Most people who switch to a low-carb diet, a paleo diet, or a low-carb paleo diet find great success in losing weight. I, myself, have lost 120 pounds using these strategies (low-carb for the first 100 pounds and paleo for the last 20 pounds). But if your weight-loss seems stalled or too slow, there are some extra tricks that will help you lose weight faster and/or get beyond those natural set points that our bodies all seem to have.
1. Don’t Eat for 3-4 Hours Before Bed: When you eat shortly before bed, you increase your metabolism and stimulate growth hormones, which makes it very difficult to lose weight.
2. Get Lots (and Lots and Lots!) Of Sleep: Getting plenty of sleep will help regulate your cortisol levels and give your body plenty of time to rest and repair. If you are prioritizing sleep but still not sleeping well, see my post Trouble Sleeping? for tips.
3. Manage Stress: Do whatever you can to keep your stress level in check. This is about the stress hormone cortisol, which profoundly affects the ease at which our bodies access stored energy, how we metabolize fat versus sugar, our insulin sensitivity and our leptin (hunger hormone) sensitivity. For more tips on stress management, see my post Managing Stress.
4. Get Lots of Low-Strain Exercise: Things like walking, yoga, and swimming are fabulous for regulating your hormones and reducing stress (exercise is not about burning calories, it’s about regulating hormones). They also build muscle tone without stressing your body. Some light resistance training (yoga, pilates, lifting weights without going nuts) can be very helpful aswell. One of the key points here is that “over-training”, by which I mean doing something that is too stressful for your body, ends up increasing cortisol and derailing your weight loss efforts.
5. Get Outside: Our bodies need sunlight. Sun exposure helps regulate our circadian rhythms and our adrenal glands (via the hypothalamus and pituitary gland), which affects cortisol regulation, as well as a whole host of other hormones. If getting outside just isn’t possible for you, make sure you are taking a Vitamin D3 supplement (I recommend somewhere in the 2000-10,000 I.U. daily range).
6. Eat 2-3 Meals per Day (and maybe one snack): Eating less frequently is better for your insulin and leptin sensitivity (and actually all of your hormones). If you are also keeping your sugar intake fairly low, then this is really great for regulating your hunger too. Some people like to create a calorie deficit by occasionally skipping meals. This only works if your stress levels (specifically your cortisol levels) are well-managed (you should be getting plenty of sleep and lots of low-strain exercise).
7. Reduce Carbohydrates: Keeping the carbohydrate intake on the low side (check out my post How Many Carbohydrates Should You Eat?) can be very helpful in curbing your appetite and regulating insulin. The end result is that you eat less, which creates a calorie deficit so your body uses stored energy instead. Typically, if your carbohydrate level is on the low side, you don’t need to worry so much about portion control (your body does this naturally). But do still be aware of how much of certain calorie dense foods (like nuts and seeds) you are eating.
8. Increase Carbohydrates: Wait, didn’t I just say reduce carbohydrates? Well, that doesn’t always work and sometimes it backfires completely. If you are already eating fairly low carbohydrate (say less than 50-75g per day), you might actually be going too low carb for your body. Insulin is actually required for the conversion of the thyroid prohormone T4 to the active hormone T3. Since thyroid hormone controls metabolism, increasing your carbohydrate intake a little to support thyroid function can actually help boost weight loss. Other things that are good for supporting your thyroid are managing stress, getting enough sleep, and eating lots of seafood (for the iodine and the selenium).
9. Promote Healthy Digestion: If you feel that you are stuck at a “set-point”, first evaluate your health. Do you really need to lose more weight? Maybe it’s time to turn your focus to fitness goals and creating lifelong habits for maintaining a healthy weight. If you do still feel like you need to lose more weight, you might be dealing with micronutrient deficiencies or something like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. See my post on Repairing the Gut for ways to address this. You might also consider focusing on more highly nutrient-dense foods, like organ meat, seafood and eating more vegetables. Adding digestive support supplements (see the end of this post) can also be very helpful. Once your gut health is improved, the weight should start coming off again.
10. Patience: As I mentioned above, it’s possible that you are already at a great weight for your body, even if it isn’t what you were hoping to achieve. How do you feel? Are you energetic? fit? happy? If you do still have weight to lose and you are doing everything else right, it might just be that your body needs some time to adjust hormone levels (but also check out my post on Female Hormones, Weight and Autoimmunity), adjust the number of receptors on cell surfaces, and repair itself. When your body is ready (and this might take one to three months), you will start losing weight again.