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3 Reasons People Don’t Lose Weight When They Diet (No. 3 Is the Worst)

Q: Hey Harper, I’ve got a big question for you today. About two months ago, a friend suggested that I try the Paleo diet. She had lost over 35 pounds since she “went Paleo” and was eager for me to try it. I jumped on board, and in the first 2 weeks I lost 7 pounds! Needless to say, I was ecstatic.

However, since then, I have not been able to lose any more weight, and actually have put 5 pounds BACK ON!

I thought Paleo was supposed to be the easy solution for weight loss? Any tips for me?

Thanks,
Karen

A: Hey Karen! Thanks so much for your question.

Believe it or not, you are not the first person to have a weight loss plateau while on a Paleo diet. And for others that are reading, this applies to all diet types.

And yes, while I think Paleo is far and away the most effective way to lose weight and improve your health, sometimes you need a little extra to achieve your weight loss goals.

So there are many reasons why a weight loss plateau while dieting can happen, and in this post, I’m going to give you 3 of MY top reasons.

Sound good?

Alright, let’s jump in.


REASON #1 WHY YOU’RE NOT LOSING WEIGHT WHEN YOU DIET: CALORIES.

Oh no! Did I lose you as soon as you read that?

“But Harper, if I’m eating Paleo, I thought calories don’t matter? Cavemen didn’t focus on calories, right?”

Here’s the truth. Calories are important. Period.

Yes, their source is extremely important (in fact, the phrase “a calorie is a calorie is a calorie” is very misleading, as far as I am concerned), but ultimately, if you are eating too many, you WON’T lose weight.

Here’s where calories can get in the way.

When you start to lose weight, your body gets to a lighter ‘set point’, and you need to eat even LESS calories in order to lose weight.

Oftentimes, people plateau because they lose 30 pounds, and continue to eat the same amount of food they were eating while they were still carrying those extra 30 pounds around.

And no, we’re not accusing you of being some sort of glutton…

The truth is, it can be REALLY hard to track how many calories you’re actually eating. In fact, I’d estimate that over 90% of people have NO idea how many calories are in the foods that they eat.

A Simple Solution to This…

Join a service like MyFitnessPal.com, and track your calories – just for a week or two. Or if you would rather have everything planned out for you, sign up for our free 14-Day Meal Plan.

If you’re eating too much for your current weight, lower your caloric intake, and you should start losing the weight again.

Simple. Easy. Done.


REASON #2 WHY YOU’RE NOT LOSING WEIGHT WHEN YOU DIET: CAFFEINE.

Oh man. This is a controversial one, and one that many of you may not be able to accept.

As much as coffee has recently been into the limelight as a ‘health drink’ (with the advent of butter coffee, etc.) unfortunately, it CAN hold you back from losing weight.

Here’s the thing.

Caffeine is a stimulant. As much as it is amazing at helping us get up and go in the morning (or in the afternoon, if that’s your thing), it also affects our cortisol levels and our adrenals.

And messing with our cortisol can dramatically affect (and inhibit) our weight loss.

If you’re a big coffee/tea drinker, you might want to try cutting it out of your diet for a few weeks and see if it improves your situation.

You might actually find that *gasp* you have more than enough energy simply from eating Paleo!

Without Caffeine, you may also find that you sleep better, which brings us to reason #3….


REASON #3 WHY YOU’RE NOT LOSING WEIGHT WHEN YOU DIET: SLEEP.

I know that in our fast paced, high-stress lives, sleep can come at a premium.

And even more, I know that some people can feel ASHAMED for actually sleeping a full 8 hours – because they think they aren’t working hard enough.

Well I’m here to tell you that’s all a load of phooey.

No matter what your coworkers, friends, or family tells you, you should MAKE SURE to get 8 hours of sleep every night. In a dark room. With no noise.

If you are only getting 5,6,7 hours of sleep each night – this can catch up to you in a big, bad way.

