Weight loss plateaus are common for people trying to lose weight and can even happen following bariatric surgery. Many patients experience rapid weight loss in the weeks and months immediately following their procedure. However, weight loss then becomes more gradual and will finally stabilize.
When the scale stops moving, don’t panic or think that progress has stopped, says Courtney, bariatric dietitian at the Bariatric & Metabolic Institute at Arkansas Heart Hospital.
“Understand that this is a normal part of your journey,” she says. “Avoid thinking that this is just like every other diet you’ve ever done and that you’re not going to lose any more weight.”
How do you know if you’ve hit a plateau? If the scale is staying the same but your body measurements are dropping, then you haven’t hit a plateau, you are building muscle. This is important because muscle is more metabolically active than fat.
Once you determine that you have truly hit a plateau, figure out how to overcome it. Below, find trusted and proven strategies to help you break a weight loss plateau.
Keep a Food Journal
If you have stopped keeping a food journal, start again. Most people underestimate how much they eat in one sitting, so be sure and measure your food. This will keep you honest and help you determine if your plateau is due to metabolism changes or a return to previous bad habits.
Change Your Food
“If you’ve been eating the exact same thing day in and day out, change it up. Change up your proteins, vegetables, fats, flavoring and make sure you’re sticking to our plan,” Courtney says.
You may have been depending on protein shakes or bars, processed ready to eat meals, or been eating lots of low-fat processed carbohydrates. Decrease your carbohydrate intake, increase your intake of protein, non-starchy vegetables and healthy fats.
Increase Your Exercise
As you become more active and lose weight, activities that you previously would never dream of doing are now a walk in the park. As such, you need to increase intensity, length or the type of activity to challenge your body. Try new forms of exercise such as biking, swimming, hiking or dancing.
“We want you to be getting your heart rate up,” Courntney says. “Cardio is good for fat burning, but make sure to add some weightlifting and resistance training as well to minimize muscle loss. This is the biggest determining factor between a patient losing 20 pounds in six weeks and 30 pounds in six weeks.”
Get Enough Sleep
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep – at least seven to eight hours a night. Being overtired can trigger sweet cravings, and if you are falling for those cravings, this could be the reason that the scale isn’t moving.
Focus on Non-Scale Victories
If the scale stops moving, focus on your non-scale victories such as being able to get off medications, play with your grandchildren, ride in a plane comfortably or ride bikes.
“If you had blood sugars that were completely out of control prior to surgery and now they are normal, who cares what the scale says. That is a huge victory,” she says. “Put the scale away if it doesn’t move for three days. Focus on non-scale victories and get it back out in a couple of weeks.”
Follow the BMI Guide
If you are a BMI bariatric patient, it’s imperative you follow our patient education guide. Follow the guide and it will work.
“Stick with the plan,” Courtney says. “Make sure you’re sticking with our plan, not something you found off the internet. Not sticking to the plan will lead to a plateau quicker than anything.”
If you’ve tried and tried again to lose weight but find it always seems to come back, weight loss surgery may be for you. The Bariatric & Metabolic Institute team is here to provide the best physical, mental and emotional tools to help you lose weight and find yourself. Get started at bmi.arheart.com.