From the “Do I have to go?” to the “I can’t wait until next month” attitude, feelings about bariatric support groups are as diverse as the groups themselves. While there are many groups these days being held online and telephonically, the purpose remains the same. Whether in person or electronically, at any one of the thousands of bariatric support group meetings held each month, you will find that those in attendance include:
- Weight-loss surgery investigators seeking information and the “real story”
- Anxious pre-op patients waiting for surgery
- Early post-op patients or “newbies”
- Long-term veteran patients checking in
- Back on trackers seeking to re-lose pounds
- Friends and family members
Each person is there for a different reason, with different needs and doesn’t it make you wonder, “What is it that draws these people together? Why do they come?”
Our experience with thousands of weight-loss surgery patients and hundreds of support groups has provided us some valuable insight into why people attend support groups, how they are benefiting and why those who are not attending should. Here are just a few of the benefits that we identified:
Validation: From my own experience, I recall the weeks prior to my surgery were a time of great trepidation; a time full of questions.
- “Am I doing the right thing?”
- “Will I be ok?”
- “Will I succeed?”
- “Is it worth the risk?”
Many turn to bariatric support group to find not only answers to practical questions, but also for validation for my decision to have weight-loss surgery. While each must find his or her answers to these questions and come to feel good about their choices, support groups can help provide insight, perspective and real world experiences from those who have been there and now are able to share their perspective.
Education: Quality support groups provide more than just social and emotional support. They provide a wonderful opportunity for learning. Some groups provide a more structured agenda, featuring scheduled topic presentations and discussions. Others enjoy participatory activities designed to reinforce key principles of success and help patients learn new how to incorporate them into their own lives.
Many groups often invite guest speakers. Some are bariatric professionals like dietitians, psychologists and fitness instructors. Other guests provide presentations on topics like grooming, dating and cooking. All are designed to educate, inform and provide a well-rounded foundation of knowledge for long-term success.
Motivation: There is a wonderful story told of a young mother wanting to have her little boy learn to play the piano. He was taking lessons and she was just sure that he would become a famous pianist. She made arrangements for him to go to Carnegie Hall to the see the Master Ignacy Paderewski play.
She dressed-up her son in his little suit and took him to the concert. They found their seats, settled down real close to the stage, and the mother turned around and saw a friend of hers and started talking. When she turned back around the little boy was gone, and she panicked immediately. “Where did he go? Oh, no!” Moments later, she noticed her son up on the stage, at the grand piano on Carnegie Hall, playing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” He had just learned the song. The audience was aghast – “Somebody stop him!” “That is awful!” “Somebody get him down from there!”
From the back of the room came the Master Ignacy Paderewski at a dead run, down through the aisle, up onto the stage, and behind the little boy. He began playing an accompanying melody to the little boy’s song and as he did, he encouraged, saying, “Don’t stop, keep going, you’re doing fine.”
As weight-loss surgery patients, we sometimes feel alone and misunderstood in the real world. It is so very important to surround ourselves with people who understand our decision to have weight-loss surgery and what it is like to deal with the many physical, emotional and relationship changes that we experience throughout our journey.
Support groups are a place to find people who provide us with understanding, compassion and encouragement.
Celebration: As pounds come off, health is restored and dreams come true. It is a wonderful thing to have an opportunity to share successes with others. Support groups provide just such a place. Whether formally or informally, comments like these abound: “I am half the woman I used to be!” “I can cross my legs!” “They didn’t even recognize me!”
What an exciting time for weight-loss surgery patients. Support groups provide patients a time to share their success; to have a moment in the sun, to be queen or king of the prom, to graduate, or to receive a personal recognition for their achievement with a pin, photo or certificate.
Re-dedication: The first few years following weight-loss surgery are awesome, but there comes a time when we reach, “the end of invincible.” It is not uncommon for patients to slip back into old habits, regain a few pounds and become discouraged. When and if that happens, support groups become an even more important connection to help stay focused, in control and successful. A monthly weigh-in or check-in at a support group meeting provides an important element of accountability and an opportunity to reconnect and rededicate ones self to long-term goals.
So, how does your support group measure up? How are you providing opportunity for patients to be educated, motivated, celebrated or rededicated? As always, BSCI is here to help. Click here for more information on our Support Group Leader Certification Courses, lesson plans, teaching aids and resources.
