The Truth About Slow Weight Loss on Keto

Woman Screaming Under Water
Upset that you didn't lose weight this week?
Pull up a chair. Let's talk about it.

Are you feeling frustrated about how slowly the weight is coming off on your ketogenic diet?

Are you expecting the Atkins Nutritional Approach to perform in ways it was never designed to perform?

Don't know?

Internet myths and rumors, comparing yourself to others, and misunderstanding the science behind why carbohydrate restriction results in weight loss can bring about tons of needless struggle, resistance, and pain.

The more I read at blogs and forums, the more I've realized that unrealistic expectations and misconceptions have reached epidemic proportions within the low-carb community.

While some people do experience dramatic weight loss on keto, unfortunately, that isn't the norm.

Often, those who find low carb easy are brand new to keto living and even dieting itself, so their body hasn't adapted to what they're doing yet.

The idea behind restricting carbohydrates isn't super fast weight loss.

The Atkins Diet is about finding your personal carbohydrate tolerance level and then using that knowledge to get off the dieting merry-go-round.

It's about ditching the carefree, mindless eating style that previously packed on the pounds and moving into a realistic, permanent lifestyle that's designed to improve your vitality and health.

What you might have forgotten is what brought you to the Atkins table.

Maybe, you've spent a good portion of your life sampling every new diet scheme out there that promised to fulfill your weight-loss dreams.

But, what did you get for all of those efforts?

If dieting had worked, you wouldn't be reading this blog post right now.

So if you're frustrated with how slowly you're losing weight on Atkins, keto, or some other low-carb high-fat plan, pull up a chair. Let's have an honest-to-goodness discussion about slow weight loss.

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Know Your Real Enemy

Unlike many others, I have not struggled with excess pounds for all of my life.

I wasn't a fat child.

Although I grew up in a household that was mostly vegetarian, except for Sunday dinner and special occasions, insulin resistance didn't rear its ugly head until after I'd had my appendix removed.

I was 18 when I first began to pack on a few extra pounds.

As a result, I purchased a weight-loss magazine. The magazine taught me about the energy balance equation and how most of the medical profession viewed dieting: lower your calories and up your activity.

Sounded simple. But putting the weight-loss ideas into practice was difficult.

It seemed that the more I tried to restrict what I ate, the more fat I got. The body didn't like energy restriction.

Although each dieting attempt was fueled by a stronger determination to succeed this time around, the instinct for survival won out.

I couldn't follow through.

The price for thinness, even then, was hunger, so I blamed myself for being too weak and spineless to do what it took to look like everyone else.

Spending the money I made babysitting on bacon cheeseburgers at the local burger shop was too tempting. Sneaking that burger was more important to me than being thin. Hence, a vicious cycle of guilt, dieting, hunger, and caving into temptation began.

Looking back now, I can only shake my head in disbelief.

I was a whopping 10 pounds overweight when I first started dieting. I was 4-foot 11-3/4 inches tall and weighed 107.

I thought I was fat because someone told me I was fat.

Today, I'm 5-feet tall. On October 1, 2015, I weighed in at 238 pounds. On November 15, 2016, I weighed in at 219. Although, I managed to shed over 100 pounds between 2007 and 2012, today, I still weigh 200 pounds.

The vicious struggle continues, but for a different reason this time. 

While I'm no longer plagued by the guilt, hunger, and caving into temptation that I felt victim to at 18, the cycle I'm currently riding is just as vicious. Maybe even more vicious because:
  • guilt
  • shame at regaining
  • and feeling like a failure
for having been deceived into returning to an unhealthy diet is far more challenging than starving the weight off ever was.

It's taken me decades to see the truth:

That carbohydrates are not the real enemy here.

Yes, we need to find our personal carbohydrate tolerance and stay within that sensitivity, but:

The real enemy is myself. The enemy is the mind. What we think and believe about ourselves and the world is what we become, and what we are.

Why is Fast Weight Loss a Problem?

Throughout my weight-loss adventures, I couldn't understand why losing weight fast on a lower-fat version of the Atkins Diet was problematic. In fact, I've probably even stated that in some of my older posts

Medical experts kept saying that losing weight slow was the correct way to go, but they never said why.

Since these were the same experts that said low-carb diets were dangerous, I didn't pay much attention to their ideas. I thought they were just serving the interests of those who were financially supporting them, and maybe they were.

However, today, I know better.

Our instinct for survival is stronger than any other aspect of the body or mind. In a way, you could say that we are enslaved to this instinct, what some people call human nature, because nature always wins.

Nature is the boss.

Nature controls everything.

Now, we can put up a good fight. Of course, we can. We can use what some people call willpower and oppose what the mind and body is telling us and doing to help keep us alive, which usually manifests in keeping our internal systems and hormones balanced.

We can use tricks and gimmicks to coax the body into using some of its fat reserves more quickly than it wants to, but human nature isn't stupid. Instinct for survival sees right through the games we play.

Like a patient parent, it allows us to get away with our rebelliousness for awhile. It turns its back on what we're doing, provided we are not putting the body in danger. At the point where the body begins to feel unsafe, however, the weight-loss game ends.

