Yes, it’s been 25 years since I took control of my weight, improved my health and changed the direction of my life by choosing weight loss surgery. In 1995, many looked down on a surgical option as an intervention for the disease of obesity and making the decision to go under the knife was not an easy one. Especially when my insurance would not cover the cost. But I am so glad I did. My journey has been full of ups and downs, weight loss, weight gain, mistakes made, thrilling successes, and many lessons learned.
Throughout my years as a WLS patient, I have worked in the bariatric community. (Bariatric Support Center Int’l). It has been my great privilege to provide education, inspiration, and motivation to tens of thousands of patients. I have lost with you, learned from you, and celebrated with you. I will be forever grateful for my place in the bariatric universe.
As I look back, reviewing my life’s decisions, mistakes and accomplishments, the choice to have weight loss surgery a defining decision was surely a life changer for me. Since that new beginning, I have tried to focus on paying it forward, on supporting and encouraging others. Willingly, sharing the things I have learned along the way.
This year is a milestone; worthy of notice and a bit of reflection. I would like to share with you the following list of 25 lessons I have learned in my 25 years as a weight loss surgery patient. I have written books, many articles, blogs, produced videos, given keynote speeches, and I have referenced some of those in my list should you like to learn more about those lessons. Please learn and enjoy and may the next 25 years, (Oh my, I’ll be 85!) be full of more happiness, hope, and good health.
- Learn from long term losers. (Back to the Beginning Videos)
- Honeymoons are awesome! 5 Clues That Your WLS Honeymoon is Over and What to Do About It!
- Sugar is evil (Sugar Free Me)
- Don’t stop short of your goal. (Goal-Getting)
- Gluten is a problem for me.
- I must exercise every day. (Just Do It!)
- Always pay it forward (Paying It Forward Feature Article)
- I have learned to eat to live instead of living to eat.
- Good food is expensive, but so is chocolate!
- Peanut M&M’s are not really a protein.
- Old habits die hard. (Exchanging Habits)
- Intermittent Fasting works for weight maintenance. (Ways Intermittent Fasting Works For Me)
- My “Why’s” have become more important to me.
- I have both supporters and saboteurs in my life.
- Regain sneaks up; one pound a year… 25 years, 25 pounds
- I’ve learned to listen and to respond to my body’s signals.
- My food choices effect how I feel mentally, physically, and emotionally.
- Water rules (The Dangers of Dehydration)
- Vitamins are a must (Bariatric Vitamins)
- Embracing the Moments (Embracing Moments That Matter)
- Positivity is a choice every day (15 Positive Ways to Spend 15 Days)
- Knowing & understanding myself is essential Top 5 Things Every WLS Patient Must Know About Themselves
- I am my best self when I live in gratitude.
- To succeed, I must learn what successful patients know, and do what they did. (The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients
- God is good, life is short. No Tomorrow?
Among her many talents, my dear friend, Doreen was famous for her bread baking skills. Every week without fail, she would bake 6 beautiful loaves; sometimes from the wheat she ground herself. As they came out fresh from the oven, she would first, select the very best loaves to donate to our church for our Sacrament. (The Lord’s Supper). It was her gift, and it was filled with gratitude and reverence for our Savior’s atoning sacrifice.
Then, remaining loaves also became gifts. She strategically and thoughtfully selected people, families and sometimes even strangers to receive a loaf.
Throughout these past few months of COVID19 distancing, Doreen continued to bake and have others deliver her bread to people she felt prompted to serve. She kept a list of those who had received a loaf, and each week she would ask about families who were moving in or out of our neighborhood, someone who who might be struggling or who might need a little cheering up, or someone she wanted to thank. A few weeks ago, I was asked to deliver Doreen’s loving gift to 5 homes, and as a thank you, she wanted us to have one!
This week, suddenly, Doreen passed away at her home of natural causes. Mindful of how much it meant to her, her family arranged for the last loaf to be delivered to Doreen’s selected recipient; a young couple who had just brought home their first baby. The perfect family to receive her last loaf.
As I have recalled the last time I saw Doreen and our last conversation, I am inspired once again by her consistent focus on others and her unwavering commitment to love and serve. Throughout this sheltering at home time, she reached out to others in any and every way she could. She sent messages, Facebook posts, thoughts and pictures. Just hours before her passing, Doreen posted this message:
Perhaps, you too find meaning and significance in one’s final words and actions. I only knew Doreen for a few short years, but am so very grateful for her life, her love and her example of goodness.
