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The Ever Elusive Huckleberry

This is our third summer here in Star Valley, Wyoming and again, I am still on the hunt for wild huckleberries. They are an awesome little fruit, good for you, rare and hard to find. But now, finally, thanks to a friend, know what I am looking for and where to find them! Yahoo!

Last summer, we were excited to see all of the berries surrounding our home. Beautiful white flowers in the spring and loaded with berries in late summer.  Someone told my husband that they were huckleberries!  Knowing that they go for about $50 a Ziplock bag full, I was sure we would be rich!  We had struck gold, right on our own land.

We invited some friends over to pick some. Sure enough my friend, her husband, another family, and lots of kids with buckets came over ready to pick. My friend promptly asked, “So, where are they?” “Everywhere!” I exclaimed.  To my embarrassment and disappointment, she said, “Those are not huckleberries, they are service berries.” Not even close! Ugh!

We enjoyed the night with them and the next day I picked buckets of service berries. It turns out this berry is well-known and used for many things. In some areas they are called Saskatoons. Service berries are not very juicy or tasty, but our grandkids and I made muffins and they loved them on their ice cream.  (I learned that if you add enough sugar you can make anything into syrup).

This year our bushes are loaded once again with service berries, and I’ll use them, but I want huckleberries! My husband, Roger, kindly asked, “What is the big deal about huckleberries? Can’t you just plant some, or buy them frozen?” So, I started thinking. Yes, I suppose I could, but I was pretty stuck on finding wild ones in the woods. And I finally did!

I know now that the huckleberry bush is low to the ground and the berries are almost impossible to see from a standing position. (Even when you are only 5’2). While some berries are easy to pick because they grow in clusters, huckleberries grow one by one on single branches underneath the leaves.

 

I went out again today and all the while I was picking, I kept asking myself why this was so important to me. Why was I set on finding wild huckleberries? Then this insightful quote from Thomas Paine came to mind:

“That which we obtain too easily, we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only

which gives everything its value.”

Thomas Paine

And isn’t that true of so many things? We take for granted things that come easily – and relish, prize, and value those things that take a bit of effort. Or in this case, a lot of effort!

 

Last week, I took 3 of our grandkids to hunt for huckleberries and 2 of them gave up almost immediately. But, my little 4-year old granddaughter, Hadley, stuck with it and hit the jackpot. She was proud, and I was prouder. She and I took our little bucket of berries home and made syrup for our pancakes the next morning. Just the two of us.  “To the victor goes the spoils.”

The Dangers and Benefits of Using Bariatric Patients in your Program

Through the years, I have been a strong advocate for involving patients in bariatric aftercare programs. Most agree that successful patients bring more patients, but there is also an important role they can play in both support groups and aftercare educational programs. Successful patients bring personal experience, knowledge and lifestyle habits, that when given the opportunity to share, enrich and enhance a programs ability to really connect. In our survey of over 1,000 bariatric patients, we learned that over 64% prefer that a post op bariatric patient lead support groups!

This is an important message to hear and respond to. Involving a well-trained professional team of RD’s, RN’s, exercise and mental health professionals is essential, but what I believe what we are hearing is a desire for fewer lectures and more real-world discussion about and from bariatric patients.

Unfortunately, there are a few concerns and challenges that a bariatric program may face when having non-healthcare professionals teach lessons, lead support groups and run programs. I believe the concern is two-fold. 1. Losing control over the group and 2. Liability issues. Let me share an experience that addresses both.

Years ago, a large bariatric program in Ohio recognized that their patients had been starting support groups in the outlying areas. Lots of them. At first, it felt like losing control, but they smartly decided to embrace the leaders, support their efforts, and provide some structure. They invited as many support group leaders as they could find, into their hospital. The provided a light lunch, networked with them and learned about their groups. They had them sign support group leader agreements which covered a variety of liability and confidentiality concerns. I was brought in to provide training for their bariatric patient support leaders, help establish topic schedules, and implement good communication between the patient support leaders and the hospital.

They continued their hospital-based group, but also provided new patients with a list of smaller, local groups they could attend online in their own area. Now they had a network of support groups, all teaching the same monthly lesson plan, encouraging prospective patients to choose their awesome hospital and welcoming new patients into the fold. The results were exceptional!

