Many people write to us desperate to know why they’re not losing weight on their LCHF, Banting style diet. They want to know why others are losing weight and why they’re not. They want to be a success story too! People always tell us that they’re only eating from the GREEN list (i.e.: the Banting allowable foods list) and never from the RED list (unallowed foods) or ORANGE list (sometimes/maybe/caution foods) and that they’re only eating REAL foods. Maybe they initially lost 5 kg (12 lbs) by simply eating from the GREEN list and are now frustrated that they’ve hit a stall and have stopped losing weight, while other poor souls have never been able to lose an ounce following the Banting recommendations of “eat off the GREEN list,” “eat until you’re satisfied,” and “don’t snack”.
This article will address what’s actually going on when you can’t lose weight and provide you with some REAL ANSWERS and SOLUTIONS.
First let’s re-visit the premise of the Banting LCHF way of eating:
Tim Noakes’ Banting eating plan was first prescribed in 1861 by a Harley Street surgeon Mr. William Harvey with great success to a corpulent London undertaker, Mr. William Banting. In time the term to ‘bant’ was introduced into the English language. It referred to the use of a low carbohydrate diet for weight loss. Indeed ‘Banting’ was the standard treatment for weight loss in all the major European and North American medical schools for nearly 100 years until it suddenly went out of fashion after 1959 when it was written out of all the major medical and nutritional textbooks, to be replaced with its polar opposite, the currently popular low fat, high carbohydrate, ‘heart healthy’ diet.
Dr. Robert Atkins re-discovered “Banting” in 1974 and the popular Atkins Diet was born.
Here is an extract on the 10 golden rules of Banting.
1. Remember: this is not a high protein diet. It’s a high fat, medium protein, low carb way of eating.
2. Choose real foods that look like what they are, and cook them from scratch. You don’t have to weigh your food as long as you eat real food.
3. Fat is not the enemy. Enjoy it!
4. Eat only when you are hungry; eat until you are satisfied – then stop.
5. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry. It’s okay to occasionally skip a meal if you don’t feel like eating. Lunch can be just a snack, e.g.: some nuts, cheese, or biltong.
6. Stop snacking. You won’t need to – it’s just a habit.
7. No sugar – it’s probably best to go cold turkey. But if you need to make it a transition, substitute with Stevia, Xylitol or Erythritol – NOT artificial sweeteners.
8. No grains or legumes of any kind.
9. No (or very, very little) fruit. Think of it as a sweet rather than a health snack.
10. Embrace eggs. They’re healthy, satisfying and very good for you.
The idea is that once you get the addictive sugar/carbs out of your diet, your brain will automatically regulate the number of calories that you need so that your body weight eventually becomes the weight it is meant to be.
While this approach is sound and excellent advice and works great for some lucky people (usually those who are not insulin resistant, the very young or those who are extremely active) others find that while they feel great, improve their energy levels and improve their blood test results eating this way, they lose very little weight…or sadly none at all. So, what can we add to these 10 points to help people drop the pounds and kilos?
Banting alone may not work for everyone. In fact, carbs and calories DO count for most people.
If you haven’t been able to lose weight by following the 10 principles above, or you’ve suddenly stopped losing weight, please don’t beat yourself up. There is nothing wrong with you – this is entirely normal and you are among the majority of people! It breaks my heart to read the emails we receive each day from people frustrated, disillusioned and sometimes ashamed that they are following the Banting rules and still not losing weight. We’ve heard horror stories about people actually being told off by those following a strict Banting lifestyle and by Banting ‘educators’ when they’ve admitted to weighing their foods or logging their foods!
The reason that you are not losing weight is that there is more – MUCH MORE to successful weight loss than what you are currently being told to do.
When it comes to weight loss, people who sell diets and cookbooks and “how to guides” who promote Banting want you to believe it’s far easier than it really is. To be fair, they mostly have a genuine desire to help and make life easier for you however “easier” doesn’t always translate to “effective”. I’ll go as far as to say (because I’ve experienced it) that much of the Banting and LCHF “eat until you’re satisfied” and “you don’t have to count anything” advice works best for younger people, taller people who can naturally eat more to support their body frame/size, or those who are relatively healthy and who do not have a large amount of weight to lose and do not suffer from health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, an eating disorder such as emotional binge eating, or those who do not have some level of physical disability. In the dieting, weight loss world in general there appears to be a bias against people over 40, short people, the obese, people with injuries such as bad backs and arthritis which prevent them from exercising and all those others with medical conditions who struggle – I mean REALLY struggle, to lose weight. For example there’s very little helpful weight loss advice for women who are approaching menopause. I know this because as a 5 feet 2″ small framed woman I looked for such advice…and found almost nothing to help me. This led me on a mission to find what worked for me…and for others who were unable to lose weight.
Many people who can’t lose weight with the conventional Banting LCHF advice, have either always struggled with their weight their entire life OR are approaching midlife. As we get older our tolerance for dietary carbs naturally decreases and we become more insulin resistant and it becomes harder and harder to lose weight. As people put on more and more weight it becomes even harder and harder to lose weight, too. The more weight you put on the more insulin resistant you become – which means the standard Banting advice will not work very well for you, if at all.
