Dealing With Plateaus After Bariatric Surgery
Unfortunately, with bariatric surgery or not, we will always experience setbacks in our quest for better health. At times when progress slows, we can feel like failures. Nothing is more frustrating than plateauing after bariatric surgery, having had months or even years of consistent weight loss. However, before we get into how to manage plateaus, it is important to remember they are perfectly normal, and you should not feel like you failed or take drastic measures to overcome them. Rather, we have a few practical tips to help you work through them and get back to your weight loss progression.
To understand how to break through a plateau, we need to understand what they are and how they are caused.
- Diet. Plateaus can occur because of the liberalization of your diet. Your stomach will grow somewhat over time, and gaining about 10% of your excess body weight back after about two years is not uncommon especially after a gastric bypass. We would consider that very normal and nothing that needs to be worried about or treated. However, what we eat also affects plateaus. For example, if we always eat the same thing and don’t diversify our diets, our bodies become accustomed to the food we consume and ultimately the metabolic system changes and adapts to the new diet. Keeping it fresh with new and interesting flavors, while keeping a lid on calories, is a great way to make sure you eat well but also don’t succumb to the frustration of having grilled chicken and salad day in and day out.
- Exercise. Exercise is very interesting because as you build muscle you may not lose as much weight, or you may even gain weight. Remember muscle is more dense and, therefore, heavier than the fat it replaces. When you are building muscle, you are setting yourself up for longer-term calorie burning. While you may not see the results immediately, you can rest assured the added muscle is burning more calories at rest than before. The result? You lose even more weight without any additional effort. When it comes to exercise, it is also important to switch up how you’re working out. It is easy to get into a routine where we always perform the same exercises, however, your body will get used to it and your muscles will not respond in an ideal fashion. Instead, switch up your exercise program and include workouts for smaller muscle groups. You can find lots of very interesting exercises you wouldn’t have otherwise thought to do.
- Mental Component. Finally, but not least, is the mental component of plateauing. If you notice you are more stressed out either at work or at home, or having difficulty with anxiety or even depression, all these things can contribute to a loss of motivation, poor diet, and exercise habits and ultimately weight gain. It’s very important to maintain a positive attitude and if you need help, reach out. Not only are we available to you but take advantage of your support group friends who have likely experienced similar feelings and will have great advice for helping you get back on track.
Weight loss plateaus or weight regain can also be of concern. This is particularly true if your weight is yo-yoing or if your weight has increased significantly in a very short period. At this point, it is important you contact the office to understand more about why your weight may be fluctuating. We will start with a comprehensive review of your diet and exercise program and continue with an evaluation medically.
The Bottom Line
You shouldn’t fear plateaus. Rather, gather your support team and the resources you have been given over the course of your post bariatric life. Work with and through them to get back on track. Taking a pragmatic and calm approach to plateaus will restart the weight loss process sooner than you think and set you up for even greater long-term success.