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What Should You Do if the Keto Diet Isn't Working For You?

What Should You Do if the Keto Diet Isn't Working For You?

by Victoria Ashford -

Perhaps you are curious about the keto diet after hearing stories from family and friends about how people have released excess weight and improved mental clarity by increasing healthy fats and limiting carbs.

Considering the intense buzz surrounding the low-carb, high-fat lifestyle, it's understandable why the keto diet continues to gain popularity, with more people choosing to eliminate carbohydrates and sugars every day.

But what if you give up the donuts and fries and your clothes are just as tight as they were when you began the plan? We've put together a list of common reasons you may not be seeing results on keto and what you can do to course-correct and achieve your goals.

Some people overeat when starting keto, resulting in surpluses that impede weight loss or contribute to an unintentional weight gain. You should be aware of these common pitfalls if you're new to the diet.

But before we get into the tips and best practices to ease your body’s transition to run on fat and ketones for fuel, let’s take a look at what ketosis is and how the metabolic state affects the body and brain.

What is ketosis?

Followers of a standard American diet (SAD) typically eat loads of carbs and processed foods regularly, with hardly any consideration for ketosis or knowing anything about ketones. By eliminating carbs and sugars, people trigger a metabolic state that allows their body to switch from functioning on glucose to running on fat for fuel.

Your body generates an acid called ketones or ketone bodies, primarily beta-Hydroxybutyrate (BHB) when it breaks down fat, which the body uses to produce energy by your body and brain. When you are in ketosis, your metabolism shifts, and you rely on fat for energy, which allows your body to burn fat more efficiently.

The brain uses glucose as fuel and needs some to function, but unlike fatty acids, ketones can cross the blood-brain barrier and provide energy for your brain in the absence of sugar.

Each person's threshold for ketosis and carbohydrate consumption varies. Nevertheless, you'll likely need to eat fewer than 50 grams of carbs a day, sometimes even fewer than 20 grams, to achieve ketosis.

Furthermore, it's a good idea to eliminate most wheat, corn, simple sugars, and other fast-acting carbs, helping to deplete glucose stores and promote ketosis.

1. Your carbohydrate intake is way too high

You may need some time to let go of your traditional baguettes and sourdough loaves. Some people are committed to keto but cannot see results because they continue to eat too many carbs to achieve nutritional ketosis.

Remember curbing carbs is critical to trigger ketosis and encourage a fat-burning effect in the body. Limit carbohydrates to between 5–10% of your calorie intake as a rule of thumb.

You can stretch your macros by choosing fibrous fruits and vegetables on the low-glycemic end of the spectrum. In addition, to aid in weight loss and increase satiety, incorporate more healthy fats within your deficit-based calorie target.

2. The food you eat is not nutritious

Following a keto diet by mostly eating processed foods may sound like a good idea. However, if you want to lose weight, this plan could backfire.

Plus, eating too many carbohydrates increases the body's metabolic rate. If the body is constantly exposed to high levels of blood sugar (the end product of sugar and starch) over time, weight gain, poor metabolic health, and heart problems are likely to occur.

Plus, in addition to unwanted weight gain or difficulty creating weight-loss success, you may want to consider the following:

  1. Crashing energy

  2. Increased sugar cravings

  3. Skin breakouts

  4. Bloating and constipation

  5. High cholesterol

  6. More cavities

  7. Brain fog

The body quickly assimilates nutrient-dense foods, and most varieties are easy for us to digest and use for energy. Furthermore, studies find that eating nutrient-dense foods contributes to weight loss healthily and efficiently—with data illustrating that high-quality food is the key to achieving optimal body fat content, rather than counting calories.

Nutritionally dense foods provide vitamin, mineral, and other essential nutrients without high amounts of saturated fat or added sugars––a dietary formula that enhances health and vitality.

3. You might be eating too many calories

Keto dieters should consume significant amounts of healthy fats. However, you must maintain a consistent calorie deficit for ongoing weight loss.

Review and adjust your calories and other set macronutrient targets, especially if you’ve changed your activity level, and redetermine the appropriate approach to achieve your goals.

4. You have an undiagnosed health condition

If you're following a healthy diet, drinking enough water, sleeping well, and exercising but still haven't shed any pounds, you might want to schedule an appointment with your doctor to rule out any undiagnosed conditions that could prevent weight loss.

