6 Tips for Successful Weight Loss on a Paleo Diet | Chris Kresser
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6 Tips for Successful Weight Loss on a Paleo Diet

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paleo diet for weight loss
When you're doing the paleo diet for weight loss, it's important to have support on the journey. Ron Chapple studios/Hemera/Thinkstock

In the last two articles, I explained how a Paleo diet can help you lose weight without trying, and why it’s a better choice than many of the diets most commonly used by those trying to lose weight.

In this article, I’d like to discuss some of the key strategies that can help make your weight loss journey successful. While a switch to Paleo is a great start, there are a few key lifestyle habits that will help you reach your weight loss goals.

Looking to lose weight on #Paleo? Check out this article for tips.

1. Keep Your Food Simple.

As I mentioned in the first article, one of the reasons why Paleo is so effective for weight loss is due to its ability to help you reduce calories without consciously restricting them. Studies have shown that eating simpler food leads to eating less, which in turn helps you shed pounds without effort.

So how do you keep a Paleo diet simple? Stick to the basics of a healthy meal: a protein like meat or fish, plenty of non-starchy vegetables, whole foods carbohydrates from root vegetables or fruit, and some healthy fat. Although I love a delicious gourmet meal as much as the next person, it’s easy to go overboard with delicious Paleo recipes. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re better off cooking simple dishes that don’t have a bunch of extra ingredients and additional flavoring, and saving those recipes for special occasions or a nice weekend dinner.

2. Be Sure to Eat Enough.

Many Paleo newbies believe that less food is always better when it comes to losing weight. This belief causes you to deprive your body of the calories and nutrients it needs to function optimally and causes additional stress. Plus, decreasing your caloric intake too much lowers your resting metabolic rate (how many calories you burn just staying alive), which can cause weight loss to stall or even reverse. No matter what program you choose, dieting should never be about starving yourself. Calories do count, but when it comes to weight loss, undereating is just as problematic as overeating.

What makes a Paleo diet special is that it is more satiating per calorie than other diets, which helps you eat less without fighting hunger or counting calories. Voluntarily restricting calories isn’t an effective weight loss strategy, but naturally consuming less food without trying is truly the holy grail of weight loss.

This means you can eat meals that are satisfying without counting calories, and naturally eat less than you would on a typical American diet. This is one of the key reasons why a Paleo diet is a better choice for a weight loss diet than any of the popular methods out there.

3. Eat Enough Carbs to Support Your Activity Level.

Carbohydrate tolerance is highly individual, and I’ve seen patients who do quite well on a very low carb diet, while others crash and burn. Usually, the biggest factor is the amount and intensity of exercise the person is doing, as many of my patients trying to lose weight are participating in high intensity training programs, such as Crossfit, or spending many hours at the local gym.

While I don’t think it’s necessary to restrict carbohydrates, I do think it’s important to match your carbohydrate intake to the amount of exercise you do. Not only can a mismatch stall your weight loss, but it can lead to instances of fatigue and muscle breakdown if you’re overexercising and not eating enough carbohydrate to match your activity level. I’ve had many patients who, in an effort to lose weight, ramp up their exercise and cut back on carbohydrate intake. Many even remove carbohydrates entirely, avoiding even small amounts of healthy choices like sweet potatoes and fruit. Unfortunately, this can often do more harm than good.

If you’re relatively sedentary, or are only able to do a small amount of exercise every day (due to pain, health conditions, immobility, etc.), you may find that eating a lower carbohydrate diet (7-15% of calories) may help you shed weight faster. If you’re highly active, have a physically demanding job, or have tried a low carb approach in the past without success, you might find a more moderate carbohydrate approach can be helpful (15-30% of calories) in stimulating fat loss.

4. Move throughout the Day.

Sitting too much can reduce the benefits of an exercise program and stall weight loss. Unfortunately, if you work in an office, commute by car and watch a few hours of TV each night, it’s not hard to see how you could spend the vast majority of your waking life (up to 15 hours!) sitting on your butt. And unfortunately, exercise alone isn’t enough to reverse the harmful effects of too much sitting. When it comes to weight loss, getting active throughout the entire day, and not just the 60 minutes you spend at the gym, is a crucial component of a well-rounded regimen.

