Tell me if this sounds familiar.
You heard about Paleo from someone who lost weight effortlessly on Paleo. They told you Paleo was amazing, the food tasted great, you could eat bacon (omg!), and that they ate as much food as they wanted and they just…. LOST WEIGHT! Poof!
So you decided to try it for yourself, and in the first week you lost 7 pounds… 7 freaking pounds. That’s more weight than you’d lost in the past 5 years combined. In one week – amazing.
You figured you were on an easy peasy downhill ride to your optimal size. So you kept doing what you did the first week, but after the 2nd or 3rd week, the weight stopped coming off. And now you’re stuck right where you were at week 3. Maybe you’ve even gained some weight.
Is this you? Standing on the scale or in front of the mirror saying to yourself, “Why am I not losing weight on Paleo?!” Well, it’s a lot of people, according to my email inbox. You are not alone – that is for sure. And you will get through this. If you need to lose fat, you’ll lose fat if you take the right steps.
I’ve talked to a lot of Paleo people, and I’ve learned a lot from them (and myself) over the years about failing to lose fat, even on Paleo. Let me share with you what we’ve collectively figured out, and you can start experimenting with yourself to get over this little bump in the road.
1. You may be eating too many calories.
I just had a conversation with my beautiful cousin, Meg about calories. She’s thin as a rail and has always had a sweet tooth. She decided a while back to cut out some of the candy and other junk food she was eating, and instead opt for a healthier snack of nuts and dried mango. Well, she ended up gaining 7 pounds on a small frame in a short period of time because she was overeating those “healthy” foods. The moral of the story is that it doesn’t matter how healthy your food is; if you eat too much of it, you’re going to gain weight.
I’ve had the same thing happen over and over in my own life. I’ll be at a good weight that I like, and then I get overly comfortable and start putting more food on my plate (all Paleo foods), eating more for snacks, using more oil/fat in my meals, and eating a few too many sweets and BAM. I’m fitting in my pants all wrong.
Then I usually end up going to myfitnesspal.com and log what I eat for a few days to see the damage. One time I found out I was eating 1, 000 calories just in cashews every day. Duh.
If you record what you’re eating and find you’re eating too much (according to myfitnesspal.com), just cut down your calorie intake. Don’t be crazy about it and start making spreadsheets and bar graphs of your food intake vs your exercise vs the gravitational pull on your belly… Just put a little less food on your plate. You need that stuff to make energy and happiness and basic bodily functions, and if you have too little of it, chances are your plan is going to backfire and you’ll binge at the end of every day you deprive yourself.
So. Be aware of how much you’re eating by looking foods up – like those sneaky little nuts by googling “calories x food”. Or by going to myfitnesspal.com or the USDA food list.
Yes, there are some people out there who can just “eat whatever they want” on Paleo and still magically lose weight. But those people and you may have different appetite signals in your bodies (my own appetite is very demanding, and sometimes I have to have little sit down talks with it). Or your metabolisms may be different, or you may just be more genetically prone to having fat on your body than that other person. Whatever the case may be, the amount of food you eat – and I don’t care what other people say about calories and Paleo – will have a large effect on how… large… you are. I see it all the time.
2. You may be exercising too much (or too little).
I know that, “You’re exercising too much to lose weight” may sound counterintuitive, but I actually see this phenomenon a lot, and it happens to me personally. If I exercise too much, I gain weight. It happened when I started doing CrossFit last year, and as soon as I stopped CrossFit, I lost the weight. If you’re exercising more than 3 days a week, I’d ratchet it down to 3 days a week – or even less if you have diagnosed adrenal issues – for a while and see how that goes.
Exercising 5-6 days a week is a lot, and many people’s bodies don’t like it. You may be causing inflammation in your body, and water retention in your muscles is one of the ways inflammation manifests. Water retention = extra weight and ill-fitting clothes. Exercising too much can also negatively affect your cortisol levels because it’s so stressful on your body, and unbalanced cortisol levels can inhibit weight loss.
Conversely, of course, if you’re not exercising at all, or doing just a little bit low impact exercise (walking – even really quickly ;), your body could just need a kick in the pants. Sometimes a bit of intense weight lifting, sprints, or some kind of high intensity interval training (CrossFit-type workouts) is just what your insulin levels and muscle fibers need to get things moving.
3. You may not be sleeping enough or well enough.
Make sure you’re getting 8 hours a night (seriously) in a dark room with no noise. If you need to, wear ear plugs and/or an eye mask. Or sleep in a room where there’s no snoring spouse. If you don’t get enough sleep, you tax your adrenals and your cortisol levels can get out of whack, which can in turn inhibit weight loss, like I mentioned in the last point.
I sleep with ear plugs in every night. I don’t know what I’m going to do if I have a kid and I need to hear him/her crying at night… I can’t sleep without them at this point. I’m an anxious, sometimes hyper-vigilant type of person, and if I hear the house creak at night I immediately think it’s a rapist coming into my room. I’m only sort of kidding. So earplugs changed my sleep forever by making all those noises go away. I can sleep through most things now, and I can’t recommend it highly enough for people like me.
This is a really interesting article that sort of sums up the sleep/weight loss connection. Basically, there are several connections, including cortisol, ghrelin (the hormone that tells you when you’re actually hungry – ever noticed you’re hungrier when you’re tired?), and leptin (the hormone that tells you you’ve had enough to eat – same concept as with ghrelin).
The one they don’t mention in the article is growth hormone. When you’re asleep your body produces growth hormone, which allows you to build muscle lose fat. If you don’t sleep, or if you don’t sleep well, then your body doesn’t produce as much growth hormone.
So use the ear plugs and eye mask, invest in a comfortable bed that you actually sleep in, and do whatever it takes to get those 8 hours every night – or as often as you can. If you can’t get them at night, try to take naps whenever you can.
If you have trouble falling asleep at night, try experimenting with your caffeine intake – when you drink it, how much of it you have, etc. – to see if that helps at all.