In addition to having bariatric patients lead support groups, consider what a great help they can be in planning holiday parties, family summer socials, and patient educational events.  There are many patients who have skills and experience as educators, speakers and organizers. And you will not find a more willing group of people willing to give back by paying it forward.  Lighten your load, expand your outreach and engage your patients.

To learn more consider our Bariatric eLearning module:  Energizing Your Support Group with Patient Volunteers

Ready for Spring? Well, maybe not.

I want it to be spring! I really do, but I don’t feel like I am quite ready. Roger and I spent all winter working inside our warm and cozy log home. We have been able to finish up many of our projects and we are so pleased with our work. But as for me? Well, I am a mess! With so much to do it has been so easy to put myself last – bottom of the list – not a priority.  I think I am committed to my own self care, and know how important it is to stay accountable,  keep myself on track with my portions, eating, drinking, vitamins, exercise,  (see Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients). I wrote the book, after all. Knowing what I should do is easy. But doing it, under any and all circumstances is another thing entirely.

After 22 years of living a bariatric lifestyle, I know that staying on track requires constant diligence and focus. I also know it can be exhausting. As I think about my ‘winter’ I have learned something about my habits and which of them go out the window first. Here is my list. The first to go is exercise.  No surprise there. If I am not going to my gym, I stop weighing. DANGEROUS! Next, I move into a “keep the good foods that I love while I add in a little treat here and there.” phase. I am still conscious at that point, but then, what seems like all of a sudden, I mindlessly slip into eating nothing but junk! My portions get out of control, and I let my self run out of vitamins, go too long in between haircuts. Ahhhh.

Ok, I am done whining. But here is the cool thing, I know where I am! And I  know exactly what I need to do. With spring (and several speaking engagements) around the corner, I am ready for my Bariatric R.E.S.E.T!  How about you? Here are the steps I take.

  1. Own it! (That means weigh-in)
  2. Decarb my house
  3. Buy a new water bottle
  4. Schedule in exercise
  5. Order vitamins
  6. Buy good food favs

And I say,  “Spring? Bring it on!”

 

As my husband lay in a hospital bed, recovering from a total hip replacement, I searched diligently for a way to show my love and support. Then, I found the perfect answer, “licorice and Oreo cookies!”

After 50 years in the workforce, my mother is retiring. Though she is not happy about it, I want to find a way to celebrate her many years of hard work. Oh, I know! I will bake her a pie. A cherry pie! That is her favorite.

Hard to believe, but our oldest son, Craig is turning 27. He is a wonderful young man with a great wife and an adorable son, Skyler. That surely is cause for a special family dinner. Prime rib, all the trimmings and of course, I will bake a cake.

I suspect that many of you are just like me. Even after 19 years as a weight loss surgery patient, when I feel the need to show my love, support or appreciation for someone I use food. It seems we all do. And that, I am afraid, has been the case since the beginning of time- you know, killing the fatted calf and all that. We love, we celebrate and we motivate with food.

I have been wondering if it would be a futile endeavor, or would it actually be possible to change this behavior? Now, I know that I cannot be responsible for everyone else, but I can be responsible for the choices I make. One day, one event and one holiday at a time.

So, now that the good candy from the gingerbread house is about gone… along comes another sweet holiday, Valentines Day. You know, expensive dinners, heart-shaped cookies, cakes, and candy.

In years past, Valentines Day has been the perfect excuse to bake giant heart-shaped sugar cookies with white icing and red sprinkles. But, this year I am going to do things differently. I know, it will be tough, now that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups come in a heart shape, but I am committed to showing my love for my family and friends without using food! I have decided to spend my cookie baking time, writing heartfelt letters and notes of appreciation to those I love. My hope is that my words will fill their hearts, and that they will feel loved and appreciated, warmed and emotionally fed, and that they will not miss the cookies.

Won’t you join me this Valentines Day, by doing what you can to fill someone’s heart – rather than their stomachs? I love you – here’s a note!

It is exciting to see support group participants reach out to one another, cultivate new relationships, and truly connect with others in their group. Surely, there are many great benefits from attending  – new friends, new fans, new supporters.

However, if you are paying attention, you may find that smaller cliques are starting to form. Cliques might include those who have had a similar procedure, or surgery at the same time. All well and good as long as new group members don’t feel excluded, left out and like they don’t belong. Here are a few tips to help you ‘manage’ your support group as you do your best to ensure that everyone feels apart, wanted and needed.

