Weight stalls can be SO disheartening.
You’re losing weight for weeks and then all of the sudden…your weight loss comes to a halt and you hit that infamous plateau.
In this article, we’re going to explain why your weight may be stalling and if there’s something you can actively do about your stall to break it.
So keep on reading if you want to know what to do next time the scale isn’t moving.
(and no, pouch resets are NOT part of this equation….)
Why weight stalls are so frustrating after Bariatric Surgery
But first let’s discuss why exactly weight stalls can feel earth-shattering, especially after bariatric surgery.
Look, when you’ve tried every diet in the books, and bariatric surgery is your so-called last resort to weight loss and improved health, a lot of pressure is built over the years.
The pressure to lose weight. The pressure to not regain. The pressure to create new habits. And the list goes on and on.
Add toxic diet culture on top of that and you have the perfect recipe for a mindset where you’re probably being WAY too harsh on yourself (…and we get that!).
But this mindset only leads to feelings of failure and continuous disappointment. Time and time again.
Bariatric Surgery is a medical intervention to reduce the size of your stomach – but it’s not a surgery on your thoughts and feelings.
And the way your feelings are triggered by a weight stall, well…they’re related to your mindset too!
So, before we dive into the physiological, nutritional and hormonal part of weight stalls, we want to make this one thing perfectly clear:
Weight stalls are normal. They’re a part of your journey. They will happen and you’re not a failure if you’re not losing weight at the same rate all the time.
With that being said let’s start with one of the most important nutritional factors why you may stop losing weight: insufficient protein intake.
The link between weight stalls, weight loss and protein after Bariatric Surgery
Protein is the building block of your muscles. And you may already know that muscle mass can severely decline after Bariatric Surgery.
The amount of muscle mass is dependent on many things such as:
- Adequate protein intake
- Age & Gender
If you’re losing muscle mass, your metabolism slows down.
And this could potentially lead to slower weight loss!
Always remember to eat your protein first and to keep a close eye on your protein goals as you progress through your journey.
Getting your fluids in is invaluable for healthy weight loss after Bariatric Surgery
Sipping all day long and still nowhere near your hydration goals? We get it, it’s not an easy task to stay hydrated when you can’t eat and drink at the same time and water makes you nauseous.
But here’s the thing.
You need your liquids to keep all basic bodily functions working properly.
And after bariatric surgery, dehydration is lurking around the corner with restriction, not eating and drinking at the same time and possibly disliking the taste of water.
Hydration also plays a key role in a solid working metabolism. When your metabolism is up and running, it will be easier to lose weight as well.
Lack of sleep can lead you straight into a weight stall
Sleep deprivation is often underestimated when it comes down to weight stalls (and even weight gain).
Poor sleep quality or lack of sleep is linked to an increase in your hunger hormones (ghrelin) and a decrease in the hormones that make you feel full longer (leptin). When you’re sleep deprived, your ghrelin levels rise and your leptin levels drop. Simply put: you’re more hungry during the day.
Hunger hormones play an important role in regulating appetite and ultimately in the food choices you make.
Also, when you’re tired you may find yourself craving more slider foods like sweets, chips and chocolate.
Creating a peaceful evening routine may help you get the “Zzzz’s” that are well needed.
Mindless grazing can be another tricky pitfall
Have you ever wondered why it’s so easy to eat a bowl of chips, but you’re struggling to eat a few pieces of chicken?
To answer this question, it’s important that you’re aware of the nutrient density of different food sources.
Now…chips and chicken are not the same.
One is a so-called ‘slider food’ while the other is a high protein food source.
Slider foods such as popcorn, chips, pretzels, cookies and ice cream are typically easier to digest because they’re high in carbs and low in protein and/or fiber.
Digestion of slider foods already starts in your mouth with an enzyme called amylase found in your saliva.
Low carb and high protein foods don’t start to digest until they’re in your pouch with the help of an enzyme called protease.
Slider foods leave your pouch faster than nutrient dense foods, therefore not keeping your small stomach full for long.
It’s easy to overeat on slider foods, especially when you’re struggling to eat a “proper” meal because of:
- High restriction (you’re too full)
- Digestive issues (like nausea)
That’s why it’s so much easier to graze on slider foods after bariatric surgery. And bringing this to light is key to understanding certain eating patterns post-op.
Now, if mindless grazing becomes a pitfall, try this:
- Whenever you eat something, put your food on a plate (or in a bowl) first. Avoid eating straight from the package.
