“I’ve been doing keto for a month now and I haven’t lost a pound.”
That was a comment I received from a prospective client. I immediately told her that I suspected hidden carbs as the culprit. She insisted that she ate low-carb, with the occasional fried chicken or shrimp in batter. I explained that the batter is made from wheat flour which is carb rich. She explained that she didn’t think “that little bit of flour would make a difference.” She recently shared with me a picture of her meal: fish and vegetable salad. Sounds good, right? Except that the fish was done brown-stewed style, which means it is first fried than cooked down in a ketchup rich sweet and spice sauce. Ketchup is unbelievably high in sugar. There are 11g sugar in 100g coca cola, 9 g sugar in 100g orange juice and 22g sugar in 100g ketchup.
Is it Keto that’s not working… or something else?
Another friend of mine complained about how slowly she was losing weight on keto. She described her meals to me. They were all keto compliant: salads, steamed green veggies, meat without coatings and sweet sauces. She even bought products from the low-carb range of foods that I make and sell! I pressed in… “What do you do after dinner in the evenings while you’re watching TV?” She laughed and shook her head. “I eat popcorn. I have a bit of a popcorn habit.” Sigh. There are 74g in 100g popcorn. No wonder weight loss was elusive.
Keto during the Week, all bets off on the weekend…
I also received a comment from a fellow low-carb eater in one of the online low-carb groups that I am a part of. She admitted that once the weekend comes, she goes off track and ends up eating some of the rice and peas and plantain and other goodies that Mom makes as part of the typical Sunday dinner spread characteristic of many Caribbean households. Sunday dinners are a special part of our culture and represent a day when the family eats together and eats earlier than normal, with a little extra effort being put into selecting what is cooked and how it is cooked. Side dishes like potato salad or macaroni and cheese are a must.
Yet another client who had been doing well on keto, but recently stalled in terms of her weight loss, admitted to me that she knows that her downfall is what happens on the weekend. I know this happens to most of us. We eat the way we should Monday to Friday, and it all falls apart starting with Friday night, right? I spoke about this all too common occurrence here. You’re not alone!
When I meet with my clients, after we discuss what they want to achieve by going keto, we discuss their eating habits in detail. I divide up their eating patterns into Monday to Friday, and Friday evening to Sunday evening. Got to keep it real!
The Type of Person Who Wins with Keto
Then there are those that are successful on keto. Yes, many of us have lost weight and kept it off by changing how we eat to eating low carb. I have lost about 60 pounds in the last 2 years and 2 months by eating low-carb and practicing intermittent fasting. I’m not special. Join an online low carb group like the Caribbean Keto Tribe and see the many, many success stories out there. There is a common thread running through these keto success stories: consistency.
As with any method you chose to lose weight, it only works if you remain consistent.
If you opt to go the traditional route of “eating less” and “moving more” you will lose weight and keep it off, just if you continue to watch your portions and exercise regularly.
If you opt to go the low carb route, you will lose weight and keep it off, if you continue to avoid the foods that caused you to gain weight in the first place.
Why Keto or Low Carb?
I have stuck with low-carb eating because it was easier for me, way easier for me than going the portion control route. I found “eating all things in moderation” to be painful. I was constantly hungry and deprived and ended up unable to sustain this strategy long enough for it to really work.
There’s science here…. When some of us eat carbs, our bodies secrete a hormone called insulin. This hormone quickly instructs our bodies to shut down fat-burning. When our insulin levels are high, the result is inflammation all over our bodies and do you know what happens when there is inflammation in our bodies? Well inflammation is linked to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia and some auto immune diseases like lupus. Inflammation is not a good thing. Another thing about insulin is that it interferes with our feeling of fullness. That’s why when you snack on high carb stuff like chips or crackers it is literally impossible to stop until you finish the entire bag! And you still feel hungry afterwards! We insulin resistant people can’t process carbs efficiently. Our blood sugar levels and our blood insulin levels increase and we therefore gain weight easily and find it difficult to lose weight. Cutting carbs removes the one trigger to high blood sugar and insulin levels, and the result is fat burning, appetite control, reduced inflammation and weight loss.
