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September 27, 2016

Why Am I Not in Ketosis Yet?

Kermit Need to Look at These 12 Stumbling Blocks to Ketosis
Kermit is Having Trouble
Getting Into Ketosis
Are you having trouble getting into ketosis?

Do you feel like nothing is happening even though you've been following your low-carb diet correctly and drinking lots of water?

If you're not in ketosis yet, are you confused because you don't seem to be making any progress?

Other people are losing a ton of weight doing:
  • Atkins Induction
  • Protein Power
  • Keto Diet
  • Nutritional Ketosis (LCHF)
but nothing has worked for you. You can't seem to get into ketosis no matter what you do.





[Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase something by using one of those links, I might receive a small compensation, at no cost to you.]


  • Your clothes are still tight
  • the scale isn't budging
  • and your Ketostix are either still tan or barely pink.
Maybe, you're still craving those chocolate chip cookies the kids are eating. And maybe, you're having a hard time at work because you feel exhausted all the time.

If so, you might be wondering:
  • What am I doing wrong?
  • Why am I not in ketosis yet?
Ketosis occurs when the body has exhausted all potential sources of glucose. For most people, that happens in only a few days, but for others, the body can put up quite a fight before it relents and begins to use your fat stores for energy.

If you can't figure out why you are not in ketosis yet, here are 12 stumbling blocks that might be getting in the way:


1. Are You Following Your Low-Carb Diet Exactly?



A lot of people will tell me that they have been following a low-carb diet for one or two weeks, but nothing is happening as they expected. The scale hasn't budged, and their cravings haven't gone away.

When I question them further, they will often admit that they only cheated once or twice during the past 10 to 14 days.

A low-carb diet is not a low-calorie diet. You have to follow your low-carb program exactly, or you won't be able to get into ketosis.

Not in Ketosis? Eating Popcorn at the Movies Can Interfere With Ketosis!
Even One Cheat
Can Interfere with Ketosis
While an occasional cheat day won't harm a low-carb diet after your body has adapted to predominantly burning fats for fuel, if you eat a brownie, have a glass of wine, or treat yourself to some other high-carb food during the first month or two, it can prevent you from getting into the state of ketosis.

The aim of a low-carb diet is to deprive your body of high-glucose foods, so you want to follow your low-carb plan exactly.

Your body must believe that carby food is no longer an option.

If you keep eating higher carbs foods, your body won't make the switch to burning fats instead of glucose. Once it knows there are carbs available, the body will use other forms of adaption to wait out the carb-famine – instead.




2. Are You Eating Any Atkins Bars?


I know that the Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. folks tell you that Atkins bars are fine to eat on Atkins Induction, but most of that is pure marketing hype.

Atkins bars contain a boat-load of glycerin, sugar alcohols, and other high-glucose carbohydrates that the Atkins diet doesn't count. While Atkins advertises itself to be a low-carb diet, in truth, it's a low-glycemic diet.


If you have gastrointestinal issues, you might be able to get away with very small bits of sugar alcohol in your coffee or tea without it affecting your ability to go into ketosis.

If you don't have any gastrointestinal issues from consuming sugar alcohols, that means:

Your body is metabolizing the sugar alcohol as if it were real sugar!

It doesn't ignore all of those carbs no matter what the label says.

Sugar alcohols were once thought to be the holy grail for dieters because they don't raise your blood glucose level and were thought to escape being metabolized. That theory didn't hold up to biological scrutiny.

Many people who find it impossible to get into the state of ketosis are consuming several Atkins bars per week.

It's best to stay away from the Atkins bars completely, but if you can't do that, at least wait until your body adapts to the state of ketosis before you try to add the Atkins bars to your diet.

3. You're Already in Ketosis, but Don't Know It


Getting into ketosis requires you to eliminate all sources of available glucose, forcing the liver to rely on its glycogen stores, the storage form of carbohydrates, to keep your blood sugar stable.

Once glycogen starts to run low, the body will turn to its fat reserves to make up the difference.

If you're eating 20 net carbs per day, or less, it will only take one day for your glycogen stores to diminish to the level where the body begins to adapt.

Your body will use other methods to get glucose before it turns to using fat. However, without a ready supply of available glucose, the body will have to turn to its fat stores eventually, or you would die.