There are many different ways to increase your movement throughout the day, and I outline several of them in my article about the dangers of sitting excessively. Getting into the habit of moving throughout the day can not only benefit your weight and promote fat loss, but it can also improve your overall health and reduce your risk for chronic disease.

5. Don’t Do It Alone.

One of the hardest parts about losing weight is trying to do it all on your own.

Making major lifestyle changes without any social support is not only difficult, but often unsustainable. Having friends or family around you to encourage you, or even make changes along with you, can greatly increase your success in any major lifestyle change, particularly the switch to a Paleo diet.

You can share recipes, plan partner workouts, and encourage each other on your journey to better health.

Don’t know anyone locally who is able to support you? There is a large community of people following a Paleo diet and lifestyle on the ChrisKresser.com forum, and many of them are folks just like you getting started on a Paleo diet and looking for answers to their general nutrition questions. Perhaps you’ll find a buddy there who can support you throughout the change process and keep you motivated!

6. Address Your Whole Life, Not Just Diet and Exercise.

Did you know that there’s a lot more to losing weight and keeping it off than just diet and exercise? For example, sleep deprivation makes us hungrier, and high levels of stress hormones cause us to eat more and store more fat, in turn reducing our ability to lose weight and keep it off. Studies also show that those with social support, a better ability to handle stress, self-efficacy, and those who assume responsibility in life are more likely to keep weight off once they lose it.

Focus on managing your daily stress using mind-body techniques like meditation or yoga. Plan ahead using shopping lists and meal plans to help you reduce the stress that comes along with starting a big lifestyle change. Connect with friends and family, and get support in your weight loss efforts. You’ll be more likely to lose weight and keep it off for the long haul. And you’ll actually be able to enjoy your life while doing it!

263 Comments

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  1. I am new to Chris Kresser. Can anyone tell me their educated thoughts about the Alcat Test? I’ve just received my results and it’s daunting. I’m severely allergic to standard foods I consume every day. Reviews seem mixed at best. Thank you,

  2. The “keep it simple” recommendation hits home for me. After a successful first year eating whole foods/paleo, weight started creeping back on. I *thought* I hadn’t changed anything, but then realized that my efforts to improve my culinary skills (scrumptious pan sauces, fancy soups and probably more added fats than needed) might be the culprit. Along with just too much food. I’m returning to how I did paleo-ish (I include cultured dairy) the first time around (more straightforward, easier food prep) and will reserve the fancy stuff for less frequent indulgences. I mean, indulgence does infer infrequency, right?

    Thanks, Chris, for continuing to be so generous with your time and knowledge. You are appreciated.

    • Hi All,
      This is my 12th day on Paleontology and I feel energized. The first three days was a little tough but I stuck it out. In the morning I have a good breakfast. I would have 2 or three boiled eggs sometimes without the yolks (some days I put a little coconutooil in a cast iron skillet and sauteed some peppers and carrots and drop a couple egg whites in there). I also have a couple slices avocado and the occasional bacon.
      I love almond milk (original) so I make my smoothies every morning always with a banana (a must have for me) and any fruit or vegetable I feel to add (paleontology). I would have 8 ounces and freeze the rest of smoothie for a late evening snack. My breakfast keeps me satisfied not stuffed. For dinner I would have roasted Chicken or pork or beef a side of vegetables sauteed with garlic and fresh minced herbs. I am becoming a fan of cauliflower rice; I prepare it in various ways so I won’t get tired of it.
      Best of luck

  3. I def think the “making simple foods” suggestion is a big one. I really need to stop trying so much fancy food and just stick with some basics!

    • I’m with you 100% on the simple is best idea when it comes to recipes. It’s amazing how much flavor fresh herbs to a dish. And if you grow them yourself you have the added benefit of incidental activity when go outside to pick them.

