Has your weight loss stalled on keto? Have you hit a keto plateau?
Don’t worry, stalls are common on a keto diet, and your stalled weight loss is not permanent.
You most likely just need to change things up a bit. The 14 ways to break a keto stall are listed below, and further down in this article I talk about each method to give you the whys and hows of starting to lose weight again.
14 Ways to Break Your Keto Plateau.
- Lower your calories.
- Eat less fat.
- Cheat a little.
- Eat a pickle.
- Exercise less.
- Get more sleep.
- Eat less protein.
- Lay off the nuts.
- Cut out dairy.
- Don’t drink alcohol.
- Avoid grains.
- Avoid industrial oils.
- Cut out sweeteners.
- Chill out.
Click Here to jump to the details about the Ways to Break a Stall
Weight loss plateaus happen in every weight loss journey.
We all want to see the scale move steadily down, but that’s just not reality.
Sometimes, these stalls are just part of the process; part of the journey, if you will.
But usually we can break the stalls.
Sometimes, our weight doesn’t change because we keep doing the same thing over and over and expect to get different results.
Albert Eisenstein is widely credited for saying that “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity”.
How about we just avoid insanity by mixing things up a bit?
The Scale is Not Your Friend!
Our bodies are not simple machines. There is no magic prescription that works for everyone, every time. Even for yourself.
As your body adapts, heals and adjusts, it reacts differently to everything, and that includes your ketogenic way of eating.
If your waistline isn’t changing, then maybe your habits needs to.
First things first, though.
If the scale is the only thing you’re watching, you’re making a big mistake.
The scale is not your friend.
The day to day mass in your body is influenced by so much more than fat loss (or gain, for that matter!)
The scale shows you the weight of fat, muscle and bone as a sum total. Also water. And inflammation.
And these are influenced not just by what you eat but by what you do, what you feel, what you think, what you breathe and how, when and where you sleep.
I promise, the scale doesn’t have any idea how your fat cells are changing.
Measurements (waist, hips, thighs, arms, neck, etc.) are a much more accurate way to track your weight loss journey.
It’s true that these measurements can also be influenced by water and inflammation, but they are much less volatile than the number on the scale.
Take your measurements now and compare then once a month or once a week.
The scales are not your friend, and as soon as you embrace that, you’ll thank me.
What is a Keto Stall or Plateau?
Haven’t seen the scale move in a week or two? While this is frustrating, it’s completely normal and I don’t consider it a real stall.
A stall or a plateau is an extended period of time in your weight loss journey where you do not see significant fat loss.
An extended period of time means at least two months.
If you’re weight is holding steady for a couple of months, there may be a lot more going on internally than you are aware of. Your body usually holds onto its fat reserves for a reason, namely for emergencies, and it doesn’t give them up lightly.
Remember, this “extended period” is not determined by the scale. You can lose many inches without seeing a change in the scale (perhaps you’re gaining muscle while losing fat). But your clothes fit differently and you can see the difference in pictures. You feel better. Stronger. Have more energy.
You look better naked in front of the mirror.
These things all matter more than a number on a scale!
Changing things up with one or two of the 14 Ways to Break Your Keto Plateau can still help you start losing weight again!
You never want to keep doing exactly the same thing or eating the same things all the time. Keep your body on its toes!
But your body does love to clean out old cells and heal itself whenever it has the opportunity. And a ketogenic way of eating often supplies those opportunities.
You might want to lose weight, but your body wants to be healthy.
These two things are not necessarily in opposition to each other, but your body might have a different timeline than your emotions or your brain.
The great news is, a healthy body that is hormonally balanced (a feat that Keto excels at promoting!) is primed to shed excess weight.
The Details – 14 Ways to Break Your Keto Stall
Let’s start with the basics and work towards trickier fixes for your weight loss stall.
#1 – Lower your calories.
Don’t stop reading!
You’re probably thinking one of two things.
“What in the world?! I thought you didn’t have to count calories on Keto!”
Conventional wisdom has taught us for decades that the way to lose weight is to lower your calories. They said it doesn’t matter what you eat, as long as you take in less calories than you expend. But we know now that our bodies are much more complex than that.
What you eat matters because of the hormone response to different foods.
Eating a low carb, high fat diet causes a much lower insulin response, which creates an ideal hormonal situation for weight loss.
BUT, you can still eat more than you need.
You don’t have to meticulously count every calorie in and every calorie out forever. We’ve all tried that and we all know that doesn’t work for the long term.
However, if you’re stalled, you may need to eat less. You can do this by reducing your portion sizes at meals. Or cut out that mid-afternoon snack. Forego the bedtime snack that has become a habit. Or take your morning coffee black instead of adding cream.
#2 Eat less fat.
When you are first getting started and adjusting to ketosis, you need a lot of dietary fat. It makes the transition from being a sugar burner to using fat as your main fuel source easier.
However, once you’re comfortably in ketosis, if you want to lose weight, you want your body to burn the fat it has in storage. It can’t do that if there’s too much dietary fat in your system because your body will burn always burn the dietary fat first.
