Five Ways to Beat a Weight Loss Stall After Bariatric Surgery

Five Ways to Beat a Weight Loss Stall After Bariatric Surgery

Alex Brecher

A weight loss stall after bariatric surgery is one of the most frustrating things in the world. You may feel like you’re doing everything right. You may wait a few days, hoping it was just a blip in the scale. But when you finally have to admit that you’re no longer losing weight - or even gaining a bit of it back - it can be infuriating and discouraging.

Why does a stall happen? There are a few reasons why you might be experiencing a plateau. These are some of them.

  • Your metabolism is slower. As you lose weight, your body doesn’t need as many calories each day for survival. And, exercise doesn’t take as many calories, since you’re not moving so much weight around.
  • Extra foods have slipped back into your diet. As you get further out from weight loss surgery, you might notice that you can tolerate a wider variety of foods than you could when you were first going back to your solid foods diet. That can lead to eating foods that might not be as filling or nutritious.
  • Your pouch or sleeve has stretched. That can make you hungrier than you were right after your procedure.
  • Portion sizes have increased. You may not be measuring portions as strictly as you were right after surgery.

But it doesn’t help to feel guilty. Nearly all bariatric patients hit a plateau at some point. Instead, it’s good that you recognize it. That lets you try new things to get past the plateau. Here are four ways to beat a weight loss stall after bariatric surgery. 

  • Track your food.
  • Food logging is one of the behaviors that’s consistently linked to weight loss and prevention of weight regain. Tracking your food may have these benefits.

    • Making you think more about your food before you eat it because you know you’ll be logging it later.
    • Helping you recognize each component of your meal, such as butter added to vegetables.
    • Letting you realize the snacks and “tiny bites” that you eat that you didn’t think added up to much.

    It can be a bit of a pain to track your food at the beginning, but many food logging apps have smart features. They may have tools such as these.

    • Scanners that let you scan barcodes of packaged foods that you eat.
    • Databases with nutritional information of menu items from chain restaurants.
    • Memories so that you can quickly add foods that you eat often.

    Don’t worry if you’re not tech-savvy. A notebook and pen can get the job done, too.

  • Exercise differently.
  • How much exercise are you getting? If you’re not exercising regularly, starting a program (with your doctor’s okay) is a good way to burn a few calories and get your body to change. If you’re already exercising regularly, how much are you doing and how intense is it? The general recommendation is to get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, but that may not be enough for everyone.

    You are especially likely to benefit from exercising more or adding more intensity if you’ve lost a lot of weight or if you’re getting close to goal weight. A goal of 5 to 7 hours weekly can help many people keep weight off. And if you’re getting pretty fit and brisk walking doesn’t do it for you, you can try other activities to challenge yourself. These are some examples.

    • Strength training.
    • Swimming.
    • Regular or step aerobics.
    • Zumba or other dance fitness classes.
    • Using an elliptical or rowing machine, or stationary bike.

    Just be sure to check with your doctor before trying new activities.

  • Check your macros.
  • When was the last time you looked at the carbs, protein, and fat content of your diet? It’s possible you may need a change. Some people do better on more or less of these macronutrients compared to other people. And, your body can change over time. What worked before may not be working now. 

    If you’re not getting enough protein, adding more can help support lean muscle mass and also help reduce hunger. You don’t have to give up your favorite foods to get more protein, though. The BariatricPal Store has high-protein versions of many starchy or sugar foods. For example, there are all kinds of Protein Pasta choices, including Protein Mac and Cheese, as well as Protein Pancakes, Protein Cereal, and low-carb Protein Bread.

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Are you among the millions of Americans who don’t get enough sleep? You might be sabotaging your weight loss efforts. Sleep deprivation has these effects.

    • Increases hunger hormone levels so it’s harder to stop eating in the daytime.
    • Makes you tired so you’re less likely to be active during the day.
    • Reduces your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, so you experience spikes and drops, which can lead to sugar cravings and hunger.
    • Increases cravings for high-carb, high-calorie foods.

    Setting aside enough time for sleep each night is a good first step to getting enough sleep. Exercising during the day and following a relaxing and consistent bedtime routine also help.

  • Swap healthy treats for less-healthy ones.
  • Sometimes, less-healthy foods sneak into your diet because they taste good. And it’s hard to get them out because you don’t want to feel deprived. The BariatricPal Store has all kinds of healthy treats that can keep you satisfied but on track. These are some examples.

    They are designed to be bariatric-friendly, convenient, and absolutely delicious.

    Plateaus are frustrating, but normal. It’s important to give yourself some love instead of getting mad at yourself, and then to think about what you can do to help yourself get over it. Treating yourself and your body well, and including great-tasting healthy foods each day, can be important steps to getting back on track with weight loss.