Even in the best of times the wait for bariatric surgery can be substantial. Most pre-op patients are given a long list of to do’s like informational sessions, lab work, evaluations, medical tests, visits with the dietician, and psychologist, etc. All important to be sure, but consider what else might be offered to keep them motivated and excited about their upcoming life changes.
During this time of temporary shut down / slow down of non-essential surgeries the added wait time for a bariatric patient can be beyond discouraging. Here are a few ideas that you might share with your pre-op patients to encourage them to spend this time learning, connecting and staying excited and enthused about their upcoming weight loss successes.
- Attend Telephonic and online support groups
- Subscribe to eNews, Articles and Insights
- Learn and be inspired by veteran patients
- Attend Colleen Cook’s “Three Essentials Before Surgery Webinar”
- Download the free copy of “3 Essentials You Must Know Before You Have Surgery”
- Enroll in The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients eLearning Series
- Participate in Bariatric Support Facebook Group
Most of all, an outreach call, text or email from your bariatric team might mean the world to them at this difficult time. Let them know you are thinking of them, that you understand the wait is challenging and that you too, are anxious for them to move forward towards a happier and healthier life.
Time is our most precious resource. Let us first remember and be grateful for those whose time is not their own, especially now. Those brave and selfless healthcare workers and others who are working tirelessly, to manage and mitigate this pandemic. This will pass, we will recover, and hopefully emerge as a stronger, wiser, and more grateful people. But in the meantime, what an opportunity we have all been given!
For most of us many of the daily things that used to consume our time, money and energy have been cancelled, freeing up time for us to do with as we please. It may feel like we have escaped from our neck-breaking, hard driving, overwhelming schedules and allowed more time. Time to slow down, re-group, re-focus, and re-connect with things that matter most. As Gandalf, from Lord of the Rings has wisely shared, “All we have to do is decided what to do with the time that is given us.”
Just imagine the possibilities! So, what will you do with this unexpected gift of time? Will you put your life on hold or pause? Spend time binge watching TV or playing video games? Or will you choose to come out of this crisis having served others, strengthened your relationships, and accomplished worthy goals?
This time is yours to do with what you will. May I challenge you identify what you might do to improve yourself and enrich the lives of others. Perhaps begin by making a few lists. Write a list of things that make you happy, a list of things you have been putting off, a list of things you enjoy, a list of things you may want to do, learn and share. Here is my list and my commitment to make the very most of the next few weeks.
15 Positive Ways to Spend 15 Days:
- Work out on my elliptical at home, each day
- Volunteer time to help distribute meals / serve in our community
- Finish reading, The Saints Volume II
- Take online guitar lessons
- Finish the flooring and walls in our family room & stairwell
- Complete the molding project in our living room
- Write and mail 15 notes to 15 people. (Grandkids for sure!)
- Finish and file our taxes. (I was going to file an extension)
- Get my mangy dog groomed
- Design and make a decorative table box.
- Capture lessons learned from 25 years as a WLS patient (video, blog)
- Complete photo project on each grandchild
- Resume writing in my journal
- Complete dental work I have been putting off.
- Share my progress in a new article.
Let me close by sharing a favorite story of mine. At the age of 65, Hyrum Smith’s mother, (Founder of Franklin Covey Company), decided to go back to school at the University of Hawaii to get a 2nd degree. Hyrum overheard the conversation as she shared her plans with friends. One of her friends piped up and said, “You have got to be kidding? It will take you 3 years to get that degree; by then you will be 68 years old! Hyrum’s mother, wisely replied, “In three years, I will be 68 years old anyway!”
Remember, the time between now and next year, today and 15 days from now will go by one way or the other. You can choose to be the same as you are now, worse off than you are now, or better – the choice is yours.
So, what will you do with your time?
Yesterday, I helped a few Hispanic 4th graders at our elementary school. They were learning how to identify a central theme, message or meaning in a story. The story we were assigned taught about how sometimes; you have to be brave and take chances to make important things happen. The students were to read the story, summarize and identify for themselves what they thought the central theme or message of the story was. One boy, Alex really got it! After reading the story he summarized by saying, “You gotta risk it to get the biscuit!
Outstanding! Whether he had heard the phrase before, or just made it up on the spot, I was both impressed and amused. In fact, I laughed all afternoon and pondered the truthfulness of his statement.
