I've been there -- I know. I was stuck for 5 weeks, during which time I increased activity, cut back on calories... nothing worked for me. So I did my research and uncovered hidden blocks to my weight loss. I'm past the plateau and I'm hoping you will be too. No matter how strictly you've been following a low carb diet, there are factors that can make you maintain (or even gain) weight. Here's a look at what they are and how to beat them:
- You're Eating Hidden Carbs
It's not that labels lie, but they don't tell the whole truth. That little packet of sweetener you add to everything? Each one is probably 1-2 grams of carbs, which add up over the course of a day. Solution? Switch to the liquid sweetener, which is truly 0 carbs (or close enough).
Another sneaky source of carbs is medication. If you take anything at all, over the counter or prescription, assume it contains carbs. Usually this is the binder portion of the inactive ingredient list. Solution? Google how many carbs are in your drug and add the count to your daily carb total.
Keep in mind, zero calories does not equal zero carbs. This was one of my downfalls, right here: I'd drink a zero calorie sports drink to get my electrolytes, thinking I was good. Nope.... 2 grams of carb per serving or 4 per bottle. Solution? Check the carb counts. Limit consumption.
Finally, realize there are different types of carbohydrates. You might be able to eat sugar alcohols with no concern except the side effects and calories, or you might suffer a weight loss plateau from eating them. If you're not losing weight, cut out carbs you think are "safe" and see what happens.
- You're Eating Too Many Calories
No matter what diet you're on, you lose weight when the calories used exceed the calories eaten. Did you think you could eat all you wanted, as long as you kept under your carb count, and still lose weight? That works for many people, but not everyone. The reason people lose weight on low carb eating all they want is because the protein and fat help you feel satiated, so you automatically eat fewer calories. So, automatic portion control does not work for everyone because being hungry is not the only reason people eat! If you're stuck on a weight loss plateau, try counting and cutting calories.
You may consider cutting carbs rather than calories. If you're eating 100 grams of carbs per day, cut back. Try 50. Are you at 50 grams? Try 20 grams and see if you start losing weight.
- You're Too Stressed
Hormones control how your body stores and burns fat. Cortisol, in particular, may be working against you if you're stressed, telling your body it needs to keep its fat to protect you from some impending doom. Solution? This is a tough one, because it's hard to beat stress. Exercise, but not to excess. Set a bed time, turn out all the lights, and try to get quality sleep. Make sure you're getting plenty of water. Try yoga or meditation.
- You're Actually Losing Weight But Don't Know It
When you seek to lose weight, chances are what you really want is to lose fat. The scale won't necessarily tell you when that happens because it can't tell water and protein and fat apart. So, if your clothes fit better or you're stronger, chances are the scale hasn't registered a net loss because you've gained muscle. Even if you didn't lose fat (though you probably did), muscle burns more calories than other tissue, so it will help you with your weight loss goals.
Another reason you might not see weight loss, even though you're burning fat, is that you're not drinking enough water or your eating too much salt. If you're holding water, your weight may appear higher than it really is. Really, with a low carb diet, a bigger concern is losing electrolytes with water (e.g., magnesium, potassium). Keep hydrated and watch your electrolyte balance.
- You've Got an Underlying Medical Condition
You know how you always hear you're supposed to consult a doctor before beginning a weight loss program? It's good advice because basic blood tests can identify fundamental road blocks on the path to weight loss. If there's anything out of whack with your liver or thyroid, weight loss may prove more challenging than anticipated. Ladies, not that it's a "condition", but if you've entered menopause, the hormone shifts and reduced calorie requirement may also make weight loss harder than it used to be. Solution to these issues? Work together with your medical professional, not off by yourself.
Breaking My Weight Loss Plateau
If you've maintained weight for a few days or a week, don't freak out. Chances are it's just a natural fluctuation in the amount of water you're holding and you'll be back on track in a few days. If you've gone weeks or months at the same weight, don't give up and cheat. Try to find the underlying cause. Keep in mind, as you zero in on your goal weight, it gets harder and harder to lose additional weight. You'll need to be patient.
For me, the solution was finding and eliminating hidden carbs. I'm sure stress was a contributing factor too, although I can't say I've tackled that one. I was actually eating more calories when the weight loss started back up again. As it turns out, eating too little might have contributed to the plateau. When you cut calories dramatically for an extended period of time, you're body starts to conserve its stores. No, I was not starving myself, but I was working out. If your situation is similar, try adding a bit more protein to your diet and see what happens.
Good luck and let me know if any of these tips help you!