      Catie

  4. Hi I have only been on paleo for a week and it has been hell. I need to lose 30lb, when do you see the wight come off?
    Also thanks, I dont feel bad about having bead 1 or 2 times a week.

    • Hello Amanda,

      I started the Paleo diet about 6 weeks ago. In the first week I lost 2kg (I need to lose 45pounds) and really struggled with hunger pains during the night. Through my own lack of willpower and many party invites I fell off the Paleo Wagon and put it straight back on again.
      I have started again today and am determined to stick to it. To avoid the midnight cravings I will snack on veggies before bed.
      As far a bread is concerned, don’t beat yourself up about it. If you follow the 70/30 rule, it allows you to have 3 non-Paleo meals per week. Meaning you can have a few slices of bread per week as long as you don’t go overboard. I would suggest no more than 3 and stick to wholemeal.
      Hope this helps.
      Cate 🙂

      • Ladies, I have been on it for a week and my partner has helped me find some fabulous recipes for Paleo breads etc. There is an app you can download called Paleo Australia recipes. You will find loads so you do t have to go without. Good luck

        • Amanda, Cate, Lisa, have you kept on paleo and if so how much weight loss by now? Also, what’s your exercise program like if you have one?

    • If you want to lose weight it is important to really restrict carbs for the first few weeks to a month. If you are doing the 70/30 rule your body doesn’t have the opportunity to switch into the fat burning mode. You body knows that you will eventually feed it carbs for energy. Give it a strict two weeks and you will most likely squash the carb crave and the pounds will drop off.

  5. A great article with some handy tips, thanks for sharing. Interesting to hear about the effects of sleep deprivation and stress being catalysts for eating more.

  6. I’m in dire need to lose weight. I am currently at my heaviest at 5’4″, 175 lbs. i just wish to look my old self at 130lbs again. 🙁 i think my rapid weight gain is because of the preds im taking due to asthma i developed a couple of years ago.

    • I understand completely how you feel ! I gained some weight rapidly from prednisone and being immobile for one month during the holidays. I was terrified and have changed my exercise and eating plan entirely. I lost fifteen pounds sticking to no grains, dairy, or sugar. I still want to lose ten pounds because of a personal goal to get to my pre pregnancy weight. It is tough but I have pretty strong will power I just have to remind myself to eat healthy fats. It’s too easy for me to starve. I was anorexic years ago so it has been challenging to stay balanced and focus on the positive side. Best of luck

    • Potchi:

      Remember, you didn’t get sick and overweight overnight so you won’t get well overnight. I expect if you stay the course you may get the point where your asthma is under control without steroids and you can continue to heal; a dear friend at work no longer takes heart medication, much medicine for rheumatoid arthritis, or his anti-depressants (he also lost about 60 pounds in the first year and has had it off for over two years).

      I’ve been primarily Paleo for over three years and my allergies are much better (basically gone – they flair if I don’t eat as clean). I used Chris’s autoimmune protocol and in 6-12 months put my Hashimoto’s in “remission”…. it is autoimmune disease so I will have to manage it my entire life, but the antibodies are not present in my blood, nor have they been for over a year and a two years. I think if we look at this as “getting back to wellness” and NOT a diet, it is much more achievable. Gluten is a HUGE no-no for me, I have had (to my knowledge) none in 3.5 years and I no longer miss it (which, by the way, didn’t happen overnight!). Grains are rough stuff if not prepared really carefully (look to Westin Price literature if you want to still eat grains).

      Having a “team” of what one friend calls “cave dwellers” at work, all eating Paleo and supporting each other, has gone a long way for many. Don’t hesitate to reach out to those around you.

      In short, keep the faith and best of luck to you. Remember, you aren’t alone, the whole of American and much of the rest of the Western world is right there with you.

      Cheers, Marti

    • Hi, I need to share with you! I am asthma and allergy free after starting paleo a year ago. As well as a 20lb weight loss. I have not taken my daily asthma or allergy medications since. I have never felt better. After suffering for 44 yrs, I am now a new person! I hope this helps you. Please let me know!

