Many people have successfully lost weight and improved their health on the carnivore diet. If weight loss is your goal and you find that you are not losing weight as you had hoped, there are several reasons why it might be the case.
In this post, I will go through a few possible reasons as to why you are not losing weight on the carnivore diet. Understanding these reasons can help you make appropriate adjustments to your diet and lifestyle and progress toward your weight loss goals.
1. You have not been on the carnivore diet for long enough
One of the possible reasons why you are not losing weight is you haven’t been on the carnivore diet for long enough.
People come to the carnivore diet from different food backgrounds with different nutritional statuses and health conditions. Therefore, the time it takes to adapt, bring the nutritional status to standard, or fix underlying health problems can vary significantly from one person to another.
If you are a long-term vegan transitioning to the carnivore diet, it is very likely that you will have a huge appetite, you will feel like you want to eat all the time, and you might even put on weight. This is because your body craves the nutritious food it has been missing for so long and it might take you months and even years for your craving to normalize.
Similarly, if you have been on the typical Western-style diet with grains, seed oils and processed food being a prominent feature of your diet, you might be overweight or obese, but your nutritional status is suboptimal. It is likely to take you a long time to adapt to this diet, nourish your body and undo all the damages from your previous lifestyle.
On the other hand, if you come from paleo or ketogenic backgrounds or have been eating relatively healthily, you might not take as long to adapt and feel the best.
It is said that you should give your body a month for every year of poor diet and lifestyle but I found that it took me even longer than a month per year.
The point is everyone is different. Somebody might lose weight effortlessly and reach their ideal body weight after six months but somebody else might take two years or more to achieve that.
Be patient, trust your body and trust the process. A meat-based diet is what we have been evolved to eat.
Eat to satiety and eat when you are hungry.
Ignore the number on the scale and focus on the positive changes you are experiencing, your mood, your energy level, and your health improvements.
Wait at least until you are fully adapted, your underlying health problems are resolved and your mental health is improved before looking at ways to reach your ideal body composition.
2. You are not in a calorie deficit
Another possible reason why you are not losing weight is you are not in a calorie deficit.
Hormones play an important role in weight loss but so do calories.
When the energy coming in is insufficient, your body will have to burn down fat reserve for fuel and/or lower the basal metabolic rate.
When the energy coming in is more than your body’s need, the excess energy will be stored as fat.
One thing that people on the carnivore diet are encouraged not to do is to count calories.
While you don’t have to count calories to lose weight, you need to be mindful of the fact that, all else being constant, a calorie deficit is needed for weight loss.
If you compare our lifestyle today with that of our ancestors, you will see why we have become so large and obesity has become a global epidemic.
Life was tough for our ancestors. While food was hard to come by, they had to spend a large amount of daily energy expenditure on activities such as food and water procurement, social interaction, escape from predators, and maintenance of shelter and clothing.
In contrast, we no longer need to hunt for food today and there is an abundance of calorie-dense food available 24/7. There is also a substantial decrease in the level of physical activities in our daily life due to the industrial and digital revolution. Sedentary work and sedentary home life have become the norm.
In short, we eat more of the wrong food, move less, and become fatter than ever as a result.
If you think you’ve gone through the adaptation phase and haven’t achieved your ideal body composition, try the following and see if they help.
(i) Keep a food diary
You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
A food diary can help you understand your food intake, meal frequency, meal timing, and eating habits which will allow you to then take appropriate actions to help with your weight loss goal.
Here is a free food diary template that you can just print out and start straight away.
Please keep it for at least one week. Note down the timing of your meal, food type, approximately how much, and its fat to protein ratios.
(ii) Narrow down your food range
If milk, cheese and other dairy products are currently on your food list, eliminate them.
Milk is healthy and nutritious with a perfect combination of sugar, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals. But it is intended for a growing animal. If you want to lose weight, it is a good idea to avoid carbohydrate-rich food.
Although cheese has very little lactose, it is calorie-dense and addictive and has low satiety. When you want to lose weight, avoid cheese unless you can stick to one small serving at a time.
If you’ve been adding a bit of fruit and honey to your diet, cut out those too. They are a source of sugar and sugar triggers insulin secretion and encourages your body to store fat. They are also tempting and difficult to portion control.
You can certainly add dairy, fruits and honey back after you’ve reached your goal body weight to see if they have any impact.
I think ruminant meat, organ meat and water is simple but also the best diet for weight loss.
(iii) Lower the fat to protein ratio
Adjust the fat to protein ratio of your food and observe how you feel.
If you are getting 80%-90% of your calories from fat, see if you can reduce to 70% calories from fat and 30% from protein.
Ribeye steaks and ground beef which has fat to protein ratio of around 1:1 in terms of grams will deliver 70% calories from fat and 30% calories from protein. If you eat leaner cuts of meat relative to ribeye, add a couple of small slices of beef fats to reach this ratio.
If you find success with a lower fat percentage, see if you can cut down even further. People can handle very different fat to protein ratios on the carnivore diet.
