Low Carb Weight Loss Stalled? Here’s Why & What to Do
Video | Homeostasis | Insulin Resistance | Carb Creep | Calories | Fruit | Consistency
Following a well-formulated low carb diet is a great way to reach your weight loss goal. However, like any goal, it takes time, and there will be moments when you feel as if you are doing the right things but not getting the results you expect.
It is frustrating when weight loss stalls. In this post, I’ll share six reasons why it happens and what you can do to accelerate your results.
Stalled Weight Loss on Low Carb – At-A-Glance
- A stall within the first few weeks may be due to your body’s need to maintain homeostasis (balance).
- Solution: Give it the time, and the results will continue.
- Insulin resistance can slow or stall weight loss.
- Solution: Improve insulin sensitivity by sticking with a healthy low carb diet, exercising, and practicing intermittent fasting.
- Carb Creep is the tendency to loosen the rules over time and mindlessly eat more carbs than you would have at the start of your diet.
- Solution: Track the number of total carbs you consume each day.
- Consuming too many calories can stall weight loss.
- Solution: Track your calorie intake.
- Eating too much fruit can stall weight loss in those with a sluggish metabolism.
- Solution: Reduce the amount of fruit you are eating and focus on low-sugar fruits.
- Inconsistency can cause weight loss to stall.
- Solution: Commit to following your low-carb diet full-time. Consistent effort makes your body a better fat burner.
Low Carb Weight Loss Stalled? Here’s Why & What to Do [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- Six reasons why your weight loss may have stalled!
- What to do to fix the problem(s).
- Additional resources for weight loss success.
Stalled Weight Loss and The Hormone Insulin
When you start a diet of any type, sugar and refined carbohydrates like pasta, chips, cookies, and baked goods are the first things that go. When you ate those foods in the past, they caused a spike in a hormone called insulin.
Insulin has some functions that are of interest to dieters. For instance, when insulin is elevated, fat loss is blocked, and your body retains water. So you can see how cutting out these insulin-spiking foods can result in a rapid loss of weight, some of which is fat and some water.
That rapid drop in weight is fun to see. However, it can make it seem like weight loss stalls in future weeks as your body works to regain its balance with water again.
Weight Loss Stall Reason #1: Your Body is Finding Homeostasis
Therefore, the first reason for a weight loss stall is due to a natural protective mechanism that your body has called homeostasis. Your body is constantly working to maintain homeostasis, which is the balance or stability it needs to keep you going.
For instance, if you were to lose too much water, your body would not have what it needs to run your metabolism. So, after an initial drop in water weight, it is not uncommon for your weight loss to stall as your body finds its water balance again.
What to Do:
While it may be the challenging thing to do, if your weight loss stalls within the first couple of weeks, the best approach is to stay the course. Patience is hard to come by, but simply giving your body time to adapt will allow the results to continue in the early stages.
Weight Loss Stall Reason #2: Insulin Resistance
This post is focused on low carb dieting, and reducing your overall carb intake can give you an edge. Carbohydrates are a type of macronutrient that we get from the foods we eat. They cause more of an insulin spike than the other two macronutrients, which are protein and fat.
When insulin levels are low, fat can be released from body fat, helping you lose weight. This is why a low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein diet works so well for many people. However, what if weight loss stalls despite eating this way? One reason may be insulin resistance.
When you have insulin resistance, your cells do not respond to insulin appropriately. Because of this, insulin remains in the bloodstream longer than it should, blocking fat loss.
This condition is common and is often caused by eating a diet high in refined carbs, being inactive, and being overweight, especially if you carry a lot of your excess weight around your midsection.
What To Do:
The good news is that your cells can become more insulin sensitive over time as you continue to eat a healthy low carb diet. Insulin sensitivity is also enhanced through exercise and intermittent fasting.
As I often say, give your body what it needs, and it will give you what you want. While it is true that insulin resistance can slow or stall weight loss, sticking with these positive diet and lifestyle habits can get your body back on track.
Weight Loss Stall Reason #3: Carb Creep
Another common reason that weight loss can stall on a low carb diet is something that I refer to as Carb Creep. If you’ve been on a low-carb diet for a while, it’s easy to start loosening the rules and mindlessly pop a few “healthy” low-carb treats in your mouth that you wouldn’t have done at the start of your diet.
Those little treats can add up without you being consciously aware. Before you know it, your total carb intake for the day has crept up to a point where it is interfering with fat burning.