And I don’t’ mean Corona the city or the beer! So many, I believe will be able relate to having gained a few pounds through our crazy COVID year. New research shows that over 35% of Americans gained weight during the pandemic! And I was no exception. Uncertainty, stress, new environment, several deaths, mom moving in with us and the reasons, “excuses’ have gone on since we moved to Star Valley in 2017. Finally, in April, when I put on my favorite pair of jeans and could not breathe for most of the day, I thought, Enough is ENOUGH!” The was the last straw. As a weight loss surgery patient from 1995, I know this road, and I know it well. And, I know when it is time to refocus, re-commit and get back on the wagon.
While BSCI’s Back on Track Program is a successful go to, I have also had success with Intermittent Fasting so, I began by immersing myself in learning some of the new research, especially as it applies to those over 50. I love learning and am always motivated by the science of it all. Knowing how my metabolism works, how I burn and store fat has helped me make positive, effective changes as I have customized a program to help me repair and restore my ‘challenged’ metabolic health. Daily I read articles, watch videos, consider reports, track, monitor and learn about my 61 year old self. Here are some of the highlights of what I have recently learned and how I implemented what made sense to me and lost 15 pounds. Seven more to go and I am as motivated as ever!
- For the first time in my life, I track everything I eat and drink, including vitamins. I have tried a few different apps and online programs and have settled on myfitnesspal.com
- I track my ‘macros.’ Meaning, number of carbs, protein and fat as well as calories, keeping my calories under 1200 per day (I know my BMR is very low). If you don’t know what your Basal Metabolic Rate is – find out!
- My goal each day is to consume 10% carbs (no more than 30 grams) 30% protein and 60% fat. I follow a Ketogenic diet, for the most part. Except when I don’t, let me explain…
- After 4 weeks or so in ketosis, I felt an undeniable decrease in my hunger and cravings, my mental clarity and my weight. Then at about 10 weeks in that changed for some reason. After some research, I learned the importance of regularly changing things up, keeping my body in tune and focused. So I went off Keto, kept my calories the same lowered my fat, and increased my carbs. My weight stayed the same over that 2 week period then I went back on Keto again. As I had become ‘fat adapted’ (look it up) I went back into Ketosis very quickly and began losing weight again. Love it! Taking a ‘diet break’ really did help. And the truth is, I couldn’t wait to get back that great Keto feeling of being full and energized.
- Throughout it all, I have also experienced many of the great benefits from Intermittent Fasting (see my article here). I fast 16 / 8 three to four days each week. I feel great, and most importantly to me, I enjoy eating this way! I enjoy feeling full, (Keto does that do you). And I enjoy being motivated by learning, trying and succeeding at so many new things.
- Oh, and I play Pickleball! Love it getting good at it. Kind of obsessed really!
I am 26 years post op from bariatric surgery. I will be forever grateful for my surgical tool and resulting 125 pound weight loss. However, new research, new thinking, new science has changed the way I understand my obesity and how to better manage my metabolic health. I have come to understand the essential role that insulin plays in how my body burns or stores fat. I have also learned that I struggle with insulin resistance and I am pre-diabetic. All great reasons why the important changes I have made are essential and working.
Since my surgery in 1995, my focus as been on long term success. My book, The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients has helped thousands learn embrace the bariatric lifestyle. There is one thing, however that I would like to correct. One thing that I know now that I didn’t know when I wrote it. I used to say “If you want to burn fat, don’t consume fat.” I was wrong about that. May I encourage you to learn more about what, when and how to consume the right types of fat for your ultimate health.
I am so pleased to see so much new research, so many articles, features, blog posts and podcasts throughout the bariatric community, now talking about and touting the great effects of keto and fasting for bariatric patients. I hope you will give it a try. And honestly, the best way I know how to help you get back on track is to encourage you to begin is to first read my book, then consider our Bariatric R.E.S.E.T or Back on Track programs. Just what you will need to take back control of your life, your health, your weight.
Last week, as we were preparing orders for shipping, I noticed that one of my books was going to a town called Effort, Pennsylvania. What a great place, I thought! I wondered does it take extraordinary effort to get there? Live there? Or are the people of Effort were “extra milers”?
Thinking about Effort called to mind a very powerful principle that I have tried to consider often in my daily life. It is the power of simple, small extra effort. Author, S.L. Parker in his book, 212-The Extra Degree (great resources, google him!) he encourages all to be Two-Twelve®*. Let me explain. At 211 degrees water is hot…at 212 degrees, it boils. And with boiling water comes steam, and with steam you can power a train! Hmm one degree! Similarly, there are many, many stores of accomplishments, wins, successes that hinge on just a small about of extra effort. For instance:
In professional golf, there are 4 major tournaments each year. The average margin of victory was less than one stroke a day! Yet, the first place winners took home 77% more than the 2nd place participants.
