You’ve been sticking to your diet for weeks, maybe even months. It’s been going great. You’ve lost a lot of weight, people have started to notice. You’re feeling pretty good!
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, it stops working – you plateau. You’re still dieting, still sticking to your regimen but nothing is happening; the scale isn’t moving downward as fast as it was before, if at all.
This is a universal experience with just about any kind of diet. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight  through dieting before, you’ve probably experienced a weight loss plateau at some point.
So, if this is normal, why does it seem like your keto diet has stopped working or in fitness language – plateaued?
Let’s get into it!
You’ve Lost The Last of Your Water Weight…
You’re probably familiar with the term “water weight”.
But in case you’re not, it’s one of the first things people that are new to dieting encounter.
During the first few weeks of starting the keto diet, you probably noticed a quick drop in your weight. This is the result of your body using up its stores of something known as glycogen.
Glycogen is a type of carb stored in the muscles and liver. When you start to cut calories, it’s the first thing your body will deplete to make up for the difference. Glycogen is primarily made up of water, hence the term “water weight”.
Losing this glycogen slows down your metabolism, which is what is responsible for burning fat.
So you will always burn through your glycogen stores much faster than the rest of your stored fat, which is why it seems like the diet has stopped working.
In reality, it’s just a normal bodily function.
You’re Eating Too Little…
It sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but eating too little could be the reason your keto diet isn’t as effective now as it was before.
If you start cutting back on essential nutrients too much, your body will basically go into a kind of “starvation mode” in order to protect the nutrients it has left.
This will result in you burning through fat a lot slower. It may feel like sabotage, but it’s just your body trying to take care of you.
This is a very strategic and advantageous evolutionary trait. In the wild, if you always lost weight when you started to consume less calories, than you’d have a hard time surviving longer periods of time without food.
Your body wants to maintain its current weight, even when you don’t.
The goal is to lose weight without sending your body into panic mode. Reevaluate your eating habits, and decide if increasing your calorie intake could help.
You should be meeting your body’s needs, even if it means eating more during your diet. Make sure that you’re still getting all the fats, carbs, and proteins that you need.
You’ve Fallen Out of Ketosis
Ketosis is what happens when your body starts to use fat as its primary source of energy, rather than carbs .
Your body burns carbs first by default, which is what the keto diet aims to counteract. This makes weight loss happen significantly faster than a lot of other diets.
It is possible, however, to fall out of ketosis, and it doesn’t take much. Even eating just 50g of carbs a day can push your body back to its default state of burning carbs.
The reason this has such a significant impact on your weight loss with keto, as opposed to other diets, is that the keto diet specifically relies on this kind of weight loss. So when you interrupt ketosis, you completely interrupt the goal of the diet.
You can buy ketone strips to see if you are or aren’t still in ketosis, and if not, cutting even further back on carbs should get you back on track. Keeping tabs on your ketosis status is an important aspect of the diet.
Your Body Is Asking For a Soft Reset
During the keto diet, it’s helpful to have a period every few months or so where you allow yourself to eat healthy carbs.
Like having off-days while exercising, having an off-day or two during your keto diet can re-shock your body back into the diet. Eating healthy carbs (emphasis on healthy) for 48 hours will replenish your glycogen levels.
This will lull your body back into a false state of security, so that when you cut back on carbs again, it has a greater impact.
Keep in mind that by doing so you’ll also be regaining and losing your water weight again. You’ll most likely notice a quick increase and decrease in your weight.
A good way to tell if taking a short break would benefit you is by assessing your energy levels. If you find yourself feeling more tired than usual, having less motivation, or an increase in cravings, then a soft reset is probably a good idea.
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably serious about your diet, so don’t beat yourself up over a plateau. Most of the time it’s just your body trying to look after you.
Weight loss plateaus are common in just about every type of diet, so switching to a different diet will most likely have its own plateaus.
The best thing to do if you’re experiencing a weight loss plateau is to look for other changes in yourself, check your ketosis status, and get to the root of what’s causing it.
If it is because you’ve gotten off track, be sure to restructure your eating habits and get back on track.
Don’t stress yourself out over it too much; most people have a hard time sticking to diets, that’s what makes them challenging. The most important thing is to focus on your goal, keep yourself motivated, and to get your routine back in a healthy swing.
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Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2004 Oct;28(10):1291-8.