The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients
The snow is beautiful here in our winter wonderland, but during a snowstorm, travel can be a little treacherous. Sometimes we experience a ‘white-out.’ It’s like a black out, but it’s the blowing snow makes it impossible to see but a few feet in front of you. I have been in a “white-out” a time or two, but it recently occurred to me that the term “white-out” has another, more significant, year round meaning for me. Let me explain.
As a weight loss surgery veteran from 1995, (yes, celebrating 25 years this year!) I have established a plan that works for me, not only to maintain my weight but to get myself back on track when I have been out of sync with my Success Habits. For me, the last half of 2019 was a doozie! With significant losses, life changes, family drama, and then the holidays. I went into crisis mode, and overwhelmed, I put myself at the bottom of the list! When I do that, I completely lose my focus, abandon my good habits, and as a result feel awful; physically and mentally.
I am grateful through, that through the years I have learned exactly what I need to do, step by step to get myself out of the funk, and back to taking care of myself, and back to my healthy routines.
As you may know, several years ago I adopted Intermittent Fasting as one of my go to tools. I simply do not eat between 8pm to noon the next day to allow my body to rest and metabolize properly. This habit has served me well, and I have been able to continue that schedule on most days, even though stressful times.
Now that brings me to my ‘White Out” tool. After preparing myself for a few days, I am ready to jump all in and get back to my good, healthy habits. I know for myself, that the culprit to my out of control / mindless eating is too many refined carbs. So, WHITE – OUT! I stop eating things made with white flour or white sugar. Not rocket science here. Its simple! I don’t count calories or carbs, I eat good, clean food within my 8 hour window each day, and avoid gluten and sugar. (see Sugar Free Me). I drink my water, eat proteins and vegetables, with an occasional whole grain. I keep on hand foods I love, like shrimp, avocado, squash and asparagus.
Yeah! I am back in control and back in sync with all that I know to be right for me. I hope you too, are finding your way and putting into place your plan to maintain your weight and your plan to get yourself back on track when you need to. Please do reach out, we have some extraordinary people and essential resources to help. Bariatric Support Centers.
For those of you who may not know, I am a weight loss surgery patient from 1995! I lost 125 pounds that first year and what a ride it was! Through the years, I have done fairly well to maintain a good healthy weight, but not without constant and consistent effort. I have a commitment to my Success Habits and on a good day I own them all! Other days, sometimes weeks, sometime seasons, not so much. I have made my own way by learning about my own unique metabolism, my personal likes & dislikes, and I have come to know what works and what does not work for me in my bariatric life.
I have turned to our Back on Track Program at times and found good success. I have also learned and incorporated a variety of “clean eating – whole food” plans as well as embracing fast metabolism programs and more. Seems that different things work at different times in my life. Perhaps you have found that as well.
Recently, I started studying Intermittent Fasting. I’ll not share any particular type of program, but encourage you to do as I did, and simply google the words, then read, study, learn from what makes sense, and discard the rest.
For religious reasons, I have often fasted monthly, but for the past 4 weeks or so, I have been doing 16:8 Intermittent Fasting. It looks like this: I STOP eating at 8:00 pm each night and do not eat until noon the following day. And I must say it has been easy and effective. I have lost weight and I feel so much better! Here are some of the benefits I am seeing.
- Simply NOT eating eliminates the endless banter in my mind regarding what do I eat, what did I eat, when do I eat, how much do I eat? It is so simple and has been easy for me throughout the varied schedules of my life. Honesty, it’s quite peaceful.
- I drink all the water I should be drinking; I just do it primarily during the 16 hour fasting break when I am not eating – sound familiar? Don’t eat and drink at the same time? I have a renewed love for a warm cup of herbal tea, or a glass of ice cold water with cucumbers and mint. Drinking is far more satisfying.
- I am sleeping better. I have always been a good sleeper, but late night eating has often kept me awake, caused me to have weird nightmares or wake up groggy.