In racing, the Daytona 500, the average margin of victory was .175 seconds! First place, $1,354,368. Second place – over a half million dollars less.
Many Olympic event winners are chosen by a measure of time or distance. The difference between the “Gold” and no medal at all is minuscule! For instance: The Women’s 100 Meter Speed Skating – .07 seconds!
I remember learning to water ski. Holding on for one more split second makes all the difference in a fun time skiing, or a discouraging crash. Think of how your life might improve if you gave just a little, tiny bit more effort.
- If you were to eliminate 30 minutes of TV watching or online browsing each day, you would have an extra 182.5 hours each year to accomplish something. That’s like four and a half weeks at work!
- What impact would it have on your health and your weight if you were to exercise 10 more minutes each time or add one more day each week?
- What if you were to pay just one mortgage payment extra each year? Do you know that it would cut a 30 year mortgage down to 22 years!
With all of this in mind I am recommitting to care a little more, give a little more, Stay focused on the little things that can make such a big difference. Join me?
Oh, and by the way, according to tradition, the community of Effort was named for the considerable “effort” it took townspeople to agree on a name for the place.
It’s been 25 years since my weight loss surgery, and I am quite proud that I still wear a size 10 jeans. However, yesterday when I put on a pair of my pants fresh from the dryer, I found myself holding my breath, sucking in, doing a few kicks, dancing around and zipping them up with all the strength I could muster. (You are smiling aren’t you. You know what I am talking about)!
Hmm. My first thought was, well shrunk in the dryer… my next natural go to explanation was… must be water weight week, and of course, darn this corona virus weight gain! But then, like a flash came a hurtful dose of reality as I recalled this thought from a billboard:
“Well, well, well, if it isn’t the consequences of my own actions!”
Yep, it was in that moment that I finally told myself the truth. My habits are all out of whack! I knew exactly what I had been doing and I owned it! All of it! Taking personal responsibility, a very difficult, but essential step to change.
When I first read this billboard, I thought about some of today’s generation of kids who seem to lack any sense of personal responsibility. Everything is someone else’s fault. They fail to see the connection between their own choices and the inevitable consequences of those choices. Forever placing the blame for their own circumstances on anyone and anything but themselves. “It’s his fault, it’s her fault, I had to because they…” Some adults are like that too. “It’s my boss, the weather, the government, the neighbors, how I was raised.” On and on it goes, placing blame on anyone and anything to avoid owning and taking responsibility for their current circumstances.
Then, there are the ones who, in my mind, really ‘get it.’ I have always admired those people who, though they make mistakes, are very quick to own up to their responsibility. To step up and say, “Yes, I did that; I knew better, but I did it and now I own the consequences.”
My book, the # 1 Bariatric Best Seller, The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients, highlights our research into the habits of the most successful long term weight loss surgery patients. When comparing those most successful, with those who have struggled through the years, the desire and the ability to take responsibility for daily habits varied greatly. Those most successful are personally accountable every day, in every way. Readily owning their choices and consequences; both good and bad. They make quick adjustments as needed, not only to maintain a healthy weight long term, but also in other areas of their lives.
I think of myself as a pretty responsible person, but surely want to do better, more often. Today, I am renewing will my commitment to be more accountable for my choices, and to own my actions and their outcomes.
Now, about those tight pants… I’m on it!
Seriously?! They say a picture is worth a thousand words but this one… oh my. I really think that we can be better neighbors; don’t you? Our world and so many lives are in such chaos these days. There are so many who are suffering and living day to day in fear and uncertainty. The challenges faced by some are obvious however, “in the quiet heart is hidden sorrows that the eye can’t see.” Never before in my lifetime has there been a greater need for us all to express simple kindness, love and concern for one another.
Kindness can be so simple. A smile, a compliment, a note in the mail, or a quick text of encouragement. Taking care of our neigbors. May I invite you to look around and know that as Mother Teresa shares, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
A few weeks ago, my husband traveled to Casper, Wyoming to spend a few days visiting his parents. One evening, we treated them to dinner at a favorite Chinese restaurant. As we were finishing our meal, the waitress came to our table and said, “your meal has been paid for.” The service had not been so hot, so my first thought was that management was compensating for the many mistakes made by the rookie waitress, but no. She explained that our meal was paid for by the couple in the corner that just left! Roger and I were pleasantly surprised, but his father was not. He simply pointed to his Veteran hat and said, “this happens to us all the time.”