Instead of a game, it becomes a war -- a real war between the instinct for survival and the mind.

Some people refer to this war as a war between the body and the mind, which in their ignorance, they believe they can win. "Just endure the hunger," they say. "You are in charge."

But that isn't the way it works.

Instinct is subtle. It's as sly as a fox and as ruthless as a snake. It strikes when you least expect it. You are much better off:
  • understanding it
  • making friends with it
  • accepting the limitations it imposes on you
  • playing the game by the rules
You don't want instinct as your enemy. You want instinct to be your ally.

Making Foolish Assumptions Can Harm Your Weight-Loss Efforts

Ham and Cheese Omelette
Carbohydrates are NOT a Metabolic Bully!

Restricting carbohydrates results in lowered basal insulin levels, which diminishes your hunger and cravings and makes losing weight more easy.

However, carbohydrates are not the metabolic bully that many low carbers believe they are. Carbohydrates are a benign nutrient. If carbohydrates were the bully, everyone would have problems metabolizing them, and that assumption just isn't true.

What is true is that we each have a different carbohydrate tolerance.

Even so, the body always adapts to your current diet. That's fact. If you change your diet, the body has to adapt to that new dietary intake.

Adaption can take as little as a few hours or as much as a few weeks, so trying to rush that adaption because your goal is fast weight loss will only harm your dieting efforts.

A low-carb diet is a powerful tool that can assist you in tapping into your body's fat storage for immediate energy purposes, but if you anger the body's instinct for survival, instinct will refuse to convert the body from a glucose-burning machine into a fat-burning one.

Biology and science work on paper, but not always the same way in real life.

In real life, the instinct for survival can do all sorts of adaptive things to oppose your will for quick weight loss.

It can harvest your muscles for the glucose it needs to support the brain. It can lower your metabolic rate or mess with your thyroid hormones. If it makes you feel exhausted and not interested in exercise, you're more likely to watch television than take a walk.

In that case, it won't have to burn so many calories.

Exaggerated hunger can also be a method that instinct uses to replenish the body's fat stores. It will coax you into giving up your diet and tell you that you need to go back to eating excessive carbs.

In my own experience, instinct can send you wacky thoughts in hopes that you'll believe those things and do as you're told. Similar to your inner critic, instinct works to convince you that you don't need to be so restrictive in what you're eating, that you can just go back to a normal diet and eat smaller portions.

In fact, it will even go so far as to make that happen. You'll give up low carb, but won't gain more than the original glycogen and water weight you lost on Induction. However, the new sense of power and authority knocks your reason out cold.

Before you know it, when you least expect it, you'll look in the mirror and be right back where you started from.

Confidence will crash and reality will smack you in the back of the head. Why? Because you tried to force your will for fast weight loss on your instinct for survival.

Journey Toward Thinness Begins with Health

As I've already said, Dr. Atkins did not design his low-carb diet for fast weight loss. Instead, he went in search of a plan that would allow him to lose weight without being hungry.

The Atkins Diet is the hungry-man's diet.

It's purpose is to control cravings and excess hunger, so eating less won't be problematic.

It's designed to relieve the stress that low-calorie diets often produce, due to their limitations on protein and fats. It will also improve blood sugar control for diabetics or those with pre-diabetes. It corrects blood fat imbalances and cardiac markers in those with metabolic issues.

The typical American diet is severely deficient in nutrients. The Atkins way of life seeks to correct those deficiencies. Since the diet is based mostly on protein sources, healthy fats, and vegetables, many people see these deficiencies improve quite rapidly.

If you're focused on the amount of weight you're losing each week or if you're allowing the number on the scale to dictate how you feel for the day, you can easily miss the changes that eating an adequate amount of protein, fats, and vegetables can bring.

In addition, the stress you create by focusing on weight rather than health can prevent those healthy changes from taking place. The journey toward thinness must begin with focusing on health, not weight loss.

Desiring to be healthy is the only way your instinct for survival will join you in your new aim, rather than fight against you.

Make Nutrition Your New Aim and Focus

Mixed Veggie Salad: peppers, pea pods, carrots, baby corn, mushrooms
Better nutrition is the aim; not weight loss,
so try to focus on making healthier food choices
instead of letting the scale control your mood. 

Throw out the scale.

The scale is a hard taskmaster that will only keep you struggling to reach some arbitrary ideal of thinness.

The average low-carb dieter loses 2 to 5 pounds per month.

That's it!

Since the Atkins Diet uses a different metabolic pathway than a standard low-fat, low-calorie diet does, the instinct for survival is way more cautious and wary. It believes that you have entered a famine situation, so it will make choices as if that were really happening.

However, keep in mind that most of the time, those 2 to 5 pounds are lost without struggle and without hunger and cravings. They are lost while you're kickin' back and enjoying a variety of luxurious, nutrient-dense foods.

Also, keep in mind that a low-carb diet is not a temporary fix.
It's a lifestyle. As such, it won't cure metabolic syndrome or diabetes. You won't be able to return to a normal dietary pattern of eating after you're thin. Nothing can do that.

