Other than losing fat, what are some of the many other benefits of following a keto diet?
In the nutrition world, we call these “non-scale victories.” What we’re talking about are beneficial things that are happening that are totally unrelated to your body weight, totally unrelated to the number on the scale. With low-carb and ketogenic diets, scientific research and thousands upon thousands of people’s experiences tell us that this way of eating is effective for reversing type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), improving non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, some people get rid of migraines, acid reflux or heartburn. It’s so effective. Very often, hypertension improves, your blood pressure can come down, and brain fog goes away. So many wonderful things happen that are completely unrelated to losing weight or changing the size and shape of your body.
These non-scale victories are very important to pay attention to when losing weight or losing body fat is one of your goals on keto, maybe even your main goal, and if you’re stuck in a stall. Even if you’re stuck in a stall and your scale weight isn’t changing, you might feel really frustrated and really disappointed, but you might be able to say, “I haven’t lost any weight in three weeks, but I haven’t had a migraine all month, and my joints don’t hurt anymore, and I haven’t needed my heartburn medicine in a week.” There are so many other things that can at least keep you motivated to keep going and to keep eating this way.
We hear this all the time. There are so many people that have so many other improvements in all kinds of other things that they’ll often say, “I don’t even care if I lose another pound or not. I’m never going back to my old ways. I’m going to eat this way anyway because I just feel so good.” These non-scale victories are really critical. I’ve had clients who will say, “Why is keto not working?” And then they’ll list all of these great things that are happening. The brain fog is gone, the heartburn is gone, they feel less bloated, and their PMS was much, much better. But when they ask, “Why isn’t keto working?” It’s because when they say that, they’re thinking about one thing, and that’s the number on the scale.
Many of the benefits are not outwardly visible. Fat loss is probably the first thing that people notice when they feel they are in a stall because they might not be losing the number of pounds that they’re wanting to lose.
Very often for people weight loss is the first thing that happens. In some people, they will actually feel more energy, that brain fog will clear, they’ll have more physical energy, the joint pain will be gone, and lots of other things will happen before the weight. Whatever order it happens in, all of these are signs that at least keto is definitely doing something good for you, even if the weight isn’t moving as quickly as you want it to.
What is your advice for people who still want to weigh themselves? How often do people want to weigh themselves?
To the first point, it’s really not uncommon for your size and shape to change even when there’s no change on the scale, either no change or maybe only a very, very small change compared to a relatively larger change in your size. It really is important to pay attention to your measurements or to pay attention just to how your clothing is fitting. One of the things that people tend to notice is rings that just start slipping off or become loose. There are people who haven’t been able to take their wedding ring off in 10 years because the finger is so swollen, and sometimes this just all of a sudden slips off. That doesn’t happen for everyone, but it’s really important to pay attention to things other than the number on the scale.
If you do want to weigh yourself, you really have to just know how you’re wired psychologically, because it’s an individual thing. If you are someone who wants to weigh yourself every day, some people feel that getting on the scale every day just keeps them very strict and keeps them on the straight and narrow with regard to what they’re eating. If that helps you, if that is a beneficial, useful tool for you, then do it. There are other people where that number has a great deal of emotional control over them. It’s women especially, but men are affected by it as well. First thing in the morning, you get on that scale and if you see a number you don’t like, it ruins your day. Your day is completely ruined. You feel like a failure, you feel ashamed, you’re angry. Everything is just going to go wrong from there. If that’s your situation, stay off the scale. Just trust the process. Why put yourself through that?
It is okay to weigh every day, but if you weigh every day like we mentioned last time, you have to appreciate that it is entirely normal to be fluctuating anywhere from one to three pounds up or down every day. Fluid retention, it’s just the natural way the human body works. What you have to understand is that these little blips up and down from day to day do not always reflect an increase or a decrease in your body fat. It is just your scale weight. If you’re up a pound or two, it does not automatically mean that you have gained fat.
To the people who don’t want to weigh every day because they know it’s a little bit harmful to them emotionally or psychologically, if you want to weigh at all, I would recommend once a week at most. Try to do it at maybe the same time on the same day and use the same scale. Even then, even from week to week, if it’s up or down a pound or two what we want to look at is the very long-term trend over time, not even from one week to the next, but look from months and months to the next.
You mentioned water retention – water has a massive influence on us on a daily basis, especially for women at certain times of the month, correct?
Yes. This is why we can’t become so fixated on the number on the scale because that just tells you your total body weight. You don’t know how much of that weight is body fat or muscle or bone or water. Obviously, with women, the menstrual cycle can have a massive influence on the amount of water we retain. We know this. Women, don’t get on the scale if you know that you’re due in a few days. Just don’t even bother! If you want to, that’s fine, but understand and be aware, “This is just my normal water retention, and it’ll be gone in a few days.”
Other things that can influence water retention in some people are sodium or salt. Some people tend to hold on to a little more water when they increase their salt intake. Some people don’t. Environmental humidity is also a factor. When it’s more humid out, the body tends to want to hold on to water. This is why you really can’t make yourself crazy over these little daily shifts of about one to as many as three pounds up or down on any given day because these are usually just changes in water retention.
Muscle is more dense than fat. The ketogenic or low-carb diet is actually a muscle-sparing diet, which means that you preserve more of your muscle. We often see that people’s muscle weight goes up.
This is especially true if somebody started a new exercise program in conjunction with a low-carb or ketogenic diet; you’re maybe building more muscle in a sudden way. Muscle is very dense, so a small amount of muscle can make your body heavier, whereas fat is so much more fluffy, for lack of a better word.
Even if you’re not actively building a lot of muscle and you just do some cardio, the body tends to hold on to water. This is because muscles hold on to water when they’re inflamed after you’ve worked out or when you’ve taxed your muscles. One thing that happens with exercise is muscles get stronger through the process of repairing the damage that you inflict through exercise. It’s good damage. The muscle gets stronger and you get healthier in the process of repairing the damage that you inflict through the activity. But the body retains water during that healing process.
It seems like a paradox, but some people will find that if they exercise regularly, if they actually take a day or two off, the next day or the day after, their scale weight is lower, and they’re thinking, “What? I didn’t even work out yesterday. How did I lose weight?!” It’s because you’ve taken a break from taxing those muscles, so those muscles have been able to let go of that extra water. It’s not always muscle mass. It could be bone mass, it could be anything. Especially because on the Adapt Your Life food list, we do not skimp on protein. There are a lot of keto programs out there that skimp a little bit on protein, and we don’t subscribe to that. We tend to lean towards protein. Some of our protein foods are zero carbs. We encourage people to eat all they want of those until they’re comfortably full.
With that in mind, many women dramatically under-eat protein. When they come on our program and they’re starting to eat a little more, they may be rebuilding important tissue that they lost on previous diets where they weren’t eating enough protein. So the scale weight might be going up, but their size and shape are changing in a way that they’re happy about. We just have to stop being quite so wedded to that scale number.
Watch the full video here.