Weight Loss Plateaus – What Can We Do?

August 5, 2018

There isn’t a dieter in the world that hasn’t experienced a weight loss plateau during their lifestyle change. This is no different for weight loss surgery patients. Weight loss plateaus usually occur a few months after surgery and can be especially frustrating for weight loss surgery patients because they will have seen incredible weight loss results over the past several months – then the number on the scale just stalls. While weight loss plateaus can be upsetting, they are also an important part of the postoperative learning cycle. Let’s explore plateau’s and how to manage them:

So, why do we plateau after such amazing weight loss?

  1. The most common reason is that our bodies get used to the new lifestyle – yes, we’ve followed our diet and exercise regimen and yes, we’ve cut calories significantly, but the body and mind are very adaptable, sometimes stubbornly so. Metabolism regulation is fluid and the body tries to balance caloric intake with caloric expenditure. When the body experiences what it believes is starvation, it adjusts accordingly. Once the body goes into starvation mode it burns fewer calories and accumulates more fat, if it believes food is not forthcoming.
  2. Weight loss plateaus can also occur because muscle begins to replace the fat we are losing as part of our diet. Indeed, many patients will find themselves not losing weight or even gaining some as they put their exercise regimen into high gear. This is because patients are gaining muscle mass more quickly than they are losing fat. Further, as we develop muscles, these muscles in enlarge and retain water temporarily, adding weight.
  3. Lastly, weight loss plateaus occur because our bodies have simply gotten used to the current diet and exercise regimen. You may have a favorite breakfast, lunch or dinner – You may also have your favorite exercises. However, if you do not work out secondary muscles or different muscles and if you always the same foods, your body can become complacent when burning calories.

What Are the Options to Restart our Weight Loss?

First, let’s change the subjects slightly and look at the other benefits bariatric surgery – Specifically the Improvement resolution of obesity related diseases. Over the course of the first year after surgery, you will be visiting our office several times and on a few of those occasions, you will have a full blood workup. Even though your weight loss may have plateaued, seeing sugar, cholesterol, high blood pressure and other critical number stabilize at a normal rate is far more important than a number on the scale. Ultimately the goal is for you to live a longer and healthier life and resolving the diseases associated with obesity are even more important than losing the weight. Now let’s get to it:

  1. Shake up your diet. Start experimenting with different healthy foods, bearing in mind that high-protein meals with complex carbs and healthy fats is key to a well-balanced diet. Many times patient avoid all carbs or all fats in their diets. This is a mistake. A well-rounded diet with good carbs and good fats, in accordance with your post-op lifestyle packet is key.
  2. Shake up your exercise program. Exercising the same muscle groups over and over again not only increases your risk or injury, but can also slow your weight loss progress. Make sure that you switch up your exercise regimen regularly to include secondary muscle structures and other major muscle groups, even if you don’t love that particular exercise.
  3. Make sure you take your vitamins and other supplements as instructed. Believe it or not, vitamin deficiencies can cause significant negative psychological and physical effects. You will want to be consistent with your vitamins supplementation which will be adjusted based on the results of your bloodwork at your periodic postop visit. Simply taking your vitamins right before a blood test is not enough and may hide a deficiency that needs supervision and correction.
  4. Cut out sugar substitutes. Years ago, we truly believed that sugar substitutes were the answer to the problem of excess sugar consumption. New research however has determined that artificial sweeteners and almost any low calorie sweetener stimulates the brain to crave more sugar and more food. Ultimately, you may not be consuming any calories, but it makes weight loss that much more difficult.

It is very easy to obsess over the number on scale – after all, obesity may have affected you for years, decades or even your entire life. Seeing the number on the scale heading downward is one of the most satisfying and encouraging parts of post-surgery life. However, it is extremely important to remember that life after weight loss surgery is very different to a fad diet – you’re not looking to lose weight fast. Rather, we prefer sustained weight loss over long period of time, which allows your body time to adjust and create a new setpoint at a lower weight.

If you are struggling with a weight loss plateau and just can’t seem to move that number on the scale, start keeping a journal of everything that you eat and how much you exercise. Bring that into the next support group. Your doctor and peers can help you figure out what may be going wrong and offer suggestions to help you restart your weight loss. And of course, we are always here for any questions or concerns to me you may have.

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Advanced Surgical Associates is one of the first exclusively surgical groups practicing in Union County New Jersey. And that is just the first of many firsts for ASA. For over 40 years, we have pioneered breakthrough surgical patient care in North Jersey in both general and weight loss surgery. ASA also offers gastric bypass, gastric sleeve and gastric banding to those suffering from obesity in New Jersey.
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