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

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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. Hi,Iam following Paleo diet for past 1 month initially I lost weight faster but now it seems to be slower….I need to reduce more than 40kgs yet it is possible within 3 months

  2. Hi,
    Your article is so motivating.Iam in paleo for past one month and I have lost about 4 kgs ! But there is no change in inches 🙁
    Iam still in same size.
    Am Iam normal ? should I wait or Iam doing something wrong?
    Can you pls help

  3. I’m new to Paleo but transitioned easily because I had been eating Keto for 3 months. During that time I lost 18 pounds. I also began exercising more vigorously and consistently (4-5x/week) and that’s when I stalled. I have not moved the scale in a month. I switched to Paleo thinking I needed more carbs but am not finding any luck with this either. I’m sure it’s a macros thing but really struggling with figuring it out. I’m gluten free and very limited sugar (none added, only natural occurring). I’d love any insight.

  4. I am a 60 year old woman, who is in good health, but I’m 20 to 30 pounds overweight:/ About 2 weeks ago my husband and I began a 6 week crossfit boot camp, which we go to for one hour three times a week, and began a Paleo diet. We are really enjoying both. I lost 5 pounds the first week, and have gained back about 1/2 pound in the second week, although I have changed nothing about my exercise or diet. Help!!

      • No, it does not. A pound is a pound. Fat has more volume than muscle but it doesn’t weigh more. A pound of feathers doesn’t weigh more than a pound of pennies but there sure are a lot more of them.

        • Body composition can change as well. You can meet people who are super fit but weigh more than you could think possible. Would you rather be healthy, fit and weigh more, or weigh less with fewer composition results? Keep up the great work Debbie! Consistency is key!

    • 1/2lb? The best thing you can do for yourself if you’re doing crossfit is to lock up your scale and only weigh yourself once a week. “gaining” 1/2 lb isn’t unusual. What exactly did you “gain?” Was is water? Fat? muscle? do you even know? My guess is your water cycles are holding on to some water. Don’t worry about 1/2 lbs. Keep on going. Good work, keep it up.

  5. I have lost so far 13.5kgs or 30 pounds in just 7 weeks, the last few weeks I have been fasting all day long with a coffee or 2 in the morning to midday and eating quite a large dinner with 250 to 300 grams of fatty protein and a load of broccoli and cauliflower and some days I add peas to that or spinach.
    I started at 90.2kgs now down to 76.7kgs. Goal is to get below 72kgs as I am only 5″5.

  6. I’ve been on the Paleo diet for 3 weeks and have lost 10 pounds by just eating eggs, meat and veggies. I eat protein/meat and veggies 6 days and have bread just once a week on day seven. That way I don’t feel deprived. Eating less sugar is so effective. I only use agave syrup and regular sugar not sweetener in my coffee with trader joes coconut creamer instead of coffee creamer. I feel full eating less of the carbs and sugar. This diet works!!! I’ve tried so many other diets but failed. I feel more full and have more energy plus I sleep better at night. Remember the less bad carbs and sugar the faster the weight will come off. Your body will burn your fat!!! Yes!! I’m sharing this diet with everyone. ??

    • Hello Kelly,
      How are you doing right now with your weight? Paleo had shreed all fat you wanted? Can you pass me the diet you have done? Thanks so much, best regards

  7. I have a question. My husband just started the Paleo diet. He is on this diet so he can lose weight. Besides having to lose weight he is also a diabetic. His Doctor told him for the first 2 weeks to eating only protein – nothing else. He has been eating lots of meat & eggs – nothing else, After the first two weeks he was told he could slowly start adding low carb fruits and vegetables. He is on third day and he is feeling like this will not work. He said by now something should show up in taking his blood sugar. He told me his numbers are higher now than before going on this. Does it take awhile for your body to adjust to this type of diet?

    • Simply meat doesn’t cut it. Your body can start breaking down the extra protein and converting it to sugars. Please also note that Paleo is not a high protein diet but a high fat diet.

      • no, paleo is not a high fat diet, this is not ketogenics which is dangerous for diabetics. Paleo is a high protein (high meaning your larger macro %) moderate fats, and picky carbs (carbs from plants, particularly with high fiber content). Sylina is correct about protein breaking down into glucose if there is too much of a surplus though.

        • Actually, a ketogenic diet is the most dangerous for type 1 diabetics (autoimmune diabetes), not type 2. Also, a paleo diet does not necessarily mean high protein with moderate fat. You can adjust your macros on a paleo plan. You can do a moderate protein and high fat paleo plan. There is also a way to do paleo with a keto twist. Macros need to be adjusted to what your body can handle. If your protein is the highest macro, that can cause a lot of problems for people as well. Paleo encourages plenty of fats, proteins and lots of veggies and fruits, and discourages grains. That is it.

