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12 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight on Keto (+ What You Should Be Doing About It)

Louise Hendon | April 11
12 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight on a Keto Diet (+ What You Should Be Doing About It) #keto

Weight loss is one of the primary drivers for many people opting to follow a Keto diet.

Perhaps you’re finding you’re not shedding as many pounds as you’d hoped for, though?

Maybe you started off losing weight, but you’ve now hit a nasty plateau?

Don’t worry. Neither situation is at all unusual.

Having already examined how to lose weight on a Keto diet, today it’s time to help you troubleshoot if things are not going precisely to plan.

Here’s the full list to help you troubleshoot your keto weight loss – click on any of the links to jump straight down to that section.

12 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight on a Keto Diet (+ What You Should Be Doing About It)

How Much Weight Can You Expect to Lose on a Ketogenic Diet?

This can differ dramatically from person to person.

I’d love to promise that you’ll definitely lose all the weight you want, but I don’t make hollow promises. From our keto programs, we’ve seen first-hand that the amount of weight lost can vary widely from person to person.

In general, you can expect to lose a few pounds in the first 2 weeks. While this is mostly water weight, there can be some fat loss as well.

Eating poorly and doing too little exercise for years can often be reversed, but it’s not going to happen overnight.

If you keep your expectations realistic, the Keto diet can be highly effective for gradual but consistent weight loss through meaningful change rather than starvation. And let’s face it, that’s the most healthy and sustainable way to lose weight.

How about if that’s just not happening for you, though?

Why Aren’t You Losing Weight on Keto?

One of the main benefits of Keto is weight-loss (in particular, fat loss). So, if you’re not losing weight on Keto, then it can be seriously frustrating.

If you’re reading this right now, then you probably fall into one of these 2 camps: you’re failing to lose weight at all, or you’re experiencing a weight loss plateau.

  1. You’re Experiencing No Initial Weight Loss: Have you switched to Keto without noticing any weight loss whatsoever? If so, it can be frustrating. Strictly recording your macros, particularly your carb count, can remedy this. If that doesn’t work, read reasons 1-6 below to see what could be going wrong.
  2. You’re Experiencing a Weight Loss Plateau: Are you tracking your macros and following the diet but no longer losing weight after initially dropping a few pounds? If so, check out reasons 7-12 for some pointers on isolating the reason for this stalling.

It’s time to explore the most common causes of underwhelming weight loss so you can readily identify any areas where you could improve.

Check out his video on why you might not be losing weight on Keto:

12 Reasons You Are Not Losing Weight on Keto

1. Too Many Carbs

Dialing right back on the carbs is a fundamental element of Keto.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Brigid Titgemeier, RDN, has worked with over 3000 patients at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. “Part of the difficulty in going keto is needing to meticulously track carbohydrates, fat and protein intake. Very few people are able to reach ketosis and stay there without tracking macro intake.”

It’s all too easy to find carbs sneaking back in, though. This happens even with foods on a keto-approved list so don’t be too hard on yourself.

Watch out for carbs in drinks like coconut milk, almond milk or kombucha. Many “health drinks” come laden with sugar, so keep your eye firmly on that label.

Vegetables like cabbage and cauliflower, broccoli and sprouts, contain carbs that can add up over the course of a day if you’re not careful.

Monitor your fruit intake since the sugar content can lead to weight gain. (1)

Spices might pep up your meal, but garlic powder and onion powder contain carbs, so exercise a light touch with these.

Incorporate more healthy fats if you don’t already. In particular, fats like coconut oil and MCT oil that are high in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) can especially help you feel more satiated and full. (2)

Whether it’s carb-cheating by nibbling guiltily on some treats, or taking too many hidden carbs on board, be vigilant here.

Checking the nutritional labels on food is also a smart move.

Action Steps:

  1. Check labels on foods to make sure they’re not too high in net carbs.
  2. Keep a count of the number of carbs you eat daily for a few days to make sure you’re staying under 25 grams.

2. Too Many Calories… Or Too Few!

Although counting calories is not what Keto is about, if your calorie deficit is too extreme in either direction, this can impede weight loss.

A calorie deficit will drive weight loss, and not all calories are equal. (3) Since fat has more than double the calories of protein and carbs, make sure your fat intake is within the recommended levels.

Dr. Kiah Connolly, M.D., and Registered Dietitian Emmie Satrazemis, RD. say that it’s important to watch both macros and calorie intake. “Fat is calorically dense which may shrink your portion sizes if you aren’t including the right balance of healthy keto options – like low carb veggies and proteins. And smaller portion sizes with increased calories can actually end up causing you to gain weight if you’re not paying attention. So instead of using keto as free pass to eat bacon and butter everything, pay attention to the quality of your food choices.”

Not getting enough calories is also detrimental to weight loss.

If your calorie deficit is too pronounced, your metabolism will slow down. Your body will respond to flagging energy levels by trying to conserve itself. Unless your fat stores can cover that deficit, you might start losing lean mass plundered by your body for energy.

Restricting your caloric intake too severely can also lead to cortisol production and stress, both known causes of weight gain. (4)

There’s no fixed answer to the right calorie intake. You need to consider your age, weight, and height. The amount you exercise and your overall goals also come into play. If you need ideas on a workout routine, we have you covered.