Numerous conditions can lead to stubborn body fat and laborious weight loss efforts without much success. In addition, diseases such as hypothyroidism, Cushing's syndrome, depression, menopause, and others, may contribute to weight gain and other metabolic issues.

The following disorders are often linked to unintentional weight gain or difficulty losing weight:

  • Menopause
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Depression
  • Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
  • Narcolepsy
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cushing's Syndrome
  • Diabetes treatment
  • Aging
  • Steroid treatment
  • Stress and low mood
  • Fluid retention
  • Tiredness and fatigue

5. You set unrealistic weight-loss goals

It is important to be patient with yourself along your weight loss journey. Many people put on weight over a period of decades, so it is important not to put too much pressure on an overnight result, because while keto can help you lose weight quickly, this is a lifestyle change and you do need to enjoy the journey. Weight loss usually isn't a straight line, it includes a few fluctuations.

It’s important to remember that good, sustainable weight loss is typically 1-2 pounds per week. Set reasonable goals and weigh yourself no more than once a week, as it can be easy to get caught up about the number on the scale.

It’s also helpful to take weekly measurements or even photos to measure your progress along your journey. You may be surprised to find out you’re losing inches even if the scale is not moving just yet. Taking weekly photos can often be better than the scale, because the scale doesn't take many factors into consideration such as increased muscle tone, improved bone density, which can cause very healthy weight increases.

6. You often snack on high-calorie foods

Delicious fatty foods are tempting, but it's critical to remember that weight loss requires eating fewer calories than you need to function. So, track your energy intake and macronutrients until you find a healthy rhythm, and you will see continuous results once your appetite resets in ketosis.

Plus, frequent snacking may trigger binge eaters. So instead, aim to eat a few solid meals filled with premium fats and high-grade proteins while avoiding foods that spike glucose so that nutritional ketosis can help you lose weight.

7. You're sleep-deprived and stressed

Sleep provides the body with time for repair and recovery. Quality sleep can also promote weight loss, compared with sleep-deprived people, whose total weight loss from fat notably decreased––even when calories did not change––in studied groups of diet followers.

Also, by committing to quality sleep every night, we will be able to lose weight in the following ways:

  • A lack of sleep can also increase appetite by altering hormones. In addition, it increases our inclination to eat unhealthy food and influences the way our bodies release excess fat despite calorie counting.
  • Sleep deprivation can leave you tired and irritable and make it difficult to think clearly. Aside from that, it can make you fat by increasing the hunger hormone ghrelin levels while lowering levels of our fullness hormone, leptin––potentially leading to overeating and weight gain.
  • Insufficient sleep creates an increased risk of becoming overweight or obese in a vicious cycle. Weight gain and poor quality sleep have been linked repeatedly. However, many sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, are also worsened by obesity.
  • Moreover, research has shown that lack of sleep can increase your appetite for foods that are high in calories, carbohydrates, and fat. However, sleeping enough and getting quality sleep can lead to consuming fewer calories and less mindless eating.
  • Sleep deprivation can make you fatigued, which decreases your motivation to exercise. You are also more likely to get tired earlier during physical activity. Good news: getting better sleep will enhance your athletic performance and willingness to get moving!
  • It's hard to overemphasize the importance of quality sleep for weight loss. One study found that insufficient sleep increased obesity risks by 89% in children and 55% in adults. In other studies, fewer than seven to eight hours of sleep per night relates to a higher risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

8. You're not getting enough exercise

Following a ketogenic diet can lead to weight loss without exercise. However, incorporating exercise improves strength, muscle tone, and body composition while burning fat––the best way to trim carbs and lose weight at the same time.

It would be best if you aimed to train three to five times a week while on the keto diet, incorporating cardio and weight training into your well-rounded program. Also, opt for low-to-moderate-intensity workouts like pilates, taking a brisk long walk, jogging, cycling, circuit training, or swimming that keep your heart rate in the sweet spot of about 70% of your maximum heart rate to burn fat.

Moreover, several studies have found that being in ketosis may boost certain types of athletic performance. Exercise can also help you reach ketosis. You deplete your body's glycogen stores and transition the body to a ketotic state faster with high-intensity exercise.

9. You're overeating processed food

Although processed foods can be convenient and even taste good, they often contain a lot of preservatives and filler ingredients and lack the nutrient density of whole, slow-cooked foods.

In contrast, processed foods often lack fiber and nutrients that keep you full, which can lead to overeating later. So instead, try to eat more processed and fresh foods.

