Today I am answering another “Dear Christina” question that I get asked all the time. “Why does keto stop working for weight loss?”. The story is usually the same. On keto more than 6 months but usually more than a year. Weight loss has been mostly successful but then it stops. Sometimes months or even years go by and the weight stays the same. They try everything the keto community recommends – fasting, one meal a day, eating more fat … but no matter what they do, how strictly they eat keto, the weight loss stops. Even worse, for some, their weight starts to increase no matter how little they eat.
Why keto works for weight loss, at least in the beginning.
In the beginning keto usually performs really well for weight loss. There is often a dramatic drop right at the start before steady weekly weight loss. This happens for a number of reasons. The big drop is usually related to the loss of fluid. When we store sugar, we store it in water. Switching to keto means bringing your carb (sugar) intake down really low so you don’t have excess sugar to store. Your body gets rid of the excess water that is not needed anymore and you see a big drop on the scale.
Then as your body switches to burning fat, usually within 3 or 4 days, it begins the job of healing and repair. In the beginning whilst your body is getting used to burning fat, it uses your body fat for some of its calories. Your appetite shifts and you naturally start to eat less. The more extra fat you have, the more dramatic the drop in appetite. Your body has plenty to spare so you don’t need to eat it.
When keto stops working for weight loss
Eventually you reach a kind of tipping point when keto stops working for weight loss. Your body has lost weight and you are fat adapted. The amount of fat you have left on your body decreases so the natural reaction of your body is to get you to eat more. You resist this because you don’t want to risk gaining any weight. But the body pushes harder and eventually hunger wins and you start to eat more. You might not notice this upward creep in calorie intake until your trousers start to get too tight.
Then you do what you have been told to do by all of the experts out there. Eat more fat. But the more fat you eat, the more weight you gain. You introduce more fasting or try one meal a day (OMAD) but that just makes things worse and not matter what you eat you gain weight. Frustrated and annoyed, your brain says “well if I am going to put on weight anyway then I am going to eat the food I want” so you take solace in carbs and gain more weight.
A familiar story?
If this story is familiar to you then you are in the right place. Long term plateaus and slow regain happens because one of the fundamental flaws in the teaching of keto is that it should be high fat. People take that to mean they have free reign with fat. Adding butter and cheese and mayo and olive oil in gay abandon to everything. “Get the fats in” I have heard this over and over and whenever I voiced my concern with this, especially in Facebook communities, I was shouted down or kicked out.
How did I do it?
I have been on my weight loss journey for over 5 years at the time of writing this post. For the first 6 months of my journey I ate, what you would call, a traditional keto diet. It was high in dietary fat, moderate in protein and super low in carbs. After that, when my appetite decreased, I switched to eating high protein, moderate fat and very low carb and there I stayed. During that time there were periods when my fat intake increased but all that happened was that I gained weight so I pulled the dietary fat back to compensate.
Why does keto stop working for weight loss
It stops working because, simply, you are not eating enough protein and you are eating too much fat and too many calories. Calories do count, I have said that from the beginning. Unfortunately many people respond “but the science says I can eat 2000 calories from cream and not gain weight”. Sure. You can do that for as long as it works. You may well lose weight but it will stop, like any other diet, and you will regain weight. Especially if you are metabolically damaged to begin with.
Humans need protein. If you don’t eat enough of it your body will compel you to eat, through hunger and cravings, to get more protein. Your body will let you eat thousands more calories that you need, hundreds of grams of carbs and fat more than you need in order to get the minimum amount of protein it needs every day. Read that again. Your body will risk obesity, diabetes and other chronic illnesses to get the protein it needs every day.
SAD vs Keto – not much different
Now before you write me an angry email saying that SAD and keto are not comparable, they are in one big way. They are both make us under eat the amount of protein we need every day to be healthy. Both diets are too low in protein. It’s why you can overeat fat and overeat carbs. Your body is trying to get more protein. If you have ever eaten a share bag of crisps (potato chips) and gone back to the fridge to see what else is available, that’s protein hunger. If you have ever eaten a whole keto cheesecake by yourself over the course of a day and gone back for more, that’s protein hunger. It doesn’t matter if your diet is high in fat or carbs. If you don’t eat enough protein you will overeat.
Remember that your body will allow you to overeat calories, carbs and fat to get that precious protein. So why not give it all the protein it needs and then if you are still hungry, eat. Prioritising protein means that you are naturally controlling your appetite. When your body gets all of the protein it needs, you simply won’t be hungry.
Protein Priority – the natural appetite control
I challenge you to eat a 300g bag of Lay’s crisps (potato chips) at 1650 calories, 102g of fat, 18.9g of protein and a whopping 159g of carbs. I bet you could do it. Then try to eat 159g of protein in one go. Not 159g of meat (but that would be a challenge too) 159g of protein. That would only be 636 calories by the way versus 1650 for the crisps. A 100g steak has 25g of protein so you would have to eat more than half a kilo of steak (21oz) to get 159g of protein. I bet you couldn’t do it.
Once your body has enough protein it’s happy to not eat. Now I am not advocating eating pure protein, that’s silly and will likely make you seriously ill. Protein and fat are found together in nature. So it makes sense to eat a high protein, moderate fat diet. You need them for nutrition anyway. Then add some carbs. The Protein Priority Diet is that straightforward.
What do I do now?
Try eating protein as the main part of your diet. See what happens. You don’t need to make much of a change if you are coming from a standard keto diet. Just eat more protein. If you want help with the switch, consider joining my Protein Priority Diet© Membership program. I will show you how to make protein a priority and help you lose weight by properly balancing carbs and fat. You don’t have to stop eating, you don’t have to be in ketosis, you don’t have to be carnivore – vegans can do this program too! Join us today and get started.