It's a well-known fact that a diet that restricts carbohydrates intake is extremely effective. Just like with any other diet though, you might find that you plateau and are no longer able to lose weight, even though you haven't reached your desired weight.
Here is a pretty thorough list of what might have gone wrong:
You May Weigh More And Have Lost Fat
Okay - that sounds really confusing, doesn't it? The fact is that fat weighs less than muscle. On this type of diet, especially if you are also doing some resistance training, you could actually find your weight going up (or at least not going down).
That is why the scale shouldn't be used as the primary indicator of success. Be sure to take waist and hip measurements regularly and also get you percentage body fat checked on a more or less monthly basis.
You also need to look at the difference in how you look and how your clothes are fitting now. Take "before" and "after" photos of yourself to help in this evaluation.
You Haven't Gone Far Enough
There are those who tend to have a more intense sensitivity to carbs. If your weight loss begins to taper off, even though you are following the low-carb diet perfectly, you might be one of those people.
The way to go in this instance is to reduce your carb intake to less than 50g daily. That means, cutting out all fruits except for small quantities of berries. If that doesn't kickstart the process again, you may need to drop under 20g daily for a little bit - however, this is not a long-term solution, it is just to rev up the fat burning again.
Also, keep real close track of what you are eating and ensure that you aren't getting carbs from some unexpected source. Fitday is a great app and can help you pinpoint where all your carbs, etc are coming from.
Stress Never Ends
The sad truth is that doing everything right in terms of exercise and eating may not make much of a difference if you are stressed out. Stress plays havoc with our hormone systems and can result in a flood of cortisol. This will not only make you feel hungrier but will also prompt cravings for foods that you should not eat - cravings that will be hard to overcome.
Look at ways to actively dial down the stress in your life. Meditation can be quite useful as can watching a movie you enjoy or reading a really good book.
Simplify as far as possible or consult a professional on how to deal with stress.
Are You Really Eating Food That Is Real?
When it comes to making a reduced carb diet, there is a lot more to it then simply cutting out carbs. The gap left by those carbs needs to filled with food that is wholesome and nutritious. Buying the so-called "low-carb" convenience foods, such as Atkins bars, will set back your weight loss efforts because they are highly processed and not actual real food.
What you want to stick to is food that has undergone minimal processing. Best to buy and eat food in its natural state and prepare your own treats.
Get creative - it isn't hard. You need to eat more fat when anyway you cut back on carbs so a yummy dessert of strawberries and cream is very much on the menu! In fact, if you do not eat enough fat, you will end up feeling miserable.
You cannot live on only protein and fat either. Eat a low-carb veg, protein and healthy fat at each meal and you will come out on top.
You're Not A Squirrel
There is not a doubt in my mind that nuts fall under the category of real and nutritious food. They are jam-packed with nutrients and contain around about 80% healthy fats.
The problem is that it can be easy to eat too many - they taste great and do not leave you feeling as full so you may be getting too many calories from them. Stick to a small handful a day; nuts are not what you want to be eating until you're full.
Do You Get Enough Shut-Eye?
When it comes to health overall, sleep is extremely important. Not getting enough sleep predisposes you to weight-gain and, possibly, obesity.
When your body is tired, it sends hunger pangs to get us to increase our energy intake. In addition, when we are tired, our motivation is at it lowest and we are most likely to cheat on our diets.
If you are following the diet 100% and are battling to lose weight, take a critical look at your sleep patterns.
Try the following, and, if they don't work, go to your doctor:
- No caffeine in any form after lunch
- No light at all in the bedroom when sleeping
- Do not drink alcohol or engage in exercise in the hours just before bedtime
- Wind down by reading before bedtime
- Establish a sleep/ wake schedule and stick to it
How Much Dairy Are You Eating?
Dairy is low in carbs but it could cause issues. Some dairy has loads of protein which, similar to carbs, can raised insulin levels. In fact, because of the types of amino acids in dairy it can be a strong driver when it comes to insulin spikes - at about the same level as that of white bread.
Even if you feel no ill effects from eating dairy, they should really only form a small part of the low-carb eating plan. You should completely avoid milk and reduce your yoghurt, cream and cheese to a minimum. Use butter, in moderation; it's ok to use because it has much less protein in it.
