Few things are quite as complex as weight loss, and it doesn’t help that so many people have preconceived notions of what it takes to lose weight and keep the weight off. But despite all we think we know about losing weight, we don’t always have all the facts, especially when it comes to popular diets like the low-carbohydrate diet.
Maybe you’ve been giving the low-carb diet some thought, or maybe you’ve been sticking with it for months with few results.
There are several reasons why you might not be losing mass on a low-carb diet. Here are some of the most popular ones.
You aren’t eating enough.
For many people, when trying to lose weight, the answer seems obvious: eat less. Less food means fewer calories, which in turn means less weight, right? But that’s not always true. Depending on what you’re eating, it’s very possible that even if, for example, you skip a meal, you’re still making up those calories via snacks or other meals. Further, when your body isn’t getting enough calories, it can go into starvation mode.
Amy Shapiro, a registered dietitian and the founder of Real Nutrition NYC, told Women’s Health: “When you’re not eating enough, you can send your body into starvation mode. Your metabolism slows down because it doesn’t know where its next round of calories is coming from.”
You’re eating too many calories.
According to Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, CEO of Diet Doctor, “The magic trick for effective weight loss on low carb is to eat ONLY when hungry, try not to eat unless you’re hungry, as that will slow weight loss.” He added that “you can get at least as good results with less effort by eating only when hungry and if necessary add intermittent fasting.”
Your expectations are unrealistic.
With any diet, it’s important to be realistic with your expectations, as expecting a miracle to happen overnight can only lead to disappointment.
Jennifer Ventrelle, a registered dietitian and a lifestyle-program director for the Rush University Prevention Center, said rapid weight loss because of low-carb dieting isn’t the loss of fat mass. “The number on the scale is lower, and admittedly you look thinner because your belly also tends to retain more water when you eat carbohydrates,” she said.
She said this temporary weight loss happens when you’re “intramuscularly dehydrated” — you’ve lost weight because you’re carrying less water weight in your muscles.
Dr. Holly Lofton, the director of the Weight Management Program at NYU Langone Health, previously told INSIDER that chronic stress could cause you to crave comfort foods.
“The stress can make our fat cells a little more stable, but it’s more likely that we’re just taking in more calories during that time,” she said.
Further, cortisol, the stress hormone, is increased when a person is stressed, which can cause an increase in appetite.
You’ve fallen into the trap of foods labeled low carb and sugar-free.
Low carb doesn’t always correlate with low calorie, but it often does go hand in hand with high fat. One reason why you might be struggling to lose weight on a low-carb diet is that you’ve succumbed to the labels displaying what you think you need, yet you’re consuming too many fats or overall calories in your daily intake.
Fat contains nine calories per gram consumed, making it a more calorie-dense macronutrient than carbs or proteins. This adds up and can lead to difficulties with weight loss or even weight gain.
Virta Health, a company specializing in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, says being mindful of the number of servings you’re eating is essential, as this can turn a low-carb food into many more carbs than anticipated if more than one serving is consumed.
You aren’t getting enough rest.
Sleep can impact weight. According to USA Today, studies show individuals who aren’t getting enough rest “have increased levels of a hunger hormone called ghrelin and decreased levels of the satiety/fullness hormone called leptin, which could lead to overeating and weight gain.”
Studies estimate that when you don’t sleep enough, you eat about 300 more calories a day than you do when you’re well rested.
Your medications are causing you to gain weight.
Lofton previously told that certain medications, particularly antidepressants, could cause you to gain weight.
Lofton said selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, antidepressants “have weight-gain potential when taken for more than a couple of months.” She added that antidepressants are a “really common” reason for weight gain.
If you’re curious about whether your medication is affecting your ability to lose weight, talk to your doctor.
You aren’t exercising.
Exercising is an important part of any weight-loss journey. Even if you are following a strict diet, it can be difficult to shed those final pounds without the help of a calorie-burning workout.
But what kind of exercise is best to help you reach your goals? Studies suggest exercising intensely for 30 to 45 minutes to most effectively drop some pounds.
“An acute bout of high-intensity exercise distributes blood away from the stomach and intestines due to the need for greater circulation of blood to the muscles, which may be a factor involved in appetite suppression. This does not occur with less demanding exercise,” David Stensel, a professor of exercise metabolism at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, England, told Greatist