Food Choices That Can Stall Weight Loss

June 14, 2023

Food Choices That Can Stall Weight Loss: What has more calories? An ounce of M&M’s? Or an ounce of peanuts? If you thought “for sure M&M’s”, you would be wrong. The peanuts have about 160 calories and the M&M’s have about 140 calories. Now, if I then asked you which of these two is the better choice for your overall health, I have no doubt you would say the peanuts (or at least I hope you would). Peanuts have 7 grams of protein per serving, along with more than 30 essential vitamins and minerals and are a good source of fiber and heart healthy monounsaturated fats. Wow, that’s a lot of good stuff! As for those M&M’s, well, they sure do taste amazing. 

Generally Considered Heart Healthy

One of the most common missteps I see in the post bariatric surgery patient is the confusion involving foods that are generally considered heart healthy and their impact on weight loss. At this point 99% of us know that deep fried Twinkies are high in calories and considered heart “unhealthy”, so there isn’t much need to teach this over and over anymore. The weight loss surgery patient who fell back into their daily Frappuccino habit and whose weight loss has stalled would be very unlikely to question the reason for their stall. It’s pretty obvious that those liquid calories add up quickly.

But the stalled patient who engages in heart healthy eating behaviors and avoids liquid calories and deep fried twinkies might have some valid questions as to why the pounds stopped moving downward. 

When we explore food choices that can stall weight loss, we have to be careful not to insult a person’s intelligence by pointing out the obvious foods that may be the cause like: pizza, wings, chips, soda, donuts, pastries, candy bars, etc. Let’s face it, these foods can be tempting and hard to say no to if the patient hasn’t adopted a system to handle their ability to keep these foods in moderation.

Less Obvious Food Choices That Can Stall Weight Loss

Now let’s turn our attention to less obvious foods that may be causing that obnoxious stall. Foods that are a little bit more sneaky in our diets. Foods that we have been told are good for us and are therefore less threatening to our health. The problem is we can sometimes fail to distinguish heart healthy foods from the calories that are contained in them. Over the years, I have seen countless patients with long-term stalls admit to consuming all the nuts they want each day without concern for the calories in them. Or boast of using “healthy” oils such as olive or avocado instead of Canola or Vegetables oils. The truth is that almost all oils have the same amount of calories (120) per tablespoon and if a weight loss surgery patient is going to use them, they should not be used without having an idea for the amount, whether it is measured or used by an experienced eyeball.

Other foods I have often seen patients eat freely and without concern for the calories contained in them are avocados, granola, hummus, butter or margarine, salad dressings, and peanut butter. A medium avocado has about 240 calories. A tablespoon of butter is about 102 calories and a tablespoon of Ranch dressing is 75 calories. 

I am in no way saying you should avoid these foods. When a stall is real, the first thing I recommend is taking a look at your total daily caloric intake, no matter what food it is. You should already be working with your doctor and dietitian on how many approximate calories per day you should be consuming to see weight loss. As you get more experienced with understanding the caloric content of foods, it won’t be necessary to count calories every single day for the rest of your life. Let your smaller stomach and your understanding of your own satiety help guide you without calories in your head all day long.

Calorie obsession is a real thing and it can cause some destructive behavior and obsessive thoughts that we want to make sure to avoid after weight loss surgery. Just remember to not devalue the calorie simply because it’s in a walnut vs a cookie. 

Michael Murphy, RD, is the lead dietitian and nutrition adviser for AZ Weight Loss Clinic.

Food Choices That Can Stall
Mike Murphy


Michael Murphy, RD, is a registered dietitian with over 18 years of experience working with weight loss surgery patients. He is the lead dietitian and nutrition adviser for AZ Weight Loss Clinic. His mission is to re-shape the nutritional habits and behaviors of his weight loss surgery patients to ensure permanent success after weight loss surgery.