As featured in the Paleo Movement Online Magazine...Weight loss is a common goal for many people that transition to a Paleo lifestyle. Although the Paleo community is bursting with testimonials of those who have successfully shed pounds in exchange for a new physique, there are perhaps just as many for whom the scale refuses to budge. If you are following a Paleo diet but have yet to reach your goal weight, consider the following reasons why you are not losing weight on the Paleo Diet or experiencing a weight loss plateau:
1.) You are eating too many Paleo treats and not enough nutrient-dense, whole food. A Paleo template should be based on a foundation of real food, instead of reincarnations of baked goods from the standard American diet. The popularity of sweets in our culture has resulted in a Paleo-sphere that is over-flowing with an abundance of delicious, mouth-watering dessert recipes. Although these treats are made with acceptable Paleo ingredients, they are not necessarily health-promoting or helpful to weight loss efforts. The energy-dense nut flours and large amounts of natural sugars that these treats contain can be detrimental to weight loss efforts and they leave less room for the consumption of nutrient-dense, whole foods that supply the body with nutrients that it needs. Treats can help to ease the transition to a Paleo lifestyle and it may be okay to enjoy them on an occasional basis. But if weight loss is your primary goal, you may want to consider how much of your diet is based on real food versus Paleo treats.
2.) Your stress levels are out of control. In the modern world, stressors go far beyond emotional burdens and can include stimulants such as caffeine, lack of fresh air, sunshine, and natural movement, inadequate sleep and rest, environmental toxins, nutritional deficiencies, and underlying infections or disease processes. Exposure to chronic stressors leads to elevated cortisol levels, which in turn contributes to insulin resistance, promotes the storage of fat, and inhibits weight loss. Reducing chronic stress may involve relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and massage, but it is also necessary to address the root causes. Evaluating the cause of psychological stressors in your life may require major life changes, such as deciding to end a relationship or change jobs. Physiological stressors may need to be addressed by partnering with a Paleo-minded health practitioner to discover underlying nutritional deficiencies and latent infections. It is impossible to completely eliminate all stressors when living in a contemporary society, but you can make quite a bit of headway in stress reduction simply by identifying the root causes of stress in your life and striving to make progress in each area.
3.) You are doing the wrong amount or type of exercise. Along with eating a nutrient-dense Paleo diet, exercise is a key component to optimal health. Weight loss is more complex than calories in versus calories out, but the right type and amount of exercise does have an impact by increasing your metabolic rate and improving your overall hormonal environment. Too little exercise can result in weight loss stagnation, but too much exercise is harmful because the body views it as a chronic stressor. Like any other chronic stressor, too much exercise can lead to elevated cortisol levels and inhibition of weight loss. Although every individual requires a unique exercise prescription based on their fitness level and goals, a combination of weightlifting, low intensity exercise, such as walking, and a small amount of high intensity interval training is typically ideal for weight loss efforts. Chronic endurance exercise, such as running or biking for sustained periods of time, is likely to compromise weight loss and contribute to the development of health issues.
4.) You are eating the wrong macronutrient combination for your body and activity level. There are many different ratios of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that are possible by following a Paleo diet and there is no single version of Paleo that will be ideal for every individual. Some amount of experimentation may be necessary in order to find the macronutrient combination that works best for your body and goals. Some people may discover that a low carbohydrate version of Paleo speeds weight loss, while the scale may not budge for others if carbohydrates fall too low, particularly if they are extremely active. Likewise, some people may not respond well to the inclusion of large amounts of energy dense foods in the diet, such as nuts or healthy oils. In order to find your ideal macronutrient combination, pay attention not only to the scale, but to how you feel overall. Monitor your energy levels throughout the day and before, during, and after workouts. Pay particular attention to how you feel after eating meals and any mood or energy changes that may occur. These insights can help you to determine if the macronutrient combination you are eating is working for you.
5.) You have unrealistic goals. Weight loss in the real world does not happen as quickly as portrayed in the media. Healthy weight loss ranges from 1 to 2 pounds per week, but individual rates of weight loss can vary widely. You did not gain all of your unwanted pounds overnight and it is reasonable to expect that significant amount of time and patience is required to lose it. If you are adding exercise at the same time that you are making dietary changes, it is possible that your body composition is changing, although it may not result in any difference on the scale. It is often more beneficial to pay attention to how your clothes are fitting and how you feel overall. If all other factors that can interfere with weight loss have been addressed, yet another consideration is that your body has already reached an ideal, healthy weight, which may not correspond with your desired goal weight. There are often other health markers beyond weight loss that can more accurately demonstrate the progress that you have made by following a Paleo diet. The positive benefits of eating real food extend far beyond the numbers on the scale.
Have you ever experienced difficulty in breaking past a weight loss plateau while following the Paleo diet? Please share your insights and tips in the comments!
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/4222532649/