The Paleo diet is so easy to begin with
When people first go Paleo, they are usually motivated by the fact that the weight seems to just fall off their bones at a rapid pace. Cutting out things like grains, dairy and sugar from their diet has a way of helping them to control their caloric intake without thinking about, removes inflammation and the bloat that comes with eating those foods.
Most people will be incredibly pleased with their results of eating Paleo for several months or a year depending on how much weight they have to lose. The fast and efficient weight loss makes it easy to stay on Paleo, as the incentives are crystal clear.
Eventually though, the weight loss will slow, stop, or even worse – reverse. When people on Paleo begin to gain weight again, they can panic and make some terrible decisions. Some people decide that Paleo is no longer worth it if they aren’t losing weight and begin eating junk food and gain more weight. Their line of thinking is that if they’re going to gain weight anyways, they might as well do it with the foods they’ve missed.
Some people will start to get way too strict with their eating style, and cut calories and good fats to a level that is way too low to sustain them. This is also a bad decision, because eating too little can actually have adverse effects on weight loss just as severe as eating too much can.
So what is a person to do when they stop losing weight or start gaining weight on Paleo? The first and most important thing to do is not to panic, and then try to look at everything else that’s going on to try and pinpoint what the problem might be.
Reasons for weight loss stalling on Paleo
Are you exercising too much? – Exercise and a healthy diet is a great strategy for weight loss, but it’s possible and actually quite easy to overdo it on the exercise. Common sense tells people that if exercising once a day is healthy, then exercising three times a day must be three times as healthy. This isn’t the case though.
Exercising that much can lead to overtraining, which puts unnecessary stress on the body. It can also lead to injury which will cause you to not be able to exercise at all for a certain period of time, making your goals even harder to hit. The biggest part though, is too much exercise causes your body to produce more cortisol, the stress management hormone which causes your body to store fat, especially around your midsection. If you’re doing intense exercise more than four times per week, you might want to consider dialing it back a little bit to see if that helps you start losing weight again.
Are you eating too much? – One of the things people love about Paleo, is they don’t need to count calories, and they can eat until they are full, since Paleo by definition makes it very hard to consume too many calories. Still, a surplus of Paleo-friendly calories is a surplus of calories and can lead to weight gain.
Another thing at play here, is that your body is now much smaller than it was when you started Paleo. Everyone’s body burns calories at a certain rate while they’re resting. People with larger bodies burn off more calories during exercise and rest than people with smaller bodies. So when you had a lot of weight to lose, eating 2,500 calories might put you at a caloric deficit, but once you lose weight, if you’re still eating 2,500 calories a day you could very well be at a caloric surplus.
Even though calorie counting is tedious and can make dieting more difficult, it might be worth doing for just a few days so you can get a good idea how many calories you’re actually consuming every day. You can then make adjustments to get your daily caloric intake down without having to actually count those calories every day.
Are your Paleo foods actually unhealthy? – Some people get tricked into thinking that just because it’s Paleo, that they can healthily eat as much as they want without gaining weight. This isn’t true, especially if you’re indulging in a lot of Paleo treats.
One of the first culprits is nuts. All nuts (except peanuts, which are legumes) are Paleo, but are extremely calorically dense and very easy to overeat. Did you know a serving of almonds is 15 almonds? Who eats only 15 almonds and puts the bag away? Most people who have nuts for a snack will end up eating over 1,000 calories worth of nuts as their “snack” and not even really feel full off of it.
Dried fruit can be equally dangerous. While a good Paleo choice while on the road, because dried fruit doesn’t need to be refrigerated and can be stored for long periods of time, dried fruit presents a similar problem as nuts do. Think about how many pieces of dried fruit you would typically eat as a snack. 10? 15? 20? Doesn’t seem like that much does it? Think about what you’re eating for a second though. Eating 20 pieces of dried apricot is the same as eating 20 whole apricots. The only thing that’s been taken away is the water. All the sugar, fructose and calories are still there, making it difficult for you to lose weight.
Another big hurdle for people are the Paleo versions of their favorite treats. These are cakes and cookies that have been made with almond flour or coconut flour instead of regular flour and other Paleo friendly ingredients. Just because these junk foods are made with Paleo-friendly ingredients doesn’t make them healthy though – they are still full of calories and indulging in treats too often will make your weight loss journey even more difficult.
You’re losing fat but gaining muscle – This is especially common when people add in a new exercise regimen, especially one that includes strength training. After months and months of stepping on the scale every week and seeing it go down, they start exercising and all of a sudden they weigh more. What gives?!?