  7. Many people forget the third point – Eat enough carbs to support your activity level. Another great article from Chris, keep writing.

  8. I forgot to mention that I am 62 years old, 155cm tall and should weigh 55g at the most. Victoria

  9. I am gaining weight even though I am trying very hard to adapt to paleo. What am I doing wrong? A typical daily menu is 1 tablespoon psyllium husks with 1 tbsp coconut oil, coffee with 2 tbsp cream, 1/2 cup coconut cream with 1 tbsp chia seeds, tea with 2 tbsp coconut cream, 8 almonds, 1 date, 110g ham, 1 piece fruit, 200g salmon, 1/2 cup beans, 1/2 cup cauliflower all with butter, 1/2 cup milk kefir with 1/2 tbsp flaxseed oil, 1/4 cup coconut milk with 1/4 cup milk with cinnamon and nutmeg, 4 glasses of water. Thanks for your help, Victoria.

    • Don’t combine proteins would be my suggestion. Although this advice fits more into the raw diet rather than paleo. It is my belief that the raw diet eclipses and is the diet (it should really become your lifestyle) that most weight loss diets are aiming for, and are a shadow of.

    • Victoria, in my opinion, it seems that you are consuming too few vegetables, and too much fat. Cut out some of that cream and milk, and add in at least a couple of cups of vegetables 3 times a day with your protein. Also, you could be drinking about 2-3 times as much water as you are, and this would probably help a lot too.

    • If you want to lose weight…cut out all the sugar…cream, use teaspoons not tablespoons. A lot less butter on Vegetables.
      You lose by eating fish, and poultry, not ham and steak.
      Limit complex carbs such as sweet potato to 1/2 cup.
      Eat 2-3 ounces of protein at every meal and snacks.
      Why?
      If you eat a piece of fruit or 1/2 cup of fruit for a snack, AND some protein, it prevents the sugar spikes that cause weight gain or prevent weight loss. 2 snacks per day is good, provided you eat them with protein. Timing meals and snacks 2-3 hours apart revs up your metabolism for weight loss.
      Salt and artificial sugars slow weight loss, as well as too much
      healthy fat.
      Lunch and dinner eat at least 2-3 ounces protein fish or
      chicken…1-2 cup veggies…1/2 cup complex carb…potato, brown rice or oatmeal….if not going completely paleo.
      Snacks eat a small fruit or berries 1/2 cup portion with 2-3 ounces protein to prevent sugar spikes.

  10. I personally love the Palio diet,I lost 20lbs in two months,the weight just started falling off within two weeks,I then went to a spin class at my local gym,after years of not really exercising……..it helped me get more motivated.
    It’s no longer a “diet”but a lifestyle,believe me,I love carbs,but,once I stopped eating them,I found I didn’t miss them anymore,it’s really not that hard once you put your mind to it.

  11. I’m at my wits end! I need to lose about 80 lbs.

    About 3 years ago I went on Atkins. I did not cheat. I lost 4 pounds in a month. I gave up.

    I started paleo 3 weeks ago, high fat, low carb, moderate protein. In these 3 weeks I have lost and gained the same 5 lbs and today weigh what I weighed 3 weeks ago. I have had my thyroid checked as well as a basic blood panel and everything was normal. I suspect the high fat is the culprit. The reason Is because about 6 months ago I tried the Dukan diet which is basically low fat, all meat. I lost about 30lbs in 5 weeks. (Which I gained back after going back to junk food)

    I am not sure how to proceed. I have a lot of weight to lose and I need to get started asap! I want to make paleo work for me…..I don’t see any other way of eating that would be sustainable for life other than eating paleo. The only thing I can think of to try is to reduce my fat and up my protein. I don’t want to be hungry all the time and I don’t know what else to do. This is so frustrating. Mentally I feel great but I have GOT to lose this weight.

