Week 6 is now behind me and it was tough, the toughest week by far! I gained a little, I lost a little, I gained a little and then I lost a little. So far for the month of February I’m down a VERY disappointing 200g’s!
It all started flipping my ketogenic switch when I had my first cheat at the Springsteen concert two weeks ago. Having been in a ketogenic state for a couple of week’s and experiencing a storming weight loss, I flipped the switch and have been battling to get back into a ketogenic state ever since. After the end of my menstrual cycle, things have just not normalized and then of course, I started my ovulatory cycle this past weekend which again showed an increase in my weight.
I’m down again this morning, a whole 100g’s which is quite soul destroying considering how very good I’ve been. It’s been very very hard to stay motivated, especially considering that Walter has now surpassed the 13kg weight loss mark in the past 6 weeks and I’m still hovering just under a 9kg loss.
I’ve done some reading up on ketogenic diets and weight loss plateau’s and found this interesting article:
Breaking a Weight Loss Plateau (I’ve highlighted the points I think most pertain to my plateau)
The Most Common Causes of a Weight Loss Plateau
Here is my opinion, born of my individual experience, on the most common causes of a weight loss plateau.
If someone is following a ketogenic diet, and not losing weight, or the weight loss is inconsistent (going down one week and up the next), the dieter is most likely:
- Eating more carbohydrate than they think (fruit, nuts, and yogurt are the particular culprits here). I call this carb creep.
- Eating more calories than their body can handle without storing (this is usually the result of a very high fat intake – for me, too much dairy). Although I feel eating very low carb with lots of saturated fat is the healthiest way to eat, I’ve found for myself, I have to cut back on my fat intake in order to lose weight. I think once you reach the weight you want to be, you can add the fat back in reasonable amounts.
- Not exercising in a way that increases insulin sensitivity to the muscles. (The problem here is that for people with a broken metabolism, long, slow exercise doesn’t work well – it has to be high intensity exercise, which uses all the glycogen stored in the muscles, and makes them more insulin sensitive. This would be once or twice a week bouts of heavy weight lifting, sprints, etc. Not every day walking on a treadmill.)
In addition, these issues can also be at work, alone or in combination:
- The person has a food sensitivity which is not being addressed. For instance, some people find that dairy products stall weight loss, or perhaps gluten in some form is being eaten (low carb pasta, protein bars or some other processed low carb food).
- The person has a very broken metabolism, and it will take time, and a commitment to do whatever it takes to fix the metabolic issues, especially when it comes to improving insulin sensitivity. This includes keeping the amount of carbohydrate consumed very low (I have to stay below 16 grams of carb per day to maximize weight loss), and avoiding foods and other substances which are known to spike insulin without necessarily increasing blood sugar. These include gluten, aspirin, non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, casein protein from dairy products and coconut oil.
- The person is not being as consistent on the program as they think they are. Consistency over time is key, because it takes about 3-4 days to get into ketosis. If you kick yourself out with a cheat day, it will take that long to get back into ketosis. Now, at that point, almost a week has passed where no fat burning was occurring. If you are weighing yourself once a week, this can be disheartening, as that cheat day will have put 4 pounds of water back on, and it will be another 3-4 days before weight loss starts again. What seems like a weight loss plateau is really just a delay because of the time it takes to get back to ketosis.
- Accountability is lacking. Consistency, I think, is helped if you have a way to be accountable to someone, and you track your food intake and results each day to help you stay on course. I measure and track everything, (food intake, exercise, blood sugars) in a program called Fitday and on an Excel spreadsheet. If you don’t do this, it is just too easy to let the carbs and calories creep up. It’s a pain, but if you really want to make your weight goal, I think it’s necessary to record what you are eating, and use this information to stay on plan.
- Sometimes, the body may just be adjusting itself after a period of intense weight loss. I’ve read in several articles that the body will replace lost fat with water, as it adjusts to weight loss. Then all of sudden, it will release the extra water, and the dieter will experience a “whoosh” in weight loss – say 5 pounds in two days.
- Protein intake may be too high. Too much excess protein, say in excess of 1.5 grams per kilogram of lean body mass, can have the same effect on blood glucose as carbohydrates, and this can be a “hidden” factor for a weight loss plateau.A higher protein intake is encouraged during the first 3-4 weeks of a ketogenic diet. But after the body becomes keto-adapted and is burning mostly ketones for fuel, protein intake should be lowered to between .8 – 1.5 grams per kilogram of lean body mass. (If you exercise a lot, you can go to the higher end of the range.) Try cutting back on protein and adding a little more fat to your diet, while staying at a calorie deficit. For more info, see my daily protein requirement page.
- Paradoxically, you may not be eating ENOUGH calories or you are exercising too much. The body slows down its metabolism in response to a lack of food or excessive amounts of exercise. Dr. Steve Phinney did a study in 1988 which showed that when people exercised more than an hour a day, their resting metabolic rate dropped by as much as 15%. There are at least two other papers which report the same outcome to a regimen of excessive exercise.
This doesn’t seem to fit the logic of breaking a weight loss plateau, but you could try adding 300-500 calories of fat and protein to your daily count for a few days, and see what happens. And if you are exercising hard every day, reduce the amount of time you spend exercising and give yourself permission to rest a day or two during the week.
- You may be eating too often. Try going for longer periods without eating. This “intermittent fasting” works well for some people, as it allows the blood sugar and insulin to return to baseline levels before the next meal. For instance, instead of having 5 small meals a day spaced out over 8-10 hours, have most of your calories in a 6 hour window, say from noon until 6pm, and then don’t eat again until the next day at noon.
- There may be a lack of a micronutrient, especially if you aren’t taking any supplements. Try taking a balanced multivitamin once a day. Have your vitamin D levels checked and bring them up if they are low.
- Finally, and this is most important, the success of losing weight and improving health is about learning new habits and sticking with them. If you decide that your new eating habits are a permanent change, it makes it easier to weather the occasional weight loss plateau. I know now that I can never go back to eating my “old” way. All of the health problems and the weight will just come back if I do. And after all the work I’ve done to fix my broken metabolism, that would be really self-destructive.
If you are experiencing a weight loss plateau, just hang in there. Honestly evaluate your diet and exercise program, tweak where you can, and try to wait it out.
I’ve cut out all my wine and when I have an alcoholic drink, I’ve started drinking a whiskey and soda. I suspect I may be sensitive to the alcohol sugars.I also need to start incorporating some high intensity exercise into my plan. We’ll see what these changes bring.
The odd thing is that I still feel thinner, I still feel like my body is trimming down, it’s become most noticeable in my face, I’ve started having cheek bones again and my dimples are much more pronounced.
It has been a tough week. It has been soul destroying to climb on the scale and either see no movement or see my weight go up. The irony is that on previous diets, I would simply have given up and reverted back to my old eating habits. But with LCHF the food is simply so good that there is no desire or need in me to revert back to a diet that was not giving my body what it needed in the first place.
Lets see what week 7 holds! But with Hannah’s birthday part this weekend, where I do intend to eat cake, we’ll have to see if I have a storming loss this week or if ketosis remains elusive.