A lot of people lose weight at the beginning of the Zero Carb Carnivore diet because when blood sugars stabilize and you no longer have blood sugar highs and lows that cause cravings, people mistake lack of cravings for not being hungry and unknowingly undereat. So the initial weight loss in these cases is from calorie restriction, not the diet. Due to calorie restriction, your metabolism slows down to compensate for the lack of fuel. This can go on for years. If you manage to push through this phase feeling like shit and having no energy, then at some point, your body will demand more fuel, you become overwhelmed with cravings, and a carb binge happens. A carb binge can go on for years. I have seen people fall hard after three years of eating a Zero Carb, all-meat Carnivore diet from this scenario and struggle to get back to ZC. Carb addiction is real. I’ll call this Group A.
If you are consistently eating less than 2 pounds of meat a day, lost weight at first, then started gaining and/or not seeing desired results, you are likely in Group A.
You came from fasting or some sort of restriction (fat, calories, protein), and you gain or can’t lose on the Carnivore Zero Carb diet. I call this the “Kelly Effect” because Kelly is the first person we saw who gained weight when eating an all-meat diet. You can (and should) read Kelly’s story about her weight gain on her website, My Zero Carb Life.
If you lose weight on some other diet due to restriction, your body is starving and unhealthy. You will gain on this diet! Your body needs nutrition. There is no way to stop it, your body will not allow you to starve it to death unless you have a serious eating disorder. You can keep doing whatever you were doing to lose weight, which must be miserable, or you wouldn’t be looking for a new diet, or eating fatty meat and just let health happen. You will gain until your body is sure you are not going to continue starving it, and eventually, your metabolism will kick in, and fat will be released. Until then, buy some cute, comfy, stretchy clothes, eat more fatty meat, and just ride it out.
Group C is more complicated and has nothing to do with what you are eating. Group C can happen to people who have been long term on this diet, 4 or more years. If you are new to this diet (3 years or less) and gaining or not losing, you are likely in group A or B.
If you have been on this diet for 4 or more years, everything is great, you lost weight, you feel amazing, health issues were resolved, you have loads of energy, and all of a sudden you start gaining, you are in Group C.
The first thing you have to ask yourself is, “what is different in my life now compared to my life before I started gaining?” This can be a very difficult question to answer. This happened to me and it took me a few years and lots of research to figure out what happened and then a couple more years to turn it around. YEARS! Not weeks or months, YEARS! Patience is key!
I had a lot of things going on in my life that were “different”. Menopause, over the top stress on many levels, plus I stopped exercising. I was an athlete and exercised my entire life. When my life got busy, I stopped exercising because I stupidly fell for the idea, that you don’t need exercise to be healthy if you’re eating a proper diet. Boy, was I wrong!
I have blamed menopause and stress on my weight gain because that’s the easy answer, but the catalyst that led to my weight gain was actually stopping exercise. I’m pretty sure my body could have handled the stuff going on in my life had I kept exercising.
Change is stress. You may not feel stressed out, but the body likes routine. A break from your normal routine is stress. A new diet is stress, moving, a new relationship, divorce, sickness, a new job, etc. Fasting is stress. Stress can be very subtle, yet have a profound effect. I didn’t know I was stressed until I got a test result saying I had no hormones, due to adrenal burnout, caused by chronic stress. Chronic high cortisol leads to adrenal burnout. My adrenals could no longer produce enough hormones; DHEA, Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone, and Cortisol, were all below low.
Stress was my normal, I didn’t know any different. It wasn’t until I started to learn how to relax, that I realized I never allowed myself to relax. I didn’t know how! My life was about everybody else. I never thought about me and what I needed or wanted. So, it took me a long time to learn how to take care of me and figure out how to relax.
Weight gain and loss is controlled by hormones, not food. Stress raises cortisol, chronic stress keeps cortisol chronically high. Cortisol, raises blood sugar, high blood sugar causes high insulin and ultimately leads to insulin resistance and fat storage. This can all happen while eating a zero carb carnivore diet that should naturally keep your blood sugar and insulin low! You can be eating the optimal human diet but if you have a high stress lifestyle you will be unhealthy.
“You can’t outrun a bad diet, and you can’t eat away a bad lifestyle. Health will happen when you find the right balance of diet, exercise, and lifestyle.” – ZCDANA
As a woman, I think as we get older we tend to take more on, or worry about more things than we did when we were younger. I know I do and I don’t even have kids. I can’t imagine the worries parents have these days with teenage and young adult children. Young kids are a little easier as you have more control over them, but as they get more independence in today’s world, it has got to be terrifying. Middle age women (and men) tend to start gaining weight and we blame menopause or getting older, but I think the real blame is stress. We generally take more on, we are less active and we worry more at this age and that is what’s ultimately causing weight gain.
Ok, so what can we do about it? For me, I had to start exercising again. I was so burnt out I couldn’t do much. Normally after lifting weights I’m sore for three days. At this point I was super sore for 2 weeks! My body was so burnt out, my cortisol was so low (cortisol controls inflammation) that I couldn’t recover from my workouts, so I decided to just walk. Walking lead to hiking, which led to running and then when winter came, I started lifting again. It took almost 2 years, but I finally started feeling strong again, but I still wasn’t losing weight. What ultimately jump started my fat loss was a slight change in what I eat.
I don’t like discussing this because 99% of the people who read this will take it too far and eat too lean. Remember, I had been on a high fat, all meat diet for over 10 years at this point. This will not work for newbies and it won’t work if you are not already eating high fat (75% or more)!
I had to lower my fat intake. I was eating about 80% fat for 10 years. If you are not or have never eaten that much fat, then that’s the first thing you need to do. You need to see what that feels like.
The healthiest Zero Carb, all meat, ancestral diet has always been based on 80% of calories coming from fat!
I simply dropped my fat intake from 75-80% to around 70-75%. (You can read more about this here) I did that by eating less ribeyes, stopped adding fat and eating more chicken thighs with skin, pork shoulder steaks and trout fried in butter with the skin. Since I am eating leaner, I eat more meat. I eat about 3lbs of meat a day and average 3200 calories a day and I lost all the weight I gained in about 3 years. 3 YEARS! Not 3 weeks or months! You have to be patient. Healthy, permanent fat loss takes time.
For me, I needed the exercise to mitigate cortisol levels. Exercise lowers cortisol and balances hormones. Being an athlete all my life kept me sane because it kept my stress fueled high cortisol under control. When I stopped exercising, cortisol got out of control and caused weight gain and inflammation.
I don’t know why eating leaner helped. It has nothing to do with calories, because I eat more now than before when I was gaining. We (long term Zero Carbers) have known for a long time that as we get older we don’t need as much fat. “The Bear” (50+ yr ZCer) even mentions this. I haven’t really figured out why yet, but it is something I have observed in the past 15 years of helping people on this diet.
What to do?
Group A gainers – Eat More Fatty Meat!
Group B gainers – Eat More Fatty Meat!
Group C gainers – Identify what is different in your life, learn how to relax, find some time for self care and start exercising, and if you are adding fat to everything, stop that.
Note to Group A and B gainers – If you think starting off leaner is a shortcut to success you are wrong, unless you are looking for temporary weight loss.