You’re only a couple of weeks out of surgery. You’ve been losing weight at a rapid pace. You step on the scale and your weight is the same as last week. You haven’t changed any behaviors, so why has the scale not budged? The most common reasoning I hear from patients is, “I don’t think I’m eating enough. That’s why I’m not losing.” A lack of calories is not the reason your weight loss stalls after bariatric surgery. The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery explains it best: “Your body is very effective at trying to maintain {your} weight and preventing change. As you lose weight, it is important to know that your body will try to establish a new set point. This leads to periodic plateaus in weight. This is normal and expected. Do not allow yourself to be discouraged when you reach a plateau, as these are normal and necessary parts of the weight-loss journey.”

When you hit that “normal and expected” plateau, you’ll want to remember these three things NOT to do:

DON’T FOCUS ON CALORIES.

Keep in mind that with the surgery, your calorie intake will be much less the first few months after surgery. Instead of tracking calories in the beginning, focus more on reaching your daily protein goals: Women need 60-80 grams and men should aim for 80-100 grams. If you focus on your protein intake and follow the meal structure of three meals a day with one snack, your calories will be controlled and your weight loss will continue, regardless of any plateaus in the beginning. If you’re tracking your diet on an app, only pay attention to your protein intake. Never try to reach the suggested caloric intake that the app suggests unless the app is designed for bariatric surgery patients. Food tracking apps (like MyFitnessPal and Lose It!) are geared toward non-surgical patients, so the suggested caloric intake will be way higher than what you will be able to consume after surgery.

DON’T BE UNREALISTIC.

Before you start your weight loss journey, make sure to set realistic expectations. Remember that weight loss per week will be much faster directly after surgery compared to when you’re 6 months out of surgery. Understand that through this journey, your weight may not follow a slope, but instead may look more like a staircase with occasional plateaus along the way. This is OK as long as you’re incorporating the behaviors required to be successful post-operatively. (To understand how to improve your relationship with the scale, check out this article https://www.njbariatriccenter.com/improving-your-relationship-with-your-scale/)

DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS.

You know that friend who did amazing after her surgery? Remember that post-op on Instagram who posted pictures after losing 100 pounds? Forget them! Everyone is different and everyone’s weight loss journey will differ. The amount and pace of weight loss will vary person to person. This is where regular follow-up visits to your dietitian can help. We can discuss realistic expectations for you so that you’re not comparing your weight loss with others.

Now that you know what not to do, here’s what you should do: Keep working hard and focusing on your daily behaviors. Bariatric surgery is one of the few proven weight loss methods with a track record of successful long-term weight loss in millions of patients. As long as you are living by the healthy guidelines given to you by your bariatric practice, you can do it too!