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Why do I Have Weight Plateaus after Bariatric Surgery?

Have you noticed your weight loss slowing down – or even stopping – after WLS and panicked a little? You are not alone. Weight plateaus are a perfectly normal part of weight loss. Today we’ll clarify why it happens and what to do about it.

3 Weeks after WLS: Water Weight

That’s right.  Many people hit their first weight plateau around 3 weeks after surgery, which can be quite frustrating but normal since you are losing a lot of water during this time. This can be extra water that the body was carrying due to high blood pressure, edema (swelling) or other health conditions.  However, most of it is the body’s response to being in ketosis

When you are in ketosis, the body sheds water more than it otherwise would leading to a bit of dehydration even if you are drinking enough during the day. As your body adjusts, your hydration levels will normalize causing the weight loss to stall since water weighs quite a bit.  Help your body out during this time by drinking plenty of fluids and adding some electrolytes.  Try not to get fixated on the scale or worry about shaking things up – your body just needs time to adjust!

3 Months after WLS: Find your Routines

Weight loss is typically quickest during the first 3 months and slows slowing down a little after that and weight plateaus become more common This can be good time to really focus in on developing your healthy behaviours and routines as you become more accustomed to your pouch/sleeve.  Some things to ask yourself:

  • Am I getting 60-80g of protein or more per day?  
  • Am I doing regular exercise including both cardio and strength training?  
  • Do I have a routine for my vitamins?  
  • Am I getting in enough water?
  • Is there anything I could use support with?
  • Would it be helpful if I started writing a food and activity journal?

Don’t forget to use BariBuddy to support you along the way!

6 Months after WLS: Weight Loss Slows 

At 6 months after surgery, most people are feeling pretty good and have gotten into the groove of post-WLS life.  Something to be aware of is that you might start feeling hungrier and being able to eat more in one sitting, which is normal and expected.  Weight loss also slows around this time which can also lead to more weight plateaus. Many find that instead of a smooth weight loss curve, it looks more like a set of stairs with small “plateaus” happening regularly.  This is partly due to natural changes in how powerful the mechanisms of surgery are. It’s a good time to really solidify sustainable behaviours to to help you maintain your health long term such as:

  • Finding a balance between healthy foods while allowing for wiggle room
  • Having a routine for physical activity that fits in your day
  • Getting enough sleep

12-24 Months after WLS: Maintenance

By about a 12 months, many people come to their maintenance weight with some continuing to lose for up to 18-24 months post-op. While your behaviors do affect your weight, there are many factors out of your control that determine what your final weight will be, with how much your body responds to the surgery being the biggest one.  

3 Things to Take with You

  1. Go Back to Basics.   Like we mentioned earlier, going back to the basics like of protein, exercise, hydration, sleep, etc, is always a good place to start. Use the BariBuddy app to help you!
  2. Step Up Your Exercise.  General movement and increasing your steps are great as a base.  Adding activities that challenge your muscles, get you breathing hard, and make the sweat pour can be what makes that plateau move.
  3. Focus on Other Markers. How do you feel? How’s your energy? What do you do that you didn’t do before surgery?

As we said before, everyone will hit weight plateaus along their WLS journey.  The main thing to remember is that it’s a normal part of the weight loss process, and while sometimes there are things you can do to move through it, sometimes it just takes time. 

Check out our other blog posts to learn more about life after WLS