Outstanding! I have been so consumed and discouraged lately by the news of our day, that this simple act really renewed my faith in the goodness of mankind. That led me to re-read one of my favorite books, by Gordon B. Hinckley Stand for Something – 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal our Hearts and Homes
It speaks of such simple principles like “do unto others” and “love one another.” It champions the need for honesty, trust, forgiveness and gratitude. Most of all has instilled in me hope and optimism for the future. Perhaps you will enjoy it too.
Through challenged by this COVID crisis, we are doing ok. But we see neighbors, friends and family members who are not. All the more reason, I am recommitting to stop obsessing over the news, look up from my phone more often, ‘see’ people and do more to provide comfort and support for those within my reach.
We have a lot of snow here. I think I will go shovel my neighbor’s steps.
For so many reasons and in so many ways, the experience of weaving a rug on a 100 year old loom was very special to me. For months I have been collecting strips of fabric from shirts, skirts, old sheets and tablecloths from various family members. My friend, Karen, a 4th generation Star Valley, Wyoming Weaver, instructed me to on how to sew the strips together and roll these family memories into a big ball, then invited me to her home to weave my rug.
I recalled many years ago, meeting Karen’s grandmother at the county fair, as she displayed her beautiful rugs. I knew then, that I would relish the experience. Years have gone by, but last week, I bundled up my ball-o-family memories, and my mother and headed to Karen’s home. As I caught my first glimpse of this priceless antique loom, I was a bit intimidated. Hundreds of strings, shuttles, foot pedals and a pounding bar, and of course I knew nothing! Karen was kind and patient as she showed me how to load the shuttles, work the foot pedals and use the bar. So cool! Awkwardly, I completed several rows, honestly, just to be able to say I did it. Then, turning the loom over to the master craftsman, Karen, we watched as she continued, finishing my rug in less than an hour. I am impressed with and inspired by her timeless skill, and her respect for and commitment to all that she has learned from those who have preceded her. To show my gratitude for both the rug and the experience I shared with her and now you, one of my favorite poems. Enjoy!
“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”
― Grant Colfax Tullar
Anxious to do everything right, and to finally find their answer to a lifetime of weight loss struggles, pre-op patients will do all that is asked of them. They attended required classes and support groups, complete psych evals & medical screenings, fill out all the forms, jump through all the hoops, and check off all the boxes. And off to surgery they go.
When post op questions come in like – “When can I have pasta? Or, “Is it ok if I have a diet coke?’ you wonder if they were listening at all!
As a 23-year WLS veteran myself, I remember intending to listen, trying to pay attention and take it all in, but with surgery eminent – my mind was overwhelmed with thoughts of will it hurt? will I survive the surgery? and can I really do this? So, I admit, like many of your patients I suspect, much of the information that I was taught before surgery, well, just didn’t stick.
Having worked with thousands of weight loss surgery patients for over 20 years we at BSCI have come to believe that while pre-op education is important, post op education is essential! Once the pre-op process, education and actual surgery is over, then important lifestyle learning can begin.
We have worked with hundreds of weight loss surgery programs and when we ask about their bariatric patient education programs, most refer to their websites and informational sessions. That is all well and good, but teaching about the different surgical procedure options, the first few months of dietary guidelines, availability of support groups and answers to insurance and financial questions, is not what we mean.
May I invite you to consider a new way of defining patient education. Or more specifically, post op education. Consider what you offer for your post-op patients in the way of long term, lifetime learning opportunities for post op patients. Opportunities beyond access to a dietician, exercise professional or mental health counselor.
Patients know how to lose weight but learning to maintain requires a completely different mindset. They have spent their lifetime following diets. Now they need to learn to think like a thin person, to learn more about the disease of obesity, their own metabolism and how to effectively use their surgical tool to manage their weight throughout the rest of their lives. Provide these resources for your patients after surgery and they will listen.
Consider these questions.
- Besides support groups, what post-op educational programs do you offer your patients?
- Does your bariatric team have the experience & resources necessary to educate and support your patients in long-term bariatric lifestyle learning?
- Are you taking advantage of the many telephonic and eLearning opportunities available for your patients and your staff?
- Do you offer an annual patient educational / celebration event?
We can help with all those things. Since 2000, BSCI has specialized in providing exceptional, long-term, resource-based education and support programs for weight loss surgery patients and the professionals who serve them. We are here to support you as you support your patients.
We can help you enhance your educational offering, expand your outreach and improve long-term outcomes for your patients.
Learn more about resources for patients
Learn more about resources for professionals
Click here to schedule a call with Colleen Cook to visit about your program needs and how we can help.