    • I am just one person but this is how I have been successful. My adrenal and thyroid issues were holding me up a bit but its more than that. Regardless of what people say for some of us (like me) its calorie counting. Eat lots of fresh veggies, then good quality lower fat protein and a little fruit. No diet foods. Stevia does not give me any problems. I struggled like you and that’s what I have had to do. Yes, what you eat is important but how much is just as important. All these great paleo deserts have more calories and fat that just a regular desert. Weigh and measure for the first few months. I also found weighing myself daily for about the first four months gave me a good idea of how my body works. Id loose a few pounds and then gain and then loose lower than I was before, etc. In six weeks I have lost 12 pounds. I can’t exercise right now but just focusing on making food NOT a focus. I accept sugar is not good for body and neither are grains or dairy. See a good therapist to help you figure out why you have good issues. Good luck.

    • So my daughter is helping me to change the way my husband and I eat. We each keep a journal of what we eat, but this is how we track it. 4-5 proteins, 1 fat, 2 carbs, 4 veggies, 2 fruits, 2 snacks, 1 condiment, 1 dairy, and 8 12oz glasses of water. You must follow portion amounts. We started 9/1/14 and I have lost 25 lbs in about 6 weeks. We plan our meals for the week and make our shopping list. Remember to shop on the outer parts of the store. We don’t buy processed foods. We prep our food on Sunday and get lunches made up for the week. Example: baked or grilled chicken w/veggie or grilled turkey burger w/veggie. We use the frozen veggies. We might do eggs w/turkey sausage for breakfast. You always want to get your protein, veggies, fruit and water in every day. You want be hungry. Remember your fruit is not a snack. We use the snack baggies and do grapes, carrots, veggie chips, or almonds. The more prep you do, the better.. You don’t have to think about what to have. Everything is ready to grad. Hope this helped.

    • I am 54 and on my 2nd week of Paleo which I adopted to feel better and eat healthfully. I have struggled with losing 10 lbs for the past 6 years after trying EVERYTHING. 3 lbs would come off, 4 would go back on. I would find myself thinking about food all the time and sticking to a weight loss plan was suddenly so hard at this age. I’m not yet menopausal. Since going Paleo, I am never hungry anymore, have tons of energy, enjoy my food AND dropped 4 lbs. I can no longer imagine eating any other way. No breads, rice, pasta, potatoes, legumes, peanuts, refined sugars, bad oils, dairy, fake sugars. Lots of lean protein at every meal, variety of veggies, and occasional fruit. Nuts for snacking plus Chia seeds. I eat when I’m hungry and skip when I’m not. To lose more weight I will cut my portions a bit and start exercising. Also, I’ll try to move more throughout the day. My biggest rave is that I’d forgotten how much I enjoy real food (as opposed to processed, fast, or prepared.) With so many vegetables to choose from, cooked or raw, and yummy protein options, every meal is a guilt free adventure. Lol.

  12. Guys have anyone tried SurelySlim (www.bio-paranta.com) It is made in Canada. They say it is cutting edge technology of three fat burners in one veg capsule?

  13. Hi, For those of you who are struggling to lose weight on Paleo, I just wanted to share my experience – I know everyone is different but I have had a lot of success with my plan and hopefully it can help you.

    So first off – a bit about me, I am a 24 year old male, I have an office job where I sit down all day, I smoke (Don’t know if that makes any difference) and up until I started Paleo, I had a real bad diet, lots of greasy fast food, pasta, bread, alcohol, coke etc…

    On the first day I started Paleo I weighed 254 lbs. Today I have weighed myself again which is exactly 1 month later, and I now weigh 232 lbs. I have been pleasantly surprised by this loss as the month has not been that hard at all. Sure there have been times where I really craved something bad, but nothing major.

    So my diet has been pretty consistent over the last month, a standard day for me would be the following,

    Breakfast – 2 egg Omelette (Nothing but egg and a drop of olive oil)
    Lunch – Home made carrot soup (with homemade veg stock)
    Afternoon Snack – 1 piece of fruit
    Dinner – Chicken breast with spices, brocolli and corn on the cob.
    Evening snack – Banana Ice cream (Literally just frozen banana in the food blender)

    So as you can see – strictly no dairy – I don’t know if this has any effect on weight loss, but if hunters and gatherers can survive without it, then so can I!