In this post I tackled 15 of the most common questions I’ve received about keto.
The 3 Reasons Why You Aren’t Losing Weight on Keto
So, let’s be honest. And I’m not asking you to be honest with me. But I am encouraging you to be honest with yourself. If you aren’t you’ll continue to fool yourself that you “aren’t really fat” or that the “so called hidden carbs I consume couldn’t be the problem”. Why aren’t you losing weight on keto? There are 3 possible scenarios why:
- You’re consuming hidden carbs that will take you over the total carbohydrates per day threshold required for fat burning to take place.
- You aren’t consistent with your low-carb eating, for various reasons.
- You have hormonal issues that require tweaking a standard low-carb regime including the addition of intermittent fasting and possible supplementation to correct the specific hormonal issue.
HOLD UP! Don’t rush to let yourself off the hook with number 3. For most of us, removing hidden carbs and remaining consistent on keto will most certainly result in weight loss. Until you’ve given keto a solid, consistent good old college try, you really can’t rush to excuse your lack of progress on your hormones. Keeping it real!
Keto Not Working? Search for Hidden Carbs!
In an ideal world, we’d all prepare our own meals to ensure that we’re not consuming hidden carbs. But schedules and work and family demands on our time, make this difficult for many. I have a few basic rules for avoiding hidden carbs when you must consume food that is prepared by others, or when you opt for pre-packaged so-called convenience foods:
- Read your label: portion size and grams of carbs per serving are critical pieces of information. It is not enough for the front of the label to shout “keto” or “low-carb” or “protein bar”. Read. Your. Labels. Processed foods often have wheat flour and sugar added to improve shelf life, taste and mouthfeel. If you can avoid these, do yourself a huge favour and avoid them.
- Ketchup, white sauces, red/brown sauces and breaded meats as well as meats prepared in batter are significant sources of hidden carbs. Ketchup is full of sugar, as outlined earlier. White sauces typically have flour at their base, red/brown sauces have sugar added to improve taste and batters are almost always made with flour. Breaded meats are, well, covered with breadcrumbs! Carbs! And yes, the quantity adds up over time. Plus eating even these small quantities of carbs will awaken cravings for more carbs. At best you’ll be miserable having to constantly stave off cravings. At worst, the cravings will get the better of you and you’ll tumble straight off the wagon.
If you’re eating out, stick to grilled and roasted meats, ranch and non-fruity vinaigrette salad dressings or plain mayonnaise, roasted veggies.
Keto won’t work if you’re not CONSISTENT!
So why are some people able to remain consistent on keto and others not?
The first bit of advice I give is to plan ahead. This is not a low-carb world yet. So, if you don’t know what you’ll be eating meal to meal, you’ll likely be backed into a corner, having to eat whatever is available, which inevitably involves carbs.
You don’t have to meal prep, but it certainly helps. I coach my clients through easy to prepare low-carb meals which more often than not involves the use of the oven and a single flat baking sheet. Too easy.
The other reason why some people are consistent on keto and others not so much, is the strength of their “WHY”. What’s the reason you started keto in the first place? How compelling is it? A health scare is usually a really strong WHY for most people. In my case, it was vanity. I didn’t like how I looked. I was determined to look good again. Keeping it real. And I had my then 14 year old son doing it with me. I couldn’t wimp out on him. He needed to lose weight. I had to lead by example. This was ultra-important to me.
Motivation and Keto
It all starts with a compelling WHY. But motivation will wane. Yes, it will. We’re only human after all. We’re trying to change years of eating habits. We eat in a way that’s considered unusual by the rest of society. Planning ahead takes effort and energy. Especially if you’re not doing your own meal prep, the low-carb options available can get monotonous and boring.
