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

6 Tips for Successful Weight Loss on a Paleo Diet

by Chris Kresser

Last updated on

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

Join the conversation

  1. Hi everyone,

    I am new to paleo but only after a lot of research to find the right fit for my new life style. Any newbie suggestions or tips would be really appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Deb

  2. Hi Chris, I have been on a paleo diet for 3 years now. Initially i lost 65lbs. I’m down to 220 now. I hike or mountain bike 6 days a week. 6 months ago I decided to start running. At 220 running is beating me up a little bit. I have been trying to take off another 20lbs but am stuck at 220. Do you have any suggestions to kick this platue in the but??

    • Start doing more interval or sprint type cardio to rev up your heart rate. It worked wonders for me

  3. I’ve been on the Paleo diet for one week and I’ve lost 10 pounds so far. I usually have an egg, avocado and some berries for breakfast. Grilled chicken, greens, avocado, and a small piece of fruit for lunch. And for dinner I’ll have fish or venison (my husband and I hunt and fish on our land along with having a big orchard and garden) greens, roasted butternut squash and raw veggies. If I feel like I need a snack I have a glass of ” chocolate milk” it’s almond milk, coco powder, and liquid steave. Put it in a pinte jar shake and refrigerator for a few hours. It’s the best.

  4. I am also going into my 3rd week of the Paleo Reset and I have not lost 1lb. Super disappointed because I’ve followed it strictly. I feel good though.. I am 5’4 & weigh 125 and only only want to lose 5-10lbs but not losing anything any advice would be great!

      • It could take you longer to lose weight as you’re not over weight or anything. I’ve lost 4 lbs in just under 2 weeks but I’m a little chubby. Try weighing yourself on different scales too. Drinking loads of water. If you cycle so much you’re probably gaining muscle! I don’t exercise at all apart from work 50 hours a week. I need to quit alcohol and go to the gym :s don’t lose faith!

    • How old are you? I am also about 5’4” and I haven’t weighed 125 since I turned 30. And I was super skinny (size 4) and muscular then! I would be happy to be under 140 at this point. Our hormones and the way our bodies change as we age has a lot to do with it.

  5. I have been on Paleo for 3 weeks now and I’ve only lost 4 pounds 🙁 I am spinning 3 times a week and doing boxfit 2 times a week. I still want to loose 26 pounds. Even though I feel better, I have to confess I’m a little bit desperate. Its been a very challenging lifestyle change and I’ve lost just a few pounds. I don’t know if I should limit my Paleo Desserts (I have 1 or 2 snacks a day) or eliminate them completely. HELP!

    • Hi Elena,
      How frustrating to be doing all this work and not seeing the benefits you were hoping for.
      I would have to say however, that if you’re hoping to lose weight I would recommend cutting out the Paleo desserts until you’ve reached your weight loss goal. Try adding fresh fruit in the place of the desserts, and then only have desserts as an occasional treat. Many of the desserts are high in natural sugars that spike your insulin levels just before you go down for hours of inactivity.
      Also, if you find you need more than 1 snack a day you may be not including enough protein to keep you satiated until your next meal. Re-evaluate how much of what you are putting on your plate.
      I wish you luck with your goals, don’t give up! Even if you don’t change the scale there are so many beneficial things going on inside your body that will make you HEALTHIER, which is more important that a number on a scale.
      Betty

    • Hi everyone I have been on the paleo diet now for 2 weeks I have lost about 6 pounds but am now gaining a bit of weight but I know why I started at the gym so doing more fitness when u train your muscles grow ie you put on weight the diet isn’t about loseing weight it’s about eating more healthy the losing waight is a bonus

    • I was chubby all my life, had a baby and got pretty darn huge. My body really responded to the Paleo diet. I found the key to any diet is not to get bored and to keep it interesting. I’ve tried a ton of cookbooks so that I can rotate recipes. My favorites cookbooks can be found at http://www.mypaleodietreview.com , These were all super helpful and made quick meals for me and my family. When I started out on the diet, I limited my Paleo treats to once a day at 3pm when I got the munchies at work. Try not to overdo it on the nut butters too (just from my personal experience!) Also drink lots of water. Sometimes it just takes a little something like extra workouts, or the elimination of food intolerance to kick start your body into weight loss mode.Good luck!

    • Hi, just wondering how the Paleo diet worked out for you? Did you end up losing weight? My suggestion would have been to eliminate Paleo “treats,” and to do a Whole30. Doing a Whole30 works to address the emotional reasons why we eat. A strict Paleo diet should be very satiating and even out your blood sugar levels, so you shouldn’t be reaching for a snack from hunger… so my guess would be that the snacks are more out of emotion/habit.