What to Do:
To prevent Carb Creep, keep track of the number of total (not net) carbohydrate grams that you consume each day. By doing this, you avoid mindlessly taking in too many carbs for your metabolism.
I will add that Carb Creep is an easy trap to fall into, especially if you are relying on keto snacks and desserts. The growing popularity of low carb and keto diets has led to an onslaught of “keto-friendly” products. These foods may be low in net carbs but can be high in total carbs.
This is where it gets tricky. Food manufacturers can manipulate ingredients to reduce the net carb content of a packaged food. However, these “keto-friendly” items do not always deliver the metabolic free-ride that they promise.
They are often refined and sweetened, leading to an increase in insulin and cravings, making it harder to lose weight. This is why I recommend tracking your total, not net carb intake, particularly if you are buying keto-friendly foods.
Weight Loss Stall Reason #4: Consuming Too Many Calories
Another issue with keto-friendly foods is that they are often calorie-dense. This leads to the next reason weight loss can stall on a low carb diet, consuming too many calories.
Just as it is easy to loosen the rules and allow your carbohydrate intake to increase, it is easy to mindlessly increase your calorie consumption to a point where your body’s energy needs are being met. When this happens, there is no reason for your body to go to the effort to pull fat from storage, so weight loss stalls.
What to Do:
Here again, the solution is to track your intake. This time tracking your calorie intake, which is a valuable thing to do even if you think you have a good idea of how much you are eating. Studies have shown that we are notoriously bad at estimating our food intake. In one study, participants were invited to eat an all-American fast-food meal consisting of a hamburger, fries, and ice cream.
After the meal, participants were asked to estimate how much they ate. They underreported the portion size of every food, and they underestimated their calorie intake by up to 40 percent (1).
Weight Loss Stall Reason #5: Too Much Fruit
It’s interesting to see just how bad we can be at estimating our food intake. The study I shared had participants eat fast foods. Most of us realize that it is easy to overeat fast foods and processed foods. What you may find surprising is that overeating fruit can stall weight loss in individuals with a sluggish metabolism.
Fruit is packed with fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, which are all great things for your body. However, if you have a stubborn metabolism and your weight loss has stalled, you may want to take a look at your fruit consumption. Metabolic issues caused by years of drinking soda and sweetened drinks or eating a poor diet high in high fructose corn syrup make it hard for a sluggish metabolism to tolerate fruit.
What to Do:
Everyone’s fruit tolerance is different, and the only way to know if fruit is a problem for you is to experiment. If your weight loss has stalled, reduce the amount of fruit you eat and focus on the lowest sugar fruits, including berries, lemons, and melons. If you’d like a full list of low carb fruit choices, see my blog post, Can I Eat Fruit on a Low Carb Diet.
Weight Loss Stall Reason #6: Inconsistency
I understand the frustration that comes with stalled weight loss. When you commit to change your eating habits, you want to see results. However, no matter how we look at it, losing weight is a goal, and goals take time. This brings us to another reason that weight loss can stall, which is inconsistency.
To get the full benefits of a low carb diet, you need to train your body to become more reliant on fat for fuel than it is on carbohydrates for fuel. Carbs are easy energy, so your body will favor them if they are available. When you consistently restrict carbs, you force your body to create the enzymes and pathways it needs to become a better fat burner.
What to Do:
Therefore, if your weight loss has stalled, and you’ve been following a low carb diet part-time, switch to full-time, and you’ll see a difference. As with any goal, there will be days when staying the course feels uncomfortable. Working through uncomfortable days is challenging, but doing so could be the game-changer you’re looking for.
Low carb diets have been a blessing for many people. If you are just getting started, give your body time to adapt, especially if your diet and lifestyle have been poor in the past. If you are still not getting the results you want, you can break through stalled weight loss by tracking your carb and calorie intake, monitoring your fruit intake, and being consistent.
I have many free resources that can help you get on the path to success, including my 0,1,2,3 strategy that has been downloaded more than 80,000 times. The strategy is free and comes with a free video series that shows you how to get the most out of the strategy. Thanks for reading, and have a great rest of your day!
(1) Harnack, Lisa, et al. “Accuracy of estimation of large food portions.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 104.5 (2004): 804-806.
About the Author
Becky Gillaspy, DC, is the author of The Intermittent Fasting Guide and Cookbook. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.