If you’re not achieving your weight loss goals, it pays to become more aware of how many calories you’re taking on board. Not everyone tracks their food intake on Keto, but it can help.

Action Steps:

  1. Use an app like My Fitness Pal to track your calorie intake to make sure it’s not too high or too low.

12 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight on a Keto Diet (+ What You Should Be Doing About It)

3. Too Much Protein

Protein is a core part of a healthy diet, and you want to maintain muscle mass while you lose weight.

That said, you need to strike a delicate balance with this macro.

According to Virta Health physician Stephen Phinney, M.D., “A moderate protein intake as part of a well-formulated ketogenic diet allows circulating ketones to reach levels of at least 0.5 mM. Too little or too much protein can negatively impact the many benefits of being in a state of nutritional ketosis. How to determine your protein needs can be a bit of an art and may take some time and expert coaching to get it right.”

While eating too little protein can provoke hunger and cause your energy levels to dip, eating too much protein on Keto could inhibit weight loss.

Eating more protein than you need for muscle could prevent ketosis due to a metabolic process called gluconeogenesis. This is when your body converts a surplus of protein into glycogen. Your body then uses that for energy instead of burning fat.

With ketosis, you want your body using fat for fuel instead so make sure you don’t overdo the protein, or you might end up seeing your weight loss stall.

If you’re not quite sure how much protein you need, check our keto calculator so you can accurately estimate your keto macros.

Action Steps:

  1. Use this keto calculator to figure out your approximate protein needs on a ketogenic diet.
  2. Make sure you’re not avoiding protein but also not just eating lean meats for every meal.
  3. While you’re adjusting to the diet, consider a ketone supplement to ease the transition.

4. Too Much Fat

While healthy sources of fats are not harmful and essential for your body in optimal quantities, it’s quite common to consume too much fat which will obviously impact your weight loss goals.

If you’re loading up on cheese, adding copious amounts of butter to every other dish, ladling coconut oil in your coffee, and indulging in bacon for breakfast each day… Well, that’s likely too much fat for your goals.

Calories still make a difference for weight-loss as we mentioned. The quality of those calories is also important. Overeating fats – especially in pure forms rather than in foods like fatty steak or fatty fish – is just overloading your body with empty calories. The calories in many pure, processed fats don’t add essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals. They just add calories in the form of fats!

So, don’t be afraid of fats or radically alter your macros, but definitely be aware that you can have too much of a good thing.

Action Steps:

  1. Keep track of how much fats you’re eating daily.
  2. Eat more fats that are naturally in foods (like fatty fish or fatty cuts of meat) rather than just adding butter and coconut oil into dishes.

12 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight on a Keto Diet (+ What You Should Be Doing About It)

5. Overeating Nuts, Dairy or Fruit

We suggest people skip dairy – especially, milk, cream, and cheese – for the first 60 days on Keto.

Initially, this enables you to determine if you’re sensitive to the lactose or casein in dairy products.

Eliminating dairy can also help with weight loss while overeating dairy products has the opposite effect.

Much like with eating too many nuts, the issue here is not that you’ll necessarily stop ketosis. It’s the calorie-dense nature of these foods and the fact they are easy to overeat which can seriously impair your weight loss goals.

“Nuts should not be one of your major sources of fat in the diet,” says Keto Coach Raj Patel. “This is because they contain carbohydrates as well as phytic acid….In moderation, however, similar to cheese nuts are acceptable as part of your keto diet plan, taken as a snack, for instance.”

Buying shelled nuts is one way to discourage yourself from gorging. Sidestep nut mixes with dried fruit, too.

With fruit, you’ll get plenty of fiber and nutrients but far too many simple sugars like fructose. These are known to contribute to weight gain. (5) Eat fruit in moderation.

Action Steps:

  1. Omit or cut down on dairy (especially cheese and heavy cream) for a few weeks. Use these dairy-free ketogenic substitutes instead.
  2. Cut down on nuts, nut butters, and anything made from nut flours.

6. Too Many Low Carb Treats and Snacks

Overindulgence on low carb snacks can derail ketosis while also causing cravings. This can lead to rash food choices and overeating.

Most low carb treats are high in artificial sugars. At the same time, they are usually low in real nutrients like vitamins and minerals. These artificial sweeteners (including low calorie sugar alcohols) can provoke cravings for the wrong foods, and result in weight gain. (6)

Whether you angle toward nuts or dairy, pancakes or breakfast muffins, these snacks are all too easy to overeat.

Choose your snacks wisely and don’t think of them as a regular fixture in your Keto diet.

Action Steps:

  1. Stop buying processed low carb or sugar-free snacks.
  2. Cut down on homemade Keto snacks and Keto desserts.
  3. Use less Keto sweeteners (even stevia or erythritol).

7. Undiagnosed Underlying Health Issues

If things are not progressing as you’d hoped on a ketogenic diet, perhaps you have a thyroid or adrenal problems you’re not aware of?