You Are Not Active Enough
Your primary goal when it comes to exercising should be to get fitter and healthier, not to lose weight. It's true that exercise helps you lose weight -- a little -- but it is the overall benefits in terms of mental and physical health that should be your primary motivators.
Over the long term, you will build strong muscle and improve the health of your skeletal structure. Increased muscle mass will mean that you burn more calories even when at rest.
In order to garner the benefits, you do need to incorporate different forms of exercise. Start with something you enjoy and start off slowly so that you will stick with it.
It is also important not to just choose one sort of exercise. Cardio is not, and should not, be the only component. Try a combo of the following:
- Weights - Now, before you run out of the room screaming that you do not want to be a muscle-bound monster, train with smaller weights using lots of reps (but build up to that number of reps gradually) and you will build muscle tone rather than hulk out. This is important in balancing the hormonal system and increasing your resting metabolic rate.
- Interval training - This is one of the best forms of cardio. You challenge your body and it is great at increasing metabolism and the output of human growth hormone.
- Low intensity - If you cannot handle the above, at the very least get off your behind and get active. Walk up the stairs (or at least some of them) to the office; walk to the restaurant to pick up your lunch in place of calling in an order. Your body wants you to move it.
How Sweet It Is - Maybe too Sweet
There are certainly sweeteners out there with few or no calories. This does not mean, however, that they do not affect us at all. Some can stimulate appetite. This is particularly true when it comes to artificially made sweeteners - they may fool the taste buds but not the body or brain. You will still crave sweetness.
Studies have linked the use of manmade sweeteners to weight increase over the long haul.
This factor will likely affect people differently but if you find that you have hit a weight loss plateau and have been using sweeteners, it could be time to ditch them.
There Is A Medical Issue
Some medications can cause you to gain weight. Check the side effects of each medication that you are taking and see if weight gain may be among them. If so, speak to your doctor to discuss possible alternatives.
If you are not taking medication, are following the diet to the letter and are not losing weight, it is wise to consult with your doctor. Just let them know what you are doing and that you want to see if there is any medical reason as to why you are not losing weight.
You Don't Stop Eating
There is a theory that grazing throughout the day is the way to go to keep hunger blunted and metabolism up. Scientists trying to prove this theory have actually come up short - there is no advantage whatsoever to eating multiple small meals a day.
Think about it for a second - if you had to hunt for your food or gather it, would you usually be able to eat so often?
Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, has been found to be useful in breaking through a plateau. You basically just eat within a set eight-hour period during the day, and not beyond it. Alternatively, you might fast completely for a day.
You Are Overdoing The Cheating
Some people can have just one slice of cake or piece of chocolate. For those people, allowing a little indulgence once in a while will not be an issue. For the rest of us, especially those addicted to food, this is actually harmful rather than helpful. Taking a supplement made from natural plant products may be able to help.
You might find yourself unable to stop cheating and simply not break the cravings. Having a plate of chips may not sound like a lot but it can really set you back on a low-carb diet.
If you find that you are unable to moderate your intake of unhealthy foods, the best way forward is to remove them from your diet completely.
Calories Do Count
If you are following the low-carb eating plan properly and eating until you feel sated, you are unlikely to have a problem when it comes to calories. These diets do naturally curb your appetite. If you stop losing weight though, it might be time to check the amount of calories you are eating, at least for a while.
In order to kick back into fat-burning mode, you will need to take in 500 less calories than you use each day.
Maybe You Aren't Being Realistic
Did you become overweight overnight? I seriously doubt it. By the same token, expecting to become slim and trim again overnight is simply not practical. In fact, you want to lose the weight at a slower pace because then it will be easier to keep it off. Aim to lose 1-2 pounds a week.
At one point, you are going to get to a set point in terms of weight - this is the weight that your body feels is healthy. It is difficult to push this weight downwards so you may need to accept that it is your new "thin".
You've Been Doing A Low-Carb Diet For Too Long
It is not the best idea to undercut your required calorie count for too much time. Those people who have bodies we'd like to aim for (bodybuilders, models, etc.) are not permanently on diet.
Following a diet for a number of months/ years can affect your metabolism, actually decreasing it.
If you have been on a diet long-term and have hit a plateau, it is a good idea to reevaluate things and, over the next couple of months, aim to maintain the new weight and also to increase muscle mass.
That doesn't mean reverting to eating the junk, just being a bit more lenient in terms of foods that can help build muscle.
After a couple of months, start your diet again.