    • Muscle weighs more then fat remember that. Have you tried a change of some sort. Either diet portions or change in workout. That seems to help

  6. Great article! I started on modified Paleo ( I still do a bit of cream and cheese ) 6 weeks ago while on vacation. I’m down 9 pounds and happy with the way I’m feeling. My appetite and, therefore, my portion sizes are half of what they were before.

    A typical day is a veggie omelette OR a fruit smoothie for breakfast, protein and salad for lunch, protein and veggies for dinner. I eat all kinds of vegetables including white potatoes once in a while, but keep the fruit to bananas and berries.

    I still enjoy one cup of coffee with cream and sugar in the morning, and a glass of beer or red wine before dinner. Fruit answers my sweet cravings and a handful of almonds answers the call for salty/crunchy.

    I think it’s important to NOT try to replace bread with anything else. You may end up consuming more calories with low carb breads. Just give it up, it’s the easiest way.

    Exercise is simply a brisk walk for 45 to 60 minutes per day. Also golf once or twice a week. I am a 57 year old female who would like to lose another 21 pounds. My advice is to go easy and keep loving your body! It works hard for you. Good luck everyone!

    • Hi Addy, I started eating Paleo about a month ago, and I feel so much healthier. Everything you said just about sums up exactly what I’ve been doing. I don’t feel deprived of anything. My mentality is that I am doing this to live longer. I have lost weight (8lbs) without trying. Sometimes I will get cravings for something sweet so I’ll make my favorite snack: an apple (sliced) sautéed in butter with cinnamon. Yummy!
      Before eating paleo I felt so sluggish and my snacks at night were either donughts or chips with hot sauce. Not anymore. I don’t even crave those terrible junk foods.
      I just wanted to tell you keep it up and thanks for your post it made me connect with you somehow.?

  7. I am just starting Paleo. I have Reheumatoid Arthritis. Have had it for 15 years. I am not on any perscription meds as all my doctor wanted me on was the hard meds and I refuse to use them. I been controlling it with diet and over the counter meds for pain. I am trying Paleo because I read about the autoImmune Paleo diet and was very interested to see if it will help me. Would really like to put my RA in remission. I have just started a water aerobics class to get my exercise and help me with pain. I will also be riding my stationary bike twice a week along with the 2 day a week water class. I am not a big meat eater, but I love veggies and I pretty good at making simple meals (my favorite). Thank you Chris for all of your information. The best yet. I look forward to be successful with Paleo.

    • I tried the Paleo diet for about 3 months it really work I suffer with arthritis in both knees and lower back. I did the diet with working out 3 days aweek I didn’t have to take any medications the pain went away and I lost 20 pounds

    • I was diagnosed with RA as well at age 32. We just lost a full term pregnancy as well due to a complication of identical twins and I don’t want to go on meds due to the toxicity to the body for when we start trying to conceive. I was in a horrible flare right after pregnancy and now (3.5 months later) with all the diet modifications I am doing much better. Still very stiff in the morning and after sitting. But actually just start as well and have seen results. I am making bone broth as well. Dr Mercola speaks of great benefits for RA. This is really a life overhaul going gluten, grain, dairy and soy free. I am walking though so that is improvement!

      • Please look into getting tested for celiac. It was the reason I had two miscarriages. You are at increased risk for another autoimmune disorder when already diagnosed with one. However if you are gluten free now the test won’t be accurate. Just something to think about, good luck.

  8. Losing weight is always difficult. Paleo diet is one of the best ways to lose weight. Thanks for these useful tips, it is helpful to take right amount of carbs, fats, and protein.

  9. Chris, I recently read that a “big breakfast” and small dinner, medium lunch increased weight loss significantly in those eating 1,800 calorie weight reduction diets.

    So I am now combining a Paleo approach with the big breakfast approach.

    Do you have any input on this?

    My breakfast this morning was 3 eggs scrambled in tablespoon of butter, Pan fried turkey and 1/4 cup of cheese on the eggs. It really was a large pile. (I know the cheese isn’t a great Paleo input but I was hard pressed to find calories. In the future I’ll add lots of fried greens and cabbage.

    I estimate it at 600 calories and am shooting for 700 brk, 600 lunch and 400 dinner.

    Tell me what you think about this approach. I have about 60 pounds of fat to loose. I would like to do that in 6 months with a little walking and HIT training after a few months.

    I did a big breakfast yesterday and noticed I didn’t have a big appetite for dinner (had to force it) or a late night snack.

    Am I really combining the best of both diets?

    Thoughts?

    • Losing 60 pounds of strictly fat in only 6 months with that little of an activity level is just about impossible my friend. 60 pounds in a year is more reachable.