  1. Notice newcomers who may be alone. As a busy group leader, you may not have time to notice yourself, but what if you assigned a few of your veteran patients to serve as sort of a welcoming committee? Patients who have been around awhile, who may be losing interest in support group. Give them an opportunity to give back.
  2. Be deliberate about segmenting your large group. You may find that what they are seeking is more intimate conversation. Many feel more  comfortable sharing and asking questions in smaller groups. If your group is large, consider having them meet all together for the first half- then let them know that they will have the opportunity to join smaller discussion groups for the last half. Organize them by topic interest, stage of weight loss, month of surgery, type of procedure, or any number of ways.
  3. Know your support group members. This takes not only focus, but skill. It’s hard sometimes to remember names let alone a patient’s likes and dislikes. But imagine how united your group would feel if you gave them opportunities to share with one another more than just their weight, their non-scale victories and their questions. Learning to live a bariatric lifestyle is about more than just food. Give them a chance to connect on another level. Feature more lifestyle lesson discussions like relationship changes, fitting in, exchanging habits, paying it forward. Help them be people, not just patients.
  4. Play fun, interactive getting to know you games. Having a fun, participatory activity during support group, will help all members stay involved and engaged. By organizing teams you will give them the opportunity to mix and mingle with other group members they may not otherwise know.
  5. And, yep, as you may know we have lesson plans, games and activities ready to go. Check them out: (Digital Support Group Lesson Plans).

Give Back by Paying It Forward

22 years later, I still find myself so very grateful for the doctors, who dedicated their lives to provide a surgical intervention option for those who struggle with the disease of obesity. Like many of you, I took that leap and had weight loss surgery in 1995 and my life has been changed for the better, forever. And like you, I want others who struggle to have the same opportunity.

In 2003, my story was featured on the cover of WLS Lifestyles Magazine. The title, “Paying it Forward” You see, that feeling of gratitude and desire to give back is why I created Bariatric Support Centers International. And through the years, we have had the privilege of helping tens of thousands of weight loss surgery patients, supporters and professionals.

That sense of profound gratitude is at the heart of so many great groups, associations & foundations within the bariatric community. Perhaps, it’s your time to give. If so, the opportunities are many. Reach out, get involved, tell your story, share your success, connect people, encourage and support. Here are just a few of the outstanding organizations who welcome like minded people who want to volunteer.

Obesity Action Coalition

Bariatric Pal Community

Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America

Walk From Obesity

Obesity Help

“It is so very important that we, as today’s weight-loss surgery patients, recognize and are grateful to courageous souls who opted to have weight-loss surgery when it wasn’t the ‘in thing’ to do – those daring few from the late 70’s and early 80’s who experienced both successes and failures and in doing so have provided us with greater understanding of what it takes to make the surgical treatment of obesity our answer. Has someone led the way for you, inspired you, encouraged you? Often weight-loss surgery patients express heartfelt gratitude not only to their surgeons for having saved their life, but to friends and family members, neighbors, work associates and even strangers who have motivated them and provided them with the encouragement and support they needed to move forward on their journey. To those looking for a way to express their gratitude, may I encourage you to turn and help others along their way. Become involved; lead a support group; become a volunteer; serve on a patient committee; lobby for better insurance coverage for weight-loss surgery; help new or struggling patients with online posts or encouragement and support. Give back by paying it forward.”

Excerpt from The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients #1 best selling bariatric book.SHBookCvr2012

Tips For Stress Free Support Groups

My how time flies when things are crazy busy! At BSCI, are busier than ever doing all we can to support you, the bariatric professional, as you work to provide quality support and educational programs for your patients. We know that those who work in the bariatric community are some of the most talented, dedicated, genuine people anywhere. And we are keenly aware of the many hats you wear. You work tirelessly to improve the health and well being of the patients you serve. But, what about you? What about YOUR health and well-being?

For many, support group night comes at the end of an exhausting full day of work. The time and energy it takes to pull together a meeting agenda, lesson topics and activities when your best self has been all but spent, can turn what might be a fun and fulfilling end to you day to a dreaded obligation. We hear you! We have put together some helpful tips for Bariatric Support Group Leaders to help reduce your stress while planning, preparing and facilitating great meetings.

