Three Ways to Jump-Start Ketosis When Stuck

Man and Woman Jumping On Ocean Shore
Stuck on a weight-loss plateau?
Here's how to jump-start your low-carb diet!

Reaching equilibrium can be frustrating, especially if the stall has been for more than a few weeks. The bad news is that you're eating at maintenance. Energy coming in has aligned with energy used, so you'll need to shake things up and do something different.

Here are three zero-carb diets to get the scale moving again. They'll trim down your hunger along with those unwanted pounds.



Has your weight loss stalled for more than six to eight weeks? No pounds lost or even inches?

If so, you might be wondering what to do next. Searching online can be overwhelming and confusing. There are so many theories and suggestions regarding weight-loss stalls and plateaus to choose from:
  • Should I eat more calories, less calories, or eat about the same?
  • Should I eat more fat, less fat, or eat about the same?
  • Should I eat more veggies, less veggies, or eat about the same?
And no one agrees. Since we are all individuals, each blogger's experience will be unique. Same goes for all of those low-carb doctors who share their professional opinion with you. Those professional opinions are tied closely to the group of patients they serve.

What works for them might not work for you.

Woman Walking Down a Path, Alone, with Umbrella
Do you feel all alone?
Like no one else is stalled except for you?


Despite all of the scientific research and contradictory claims you'll hear, eventually you'll begin to think that you are all alone in this weight-loss journey, like no one else is stalled except for you. Everywhere you turn, people are losing weight on Atkins, but the scale simply won't move for you -- no matter what you do!

It's been so long now since you've seen even a single pound disappear that you're beginning to think that you are completely on your own.

The bad news is that you are.

Reaching equilibrium doesn't happen to everyone. It just depends on how much weight you initially had to lose and how efficiently your body has become at using ketones and fats for fuel.

I can completely relate to your frustration because I've been stalled since we moved to Texas. The body has little ways of getting you to eat more calories, without you noticing.

However, all is not hopeless.

I've been keeping a closer eye on my carbs and the scale is starting to move downward again, so in this post, I'm going to introduce you to three of the best zero-carb diets that can get your fat-burning engine rekindled and running at full-speed ahead again.

While I often talk about eating too many calories, and how you need to cut back on the frivolous fat, some people have to cut back on carbs instead.

Your carbohydrate tolerance won't stay the same as you go through life. It changes, especially as you get older, which can make it look like you've reached energy balance, even if you haven't.

Pinterest Image: Skateboarder Jumping Over Multi-Colored Clouds and Cat Stuck on Roof Rafters

Most Important Questions to Ask Yourself About Weight Loss

Do you want fast weight loss? Losing weight fast is all about calories and fat intake. However, if you've overstepped your carb tolerance, have experienced some carb creep, or your metabolism has changed, lowering your carbs can help your body pick up the pace.

Or are you comfortable and happy with greater food choices, more variety, an occasional treat -- even if that means losing weight at a slower pace.


A slower pace is fine.

This is what I've been doing over the past year. I'm down a total of 40 pounds now, so I'm half-way to my new goal weight. I'm comfortable eating this way because I can make permanent changes today, rather than waiting for pre-maintenance and maintenance to start experimenting with what works and what doesn't.

Do you have health issues such as gall bladder or liver problems that require you to eat less fat than the average low-carb diet recommends? This is me as well. Even if I lower the carbs, I can't replace those carbs with fat, so I tend to eat more carbs than the average low-carb dieter does.

But that doesn't mean that I have to eat a high-carb low-fat diet. Moderate carbs and limited fats work well for me.

Do you believe in and/or fear starvation mode? The medical community has done a lot of damage for shorter women or those who need to go very low in calories to reach goal. The mantra about having to not go below 1,200 a day is just a myth.

However, some low carbers have adopted similar myths. You don't have to eat several times a day to fire up your metabolism, and especially if you are not hungry. Eating more food just crams your body with more energy, often more than you need, even at maintenance. Skipping breakfast or lunch is fine.

And snacking? It should be optional.

Do you believe in and/or fear the calorie theory? Low carbers who believe the calorie theory is false won't take the necessary steps to reach goal weight. While the idea behind calories-in versus calories-out is a bit off, due to how the body adapts to dieting, the concept about keeping your energy intake less than energy used is not.

