overcome wls stalls

11 Tips to Overcome Weight Loss Stalls

June 5, 2015

Hitting a plateau or weight loss “stall” is common for just about everyone engaged in the weight loss process, including people who have undergone bariatric surgery. While it can be justifiably frustrating, it’s probably not a sign your journey is derailed or in jeopardy. You can conquer stalls with the top 11 tips to overcome WLS stalls below. The good news is that stalls usually happen after you have lost a significant amount of weight—so congratulations!

Overcome WLS Stalls

Stalls are part of the weight loss journey.

You will probably experience rapid weight loss in the weeks and months immediately following your surgical weight loss procedure. But the body will eventually need a ‘time out” to stabilize itself and adjust to your new nutrition intake, overall girth and increased calorie burn due to exercise. It can happen anytime in your weight loss journey but is particularly common 3-6 months after surgery. There are typically anywhere from one to three plateaus in the first year following surgery.

Generally, stalls can last anywhere from days to a few weeks, even though you’re staying on track. Before you let it discourage you from furthering your progress, let me explain why this is happening and, most importantly, why it will eventually pass and your weight loss momentum will resume.

Why Do Weight Loss Stalls Happen?

When you lose weight rapidly, you are losing lean body mass (muscle) and fat. Your muscle plays a big part in the burning of calories by keeping your metabolic rate higher so you want to hold onto your muscle and even make more muscle. (This is one of the reasons we ask you to take in so much protein).

A weight-loss plateau usually occurs when your metabolism slows down. Now that you're thinner, the activities you're performing may not be resulting in as much calorie burning. Metabolic rate is the amount of energy (calories) your body will burn at rest while just maintaining your bodily functions like breathing, circulating blood, repairing cells and changing hormone levels, for example. An increased metabolic rate is not the only reason for keeping muscle. You want to keep muscle so you can use them to exercise and burn even more calories. Weak muscles make exercise more difficult so build muscle with strength training and aerobic work.

We always hear that eating too much causes weight loss to stop. But how about not eating enough calories? If you are losing weight rapidly due to a drastic drop in food and/or calorie intake, your body will naturally slow down its metabolism in order to conserve energy (think hibernation mode). Your body thinks you are “starving” and holds onto every last calorie.  If you do the same routine every single day your body may be accustomed to this. Make a change to get things moving again.

When you’ve hit a plateau, it is time to start strategizing how to overcome it. Your bariatric surgery may have made it easier to reach this point, but now you have to step up your game to achieve the results we all know you’re capable of.  The 11 manageable changes could help you overcome your plateau without fatiguing yourself:

11 Tips to Overcome a Weight Loss Stall

  1. Exercise! And if you do the same exercise all the time, try something different that uses different muscle groups. Are you a speed walker? Then try swimming.
  2. Weight yourself less often.
  3. Keep food journaling to ensure there are no negative nutrition issues creeping in.
  4. Increase the intensity of your exercise to boost metabolism, tighten up that loose skin and make your clothes feel even looser.
  5. Concentrate on eating protein to help keep muscle. Sometimes adding a protein shake meal replacement every day can help.
  6. Stay well hydrated and drink 64 ounces every day−no matter what.
  7. Commit to eight hours of good sleep per night.
  8. Talk about your weight loss stall with healthcare professionals and people in your life that you trust.
  9. Get your mind off the plateau—get out and attend a concert or sporting event; stroll through the mall, see a couple of movies, visit the library or a bookstore.
  10. Remind yourself you haven’t done anything wrong and this is the body’s way of regulating itself to fuel a lighter and leaner version of you.
  11. Reach out for extra support.

If plateaus continue for more than a few weeks, review your nutrition plan and activity level with your bariatric dietitian. Reconfirm that you’re following the nutrition guidelines for portions, protein and fluid intake, while keeping fats and sugars in your food selections to a minimum. Decreasing your activity level can also contribute to a weight plateau. If you are weight training, consider that muscle weighs more than fat; while you are building muscle, you are still losing inches even though if it doesn’t show on the scale.

Remember that there are many layers of people supporting you throughout your road back to good health—your surgeon and nutrition team; family, friends, colleagues, live support groups and the 24/7 online support network here on ObesityHelp.com.

Let everyone know you are on a brief weight loss hiatus. Get support, tips, and tricks to overcome WLS stalls. Stay positive and be sure to recognize and celebrate how far you have come in a short time. This is a very brief pit-stop on your highway to weight loss surgery success.

overcome wls stalls


Dr. Ayotunde Adeyeri is a New Jersey board certified, fellowship-trained, advanced laparoscopic, bariatric and general surgeon. He is the Medical Director of Sterling Surgicare in Holmdel, NJ, and Co-Medical Director of Central Jersey Bariatrics in Freehold. He specializes in performing a wide range of bariatric procedures including RNY gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, duodenal switch (DS), gastric banding and revision bariatric surgery.

Read more articles by Dr. Adeyeri!