We know it’s not the answer you want to hear, but when you’re trying to lose weight, the scale is NOT your friend. The scale is a liar and isn’t interested in telling you the whole story. If you don’t believe it, try this: weigh yourself, go drink a liter of water and weigh yourself again. You’ll have gained two pounds. Did you really gain two pounds though? No, as soon as you urinate, you’ll lose that weight again, but the scale doesn’t know that.
Same as when you start gaining muscle. The scale will tell you that you weigh more, which can be stressful, but what’s really going on is that you’re gaining muscle, which is three times as dense as fat. Many people will inaccurately say that muscle weighs more than fat – but that’s technically not true. A pound of muscle weighs the exact same amount as a pound of fat, but the pound of fat will take up three times as much space.
Instead of relying on your scale to tell you how you’re progressing, see how your clothes fit, or use a measuring tape to measure key areas like waist, hips, belly and chest. Those will give you a much more accurate representation of what’s happening than your scale ever will.
You might not be eating enough – That must sound entirely counterproductive to anyone who’s trying to lose weight, but one of the things that gets in many people’s way is simply not eating enough. They believe by cutting even more food from their diet, that the weight will come off even faster. This is very rarely the case, except in the severely overweight, and even then, only in the very beginning.
Eating too little stresses the body and doesn’t allow it to function optimally. Your body won’t have enough calories to be fueled properly, and as a result, you’ll be deficient in either protein, fat, carbohydrates or a combination of two or all three. Not eating enough can also cause your body to produce more cortisol, which will keep the fat cells in your body for a lot longer.
The best way to figure this out, is to start tracking your calories for a few days to figure out where you’re at. There’s no magic number, but men who eat less than 2,000 calories per day and women who eat less than 1,500 calories per day might see better results with their weight loss by adding more calories into their diet. This is especially true for those who are very active physically. You need to eat to perform, and trying to skimp on fueling your body will cause you to crash and your weight loss to stall.
Your carbohydrate intake doesn’t match your physical activity level – This can go both ways. One of the first things we learn when we go Paleo, is how carbohydrates have a much bigger effect on fat storage than protein and fat. So naturally, we cut back drastically on carbohydrates, with some people almost eliminating them entirely. Most people on Paleo eat less than 100 grams of carbohydrates daily, with some who have gone “keto” regularly eating less than 20-50 grams of carbohydrates daily.
While a sedentary person might be able to operate at that level of carbohydrates, someone who exercises regularly will hit a wall very fast. In order to consume the proper amount of carbohydrates, you need to first look at how often you’re exercising.
If it’s not at all, and you’re consuming more than 100 grams of Paleo approved carbohydrates per day, you’ll definitely want to dial that back as it can hinder weight loss. If you exercise regularly, and are eating less than 50 grams of carbohydrates per day, not only will your performance suffer, but you’re stressing your body in a way that impedes weight loss.
Most people who have tried it have seen success by eating carbohydrates in a way that matches their exercise level on a given day. So on rest days, they will eat less carbohydrates and more fat. On training days, they will eat less fat and more carbohydrates. Protein consumption will stay high regardless of whether it’s a training day or rest day. This is a great way to do things to make sure you’re performing optimally but not overeating carbs on rest days.
You haven’t added sprinting into your routine – Whether you exercise already or not, there’s one form of exercise that takes very little time, especially given how effective it is. That exercise is sprinting.
By far, sprinting has a greater impact on fat loss than almost any other exercise. Just take a look at pictures of marathon runners versus sprinters and you’ll see one thing – they’re both lean, but sprinters are lean and muscular at the same time.
To get started with sprinting, find an open space and just run as hard and fast as you can. Do this once a week, twice max. If you wake up the next day and feel like you could go sprinting again, you’re not sprinting hard enough. You should use up everything you’ve got in the tank.
When you first start out, you probably won’t be able to sprint for much longer than 10 seconds at a time. Try to work up to about 20 seconds though, and do that 8-10 times with a couple minutes rest in between each. In 20 minutes or so, you’ll have completed one of the best fat-burning exercises known to man.
If you have knee problem or are still extremely overweight, there a couple of good (albeit less effective substitutions). You could sprint in a pool (swimming) or on an exercise bike for example. Overweight people can reduce stress on their joints by exerting themselves by pushing a car at full intensity, compared to just sprinting.
While there are many reasons your weight loss could stop, these are some of the most common culprits. If your weight loss has slowed, just remember not to panic and go off the deep end, which can reverse all of your hard work. Plateaus are also a temporary thing, provided you deal with them in the correct way!