Stop Stalling! AKA, Why Am I Stalling on Keto and How Do I Stop It?
Volume One: Operator Error
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Great article!! This should DEF help all the bad ass babes! Thanks for posting! <3 Much love!
Very interesting, anxiously anticipating malignant mouthfuls.
This has brought my poor soul some comfort. Now I know where to tweak things. Thanks so much!
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.
The underlying medical conditions will be discussed in Part 3!
Debbie Pierson says
You are singing my song.....
I see your post is from last year. Have you had results with your implemented changes?
What a great article ? Now I KNOW where I am going wrong ! thank you so much - can't wait for your next post.
Melissa Magnifico says
Truth bombs! ?
Wow! You really opened my eyes! Thank you!
Ashley Gordon says
Great article....thanks for all the info
Laurie Eades says
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.
Rebecca Sparks says
Looking forward to more articles.
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 😀
I was wondering with weight loss how often should I recalculate my macros and calorie requirement? Thanks
Tasha Metcalf says
There's no hard and fast rule, but it seems most people regularly recalculate around every 10-pound loss.
If you are stalling and it is possible to do on Keto there is a great video Weight Loss Stalls in Ketogenic Lifestyle with Viva Menegaz and Leanna Vogel- both have lots of experience with Keto
Nice article. Very true. Using scales and the "my fitness pal app" keeps everything in check fair and square.
But what about protein?
I heard if you eat too much protein your body then converts excess protein into glucose. That's why they say you should eat no more than 1 gram of protein per kg of your lean body mass.
In a nutshell you just answered about 150 questions on WHY the stall!
I've stalled, and neither of these points match me. I'm religious about my diet, because i love seeing those numbers drop. I've gone from 296 (300 was scaring me) to 267 in a couple months. And then all of a sudden, with no change of diet or cheating, it just flat -stopped- going down. To me, if its working so well doing what i'm doing and making it my new lifestyle, Then something else must have happened that makes more sense than "its your fault for cheating..either on purpose or by accident" which is the jist of this article.
Since ketogenic diets are based on body chemistry to burn fat for fuel, is there anyone that can actually say what is happening to make fat loss stop happening?
Thanks for your time.
Tasha Metcalf says
Perhaps the "no change in diet" after your weight loss is the culprit? Calorie needs decrease as your weight decreases. Most folks recalculate the macros with every ten pounds lost. Ketogains macro calculator is a good one to try!
Also, some people experience stalls with certain foods. Dairy is a big one.
Trixie Doodle says
I'm in the same situation as you and this man explained something I think you and I are experiencing. I see that you wrote a month ago and would love to know if you broke this plateau. He said:
I believe that you are doing everything right. It’s been my experience and understanding that the initial rapid weight loss is greatly water from glycogen stores. After the glycogen has been consumed, or depleted, the weight loss will slow significantly or may even stall. This is referred to as Post Induction Stall Syndrome (PISS) and is common. Your body is now learning to consume fat as its primary fuel; this may take several weeks during which your weight loss may stall/plateau. Given time, once you become “fat adapted”, the weight loss usually resumes.
It seems to me that you are in a plateau. Be patient and continue Keep Calm and Keto On (KCKO)!
I wanted to say in MY experienxe my stall was from too little calories not too many! This is a frequent problem! People feel good and start exercising...and the calorie calculators undercut by alot espwcially the keto calculator. It also is in conflict with research that says calories in and calories out is a rough esrimate at best! So for those stalling I would say try adding calories. I added 300calories in fat and suddenly started losing again..inches and weight. Thanks to my coach who made we aware of this!
Mira Giovenazzo says
Is PCOS a medical condition that doesn't work with keto dieting?
Gavin Spomer says
Thanks for this article Julia. I feel much better after reading it, gleaned some helpful and am making some changes to what I'm eating.
betty paige says
I have been eating keto for over 8 months now and have lost over 100 lbs . The past 2 months only about 8 to 10 lbs . But thats still an average of one lb a week .. Some people think eating keto makes you lose weight twice as fast as other "diets" and it doesn't .So when the weight loss slows down a a crawl they think its not working .I haven't been 100% perfect with my eating and I have had a half dozen "cheat meals" in that 8 months .Not cheat days, but just a meal or a food I used to enjoy before starting keto like a baked potato or real pizza lol. I still stay in my calorie range with a significant deficit for my current weight . I might mention also that I have been going through full blown menopause the past year, so losing has been harder than any other time in my life. If I only lose 4 lbs a month I'm good with that .
