Friday, January 25, 2013

Atkins Induction Blues: Why Am I Not Losing Weight?

Have you recently started Atkins Induction or some other low-carb program? If so, your motivation and excitement level is probably high. Although the drastic weight loss experienced at the beginning of a low-carb diet comes from draining glycogen stores and the water necessary to process it, seeing the numbers on the scale drop easily can keep you going forward with the diet’s restrictions and demanding lifestyle changes.

The Drastic Weight Loss On Atkins Induction Can Scare the Body
(Photo by Twenty Four Students)
For some individuals, the extreme weight loss often experienced during Atkins Induction can cause the body to put on the breaks. When that happens, weight loss can slow or stop as you move past the initial Induction period. For newbies and returnees alike, that can feel frustrating. You want to lose your body fat as quickly as you can, but things aren’t happening as fast as you expected or hoped.

If you have the Atkins Induction Blues and are wondering why you aren’t losing weight anymore, take heart. You might not be doing anything wrong.

Why Am I Not Losing Weight?

Fast weight loss is what draws many people towards a low-carb diet. They hear about the diet’s promises or listen to others who have changed to this way of life and found success, and they want that for themselves too. But if you don’t understand how your body works, the tricks it uses to protect you can mentally work against what you’re trying to do.

When the body loses its glycogen stores and the large amount of water needed to process those stored carbohydrates, it can see those imbalances as life threatening. In reaction, it will slow down your metabolic rate, start stuffing the water it still has left into your fat cells, and begin screaming for sugar. It’s out of glucose and dehydrated, so even though it’s using amino acids and body fat for its immediate needs, it interprets your current situation as a life-threatening emergency.

Weight loss stops, because the body is trying to conserve whatever resources it has.

On the surface, that can look like your low-carb diet has stopped working, but the body is simply going through the process of adapting to the types of foods you’re eating now. It doesn’t realize that it isn’t starving. It doesn’t understand that you are not in a true famine situation. It simply looks at what’s happening – the missing glycogen and semi-dehydration that has been ongoing for the past two to four weeks – and assumes you’re in trouble.

Low Carb Diets are Dehydrating

The degree of alarm the body goes into depends on your dieting history, whether you’ve restricted carbohydrates before, and just how much water you lost during Induction. The larger the losses, the more disturbed you’re body will be, especially if you aren’t drinking enough to replace those losses on a daily basis.

Restricting carbohydrates to Induction levels is dehydrating, even if you’re drinking enough water. That’s why weight scales designed to measure your hydration and fat levels are not accurate when following a low-carb diet. To make up for this dehydration, the body starts to retain a certain amount of water it thinks it needs. While drinking more water can certainly improve the situation if you’re water deficient, drinking more won’t help if your body is spooked.

Weight Loss Isn’t Fat Loss

The first thing to keep in mind is that if you’re in a calorie deficiency and your insulin levels are normal, fat loss will continue despite the numbers showing on the scale. Just because you’re not seeing weight loss, that doesn’t mean your body isn’t burning fat. To turn amino acids into glucose for the brain or blood sugar level, the liver uses fat to fuel that process. Since ketones are a by-product of breaking down fat, you can’t be in Ketosis without using fats either. But those fats can come from your diet, visceral fat, or body fat.

When the body stuffs water into your fat cells to protect you, that reaction keeps your fat cells from shrinking. It also keeps you from losing weight, and sometimes even inches, so if you’re new or fairly new to low-carb eating, a lack of weight loss on the scale or inches on the tape measure doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not burning body fat. You very well can be because weight loss isn’t fat loss. Weight loss can be muscle, glycogen, or water, as well as fat. And if your body is stuffing your fat cells with water, you might not see any loss of inches either.

What Can You Do If You Aren’t Losing Weight?

If your body has gone into panic mode due to the tremendous amount of weight loss you experienced on the first two weeks of Atkins Induction, all you can do is wait it out. Your body won’t continue stuffing your fat cells full of water forever. Eventually, it will begin to feel safe, come to understand that you are not in physical danger, and begin to eliminate the water. At that time, the scale will begin to reflect your true fat loss. For many individuals, this period of adaption can take as long as 6 to 8 weeks, or even more.

If you’re returning to a low-carb diet, or have gone on-and-off many previous diets, the body can move into this same type of preservation mode even without the drastic weight loss during Induction. That’s one of the reasons why returning to an Induction level of carbs won’t necessarily get you the same rate of weight loss it did before. The body will recognize what’s going on sooner and will move into self-preservation quicker.