- My mind is clear. During the morning hours I feel more awake, alert and focused. And that has to be good! I am an old school dieter from way back and missing breakfast was taboo. But, the health benefits of allowing your body time to rest, are incredible. (I’ll let you read up on that).
- I feel healthier. You know, not puffy, bloated or heavy. My hands and feet are not swollen. I suspect that if you struggle with your weight, you know how that feels. You also know how great it feels to be in control and healthy.
- After 25 years as a WLS patient, I had lost a bit of that ‘full feeling’ on a small amount of food. Well, its back! My portions had gotten a bit out of control, but after fasting for 16 hours, I simply cannot eat as much as I had been. Cool!
- We know from our years of experience and research that mindless grazing can be a huge challenge for many. But imagine what 16 hours of no grazing at all might do for you.
- During my ‘eating window” from noon – 8 pm, I know to eat good foods; primarily protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, but I have not been too obsessed with what I am eating. I maintain that Intermittent Fasting can enhance any food plan that you are on. Success Habits, Back on Track food plan or whatever works for you.
- I am more in tune with my body. More regular, if you know what I mean. I have taught for years the importance of listening to our body’s signals. Intermittent Fasting, has slowed down my tendency to frantically eat my way through my hectic life and provides me with the opportunity to be still and listen.
- Being the frugal (hear cheap) shopper I am, I simply can’t beat FREE! This has cost me nothing but study time. Of course, I need to buy some new clothes.
- As a weight loss surgery patient, I seem to be getting more bang for my buck. Intermittent Fasting, along with my surgical tool, has brought me back to feeling in control, on track and succeeding.
- It is sustainable! I don’t feel like I am on a diet, being deprived, or anxiously awaiting the time that the agony is over, and I can get back to eating what I want. It simply works for me, at this time, and in this place and I don’t see any end in sight.
That was the headline of BSCI’s first brochure, way back in the late 1990’s. You see, as a weight loss surgery patient from 1995, I quickly recognized, that while the surgical care, multi-disciplinary clinical team and support groups were important, there was something more that was needed.
Like most of you, I suspect, I knew how to lose weight. I had spent my life researching diets, preparing for diets, on diets, screwing up diets. I could and did lose hundreds of pounds over and over again. When I went in for my surgical consultation, I recall saying to the doctor, with tears in my eyes, “please help me fix this!” I knew that a surgical intervention was needed, I knew that I would lose weight and fast! But, I also knew that I was responsible for changing my life and implementing habits that would ensure that I was able to maintain.
The first year was unbelievable! I started at 250 pounds and in exactly one year, I had lost exactly half my body weight. At my one-year check up, I was 125 pounds! Wahoo! I was bullet proof and so excited about my new healthy self.
But, once I reached my goal, my focus and my needs changed. I no longer needed classes, consultations about surgery options, possible complications, pre and post op diets, insurance and costs, and what would happen in the hospital. I no longer need support groups where the discussion focused mostly on the newbies.
I knew that there was so much more that I needed to learn about myself, my metabolism, my food addictions. I had to find out what successful long-term WLS patients knew and do what they did. I needed to learn how to think and behave like a thin person. I needed to learn and embrace a bariatric lifestyle.
Yes, weight loss surgery was an essential intervention for me. But it was just the beginning of my commitment to learn and succeed. It was just the beginning of the work and the ups and the downs of learning to use my “tool” to manage my weight. Surgery was good for a start.
Now for the rest of the story. As they say, find a need and fill it. For over 23 years, I and our BSCI Dream Team have created much needed educational and support programs to help patients learn how to live a successful bariatric lifestyle. We have helped tens of thousands of weight loss surgery patients all over the world to embrace a lifetime of learning to manage and maintain their weight.
Wherever you are on your weight loss journey, my advice to you is simple. Be a lifetime learner. Commit the time, resources and focus necessary to learn about yourself, and what it will take for you to manage and maintain your goals. Learn and then learn some more. And as you might expect, here are some resources to get you started!