Keto is a low carb/high fat diet. When you want to lose weight, that means eat low carb and burn the fat on your body.
You still want to eat some fat but make it just enough to feel satisfied. Satisfied does not mean stuffed!
Make sure you eat mindfully and are listening to your body.
If you were eating 70-80% fat when you started Keto, a good starting point for fat consumption if you are tracking is probably around 50% of calories.
This will vary a little depending on your protein needs, so you’ll need to try it out and see what feels right in your body. By eating less fat, you’ll naturally be reducing your total calories too.
Maybe it’s time to have one day a week with a Keto cheat day.
If we do the same thing all the time, our bodies adjust to that ‘normal’ and become really efficient at that thing. And by efficient, I mean your body is able to maintain wherever it is at more easily.
By changing things up once a week, you force your body to use its metabolic flexibility (the ability to burn different fuel sources).
Cheating could mean you have one meal that includes a serving of sweet potatoes or an apple. Or you could have a high calorie day but keep it Keto. Or have a meal that is high carb but low fat. Or just don’t even worry about thinking it through and eat whatever you want.
If you really took your cheat day serious, you might want to read this article I wrote about getting back into ketosis after cheating.
Do what feels right to you.
By taking a break from the regular routine, you keep your body on its toes so it doesn’t get in a rut. And you take a mental break, too, which has huge benefits in its own right.
#4 Eat a pickle.
If you feel hungry in between meals, you may need more salt!
Hunger is often your body’s cry for nutrients, not just calories.
Salt is not optional on Keto and you should be adding pink sea salt (Amazon Affiliate Link to the salt we use) to your meals.
Sodium is a vital electrolyte in our bodies, and the diuretic nature of Keto causes us to need more than on a carb-based diet. Electrolyte deficiency could be at the root of your hunger (and overeating), and sodium is one that many people overlook.
So the next time you’re hungry between meals, instead of reaching for the fat bombs, grab something salty. It doesn’t have to be a pickle, but they are an easy, low carb, low calorie, tasty way to take in some sodium.
You can even just drink the pickle juice!
If you are having muscle cramps or fatigue, those might be your body telling you that you’re missing some key nutrients. Consider adding more sodium in a way that works for you.
#5 Exercise less.
Yup, you read that right…Less Exercise.
Exercise is a form of stress and if you’re trying too hard to burn off calories, it may backfire.
Stress causes your body to release cortisol, which is a hormone that, among other things, tells your body to store abdominal fat and to release glucose into the bloodstream and burn sugar.
If you are hitting the weights hard and running or doing HIIT every day, you may be doing more harm than good.
I’m not saying it’s ok to be a couch potato.
Movement is important. But we also need to break away from the idea that you have to do excessive amounts of cardio to “earn” your calories. That way of thinking doesn’t work – it sets you up for a vicious cycle of stressful workout followed by increased hunger.
Walk or do some other low intensity exercise (like yoga or tai chi) every day.
Take a break from any intense exercise for a week or two and see how your stress level changes. If you feel better (and you might even notice less bloating), you’ve probably been stressing your body out too much with all the exercise.
When you feel ready to workout again, keep the intense workouts to once or maybe twice a week for several weeks and see how you feel.
You may be surprised at how much better you feel, how much better your workouts are, and how your fat loss starts up again.
#6 Get more sleep.
Similar to too much exercise, too little sleep is a stressor on your body.
Stress causes excess cortisol release. Too much cortisol raises your blood sugar and tells your body to store fat – especially in the abdominal area.
Both of these are obviously not the goal when it comes to health.
Cortisol also causes carb cravings.
Have you ever noticed how much you crave sweets or bread when you’ve had too little sleep? And it’s almost impossible to stay away from food using only willpower because our hormonal signals are much stronger than our rational thought processes.
Too little sleep will set you up for overeating, particularly of high carb foods.
So make getting shut-eye a priority!
#7 Too much protein.
A ketogenic diet is not a high protein diet.
If you are eating too much protein for your needs, your body can convert the excess into glucose (through a process called gluconeogenesis), which will then provoke an insulin response and raise your blood sugar.
When that happens, you produce less ketones. Less ketones means more food cravings and that leads to eating more than you need in order to lose weight.
You need enough protein to maintain your muscle mass and support any healing that your body is doing.
How much protein do you need on a keto diet?
Multiply your weight in pounds by 0.45. That is your target for protein, in grams. (If you have a large amount of weight to lose, you may want to multiply your goal weight by 0.45. Your target for protein will be somewhere at or above this number but below your actual weight multiplied by 0.45.)
Make sure to hit your protein target each day so that you ensure you get enough protein.
It’s okay to go over a little but try to keep your intake close to that number.
Note that some people do well on a higher amount of protein.
Protein needs and tolerance are highly individualized. If you try this lower protein approach for a few days and you feel lethargic or just not right, you may need a higher amount.
#8 Lay off the nuts.
Nuts are generally a great food for Keto, as they provide fat, protein and a host of micronutrients. However, they are also so easy to overdo!
A portion of nuts is usually a small handful and that handful packs a pretty high calorie punch.
