Weight Fluctuations after Bariatric Surgery
Fact: Weight fluctuates. Even after Bariatric surgery.
Bariatric surgery primes the body for weight loss, although the weight loss journey is not the quick fix that patients usually dream of. If you graph average weight loss after bariatric surgery, it can look a lot different than a downward slope of a hill. Weight fluctuates, up and down even as quick as overnight. It is common that patients will experience the scale shifting within the same 5 pounds. When this happens, it is important to remind yourself there is nothing to worry about, nor be concerned with. A 5 lbs shift, up or down on the scale, is normal and happens to everyone.
If the post-op diet is being followed, and patients are mindful of portions and tracking their diet then patients are doing everything within their power to move the scale. To reduce frustrations work closely with a professional to help guide weight loss.
It is best to arm yourself with knowledge beforehand, so when this does occur, you know to identify weight fluctuations and how to combat it.
Bariatric Surgery Will Only Take You So Far:
Post surgery it will take continued work to lose weight and maintain a goal weight. Bariatric surgery is well known as a “tool” for weight loss. The strongest tool, yes, but a tool nonetheless.
It will take; time, effort, forethought and planning to align your new lifestyle with healthy habits reinforcing weight loss.
Meal planning, exercise, increasing physical activity, following diet and portion control. These will have a dramatic impact for a healthier life long term. By actively working after bariatric surgery you are setting yourself up for optimal health and wellness and continued weight loss.
Is it a Stall or Short-Term Fluctuation?
If a patient is experiencing no changes in weight for 4 weeks or longer, this is described as a “stall.” (stalls are normal, common and will happen to everyone.) Anything less than 4 weeks, are defined as weight fluctuations.
It could be, diet and exercise have fallen short. If this is the case, then it is recommended that patients work on creating a calorie deficit and increasing their physical activity to get back on track. Check in with your Nutritionist, Registered Dietician or Doctor for help.
As you lose weight your BMR, Basal Metabolic Rate, will also decrease. This is a natural occurrence. The amount of calories burned at rest will decrease as patients lose weight. Getting into a calorie deficit is not only crucial for continued weight loss, but it may also become more challenging.
There is a quick calculation online, that will calculate your BMR for you.
Weight Fluctuations Arise for a Variety of Reasons
There are many reasons why weight fluctuates throughout the day or even day to day. Although diet is the main reason for weight fluctuations, there are a few more factors that contribute to the number on the scale.
The following may be some of the reasons why patients see a small fluctuation (0-5 lbs), on the scale.
- Consuming a high sodium meal; salt retains water in the body; causing the scale to increase1https://www.healthline.com/health/weight-fluctuation#water-retention.
- Lifting weights or strength training; causing micro tears in muscles. As your body works to repair those tears, the body retains water2https://www.verywellfit.com/why-is-my-butt-getting-bigger-from-exercise-1229540.
- Consuming a high carbohydrate meal; for every gram of carbohydrate consumed your body stores 3 grams of water to store it as a source of fuel3https://healthylombard.com/2018/03/02/8-sneaky-offenders-cause-weight-fluctuations/.
- Medications; some increase your appetite while others retain water throughout the body4https://www.verywellfit.com/why-does-weight-change-day-to-day-4100012.
- Menstrual cycle; due to fluid retention, changes in binge eating or emotional eating while on your cycle5https://www.verywellfit.com/why-does-weight-change-day-to-day-4100012.
The following also contributes to Weight Fluctuations:
- Eating out at restaurants, which are often loaded with salt, fat and sugar. 6https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2012/08/29/beware-the-scale-learn-the-right-way-to-weigh.
- Sleep the night before was not at par. Lack of sleep can affect the hunger hormones; Ghrelin and Leptin. (Increases in ghrelin, causes appetite to increase and decreases in leptin, turns off the signal to the brain, notifying you that you are full.) 7https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC535701/
- Intense workout the day before. Drinking more water, having your body retain water to repair itself. 8https://health.clevelandclinic.org/just-started-exercising-gaining-weight/
- Being dehydrated. As the body loses water and becomes dehydrated, the body will retain more water, to ensure it has enough stored. This is why drinking water is a proven foundation for optimal health9https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320603#:~:text=Dehydration%20can%20make%20the%20body,flushed%20out%20of%20the%20system.
- Stress. Prolonged stress can cause a rise in cortisol levels, which increases fat storage. Stress also impacts both hunger hormones. Increases ghrelin and decreases leptin. Be sure to combat stress with healthy alternatives; physical activity, meditation, quality sleep, healthy diet, and relaxation10https://www.verywellmind.com/how-stress-can-cause-weight-gain-3145088.
Prevent Weight Regain, Identify the following Unhealthy Habits:
- Binge eating
- Snacking or Grazing throughout the day
- Eating at Fast Food Establishments
- Continuing to eat, after “satisfied” or “full”
If any of these behaviors creep back into your routine or habits; then acknowledge them and move towards a plan. Go see your doctor; and get in touch with a nutritionist or Registered Dietician. Get emotional and mental support from a therapist or a trusted support group.
Tips for Weighing on a Scale and Fostering Progress:
- To avoid mind games we play with ourselves: only weigh yourself once a week, or twice a month.
- Weigh yourself once a week at the same time with the same outfit.
- Measure body parts, once a month to identify inches lost; Bust, Waist, Hips, Butt, Thighs and Arms.
- Once a month try on a couple outfits to see how they fit differently, document this by taking pictures.
Improvement and success can be measured by many different prisms, do not let the scale dictate your success.
Remember the scale only tells you one thing, a number. It fails to display; body water percentage, skeletal muscle percentage, bone mass, muscle mass, body fat percentage, etc.
Pay Close Attention to Non-Scale Victories
- Being able to buckle a seat belt
- Crossing legs while seated
- Body measurements decreasing
- Fitting into smaller sizes of clothes and shoes
- Becoming more active
- Pain and discomfort in body or joints have diminished or have been eliminated
- Health Statistics have decreased- blood pressure, cholesterol, medications and blood sugar levels etc.
There are multiple ways of measuring your accomplishments and body transformation, don’t let the scale be the only thing you use.