And it will FOR SURE stop your weight loss in its tracks.

If you don’t get enough sleep, you will put a ton of strain on your adrenals, your cortisol levels will get completely screwed up, and, your weight loss will stop.

So please follow the aforementioned advice, and SLEEP!

Want to eat the food you love, get healthy and start enjoying food again?

Sign up for our free 14-Day Meal Plan, try our simple recipes and discover why eating tasty, healthy food doesn’t need to be boring!

==> Sign up for our FREE 14-Day Meal Plan


13 Comments

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  1. This looks great, and I’ve already registered for the online event. I’m looking forward to learning about Paleo, and about the good changes awaiting me. My cardiologist recommended Paleo as a way to get healthier–thankfully, he doesn’t believe in surgery (such as gastric bypass, or the other forms of stomach reshaping), and since I don’t, either, he told me about this way of eating.

  2. I am already registered for this event and am very much looking forward to it. I have to admit I viewed the Paleo diet as a fad up until about 6 months ago. I started reading more about it and experimenting with different recipes (more so gluten-free). I was really getting bored with how I had been cooking and while I thought it was healthy I now realize how much better I feel just by changing a few habits. I found your website about 3 months ago and it is now my go to site for recipes, information and inspiration. It is also where I found the info for this online conference. Thank you for providing such an incredibly useful site!

  3. I have been faithfully on the paleo diet for almost 4 weeks and haven’t lost a pound or an inch any where. I do have a problem sleeping the night through and realize this can be the reason for not loosing. However you say “get more sleep”, and I say “how” . Do you have any suggestions? Is this unusual for me not to loose anything at all ?

  4. Thanks! I hit a plateau after 30 lbs lost in 4 mos. At the same weight since then and a bit afraid I will pack on a bit of winter weight. I suspected calories and the sleep issue (I was originally very diligent about my biorhythms and then started slacking) Im going to try those two tips before I give up the coffee, lol.

  5. Great article, often things preventing weight loss are a lot of the mini stressors that we suffer in day to day life. I think sleep is a huge factor!

  6. As a dietitian, is makes me really happy that all of these reasons are clearly evidence based and you have done a lot of research. I am all for the paleo diet is if is undertaken in a healthy and responsible way! I think it’s the people who do paleo and end up eating “paleo treats” all day and then think that’s healthy that I really struggle to bring back. Thanks for providing such clear and accurate information!

  7. You should read the article in the Washington Post about why diets don’t work. Dieting consistently makes you gain weight. It’s far more important to retrain your body to tell you when you’re full, rather than overriding the hormone signal. And that takes a lot of work… Not three easy steps. Not four weeks. It took me over a year.

    Paleo is helpful because eating real food helps your natural signals work. This article is not helpful because calorie restriction focused dieting is the problem, not the solution. Yes, you do need to eat fewer calories, but thinking if it from the perspective keeps you ‘dieting’ forever.

  8. I am still fairly new to Paleo, but it is the diet my Dr. has me on, which is helping my digestion very well. The recipes you display look very yummy and I am always looking to find recipes that are user friendly, not elaborate, just for plain folk, as I don’t have time or money to shop for new stuff, Just healthy. Your site showed recipes I want to try. 🙂

  9. Ermm excuse me-what about sleep and having kids????? If you work full time and haven’t hadqfullnightsbsleep in the last 7years what are you supposed to do?

    • I would reevaluate the needs of your family for bedtime. There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get 8 hours of sleep unless there are extenuating circumstances such as medical issues, preventing this. I’m a mother to 2 year old triplets and have a junior in high school. My husband and I both work, the eldest is in 2 clubs and participates in a sport. We have a schedule that we follow to ensure that no minutes are waisted during the time we are home. We eat as a family, the eldest has study time allotted for each of his 4 classes, we have family time, and we all get to bed at a decent hour. Create a schedule, stay consistent with it,and soon it will become routine.

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