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Reasons you’re not losing weight on a keto diet

Top 8 reasons and things you can try

The low-carb ketogenic, or keto, diet can be an effective tool if you're trying to shed pounds, but some things may sabotage your weight loss efforts. Here are 8 reasons you're not losing weight on keto.

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts, and fact-checked by experts.
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Top 8 reasons you’re not losing weight on a keto diet
Last updated on September 27, 2023, and last reviewed by an expert on February 17, 2023.

The ketogenic, or keto, diet is a low-carb way of eating adopted by many looking to lose weight and improve health.

Top 8 reasons you’re not losing weight on a keto diet

Following a keto diet, carbs are typically reduced to 20 to 50 grams daily.

This has been shown to lead to weight loss and may improve heart health and blood sugar control.

However, it must be implemented correctly to reap the benefits of the keto diet.

Here are eight things that may sabotage your weight loss efforts on a keto diet.

1. You’re eating too many carbs

One of the main reasons people don’t lose weight on the ketogenic diet is that they’re consuming too many carbs.

To reach the state of ketosis — a metabolic state in which your body burns fat for energy instead of glucose — carbohydrate intake must be drastically reduced.

Only around 5% of your total calories should come from carbs.

This starkly contrasts the standard dietary recommendation that 45–65% of calories come from carbs.

It’s normal to have difficulty cutting out carbs when adjusting to the ketogenic diet.

However, carbs must be decreased to the recommended range to reach and maintain ketosis.

To help reach your intake goals, consider tracking your macronutrients through an app like MyFitnessPal.

This can help you learn how many servings of carbs you can have daily depending on your calorie needs.

Summary: To lose weight on a ketogenic diet, carbs must be decreased to reach the state of ketosis and induce fat burning.

2. You aren’t eating nutritious foods

No matter what dietary plan follow, consuming nutritious, whole foods is key to healthy weight loss.

Relying on processed foods can put a dent in your weight loss even if they’re keto-friendly.

Adding in foods like snack bars, keto desserts and other packaged foods between meals can derail your weight loss efforts with the extra calories they provide.

Eating too many convenience-type foods like hot dogs and fast food when on the run can also slow weight loss.

These foods are nutrient-poor, meaning they’re high in calories but low in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Sticking to unprocessed, whole foods to optimize your nutrient intake while losing weight on the keto diet.

Top 15 reasons you’re not losing weight on a low-carb diet
Suggested read: Top 15 reasons you’re not losing weight on a low-carb diet

For example, full-fat dairy products, eggs, fish, pastured meats, poultry and healthy fats like avocado and olive oil are all great choices.

Add non-starchy vegetables like greens, broccoli, peppers and mushrooms to dishes to add nutrients and fiber.

Summary: To optimize weight loss when following a ketogenic diet, avoid consuming too many processed foods and instead focus on meals and snacks that contain fresh, whole ingredients.

3. You may be consuming too many calories

When trying to lose weight, creating a calorie deficit is critical.

This can be achieved by either reducing the number of calories you consume or by expending more calories through increased physical activity.

You’re unlikely to drop pounds if you switch to a keto diet and don’t watch your calorie intake.

Because many keto-friendly foods, including avocados, olive oil, full-fat dairy and nuts, are high in calories, it’s important not to overdo it.

Most people feel more satisfied after eating ketogenic meals and snacks due to fat and protein filling effects.

However, it’s entirely possible to consume too many calories on a ketogenic diet by eating portions too large or snacking on high-calorie foods throughout the day.

Paying attention to portion size, increasing physical activity and snacking in moderation between meals can help create the calorie deficit needed to lose weight.

Suggested read: The 17 best ways to maintain weight loss

Summary: When following any diet, creating a calorie deficit is important to promote weight loss. Curbing portion sizes, limiting snacks between meals and being more active can help you drop excess pounds.

4. You have an undiagnosed medical issue

The ketogenic diet is an effective weight loss tool.

However, if you’re having difficulty losing weight even though you’re doing everything right, it’s a good idea to rule out any medical issues preventing weight loss success.

Hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), Cushing’s syndrome, depression and hyperinsulinemia (high insulin levels) are medical issues that can cause weight gain and make it difficult to lose weight.

Your doctor can rule out these conditions through a series of tests.

If you have one of the conditions listed above, don’t despair.

