The pounds seemed to melt away after your bariatric surgery. Then, they stopped.
It's a common frustration, but why does it happen?
"During the rapid weight loss following bariatric surgery, the body will also start to lose its muscle mass if it's not maintained," explains Anna Mihelich, PA-C, a Franciscan Health certified physician assistant in Indianapolis. "Losing muscle mass decreases how fast you're able to burn energy, and eventually your fat-loss slows or stops. This is one of the most common reasons that plateaus occur."
Mihelich offers these helpful steps to follow when your weight plateaus after bariatric surgery:
- Track your food intake. You'll be more likely to catch a habit of mindless eating if you're tracking your food. Avoid calorie-dense foods that will stretch your stomach. Instead, focus on getting enough protein to help you maintain muscle mass and improve your metabolism.
- Document your body measurements. Take two measurements each of your waist, hips, chest, torso, arms, thighs and calves. Record the average of the two measurements for each area. Measure every four weeks. If you're still exercising (and building muscle mass), you may find you're still losing inches even when your weight remains the same.
- Change your exercise routine every four to six weeks. If you've been exercising diligently and still plateau, your body has probably adapted to the exercise and no longer burns as many calories. Address this by increasing your strength training and changing your exercise routine to work different muscles. Consider high-intensity interval training, an aerobic-exercise class like Zumba or cycling.
- Drink enough water. Your body needs fluids to burn excess fat calories. Dehydration is also the number-one reason for hospital readmission after bariatric surgery. Drink at least 64 ounces of water daily.
- Get enough sleep. As you sleep, your body produces hormones that naturally boost metabolism. Sleep deprivation contributes to food cravings. Get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
Plateaus can last days and even weeks. If your plateau continues for six weeks, talk with your physician.