Too often we go way over on portions because nuts are so snackable.
Nuts also are high allergen and intolerance triggers for many people. Even if you’re not allergic to nuts, they may be provoking an inflammatory response.
If this is happening in you and you are eating them regularly, this leads to chronic inflammation in your gut and possibly throughout your body.
Chronic inflammation is a stressor, which we know is no good for weight loss. Chronic inflammation in your gut can also cause leaky gut, which can cause havoc everywhere in your body.
If you’re eating nuts all the time, consider removing them from your diet for a while and see if your weight loss improves.
#9 Cut out dairy.
High fat dairy like cheese and heavy cream are mainstays for a lot of Keto eaters. And for a lot of us, that works really well.
For some, though, dairy causes problems, and not just for those that are lactose intolerant.
There are proteins in dairy that some people don’t process well, and eating dairy foods can cause a chronic inflammatory situation similar to nuts.
If you want to cut out dairy, you’ll want to make it complete – no cheating at all – for at least two weeks. Dairy proteins are sneaky, and they can hang around in your body for a long time.
Give your body time to get all of those dairy proteins cleared out and see how you feel and whether your weight loss improves.
To replace the fat from those dairy products, add more of foods like avocado, coconut oil, coconut butter, olive oil, fatty fish, bacon and eggs.
Also, make sure you are eating dark, leafy greens and canned fish with the bones (like salmon or sardines) to make sure you are getting enough calcium.
#10 Don’t drink alcohol.
I’m talking mostly to the everyday drinkers, here.
Yes, there are keto-friendly adult beverages.
Yes, I drink whiskey and red wine.
I am not judging.
But if you have one drink or two (or more!) most days, and your weight loss has stalled, alcohol might be the culprit. And for numerous reasons.
While you can drink and stay in ketosis if you choose wisely, alcohol does have calories and your body will burn alcohol before anything else – ketones, fat, or carbs. So the more you drink, the less chances your body has to burn stored body fat.
And you probably are well aware that when you drink, your decision making skills suffer, and that includes decisions about food and hunger.
Also, alcohol changes your gut biome, those friendly and not-so-friendly bacteria in your gut. And those bugs have a big effect on your health and weight loss.
If you aren’t losing weight, lay off the booze for a while and see what happens!
#11 Avoid grains.
I know you’re Keto, so you’re not eating bread or pasta or crackers made with grains.
However, if you’re not watching your labels, you may be eating small amounts of wheat, corn, rice and other grains in any number of food products.
Grains are another highly inflammatory food category. They may be causing inflammation, leaky gut and changes in your gut microbiome.
Try eliminating ALL grains or at least go gluten-free for a couple of weeks and see how you feel.
#12 Avoid industrial oils.
A Keto diet is high in fat but you want it to be high-quality, natural fat. Fat the way nature intended and that your body recognizes and knows how to use.
Industrially processed oils (also called RDB Oils) are created using intensely high heat, high pressure, and solvents. This process changes the chemical structure of the fat and your body has trouble processing it and putting it to use.
All that trouble leads to – you guessed it – inflammation.
Plus, the fat in those oils is made rancid by the heat of creating them, so much so that they have to use chemicals to deodorize it and clear it up to make it palatable. No thanks!
Avoid canola, soybean, corn, vegetable, peanut, cottonseed, and sunflower oil. Also avoid hydrogenated fats of any kind.
Instead, use real butter, ghee, olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, bacon grease and real lard for cooking.
#13 Cut out sweeteners.
Eliminate all sweeteners, even Keto-friendly ones.
Eating a Keto diet will usually increase your sensitivity to sweet flavors and decrease your sweet tooth.
However, the prevalence of recipes for Keto-friendly sweet treats can cause anyone to overdo it.
For some people, just the flavor of sweetness can cause a reaction similar to if you ate real sugar. Your sweet receptors are still triggered, which can start the hormonal insulin response and “reward” chemical cascade in your brain.
There is some evidence to show that your ability to regulate hunger and calorie intake can be impaired by artificial sweeteners, and they can also negatively affect your gut health.
Cut out all sweeteners – natural and artificial – for a week and see what you think for yourself.
#14 Chill out.
Last on this list is to relax; physically and mentally.
If you never slow down, your stress hormones never have time to lower.
If you spend all of your mental energy tracking everything you eat and worrying about each bite, you’ll be just as keyed up.
Being active is important; knowing what is good for you to eat is important. Balance is more important!
For everything you do, with every good intention, take the time to find the balance.
I hope these suggestions are helpful and you find a few of them make sense for your Keto journey. You’re in this for the long haul! You don’t have to do everything on this list all at once.
Pick one or two that resonate with you and see what implementing them does for your body and your life.
Let me know in the comments what you try and how you feel!
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Disclaimer: While I have been keto for over a decade and have guided thousands of people through starting a keto diet, I am neither a licensed nutritionist nor a medical professional. I never prescribe diets. I only share my personal experiences and those of my clients for informational purposes only. Nutrition details are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be considered medical nutritional data. You should consult your medical professional before making any major changes in the way you eat.