Stalled after Surgery? Here Are 6 Things to Consider

Article By: Whittany Gibson, RDN

Whittany is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in bariatric nutrition counseling, and owner of Level Up Bariatrics, LLC, a bariatric lifestyle coaching program that provides pre and post-op support for weight loss surgery patients. Learn more on Instagram (@level_up_bariatrics).

Embarking on the journey of weight loss surgery is a brave step towards a better, healthier life. However, it's natural to encounter challenges along the way. If you feel frustrated and overwhelmed at a weight stall, know that you're not alone. Plateaus or stalls are a normal part of the post-op weight loss journey, and they can happen for various reasons. Don't be disheartened! This blog post will uncover six common reasons for weight stalls after WLS that often go unnoticed. Plus, we'll share actionable tips to help you overcome them.

1) You’re underestimating your protein needs. Many people think the recommended 60-80g protein goal is enough, but if you want to see real results and transform your body, you’ll likely need to up your game. As you become more active after surgery and start building muscle, your body will demand even more protein to recover and build lean mass while torching fat. And isn't that what we all want? The answer is “YES”!

Now, let's talk about muscle loss. During rapid weight loss, generally within the first six months, bariatric surgery patients lose significant muscle. That's why giving your body the protein it needs to prevent muscle loss and promote muscle gain is essential. It's not unusual to see patients aiming for the 100-150g range once they've passed the initial diet stages and any food intolerances. Protein is crucial for healthy weight loss and maintenance and helps build muscle, which plays a significant role in burning fat and boosting your metabolism. Focus on whole foods first, and fill in what you’re missing with clean ingredient protein supplements only if necessary. Be sure to speak with your bariatric dietitian before making significant changes.

2) Your body is thirsty. Hydrating after WLS can be challenging at first, but it's absolutely essential for your well-being! Think of it as a vital part of your daily routine. Water boosts your energy, cleanses your system, aids digestion, keeps you satisfied, and hydrates external organs like your skin to all the ones within! When dehydrated, your body focuses on survival instead of losing weight, making it more challenging to shed those extra pounds. So, remember to drink at least 64 ounces of water every day. You’ll need to increase that goal for temperate climates or if you exercise regularly.

3) You’re lacking quality & restful sleep. Getting enough sleep is vital for overall health, but it's also essential for weight loss. When you don't get enough sleep, your metabolism slows down, and your body produces more of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger. This can lead to overeating and can promote unhealthy food behaviors. Additionally, a lack of sleep leads to imbalance hormones and stress, which you’ll read more about in the following paragraphs. Aim for at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night and establish a regular sleep routine. Get those zzzs!

4) You’re not challenging yourself enough with exercise. Exercise is essential for overall optimal health, weight loss, and maintaining muscle mass after WLS. Try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise into your day most days of the week. This can be as simple as walking around the block or doing light resistance training with bands. But don’t get comfortable there for very long! Develop a habit and start to increase time or intensity. To optimize weight loss, aim to do strength training exercises 2-3 days a week and thirty minutes per day of other activities like walking, jogging, swimming, or anything else that elevates your heart rate. The key here is to start small, become stronger, and continue to build your strength and endurance.

5) Your hormones are out of balance. Your hormones are vital in regulating your metabolism and weight loss journey. After WLS, your hormones may fluctuate, affecting weight loss. For example, if you're a female, your estrogen levels could have decreased after surgery, which can slow down weight loss. Another hormone to consider is cortisol, which is often referred to as the "stress hormone." High cortisol levels can lead to weight gain or a weight stall. To combat this, try practicing stress-reducing activities like meditation or yoga. If this is a true concern for you, have a conversation with your practitioner and have tests completed for evaluating hormones.

6) Practice self-care. When it comes to self-care, patients may need help prioritizing themselves. Sometimes, this practice feels like selfishness to them, but in reality, it is what it takes to be healthy — healthy for yourself and others. Health starts from within, which means taking measures to prevent, manage, and relieve stress. It also includes prioritizing your sleep, going to therapy to address underlying issues, prioritizing planning your day to ensure you meet nutrition goals, and making exercise non-negotiable. Having solid plans in place daily for all these things is a game changer in one’s transformative journey after WLS.

Weight loss stalls can be frustrating, but they're a normal part of the journey. If you're experiencing a weight stall after WLS, it's important to remember that there could be several reasons for it. You can re-jumpstart your weight loss during any plateau or stall by addressing at least these five common issues — protein, hydration, sleep, exercise, evaluating hormones, and practicing self-care. But more importantly, you get closer to a holistically healthy you! Stay positive, stay motivated, and don't give up — you got this!

BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

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