Low-nutrient processed foods increase the risk of health problems. These processed foods also slow weight loss in several ways. Moreover, low-nutrient diets may also prevent weight loss by making you feel peckish after eating.

10. Your goal with keto isn’t weight loss

Your choice and intention may not be to lose weight. For example, those with chronic diseases select the keto diet to mitigate symptoms. In contrast, others are athletes who follow the diet to build lean muscle and provide ample energy for high-intensity workouts.

It would be best to tailor your macros to meet your needs and support your goals. Keto diets that allow increased carbohydrate intake may benefit some athletes, while others prefer a high-protein approach to facilitate intense workouts and muscle repair. The choice is yours and mostly a matter of what works best for you.

11. You are losing inches instead of pounds.

Seeing the number on the scale decrease is a dopamine high that most correlates with weight-loss success. But sometimes you'll notice you're losing inches more than pounds––and that's OK.

You may lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously if you are shedding inches and maintaining weight while regularly strength training. Body recomposition involves gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time. Most scales do not distinguish between fat and muscle, so don't fret if the scale stays the same despite your efforts to shift the needle. You can also see if any local gyms or facilities offer body scans or invest in a smart scale that accounts for changes in body composition, such as increased muscle- which can result in very healthy weight gains.

12. Your diet contains inflammatory foods

A diet high in inflammatory foods can lead to slower weight loss or lesser outcomes than people who consume a well-balanced diet of whole foods filled with antioxidants and other essential nutrients.

Moreover, there is a link between weight gain and inflammation. More weight can mean more inflammation, therefore, committing to lose weight often reduces inflammation in the brain, body, and gut––potentially preventing unwanted weight gain.

Research shows that inflammation is a typical underlying factor in all significant degenerative conditions––like heart disease, cancer, hypertension, and diabetes––and can also lead to weight gain and trouble losing weight.

But the silver lining is you can control inflammation significantly with your daily food choices and lifestyle factors.

Symptoms such as pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function are signs of chronic inflammation in the brain and body. So, craft your meal plan to include loads of anti-inflammatory fare to keep illness at bay.

13. You may be eating more protein than your body needs

High-protein diets can promote weight loss, but this approach may only work well short term.

Excess protein consumed is usually stored as fat, while the body excretes excess amino acids from the system. Therefore, consuming too much protein may cause weight gain over time, mainly by consuming too many calories while increasing your protein macros.

Also, overeating protein can aggravate renal problems and lead to symptoms such as foul breath, indigestion, and dehydration over time. In addition, meat, dairy, and processed meals are high in protein, increasing the risk of chronic illnesses including heart disease and cancer.

Furthermore, when you overeat protein, you could experience these symptoms:

  • Putting on weight
  • Foul breath
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Kidney disease
  • An increased risk of cancer
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Excessive fatigue

14. You consume too much alcohol

One can enjoy an occasional hard beverage on keto as long as you stick to zero-carb alcohol like vodka and keep an eye on cocktail mixes and sweeteners to prevent unexpected carbs and sugar.

However, drinking too often can interfere with weight loss on keto. When you drink alcohol, your liver will begin processing it instead of producing ketones. Therefore, consuming alcohol can slow down the fat-burning process and stall weight loss. Still, moderate amounts of dry wine, pure spirits, or low-carb beer are ok to consume in moderation.

However, along with added calories, drinking also lowers inhibitions leaving people more likely to binge or splurge on foods that do not serve their health goals.

Stay within your fixed macro budget for the day to avoid huge calorie surpluses that can stall progress and derail weight loss.

15. You should drink more water

Adequate hydration takes care of so much more than quelling thirst. And replenishing hydration in ketosis requires extra diligence because running on fat and ketones encourages the body to release increased levels of fluids and electrolytes.

The scientific literature does indicate that drinking water can promote weight loss and other beneficial health outcomes. Our body is primarily composed of water, and staying hydrated makes us feel better and helps the body run more efficiently.

The body depends mainly on water for all its functions and processes, including digestion and elimination. Furthermore, water can also help you lose weight by reducing your appetite. Therefore, it is essential to drink water to stay hydrated while losing weight since it provides hydration without adding calories.

16. You are not in ketosis

People who do not lose weight on the keto diet are probably not in ketosis. Not cutting back on carbs enough is the most common reason for not getting into ketosis. Cap carbohydrate intake at between 5–10% of your daily calories as a baseline and work from there.