      • Yeah, that does seem rather aggressive, although the math works pretty good. 180 days at a 900 cal deficit divided by the standard 3300 cals per pound lost equals 49 pounds. For good measure I’m throwing in cutting out beer drinking which accounts for an additional 3500 cals a week minimum.

        My big question was regarding the big breakfast small dinner concept. I see a new study that points at a huge differential vs. the small breakfast big dinner. I have been on and off primarily due to vacations but am hitting it hard now. I notice that with the big breakfast that there is little to now desire for nighttime snacking.

        I would say I’m down about 8 pounds in 6 weeks with a big vacation break and not letting beer go yet. So this week it is hard on until I reach my 210 lb short term goal before starting HIT program.

        For reference I’m 5’8″, 230ish with about 33 BF. I’m well into the fat obese zone and have noted that way overweight people can drop some serious weight early on.

        • At a 900 calorie deficit you will start to lose muscle as well as fat. You’d be better off sticking with a 500 calorie deficit for a whole year, that is also more manageable in the long run. The whole large breakfast small dinner concept is foreign to me. I would suggest trying something for a few weeks and then make small tweaks until you are satisfied with your results.

  10. Very interesting article.A vegetarian diet is the optimal way to meet your nutritional needs. The key to a healthy vegetarian diet or vegan diet is variety – which includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes….….I’m hoping we’ll be able to see results soon.
    Paleo Diet

  11. i am on day 12 of the paleo diet. no results at all yet!! i have cut out all of the items i am supposed to cut out. i haven’t even cheated. i’m 60 years old. slim build but i need to lose about 5 pounds. i have been walking several miles each week and going to the gym once or twice a week so far. my body hasn’t shrunk at all yet! i am giving it two weeks. i hope to see results. i did have some higher glycemic fruits so i will cut those out and sweet potatoes. will stick to berries.

    • It takes more than two weeks to start seeing results. For me, by the two week mark, I was feeling more energetic, my skin was glowing, and I was sleeping better than I had in years…but the scale hadn’t budged. It’s essential to give your body time to adjust. I’ve been paleo ish (I say ‘ish’ because I work in the restaurant industry, so part of my job is tasting and developing new recipes, which makes being strict about it practically impossible) for two years, and I’ve never looked or felt better.

    • Sabrina,

      I am 55 and have been eating Paleo for 6 months. My initial weight loss occurred after 1 month. The change, which is most important to me, is how I feel… Healthier over all, energetic, more muscle and less fat. My hair and skin are much more youthful as well. I have seen gradual improvement, which I like. It takes some time, to undo the damage done by years of eating grains. And I feel grains are the major culprit in causing all the issues I had with my health.
      I do eat all organic foods. Grass fed beef and buffalo.
      I recommend sticking with it, only if you want to feel healthy and more youthful.
      I will eat this way for the rest of my life.

      Best wishes,

      Diana

  12. I have dropped a dress size in 6 weeks on this diet,here is a typical days eating plan.morning.a skinny latte,mid morning, an omelette,with no dairy and another coffee, mid. afternoon, 8almonds, and a raw carrot with a tablespoon of non dairy tuna dip, evening, a large plate of green vegetables, 250g. of mushrooms, and a small serve of meat, fish or chicken,evening snack, bowl of frozen berries,sprinkled with artificial sweetener, and microwaved for 2 minutes, with a 3rd.coffee. my only exercise is walking, and I am not hungry at all.love this diet

      • artificial sweeteners are not paleo. only natural sugars-honey, etc, but not very often.

    • I started 4 weeks ago. Cut out dairy flour,grains,beans,sugar,pastas and starches. not counting food. Eating when hungry. Fruits, vegtables,meats,fish,nuts as much as I want.lost 16 lbs.in 3 weeks.Feel much better and have more energy.on Sundays I give myself whatever I want but to my surprise I don’t have the cravings I expected to have. Was really surprised I have dropped weight..Gonna continue one week at a time as I learn more. And I have not been working out.

    • Healthdaz, your site needs copy editing. Credibility is important. Perfect spelling and grammar is no guarantee of credible information. Unfortunately if a site doesn’t read easily or correctly, the same can and will be assumed about the information.
      All the best.

    • That page is rife with misinformation and horrible grammar and syntax. It appears to be a rewrite by one of those terrible robots people use to repost articles without plagarizing. Ack!

  13. Hi, I’ve been having trouble finding info on my particular situation. I’m on week two of paleo and doing well keeping a balance of starch in my diet so far, but I’m exclusively breastfeeding my two month old son. Is there any advice or resources you could suggest for me? I mainly eat veg and meat, with nuts for extra fat and the occasional sweet potato when I feel like I’m lagging. Exercise is basically taking care of the farm with a baby strapped to my front.