Do you enjoy fatty meats? Lean meats? Vegetables? Butter and Mayo? The answers to all of these questions will determine the type of diet you choose to adopt. For instance, if you love vegetables, then moving to a zero-carb diet long term might not be a good fit for you. If you hate vegetables, or consider butter and mayonnaise a food, rather than a condiment, you might thrive doing zero carbs.

All of these questions, and more, are questions that each of us have to personally address before you can make the best choice for your self because you need to find a weight-management plan that you can live with for the rest of your life.

I know I say this a lot, but from the comments and emails I get, I can never say it too often. Mindset and attitude is everything in this game, and if you don't live the low-carb lifestyle, what you want is never going to happen! You can't go into a low-carb diet using a crash-diet mentality. It won't work for long.

The truth is, no matter which diet plan or low-carb path you choose to enter, weight maintenance isn't going to be a whole lot different than what you do to lose the weight. This is what tweaking is all about. You leave behind things that are standing in your way -- today.

It doesn't matter what worked yesterday. Yesterday is dead to you. Today is all you've got. What do you need to get rid of today to make tomorrow happen?

Before you're ready to decide what to do, you need to seriously consider a couple more things.

Hunger


Man Hungrily Eating Fruits Mixed with Yogurt
Typical weight-loss diets leave you hungry
and feeling deprived.

Let's be honest. The biggest problem with weight-loss diets is the hunger they cause. While cravings can certainly wreck your emotional and mental state, it's physical hunger that makes you chuck your diet and go back to over-indulging.

Can you live with being hungry for the rest of your life? Few people have that kind of strength. I know I certainly don't. I can manage to be consistently hungry for awhile, when motivation to lose weight is intense, but as time goes on, that motivation starts to falter. When that happens, I cave into the hunger.

This is what happened after I finished one single round of HCG. It was torturous. Too torturous, but how my body behaved after coming off of it was a nightmare I don't want to repeat!

So for me, the path of ketosis and a higher protein diet is the most sensible and effective of all the options available. I can't do zero carb anymore, due to Graves' disease, but I don't have to eat 300 carbs a day either.

The choice you have isn't between zero carb and high carb.

Even if you don't have health issues that prevent you from doing zero carb, the following diets are not long-term diet. They are meant to be used as a tool to jump-start weight loss by getting your carbohydrate tolerance back under control.

The following three zero-carb diets will also correct any carb creep that might have you stalled. Once completed, you can add back just enough carbs to keep you satisfied and the fat coming off again.

These diets are intended to reveal your NEW carbohydrate tolerance for losing. Please use them for what they were intended.

Deprivation


The second biggest problem with diets is the deprivation. Many dieters eat for reasons other than hunger. Some of these reasons are attached to your feelings and emotional state. Some people eat due to habit, while others are addicted to the pleasurable experience of taste.

Whatever your reason for overeating, you need to ask yourself the following questions to determine the best course of action to take:


Do you crave sugar or carbohydrates? If so, your current carb intake is too high. You might also be not eating enough protein, so check that first. If you're eating at least 0.8 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass, 15 to 25 percent of your goal-weight maintenance calories, then cutting carbs to eliminate cravings is the next step.

Can you stand being in a room where someone else is eating something yummy and you not indulge? You are not born with self-discipline. Scientists have discovered that the self-discipline area of the brain is un-developed in humans. This part of the brain must be strengthened, but you don't do that by using willpower. You do it by changing the way that you think.

Do you lack the willpower required to abstain from foods that are not to your benefit to eat? Reason is required to stop, pause, and reflect on a situation before you make a deliberate decision to do something. But that reason must also be objective, instead of allowing your self-limiting beliefs to affect your consideration.

If you habitually react to what's going on in your environment, regardless of how it affects you, then you need to take steps to protect yourself from going brain numb until you've developed the self-discipline to think before you respond.

How badly do you want to lose the weight? More than that chocolate cupcake? More than that bag of BBQ potato chips? More than that loaf of piping hot, homemade bread? What is the greatest value in your life? Food or being thin? Often the paths in life come with conflicting values, which forces us to decide which value matters most.

Why Getting Back Into Ketosis Fast is Important if Stalled


The beauty of ketosis is that it can help you deal with these types of challenges, concerns, and consequences. But you have to act quickly once you've determined that you are, in fact, stalled.

Why?

