Does Going Keto Mean Weight Gain?

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Updated: 4/3/23

On the ketogenic bandwagon, but still experiencing weight gain (or not seeing the weight loss results you hoped for)?

Research shows that a low-carb way of eating (some online communities abbreviate this to "WOE") will be ineffective unless your body actually reaches ketosis.

What is ketosis? It’s the state in which your body functions when it doesn’t have enough carbs to burn for energy. Instead, it burns fat and helps you lose excess weight.

Attaining a healthy weight can help people with diabetes avoid the risks associated with it, as well as make daily management easier.

A keto diet allows people with diabetes to lose weight and can help them to keep blood sugar in range while still getting the nutrients they need.

The One Drop Guide to Carbohydrates

6 Reasons You're Gaining Weight While Eating Low Carb

Some people experience weight gain while attempting this new way of eating, which can be extremely frustrating.

Below, check out six reasons you may be gaining weight while trying to be keto, and how to fix it!

You’re Still Eating Too Many Carbs

Carbohydrates hide in unexpected places. And even if you’re cutting out “starchy/carby” things like bread and pasta, your carb count may still be too high for your body to reach ketosis (most people have to stay under about 50 grams of carbs per day).

For instance, grapes and bananas are the highest carb fruit.

A medium-sized banana has the same carb count as a McMuffin. It's something to keep in mind on your keto journey.

If you're curious, the fruits lowest in carbs are blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries and they'll taste great with your favorite nut butter.

You Aren’t Eating Whole Foods

Bananas may be higher in carbs, but they also have fiber and water content, so they're still better for you than something processed (like those McMuffins).

Studies show that people eating more whole food and less processed food tend to eat less food overall. This can result in weight loss. Whole foods contain filling protein and fiber, which is the reason people tend to eat less overall when focusing on whole foods. 

This is where things get tricky for some people. Rather than eating unprocessed foods, they opt for a completely processed—albeit, low-carb—diet (think: protein bars, protein cookies, protein shakes, etc.). While they are eating low carb foods, the diet is entirely comprised of ultra-processed foods.

Protein bars can be a helpful supplement—in moderation. But if you can, try to opt for a whole food choice. Like eggs! Or nuts or celery sticks. If your keto way of eating is made up of only processed, low-carb foods, you may run into some weight-gain challenges.

What Exactly is a Processed Food?

You’re Consuming Too Many Calories

If you’re trying to reach ketosis, a medical professional who specializes in following people on a keto diet should prescribe a calorie goal that’s appropriate for your age, weight, goals, and health status. Chances are that this goal will be lower than you’re used to.

To make sure you’re sticking to your goal, pay attention to portion sizes and know what appropriate serving sizes are.

When I don’t measure my almond butter, I end up having four or more tablespoons, which is a lot of calories. Yikes! I think I’ll bike instead of taking the train tomorrow.

If you’re struggling to lose weight on a keto diet, it may be because you’re going far above your suggested calorie target

Awareness is key.

You Don't Have an Eating Schedule

Decide when you’re going to eat and stick with the program!

Set reminders for meal and snack times in your phone. Try not to snack often or at night. This can be difficult, as those of us with diabetes need to maintain a certain blood sugar level. But the goal is to plan ahead so you avoid unnecessary calories and carbs.

For example: I know that I always get hungry around 3 p.m. To avoid the vending machine options (think: cold, plastic-wrapped burgers and sugary granola bars), I pack an unsweetened yogurt and carrots.

You’re Stressed or Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep

As a stress-prone person, I won’t tell you to chill out. But do make sure you’re looking out for your mental health, as this affects everything—from our relationships to our physical health.

Commit to seeing a counselor regularly. Or, if that’s not your speed, invest in some fancy bath salts! Make sure you’re taking care of you. And if situations in your life prevent that, consider making changes.

Both stress and sleep deprivation can affect appetite control. When you’re stressed and exhausted, your body is on the hunt for more fuel. Chronic sleep deprivation (under six hours per night) increases your risk for obesity.

Bottom line? Prioritize your sleep as much as you can. Seven to nine hours every night. 

The Link Between Blood Sugar Levels and Sleep, Explained

You Need to Exercise More

There are several ways to increase your activity (and they all happen to be things I do when I have a busy week and can’t hit the gym).

Walk more: get in some steps while you talk on the phone, listen to a podcast, or are heading to work.

Stand at your desk instead of sitting: this also helps with the after-lunch drowsiness.

Take the stairs instead of elevators and escalators: I’ve made this my policy (with exceptions in cases of extreme lateness!).

    This post has three underlying themes that can help you lose weight while eating keto and stay healthy long-term: awareness, communication, and consistency.

    5 No-Equipment Exercises for a Quick Total-Body Workout

    Be aware of how much you're eating overall and what you're eating.

    Communicate with your doctor, your mental health professional, and your loved ones as needed.

    Be consistent as much as you can in how much you eat, when you eat, and how much you sleep and move.

    This article has been clinically reviewed by Hanna Rifkin, RD, CDCES, clinical health coach at One Drop.

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    Grace Vlaha
    Sep 06, 2019

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