  14. hi… I have hashimotos and adrenal fatigue… High intensity exercise will exacerbate these conditions and prevent weight loss as the exercise stressed out your body too much. A few years ago I jogged 5 times a week for 6 months… I lost just 3kg (I need to loose 25)…now I walk and practise yoga and pilates… There’s lots of info re this… Take your own medical conditions into consideration

  15. I am on day two of Paleo and after reading the comments here I feel I must be doing something wrong. I have cut out most sources of carbs but still east fruit and sweet potato, I don’t feel hungry or tired at all (which is actually an improvement for me), in fact I feel full after every meal and haven’t found it difficult to stick to the diet. I run and gym at least 5 days a week anyway so I am continuing to exercise.

    Today for example:

    I ran approx 5km

    I had a breakfast of 1/2 an apple, 2 strawberries, a handful of grapes, 2 hard boiled eggs and two slices of ham.

    For lunch I ate a mixed salad (Iceberg lettuce, red cabbage and carrot) with chicken pieces and no dressing. Two strawberries and a handful of grapes.

    I will go to the the gym this evening and spend approximately 45 mins doing cardio and 15 mins doing strength.

    For dinner I will eat last nights leftovers (1 sweet potato, mashed with carrot, brocoli and tuna.)

    Then have a desert of a mixed fruit salad with a small serving of frozen yoghurt (1.5% fat) as I would like to keep a small amount of dairy in my diet.

    Am I doing something wrong? Should I be finding it harder for the first few days? If so what should I change?

    For reference I am a 21 year old female, 132lbs and would like to lose around 13lbs (And obviously feel healthy too). Any help would be much appreciated.

    • try not to eat as much fruit and starches like bananas (yes they are a starch) and sweet potatoes. The Paleo diet is most effective when you stick to lots of veggies and protein!

    • Day two? And you must be doing something wrong? Use some common sense here please. Talk to us after 30 days of strict paleo. It’s not just about losing weight, but healing your gut from damage caused by a North American diet. Paleo isn’t a diet, it is a lifestyle. Give it time, and out in the effort. Amazing things happen if you let it.

  16. I have been on the paleo diet 3 weeks now. I lost 8 pounds the first two weeks. I have been exercising 6 days a week and just started training with a personal trainer with weight lifting and gained some weight back (muscle) that’s normal. Stick with it. I lost 5 pounds the first week.

  17. Diet is not about losing weight, it’s about eating right. Read Grain Brain and you will understand Paleo Diet. Sugars cause inflammation, which ages us. Marketing is damaging you up. A slice of whole wheat bread is probably the worst thing you can put in your mouth. It’s about putting gas in your engine, not diesel. And yes arthritis is gone, the bags under my eyes are gone and as a side effect, went from 180 to 152. Don’t knock it till you try it. And you have to put the alcohol away.I used to have big problems with lose weight tips, but am getting in better shape now. Here’s a good site I found that really helped. It gave me great methods and and showed me what I was doing wrong before…there’s even lots of free articles on the site…http://www.cavediet.net

  18. I have been doing the low carb lifestyle for serveral years now, I cannot seem to lose weight, I am post menopausal, I am insulin resistant, I use around 30grams a day, I am a carb addict, I just dont know what else to do. When I first did low carbs I lost great, fell off the wagon a few times, and I just cant lose weight anymore, what can I do? I ordered yor book, but it seems strict and time consuming. I lack motivation right now. Nothing is working. Plus I do need support which I dont have. Please help me if u can. Thanks, VIc

    • I just signed in to answer your question. I have been where you are and one thing that helped me enormously was being prescribed metformin by my dr. My weight literally went from not losing one week to losing the next, that’s how fast it changed for me. It took me six months of not losing to do anything about it, I should not have wasted that time. So if you know you have been low carbing in a way that should lead to weight loss, perhaps a drs visit might be necessary. I hope that helps.

      • Metformin is not for everyone and is not a diet pill. It can cause very unpleasant GI side effects and is hard on the kidneys. Drink lots of water and get your CMP checked every 3-6 months if you use it.

    • Valerie! I’m also insulin resistant and having a hard time losing weight. I, however, am 35 and a stay at home mom with a 7 month old. Losing weight has never been easy for me, but has been worse after having a baby. I’m down to 50g of carbs a day and exercising as much as I can and nothing is happening. I’m getting really frustrated and defeated. It’s been a little over a month for me.

[if lte IE 8]
[if lte IE 8]