Shadow Head Listening to His Thoughts
Thoughts are like a computer program that keeps
running and repeating itself.

Because once you have come to the conclusion that you have stalled partway to goal weight, your mind will start talking to you, and tell you all sorts of crazy things that aren't true.

A small part of you will try to convince you that low carb isn't worth the effort, or you're not good enough to make it to goal weight, so you might as well quit. This inner critic will try to tell you that there is a better way. A faster way to get the job done.

That's rubbish, of course.


But when you've been starring at the scale for several weeks and the number just won't budge, you're more likely to believe what your mind is saying. The subconscious mind has its own list of priorities, which are probably different than yours, due to prior decisions and conclusions you've made.

So you'll have to stop, pause, and use a bit of reason to get yourself unstuck here.

Getting into ketosis quickly will bring those feelings of hunger and deprivation back inline, so you can determine your next move. Cutting carbs down to the bone usually eliminates all interest in food, making it easier to regain control over your thoughts and eating habits.

Once you are back in charge, you can choose what's best for you.

There Isn't Just One Way to Get Unstuck


There isn't just one way to get yourself into the metabolic state of ketosis.

While getting into ketosis does require you to cut the carbs, how you specifically do that can actually make a difference in the outcome. The fewer carbs you eat, the faster your glycogen will empty out, and the quicker you'll see some movement on the scale -- IF you've been overeating carbs.

What you want to do right now is clear out the glycogen that has been stored in your liver, if any. You want to force your body to turn to its body fat for sustenance, the same as it had to do when you started your low-carb diet.

If carbs have been creeping into your diet lately or if your carbohydrate tolerance has gotten worse, your glycogen stores could have refilled. 

If that's what's going on:

You need to change your defective carbohydrate metabolism back into being a fat-burning machine.

To get there, you must cut your carbohydrate consumption down to what Dr. Atkins called biologically zero. Other than that, there are several ways to go about getting back into the state of ketosis fast.

How to Get Into Ketosis Quickly


Here are three quick ways to enter the state of ketosis.

There are many others, so don't limit yourself to what I'm about to share here. These are simply three methods I used myself when my weight loss got stuck. 

Other zero-carb diets, like an egg fast, can be equally effective, but since I've never done an official egg fast -- just ate bacon and eggs for two meals a day to get my blood glucose back under control quickly -- I didn't include it in this post.

Each of the following methods are designed to get you into a fat burning metabolism within three days, or less. After which, you can then choose which low-carb plan or path you are going to follow from here on out.

If you are already on a low-carb diet, and stalled, the time it will take to drain your glycogen might be quite a bit less than three days. Three days is what it normally takes to see the drastic reduction in hunger if your glycogen stores are completely full.

Now, if it takes three days, or more, to see a drop in hunger, don't beat yourself up about it. Just be glad that you figured out why you're stuck.

Kimmer's Experiment (K/E)

  • Eat as much lean protein as needed to satisfy hunger (lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs)
  • Basic condiments and spices are okay
  • Diet beverages, coffee and tea, as desired, without cream, but a bit of sugar substitute is okay
  • Diet gelatin is limited to 1 cup per day
  • Chicken and beef broth is fine, homemade prefered
  • No alcohol, no cheese
Meat and Egg Fast (M/E)
  • Eat as much protein as needed to satisfy hunger (meats, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese)
  • Fats are allowed in reasonable portions (including cream, and poultry skin)
  • Diet beverages, coffee and tea, as desired
  • Sugar substitutes okay
  • Spices and herbs without sugar, extracts, mustard, horseradish, vinegar okay
Atkins 72 Induction

  • Everything on the M/E list plus:
  • 2 cups of loosely packed mixed greens with celery, cucumber, and radishes
  • Salad dressings without added sugar are okay (moderate portions)
  • Juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • Chicken or beef broth is recommended 
  • Diet gelatin is fine
  • Cheese, up to 4 oz per day of hard aged cheese (no cream cheese or spreads)
  • Heavy Cream, up to 4 tsp per day

Don't Be Afraid to Eat

I didn't number the above diets because one isn't any better than the others. All will work, and work fast.

Eat according to your appetite. Do not go hungry. These are not weight-loss diets. Nor is the focus on calories right now. They are designed to get you into the state of ketosis as quickly as possible, or help you clear out your glycogen stores if you're stalled. If hungry, please EAT.