Dieters who do not enter ketosis risk consuming loads of fat––particularly saturated fat if you eat animal meat––without benefiting from ketosis's thermogenic, fat-burning powers. And increasing fat intake while keeping carb intake elevated and eating a surplus of calories leads to weight gain or difficulty losing weight.

However, staying in ketosis at all times isn't necessary to lose weight. Even if you are not aiming for ketosis, you can lose weight by eating low-carb––especially if most of your carbs come from low-glycemic fruits and veggies.

17. Put an end to weekend splurging

Getting into metabolic ketosis is priming your body to run on fats and ketones rather than glucose for energy. Breaks and cheat days on the weekends, with meals high in fast-acting carbs, will likely prevent you from entering ketosis and make fat-adaptation more difficult.

Repent and recommit to cutting carbs if you've been a bit excessive this weekend, and get back into ketosis by following these tips:

Step 1: Eat whole foods and cut down on carbs.

Step 2: Establish an exercise routine. Burning calories also aid in depleting glucose stores to re-establish ketosis.

Step 3: Adopt an intermittent fasting lifestyle. Periods without food allow the body to reset, repair, and rebuild vital cells and tissue.

Step 4: Eat plenty of healthy fats. Adding premium fats to your diet decreases the appetite and drastically lessens sugar or carb cravings to help you remain committed with ease.

Step 5: Be sure to drink plenty of water and include electrolytes.

Eliminate nuts and dairy (at least for the first week) to reduce the calorie-dense saturated fat consumed. Instead, focus on filling your plate with lean cuts of meat and low-glycemic vegetables to provide the gut-healthy fiber that also assists with feeling full, promoting weight loss.

18. Get moving and burn some extra calories

Low-impact to moderate impact exercise like jogging and pilates are perfect ways to burn calories and empty glycogen stores to support ketosis. Or, opt to try a cyclical approach to keto by adding increased carbs around workouts to power high-intensity activities like powerlifting.

Ketosis also provides added energy, a fantastic tool to get you moving more to tone your body further as you lose excess fat. Plus, achieving new personal records in the gym builds the confidence needed to carry you through the rough patches along your weight-loss journey.

19. You're eating too much fat

A keto meal plan should include fat as its primary macronutrient, but too much of a good thing can hinder those seeking to lose weight.

Saturated fats can increase your "bad" cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. So even though you can't eliminate saturated fat from your diet, don't let it make up most of your calories.

You can boost your energy or flavor your meals by eating more omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, monounsaturated fats found in extra virgin olive oil, and saturated fats found in grass-fed butter or MCT oil.

20. Remember to keep it simple

A keto diet can be as elaborate or simplistic as we choose to make it. Keeping it simple, sets us up for success and prevents sabotaging feelings of overwhelm.

Put together a weekly menu, prepare healthy snacks, and keep fresh fruit and vegetables on hand. Plus, you can always have quick grab-and-go options like charcuterie boards with cured meats, cheeses, and vegetables around to munch at will with minimal effort.

Be patient and trust the process

Developing dysfunctional relationships with food didn't happen overnight, and we need to adjust to a ketogenic diet after eating carb-rich foods for the majority of our lives.

So give yourself some grace, plan, and keep your pantry and fridge stocked with foods that set you up to thrive. Also, remember, you’re making a lasting lifestyle change for the long haul, so relax and trust the process rather than stress how quickly you lose weight.

There is no right or wrong timeline with keto, so there is no need to make unrealistic comparisons. Instead, establish a plan, limit stress, and improve sleep hygiene to create an environment that promotes effortless weight loss and enhanced vitality.

Final Words

Keto diets offer many health benefits, from weight loss to increased mental focus and energy. Nonetheless, to achieve your goals, you must strategically implement a low-carb, high-fat diet.

Approach the plan focusing on consuming the highest quality foods you can find. Make improved health the primary goal, and effortless weight loss, along with looking and feeling your best will soon follow.


  • Ness-Abramof, R. (2011). Insufficient sleep undermines dietary efforts to reduce adiposity. Yearbook of Endocrinology, 2011, 88–89.
  • Brown-Borg, H. M. (2017). Disentangling high fat, low carb, and Healthy Aging. Cell Metabolism, 26(3), 458–459.
  • Xanthohumol pyrazole derivative improves diet-induced obesity and induces energy expenditure in high-fat diet-fed mice. (n.d.).
  • Slomski, A. (2019). Low-carb diets help maintain weight loss. JAMA, 321(4), 335.

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