.
Grab a cup of tea (hold the milk), this is a long one.
If I’ve linked you to this post, it’s because you’ve asked me why Keto has stopped working for you, or isn’t working for you, or isn’t getting the results you expected.
This is one of the most common questions I get, and by far the hardest to answer.
I wrote this for you because I know how frustrated you are.
At least once a day, I get a message, email or DM from someone who is a bit frustrated or a bit scared.
It usually goes something like this…
“I’ve been doing keto for 3 weeks, and I lost 2Kgs in the first week but now I haven’t lost anything/I have put on 400 grams”
Or sometimes like this…
“I have been doing Keto for a year, and lost 20 kgs in the first 6 months. Since then my weight has been the same, with the same 1 – 3 kgs going up and down.”
I’m not writing these comments to poke fun at the people who have sent these messages, because I’ve asked myself the same questions.
Has Keto stopped working for me?
Is Keto sustainable long term?
Why isn’t Keto working for me?
Why am I not shedding the kilos like everyone else?
The hardest part about answering these questions for the people who reach out to me is that… it depends.
No one seems to appreciate when I respond back with “it depends”, but it’s the only correct answer.
If anyone tries to tell you there is just ONE reason that Keto doesn’t work, they have greatly underestimated how complicated our bodies are.
There are so many factors that go into our overall health, and when we expect miracles from just cutting out carbs, our expectations may not be aligned with reality.
I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it – Keto is not a weight loss diet.
Reducing carbs and focusing on fresh, whole foods while repairing your gut health is how we should all be eating – whether we have weight to lose or not.
Now that I have that out of the way, there are several things we can check off before we decide that the Keto way of eating is not for us.
I challenge anyone who thinks Keto doesn’t ‘work’ for them to review the list below, and hand to heart tell me they have considered/tried/changed all of these things and it’s still not working for them.
Use this list as a checklist.
Every time you start to wonder if it isn’t working for you, go through this list and give something new a go.
If you give up, and go back to your old way of eating, you will have the same problems you are trying to get away from.
There is no such thing as ‘finishing Keto and going back to eating normal’, if normal was carb-heavy, processed foods. You will go back to your old health problems, if this is your ‘normal’.
I write this post for you, because I want you to succeed. I want you to message me back in 6 months or 12 months and tell me YOU FIGURED IT OUT.
I am not perfect, and I have my fair share of stalls and frustrations, but I put this list together for you to try and nut out what is holding you back.
TRY THESE THINGS BEFORE QUITTING KETO
Calories still matter – so reduce them.
Cut out a bit of cheese, a bit of oil, a bit of fat on your steak. It can be easy to overeat on calories when keeping carbs low. If you don’t have that much weight to lose, then it could be that your calorie needs a lower than you expect. Check the calculators in the “getting started” section of this website.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Meal plans and recipes are a place to start, but there are 7 billion people on this planet and our bodies are all pretty unique. We respond differently to different foods, eating patterns and quantities so no one meal plan will work for everyone. It’s about learning and adjusting, so if you are using a set meal plan, remember to adjust it to your body and continue evolving what you are eating until you nail it.
Cut the processed crap
No more bars, shakes, replacement foods. Nothing you eat should need a label, because we don’t need labels on whole foods. The less processed, the better. This includes sweeteners. I use sweeteners very rarely now and they upset my stomach, even in small doses. Listen to your body.
You don’t need to lose weight
Sometimes our expectations of the number on the scale are not aligned with reality. Sure, you used to weigh 60kgs when you were 17, but you might not be 17 anymore. Your body requires and therefore produces more fat as you get older, and your natural healthy weight range will increase. If this might be you, focus on body recomposition instead – take your measurements.
You are losing centimetres
I can’t emphasise this enough, take your measurements. Our body holds onto weight for a variety of reasons and often we get depressed when we step on the scale every day only to find our weight has crept up. Measure your body at various places (here’s a great guide on measuring yourself) and focus on changing your body shape.
Your gut is healing
This is a big one. If you’ve been eating a ‘normal’ diet full of processed grains and sugars your whole life, your body has a LOT of healing to be done before it is going to start letting go of excess fat. If you are eating clean, homemade whole foods and eliminating inflammatory foods, your body will continue to heal and this is SO much more important than shedding 5kgs before summer.
You are eating inflammatory foods
Inflammatory foods are different for everyone, but there are some that are without a doubt not good for us: sugar, wheat, alcohol, and for many people dairy. The tricky thing is, this list extends for some people to include things like nuts, tomatoes, eggs, soy, and many others. If you aren’t sure, see a nutritionist for a food allergy test or try an elimination diet. Inflammation is the enemy of gut health and your body will have a hard time healing if you continue to put inflammatory foods into it.
Stress, sleep and hormones
I cover this one a fair bit in the 21 Day Challenges and you can read more about it here, but until you are sleeping well and managing your stress hormones, your body will constantly feel ‘under attack’. Our bodies are all one big connected machine, and our diet and sleep play into everything.
Eating too often
Many of the common keto snack foods are very calorie dense and can add up very quickly.
Eating too frequently can also be taxing on your digestive system, and many people are reaping the benefits of fasting in its many different forms. I see people eating 3 full meals a day and then snacking on calorie heavy foods in between. There are lots of benefits to fasting as well, Dr Jason Fung is a good place to start if you want to learn more.
It’s hard to know immediately that Keto is ‘working’ if your only goal is weight loss, and fast weight loss at that. If you shift your goals to something more realistic, you are more likely to notice your success. For example, if your goal was to eat home cooked meals every night and left overs for lunch, that’s pretty easy to see if you’ve achieved it, isn’t it? Compared to ‘lose 20 kgs’, which will have ups and downs and isn’t clear when it is ‘working’. Set slow, realistic goals that YOU can actually control and achieve with your actions. If losing weight is your end game, make your goals the little steps that you need to achieve to get there.
