Let’s talk about the diet.
Let’s assume you have determined you really truly are stuck, you are stalled, you’re doing everything right, it’s been several weeks, possibly even a couple of months with nothing, no change on the scale (but, remember, no change at all also to your size or shape because even if your scale weight isn’t changing, if you feel that your size is getting smaller, that’s not stalled). Let’s assume you are really and truly stalled now. Number two, what are you eating? What’s going on with the food? If this is a fat loss problem, the first place we’re going to look to is the food.
#1 Too many carbs
The most common roadblock that I see people hitting up against when they are trying to lose weight on a low-carb or ketogenic diet is simply too many carbs. There are a lot of reasons why people eat too many carbs. We tend to use the word “ketogenic” a lot. Ketogenic makes people think that you have to eat a lot of fat. It makes people think you have to be in ketosis. Some people even abbreviate the diet as LCHF – low-carb, high-fat. That’s also a problem because it gives equal emphasis to low-carb and high-fat. If your body has a lot of fat and you’re really struggling to lose that body fat, when it comes to the diet, the low-carb part of that is far more important than focusing on high-fat.
When I was brand new to this about 15 years ago, no one even called it ketogenic. We called it low-carb because that keeps the emphasis where it needs to be, which is on keeping those carbs low. That’s what makes the metabolic switch from fueling your body primarily on carbs and glucose, to primarily on fats and a little bit of ketones. What makes that happen is the very low carbohydrate intake. Too many carbs can be the problem. A lot of this comes because many people will tell you that it’s okay to count net carbs. Some people do just great counting net carbs. Different things work for different people. Plenty of people can count net carbs and get the results they want, and it’s great. Many people can’t. For many, shifting from net carbs to total carbs is like a little switch. It’s such an easy thing to do that makes a world of difference.
Total carbs versus net carbs
What are net carbs? When you are counting carbohydrates on a food label, you will see something about total carbohydrates. The grams listed are the total carbohydrates in the food. If you count the net carbs, you can subtract the grams of fiber and sugar alcohols from those total carb count. Sugar alcohols are used to make food sweeter, but they are not the same as regular sugar. They have a slightly different effect on your blood sugar and insulin, which is why they’re considered keto, or low carb-friendly.
Counting net carbs works for some people, but it assumes that the sugar alcohols don’t affect blood sugar or insulin at all. If you are subtracting them, you’re assuming they are totally negligible. They’re not. There are at least four or five different kinds of sugar alcohols. They are not all the same molecule. Some of them affect blood sugar and insulin more than others. They are known, as a general rule, to have a higher glycemic impact. Beyond that, everybody responds to them differently. So even if my blood sugar and insulin don’t rise much from one of these sugar alcohols, yours might. When you count net carbs, you’re assuming none of that matters. You’re ignoring those possibilities.
Net carbs also assume that all the different kinds of fiber have no effect. Fiber supposedly helps you absorb carbohydrates slower. For the most part that’s true, but there are some fibers now added to foods, (not fiber intrinsic to a food like broccoli, almonds, walnuts, zucchini, and asparagus,) but added fiber. The added fiber is being added to products like “keto ice cream”, “keto bread”, and “keto brownies and cookies”. They are adding inulin and cellulose and all kinds of pulpy stuff to bulk up the net carbs. Again, we are assuming that those have either no effect at all, or if they do have an effect, it’s the same in everybody, and that is wrong. Some people do really well counting net carbs but many of us don’t. This is a very simple change to make that can have a very, very powerful impact to break a stall. If you are going to count total carbs, you don’t subtract anything. You don’t subtract the fiber or sugar alcohols. It’s easier because you don’t have to do any math.