Don't worry about calories. Don't worry about fat. Just focus on getting into ketosis.

The diets work to rid your body of glycogen and, thereby, switch your metabolism from predominately burning sugar to predominately burning fats for fuel. If you've been eating too many carbs, you might have switched back to a glucose-burning metabolism.

While fat adaption teaches the body to use both fats and glucose, interchangeably, the body will give preference to one or the other. You want the body to prefer fats, which is why you're going to lower your carbs and see if that corrects your stall.

Once you enter the state of ketosis, your appetite will drastically fall and take care of the calorie reduction needed to start shedding the pounds. Don't be in a hurry to return carbs to your diet. Let the body readjust to burning fats first.

However, you are not required to force yourself to eat either. Ketosis is self-regulating. Let your hunger be your guide.

Cautions and Advice

How long it takes you to enter into the state of ketosis, or how much weight you will lose during this initial three day period, will depend upon how badly you were overeating carbs before you began one of these three zero-carb diets.

At the end of the three days, it's best to move into a standard low-carb diet. But a standard diet doesn't mean you have return to eating 20 net carbs. If 20 net carbs was too much for you, going back will simply cause your weight to stall again.

These diets are only designed to get you into ketosis quickly. They are not a true low-carb diet. Low carb diets contain vegetables, salads, and other low-carb foods, but how much of those foods you can eat will be personal to just you.

It's best to do as Dr. Atkins originally recommended. If you start to drop weight eating this way, return one food at a time to your diet and watch what happens very carefully. By adding only one new food per week, you can fine-tune your diet to include only foods that are beneficial for weight management.

Also, be aware that the Atkin's Flu (also known as the Induction Flu) will be a lot more pronounced when drastically lowering your carbs, so make sure that you are using plenty of salt. Restricting carbs causes your kidneys to dump sodium along with the water needed to process glycogen.

You need to replace it.

Take it easy, get lots of rest, and up your sodium intake to keep your electrolytes in check.

These flu symptoms are NOT a sign of carb addiction or sugar withdrawal, as you might read on the internet. They are a sign that your electrolytes have become unbalanced, so don't cut down on salt. Water retention is nothing to fear on a low-carb diet. You need to eat more salt to help your body readjust quicker.

How Will You Know that You are in Ketosis?


You will know when you have entered ketosis or have cleaned out your glycogen stores because your appetite will become seriously suppressed. Many people lose interest in food and even forget to eat! That is what I do. This is one of the most stunning symptoms of ketosis there is.

You don't need Ketostix to tell you that.

However, a lot of people do find the sticks to be highly motivating. Just know that they only look for acetoacetate ketones, not beta-hydroxybutyrate or acetone, so they won't be completely reliable. They are just a great motivational tool.

If you try one of the above diets, please consider sharing your experience in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!



Comments

  1. This is an excellent blog. I love your writing style and agree with everything you've written.

    I've been M/E for about a year and starting to question if perhaps a K/E program is more healthy (lower fat being more healthy, I mean). Just some things I'm tossing around lately after reading about Kimkins.

    I've bookmarked your blog and will enjoy reading past posts. Thanks again.

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  2. I love your article and hope to see more.

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  3. I am currently on my 4th day of nothing but protein intake. I am already in ketosis. According to the ketostix, at large amounts (80). The chart only goes up one more color. I drinks LOTS of water, so I am hoping this keeps my kidneys healthy. Having high blood pressure since I was 16, and I am now 44, I had enough stress on my kidneys. Is it healthy to stay in ketosis for the sake of losing weight? As my 5th day approaches, I will be adding in green vegetables. I have already lost 10 lbs in 4 days. I just want to lose weight...I don't want to die trying!! Thanks!

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  4. A low carb diet is healthy. I have had surgeons and cardiologists assure me that Atkins is SAFE.

    Ketostix measure how many ketones your body is getting rid of, without using them completely. Drinking lots of water helps the liver process body fat.

    The weight you lose initially is mostly glycogen and the water the body stores to process that glycogen when needed. Lowering carbs causes the body to use that glycogen. When it gets half depleted or so, (which only takes a day or two), the body starts breaking down fat to create glucose for your organs that need glucose. Most organs can use fatty acids for fuel. The brain, heart, and some kidney cells can use ketones.

    As your body gets more efficient at using ketones, your sticks will get lighter. That doesn't mean "less" ketosis, it just means your body is burning the ketones.

