Last Updated on August 24, 2023 by Kayla
After years of working as a bariatric dietitian, one thing I continue to hear from clients is, “I’m not losing. My body is in starvation mode.” Perhaps you’ve felt this way if you’ve ever hit a weight plateau or stall after weight loss surgery.
And you may have wondered, is “starvation mode” real?
The answer is yes. Starvation mode is real.
This post will dive into “starvation mode” and how to break a stubborn weight loss stall and kickstart your journey toward optimal health.
Input Equals Output
In scientific terms, starvation mode is called “metabolic adaptation” or “adaptive thermogenesis.”
However you spell it out, this phenomenon boils down to input and output. The less you put in the tank (i.e., calorie restriction), the less you burn.
When you first restrict calories, you’ll likely see results like the scale going down, but eventually, your body catches on and slows your metabolism to compensate. It’s a survival mechanism.
Unfortunately, our physiology hasn’t caught up to the fact that food is available 24/7. No more hunting. No more gathering. Now, food is easily accessible with a few steps to the fridge or the tearing of a wrapper.
And so, when you restrict calories for an extended period and aren’t seeing progress, recognize this is your body’s protective mechanism – it’s not out to spite you. This is why nutrition is critically important after weight loss surgery – especially in the early days after surgery when portions are limited.
So what can you do to lose weight, minimize stalls & maintain for the long run? Here are my top three tips to bust a weight loss stall and continue to lose!
Quality Over Quantity
Calories are NOT created equal. So rather than counting calories, focus on diet quality.
This means eating mostly whole, real foods. Avoid highly-processed, carbohydrate-rich foods that wreak havoc on your hunger hormones and promote inflammation.
Aim for 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal and include plenty of “slow” carbs and healthy fats. To learn more about these macronutrients, download a free copy of my Foods to Favor list.
Few pieces of dietary advice make me cringe more than “eat small, frequent meals.”
Even if you’ve had bariatric surgery, the ultimate goal should be eating 3 to 4 meals per day, snacks only if necessary.
Eating at frequent intervals throughout the day leads to poor blood sugar balance and increases insulin, your “storage” hormone. When insulin is present in the bloodstream, like after a meal or with the ingestion of carbohydrates, fat loss is impossible.
To minimize insulin response and maximize fat loss, stop snacking between meals – especially on carbohydrates.
If you’re following tip #1 by eating 25 to 30 grams of protein, a healthy fat, and filling up on slow carbs at meal times, you won’t need a snack!
Focus on the Process, Not the Outcome
Lastly, make small changes over time – don’t overhaul your diet overnight. This is not sustainable, and you’re bound to revert to old habits.
Instead, choose 1 to 2 habits to improve upon and focus on consistency, not perfection. Like a savings account, tiny changes compound and reap dividends with time and discipline.
I recognize the three tips I shared today aren’t sexy new suggestions or ground-breaking revelations. Honestly, I wish I had something more exciting, but the truth is that success is simple, although simple does not equal easy.
Achieving the healthy lifestyle you desire involves both physical and mental transformation. Be willing to take action – no matter how small – because achieving results requires effort.
Words from the Wise
“Action is the universal language of success.“Dr. Steve Marboli
The first step is always the hardest – and the scariest. And, in hindsight, it’s usually not as bad as you imagine it to be. The first step doesn’t even have to be pretty or the “right” one!
If you’re not sure where to start, check out my online community for women after bariatric surgery. You’ll have everything you need to break a weight loss stall after gastric sleeve or other bariatric surgeries. Finally get the support you deserve!
You’ll learn how to manage your macros and mindset and find real-life eating strategies after weight loss surgery. Sign up today and take back control of your health!
Helping women after bariatric surgery lose weight without eating “perfect.” Learn how to balance blood sugar & optimize your “tool” today! Apply to learn more!
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