In addition, if yo-yo dieting has become a personal pattern, the body will prepare for you to return to your old eating style by holding onto the water and refusing to shrink your fat cells even longer than is typical. While that doesn’t hold true for everyone who isn’t losing weight – you might be doing something wrong if you haven’t read the book and have a clear understanding of what a low-carb diet is – most of the time when a stall follows a good initial weight loss, it isn’t really a stall at all.

It’s simply normal adaption.


carrien86 said...

So what should i do. I have done yo yo diets seems i went on birth control and it messed with my b metabolism the most, so i was trying everything to lose the weight...nothing has worked, not even atkins yet. I lost over a 100 lbs. Like 10 years ago, so i have lost weight before. My body is just not doing what i want it to do is anymore. It is very frustrating.

Barbara1959 said...

Thank you for this piece Vickie. I have posted it in Files Section of LCHF group I'm apart of on Facebook. Hope that's okay.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post! I have been stuck in the same weight for about 2 weeks despite bringing down my carb intake into a meager 8-10 carbs per day. I will stick it out another week.

Vickie Ewell said...

Yes, that's fine. I'm glad you found it helpful.

Vickie Ewell said...


Sometimes, you just gotta wait it out. Have things improved for you yet?

Charlene Allison said...

I've been on induction for 12 days now and I've only lost 6.6 lbs...
When I hear how much others have lost I find my own weight loss pretty disappointing. Whatever the case I'm soldiering on though because the bottom line is that I, at least, am losing weight...

Vickie Ewell said...

Hi Charlene,
Glad you stopped by. 6.6 lbs is great! How much you lose the first 2 weeks totally depends on how much muscle you have, how large your glycogen storage is, and how much water retention you have. Some folks are so deficient in protein when they start that they have tons of excess water that the body dumps in the very beginning. Just know that those large losses are not fat. Inches is what matters most.

ace lau said...

i've been in injunction for 3 weeks and have not lost a pound.

Vickie Ewell said...

ace lau,
Is this the first time that you're tried a low-carb diet? Or have you done this before? Have you ever been on any other diet before starting Induction?

Karen Boothe said...

Discouraged :( Starting at about250 I lost over 100 pounds and about 40 of that was on Atkins. No surgery. That was 2005. Since then I have gained about 15 pounds back. I know that isn't a lot in 9 years but I dont want to go back there! So, I started Atkins again 3 weeks ago and have only lost about 3 pounds. I love low carb eating but this isn't working this time. I am 5'0 and about 160. Any suggestions? I have used the shakes, bars etc. Maybe I should eliminate them for awhile? Thanks for your help. ~Karen~

Vickie Ewell said...

It never works as well the second or third or whatever time as it did at first. The body remembers and will stuff water into your fat cells masking weight loss for quite a while. Plus, the metabolism can also fall right away for some. A lot of people discover that they have to give up the products in order to lose once they come back. Food sensitivities change. Our degree of insulin resistance sometimes gets worse. What you could do before won't apply today. For many, it's just a matter of waiting it out, but there are no guarantees unfortunately. I'm in a quandary myself, as I've gained a lot of my weight back due to having Grave's Disease.

coupon Ty said...

I'veThank you for this article. Ive done Atkins before 10 years ago and lost 20. Lbs. I started again about 3 weeks ago and lost 12 lbs in 2 weeks and nothing since. I won't give up. But do u think that when I do start losing it will be a lot at once or gradually? and are there some who do Atkins and never lose the weight with it? I just want some hope!

Vickie Ewell said...

Coupon Ty,
Most people go through a whoosh, so they drop several pounds at once - when the body dumps the water weight. Others, just begin to lose weight slowly again. 12 pounds in 2 weeks though, will definitely freak the body out into stuffing your fat cells with water; so my opinion, from watching others and myself, is that you'll probably experience a whoosh. But it could take up to 6 weeks before you experience that. That's how long it took me. I try to tell people to give the diet at least 2 to 3 months to work before evaluating whether or not to tweak anything.

coupon Ty said...

Thank you so much for your response. I am determined to stick it out!!615

Vickie Ewell said...

I did eventually have to tweak my diet to lower fat and calories than the average low-carb dieter, but I didn't do right away. I waited about 90 days before I started to play with things.

C.J. said...

I can't thank you enough for posting this! 2 months ago, I simultaneously began weight lifting and Atkins. I expected to look drastically different within a month. I lost 9lbs. in the first 3 weeks and have been completely stalled since. Everyone else at the gym is losing like crazy and I have been contemplating giving up. I will soldier on and see what the next few weeks bring - again, thanks for letting me know I'm not the only one with this issue.