Updated: Sep 5, 2019
Bariatric surgery is an incredible tool in the battle against obesity. But as powerful and effective as it is, it is still just that, a single tool…it is not some magical pill. Without adhering to a healthy lifestyle the weight will eventually come back. You can follow your practice’s eating plan to a tee and still plateau. Or worse, after a year or two, watch as the weight slowly creeps back up. You can adjust your calories, but that isn’t sustainable, or quite frankly, enjoyable. Consider this, there is a basement-level to the minimum number of calories you can safely eat and still survive…still maintain your physiological functioning (i.e. breathing, thinking, blinking). At some point, reducing your calories is just ridiculous. You can only go so low.
The solution to weight loss plateaus or even weight gains following bariatric surgery can usually be answered with one word: muscle. If you had a successful surgery and are following your eating strategy, but you are not exercising…you will fail in the long-term. Taking it one step further, if you are not strength training to build muscle (increasing your lean muscle mass), you will fail in the long-term. It all comes back to metabolism.
As you diet, defined by being in a caloric deficit (which, as a bariatric patient, you are!), you will lose body fat and muscle tissue. There is no way around that. As you lose weight, you are losing muscle, which means your metabolism is decreasing. If your metabolism is decreasing, every day you are burning fewer calories than you did the day before. Eventually, these small decreases will add up and your metabolism will be drastically lower. For example, if you were eating 1000 calories to maintain your weight, as your metabolism slows, you may have to reset your caloric intake to 850 calories. So how do you offset this drop in metabolism? The answer: build muscle! You must work to build or at least maintain your muscle mass to counter the muscle being lost due to weight loss. Ultimately, your goal is to turn your body, your metabolism, from a measly little flame into a raging fire.
To build muscle, you must do resistance (weight, strength) training- not cardio. For starters, try doing some form of resistance training 2-3 times per week. Start with the big muscles first and pick one exercise per muscle. Stick to about 8-12 reps and give yourself a minute to rest. Keep at least two days between resistance training days. Much more to follow on this…or reach out and send us your questions! Live your success story!