A weight loss plateau after bariatric surgery is quite common and can be frustrating, especially if you have experienced success thus far on your weight loss journey. You can feel defeated when the number on the scale doesn't budge despite all the hard work you have put into your health journey.
8 Tips to Overcome a Weight Loss Plateau after Bariatric Surgery
A weight loss plateau after bariatric surgery can occur for several reasons, including after several weeks of extreme weight loss or the patient not following their dietitian's recommendations. Yet, regardless of the cause, you want to overcome this weight loss plateau so you can get back on track to reaching your goal weight.
1. Track food intake
When patients hit a weight loss plateau after bariatric surgery, it is most likely due to consuming too many calories. Within the first few weeks of bariatric surgery, your diet will adjust accordingly, which can cause some confusion about what and how much to eat.
Therefore, we recommend bariatric patients track their food intake and energy expenditure for a week to see where they may be slipping up. Similarly, you want to be sure you measure out your food. This will give you an idea of how much and how frequently you eat, including your macronutrient breakdown between carbs, fats, and protein.
When you schedule a follow-up visit with your surgeon, bring the food diary with you so you can go over it together.
2. Eat more protein
Protein is a nutrient that helps you stay full longer and supports your muscles. Therefore, having protein every couple of hours during the day will help you stick to a low-calorie, low-carb diet.
A typical range for protein is 30 to 50% of your total caloric intake. The closer you are out from your bariatric procedure, the higher protein content we recommend, typically closer to 50%. This percentage is individual-based, so make sure you talk to your bariatric dietician or surgeon and follow their recommended guidelines.
3. Limit snacking
Snacking between meals can lead to a weight loss plateau after bariatric surgery due to the quality and quantity of food consumed. Most often, snack foods are full of carbohydrates and sugar. They are considered "low density" food items due to the lack of nutrition.
When you don't sit down for planned meals, it is easy to overeat or eat foods that are not on your bariatric nutrition plan. Although we suggest bariatric patients eat five small meals daily, we also suggest they plan accordingly.
4. Plan your meals
Planning your meals will limit your snacking and grazing and ultimately help you to consume fewer calories. Also, when planning your meals, you can consider the macronutrient breakdowns recommended after bariatric surgery.
5. Move more
Exercise is a critical component of any weight loss plan. Whether you are focused on cardio or strength training, regular physical activity can help you overcome a weight loss plateau after bariatric surgery. We also recommend trying to work out in your heart rate zone to measure your workout intensity. Exercise intensity determines fitness performance, weight loss, cardiovascular fitness, and health.
6. Drink more water
Our bodies are made up of about 60% water; therefore, water is an essential substance we must consume for optimal bodily function.
Water is also effective in helping you maintain a healthy weight as it acts as an appetite suppressant and helps your body metabolize fat. To experience all these benefits, you want to drink at least 64 ounces of water a day.
7. Get better sleep
Getting a good night’s rest is essential to overall wellness and could help overcome a weight loss plateau after bariatric surgery. Two types of hormones affect our feelings of hunger and satiety; leptin and ghrelin. Sleep impacts these hormonal levels, influencing our desire to eat and our ability to stop eating. Studies have found that sleep deprivation is likely to lead to uncontrolled and poor eating habits.
Similarly, sleep deprivation can lead to elevated cortisol levels, which can lead to the accumulation of body fat.
8. Follow up with your bariatric care team
Some of the most successful bariatric patients are the ones who frequently attend their follow-up visits after weight loss surgery and maintain regular contact with their bariatric care team. Patients who attend post-op visits can meet one-on-one with their surgeon and dietitian to evaluate their eating and exercise habits.
Attending your bariatric follow-up visits will likely mitigate the bad behavior causing your weight to plateau. Similarly, your physician will be able to identify other possible mechanisms preventing successful weight loss.