Great article. My plateau being caused by carbs. Based on what t read. How important is it .....not to drastically cut calories.
I’ve been averaging 1200-1400 I want to go to 1000. If I only eat until I’m full. It won’t be 1000.
I HAD to leave a comment ... Got up this morning, jumped on the scale and was all but panicked. The very first paragraph put me right back on track. Thank you so very much. You really did help it A LOT!
I'm in week three of kept and I've lost only 2Kgs till now, that too only in week one. And I've seen people losing significantly more weight that what i have.
I'm tracking my macros on the fitness pal. Most days I'm under 20g of carbs, some days, I go unto 28g, since I've been told you can do unto 30g.
I'm stuck, with no motivation to proceed, because i'm not seeing any changes.
Any suggestions, where i could be going wrong? Or should i just, continue what i'm doing with 30 mins of cardio that i'm doing everyday, and ill see the results eventually?
I want to lose 5Kg more!
Pamela R says
Great article, After 20 pound loss, I plateaued for a month on the scale. Number wouldn't budge. I did go down another dress size. So, I was happy with that. Next month same thing with the scale and no change in dress size. Going back over the two months, the 9nly things that changed were that I added Keto supplements and added MCT oil. I first eliminated the MCT oil and the scale started going down. I'm diabetic and believe I may be insulin resistant. I've lost 30 pounds, which comes out to five pounds a month or one pound per week. I'm okay with that as I have 30 more to go which is doable by Christmas.
I am feeling very virtuous, ha ha ha, because I plan all my meals on Cronometer.com and I measure all my food and I adjust calories for every five pounds lost. It's a pain in the ass but it works. If I stall I will let you know! So far I lost 29 pounds in 60 days so I am pretty chuffed about keto.
And by the way, if you use an app like cronometer, you get all the nutrient information about your food and you can make sure that your keto diet is nutrient dense. I try to do "clean" keto and use a lot of Mediterranean diet ingredients like EVOO and fish and a ton of veg. This is because of a heart issue--I cannot afford to have bacon, etc., all the time. It has been working really well so far in terms of my health markers.
Tasha Metcalf says
Cronometer rules! It's my favorite nutrition app--I've started incorporating it into each of the recipe's nutrition info so readers can click through for nitty-gritty details beyond carb counts. It's a bit of a project, but I'm working to update the older recipes as well. Hopefully people will find it helpful!
Thank you. I needed this, exactly this.
Laura Bone says
These are really helpful tips, though managing and tracking ketone levels at a precise level is extra helpful, I have found. How much protein and fat are needed to get into deeper ketosis, and how many carbs we can get away with depends on many factors like activity.
I have found a breath ketone meter (Keyto is the one I'm using) has been invaluable! And motivational! Love checking my Keto score throughout the day and seeing how my body reacts to meals.
Wendy Rasmussen says
Thank you for your thoughts. My goal was to lose 10 lbs , but opted for 15 lbs so that when I do go off of keto, I give myself 5 lbs to gain. Many have said that this happens. That said, I'm stuck at 8 lbs; I am 130 shooting for 115. Doc said if I lose some weight, my blood pressure might return to normal, so thought I'd try keto. I'm an avid macro counter, even created my own keto counter, cook my own meals, weigh, etc. I know it works, my husband has lost 16 lbs and continues to. At my age, my metabolic rate is 1532, so I reduced calories to 1307 to losse versus sustain, and adjusted macros accordingly. I've been on it for 6 weeks. I've reduced my calories to 1000/day and increased to 1700/day as well. I weight lift twice weekly and take 30 min walks nightly. What am I doing wrong? I'm frustrated, how do I get past this.
Robert Middleton says
What a great article. It's full of great facts, but the writing style really connected with me! VEry helpful!