1. Calendar topics in advance. Time spent planning several months or even a year ahead for support group topics, guest speakers and activities will pay off great dividends especially on those crazy busy days. Survey patients for hot topics, reach out to other professionals, vendors and educators and schedule them in. Having a plan will reduce your stress and let your patients know in advance what great meetings they can count on.

2. Involve more patients, more often. Our research has shown clearly that patients want more patient involvement in support groups. You likely have a room filled with willing volunteers to contribute in a big way. Patient volunteers can arrange for room set up, welcome at the door, arrange for spotlight patient presentations, serve on special event committees, and even research and present a lesson topic. While it takes a bit to get organized, set guidelines and communication, involving patients will help them engage, while giving you a helping hand.

3. Invest in Lesson Plans. Since 2000, BSCI has been known for our research based, quality support group lessons. Each has a lesson plan, handout, activity and visual aids. Have a topic in mind that you don’t see? Let us know, we’ll put our heads together and see what we can come up with. Remember, those attending support group come for a variety of reasons. A good facilitator will incorporate a variety of teaching methods to give each participant opportunity to learn, grow and share in their own way. And in doing so, make the meeting exceptional!

4. Use readily available newsletter articles, stories and research. It is likely that you receive a variety of eNewsletters, updates, articles and research notifications every week from various sources within the bariatric community. For an easy and fun support group on the fly, print out several articles, ask patients to read aloud, then discuss by asking questions like: “Is this true for you?” or, “please share your thoughts and experience on this topic.” If the group is large, you could divide up, have each smaller group take a topic, discuss, then share with everyone.

5. End on time then go home! Many patients enjoy the social aspect of support groups and often meetings seem to go on forever and end way too late, especially for busy professionals. First, set your boundaries. Establish a reasonable time to end, and stick to it. (We find that most groups are about 1/1/2 hours). Dismiss everyone and suggest that those who want to continue visiting meet ‘in the lobby, or turn out the lights when they leave. You may want to ask a patient volunteer to arrange for the after support group get together. Finish your meeting on time – then, go home!  Go see your family and take care of you! We need you.

All Creatures Great & Small

Knowing in our hearts that it would be impossible for our little dog Zoey to survive the -21 degree temperatures, our hope was that someone picked her up and decided to keep her. After 3 subzero nights, that was the only scenario we could live with.

On Friday, January 16th, 2016, amidst one of the coldest and snowest winters on record, Roger and I were on our way from Alpine, WY to Jackson, WY to stock up on food and supplies. The week ahead was to be treacherous. When we stopped for gas at the Alpine Junction Chevron station, neither of us noticed that our 2-year old little Morkie had jumped out of the car. It was only 20 miles up the canyon that we realized that she was not in the back, as we had expected, but that she must still be at the gas station.

In a panic we called the Chevron station. “Yes, she said, “we saw a little dog running around the parking lot.” Please bring her in.” I pleaded. “We are on our way!” We quickly made our way back down the icy canyon road to rescue our Zoey. Our hearts sank when we arrived and she was nowhere to be found. We called, searched, drove, walked and hiked for 4 ½ hours. Asking anyone and everyone if they had seen her. People were kind and sympathetic, offering to “keep an eye out” and “spread the word” and “pray for her.”

Surely someone has picked her up. But why haven’t they called? She had a tag on with her name and my phone. We called the vet, the sheriff’s office and Lucky’s Place, the local humane society.  All were kind and sympathetic, but I could hear in their voices that at this point, it was likely that we would never see her again. And with the temperatures, well…

Our desperate prayers were pleas for help that she would be safe and if not, that our hearts would be healed from the loss.

By Saturday afternoon, the hard truth began to set in. There was no possible way she could have survived the night and if someone had her, surely, they would have called us by now. With each passing hour, the prospects grew dimmer. Saturday passed into Sunday and we began to feel the emptiness.

img958367On Monday, beyond all comprehension, and in disbelief we received a call from an awesome family that Zoey had been found! They had seen her running through their field and assumed that she had found shelter under their shed. She was wet, cold and scared and would not come to them or let them catch her. She just kept running. They took photos and tried to zoom in to see if they could read her tag, but to no avail.

