Overcoming a Weight Loss Plateau After Bariatric Surgery

Weight loss can be a breeze in the weeks and months immediately after bariatric surgery. Since the procedure limits the amount of food you can comfortably consume, and hormonal changes keep hunger pangs to a minimum, the pounds virtually melt off. But, just when you feel like you’ll reach your goal in record time, something happens: you hit a weight loss plateau.<!–more–>

Bariatric patients generally lose weight very rapidly in the first few months after surgery, and then weight loss becomes more gradual, before finally stabilizing around 12-18 months. During this time, people often experience one or more stalls—a period in which they lose very little or no weight. This type of plateau can last for days or weeks, and can cause post-op patients to question whether they are doing something wrong or their new pouch is still functioning properly.

weight loss plateauA Common Experience
The good news and the bad news is that weight loss plateaus after bariatric surgery are normal. The key to achieving one’s weight loss goal is to determine the cause of the stall, and take appropriate steps to keep moving forward with healthy eating habits.

Often, changes in weight loss are a result of fluctuations in water weight. Being more or less hydrated can cause a swing of a couple of pounds in either direction. But, staying hydrated is imperative for optimal metabolic performance. In other words, drinking the appropriate amount of water can actually promote weight loss.

Physical Changes Post-op
Another common cause of a weight loss stall is simply the fact that the body is beginning to adapt to the changes brought about by bariatric surgery. With malabsorptive procedures, like gastric bypass and duodenal switch surgery, the gastrointestinal tract may adapt to the anatomical changes, allowing it to absorb consumed foods more efficiently. Keeping portion sizes small, minimizing the amount of fat in the post-op diet, and increasing physical activity can help promote further weight loss.

Similarly, Lap-Band patients can hit a weight loss plateau when their gastric band needs to be adjusted. If after initial weight loss the stomach shrinks and the band is too loose, it will lose its effectiveness in restricting caloric intake, which can lead to a weight loss plateau. The bariatric surgeon can best determine whether a band fill is necessary to kick start weight loss again.

The Staircase to Goal
In general, charting weight loss after bariatric surgery will not necessarily be a straight slope, but rather a pattern of slopes and stairs that lead gradually to goal. Bariatric patients should expect occasional stalls, and be aware of the many factors at play rather than hitting the panic button. A weight loss plateau is no excuse to throw in the towel or become depressed. Sticking with the healthy eating guidelines and getting regular physical activity—throughout the occasional ups and downs—are the keys to greater long-term weight loss, and maintaining a healthy weight after reaching goal. Remember that bariatric surgery is not the ultimate solution, but just a tool to overcoming obesity. Like any tool, it must be used appropriately to achieve the best results.

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