According to The Ketogenic Diet, by Lyle McDonald, this is because the:
  • brain
  • central nervous system
  • red blood cells
  • a few kidney cells
  • and all other cells without mitochrondia
cannot use fatty acids for fuel. These cells are dependent on glucose.

While most low-carb experts will tell you that protein can be converted into glucose to save the brain and central nervous system, what they don't tell you is that:

Converting protein into glucose is a lengthy, complex process. The body only uses that pathway if there is no other alternative to get the glucose it needs. Gluconeogenesis is demand driven. Any glucose made from protein goes into filling up your depleted glycogen stores.

It is not used to feed the brain except during a temporary emergency.

It is more efficient for the body to make ketones to keep the brain alive, since the brain can derive up to 75 percent of its energy needs from ketones.

Once the body kicks up its ketone production, you are in ketosis, regardless of what else is going on.


4. How Do You Know that You are NOT in Ketosis?


Many people tell me that they are frustrated with how their low-carb diet is going. They are having trouble getting into ketosis and want to know what they are doing wrong. My usual reply is to ask them:

How do you KNOW that you are not in ketosis?”

While a couple of people over the years have told me that they have actually purchased a blood ketone meter that revealed they were not in ketosis, the number one answer I normally receive is that the:

Ketosix are not turning dark.”

Some people will tell me that they are in light ketosis because the sticks are only turning pink, and they want to know how to get a deeper color to register on the ketone sticks.

But pink sticks do not mean that you are not in ketosis.

Very few have actually told me that the sticks are not turning any color at all.


For some reason, most dieters believe that the color on the urine-testing sticks is an indicator of whether or not they are in ketosis. I see this misconception a lot at low-carb forums, as well.

Ketosis is like being pregnant.

Ketosis is a metabolic state, so you are either in that metabolic state, or you are not. There is no such thing as a lighter state or a deeper state of ketosis. It just is.

There are states where you are creating, processing, and hording a larger amount of ketones in your kidney or bloodstream than other dieters might be, but manufacturing an excessive amount of ketones has nothing to do with whether you are in ketosis, or not.

If you are turning the Ketostix any color at all, if your blood ketone level is .5 or larger, you are in ketosis.

Period.

5. Are You Drinking a Lot of Water?


Water doesn't keep you from going into ketosis. It actually helps you process more body fat. But since a large proportion of low-carb dieters insist on using their Ketostix as a measurement of whether they are in ketosis, I thought I'd mention a reason why your Ketostix might still be tan.

Ketostix measure ketones by concentration. They don't measure a specific number of ketones being dumped by the kidney, so if you drink an adequate amount of water, that solution will be diluted.

In fact, when the ketone strips turn purple, that's a good sign that you are severely dehydrated. If you are drinking an adequate amount of water, the ketone strips will be tan, pink, or lavender. Rarely dark.

I have only seen dark Ketostix in people who have never been on a low-carb diet before. Many newbies will make an excessive amount of ketones until their body learns how many ketones it needs to make. You can also turn the ketone strips a darker color if you're eating tons of fat.

6. Ketones Cannot be Stored in the Body


Another thing to be aware of is that the kidneys do not dump ketones consistently. They will only dump them when the concentration builds up to an unhealthy level. Since the kidney has no way to store ketones, it simply gets rid of them, but not on a regular basis.

For that reason, the color on your Ketostix won't be consistent. They will read different levels at different times of the day. If your sticks are tan, that doesn't mean you are not in ketosis. It simply means that either:
  1. the concentration of ketones has been diluted by drinking a large amount of water; or
  2. you simply are not dumping ketones at the exact moment that you checked.
In addition, dumped ketones can also mean that you have too many ketones that have built up in your bloodstream. To correct that problem, insulin is secreted and the excess ketones are transported from the bloodstream to the kidney.

At that moment, you may show an unusually higher amount of ketones being disposed of, but that doesn't mean you are in a deeper state of ketosis. Your body is simply getting rid of what it cannot store.

7. Are You Stressed Out and Frustrated?


Stressed Out Over Not Getting Into Ketosis?
Stress Raises Cortisol
Making the color of your Ketostix or the number on the scale important can create a lot of internal stress. When stressed, the body produces cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress hormones to deal with the emergency.

