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One of the most significant setbacks that bariatric surgery patients face is a weight plateau or even weight regain in the months following their weight loss procedure. Rapid weight loss occurs in the first six months following gastric sleeve surgery, often at three to five pounds per week during the first three months and slowing afterward. Most bariatric patients will continue to lose excess weight until 12 to 18 months after gastric sleeve surgery, but sometimes a stubborn weight loss plateau can occur as early as six months into their new life. Why does this happen?
Weight Loss Plateaus are Normal
Plateaus are a normal occurrence in your weight loss journey. Hitting one after undergoing gastric sleeve surgery is so jarring because of how easily you drop the pounds in the first weeks and months. The more weight you need to lose, the easier the pounds come off. Quickly losing weight immediately after surgery happens because your body adapts to the lower calorie diet and burns alternative energy sources. First, you burn glycogen stored in the muscles and liver, and then the body turns to fat and lean muscle mass. When your body begins to burn muscle, your metabolism slows, typically causing you to hit a weight loss plateau. Someone with high muscle mass will have a higher metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day. As a lighter person, you no longer have the same muscle mass as previously. You will no longer be at a deficit with the calories you consume. When food intake decreases significantly, as it does with a bariatric diet, your body adjusts internally to create a stable weight. That’s why you stop losing weight.
Getting Past a Weight Loss Plateau After Bariatric Surgery
The trick is listening to your body and learning what you need to do to avoid needless weight gain and getting on the road to losing the excess weight that bariatric surgery helps you achieve. You need to add an external change to get past a weight loss plateau. We will walk you through suggested tips that can help promote weight loss and get you on the road back to a healthy weight.
1. Try a Pouch Reset
When you had your weight loss surgery, whether it was a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, gastric bypass surgery, or another type of operation, your surgeon reduced your stomach to a small pouch. Try jumpstarting your weight loss through a gastric pouch reset diet. This routine is essentially a post-op psychological tool to help you get back on track and avoid revision surgery.
Medical experts are divided on whether you can stretch your stomach after weight loss surgery, as the stomach is an organ that can expand and contract. After surgery, your new stomach pouch continues its regular flow of expansion and contraction. When you overeat, a tissue known as rugae stretches to accommodate food. When you overeat repeatedly, the sensation of fullness takes longer, resulting in unhealthy eating habits.
Essentially a pouch reset mimics the post-bariatric surgery diet recommended by your surgeon and dietician. The point of this diet is to return to the mindset of healthy eating. It’s shorter than your original post-op plan as you don’t have a stomach that requires healing. The program will begin with a liquid diet, followed by pureed foods, and then back to solid foods.
The goal of the pouch reset is to demonstrate that you have the will and commitment to follow a disciplined post-op diet and exercise regimen. By doing so, you can regain the confidence needed to stay motivated and incorporate new lifestyle habits to promote long-term weight loss.
2. Jumpstart Your Exercise Habits
Increasing your physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, will do wonders for weight loss. You’ve lost muscle mass, so what is the best way to increase it? Through weight or resistance training, you’ll promote muscle retention, which affects how many calories you burn at rest and during activities. Adding another physical activity with increased time or intensity is essential to your workout regimen as it will boost your metabolic rate.
However, other factors can influence the number of calories you burn. Your metabolic rate increases when you fidget, change posture, etc. These activities are known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). NEAT varies from person to person, but one study noted that fidgeting while seated increased by an average of 54% and up to 94% when standing. Try to stand and walk more as you may find you will begin to lose weight again.
3. Track Your Food Intake
Research suggests that people underestimate how much they eat, especially high-calorie foods. Tracking calories and macronutrients can provide concrete information about how much and what type of food you’re consuming so you can modify it. Just the mere fact of recording your food intake may allow you to recognize food cravings and change your habits.
Track the time of day when you eat and your feelings to look for red flags like binging or emotional eating. Recognize eating triggers and find other foods that are healthier and more nutrient dense. Just 100 to 200 fewer calories daily can help you lose weight again.
4. Focus on Low-Fat Protein to Promote Weight Loss
Do you remember what your bariatric dietician told you after weight loss surgery? Focus on protein as part of your weight loss program to reduce hunger and meet your nutritional needs. Protein should always be the first thing you eat at every meal as it suppresses ghrelin, a hormone secreted by the stomach that triggers hunger. Spread out protein intake throughout the day to ensure that you feel satisfied.
5. Make Sure You Drink Enough Water
Another critical component of a post-op metabolic and bariatric surgery diet is to consume lots of water, at least 64 ounces per day. Drinking water will fill up your small stomach pouch and make you eat less food. Plain decaffeinated coffee or tea, along with sugar-free drinks, are also acceptable.
6. Get Enough Sleep
The importance of getting sleep after weight loss surgery cannot be emphasized enough. Insufficient sleep makes it more difficult for your body to burn calories, plus you’re more likely to experience food cravings the longer you are awake. Don’t shortchange yourself. Get quality sleep to avoid weight gain and resume weight loss.
Lori Wade is a journalist from Louisville. She is a content writer who has experience in small editions. Lori is currently engaged in news and conceptual articles on the health and beauty industry. You can find her on LinkedIn. Hope you appreciate Lori’s useful insights!
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