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  5. Im in ketosis light then dark then light...I'm trying to stay in the 20-25 carb range. I lost 8lbs the first 3 weeks, now I just want too know, will I continue too loose if only in ketosis or will I loose by keeping carb intake at 25

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  6. Most people are able to eat about 35 to 40 carbs per day and still lose. It all depends on how insulin resistant you are. You'll have to experiment to find out for sure. But in general, as long as you're in ketosis, you should lose. But you won't lose every single week. It varies.

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  7. I have enjoyed reading your posts for over a year. You give great information. I started on a ketosis diet in September 2012 at 290 lbs today I'm at 230. I have taken a break for the past 3 months and started up again, my problem is I cant seem to get back into Ketosis. I keep my carbs at around 20 grams per day my protein is around 6 to 8 oz per meal. I can only eat twice a day. I am not as active as I was trying to improve that any suggestions would be appreciated.

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  8. oh I was recently diagnosed as pre diabetic although I do not take any medication, not sure if that has any effect...thank you again

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  9. Hi Mari,
    Are you measuring ketosis through using urine test strips? If so, you might not be spilling ketones at the exact moment you're checking. We don't spill ketones consistently. Only when the body wants to get rid of them.

    How is your appetite? Has it gone down? Is that why you're only eating twice a day? Or is that more of a time factor? Lowered appetite is a far better gauge of being in ketosis than the sticks are.

    Are you losing weight? What happens sometimes when you take a break is that you go back to dieting, the body sees dieting as a temporary problem. So it begins filling your fat cells with water as it uses up the fat. It believes (or hopes) that you're going to take a break soon, and a higher amount of carbs will be coming in.

    The body doesn't like to shrink its fat cells unless it has to. Sometimes, you have to just wait things out. If you're only eating 20 carbs per day and it's been more than 3 to 5 days, you "have" to be in Ketosis, even if you're aren't spilling ketones into the urine or losing weight.

    The longer you follow a low-carb diet, the more efficient your body gets at burning ketones. You won't spill as many. I don't change the urine test strips at all - ever - anymore, even during Induction.

    Being pre-diabetic means you're insulin resistant. That could be a factor, but that depends on what you ate (how many carbs or sugars) during your break. Most people who do well on a low carb diet are pre-diabetic.

    If you were eating a lot more carbs, your insulin level might currently be too high. But that's just a waiting game too. 20 carbs per day will drop your levels fairly quickly. Once the insulin normalizes, weight loss speed picks up.

    How tall are you? Your protein amount sounds fine, unless you're really tall. How much fat are you eating? Not everyone can eat a lot of fat and still lose. Calories are also important, the more weight you lose. Generally, the body needs at least 10 times your current weight in calories just to maintain standard body functions. However, I never ate to that level myself.

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  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  11. Thanks so much for mentioning that you don't make the test strips change color at all. I never do anymore and thought the diet wasn't working even though I had lost that hyperactive appetite! I can be so dense sometimes. I feel better on Atkins long as I drink plenty of water, about 8 ounces every hour.
    Anyway thanks again!

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome. After you adapt, ketones are only used to fuel the brain. Your muscles and other body systemd use fats for fuel.

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  12. I have questions...they may be crazy questions, but...I have been doing a Keto diet for about a week. I haven't noticed the "flu" or even a big increase in urine output. I drink (and have for a year) around 100 ounces of water a day. My bladder is massive!
    I was also completely whole foods before I started Keto.
    My appetite has decreased some and I get full much faster, but my scales aren't budging.
    I work insane hours and commute several hours a day for work. I've been eating things I can throw in my lunchbox fast and have been cooking very little due to time constraints​. Is cooking mandatory for weight loss?

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    Replies
    1. Cooking is not mandatory for weight loss, provided you're not going over 20 a day.

      Some people lose water weight the first week, while others don't. Not losing doesn't mean the diet isn't working, especially if you were on a complete whole foods diet before. How much you have to lose also plays into this.

      If your hunger has gone down a little, and you're satisfied with less food, that's a sign that you're doing fine.

      Adapting to a low-carb diet takes a few weeks. The first day the body uses glycogen, then it turns to oxidizing amino acids. It takes about 7 to 10 days before the body decides to stop burning through its protein stores and use body fat instead.

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