An emergency situation, real or imagined, is always prepared for by creating an extra dose of energy, so you'll be able to fight your foe or run from something that is dangerous.

To make these preparations, cortisol clears the bloodstream of all fats, stores it as triglyceride in your fat cells, and then signals the liver to break down its glycogen stores into glucose and dump that glucose into the bloodstream.

As long as the mind believes you're in an emergency situation, real or imagined, the amount of blood glucose you already have won't matter. Extra glucose will go into the bloodstream and fat burning will stop cold.

This has nothing to do with the amount of carbohydrate you're eating. As long as your stress level is high, you will continue to predominantly burn protein and glucose for fuel instead of fats.

While consuming less protein can encourage the body to use some of its fat stores, breaking down fats into fatty acids isn't as quick as using protein or glucose is, so the body won't be primed to use fatty acids for fuel if cortisol is always high.

In addition to predominantly using glucose, high cortisol also slows down metabolism, shuts down non-essential body systems, and encourages protein to be stored as glycogen for easier access.


8. Are You Eating Less Than 20 Carbs a Day?


One of the tendencies I often see in low-carb dieters is the knee-jerk reaction of lower their carbs if the weight isn't coming off as quickly as they expect.


For some reason, many people believe that if 20 carbs a day is good, then 5 or 10 or even zero is much better.

Not true.

While those who are severely insulin resistant will have to drastically restrict their carbohydrate intake, in most individuals, cutting your carbs down for too long a period will cause cortisol levels to surge upwards.

This is why our article on how to get into ketosis in less than 3 days is limited to those 3 days.

9. Are You Eating Enough Fat?


I talk about eating too much fat all the time on this blog because that is the problem I see more than any other, but if you're having trouble getting into ketosis, excess fat won't interfere with going into that metabolic state.

It can give you a false sense of security, though, because the body will use dietary fats to make ketones, but if you go too low in fat, that will also cause your cortisol levels to rise.

When I was in my weight-loss phase, I discovered that if I ate less than 60 grams of fat per day, the weight stopped coming off. Not because it takes fat to burn fat, but because my body wasn't comfortable giving up its fat stores when it thought the fat in my environment was too limited.

You don't want to do anything that will set off your body's starvation alert system.

This is why I always recommend that you put your weight-loss scale away for at least the first month and let your body adapt to your new way of eating before you start to tweak anything.

10. Are You Exercising Too Hard?


Weight Loss Can Stop in Ketosis if You Over Exercise
Beware of Too Much Exercise
When Getting Into Ketosis
Heavy exercise, when combined with a low-carb diet, does some strange things to your metabolism because a low-carb diet uses the starvation pathway. Excessive exercise tends to freak the body out.

In fact, some dieters have reported that even after several weeks, their body fat still hadn't budged. It was only when some unforeseen circumstance arose that interfered with their exercise program that the weight started coming off.

Apparently, for them, the body saw exercise as a threat to life and slowed down their metabolic rate to match the incoming amount of calories.

Biologically, exercise affects cortisol levels, as described above, so you don't want to overdo it. 

Depending on your personal stress response to exercise, if you're struggling to get into ketosis, try dialing your exercise back a little to something your body can tolerate without triggering a starvation response.

However, exercise also burns ketones during the first few weeks of the diet, which can make it look like you are not in the state of ketosis, even when you are.

Initially, almost every body system will use the ketones the liver makes, but as carbohydrate restriction continues, your muscles will go insulin resistant, so they can save those ketones for the brain and central nervous system.

Instead of using ketones, your muscles will start to burn fatty acids for fuel, which means you won't need to make as many ketones as before, so fat loss will slow down and come into line with your activity level.




11. Is Your Calorie Deficit Too Large?


A calorie deficit is required for a low-carb diet to work. There is no doubt about that.

But if you try to go too low in calories, to pick up the weight-loss pace, you can trigger a starvation response. If that happens, cortisol levels with rise, and your body will quickly slam on the breaks:
  • lowering your metabolic rate
  • shutting down non-essential body systems
  • raising your hunger level and cravings for sugar
  • going back to predominantly burning glucose
While a large deficit will result in weight loss, you will annul all of the benefits you get from being in a state of ketosis. In addition, once the body adapts to that large deficit, you won't lose weight as quickly as you might think.

