Having gone on the keto diet for 6 months, losing weight and getting my body fat down to 20.5%.
I can say that I have made my fair share of mistakes on the keto diet as a woman.
Those mistakes resulted in MAJOR modifications to the mainstream ketogenic diet advice dished out online.
Keto helped kick start my weight loss but achieving true body fat loss coupled with looking leaner and having energy – is another story altogether.
Back to keto, I see questions like this from women all the time on message boards:
“I’m not losing weight on keto, what am I doing wrong?”
“I’m in ketosis, why am I gaining weight?”
There are so many factors that come into play especially for women since we experience fluctuations in sex hormones on a monthly basis.
This means you may eat more food at certain times of the month, experience fluid retention, mood swings and more!
Or you could have underlying health problems like diabetes, chronic fatigue, PCOS that may slow down your body’s ability to lose weight.
For example, one of my students has autoimmune issues and food allergies so it took a bit longer for her body to adjust to nutritional changes.
If you’re on keto and not losing weight – here are 7 mistakes that you may be making on the Ketogenic diet and how to fix it.
1. Cutting Carbs & Increasing Fat Too Quickly
If you came from a vegan/vegetarian background or use to eating cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and pasta for dinner…
EASE yourself into carb reduction.
Deciding to hop on the keto bandwagon and eating the recomended 20-25 grams of carbohydrates per day will wreak havoc on your body.
For reference, a medium apple has 25 grams of carbohydrates.
So if you’ve been eating more than 200 grams of carbohydrates per day, your body will revolt and give off flu-like symptoms.
If you’re new to keto, consider tapering down your carbohydrate intake on a weekly basis.
- If you’re currently eating 200 grams of carbs per day: start with 100 – 150 grams of carbs per day and taper down by 25 grams each week.
Sure, you won’t get into “ketosis” straight away but you’ll build up a lower carb tolerance.
Taking baby steps to reduce your current carb intake would work more in your favor over the long term.
2. Not Considering Pre-Existing or Underlying Health Issues
Do you have underlying health conditions like adrenal fatigue, autoimmune or thyroid issues?
The causes of these conditions are a result of hormonal imbalance.
Ketosis for women is tricky because changes in food, environment and sleep can all have a profound impact on your hormones.
If your sex hormones are out of balance, it will affect your overall health and weight loss goals.
Visit your doctor and get your hormones checked first.
- Your doctor can diagnose hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism by testing the levels of thyroid hormones in your blood.
These tests measure hormones from the thyroid itself, as well as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
TSH is a chemical released by the pituitary gland that triggers your thyroid.
Once you know the current state of your health, you can modify the ketogenic diet to reap the
3. Stressing Out Too Much
Going ‘keto’ will place a certain degree of stress on your body becauselimiting carbohydrates create a starvation response in the body.
So when you’re body thinks it’s starving, it releases the stress hormone called cortisol.
Cortisol is not a bad thing, it’s necessary for survival however too much of it can result in symptoms like:
- Weight gain around the midsection
- High blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Acne or blemishes
- Irregular menstrual periods
Cortisol is useful in situations where you’re being chased by a lion (lets hope that never happens) and you had to sprint.
That fast action movement induces stress to your body and releases cortisol for that short time frame.
BUT when you have ongoing consistent stress from:
- Working long hours
- The demands of motherhood
- Not getting enough sleep
- Exercising too much
- Not eating whole foods
- Not eating enough
And exposed to it on a daily basis…all of those factors will lead to higher stress levels and cortisol in your body.
In a nutshell, stress messes up your hormones and prevents fat burning.
If you’re suffering from any of the above symptoms, then it’s time to visit the doctor.
Your doctor can perform a cortisol test and measures the level of cortisol in your blood, urine, or saliva.
If the results come back with high cortisol levels, it’s time to slow down a bit.
It’s not your fault. It’s a thing called life, work and children.
Be a bit selfish, put yourself first and dedicate time for rest.
4. Not Tracking Your Calories
I could go on about why it’s important to track calories on keto especially when the diet consists of eating a high percentage of fat.
Fat is much more calorie-dense than carbs or protein so it is easy to overeat.
A quick refresher – Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram, protein provides 4 calories per gram, and fat provides 9 calories per gram.
One tablespoon of olive oil contains about 119 calories and 14 grams of fat.
Compare that to 70 grams of chicken breast, which contains about 116 calories and 22 grams of protein.
Your chicken breast is much bigger in size than 1 tablespoon of oil – and unless you’re tracking your calories and macros, you could be overeating.
Calories DO count on keto… or any diet for that matter.
It’s the natural laws of thermodynamics.
What about those people on Youtube saying “you don’t need to count calories on keto” – that’s just a load of BS and harmful advice.
Of course you do.
You can’t go off eat and 5 fat bombs in one day just because you’re on keto.
If your daily maintenance weight is 1500 calories and 1 fat bomb is 400 calories…
Eating 5 fat bombs will mean that you would have consumed 2000 calories. That’s 500 calories in excess of your daily caloric needs.
Do you know where that extra 500 calories will be stored if you don’t use it? Fat.
The only reason why people make the claim of not having to count calories is because fat is very satiating and acts as an appetite suppressant.
Which reduces less snacking and fewer calories consumed within 24 hours.