This great little family, The Dales, went above and beyond to rescue her. Adam & Gretchen put out a wild animal trap with some food on Sunday night.img_8397

They caught her on Monday morning and brought her in to warm her up and called us. We, of course dropped everything and through roads were closed, schools had been shut down and the county was calling for no unnecessary travel, we went to pick up our Zoey. She was about 1 mile north of the Alpine Junction where we left her. Safe, but frozen, exhausted, hungry and thirsty.

20170110_085354Today, she is bundled up on the sofa with her little toy lamb, warm, fed and loved more than ever. Words cannot express how grateful we are for the power of prayer and for this kind family who knew how much this little dog needed help. They refused our reward asking us to pay the kindness forward.  What a great lesson they have taught their two daughters, Juniper and Hazel. Thank you for your example of goodness and caring.

As I close this remarkable story, may I share with you a poem that I learned when I was little. “All creatures great and small, the good Lord watches over all.” Indeed! And please enjoy this song that has been playing in my head this morning. Consider the Lilies of the Field. We are beyond grateful. May we show our gratitude and do as the Dale’s asked and pay it forward at every opportunity.

 

Activate Your “Auto-correct”

I have been thinking about typewriters. Both of my grandmothers had typewriters. I remember my Grandma Gwen, typing out letters and invoices for my grandpa’s construction business.  I also remember how cool it was that my Grandma Pearl had an electric typewriter. When I was a young teen I was able to use it to retype a letter and it was pretty great.

Back in typewriter days, if you made a mistake you had a few options. 1. You could completely ignore the mistake and act like it didn’t happen at all and then finish your document. 2. You could backspace and X out the wrong word or letter, or 3. You could backspace and type the right letter over and over again until it was darker than the wrong letter. Option 4. was to use erasable typewriter paper – (I think it was called onion skin).  If a mistake was made, you could take the paper out – use an eraser to erase the error and then put the paper back in, hoping that everything would line up ok, but often it didn’t.

Then along came the infamous ‘white out’ Great stuff. If you make a mistake, you could use white out to cover it up. At first white out came in a liquid, then correction tape, and eventually some typewriters included a white out key to type over the mistake, like my grandma Pearl’s. I learned quickly how important it was to let the white out dry before starting again to type the right word or letter or it would smear and make a terrible mess.

As we look back, the evolution from typewriter to word processor is truly remarkable. Today, we are fortunate to have word processing programs with spell checkers! Right now I am typing in a Microsoft Word Document. If I make a spelling or a grammatical error – it marks it accordingly. And, it suggests possible corrections.  That’s cool. But what is even greater, is the auto-correct feature. I have used this program long enough that now it recognizes some of the words I use often and it automatically completes my words and sometimes my sentences – without me!

What a great feature – auto-correct. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could train ourselves to auto-correct our bad behaviors, before we made a mistake? I personally would love to be able to engage an auto-correct feature that would prevent me from eating the wrong thing or making a bad choice.  I think that is possible. Somehow it seems to me that thin people have great control over their auto-correct feature.  So how can I?

I suspect that each one of us is at a different point of being able to engage our ability to auto-correct ourselves.

Take our eating habits for example. When we eat the wrong thing, some ignore it and move on. Others try to X it out or cover it up with miss-placed beliefs like – if I eat it fast the calories won’t count. As I have thought through this analogy, I have challenged myself and now challenge you to spend some time thinking not just about your mistakes and wrong choices, but more about what you do about it ‘after the mistake has been made and what it might take to activate your own autocorrect feature for next time.

Next time you eat something that you consider a mistake, pause a moment as ask yourself these questions.

  1. How did this food get here in the first place? Likely it was a conscious choice when shopping. Auto-correct with more mindful shopping.
  2. Was it in-sight or did you have to search for it, deliberately go for it. Auto-correct with out of sight or hard to reach placement.
  3. Were you really hungry? Auto-correct with using the HALTS technique. Ask yourself am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired or Stresses? Then act accordingly.
  4. Was there something else I could have eaten instead? Auto-correct by surrounding yourself with better choices – again that decision is made in advance.
  5. So now that you have eaten that cupcake what are you going to do now? Auto-correct by coming to understand your own metabolism and know that if calories went in you need to work them off!

Like you, I have come too far to allow myself to repeat mistakes over and over again without making an effort to understand and correct them. I don’t want to ignore my mistakes or attempt to cover them up, “X” them out, or white wash them.  We all make mistakes, but we also all have the ability to mindfully engage our own auto-correct feature. Here’s to lessons from a typewriter!