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Not losing weight on keto? 7 common reasons why

Aimed to help people lose weight by following a low-carb and high-fat diet.

Written by
Lucinda Starr
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
May 14, 2024
min read
Not losing weight on keto? 7 common reasons why
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From intermittent fasting to the ketogenic diet, otherwise known as the keto diet, there seems to be a new diet trend popping up on the scene every few months all promising to promote weight loss.

The keto diet is similar to the Paleo and Atkins diet, which are all low-carb diets. But the ketogenic diet aims to help people lose weight by following a low-carb and high-fat diet.

Keto dieters eat carbs in very small doses as the diet mainly consists of high-fat foods and a moderate amount of protein. That's pretty different from your typical diet plan which tells you to get enough protein throughout the day to keep your appetite in check.

If you've tried this eating plan but you're not losing weight on keto, you've hit a weight loss plateau or, maybe you're just keto curious, we've done a deep dive into all things to do with the ketogenic diet.

Keep reading to learn why you need to reach a state of ketosis to see any results and reasons why you're not losing weight on keto.

What is the keto diet?

The keto diet aims to help weight loss efforts through a low-carb diet and high-fat diet plan.

When you're on the keto diet your carbohydrate intake is generally very low, and you're told to consume a high amount of fat because the body will burn fat and break it down into ketone bodies. This process is called ketosis [1].

Ketosis is a metabolic state that comes from following a keto diet which forces your body to rely on fuel produced by the liver from stored fat instead of using sugar (glucose) which comes from carbohydrate intakes like fruits, grains and legumes [2].

When you're following the ketogenic diet plan, you're limited to eating very few carbs — just 20-50 grams of carb intake each day.

Eating too much protein also prevents your body from reaching a state of ketosis so 90% of your diet plan is made up of high-fat foods.

How does it help with weight loss

The keto diet is often used to help children reduce the number of seizures they experience, but, in recent years it's been used for weight and fat loss and has even gotten more popular [2].

So far, there have only been small studies into the effectiveness of the keto diet for weight loss and studies have only shown the short-term effects.

The limited research available has shown that the keto diet has a positive impact on short-term metabolic changes, weight loss and improvements in insulin resistance, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels [3][4].

As for how the keto diet produces weight loss results, here's what the research points to:

  • Lowered levels of hormones that trigger hunger like insulin and ghrelin because of a low-carb diet [3]
  • Decreased food cravings because of the high-fat diet plan which creates a satiating effect (the process that causes a person to stop eating and feel fuller after eating) [5][6]
  • Reduced hunger because of ketone bodies which is the main source of fuel from the keto diet [7]
  • Increased rate of burning calories because of the fat-burning state where the body converts fat into glucose (instead of carbs).

One study showed that people following the keto diet had better effects on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors like blood glucose levels, cholesterol and blood pressure compared to a low-fat diet [8].

However, there were no clinically significant differences between the keto diet and a low-fat diet in the long term.

Why I'm not losing weight on the keto diet

When you’re following the ketogenic diet, you’ve got to reach a state of ketosis that comes from sticking to a low-carb diet and a high-fat diet in order to lose weight.

Interestingly, while the primary goal is weight loss, some people might not lose weight (or even unexpectedly gain weight) due to consuming too many calories, the impact of stress hormones on weight gain or the effects of processed keto foods and certain sweeteners that may affect ketosis.

Let's dive into some of the most common reasons why this might happen:

1. You're consuming too many carbs

Generally, it's recommended that your carbohydrate intake per day be anywhere between 45-65% but on a keto diet your carbohydrate intake reduces to 5-10% per day [9][10].

That's a huge drop in carb food intake and can be hard to achieve, especially at the start of the ketogenic diet.

Your goal is to enter the ketosis state while following a keto diet and eating too many carbs prevents this.

So, keeping tabs on your intake of net carbs (that's total carbs minus fibre or sugar alcohols) can help you figure out why you're not losing weight on keto — and you can easily do this using a calorie and macronutrient tracking app.

2. You're eating too many processed foods

Since the keto diet has grown in popularity, there are a bunch of 'keto diet friendly' snacks available out there.

But, those snacks often are processed foods and contain more carbs than you're supposed to consume.

Plus, they often don't have any vitamins, nutrients and minerals that your body needs, either.

Instead, of consuming an abundance of processed foods, it's best to focus on eating healthy fats and non-starchy vegetables like avocado, olive oil, zucchini, mushrooms, eggs, and fatty fish like salmon, sardines and tuna.

3. You're eating too many (or too few) calories

No matter which diet you're following or which way you're trying to lose weight, you should be in a calorie deficit, meaning you're burning more than you're eating.