12. Are You Already at a Normal BMI?


You wouldn't believe how many people go on a low-carb diet, even though they are already at a healthy weight.

Most of these normal-weight individuals are concerned about a few stubborn fat pockets that traditional dieting hasn't been able to get rid of.

I get that.

However, a low-carb diet isn't designed to attack stubborn fat pockets.

A low carb diet works best for those who are metabolically challenged or working with severe insulin resistance, such as PCOS. It is also useful for those who need to be gluten free, have cholesterol imbalances, or are trying to control a serious binge-eating issue.

If you're already at a normal weight, switching to the starvation pathway won't work. The less body fat percentage you have, the less body fat your body will mobilize on a daily basis to save your life.

In addition, when you are already close to normal weight, your calories have to be quite low to get the job done. For that reason, a Protein Sparing Modified Fast (PSMF) or some type of cyclic carb diet works best for those who are already at a healthy BMI.

Trouble Getting Into Ketosis? Give Your Body Time to Make the Adaption



Getting into the state of ketosis isn't hard.

However, you will likely experience a lot of frustration, confusion, and misery if you are trying to use weight loss to measure the metabolic state of ketosis.

Ketosis is simply a state of being where ketones are being made from triglyceride breakdown in the liver to help keep you alive.

Ketosis is no more magical than that.

It's a survival technique, a tool you can use, but you have to understand what you're doing, and why you are doing it.

Focusing on weight loss during the first few weeks, rather than giving your body ample time to make the necessary metabolic adaptions, can actually backfire on what you're trying to do. Most of the time, fast weight loss – especially during the first few weeks of a low-carb diet – comes from muscle tissue, rather than body fat.


Muscle loss isn't the target.
  • Chasing after unrealistic expectations
  • using Ketostix for something they were never designed for
  • and identifying with the number on the scale
will not only cause your cortisol levels to swell and your blood glucose level to go up, but your self worth and self discipline will mercilessly plummet, as well.

The body strives for equilibrium.

It will adapt to your current situation and correct necessary imbalances, but it won't happen overnight.

Ketosis is the easiest way to lose weight, but it isn't the fastest way.

Shedding your body fat permanently will take awareness, re-evaluation, and a willingness to do something different.

If you're looking for a fast fix, ketosis isn't it.

28 comments:

  1. I'm on keto diet for a while, and i already lost a lot of weight. This diet really turned my life better. If you don't know where to start, or you just want to spice up your diet meals. Check ou this book http://tastyketo.com/keto-cookbook/ . Over 370 recipes, macros, meal plans and shopping list. It really made mylife easier.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congratulations Naomi,
      It's so good to hear from those who have found success following a low-carb plan. I'm sure your cookbook will be a lot of help to others. Thanks for the link.

      Delete
    2. I visited your blog, but there weren't any posts. So you're only selling the cookbook??? Then I visited your google+ looking for information, but there were links to other things than Keto. I'd like to read your about your journey to help me decide if I want to buy.

      Delete
    3. I don't understand what you're talking about. What blog didn't have any posts? You're replying to a post right now. I am not selling anything. I just blog.

      Delete
    4. Sorry Vickie, I was responding to Naomi. Your blog is fine.

      Delete
    5. Naomi, I meant for this response to go to you:

      I visited your blog, but there weren't any posts. So you're only selling the cookbook??? Then I visited your google+ looking for information, but there were links to other things than Keto. I'd like to read your about your journey to help me decide if I want to buy.

      Delete
    6. Okay. What you're saying now makes sense. Sorry for the confusion. I haven't had time to check into it further. What you're saying so far is disturbing though.

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    7. Vicki - Can you help me? have been very overweight and have 100 pounds to lose now so probably very insulin resistant - Am 5"2 at 240 and have been on Atkins for 5 - 6 weeks with minimal weight loss and no sign on keto stix for ketosis. eating the 20 carbs per day.

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    8. Sorry for the late reply. Our internet service has been down. Have you been on diets before? How many calories are you eating? I can't run macros without your age. And I'm assuming you're female? I'm only 5 ft myself, if that, so I completely understand.