By the way, being insulin resistant its another way of saying your body is sensitive to carbohydrates (carbs).
So what can you do?
If you hit a stall on your LCHF diet, the first thing to check is that you are keeping your carbs and calories low enough. By low enough, I mean low enough for YOU to start losing weight. To do this you first need to find out exactly how many calories (for your age, height, activity level, health status) you need to maintain your current weight and how many you need to begin losing weight.
THEN you need to find a way to start counting these carbs and calories…and to do it consistently. To do that, an online daily food log such as FitDay is highly recommended. It gets easier the more you do it and your food choices start to fall into patterns and you can repeat successful days.
Everyone is different when it comes to how much carbohydrate and how many calories they can tolerate. Some people can’t lose weight unless they eat less than 20 net g carbs per day. That was the case for me. For some people that number may be as low as 10g – 15g net carbs per day. To be successful at weight loss you have to work with your body’s unique biochemistry- not the biochemistry you wish you had. Please don’t be perturbed by the fact that some people can eat enormous amounts of food and never gain weight or can lose weight by not counting anything. That’s them – you are YOU.
Even though some people say that calories don’t matter and that you can eat more calories on a LCHF diet than on a traditional low fat low calorie type diet, there is such a thing as eating too many calories. While a LCHF offers you a metabolic advantage, the laws of thermodynamics still do apply. Our experience has taught us that most people have an ideal range of calories and carbs for weight loss. This is especially true if you don’t have a lot of weight to lose, are a short, small boned person, older, approaching midlife and as you begin to approach your weight loss goal.
Here’s a step by step approach we recommend for those who haven’t been able to lose weight by just eating LCHF or following a Banting style:
First, please be reassured that you’re normal and most people need to count calories and carbs to lose weight. I would recommend you keep eating REAL foods. We believe in eating LCHF, Banting style AND counting carbs and calories. We’ve found that most people need to do both. I too am a small sized woman over 45 and keeping my calories and carbs low and counting both carbs and calories was the only way I could lose weight.
Please don’t feel bad when you listen to the die-hard Banting fans who tell you “just eat real food” and “don’t weigh or measure anything”. Remember: Their advice works best for younger people with no insulin resistance, those with no debilitating health conditions, and those who are tall and can naturally eat more calories for their body frame.
Let’s look at a real life case study:
Andrea is 1.6 m tall (abut 5 ft 2″), 45 years of age and 82kg (180 lbs) She’d like to weigh 63.5kg (140 lbs). She contacted us to say that she’s deeply frustrated and ashamed that she hasn’t been able to lose anything eating the Banting way. She eats only off the GREEN List and doesn’t snack between meals. She uses alot of Xylitol which is very high in carbs an calories. She alternates between being sedentary and getting light exercise (mostly walking) a few times a week.
We worked out that to maintain her current weight at her present sedentary – light activity level that Andrea needs to eat about 1825 calories a day. To lose weight with her present activity level Andrea will need to eat about 1325 calories a day. As her weight moves towards her goal she should revisit those calorie amounts and lower them a little.
If you’d like us to calculate your ideal calories and carbs for weight loss see our service here.
We also advised her to test her post-meal blood sugars to determine if she had any degree of insulin resistance and in the meantime to begin by consuming around 20-25g net carbs and to see how she loses weight for the next two weeks. We also recommended she switch to Erythritol as her sweetener of choice.
A note about blood sugar testing: Most doctors only test fasting blood glucose levels which don’t tell the whole story. If you have abnormal post-meal blood sugar readings, that’s a sign that you are insulin resistant (which is another way of saying you are more sensitive to carbs than some people). The more insulin resistant you are, the lower your daily carbs and calories should be to achieve both health and weight loss.
We also advised Andrea to begin using an online food log such as FitDay to log her daily foods and to measure, weigh and then record her daily foods. As you can see from the calculations we provided to Andrea, there is a fine line between maintaining her weight and losing weight – or even gaining weight! It’s a difference of only a few hundred calories. That’s why it’s so easy to over-eat when you don’t weigh, measure and count.
After a week , Andrea contacted us and told us that, while she’d started losing weight by following our advice, she hated having to count calories every day and to log her foods. So, we recommended one of our Individual Universal Meal Plans for Andrea to follow and now she is happily following it and losing weight! She has now learned how to use her meal plan to slot in other calorie and carb controlled meals and to change up her daily meals and follow the plan herself.
If you prefer not to do any counting at all and you want an easy diet to follow then uur Universal Meal Plans would be a good choice for you. We have family ad individual plans available. To choose your meal plan go to our LCHF Nation shop here.
The bottom line (no pun intended) is that most people need to follow a LCHF, Banting lifestyle AND to count BOTH carbs and calories to lose weight. If you hit a weight loss stall, you’ll need to take a close look at exactly what and how much you’re eating. We’d love to help you succeed!