Download Myfitnesspal app and log the foods you’re eating.
This will give you an idea of how different foods and portion sizes are worth in calories and macros.
“Does that mean you have to track your calories for the rest of your life?”
No you don’t.
But if your goal is to lose weight especially body fat, you will need to eat at a calorie deficit (or near maintenance).
And if you don’t know ‘what’ or ‘how’ much you’re eating, then it makes it impossible to know whats working or not.
When you hear people say they “don’t count calories on Keto”
It’s because the high level of satiety from eating fat allows them to naturally calorie restrict.
Which means you feel full and eat less than what you normally would.
If you have self-control when it comes to food, then, by all means, wing it.
I wouldn’t since I’m a major snacker and I like my food portions big.
Tracking calories and macros will help keep you accountable and conscious of what you’re eating.
If you’re trying to get lean or lose body fat, you will need to eat at a calorie deficit.
On the flip side, if you restrict your calories too low it may send you into an out control binge-fest come the weekend.
Most women (unless they’re super tiny) will need
After you’ve tracked your calories for a month or so – you’ll get a good idea of how much calories and macros you’re eating.
Then you can eyeball it and don’t have to ‘technically’ count calories.
5. Intermittent Fasting Too Early On
Intermittent fasting can be a great addition to keto to accelerate fat loss.
As a refresher, intermittent fasting is time-restricted eating, in which you eat all your meals within a certain window of time.
That window of time is usually eight hours or less.
You fast for eighteen hours and eat during the eight hour window.
When you fast in the morning and skip breakfast, it forces your body to use all of the glycogen (glucose) stored in your muscles and liver.
When glucose runs out, your body will switch to using fat as energy instead.
Sounds good right? Hold on for a moment.
Fasting is a hormetic stressor which means it’s a stressful input without food.
In fasting studies performed on rats, they found that female rats became less fertile.
Whilst male rats became hornier and more fertile.
Sure we aren’t rats… but it is worth noting that female rats experienced:
- Smaller ovary sizes -not good for fertility.
- Adrenal gland size increases – indicating chronic stress.
irregularmenstrual cycles – missed period anyone?
Women who perform intermittent fasting in tandem with keto will experience a higher degree of stress.
From personal experience, start with either keto OR intermittent fasting first – NOT both at the same time.
Reduce overwhelm and get
Once your body has adapted, then proceed to intermittent fasting.
It bugs the crap out of me when people say you have to be on a “keto diet” in order to be in ketosis.
Being on a keto diet OR performing intermittent fasting will result in KETOSIS.
Your body will slip in and out of ketosis at different times of the day, depending on the last time you ate.
Having said that, some women who are already fit, not stressed and at a healthy weight will do well on intermittent fasting.
But if you’re not fat adapted, getting sufficient sleep, minimising stress and exercising too much or too little – you should not be fasting.
6. Constantly Weighing Yourself On The Scales
This was one of my bad habits when I got started on my weight loss journey.
Weighing yourself on a daily basis, getting stress or
Your body weight includes bone, muscle mass, organs, water, undigested food and body fat weight.
Your body weight will fluctuate on a daily basis depending on how much water and food you consumed during the day.
The number on the scale is not an indication of your health or how much body fat you have.
You could have half a kilo of poop and water that needs to be excreted.
It doesn’t mean your fat, it just means you need to go to the toilet.
If you want consistent and measurable results:
- Weigh ONCE per week on the same day
- Weigh yourself in the morning after you use your bathroom.
- Weigh yourself without clothes and keep your knickers on only.
- Choose a day where you did not eat heavily the night before. Friday morning works well if you intend to eat out over the weekend.
Set an alert on your
Log your weight in a journal or fitness app and then hide your scales for the week.
7. Exercising Too Hard Early On
Being in Ketosis does increase energy efficiency ONCE you’ve become adapted.
Fat and ketones are a great energy source but it’s released at a slow rate.
Glucose aka sugar, provides energy rapidly so you’re bound to notice the difference at the gym.
As you transition into keto, you will feel weak and tired in the first few weeks as your body is still reliant on glucose to fuel your training.
This makes HIIT or heavy weight training a bad idea.
Instead, go for a long walk and lift lighter weights than you normally do.
This will help you keto-adapt instead of harming your body.
And if you believe you’re already keto-adapted but not seeing your weight shift…
Then you need to review how much you’re eating and look at your calories again.
Are you at eating too much?
Eating at an aggressive calorie deficit like 30%?
Are you eating enough to fuel your workout?
Or are you increasing your cortisol level by exercising too hard?
Keto is NOT a magic bullet for weight loss nor will it suit everyone’s eating preferences or lifestyle.
When it comes to weight loss for women, there are so many variables to consider
These variables are:
- Daily activity level and exercise
- Food portion and sizes
- Your existing genetics
- Hormone levels
- Adequate sleep
- Compliance and consistency
The biggest culprit I see when women gain weight on keto is over-eating on foods that are high in calories.
If you want to lose weight, you need to be at a calorie deficit.
If you’re not weighing food and adding liberal amounts of butter or oil in your meals – then check your calories again.
The most important thing I want to stress is adopting a eating style that you’re able to stick to it and consistently maintain over the long term.
If you’re doing keto for three weeks, then having massive weekend sugar binges – then it’s time to review your diet again.
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