      Delete
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    1. You've done Atkins before, so your body already knows how many ketones to make for fuel. You won't create very many over what your body remembers that you needed last time. Initial weight loss will be small.

      How old are you? I need to know that to run your stats through the Keto calculator. Most of the low-carb folks that I know who are on maintenance eat less than 1200 calories a day to maintain their weight.

      How much did you weigh when you went on Atkins the last time? Have you ever been seriously overweight, or just a little? (This will tell me how insulin resistant you might be, or not.)

      How much do you want to weigh? The average weight for a 5ft 7in female is 135. You're only 5 pounds above that, which means low carb won't work as quickly because you don't have a large percentage of body fat to mobilize and use. The body will be much more conservative in letting go of any of it. When you're close to a healthy weight, dieting is very difficult because to lose 1 pound a week, you have to be in a 500 calorie deficit. A 250 calorie deficit will allow you to lose 1/2 pound per week. Since low-carb uses the starvation pathway, slower is always better.

      1 kg is 2.2 pounds, which is a pretty good weight loss for your size and current weight, especially at 1250 to 1350 calories. Protein amount is good since you're close to goal. 20 carbs is what it takes to get into ketosis, but you don't have to stay at that level if you don't want to. Sometimes, not eating enough carbs (or fat) can be a problem for those who are just a little overweight.

      Your past dietary pattern of not eating much for 2 to 3 days and then binging was on Atkins? That's what the body does to try and maintain balance. This is why it's best to lose weight very, very slowly when you're close to goal already.

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    1. Good Morning. So the binging was before going low carb again.

      At 146 (highest) the odds of you ever having been insulin resistant are slim to none, so high insulin isn't what's causing the binging.

      Okay. I ran your stats, and what you're doing fits firmly within the Keto Diet guidelines for a 20% deficit. Currently, your maintenance calories are about 1500 or so. At 1250, you're running a 250 calorie deficit.

      According to the calculator, that deficit will provide a weight loss of about 2.5 pounds a month, or just a little more than 1kg. That's what you're seeing.

      With a low-carb diet, the protein and carbs stay about the same, no matter what calorie level you're doing, so the speed at which you're able to drop the body fat depends on how much fat you're eating. To increase fat loss, you simply drop your calories a little more.

      However, you don't want to drop them so low that you get hungry and binge. That would defeat the purpose of going low carb. It's better to take it slow and easy, especially if you only want to lose 12 pounds.

      Maintenance calories for 128 pound with your stats would be about 1400 calories, so the deprivation on calories would only be temporary. As you age that calorie level will have to come down though.

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    1. You're welcome. Keep in touch. I'd be interested in knowing how it goes for you to cut down on the cheese.

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  5. How can I figure out what my goals should be for carbs protein fat etc? Can you put that into your Leto calculator? I just had a baby 4 months ago. I am 5'5 190 lbs. heaviest I've ever been. I am just starting out. Tomorrow is day one. I need all the help I can get

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    1. Getting into ketosis is going to take a few days. For the first couple of weeks, just eat what you need to eat to be full and satisfied. You want to give your body time to adapt to the state of the ketosis. To figure out your specific aims for protein and fat, I need to know how old you are.

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  6. I am a 5'11 female. Weigh 185 at age 31 and am having a hard time losing weight as i feely metabolism has slowed considerably. I eat 1300-1400 kcal/day and burn 2600 kcal/day according to my fit bit as i am quite active. I have kept my carbs under 20/day for the past month without much luck, but i have been eating the Atkins products and this could be my problem. However i was wondering what you thought my Fat/carb/protein intake should be?

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    1. 1300 to 1400 calories is a super-large deficit, especially if your activity is burning 2600 cal a day and you are only eating 20 net carbs. Body won't like that very much.

      Low-carb diets are not designed for "heavy" exercise. While exercise burns ketones, and Dr. Atkins clearly stated that exercise is not optional, "heavy" activity will cause your metabolism to tank. Just keep that in mind.

      I'm not sure how Fit Bit works. Does it show you "extra" calories above what your body needs to survive, or is the 2600 your total expenditure for the day?