LEARN the what successful patients know: The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients
LEARN how to personalize your own maintenance plan: 5 Day Bariatric R.E.S.E.T.
LEARN how to get back on track and manage set-backs; Back On Track Program
LEARN how to lead, inspire and support others. Support Group Leader Certification
All my best to you for a lifetime of good health and happiness,
Colleen M. Cook, President, Speaker, Author
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.
- Own it! (That means weigh-in)
- Decarb my house
- Buy a new water bottle
- Schedule in exercise
- Order vitamins
- 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!
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.
“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.
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.
- How did this food get here in the first place? Likely it was a conscious choice when shopping. Auto-correct with more mindful shopping.
- 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.
- Were you really hungry? Auto-correct with using the HALTS technique. Ask yourself am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired or Stresses? Then act accordingly.
- Was there something else I could have eaten instead? Auto-correct by surrounding yourself with better choices – again that decision is made in advance.
- 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!
Even at 20 years post op, I still clearly remember that fateful day when I reached the “End of Invincible” That fateful moment when the honeymoon phase ended and the real work began. I am anxious to share with you what I have learned about the top 5 ways to recognize that your personal WLS honeymoon is over and what to do about it. Here is the fifth of five installments in this series. (Subscribe to this blog)
#5 You stop attending support groups, telling yourself “They are just for the newbies anyway.”
We always suspected that those who regularly attend support groups after weight loss surgery are more successful than those who don’t. Thanks to our collaboration with Stanford University Medical Center, we now have the hard data to prove it. Put simply, “Successful WLS patients are 3 times more likely to participate in support groups than their less successful counterparts.” (Read Research)
Unfortunately, sometimes we find that support groups focus on and cater to the newbies, leaving the veteran patients bored, un-motivated and less likely come back. If the topics in support group are not of interest to you, suggest some that would be. Work to be part of the solution. Perhaps offer to do some research, share your experiences or even prepare and teach a lesson.
If you have found that you have lost interest in your support group, please consider that if you don’t need the support group, perhaps the support group needs you.
I, for one am so very grateful to the two WLS patients who at 10 years post op volunteered month after month to share their story, coach, encourage and teach those of us coming along behind them. Perhaps it’s time to give a little back by paying if forward. (Become a BSCI Certified Support Group Leader) There is nothing more motivating than having people look up to you, learn from you and help keep you on track as a good example.
For many, support groups go way beyond, “What is the topic?” People view support group attendance as a commitment to themselves to stay connected and accountable. Support groups offer opportunities to connect a network of like-minded people who understand your journey as many do not. So many life-long friendships are established at support groups.
Make support group attendance a must do on your calendar to help you stay on track and accountable. If you are unable to attend a live group, web-based forums, Facebook groups and telephonic groups are easily found. BSCI’s DreamTeam of educators host free telephonic support groups every week. Fun, easy and a great way to stay connected. Telephonic Support Group Schedule
Read our Support Group Survey and gain insights and perspective from over 1,000 bariatric patients and how they view their support groups.
Even at 20 years post op, I still clearly remember that fateful day when I reached the “End of Invincible” That fateful moment when the honeymoon phase ended and the real work began. I am anxious to share with you what I have learned about the top 5 ways to recognize that your personal WLS honeymoon is over and what to do about it. Here is the fourth of five installments in this series. (Subscribe to this blog)
#4 You Realize You Should Have Paid More Attention to your Bariatric Team
It seems that through the years the bariatric medical community has made great progress in ensuring that prospective patients are better educated and more prepared for surgery. As many of you know, there is a long checklist of todo’s prior to surgery. Consultations, evaluations, exams, tests, support groups and the list goes on and on.
An interesting thing happens though. When surgery is imminent, our focus is primarily on the details surrounding the actual procedure, hospital stay, pain management, how it will feel, etc. The classes and information are helpful, but unfortunately, we are not really listening. We are trying; we nod our heads at what our dieticians, nurses, mental health and exercise professionals are telling us. We commit to being compliant, eat right, exercise, take our vitamins and attend our follow up visits. But are we really listening? Are we learning? Perhaps not.