Here’s my experience and what others have said as well: It can be difficult to remain consistent on keto in the first couple of weeks. There are still cravings to contend with.
But the less you feed those cravings and the more you eat protein and healthy fats, the easier it becomes to remain compliant. That’s science, not magic. So over time it becomes less about stoking up those fires of motivation and more about new habits that you’ve formed and the actual food that you feel for as you burn fat instead of sugar for energy.
In those early days, support is critical to getting you over that hump. Online support groups or a weight loss coach or a good friend doing this with you are all great ways to get the support needed to keep motivation high and remain consistent.
The other truth to motivation is this: as you lose weight and feel and look better, you’ll want to remain consistent! Yup. You love how those new smaller jeans fit and when faced with that slice of chocolate cake OR the smaller jeans, your progress is so thrilling that you opt not to indulge that way. What’s that old saying again? Reward sweetens labour!
Your hormones and weight loss
So, you’ve eliminated all those hidden carbs. You’ve remained consistent for a month, preferably 3.
And you haven’t lost weight. This happens mostly with menopausal women. Time to get a medical doctor who understands low-carb eating to assess you. S/he can do a full work up of what’s happening in your body and target specific supplementation and eating interventions that address the hormonal imbalance that’s conspiring against you losing weight.
Dr Jay Wrigley is one such doctor. He has a wealth of experience in helping people with hormonal issues gain control. He also lost a lot of weight on keto. Check out his website here and follow him on twitter for great info that may be applicable to you!
Mindset is MORE THAN half the battle!
You’re now armed with information about hidden carbs, the importance of your WHY to start with and the importance of support when motivation wanes, because motivation will certainly wane and the fact that there will be a few who, due to hormonal issues, even when they do everything “right” will not lose weight without the intervention of a doctor who understands low-carb eating and the impact of hormones on weight loss.
I’d like to end this post with a little bit on mindset in general.
It has been my privilege to work as a keto weight loss coach with people who think that eating low-carb could help them get to their weight loss goals. It is becoming easier to spot those who will be successful vs those who will struggle very early in our relationship. The biggest separator is mindset.
The client who comes into this way of eating looking for every single loophole to allow themselves to keep eating the way they always have yet saying that they want to lose weight will likely fail to attain their goals.
The questions such a client asks go something like this:
- How many carbs in a patty?
- What is my weekly allotment of alcohol? Even after I’ve explained what drinking even low carb alcohol does to you when you’re in weight loss mode…
- Can I have just one spoon of rice and peas?
- Well since even veggies have carbs, why can’t I have this ketchup-based sauce with my meal?
- Not even a little ice-cream?
- Which of these fruits can I have? Even after I’ve explained the impact of fruits with the exception of berries on fat burning
This is what keto is: it is a way of eating that reduces carbohydrates in order to keep blood sugar and insulin levels low and steady. This results in the body being able to burn its own fat, and the significant reduction of cravings.
This is what keto is not: it is NOT a way of eating that allows for “a little of everything in moderation”. Carbs are the only NON-ESSENTIAL macro nutrient, provided that protein and fat are consumed in sufficient quantities. So, we cut out carbs and feed our bodies on what it really needs: proteins and healthy fats.
Once you accept what keto is and what it is not, work with it instead of looking for every excuse to continue the way you always have, still hoping to lose weight.
You can’t want to change and not change.
A Word of Encouragement: Keto Can Work for You!
If you’ve fallen off the wagon, there’s no better time than right now to climb back on.
Make your next meal keto, then the next meal, then the next.
Keep your food choices simple to begin with: meat, fish, eggs and green veggies.
Don’t get hungry. Bump up your protein by having eggs, tuna, rotisserie chicken close to hand and eat those when hunger strikes. You’ll stay fuller for longer and your appetite will eventually regulate.
Start again and WIN this time by watching out for hidden carbs and getting the support you need to take you through the first couple of weeks. You can do this!