Weight loss is not linear
Your weight naturally fluctuates depending on so many things including many of the above. You want a downwards trend if you have fat to lose, but this comes in the form of a zig zag line. Going up on certain days means nothing. Going up every day for 10 years is a problem.
They can sneak in when you least expect them – that extra bit of onion or tomato, a few garlic cloves.
The thing is, it’s pretty hard to overeat on the best carbs – those that come from green leafy vegetables. I would hazard a guess that no one became unhealthy from blowing out their spinach or zucchini carbs. It pays to check your foods in a food tracker in the beginning, until you know for certain that your carbs are in a good place.
You have a medical issue that is affecting your diet
As mentioned before, there’s more to ‘diet’ than just what you eat. Your body is all connected and many other issues affect how your body is going to digest food or hold on to weight. Hypothyroidism, PCOS, Cushing’s syndrome, depression and high insulin levels are some of the issues that can cause weight gain and make it difficult to lose weight. Medications can also make it harder for you to lose weight. It’s important to manage these medical conditions first, and in conjunction with your diet. The great news is, many people find a cleaner diet can help reduce their symptoms.
Too much protein can spike blood sugar
It’s easy to add more protein to a meal to fill you up, but be careful adding too much. While it doesn’t ‘convert to carbs’ as some people claim, it does spike your blood sugar which we now understand is the cause of weight gain (in a round about way, you can go down this youtube rabbit hole if you want to learn more). A good rule of thumb for protein on Keto is around .8 – 1 grams per kg of body weight per day. So for a 75kg woman, this is 60g – 75g of protein a day (NOT of meat, but of the protein macro). This is the equivalent of around 200 – 250 grams of chicken breast per day.
You usually need more protein if you’re exercising or a man, check out the calculators in the Getting Started section.
Every time I run a 21 Day Challenge, I have people say to me “I am not cutting out my daily/weekly wine/beer/whatever.”
That’s fine, but don’t kid yourself that it isn’t affecting your health and your weight. You can read more in my article here about alcohol but basically it comes down to that alcohol actually does NOTHING good for you. Even that feeling of ‘relaxing with a wine’ is feeding low-grade dependence because we should be able to relax without wine. Just give it some thought.
Yes it may be low carb, but NO it is not good for you.
Pretty simple, drink more water! If we are dehydrated, our bodies will hold on to what it does get. We also consume more salt and electrolytes on the Keto diet, and need to drink plenty of water to go with this. For those that say they don’t like water, what would you say to a child who said they don’t want to eat their vegetables?
You’re not actually in Ketosis
If you think this may be you, keep reducing your carbs and you will get there. It’s pretty easy to eat chicken and broccoli for dinner, and quickly see whether this is a problem for you. Eating simple meals is by far the easiest way to success – a small serve of protein and low carb vegetables, with some healthy fats like avocado or olive oil. That’s it.
The Weekend Treat/Cheat/Binge
We all fall trap to that old weekend cheat meal idea sometimes. The thing with Keto is that it doesn’t work that way. If you eat a strict, healthy keto diet from Monday – Friday and then return to carbs on the weekend, by the time you get back into ketosis next week, it will be almost the weekend again.
Keto is not a life sentence, a short term or a quick fix diet. It is a sustainable, healthy way of eating and enjoyable if you do it right.
Don’t blow your calories or carbs on the weekend because it’s not worth it. One day of double carbs and calories will undo a whole week of maintenance. If you feel the need to binge as a reward, then you need to assess what is making this feeling – are you depriving yourself too much during the week? Are you eating enough?
Think about Exercise
Do you have to exercise to lose weight? No
Do you have to exercise to optimise your health? Absolutely.
Exercise is not about burning calories, and if that’s the way you see it, you’re going to have an awful time punishing yourself.
Exercise is amazing for our bodies and our minds. I have always struggled sticking to a regular exercise regime unless I find something I actually enjoy – for me it was a team sport combined with yoga. Keep trying things until you find some form of movement that makes you feel good, inside and out.
If you are doing high-intensity exercise, interval training or anything like Crossfit, you may need to introduce a small amount of carbs before exercising. A banana or a small amount of sweet potato can help to give you the explosive energy needed for these workouts. See how you go – everyone is different in this arena.
You’re eating too much fat
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen someone offer the suggestion of eating more fat to someone who is not losing weight with Keto.
Yes, Keto is a relatively high fat diet BUT if you are trying to lose weight, your body should be relying on some of its stores of fat for energy. This means if you eat more fat, you will burn LESS body fat, because you are eating it instead. Make sense?
Fat is not a free for all food, it is very high calorie and needs to be balanced. This article from Ditch The Carbs summarises it perfectly:
“Assess how much fat you’re adding to your meals and beverages and try reducing the amount. See if it has any effect on your weight, and make sure to note any changes in your hunger levels. If you feel hungry, then you have probably reduced your fat intake too much. You’re looking for the level of fat intake where you’re not hungry, but your body is able to rely on its own body fat for energy.” Source
Keep it Simple
Go back to absolute basics. Here is a weekly meal plan for you, showing how simple this can be.
Lunch: 1/2 of daily serving of Protein and green leafy salad
Dinner: 1/2 of daily serving of Protein and green vegetables
If you start here, it is very easy to adjust things – protein, fats and carbs, without getting caught up in additives, snacks, baked goods and complicated recipes.
What about you?
I want to know what else you have found should be added to this list – what challenges have you overcome to get Keto working for you? Comment below and I will include them in this list to keep this an ever-growing document for anyone feeling stuck or frustrated.