Following surgery, it’s “Whew, I am alive!” And once we are released from the hospital we begin our journey, sticking closely to what we have been advised. We start to really pay attention. Then, something magical happens. Our surgical tool starts to work, just like we had hoped. The weight starts to fall off! But, then we learn that no matter what we do, whether we follow the rules or not, the weight still continues to fall off. A dangerous realization. You see, once we think of ourselves as invincible – we stop listening.
Sadly, we see that it is only when people reach a plateau or heaven forbid, begin to gain weight that they are really ready to listen and learn. We are told so often, surgery is a tool, it’s a tool, it’s a tool. Again, we nod our heads. Now that our honeymoon is over we must be ready to learn. I mean really ready to learn.
We have “graduated” or are have been “released” from our bariatric clinic and may wonder if we missed our shot to learn. Surgery was a success; we have lost weight and now we need to learn how to maintain. Wishing we would have paid more attention earlier on, we might wonder where can turn.
For me, I turned to all of the successful patients I could find, to learn what they knew and do what they did. As I expected, there are very particular habits that those most successful have made part of their lives. In fact, I have spent the last 20 years seeking out the most successful wls patients, identifying their habits, learning from these long term losers and sharing my research all over the globe. Read research here:
Learn more about The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients.
So often, we hear struggling patients comment that they did not learn these important principles during their initial weight loss. If that is the case with you, it is not too late. Read the book, take a class, participate online. Remember your surgical tool will serve you well for a lifetime as long as you learn to use it properly. Learn what you might have missed, learn what successful patient have to teach you, learn all you need to know about your own body, metabolism and food addictions. It’s never too late.
Subscribe to this blog to receive: #5 You stop attending support groups, telling yourself “they are just for the newbies anyway.”
Even at 20 years post op, I still clearly remember that fateful day when I reached the “End of Invincible” That fateful moment when the honeymoon phase ended and the real work began. I am anxious to share with you what I have learned about the top 5 ways to recognize that your personal WLS honeymoon is over and what to do about it. Here is the second of five installments in this series. (Subscribe to this blog)
#2 PEOPLE STOP RAVING ABOUT HOW YOU LOOK
Boy, do I remember this. Of course I would, it was all about me! Like many of you I enjoyed months and months of friends, family neighbors, work associates and even strangers, raving about how great I looked. One of my favorite comments was “Look at you, you are going to blow away!” Loved it!
I think I even walked at little taller, and had a new strut and swagger as I showcased my success. When I knew would be seen by someone who didn’t know about the new me, I was ecstatic! Then over time, people started to get used to my new size. I slowly began to fade into normal, the newness wore off and all of the attention nearly stopped. I missed the rave reviews, I kept wondering to myself, “Do I look fat?” Am I gaining weight?” “Why doesn’t someone say something!” Messed with my mind to be sure.
If that has not happened to you yet, trust me, it will. And it is important to be prepared for the emotional and mental grief it may cause. When it does, it will be a good time to do a little evaluating of your true motives for choosing weight loss surgery. Ask yourself why you made this decision in the first place. Did you do this for someone else? To look feel better for yourself? For revenge? To improve your health? This is a time to reconnect to your personal why. Remind yourself of what motivated you in the first place. Pat yourself on the back and learn to improve your ‘self-talk.’
Then, move on. Rather than having it be all about you, now is a great time to turn and support those coming along behind you. Opportunities abound for successful patients who want to give back by paying it forward. Motivate, encourage and support new and prospective WLS patients. Help with an event or patient celebration, work as a hospital volunteer, become a Support Group Leader.Share your successes online and participate in one or more of the many Facebook Group discussions. You look great – now be great by helping others.
Subscribe to this blog for #3 THE SCALE STARTS TO GO IN THE WRONG DIRECTION