    • I don’t know if you have figured this out yet, but I know someone who has. There is a man on facebook who lost lots of weight and is no longer diabetic by changing his diet. His page is called “Butter makes your pants fall off”. He will talk to you and answer questions for you. I hope this helps.

      • Where can I find this man ” Butter makes your pants fall off” ? My husband has just been told, he is borderline diabetic! 59 years old. And we BOTH need to make changes in our nutritional habits. Both of us are overweight !

    • My blood levels came down drastically. The doc asked me to reduce medication. I check my sugar levels quite frequently. Without carbs, the sugar levels should drop immediately.

    • Hi! It’s been a while since this post, so I hope you were successful. As a nurse, I had a few questions and concerns when I read this. Here is the thing- it is never a good idea to go “only” anything. You husband needs to first adapt to the lack of processed food and so forth. Add in more green vegetables(not iceberg lettuce) and the occasional whole fruit. He should cut back on his carbs in general, but as a diabetic, he should not eliminate them entirely, especially right at the beginning. This can be quite a shock to the system and can really mess up his blood sugar. I am actually surprised the doctor told him this, or maybe he misunderstood? An all protein diet is hard on many body systems, especially the kidneys, and a diabetic frequently already has compromised kidney function. What he should concentrate on is fiber rich, low sugar foods and a balanced plate. He also needs to increase his activity level. It might just mean getting up and walking around the house more at first, but I would definitely recommend weight training for diabetics and 20-30 minutes of cardio about twice a week, as this will address both insulin resistance and elevated cholesterol, which is also common in type 2 diabetics. I would encourage you to look at this as a marathon, not a sprint. Once his blood sugars and insulin levels even out, the weight loss will come more easily and quickly. That will take some time, so don’t give up!

  8. I follow a strick paleo diet. However I have drank a little. Lately I have stopped drinking thrown my body back into detox but I still can’t loose my last 10 pounds I gained. Could it be paleo cooking? I bake quite a bit to keep sugar cravings down because I have a sugar handling disorder and I sometimes still get bad cravings. Help! I feel like I’m stalled.

  9. Ive had cancer in my stomach and on a verry small diet were i have to eat 6 times a day dont have a energy much thank you

  10. Great article! I started the paleo diet a couple months back, in the second month I have lost 3lbs on the second week then on the 4th week gained it all back. After that I stopped and I used http://healthyfitnatural.com/3-day-military-diet/ which help me to lose this 3lbs but I heard that it shouldn’t be used very often since it is not good for overall health? Is that true, can someone help me with this… I know that I am not “good paleo diet girl” so what should I do from now on?

  11. HI Chris, I am a total newbie to the Paleo Diet, but I have been doing a lot of research and I am also an avid follower of your writings and posts. I am confused….I’ve read many times where the Paleo Diet avoids dairy, yet you are a proponent of butter, milk, cream, cheese, etc. I would like to gain a better understanding of dairy’s place in the Paleo Diet and what it’s benefits are in consuming it as YOU propose, vs. the Paleo’s who say avoid it. Many thanks! Off to read more of your works…..and starting Paleo this week.

  12. I have been using the Paleo Lifestyle for last 9 months along with Crossfit and running. In that time I have lost and kept off 40 pounds. One of the biggest keys for me has been meal prep, every Sunday I set aside a few hours to get all my meals ready for the week. Having good food around me has help a lot and keeps me from making bad food decisions during my work day.

    • Meal prep makes remaining Paleo much easier, as I have recently learned first hand. Back when Paleo and Crossfit was somewhat new, I followed both regimes and reaped the rewards. I stopped, and went to “hell” again. I’m back, have incorporated meal prep, and I am confident that I will be able to remain unstoppable.

  13. I started the paleo diet three months ago and lost 4lbs on the third week then on the 4th week gained it back. I’m very discouraged about the weight loss. I recently joined a gym and started spinning, so I hope this will make the difference.
    Before, I just couldn’t seem to make time to work out but now I realize it’s a must.

    • Body weight scales don’t factor in muscle gain, accurate fat loss, water retention, and other bodily functions that cause fluctuation in weight. Figure out your body fat percentage, and make periodic comparisons.

    • Wait…you only lost 4lbs in three months?? There’s no way you where doing any plan correctly because 4lbs can be lost without trying. I hope that was a typo.

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