    In terms of exercise, my plan is fairly consistent again,
    Monday – 5 a side football/soccer – 30 mins
    Tuesday – 5 a side football/soccer – 60 mins
    Wednesday – Gym – 30 mins bike and 20 mins treadmill
    Thursday – Exact same as Wednesday
    Friday – Overall weights session and core exercises
    Weekend – Nothing – maybe a short walk at the most!

    It’s probably worth noting that when I’m at the gym, I have the bike at a such a high level I struggle to finish – usually heart rate is about 180 – 185 per minute towards the end. I’m not very good at running, so on the treadmill I tend to do 5 mins on a fast run (14km/ph for me) and then for the remaining 15 mins, I will put it on a high incline and run for 2 mins (10km/ph) and then walk for 1 min or vice versa depending on how I feel.

    I do have treat meals, I find with socialising usually comes food and drink, so it’s almost impossible to avoid 100% of the time, and it’s also a good excuse for me to satisfy those cravings! So I usually have one treat meal every OTHER weekend, and when I say treat meal, I go all out – pizza or burgers followed by chocolate and a can of coke. The great thing about this, is that I feel uncomfortable for the rest of the night and the day after(and possibly the day after that) so it makes it very easy not to give in for another 2 weeks! However, when I do have a treat meal I will make sure I have a big work out in the gym the next day and sweat out all the crap! I will also mention that I don’t have ANY other treats, not a tiny piece of chocolate, or even a pasta shell because those little treats may have a big impact and really it isn’t worth the risk!

    So it’s probably quite clear now, that I have very little knowledge of the science behind my diet and exercise plan, but I do know that it works for me, and I hope it helps some of you to achieve some good results!

    • That’s awesome! I have been incorporating paleo a little at a time while exercising. Focusing more on kicking the sugar addiction than going all out paleo, Good luck on your continuing success!

  14. Hi there. I just so happened to stumble across this article. I have always been very active, and train most days at varying intensities. Yet, I still struggled with fatigue and often got headaches. I study sport science and came across the paleo way of eating. I tried it for a few weeks and I shed around 7% body fat which really leaned me out. My headaches went, I know longer had digestive issues and I actually have more energy. This is truly an amazing lifestyle, and you can still allow yourself a treat every week. Considering I have always been athletic it just goes to show that what you put in your mouth ultimately dictates your performance. Great article!

  15. I have been strict Paleo for 9days. Completely illuminated dt. Coke, which has been my rocket fuel for 20 years. I am a type 1 diabetic. I am very active, runner, Zumba and I move all day at my job. These past 5 days my muscles are fatigued. 15 min.into an hour workout and my thighs are screaming. What is going on? Help!

    • Hi I am starting Paleo on Monday and I have been reading up on it, and its very normal to feel fatigued and have tired muscles. this happens because your body is adjusting to the change. After around 2 weeks your energy levels should increase dramatically
      Hope this helps
      Regards
      Lauren

  16. Hi…I am from the uk. Have been on ketosis diet for 7 months now and put on 5lb! I feel good but get muscle pain a bit when exercising . I am now 70 .endomorph type. Got very depressed last year because of no loss . natural ketosis kept tweeking my diet but nothing worked.They said all their customers lost weight on it !?? I do curves gym twice a week…line dancing a few times a week and one yoga lesson a week. I think I may change to the Paleo diet ….it is not well known here.It has helped me knowing I am not the only one who finds weight loss very difficult. I am however worried i may gain as there will be more carbs[ veggies and fruit] Any advice when changing over ?

  17. The Paleo Diet motivates people to replace grain and dairy foods with fruits, fresh vegetables and also nuts/seeds — certain foods which are a lot more nutritious than grains and dairy food.

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