Congratulations! You’ve committed to a life-changing decision and are officially post-op weight loss surgery. Whether the choice was a sleeve, bypass, or mini-bypass, every patient can expect to drop weight in a snap with little to no effort during the first few weeks. It’s heaven, and life is beautiful! *Cue the singing birds*
But then, it happens…
That high-speed weight loss train comes to a screeching halt. The scale says the same number over and over for days or even weeks at a time. Something must be wrong, right? It is so frustrating for patients to go through this, especially when they are doing everything by the book and STILL not seeing progress. (That cursed scale!)
This unhappy phenomenon is known as a “stall,” and everyone will experience this at some point.
What is a Stall and Why Do They Happen?
A stall or plateau is when the number on the scale that represents your weight stops changing. Being stuck in a stall during a weight-loss journey, bariatric or otherwise, is inevitable. It will happen to everyone at least once, sometimes even more, during their individual journey. And most people are surprised and disappointed when it does, especially when they eat carefully and exercise frequently. It’s incredibly frustrating when a stall will still happen despite our best efforts.
But why does it happen?
There are many reasons why patients experience stalls when factors such as age, gender, race, and health conditions can greatly affect when a stall occurs. One answer that is a common culprit of a stall is that the body has gone through a rather significant change when undergoing bariatric surgery.
The body is healing and will retain water. In addition to this, the body is temporarily out of balance due to the rapid weight loss in the first two weeks. The infamous “3-week stall” is actually the body getting back into a more sustainable balance. It rebuilds some glycogen (this is a healthy resource, with its associated water). More importantly, the diuretic effect of ketosis begins to fade as patients naturally start to eat a little bit of food.
Ways to Beat a Stall
If you have hit a plateau, there are a few things you can do to help it on its way:
Re-Commit to Tracking Your Food
Maybe you’re not measuring food as often as you used to, or perhaps you’re not writing it down because it was only one bite. In that case, you have no way of knowing if you’ve hit a stall because your body’s metabolism is changing and your habits are backsliding. And without that knowledge, change is difficult, if not impossible. We recommend downloading a food-tracking app to keep tabs on daily food and weight loss.
Change Up Your Diet
Food is not just calories. Healthy foods lead to lasting satiety and good energy levels, while carbs or chemicals will cause increased hunger with decreased energy. Cut back on the carbs and focus more on lean, healthy proteins. Our bodies have ways of adjusting over time, and it may well be that your body has adjusted to your new bariatric diet. Maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit. Please consult with our nutritionist to develop a plan that works best for you.
Water becomes a commodity for bariatric patients, and keeping hydrated becomes one of the greatest reported struggles on the post-op journey. Water helps flush the body, and when sufficiently hydrated, the body will feel less need to retain water weight which can aid in breaking a stall. It is crucial to get a minimum of 64oz of water daily to prevent dehydration. It is also important to keep liquids separated from meals by at least 30 minutes between drinking and eating.
Exercise Regularly – Change It Up Too!
Suppose you’ve been exercising regularly during the pre-op phase. In that case, you are certainly in better shape than you were a few weeks or even months ago! If you’re walking a particular route, try changing it to add some hills. Or, once safe to do, after the 6-week mark, add strength training. Try swimming or cycling, or check out a Zumba class. Having variety in physical activity choices will help break a stall and help you determine which movements you enjoy doing and will want to continue to do. Take the recommended supplements and stay engaged with your bariatric team in the long run.
Focus on the Non-Scale Victories (NSVs)
Anytime beyond the first few weeks after surgery, random fluid shifts will be a bigger daily factor than changes in fat mass or muscle mass. Weighing too frequently can negatively affect your mental state if that number isn’t moving the way you want it to. Try to keep it weekly and in the morning for the most accurate measurements. But more than that, we want our patients to focus on the non-scale victories that they will experience on their journey!
Clothes will fit better. You will be able to walk further, longer, and you’ll drop the meds you were once prescribed and squeeze into places that you could not do pre-op. It will feel amazing to keep track of these markers rather than numbers as they speak to the larger picture of the changes taking place within your body.
Take pictures of yourself regularly! Many people have a challenging time adjusting to their changing self-image as the weight comes off. The brain is tricky, and it processes how we see ourselves differently than what is actually in the mirror, so get some pics of your new healthier self! Compare them to your starting point and do this regularly. These photos can be just for you can share them with others in our Facebook group, Be Slim Bariatrics Patient Support – Bee Hive. The images might even be used on our website to help others become motivated to start their weight loss journey!
Get Enough Sleep
This one is underrated and often overlooked due to the busy lifestyle most individuals lead. Still, the importance of sleep and weight loss cannot be understated. If you’re not getting enough sleep, it’s harder for your body to burn calories, and you’re much more likely to feel food cravings. Try to aim for at least eight hours, and don’t shortchange yourself! Make good bedtime habits a priority.
Other ways to help break a stall include:
• Stress management
• Weigh yourself less
• Joining a support group (we have one!)
The Plateau is NOT Forever
So yes, the weight loss curve can be a bumpy ride at times. Experiencing plateaus is a normal part of weight loss, but stay positive, keep up the good work, and appreciate how far you’ve come! At Be Slim Bariatrics, we pride ourselves on being your life-long partner in health. Please reach out to us with any questions or to set up a consultation with our nutritionist.