If you have insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome, restricting carbohydrates is for life. If you don't do that, your insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome will continue to get worse.

That's one of the main reasons why those returning to Atkins, Keto, or LCHF after having gone back to their old style of eating and regained the weight, have a much harder time losing those pounds again the second or third time around. The body becomes very resistant to weight loss. 

In 2007, I lost 2 pounds on Atkins Induction and nothing else the rest of the month. Month two brought a weight loss of only another 2 pounds. It came off super slowly until I cut down on my fat intake.

I didn't know, at that time, that I have celiac disease and eating high-fat was stressing the body.

What a low-carb diet does is make metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance easier to live with by getting rid of your cravings and excess hunger and not stressing the body out needlessly. It corrects any hormonal imbalances and provides a good, solid foundation for nutritional health.

You might need to tweak the basics in order to fit your own personal metabolic situation, but there are real biological reasons why you feel hungry and driven to eat when you're not restricting carbohydrates.

Giving up on your low-carb diet because you're not losing weight fast enough will merely return you to that past state of mind and biological condition that packed on the pounds in the first place.

If low carb is for life, what difference does it make how slowly the pounds come off?


  1. Yet another reason to check out your celiac status: some diets won't work when you have celiac issues. Interesting article.

    1. Fat malabsorption and a high-fat diet definitely didn't mix together very well for me, especially since I don't have a gall bladder either.

  2. Good article. I never heard about the link between dietary fat and celiac disease. I was wondering how that impacts attempts to maintain ketosis.

    1. Oh, by the way, thanks fox changing the color scheme on the blog; its much easier to read now!

    2. Thanx for sharing your opinion on the blog's new colors. I appreciate the feedback. Glad to hear it's easier to read now.

      As for ketosis, I didn't have any problems maintaining ketosis, as ketosis occurs when the body runs out of glucose. Dietary fat doesn't have anything to do with it. Otherwise, the HCG diet wouldn't work. For me, if I ate too much fat, I'd gain weight super quickly. And be in the bathroom all day.

  3. Hi Vickie, love you posts. My problem with low carb for life is that I have to stay in ketosis for life, since my tolerance for carbs 30-40 gramms only. More carbs bring me back to overweight territory. The only way to fight this is to bring total calories significantly down (like to 1200 vs. 1500 in ketosis) and that makes life very difficult. Thus, i have to stay in ketosis with 1500 Cal budget to maintain my current slightly overweight state. So, low carb way of life give me an extra 300 cal to enjoy. Another question is where those 300 Calorie go?

    1. I can really relate to what you've shared here. I know some people who've been in ketosis for decades now and are doing fine healthwise. Is that what you wanted to know? For me, 1200 calories would be difficult to keep doing for life. Too difficult. A lot of the maintainers over at Low Carb Friends only eat 1000 to 1200 calories a day, even on low carb. When I saw that, that's when I realized that getting down to 125 was impossible for me. I just wish I would have been more diligent in maintaining what I'd accomplished. Now, I'm having to start all over.

      Dr. Eades has spoke about those 300 calories. He had a patient who was eating a stick of butter after meals, for dessert. She didn't gain, but didn't lose weight either. He didn't know why she didn't gain, but just told his readers to look at it as a benefit. Some of it can be explained by the rev in metabolism it takes to digest proteins, but that only accounts for about 100 calories. Perhaps, there are additional body functions going on that use those calories that we haven't thought about yet.

      Thanks you so much for your comment and questions.

    2. Thanks Vickie.
      What do you think about longer term fasting? Did you try it? I am thinking about it, but kind of waiting for Jimmy Moore's results. Big question is what body will do after fast is over. Reports about slowing or speeding up metabolism after the fast are contradicting. Also, did you measure your fasting insulin? Can you share the number? Some people report low fasting insulin and yet no weight loss. I start to wary that whole insulin resistance paradigm is not for us, experienced dieters, whose bodies saw everything and quickly adapt to everything. Our bodies just became so damn efficient over years of aging and dieting that only calories counting is working with 300 Cal ketosis gift the only available (to me at least). That is my conclusion so far, but I want to make sure that insulin resistance is cured in the individuals like that (like us). Sorry for my English, it is my second language.

    3. I have never tried long term fasting before. I think the contradicting reports is due to how each of our bodies react to the deprivation. I know that hyperthyroid disease makes my metabolism speed up, but I'm more prone to fat storage due to the malnutrition that causes, along with the malnutrition from celiac disease. I've never had my fasting insulin checked either. Here in Utah, the docs won't test insulin. They will only check A1c. That's it. From what I understand, insulin resistance doesn't get cured unless you find a way to get the excess pounds off. At least, that's what I saw in female body builders. I'm finding similar conclusions as you. Don't worry about the English. It's okay.

  4. I am not sure what I am doing wrong- I have completely restricted my carbs for the last month and I have seen no weight loss or change in how my clothes fit. I would love your thoughts...

    1. Is this the first time you've gone on a low-carb diet?


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