How to Avoid a Weight-loss Plateau After Bariatric Surgery

It’s not uncommon for people who undergo gastric sleeve surgery to have issues losing weight after the operation. And while it may seem as simple as reducing the amount of food you’re eating to prevent a weight-loss plateau, that could actually be causing the problem.

Although this can be frustrating and confusing, there are several factors that affect your ability to continuously lose weight following bariatric surgery. Because of this, it’s easy to unintentionally hinder your ability to lose weight. But that also means you can easily overcome a weight loss plateau by making a few minor adjustments.
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How Your Diet May Be Hurting Your Ability to Lose Weight

Just like with pre-weight-loss diets, the amount of food you’re eating typically has less of an impact on your ability to lose weight than what’s in the food you’re eating. Minor tweaks to your diet can make a huge difference.

Add More Protein to Your Diet

Infographic illustrating how much more satiating foods high in protein are than foods high in carbohydrates and fat.

Greek yogurt contains a lot of protein, making it a great option for breakfast or a snack.

Your body needs a lot of protein after gastric sleeve surgery. Make sure you’re giving your body what it needs by using the golden ratio: divide your ideal weight by 2.2; that’s the number of grams of protein you should be consuming every day.

Remember that protein is absolutely necessary for proper muscle formation and helps keep you full for longer periods of time. Some lean protein will go a long way toward helping you reach your weight loss goals.

Focus on Eating Nutritious Solid Foods

It can be unpleasant to eat solid foods following gastric sleeve surgery, which is why many people end up opting for easier options that are semi-solid or liquid in consistency. But that’s is a big mistake because all those foods lack substance and many are really high in calories.

Just think about the kinds of foods that fall under those categories and you will easily understand why they can pack on the pounds – ice cream, mashed potatoes and milkshakes are only a few examples. If you are eating foods that are high in sugar but low in protein, you are setting yourself up for weight loss failure.

Additionally, soft foods generally aren’t very filling, so you will be hungry in a few hours. Pack on enough of these types of foods and you will see your weight stagnate or balloon.

Make Sure You Are Eating Enough Calories

Another misstep that people make when they are trying to lose weight after gastric sleeve surgery is eating far too few calories.

While it’s true your weight is partially determined by how many calories you take in, it’s also true that humans are hardwired with a primal failsafe that kicks in when our bodies experience a lack of sufficient calories.

Historically, when humans experienced long periods of food scarcity their bodies defaulted to a starvation mode that allowed them to conserve more calories and help them survive.

The same goes for you; if you do not eat enough calories your body will start conserving calories and your weight loss will stall. It is far more effective to eat a bunch of lean protein and fill up on healthy foods.

Physical Activity Also Affects Your Weigh-loss Potential

In addition to proper dieting, it’s important you get the right amount of exercise – that means not too much and not too little. The type of exercise you’re getting also is important, as some types of exercise actually will do more harm than good.

Don’t Work Out Too Much, Too Soon

This is another counterintuitive reason why you might not be losing weight following surgery, but it’s because your body is in starvation mode and vigorous exercise – particularly intense cardio workouts – will not help you lose weight.

If you want to work out, consider going for long, low-intensity walks. You can also lift weights a few weeks after surgery. That will help build muscle, and since lean muscle burns fat more effectively it will aid in your weight loss goals.

Not Doing Any Exercise is Also Harmful

On the flip side, not working out enough may also be hurting your ability to lose weight. It can be tempting to veg out on the couch after having surgery, but you should try to move around at least a little bit. Take small walks and increase the intensity as your body heals bit by bit.

For more in-depth information about how to properly diet and exercise following bariatric surgery, check out our detailed post-op nutritional plan and our diet and exercise guide. Those resources can not only help you overcome weight-loss plateaus; they also will help you sustain continuous weight loss, allowing you to reach and maintain your ideal weight.