Stalling on Keto: Why Did I Plateau and How Do I Stop It?

Keto Plateau - Why It happens and how to stop it!

Stop Stalling! AKA, Why Am I Stalling on Keto and How Do I Stop It?

Volume One: Operator Error

Stalling on Keto Diet? Break Your Plateau with this Guide

Stalling on keto? First of all, let’s be realistic: failure to lose half your body weight overnight is not a stall.

All right, you probably didn’t expect results that dramatic, but let me continue: It’s not a stall if you “only” lose one pound in a week, even if you know someone else who has lost ten.  It’s not a stall if you plateau for a week. It’s not a stall if your weight fluctuates up and down over the course of a few weeks, either. In fact, it’s not a stall if the scale stays put for a few weeks but your pants are mysteriously growing larger. (Unless you have pants-gremlins that truly are replacing your trousers with a larger size, in which case, I can’t help you.)

In short, if it’s been less than six to eight weeks, and/or your measurements are going down, it’s not a stall, and you’ve got to stop worrying.

Now, if you haven’t seen any changes on the scale or tape measure for several weeks, you’re stalled, and, unfortunately, it’s probably because you’re doing something wrong. There are two primary suspects for stalls: carbs and calories.

Stalling on Keto Diet

Huge Mistake #1: Not keeping track of carbs and calories.

Now, I can already hear you insist that you’re tracking EVERYTHING and you’re DEFINITELY under 20 grams of net carbs. To that I say: “Are you sure?” Babes who play chicken with carbs often lose, and here’s why: carbs are sneaky.

If you think you can game the system by buying the brand of HWC that lists 0 carbs instead of the one that lists 1 carb, you are shooting yourself in the foot. You see, heavy cream is heavy cream, and unless you see something added to it (such as a mysterious-sounding gum), it’s going to have the same carb count no matter what the brand is. The only difference is that some brands round up to 1 gram per serving and others round down to 0. All heavy cream is going to have 0.4 grams of carbohydrate per tablespoon. That adds up. There are also carbs in eggs: one large egg has 0.6 grams of carbohydrate. If you had coffee with 2 tablespoons of cream and 3 eggs for breakfast, you’re already at 10% of the carbohydrate grams you can have in a day if you’re sticking to 20 g of carbs.

It gets worse… foods that you may have considered “free” (and indeed are considered “free” in other ways of eating) can be veritable carb bombs. A tablespoon of cinnamon has 2.1 net carbs, so if you’re sprinkling it with abandon on your coffee, or, God help you, trying to do the cinnamon challenge*, it could be part of what is stalling you. Other sneaky sources of carbs include dairy (everything but ghee has a small amount of carbohydrate in it), cured meat, and condiments like hot sauce.

If you’ve been close to your 20 grams already, these not-actually-zero-carbohydrate foods could very well be putting you well over your limit. Don’t play chicken with carbs.

How to Break Through Keto Stall

The way to fix it? Be honest about how many carbs you’re eating. Don’t rely on food labels… do you really think that all nutrients occur in nice round numbers? Of course they don’t. They aren’t kindergarten students. They’re nutrients. They probably involve decimals. Check the USDA web site for more accurate carb counts, and keep in mind that even it may not be perfect: a very ripe strawberry is going to have more sugar than is a slightly underripe strawberry. Still, it’s more precise than whatever is on the label.

Huge Mistake #2: Not using a kitchen scale to measure food.

Speaking of nice, round numbers, are you absolutely, totally sure that your calories are on point? If you’re not measuring your food, they’re not. If you’re measuring by volume or quantity, they’re not.

Eyeballing food versus weighing food causes keto weight loss plateaus
photocredit: IG @heartshapedketo

I know someone, a self-identified ice cream addict, who decided that the best way to keep his consumption in check was to limit himself to a single coffee mug-sized serving a day. Good plan, right? He even stuck to it. However, he stuck to the letter of his law rather than the spirit. He started microwaving the ice cream so it melted and he could fit more into the mug. This obviously defeated the purpose. Babes, if you are picking the biggest strawberries and thinking that you’re gaming the system, it’s time for a reality check: there are more calories (and carbs) in the strawberries that are the size of your fist than are in strawberries that are half that size, so stop pretending that there aren’t. If you’re shaking the measuring cup to get the almonds to settle so you can fit more in, you’re only fooling yourself.  If you’ve been eyeballing things, measuring by volume, or using any other sort of more subjective way of quantifying your intake, you may very well be taking in a lot more than you think.

End Keto Stall with Kitchen Scale!

If you’re not nodding sheepishly by now, then something else may be at work here. The good news is that you may not be sabotaging yourself through delusion. The bad news is that it’s quite possibly still carbs or calories. Quickest fix? Head to a solid keto calculator (Ketogains is fantastic) and recalculate your macros for your new weight. As your weight and body composition change, your caloric needs do as well. If, for instance, you are losing weight, you’ll need to eat fewer calories. If you are still eating for your old needs, you might be overdoing it. (What was once a deficit is now maintenance. If you want to lose more weight, you’re going to have to cut calories again. Them’s the breaks.) If it turns out that you need to reduce your calories, well, reduce your calories and see if that helps get things going again.

That wraps up the operator error portion of Stop Stalling! Check back soon for my next installment, Malignant Mouthfuls.

 

*Ketogasm and KBB are very much against the cinnamon challenge, as it is not healthy to ruin your lungs. Don’t be an idiot.

Julia is a teacher, tutor, and educational advisor who resides in Washington State, inconveniently close to Woodinville, where one finds many of the local wineries. She has a deep and abiding love for cats, cheese, spicy food, and pickled things. She someday hopes to take over the world, but in the meantime, is looking into public health. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SWFgoesketo, where she often posts pictures of food and the gym.

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14 Comments

  • I wonder what kinds of underlying medical issues there are that could cause stalls if you're following the plan without any self-delusion. I have over 100lbs to lose. I haven't lost any inches or pounds in two months and five days and I've been in ketosis since day 3, so I'm beginning to wonder if keto is right for me at all. I've cut out dairy as of a week ago in hopes that this may be the culprit. I get plenty of sleep, water, electrolytes, and I've also started moderate exercise each day as of two weeks ago, even though I see that several women in KBB Facebook group claim that they don't exercise and are seeing results, to see if it will help me lose weight; I'm willing to do whatever because I'm committed. I'm struggling and trying to eliminate variables because this way of eating hasn't been working its magic for me. I don't want to be one of those women who stick with it as stringently as I do for a year or more with nothing but frustration to show for it, only to find out later she had some underlying medical issue impeding weight loss on keto. Hopefully, I don't sound like Debbie Downer because I'm an optimist and a dedicated woman who is used to inspiring others, but I'm at my wit's end with keto. Patience is just not a virtue I possess.
  • Something we all need to hear at one point or another. I thought I was at a stall for about 6 weeks but it turned out I was eating for maintenance since I was eating the same as I had 65 lbs ago. Readjust and the stall is no more. Down 75 now and loving this way of life. Great article. Can't wait to see what else you have up your sleeve.
  • Thank you! I was worrying because I had dropped 14 pounds last month and the last 2 weeks nothing! I was concerned maybe it just wasn't working for me anymore but this brings me some comfort that I am not stalling it's just slowing down, I have 20 kg to lose to be in the middle of a healthy BMI so I am working on it, I don't mind my progress taking time as long as there is progress :D

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