      I plugged your stats into the Keto Calculator and got a maintenance calorie amount of 2032 for light activity and 2286 for active. The Calculator isn't that accurate for activity, so the person who designed the calculator tells everyone to use sedentary. I didn't for you, though.

      When you're highly active, you don't want to take your food intake too low, or you'll stress the body. Cortisol levels will rise, which defeats what you're trying to do, so I did the figures for 1500 calories a day. That would still be a 1,000 calorie deficit if Fit Bit measures your total body expenditure for the day.

      1500 calories (25% deficit on food alone)
      20 carbs a day
      93 grams of protein
      117 grams of fat

      Some people who are less than 40 pounds from goal do better at a higher carb level than 20. The Atkins Diet advises people with less than 40 pounds to lose to start at 40 and skip Induction. However, that is based on the fact that most people within that degree of overweight are not insulin resistant.

      Atkins products cause a LOT of people to stall, if you're talking about the bars. The bars contain sugar alcohol, which is handled by the body in exactly the same way as it handles sugar. So yes, the bars can be extremely problematic because they don't count all of the carbs and calories - but your body DOES.

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    2. Thank you so much, you are wonderful for doing this for those of us that need help.

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    3. You're welcome. Let me know how it goes.

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  7. I am a 56 year old female. I started the Atkins diet at 178lbs. 2 weeks later weighed myself after induction phase and weighed 182lbs - a 4lb gain!! I never cheated and can't understand this. I was on the Atkins diet 15 years ago and lost 11 lbs in the first 2 weeks. I go to the gym every other day and do about 30 minutes on the tread mill. I drink alot of water so I'm not dehydrated. Please help! Thank you for a response - Frustrated

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    1. Dieting experience won't be exactly the same the second time, even though your first time was 15 years ago. What you lose during the first two weeks is glycogen and water. No body fat. The body has to adapt to the carb deprivation.

      I've heard of people going up on the scale during Induction, although it's relatively rare. Most people just don't lose anything at all. Water retention is my best guess. It's extremely common in those who return to Atkins.

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  8. Hello Vickie,
    I am so happy I stumbled onto your blog. I am finishing my first week of LCHF. I am 43 weight 154, 5'4, and am at the heaviest I have ever been. My goal weight is 120lbs..
    I am learning as I go, though I have been reading a lot!! I am trying to keep my Carbs at 20g a day and caloric intake at 1200-1300. I am not sure how to calculate my fats and proteins.
    A lot of what I eat emphasizes on fat!! Fat this and fat that. What about fat bombs, do you think they help?
    Valerie

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    1. Hi Valerie,
      You'll run into tons of conflicting advice, but I just watched a video by Steven Phinney, the creator of the Nutritional Ketosis diet, (what most people call LCHF), and he said to use 20 percent of your maintenance calories. That isn't always easy to figure out though, lol. I am 5 ft tall and I aim for 72 to 90 grams of protein. You need to eat enough protein so that you don't burn muscle.

      As long as you're curtailing your calories, the fat works out to what ever is left over after you hit your carb and protein targets.

      The more fat you eat, the less body fat you burn, so just go with whatever is comfortable for you right now. Since you are only 1 week into this, your body needs time to adapt to burning fat for fuel. Fat bombs are okay, but they won't speed up weight loss if that's what you're asking.

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  9. Hello I started lo carb again after doing low fat and lo calorie diets. It is going on three weeks. I went over 20 carbs twice. I feel like I'm in ketosis although the sticks says slightly. I lost 6 pounds and then gained 3 back. My usual day is 2 eggs 2 sausage patties, 1/2 pound of sliced pork or a chiicken breast, 4 slices of cheese, and 4 (burger king) hamburger patties. I use low sugar milk (1 cup 5 carbs). In my coffee and 4 Splenda. I take tramadol for knee pain and levthyroxine for thyroid. I am not giving up Just wonder if you think I'm on the right track. When I eat veggies, it's salad, spinach and cabbage. Vingegar and oil for dressing. Thanks

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    1. Yes, you're on the right track. When you have a dieting history, water fluctuations are common, and with thyroid issues, the weight tends to come off more slowly. Just make sure that you eat just enough to satisfy hunger.

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