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Pushing through the Weight Loss ‘Plateau’

January 6, 2020

You’ve done everything according to plan. You’ve worked hard to eat the right foods and maintain an exercise routine, when out of nowhere, your weight loss stops. Hitting a weight-loss “plateau” can be incredibly frustrating, but you shouldn’t let it discourage you to the point where you start making the same unhealthy choices you made years ago.

A plateau – medically described as a weight stagnancy – often occurs when an individual has lost a lot of weight and either their metabolism has slowed slightly, or their food intake has changed slightly (which often goes unnoticed).

While it’s completely natural for the body to “ebb and flow” and even hit a “set weight,” says Cheri Leahy, RDN, CSOWM, bariatric dietitian at Jefferson Health New Jersey, there are countless factors that can contribute to a plateau, especially in a patient who has had bariatric surgery.

“The body has a lot of amazing work to do that we don’t always give it credit for. It goes through many transformations and processes, and its main focus is not just weight loss,” explained Leahy. “We have hormones being redistributed, fat cells are shrinking, muscle mass is growing, and different levels of stress are impacting the body.”

It’s essential to discuss any potential concerns (including personal hardships or other health complications) with your bariatric care team, who can help rule out factors that aren’t contributing to your plateau, and develop a plan to push through it.

More often than not, Leahy says, plateaus will end after you review your original diet plan and make sure you’re on track, especially in terms of what you’re eating. “It’s not always because a patient is overeating. You may stop losing weight – or even gain – if you over-exercise and deprive your body of nutrients.”

With too much output and not enough input, your body will start to hold onto the calories, says Leahy. Somebody might be prone to over-exercising if they work a hectic, labor-intensive job, with long shifts. For bariatric patients, it’s easy to take advantage of your newfound energy, and not realize how much you’re actually moving.

“If you notice that your plateau has likely resulted from eating unhealthy foods again, remember that you shouldn’t aim to decrease your intake, just alter it for the better,” continued Leahy. “When you don’t eat, you’re going to feel fatigued, groggy, and even angry. You have to listen to your body!”

Leahy also noted that some people won’t experience any plateaus, while others may hit a handful of them throughout their weight-loss journey. Everybody is different.

If you hit a plateau, whether you’re a bariatric surgery patient or not, remember these three simple rules: Talk to your doctor; reassess your habits; and above all else, don’t give up food!

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