If you don’t feel well with less fat, stay with your current ratio. There are other strategies below that can help you lose weight.
(iv) Reduce meal frequency and feeding window
See if you can reduce the number of meals a day.
For example, if you have been eating 3 times a day, reduce to 2 times a day and cut out snacks between meals altogether.
Most people on the carnivore diet can do with just 1 to 2 meals, but at each meal, please eat to satiety.
Dr. Jason Fung says his single best weight loss tip is “don’t eat all the time“ and I think this is very true. A few mouthfuls here and there can add up to a lot of calories very quickly.
Also, check if you can reduce your feeding window to 10 hours or less a day and increase your fasting time.
Incorporate longer fasts every now and then. If you are fully adapted to the carnivore diet, you are fully adapted to burning fat for fuel and it is not hard at all to do an extended fast, e.g 3 days or longer. This gives your body a break and a chance to burn all that spare fat.
(v) Change your eating behaviors
Whenever you feel like eating, ask yourself if you are truly hungry or not. It might be that you are just thirsty rather than hungry.
Don’t eat when it’s mealtime, eat when you are genuinely hungry.
Make sure the first meal of the day is full of good quality protein. A big steak is the best – it is very satisfying and satiating.
Eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your gut to send the signal to your brain that you’ve had enough.
Eat early. Never go to bed with a full stomach. Your last meal should be at least three hours before bedtime.
(vi) Increase your physical activities
Substantially boosting your physical activity is the other side of the equation. Physical activity is not only good for your health but also for your waistline.
As mentioned above, there is a huge discordance between our diet and the level of our physical activity nowadays. We have all those calorie-dense foods readily available but hardly need to do any physically demanding activities.
I have previously written a post on how to exercise to support weight loss. If you are interested, please check it out. In short, there are two things you can do to help you lose weight:
- Engage in resistance training and HIIT which are the best exercises to support weight loss
- Increase your accidental and other physical activities.
For exercise to make a difference to your waistline, you will need to significantly increase its volume.
If your work is sedentary and you spend 8 to 9 hours a day at the desk, compared to our ancestors’ lifestyle, 30 – 40 minutes of exercise a day is nowhere near enough.
As I mentioned in this post, to boost your accidental exercises substantially, start by keeping a detailed diary of your daily movement for a week. Note down details like the exact activity, starting and ending time, its duration, and the level of intensity (low, moderate, or intense).
Here is a free physical activity diary template that you can print out and fill in for one week.
Go through the diary at the end of the week and highlight all the gaps or potential areas of improvement such as the time when you are sedentary or only engage in low-intensity activities. You then can set goals and have an action plan.
Start small but stay consistent and build it up from there.
For example, if you often spend 15 minutes after breakfast in the morning to read the news on your phone every day, see if you can use that time for stretching and doing bodyweight exercises (e.g. push-up, sit-up, jumping jack, and squat).
It may not sound like a big change in your daily routine, but you will have added 105 minutes of moderate-intensity exercises to your week.
If this is your goal, set a reminder on your phone and put post-it notes around the house (on the fridge, on the bathroom mirror and on the dining table) to remind yourself until the 15-minute exercise in the morning becomes a habit.
Once you’ve nailed this goal, set another goal and repeat the process.
3. You are stress
If you think you’ve nailed the diet and exercise parts but still can’t lose some stubborn fat, stress could be the missing link to weight loss.
Stress is your body’s response to abnormal physical, mental, or emotional pressure. When you face a dangerous or stressful situation, the adrenals secrete cortisol.
A bit of stress now and then is okay but consistent stress means elevated cortisol levels and this has been linked to weight gain. In particular:
- Your body tends to build up visceral fat when under stress
- Your appetite is likely to be stimulated and you are also more likely to overeat
- You are less likely to exercise
- You are more likely to be make poor food choices
- You are more likely to look for comfort in food and drinks
- You are more likely to have poor sleep quality, have more wake time and tend to eat more.
Potentially a vicious cycle can also occur where weight gain results in negative body image and low self-esteem. This can consequently worsen the weight problem.
Not only stress can contribute to weight gain, long-term or chronic stress can also have serious impacts on all systems of the body including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems.[4, 5]
I have written in detail about stress, weight gain and how to address chronic stress to support weight loss in this post. If you are interested, please check it out.
Everybody’s journey is different. Please be patient, you will get there if you stay persistent.
I have written a four-part series on weight loss which covers diet, exercise, and creating a positive mindset, if you haven’t already, please check it out. It is weight-loss focused but also about adopting a long-term healthy lifestyle.
If you find this post helpful, please consider sharing this post with your family, friends, and followers, that would be much appreciated.
Please also check out my library of articles on the carnivore diet here which is updated regularly.
Disclaimer: The information in this post is for reference purposes only and not intended to constitute or replace professional medical advice. Please consult a qualified medical professional before making any changes to your diet or lifestyle.
Photo credit: Diana Polekhina on Unsplash