Weight Loss Plateau: What is it? How long does it last? [EXPLANATION]

Added by Klaudia Grabowska on 30.01.2021

Weight loss plateau after bariatric surgery

Weight loss plateau after bariatric surgery is also called a weight loss stall. It is something all bariatric patients fear. Imagine you are losing weight for months and just at the end of your weight loss path you reach a plateau and cannot lose more weight. It is really demotivating and frustrating. However, we must admit that it will probably happen to you also because almost every bariatric patient must face it at some sooner or later. In this article, we will explain what a weight loss plateau is and how to prevent or overcome it and get back to the right weight loss track. 

What is weight loss plateau?

Generally, a plateau meaning says that it is a condition when some process or activity reaches the stage where there is no more development or further change. So naturally, weight loss plateau refers to a lack of progress in weight loss.

There may be a few types of plateau:

  • physiological – when body starts to burn much less calories as a reaction to not enough calories intake, the body tries to save as much energy as it can;
  • counterfeit plateau – it results from bad food choices and too many deviation from diet;
  • water retention plateau – it mainly happens when we eat too much salty food and drink too little water.
reading the phone

Plateau is when some process reaches the stage where there is no more development- in the case of bariatric surgery it is no further weight loss

While counterfeit and water retention plateaus can be easily recognised and eliminated, physiological plateau is much more difficult to tackle. So, the first thing you should do is to make sure that you still follow the recommended diet, drink enough water, and exercise regularly. If you do that and still do not lose weight, you may deal with a physiological plateau. Your body just gets little calories and turns into the starving mode – it stores as much energy as it can in case it won’t receive enough calories in the future. 

Is it normal to reach a weight loss plateau after bariatric surgery?

Is it normal to reach a weight loss plateau after bariatric surgery? Yes, bariatric patients usually face it. It may come after a few weeks or after a few months and it appears independently from the bariatric surgery type. There are 3 main reasons for weight loss plateau. The main, most problematic, reason is the body’s defense against low calories intake and stop of weight loss to store energy supplies and protect organs. The second reason involves diet alteration. After the bariatric surgery, each patient receives an individual diet plan which must be followed. However, sometimes it happens that patients eat forbidden food, buy fast food from time to time, eat highly processed food, drink alcohol, or eat other products that they should avoid – then, the weight loss stall is inevitable and maybe really difficult to break. The third reason includes metabolic changes. Those who were on a diet would confirm that at the beginning, losing weight is rather easy, it gets much more difficult over time when there are less and less excessive kilograms. The thing is that the metabolism must adjust to lower calories intake and it may take a while before it starts to work properly. Regardless of the reason, weight loss plateau is normal and it is enough to find it’s reason and know the effective ways of tackling it. At this stage, we must stress that you should never get stressed over it. Stress is a factor that disturbs metabolism and may push us into a wrong direction (e.g. some dubious supplements, starvation diet, or compulsory eating). 

Weight loss stall after gastric sleeve

Gastric sleeve is a weight loss surgery which involves removing the 70%-80% of the stomach. It also changes the hunger hormone. As a result, patients eat much less food and feel almost no hunger. Gastric sleeve patients must follow a strict diet for months and engage in regular physical activity. Only this can bring the surgery results – that is a rapid weight loss. However, you should be aware of the fact that weight loss is a long process which involves ups and downs. Weight loss stall gastric sleeve usually happens a few weeks after the surgery. Assuming that patients follow the post-op diet, it results mainly from the metabolic changes and body fight against low calories intake. Gastric sleeve weight loss stall is usually temporary and should not disturb the weight loss when patients follow the guidelines for combating weight loss stall after gastric sleeve.

Clinic Hunter- Gastric Sleeve

Weight loss stall after gastric bypass

Gastric bypass involves dividing the stomach into 2 parts – the big part that is excluded from the digestive system and the small part (of a walnut size) which becomes the “new” stomach and is connected with the small intestine. Bypassing most of the stomach significantly decreases the stomach capacity and triggers the dramatic weight loss. It also affects the hunger hormone and food absorption. Weight loss stall after gastric bypass can appear at any time – after a few weeks, months, or even years. It is just important to find the reason for such a stall to take proper steps to overcome it. As in gastric sleeve, weight loss plateau is temporary and when you follow the guidelines for weight loss plateau, you should start losing weight again. If you don’t, it may mean that you need revision surgery and there are some more serious reasons for not losing weight than just a weight loss plateau. 

