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Updated 04 May 2016

8 non-food reasons why your Banting weight loss has stalled

You're religiously sticking to your low-carb programme, but the scales aren’t moving. An extract from The Banting Solution looks at reasons why this could happen.

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A weight-loss stall is when you do not lose any body fat for more than two consecutive weeks. Sometimes the cause isn't what you’re eating, but other factors. Here’s how to handle them:

1. Too much stress

While we typically think of stress as a psychological challenge, there are a number of physiological challenges that cause stress, such as insomnia, inflammation, autoimmune disease, too much exercise and dieting. The hormones released when we’re stressed include adrenalin (which gives us instant energy), corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH) and cortisol. While high levels of adrenalin and CRH decrease appetite at first, the effect is not usually long-lasting. Cortisol’s job is to help replenish the body after the stress has passed, and it hangs around for quite a while. It can remain elevated, increasing your appetite and ultimately driving you to eat more.

Solution: Low-strain, moderate exercise is the best stress buster. Find activities that make you feel relaxed and calm and be sure to get enough sleep. Change what is in your power to change and do not let what you cannot change control destroy your inner peace.

2. Not enough sleep

There is mounting evidence that people who get too little sleep have a higher risk of weight gain and obesity than people who get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. We are talking about people who are regularly getting too little sleep or poor-quality sleep. Insufficient sleep increases appetite because of the effects it has on hunger hormones and metabolism.

Studies have shown significant shifts in insulin, cortisol and leptin. Through the effects of these hormones, not getting enough sleep alters food preferences (towards more energy-dense foods), increases hunger, decreases fat metabolism and increases the stress response that affects basal metabolic rate.

Solution: Make a point of going to bed at the same time each night and waking at the same time each morning. Being consistent reinforces the body’s sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night.

3. Interference of a medical condition or chronic medication

There may be other medical issues that are impacting your weight loss. Hormones such as leptin and cortisol, thyroid problems etc. can contribute to weight-loss stalls and even weight gain. You obviously need to address any underlying medical conditions first and get them under control. Even some medications can stall weight loss or increase weight.

Solution: Visit your doctor to get your hormone levels tested and to check for any other underlying medical problems. But whatever you do, don’t stop taking your medication without your doctor’s consent.

4. Inconsistency

Have you started Banting, followed it strictly for a few weeks and then had to attend a function and fallen off the wagon? Are you a weekly low-carber and weekend loafer?

Solution: Don’t be one of those Banters who does well in general, but whenever there’s a party decides to "start again" on Monday. We know that it can sometimes be difficult to keep at it when not everyone is Banting, but remember that you made the decision to make a lifestyle change and now you must follow through with it. Banting is not a diet and was never intended to be one. It is a lifestyle change. Even if you cannot follow it 100 per cent when events pop up, you can still make healthy choices.

5. Unrealistic weight-loss goals

Some people want to look like they did in high school and have unrealistic weight-loss goals. You need to ask yourself: How old am I now? For how long have I been overweight? For how long have I been trying to lose all this weight?

Solution: The older we get, the harder it is to lose weight. This is due in part to years of unhealthy eating habits and unhealthy foods. You need to understand that if you are older and more mature, it will take you a bit longer to lose weight, especially when hormones and metabolic disease are added to the mix. You have to be stricter with what you eat and take better care, and set yourself a realistic goal.

6. Too many diets in the past

Have you been a yo-yo dieter over the past 10, 20, 40 years? Have you tried out many different diets, for long or short periods at a time, losing weight and then gaining it all back again? In all likelihood your metabolism is pretty messed up as a result. To expect that the LCHF/Banting lifestyle will fix everything overnight is wishful thinking. Weight loss does not happen overnight.

Solution: You need to realise that this is a lifestyle change and not one of those quick-fix diets you’ve tried before. You have to have patience and discipline. Focus more on how you feel and that you are getting healthier.

7. LCHF/Banting tunnel vision

This could easily become your worst enemy. If you have LCHF/Banting tunnel vision, it means you are too prescriptive or inflexible.

You may have read that having a big breakfast is the golden ticket to losing weight or that taking gelatine capsules every day with your meals will help you lose weight on Banting, or that counting units is the only effective way to count macronutrients. You might have also heard that you must get a certain percentage of your calories from fat, protein and carbs, and think this will work for you.

But Banting/LCHF is not a one-size-fits-all lifestyle. We are all unique; we have different goals, different weights, different metabolisms and different shapes. Our health conditions differ and our lifestyles and daily routines are different. You need to find the balance of how this lifestyle can work for you. Not the next person, only you!

Solution: No meal is more important than the next, there is no magic weight-loss pill and foods cannot be measured as units. Make sure the foods you eat are real and nutrient dense. Fine-tune, tweak and play around with ideas all the time until you find what works for you. LCHF is the foundation of a healthier lifestyle. Finally, do not allow any Banting myth-followers to tell you what to do. Follow your instincts.

Extracted and adapted from The Banting Solution by Bernadine Douglas and Bridgette Allan (Penguin Books).  

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