Lost to follow up happens, to be sure, but don’t we all wonder where they went? Why they are no longer coming to support groups and activities? And how you might recapture their attention and participation?
Since 2000, BSCI has specialized in providing bariatric professionals with research, insight and resources to really connect with their patients. Here are our top three tips to keep those veteran patients involved, engaged and inspiring others.
- Let them share & show off. For newbies, there is nothing like hearing from long-term, successful patients! And there is nothing that veteran patients love more than to have the opportunity to crow a bit, share their story, their before pants, and photos. At BSCI, we recommend that each support group meeting include a segment devoted just for that. Not simply, going around the room and having each share their name and how much weight they have lost, but a showcase time for a few patients. Assign your ‘feature patients’ in advance and encourage them to bring photos, clothes and family members to hear them tell their story. If you do multiple types of surgeries, perhaps select one patient for each. Provide them with some sort of certificate, pin or token for their accomplishment. Recognize and honor their accomplishments at 1 year, 2 years, 3 years and so forth. Keep them coming, by keeping them in the spotlight.
- Create Opportunities for them to serve. As you know, bariatric patients are so very grateful for their new lives, grateful to their surgeons for their skill and their bariatric team for their education and ongoing support. Many of your patients are likely seeking an opportunity to pay it forward, to give back. There are so many ways to use your patients in your program to the benefit of all. You may enjoy reading The Dangers & Benefits of Using Bariatric Patients in your Program. Give them an assignment, a job, a committee on which to serve.
- Enhance and Improve your post op educational content. I will always recall this statement made by a new patient, “I will keep attending support groups as long as I learn something new each time.” Years later, he was still coming! Quite a testament to the need for a variety of quality lessons, educational content and enticing topics that teach about the bariatric lifestyle, not just what to eat in the first few months following surgery. Once, again BSCI has come to the rescue with exceptional lesson plans, handouts and teaching aids. These research- based lessons are insightful and timely and appeal to veteran, struggling and new bariatric patients. Support Groups of Excellence Lesson Plans.
Thank you for caring about your bariatric patients. Not just the newbies, but your long-term veteran patients as well. I encourage you to try these tips and see if you can keep your patients participating in your program longer, and reduce the number of those labeled, ‘Lost to Follow-up.”
For lesson plans, effectively using volunteers in your program, agenda ideas and facilitation skills, consider our Support Group Leader Certification Course. we’d love to have you as one of our nearly 1,000 certified leaders and know you will learn and enjoy the content. 10 CEU’s
My awesome husband knows I love chocolate covered cherries. He buys them for me during the holidays and honestly, throughout the year, especially when they are going for $1.00 a box!
Last weekend, we did our grocery shopping and as expected, Roger put a box of those delectable delights in our cart. “They’re fruit, right?” he said with a grin. “Well, I suppose they are,” I replied.
Chocolate covered cherries are best when kept in the refrigerator. They are more chewy than gooey and take longer to eat that way. So, as we put away groceries, I put the box in the fridge, but this time, instead of putting them on a shelf, I put them in the fruit and vegetable drawer. Hmm, that was interesting. I could see them clearly through the crisper drawer, but I could also see the apples, pears, and oranges, which seemed to be glaring at me as well as if to say, we’re here too! Now, whenever I opened the door, my choices are pretty clear!
Often, I find myself looking for something sweet, and have learned over the last few years that sometimes, not always, but sometimes, fruit will hit the spot. So, I find myself thinking twice before I reach for a sweet snack. Every time I open the refrigerator door, I see so clearly that I do, indeed have a choice. It is my choice and mine alone. There is no one else here. Just me, the fruit and the candy. Much to my surprise, there have been a few times, that I preferred the apple, or the orange as my afternoon treat. Awesome! I am finally learning how much better I feel when I eat what my body needs.
The holiday season is filled with so very many choices. We can fill our days with shopping, gifts and parties. We can spend our time in service and the spirit of the season. We can go to church, or we can go see Santa. We can fill our bellies with candy or fruit.
For me, I love it all! In our family we decorate, do parties and gifts, participate in service projects, visit Santa and go to church. We eat good proteins and vegetables and also enjoy a holiday treat or two.
I am grateful to have such plenty. I am grateful for this season and the many choices I have. I cherish my right to choose, own the consequences of my choices and allow others to do the same. May you find peace in your choices this holiday season and always.
Oh, and chocolate covered cherry anyone?
Enjoy this great article I wrote for Mountain Weekly in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Click here, like and share! https://mtnweekly.com/mountain-lifestyle/palisades-dam-lake-idaho/