How to Bust Weight Loss Plateaus After Bariatric SurgerySeptember 16, 2019
Why Weight Loss Plateaus Happen and What To Do
Weight loss plateaus or stalls in losing weight is a common concern. Most bariatric patients experience rapid weight loss in the first days and weeks after surgery. Then the rate at which you lose will begin to slow and many patients experience a weight loss stall that can last days or even weeks.
Don’t get frustrated by weight loss plateaus, your body has been through a lot in this journey to health and what you are experiencing is normal.
You lost weight during your pre-op diet, then quickly saw the pounds come off after surgery. As you progressed through the post-op stages you followed a strict diet and your food intake changed drastically. At first, you only consumed an all-liquid diet, then moved into the soft food stage in small increments, then eventually started introducing small portions of healthy solid foods. Your body has been adjusting to your new stomach and your new food intake. As you progress into the maintenance phase you will also need to adjust to your new normal or new body set point.
Remember, both of the gastric sleeve and gastric bypass decrease hunger and improve feelings of fullness by shrinking stomach size, changing hormones, and altering the way your stomach talks to your brain. Different from diet and exercise alone, your body won’t fight back the same way to maintain your old set point.
As you lose weight, your metabolism can still slow down at various times. Less food is consumed and exercise is increased, causing you to burn fewer calories than you did at your previous heavier weight. Your body needs time to catch up and adjust to hormonal changes and new calorie levels. Over time, your body will find a much lower and much healthier set point that you can maintain.
Losing Weight vs Gaining Muscle and Decreasing Inches
Sometimes patients are overly concerned about numbers on the scale. In fact, their “weight loss plateau” may not be a true weight loss stall or reflective of the progress they are actually making.
Keep in mind muscle weighs more than fat. So if you are working out, getting adequate protein, eating a healthy diet and drinking lots of water, you are still getting healthier and progressing; the scale just isn’t reflecting the progress. Don’t get hung up on the numbers on a scale. Instead, think about how your clothes fit, how much more energy you have, how confident you are and how much healthier your body feels.
Tips to Manage a Weight Loss Plateau
If you feel your overall progress and weight loss has stopped, don’t be discouraged. With a little extra effort, you can break through the plateau and begin losing weight again.
How do you get to overcome a weight loss plateau? Try these tips!
Evaluate and document your current nutrition
What, if anything, changed in your daily nutrition habits? Reevaluate portion sizes, calorie intake and the kinds of foods you are eating. Write down everything you eat and don’t forget to account for calories in what you drink—liquid calories are still calories and count toward your daily intake. Seeing everything you eat on paper will help you better identify changes you may need to make.
Increase your protein intake
Are you consuming at least 60 grams of protein per day? Protein boosts your metabolism, making your body more effective at burn fat. Be sure to watch the fat content the foods you eat and make low-fat protein choices whenever possible.
Change up your fitness routine
Are you doing the same workouts every day? As your body adapts to a particular form of exercise, it becomes more efficient. While efficiency is typically considered a good thing, when you’re talking about weight loss, the more efficient your body is, the fewer calories it requires to complete an exercise or activity.
Consistency (working out at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week) is key, but so is variety. Change things up. If you walk one day, try cycling, rowing or swimming the next. Try a new activity or workout class at the gym. Allowing your body the opportunity to adapt to your fitness routine will only lead to frustration in achieving your weight loss goals.
Do strength training and cardio exercise
A cardio or aerobic workout burns calories, but strength training increases muscle mass. The more muscle you have in your body, the quicker it will burn calories.
Strength workouts also help your body continue burning calories even after your workout ends. Strength training and cardio exercise go hand-in-hand and are equally important for weight loss. Aim to get in least two strength training workouts every week.
Increase the intensity of your workouts
Increasing intensity is another way to prevent your body from adapting to your fitness routine. As you become more fit, you need to step up intensity to continue losing weight. Gradually boost the intensity of your workout each week.
For example, this week, go for a brisk, 30-minute three days. Next week, try walking for five minutes and jogging for 30 seconds to one minute. Repeat this interval off for the duration of your workout.
Check your stress level
Storing excess fat is just one way your body may react to stress. Managing your stress with stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation or prayer, gardening or having a hobby can help. Find something that helps you relax and make time for a few minutes of that activity every day. Be sure you’re also getting six to eight hours of sleep each night as well.
Get involved in a weight loss support group. There are many bariatric support groups online. Nicholson Clinic offers our patients access to a private Facebook support group as well as in-person and virtual support group meetings. You’re not on this journey alone, but you do have to take the step to reach out and find support. Take advantage of a variety of support opportunities provided by your bariatric surgeon to connect with others who are on the same journey.
Have a vision
Don’t lose sight of your end goal. A healthier, fitter, thinner you. Visualize your success and regularly take time to reflect on your goals and how far you’ve come in achieving those goals.
Before making any major changes to your nutrition or exercise routine, consult with your physician.
Hitting a weight loss plateau can be frustrating, but experiencing a stall doesn’t mean you won’t lose any more weight. Follow these tips and you should be back on the road to success.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Nick Nicholson is one of the nation’s leading bariatric surgeons. He’s been performing weight loss surgery since 2001 and has helped patients from ALL 50 states and 11 countries. He leads a team of top surgeons, specializing in Sleeve Gastrectomy, Gastric Bypass, LAP-BAND, Revisions, Gastric Balloon, and abdominal cosmetic surgery after weight loss. He practices out of the Nicholson Clinic for Weight Loss Surgery. Read more articles by Dr. Nick Nicholson!