Getting a blood or saliva test can determine this. If there is anything amiss, working with a practitioner like Chris or Tommy from Nourish Balance Thrive to heal these underlying issues can help significantly. Also, check out our podcast with Megan Roberts from Tommy’s team!

It’s imperative to take action if you have hypothyroidism so you can ensure you’re getting enough carbs.

Other underlying flashpoints such as food sensitivities or blood sugar issues can lead to inflammation and, in turn, possible weight gain. (7)

Action Steps:

  1. Work with a good practitioner to figure out the root causes of underlying health issues.

8. Being Close To Your Weight Goal

As you edge in toward your optimum weight, losing fat becomes progressively tougher.

The more weight you lose, the more your metabolic rate drops. As this happens, you’ll need naturally fewer calories to sustain your basic requirements.

While I mentioned that calorie counting is not the purpose of the Keto diet, recalculating your caloric needs as you near your weight goal is a wise move.

You should celebrate this achievement rather than getting worked up, as stress can also cause its own problems with weight loss…

Action Steps:

  1. Experiment more with macros and exercise when you’re very close to your weight goal.
  2. Track more closely – what you eat, macros, exericse, sleep, stress. This will help you identify potential issues and troubleshoot.

12 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight on a Keto Diet (+ What You Should Be Doing About It)

9. Too Much Stress

Don’t underestimate the role of stress if your weight loss is flagging.

Stress causes the body to produce cortisol. This hormone is responsible for storing visceral fat around the tummy. (8) Obviously, this accumulation of abdominal fat is less than ideal.

There’s also a link between stress and hypothyroidism. (9) This can affect your metabolic rate and, in turn, cause weight gain rather than the weight loss you’re pursuing.

Attack your stressors head on, and it will help you keep those unwanted pounds at bay.

Action Steps:

  1. Use a free meditation app, like Insightful Timer.
  2. Take breaks to relax daily.

10. Lack of Sleep

This can be a huge issue for many people.

To maximize fat loss, you need to eat well and exercise, but also ensure you get sufficient sleep.

Lack of sleep will make you hungrier and prone to more cravings. The desire for certain foods can then make sticking to Keto more awkward.

Inadequate sleep will also disrupt your hormones. This makes it harder for you to regulate your blood sugar levels.

Shoot for anywhere between 7 and 9 hours sleep each night to optimize your weight loss.

Action Steps:

  1. Turn off all monitors 2 hours before bed.
  2. Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
  3. Try a weighted blanket to help reduce stress and improve your sleep quality.

12 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight on a Keto Diet (+ What You Should Be Doing About It)

11. Too Much Exercise… Or Not Enough!

For many, even just adding in 30 minutes of walking per day can jumpstart weight loss.

Assess the amount of exercise you’re doing if you’re starting to notice a weight loss plateau.

Again, getting the balance right here is key. Overtraining can be as damaging to weight loss as not getting enough exercise.

Excessive cardio training will undoubtedly help you burn calories, but it will also stimulate your appetite. Repetitive training of this nature will have your body crying out for more food which runs counter to your goals.

Save time and accelerate weight loss by considering high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Short bursts of bodyweight exercises can help burn fat more efficiently than a lengthy stint on the treadmill.

Action Steps:

  1. Move or walk daily even if you’re not able to do other exercise.
  2. Add in weight-lifting (make sure you learn the proper form) or HIIT to intensify your exercise routine.

12. Not Giving Your Body Enough Time To Heal

Most of us want fast weight-loss.

Keto can help many people lose weight quickly, but it’s not a magic pill.

Even if you’re not overeating dairy and nuts, even if you’re sleeping and exercising well, it can sometimes take a bit of time to lose weight.

Be patient.

Take a diet break if you feel that would help. Go easy on yourself. By cutting back on the energy restriction a calorie deficit brings about, your metabolism will compensate. The result is a more sustainable weight loss.

Action Steps:

  1. Take a deep breath and relax. This is a journey, not a sprint. And Keto is a path to long-lasting weight-loss and health, so be patient.
  2. Keep moving forward toward your goal, but learn to enjoy the process.

It’s Not Just About Weight-Loss – Reflect On Whether You Feel Better On Keto

While most people start Keto to lose weight, Keto is a fantastic tool for more than just weight-loss.

It can help you get rid of lingering issues like digestive problems, mental fog, and improve your mood and energy.

That’s why it’s important to focus on how you feel rather than just watching the scale.

Consider these simple questions:

  • Do you feel more energetic?
  • Are you able to concentrate better?
  • Has your digestion improved?
  • Do you get fewer cravings?
  • Are you less dependent on sugar in particular and eating in general?
  • Do you have an improved mood overall?

If you are finding improvements in any or all of these areas, the Keto diet is working. The above areas will all give you a better quality of life while also boosting your health long-term.

And if you’re not losing as much weight as you’d like?

Highlight the likely problem using the list above and get to work making subtle but effective changes.

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Louise Hendon

Louise holds a Bachelors and Masters in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University (UK). She attended Columbia University for her JD and practiced law before co-founding Louise's Foods, Paleo Living Magazine, Nourishing Brands, & CoBionic. Louise has considerable research experience but enjoys creating products and articles that help move people just a little bit closer toward a healthy life they love.