- Plan your meals and snacks (including at what time you intent to eat your meal). Having a plan isn’t a guarantee that you’ll stick to it, but it sure as heck helps!
- Add high-protein and/or a high-fiber food sources to your snacks to keep you full for longer. Foods that are also high in unsaturated fats, such as avocados, keep you satisfied too.
- Have a kind conversation with yourself. Whenever you have the urge to nibble on slider foods, tell yourself that it’s okay to have these cravings. And ask yourself this question: Why am I craving this right now? Am I hungry? Am I tired? Am I stressed? Am I sad? Am I doing this out of habit? Once you start to unravel the reasons behind the craving, you can observe the urge without the self-loathing part and preferably with lots of self-compassion (you’re only human, and it’s more than okay to not have everything figured out!).
Don’t think weight loss – but think in healthy body composition in stead
Not all weight loss is the same. If you’re losing muscle mass, you may be losing weight on the scale, but at the end of the day, your metabolism may take a hit.
Losing fat tissue is what we’re aiming for, especially after Bariatric Surgery where the perservation of your muscle mass is already at risk.
When you maintain an active lifestyle over time, you’re promoting muscle maintenance. And depending on what type of exercise you’re doing, maybe even muscle growth.
Next time you hit a plateau, make sure to track your measurements too!
Okay, but what about that “inconvenient” 3-week weight stall?
Everyone loses weight at a different rate after bariatric surgery, but there seems to be one common denominator: the 3-week stall. What happens at 3 weeks post-op? And why is it so common for weight loss to plateau all of the sudden?
Well…the answer has everything to do with your glycogen storage (if this is the first time hearing about glycogen, keep reading!).
Glucose is stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver. But when you’ve been on liquids for the first few weeks after bariatric surgery (and probably followed a low-carb pre-op diet too), your body’s glycogen storage is most likely all used up.
But after a few weeks in, you slowly start to add more foods and textures to your post-op diet, meaning that you’re refueling the glycogen in your liver and muscles. Glycogen binds to water causing “weight gain”. This in turn leads to a temporary stall in weight loss.
On top of that, your body is also adjusting to major changes which may cause hormones to fluctuate (recovery sure is a rollercoaster, right?).
Keep in mind that this is all part of the progress. And when in doubt, call your bariatric team first and foremost!
Now, in the next paragraph we’re discussing another question that comes to mind when we talk about weight stalls after bariatric surgery.
How do you know whether you’re in a weight stall or if you’re entering the maintenance phase of your journey?
There’s a distinction between the so-called honeymoon stage and the maintenance stage.
And even though there aren’t set rules as of how much you should lose in any given time – there’s a ton of research that can predict an estimate of how much excess weight “ideally” is lost within the first 12-18 months after your surgery.
To understand whether you’re ‘just’ stalling or entering your maintenance stage – you have to understand what your weight set point means.
Bariatric Surgery and your Weight Set Point
Bariatric surgery can change your weight set point. Your weight set point refers to the weight your body ‘feels most comfortable with’ and is mostly out of your control.
Bariatric surgery changes gut hormones and alters different pathways related to your metabolism. This leads to the lowering of your weight set point.
When you’re getting closer to your goal weight, your body may get closer to your weight set point. Your weight set point may be higher than your goal weight. And this will make it harder to lose weight.
Lifestyle changes like having healthy eating habits and keeping up consistently with an exercise routine play a key role in weight loss and weight maintenance after bariatric surgery.
To sum up the mechanisms behind weight stalls, remember this template:
Learn more about Your Onederland today!
“The easy way out”, they said. “Bariatric surgery is cheating”, they uttered. But whoever “they” are, we’re here to tell you that you’re brave for using bariatric surgery as a tool to reclaim your life.
Sure, the weight may come off faster, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no active mindset and lifestyle change involved.
Your Onederland your go-to resource when it comes down to changing your lifestyle after bariatric surgery. With more than 4000 friends joined on our community platform (no membership fees charged – yay!), you’re not alone.
You got this!
- Mechanik J.I., Youdim, A. Jones, D.B., et al. Clinical practice guidelines for the perioperative nutritional, metabolic, and nonsurgical support of the bariatric patient: Cosponsored by American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, The Obesity Society, and American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery, Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013;21Suppl 1:S1-27.
- Dagan S., Tovim, T. Keidar A., et al. Inadequate protein intake after laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy surgery is associated with a greater fat free mass loss. Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2018; 13:101-110.
- Beckman L. and Earthman C. Nutritional implications of bariatric surgery and the role of registered dietitans. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2013;113(3):398-399.
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