There’s no guesswork and you won’t have to check your blood sugar to see if erythritol or xylitol affect you. It doesn’t matter if it affects you or not, because you’re not going to count it. You’re not going to subtract it, anyway. This is what Dr. Eric Westman, world-famous keto researcher, calls “prescription-strength keto”. That’s the total carb method compared to the net carb method, which is like “over-the-counter keto”. Dr. Westman says there’s a prescription-strength drug and there’s an over-the-counter strength drug; they both work, but the prescription strength is stronger. That’s exactly how it is with total carbs versus net carbs and prescription-strength keto versus over the counter.
#2 Overdoing dietary fat
When I was new, nobody was putting butter or coconut oil in their coffee. You couldn’t even really get coconut oil in the store; it was not really popular at all. MCT oil didn’t even exist at the regular store. If you were using MCT oil, you probably had to be in a scientific study to even access it; it wasn’t available to the general public. Nobody was using this stuff.
We don’t fear fat on keto. Finally, a way of eating where you can have butter if you want, you can melt cheese on your vegetables, you can eat the skin on your chicken, and you don’t have to drain the fat from your ground beef. You can eat fat. That doesn’t mean fat is unlimited, however. If you’ve heard from someone that you have to hit your fat macro, or you went to a calculator and got special numbers and macros, it’s telling you that you have to have x percent of fat in your diet. Just forget about that right now. What makes keto work? What flips that switch from you burning mostly carbs to burning mostly fat, which is what we want? It’s the absence of the carbs, not the presence of the fat.
Burning fat is not the same thing as losing fat; keto is a fat-burning diet. It’s not a fat loss diet. Bear with me; I’m going to explain. What flips that metabolic switch is the absence of carbs. When your carbohydrate intake is really low, your body shifts from burning carbs to burning fat. If your carbohydrate gas tank is empty, your body has to run on something else. You’re not just going to shut off, fall down and die. Your body’s going to keep you alive. Your body will start burning fat. What gets you to burn fat is the lack of carbs. Now you’re burning fat, great. But if you’re overdoing the dietary fats, your body is going to turn to burning those instead of the fat that is already on your body. That’s why dietary fat is not unlimited. Keto is a high-fat diet, but not all of that fat comes from your food. You want some of that high fat coming from your own body. That’s the difference in perspective here. What makes your body ketogenic is the absence of carbs. So if you’re not hungry, don’t eat extra fat just to hit the macro. If you consume excess fat from the food, then you don’t have a reason to start breaking down the stored body fat to make up that difference.
I need to clarify that there are some people out there who eat very high-fat diets, meaning from their food, and they’re getting great results. They’re losing weight and everything’s going great for them. If that’s not working for you and you’re struggling with the stubborn pounds, or experiencing a stall, then chasing fat macros, adding extra fat and oil, (especially if you’re not even hungry,) won’t work. You’re just doing it because you think you’re supposed to and that’s the number two most simplest and easiest thing you can do, to start getting the weight moving.
What to do about it
Limit the stuff you’re going crazy on. Are you having cream with your coffee, or are you having coffee with your cream? This stuff is not off-limits; you can have it, but go easy. If you are one of those people prone to taking that block of cheddar and a knife, and just sitting on the couch in front of the TV, maybe don’t make cheese by itself as a meal or a snack. Maybe shred a little bit of cheese on a salad or on your keto tacos, over your chili, or use one slice of cheese on a burger patty. Same thing with nuts. Don’t sit down with that bag of almonds, because you know what happens? Half the bag is going to be gone in five minutes. Use it as a garnish. Use it to add crunch to a salad or sprinkle it on a meat dish. Don’t make a snack out of that stuff. Don’t be afraid of fat, but be aware of how much of it you’re eating.
I found for myself that a lot of my extra fat came from condiments, like ranch, bleu cheese dressing,, and mayonnaise. I’ve found that a good way to cut fat without even really missing it, is to use things that add a lot of flavor with much less fat, in some cases no fat. So any kind of herbs or spices like paprika, curry powder, chili powder, oregano, basil, all that kind of stuff. Hot sauce is a great way to do it, too. Any kind of mustard, except mustard that is sweet, like honey mustard. Curry paste, sugar-free pickles or relish, vinaigrette, or soy sauce is a great way. Just always read labels because you will be shocked, surprised and horrified what they’re sneaking sugar and corn syrup into, so be aware if you’re buying this stuff. Make sure it isn’t sweetened.