And, while the keto diet generally makes you feel fuller because of the high fat intake, these high-fat foods generally contain extra calories which can make it easier to go over your calorie budget for the day.

On the flip side, eating too few calories can also lead to weight gain because it slows down your metabolism and you may also lose muscle mass.

If you're struggling to eat fewer calories or more calories than you're supposed to, try counting calories through an app to help you keep track of your recommended calorie intake.

4. Your stress levels are too high and you're not getting enough sleep

Stress levels and sleep impact basically every area of your life and weight gain is one of them.

Research has demonstrated time and time again that not getting enough sleep and having chronic stress levels impact weight loss [11].

If you've tried everything on the ketogenic diet like counting calories, watching your carbohydrate intake, and not eating too much protein and you're still not losing weight, it might be because you're not getting adequate sleep and your stress levels are too high.

5. You're not exercising enough

Working out is a crucial part of the weight loss equation, no matter what diet you're on.

It helps burn body fat, build muscle, boost metabolism, improve bone density, maintain mental health, and much more.

If your nutrition seems to be on point, but you're lacking on the exercise front, it may be time to review your fitness routine (or even just try to add more incidental exercise into your day).

6. You're drinking too much alcohol

Most alcoholic drinks are high in (empty) calories, which won't help your weight loss efforts. Some, like wine and beer, are also high in carbs, which can easily add up and prevent the ketosis process.

Even if you've been sticking to low-carb alternatives, it could be worth cutting back on your alcohol consumption (or even stopping for a while) to see if you start noticing more progress.

7. You have unrealistic expectations

The process of losing weight is a gradual one, and it's important to be patient with yourself.

There's no point in deciding you want to lose 20 kg in a couple of weeks — as great as that would be — because it will only dampen your motivation when you don't accomplish your goal within your set timeframe.

It's better to lose weight slowly but consistently (while creating healthier habits you can stick to for life), than to lose it all rapidly and unsustainably.

What to try if keto doesn't work for you

Although the keto diet shows some promising weight loss results in the short term, the evidence hasn't shown what the long-term effects are on your health.

If you've tried keto and you're not losing weight, or you're simply looking for alternative ideas, here are some other weight loss options to consider.

Follow a balanced diet

It's really hard to follow low-carb diets or even eat zero carbs for long-term and sustainable weight loss.

Instead, one of the best ways to lose weight is to eat a balanced diet with foods from all 5 food groups. To promote healthy weight loss, your diet should consist of:

  • Veggies of all colours
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Dairy products including milk, yogurt and cheese
  • Lean proteins including meats, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes and beans [12]

Some other helpful tips are to drink plenty of water, limit your alcohol intake, eat regularly, consume fibre-rich foods and get enough protein to be fuller for longer and focus on eating smaller portions.

Exercise regularly

Alongside a balanced diet, no matter what weight loss program you choose, regular exercise is important to burn body fat and for burning calories too. It also helps with other things like stress levels and sleep.

Try to find exercises you enjoy, whether that's walking, running, weight lifting, or swimming at the beach and make it a part of your lifestyle.

Holistic weight loss programs

If you've tried other ways of weight loss and you're not losing weight or hit a weight loss plateau, Pilot's Weight Reset Program takes a holistic approach to weight loss efforts through a combination of medical science and targeted weight loss.

Pilot's Metabolic Reset Program uses breakthrough medication that introduces hormones that are naturally produced in your gut to decrease appetite.

We also provide support from our medical team, Aussie practitioners, plus a community of men on the journey with you.

And, health coaching and personal goal-setting will help you make the necessary lifestyle changes to lose weight and keep it off long-term.

Our comprehensive program of weight loss medication, coaching and support is a truly sustainable approach to weight loss.

Science-backed weight loss shakes

Weight loss shakes are a liquid meal replacement that generally replaces one or more meals out of your day.

Pilot's Weight Reset Shakes can help support your weight loss efforts and dietary needs, relying on science for weight loss.

Our shakes are packed full of 20 vitamins and minerals, high-quality protein and pre and probiotics and come with fibre to keep you fuller for longer instead of causing an increased appetite.

On the Rapid weight loss plan, which involves replacing two meals with shakes per day, it’s normal to lose up to 2kgs a week for the first 4-6 weeks, then 0.8kgs each week beyond that on this class of treatment [13].

The Steady weight loss plan, which involves consuming meal replacement shakes just once a day combined with a low-calorie diet, can help you lose 4% of your body weight in 12 weeks [14].

Ultimately, the ketogenic diet has risen in popularity but there's currently limited long-term research into its effectiveness for sustainable and consistent weight loss.

If you've been on the keto diet and you're not losing weight or you've hit a weight loss plateau, there are other options available and Pilot is here to support you with your weight loss journey.

Image credit: Getty Images

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