Clinic Hunter gastric bypass

Weight loss plateau solutions

How to get over a weight loss plateau? We will present some weight loss plateau solutions that you may try but remember that what may serve as a weight loss plateau breaker for you, doesn’t have to work for someone else. Everyone should find an individual way to overcome weight loss plateau and the guidelines below are just the ideas that should make you think whether you need a change in such an aspect. 

  • Macronutrients intake alteration – note down your average intake of proteins, fats, and carbs. Maybe it will turn out that carbs take over 50% of your daily calorie intake and it is enough to eat more proteins and fewer carbs to start losing weight again. Or maybe you eat more fruits than vegetables or allow yourself to have frequent cheat meals. When you write down what you eat for a few days, you may notice many details which may have caused the weight loss plateau. 
  • Change of protein sources – post-bariatric surgery diet always includes protein shakes – they are a great source of nutrients, however over time, the protein sources should be extended. It may be easy for you to prepare and drink a shake, but proteins in such a form are very easily broken down and the body doesn’t need to make an effort to digest it. When you get proteins from normal food (e.g. chicken, eggs, meat, beans), the body burns calories while digesting this food. 
  • Altering calories intake – you have probably developed a habit of calorie counting after the surgery, but try to focus on a weekly, not daily, calories intake. E.g. when your diet assumes 1000 kcal each day, it means that you eat 7000 kcal over a week. Try to change the proportion of calories and one day eat 700 kcal, but the second day 1300 kcal. Such a change would awaken your digestive system and make it burn calories.
  • Physical activity – strength training is extremely important in the weight loss process. Try to engage yourself in a regular strength training – it will boost your metabolism and build muscles, and as you probably know, muscles burn much more calories than fat. If you are training and still get a plateau, try changing the form, intensity or length – add some more exercises type e.g. training with the use of kettlebell, exercise ball, fitness, jogging, gym training, ems training or outdoor training. There are many options for diversifying your exercises – if nothing comes to your mind, search for inspiration on the Internet or contact a personal trainer to get the advice. 

The other changes that may help include:

  • get more sleep;
  • resign from controlling your weight for a few weeks, but take body measurements instead (maybe your weight doesn’t drop because you build muscles, but you keep losing fat which is visible on regular measurements);
  • look for help and support (you may join dance classes, fitness, some sports clubs, or some motivational and support groups of people on a diet), you may be really surprised how many people face similar problems and obstacles;
  • increase water intake (it will make you hydrated, fill the stomach, prevent snacking);
  • resign from any artificial sweeteners (even if they are allowed in your diet).
Chubby woman in sports clothing

There are a few tips that can help with weight loss plateau, but if they still don’t work after some time the patient should look for advice from the doctor

Weight loss plateau tips

We want to share three weight loss plateau tips which you should take into consideration while struggling with weight loss. They will help you take a proper attitude and approach towards making alterations to your post-op diet. 

1. Don’t get fixated on calories

It is much more important to make sure that you eat enough proteins than count calories. Each bariatric surgery makes your stomach size much smaller so you won’t be able to eat much, otherwise, you develop health problems. Women should eat 60-80 grams of protein a day and men 80-100 grams of proteins and if you plan your daily meals based on proteins, you will surely get desired weight loss effects.

2. Don’t expect a miracle

Having realistic expectations is extremely important – it is even one of the criteria for bariatric surgery qualification. Weight loss is a long process and it is just impossible that you look like a model a month after the surgery or that you lose the same number of kilograms each week or month. You must be prepared for ups and downs. Setting short term goals is important here – just make a plan that you lose 5 kilograms in a month or that you make 4 trainings more or that you go down 1 size – it may be anything that keeps you motivated. Just remember, the goals and resolutions must be realistic and motivating, and awards should not be connected with food, but rather give you some other pleasure (go to the cinema, buy new jeans, go on a trip).

