So after hearing everyone from Hollywood celebs to the trainer at your gym to your sister rave about the weight they lost by going on the keto diet, you’ve finally decided to give the keto lifestyle a try.
You’re not alone. Short for the ketogenic diet, this super popular eating plan has a simple premise: by consuming mostly fat plus a moderate amount of protein and a very low level of carbohydrates, your body will go into ketosis and burn fat for energy instead of carbs.
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Part of the lure is that the keto diet has been shown to work, especially if you want to lose weight fast. But what if this isn’t happening for you?
Maybe you’re not dropping pounds on the keto diet at all, or you’ve hit a plateau—or you’re (gasp) gaining weight, even though you’re sure you’re following the guidelines and measuring out your food intake. It’s frustrating, we get it. But before you throw in the towel and go back to bread and bananas, find out the reasons your scale hasn’t budged, plus what you need to do to be a keto success story.
You’re not actually in ketosis
It sounds preposterous because you’ve slashed all. the. carbs. and worked hard to keep your sweet tooth in check. But if you’re not seeing results, “you need to make sure you’re truly in ketosis,” says exercise physiologist and nutritionist Chris Mohr, PhD, RD, of Mohr Results. So test your urine, breath, or blood—you can buy kits to use at home for each of these. And remember to aim for getting 75% to 90% of your daily calories from fat.
You’re eating too much protein
The keto diet often gets mislabeled a high-protein diet. It’s not; it’s a high-fat diet that calls for a moderate amount of protein. Eat too much protein, though, and it could prevent you from reaching (or kick you out of) ketosis. Most people on keto should aim to get 6% to 25% of their daily calories from protein sources.
You’re overlooking hidden carbs
Dairy, nuts, and veggies are all keto-friendly foods, but they also all contain carbohydrates. If you don’t pay close attention to how many carbs are in the foods you’re eating in those categories—even if you’re only overindulging a smidge here and there—your daily carb count is likely higher than you think.
Keto followers should limit their carb intake to 2% to 5% of their daily calories, which means you have to keep track of every bite. “Following a keto diet is challenging, so plan ahead,” suggests Mohr. “Count out how many nuts you can have for a snack in advance. And focus on getting your carbs from veggies, which for the most part are lower in carbs cup-for-cup than dairy, fruit, grains, and legumes.”
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Your daily calorie intake is too high
As with every diet, calories still count when you’re on keto. “It doesn’t matter which nutrient group your calories are coming from or not coming from; if you eat more calories than what your body needs over an extended period of time, you will gain weight,” says nutritionist Jamie Vespa, RD, of Dishing Out Health.
The main nutrient you’re eating—fat—is typically quite satisfying. Yet “every gram of fat has more than double the calories than carbohydrate or protein,” explains Mohr, “so depending on your food choices, it’s possible that how you boost your fat intake, say by spreading on some extra butter, or drizzling on more oil, merely adds calories, but doesn’t increase satiety.”
Don’t forget, when you follow a diet that restricts an entire food group or a major nutrient, it becomes that much more important that you make your calories count and choose nutritious foods. “I’ve seen everything from sugar-free Jell-O to Slim Jim’s included in keto-friendly snack roundups, which we know won’t do us any favors nutritionally,” advises Vespa. “‘Keto-friendly’ has become a buzzword, so it’s important to consider the nutrient makeup of that food beyond just grams of fat and carbs.”
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