You can achieve and maintain healthy weight loss through proper management, including medication if necessary and lifestyle and dietary modifications.

Summary: Certain medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism and depression, can make it hard to lose weight. Consult your doctor to rule out an underlying medical issue if you have difficulty dropping the pounds.

5. You have unrealistic weight loss expectations

It’s normal to want fast results when following a new diet plan, but it’s important to remember that weight loss can vary from person to person.

Although the ketogenic diet can promote weight loss if properly followed, the rate you lose may not be rapid — and that’s okay.

Small, consistent change is the key to losing and maintaining weight healthily.

While it may be tempting to aim for lofty weight loss goals, most experts recommend that losing 1–3 pounds or about 0.5–1 kg per week (depending on weight) is best.

Suggested read: 16 healthy weight loss tips for teens

Not to mention, if you adopt a new workout routine that involves weight lifting, you may gain muscle while losing fat.

Though this can lead to slower weight loss, putting on muscle mass and decreasing fat mass benefits health in many ways. It can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve bone health.

Instead of relying solely on the scale, take weekly measurements of your arms, thighs and midsection to track your progress.

Summary: A healthy weight loss of 1–3 pounds or about 0.5–1 kg per week can help you stay on track and maintain weight loss over time.

6. You’re constantly snacking on high-calorie foods

Snacking on healthy food can be an effective way to prevent hunger between meals and overeating.

Yet, consuming too many high-calorie ketogenic snacks like nuts, nut butter, fat bombs, cheese and jerky may cause your weight loss to plateau.

Though these snacks are healthy in moderation, it’s best to choose lower-calorie options if you have more than one snack session daily.

Foods like non-starchy vegetables or proteins can keep you feeling full without the calories.

Flavorful snacks like celery sticks and cherry tomatoes dipped in guacamole or a hard-boiled egg with some cut-up veggies are smart choices for those following ketogenic diets.

Adding extra non-starchy vegetables to your diet adds a dose of fiber that can help keep your digestive system regular, which can be especially helpful for those first transitioning to a keto diet.

Summary: Choose keto-friendly, lower-calorie foods for satisfying snacks that won’t cause you to pack on pounds.

7. You’re stressed out and not getting adequate sleep

Research shows that stress, especially chronic stress, and lack of sleep can negatively impact weight loss.

When stressed, your body produces excess amounts of a hormone called cortisol.

Elevated levels of cortisol, commonly known as the stress hormone, can encourage your body to store fat, especially in the belly area.

Additionally, chronically stressed people are often sleep deprived, which has also been linked to weight gain.

Studies suggest that a lack of sleep negatively impacts hunger-regulating hormones, such as leptin and ghrelin, causing increased appetite.

You can lower stress and improve sleep by trying techniques like meditation or yoga and spending less time on electronic devices.

Suggested read: Body recomposition: Lose fat and gain muscle at the same time

Summary: Stress and lack of sleep can negatively impact weight loss. Do your best to reduce stress and get enough sleep.

8. You aren’t getting enough physical activity

Incorporating more physical activity into your lifestyle is vital to lose weight on a ketogenic diet.

Aside from stimulating fat loss, adopting an exercise routine benefits health in countless ways.

For example, exercise lowers your risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety and obesity.

Not only does engage in physical activity burn calories, but it also helps build muscle, which can boost your metabolism by increasing the energy burned at rest.

Though starting an exercise routine can be difficult — particularly for those new to working out — there are ways to make it easier.

Creating a workout schedule and sticking to it is the best way to bolster a healthy exercise habit.

Set a goal of three to four days a week and choose the most convenient time for your schedule.

Keep yourself motivated by storing a gym bag in your car for after work or by laying out exercise clothes before bed to keep you on task for early morning workouts.

Summary: Exercise benefits health in many ways and stimulates weight loss. Make exercise a habit by setting aside time for a few workouts a week.


Along with other healthy lifestyle changes, the ketogenic diet can be an effective weight loss tool.

However, there are various reasons why some people may fail to see the results they desire.

Eating too many calories, lack of activity, chronic stress, underlying medical issues and not following the recommended macronutrient ranges can all negatively impact weight loss.

To maximize weight loss on a ketogenic diet, get adequate sleep, reduce stress, be more active and consume whole, nutritious, low-carb foods whenever possible.

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