3. Never compare yourself to others

Everyone has their own pace of losing weight and while you’re able to lose maximum 10 kilograms a month, your friend may lose 30 kilograms, but it doesn’t mean you make mistakes. It only means that you are different. Also, you should not strive for looking like someone else – your body, all parameters, shape, and proportions are individual and you will never look the same as others. Such a will to look like another person always leads to failure and demotivation. So, in weight loss, you should think only about yourself!

How long does a weight loss plateau last

size plus lady sitting in front of the computer

Weight loss plateau after huge weight loss happens to almost everyone, but it is temporary, and it should pass after some time

Weight loss plateau happens to almost everyone, but the good news is that it is temporary. But how long does a weight loss plateau last exactly? It depends. When you make sure you have reached a plateau, you should start modifying your diet and lifestyle – when you change the thing that has blocked weight loss (e.g. eat more proteins, implement strength training, eliminate sweet and fatty food, or drink more water), you should notice the effects after 2-3 weeks. Weight loss plateau will never end itself – when you don’t make any changes, it will last forever and may not only block weight loss but also trigger weight gain. However, assuming that you try some ways of triggering weight loss, you will overcome it very quickly. Of course, it may happen that you are just helpless and it’s been 2-3 months of your fight against plateau without any results, then you should visit your doctor because it doesn’t have to be a plateau, but rather serious health problems or bariatric surgery failure.

Summary

Weight loss plateau is a common obstacle for people, especially after bariatric surgery. It is a natural body defense against low caloric intake and when approached properly, it can be tackled. Usually, it is enough to modify diet, training, and minor daily habits. Weight loss plateau may come a few weeks or months after the surgery, but you should not get demotivated or give up when weight loss gets harder than at the beginning. Just treat it as a temporary block that you can overcome and which can motivate you, even more, to keep to the diet and do regular training. If you have any concerns or need advice, you can always contact your doctor who will tell you what to do to restore weight loss in a healthy way. 

Plus size lady next to the swimming pool

Sources

Bio  Latest Posts By: New Jersey Bariatric Center StaffNew Jersey Bariatric Center®, et al. “Newly Post-Op and Experiencing a Weight Loss Plateau? Here Are Three Things NOT To Do.” NJBC, 9 Dec. 2020, www.njbariatriccenter.com/newly-post-op-and-experiencing-a-weight-loss-plateau-here-are-three-things-not-to-do/.

Cfwls, et al. “Breaking Through a Weight Loss Plateau After Bariatric Surgery.” Center for Weight Loss Success (CFWLS), 8 Apr. 2019, cfwls.com/blog/weight-loss-plateau-after-bariatric-surgery/.

Domkowski , Patrick. “What to Do When Your Gastric Sleeve Weight Loss Stalls.” Http://Blog.riversidesurgicalweightloss.com/Blog/Gastric-Sleeve-Weight-Loss-Stalls, 7 May 2015.

“How to Break A Weight Loss Plateau After Gastric Sleeve Surgery.” Central Coast Weight Loss Surgery, www.centralcoastsurgery.com.au/blog/how-to-break-a-weight-loss-plateau-after-gastric-sleeve#:~:text=Typically%20occurring%20after%20the%20three,and%20an%20alternative%20energy%20source.

“The Plateau Effect.” Img, thegastricguru.com/plateau-effect.

“Weight Loss Plateau: Why They Happen and What to Do.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326415#summary.

Weightlossandw. “How to Break a Stall After Weight Loss Surgery?” Weightloss and Wellness Center, 29 Oct. 2020, weightlossandwellnesscenter.com/how-to-keep-losing-weight-after-weight-loss-surgery/. 

Klaudia Grabowska

Klaudia started to work for Clinic Hunter many years ago, just after graduating from the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin in Poland and since that time, this job has become her biggest passion and inspiration.

She has gained necessary expertise and experience by serving patients from all over the world (mainly the UK, Scandinavian countries, and the USA), taking an active part in numerous live and video trainings with clinics in Poland, Hungary and Turkey, participating in international medical tourism conferences and events, and completing internal Clinic Hunter courses. Now, Klaudia is an accomplished patient advisor specialising in such fields as dentistry, plastic and bariatric surgery and hair loss treatment. Her main idea is helping people nad making their lives better, that is why this job brings her so much satisfaction and joy.

In private, Klaudia is a bike-tour lover. She travelled to over 25 countries and many of them she visited by bike. However, now she spends every spare moment with her little son.

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