You can drink on keto and lose weight, but you have to be intelligent and strategic about it. It’s not unlimited. Why does alcohol cause so many problems with fat loss? There are a lot of different biochemical reasons, but the simplest explanation is that it’s liquid calories. It’s extra calories without filling you up. Most of us drink in addition to our food. We don’t reduce the amount of food we’re eating to account for the extra calories from the alcohol, so it’s just extra energy. When there’s extra energy coming in, the body has no reason to tap into all the stored energy we’re trying to lose. So, liquid calories should be the first thing to go, and that includes alcohol. If you’re really, really stalled, this is why I don’t endorse putting butter and oil in your coffee. Liquid calories are one of the easiest things to cut if you’re struggling with weight loss.
Caution with alcohol
Your alcohol tolerance when you’re on a low-carb or keto diet will be much lower than you’re accustomed to. If, in your higher carb days, you could put away three or four glasses of wine, still get up and be conscious (not get behind the wheel of a car, but still be functioning cognitively,) you can’t do that on keto. Alcohol is going to affect you much more quickly and much more strongly than before; your tolerance is lower. Go slowly, don’t drink quickly and pace yourself. Alternate with water. For every glass of wine you have, have a glass of water, or maybe two or three sips of wine, then a couple of sips of water. Do not drink on an empty stomach; that is bad. Always have a plan for safe transportation. Don’t get behind the wheel if you are drinking.
If you are not a drinker, don’t start. For some people, not having alcohol is a deal breaker. I’ve even said this probably myself. “I could give up rice, I could give up potatoes, I could give up bread, I could give up fruit, but don’t take away my wine.” If that’s you, and being able to have an occasional drink will be the difference between you doing keto for the long term versus not, we have to learn how to do it safely and strategically and still have you get the results you want.
A typical pour is about five ounces. Sometimes it’s even four ounces, or about 113ml. There are some companies now marketing keto wine or low sugar wine. The fact is, most wine is very low in sugar. You don’t have to seek out more expensive wine that’s marketed as keto. Just stay away from the wines that you know are sweeter: port, sherry, or Moscato. Drink something dry and you’ll be fine. People assume that white wine is always sweeter than red. It’s not. There are some sweet reds and there’s some very dry white. Whatever you’re drinking, keep it a dry wine, and it’s good to go.
There are several different kinds of light beer, at least in the US, that are available, anywhere from two to five grams per bottle, which is really not too bad for 12-ounces. If I were a beer drinker, just from what I know about the difference between regular beer and especially gourmet microbrews, I would just not drink it. But if you’re a beer lover and having a light beer helps you, do it.
The distilled spirits are actually zero carb. This includes rum, vodka, and gin. The funny thing is, all of these things are made from things that are very high in carbs! Tequila comes from the agave cactus, which is loaded with fructose. Vodka is potatoes. Rum comes from sugar cane, and bourbon comes from corn. These things come from corn, sugar and grains, and yet, when they’re super distilled, they’re actually zero carb.
They’re not zero calories. And the problem with hard liquor is not so much the liquor itself, but what we mix it with. The cranberry juice, orange juice, blue curacao, the sugary sweet and sour mix. You want to stick to sugar-free or zero carb mixers only. Think about rum and Diet Coke. You can make Crystal Light pink lemonade or fruit punch, pour a shot of vodka or rum for a sugar-free cocktail. Diet tonic water also works. Because keto and low-carb diets are so popular, they actually have commercially available, mass-produced sugar-free mixers. They make sugar-free margarita mix, sugar-free cosmo, sugar-free pina colada, and you just add the alcohol. There are ways to do it, but just be careful.
I am not a doctor, none of this is medical advice, I am not treating, preventing, or curing any medical situations. Watch the full video here.