As I searched for an appropriate photo for this article, I was surprised to find that this catchy saying has been around for a long time! In fact, it is attributed to Jimmy Fallon and there are t-shirts, coffee mugs, signs and apparently a famous movie line.
Perhaps you have heard it before, but it was new to me, and I will always think of little Alex and how spot on he was. I believe the meaning is significant. It plays an important part in how we make decisions in life and of course what our outcomes will be. In one of my presentations about Goal Getting, I share this quote by Theodore Roosevelt:
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
People who know me, know that throughout my life I have been a bit of a risk taker. I have always talked of dreaming big dreams and reaching for the stars. You see, I have a core belief that we are divinely created, with infinite potential far beyond what we allow ourselves to believe. That thinking is what lead me to seek weight loss surgery.
I knew that successful people are people who are willing to do those things that unsuccessful people are not willing to do. I knew that in order to lead, motivate and inspire others, I needed to get my health and my life in order.
Having weight loss surgery in 1995, without insurance coverage and a small family at home was a risk. I took a risk in creating Bariatric Support Centers International,
I took a risk in self publishing The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients And most recently, selling everything and moving to the Wyoming wilderness to build our dream home – well that was surely a risk. And here we are! I am still 100 pounds lighter, BSCI has influenced thousands of weight loss surgery patients and professionals, , the book has sold nearly 25,000 copies and we are living in a beautiful log home in the woods. Yes, I am a risk taker. I do not want to come to the end of my life and say, “Oh how I wish we had done that!” Instead, I want to say, “Look what we did!” (You may enjoy another blog post : Whatever it Takes)!
While I was especially drawn to the reference to a delightful food, it is of course, a reference to something we want in life. So, what is your biscuit? And what are you willing to do to get it?
My hope for you and my challenge to you is that you will first recognize what an extraordinary creature you are! With talents, drive, and creativity opportunity awaits. A good life is very hard work for most of us, so get after it!. May you embrace every opportunity and be willing to risk it for the biscuit!
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.
We are in the midst of a rocky mountain winter! We live in the Wyoming woods, and I mean really in the woods. We love all seasons, and winter is no exception. The snow is beautiful, our views are spectacular, and winter sports are fun, but this year, it just seems to keep on falling. We may be looking at a record! As the snow piles up, our driveway and road get narrower and narrower, and it gives the feeling of the world closing in on us, a bit.
I work hard to stay upbeat and positive but a few weeks ago, my energy level was way down, I felt drained of my creativity, I didn’t want to do anything, go anywhere. I wasn’t accomplishing, dreaming, reaching, achieving. I was in a “funk” (yes I went to school in the 70’s) My mood was well, blah!
The best way that I have found to describe how these unwelcome and sometimes unproductive spells is the “doldrums”. This word came to mind as the perfect word to describe how you may feel at one time or another. As I began to write this article, I took a second to look it up in the dictionary and sure enough… the ‘doldrums’ were exactly how I was feeling. “A dull, listless, depressed mood; low spirits.”
Now, I have always believed in bootstrapping. That is, that each of us has all that we need within ourselves to meet any challenge, accomplish any goal and pull ourselves “up by our bootstraps” shake it off and step it up whenever we need to. It was my inner strength that I turned to a few weeks ago for a shot in the arm and a kick in the seat. I am feeling and doing so much better now and honestly quite proud of myself for bootstrapping my way out of the winter doldrums. If you ever find yourself down and try these three steps:
1. Do something kind. Take a moment to stop feeling sorry for yourself and look around. You will find so many who are worse off. Friends, neighbors, family members and even strangers who could use a kind word, a smile, a little note in the mail, or a helping hand. I learned of a neighbor who had broken her hand and was in a cast. I stopped by her home for a visit and gave her a loaf of zucchini bread that I had made. She smiled, thanked me, and “I” felt better. Go figure!
2. Do something hard. Nothing is better for our own self-esteem and our mood than to accomplish something hard. It may not be hard for someone else, but if it is hard for you and you do it, well that’s a mood changer. My husband and I recently learned how to play pickleball. It is fun and I love it! It is mostly played outside, but I knew with a little searching, I could find the pickleball enthusiasts who play all winter long. And, I did! Playing with these talented competitive, 3.5 players is hard! Not just the game, but the emotional stress of being the new player, the rookie, the one that each person would only play with and against only once. They are kind and welcoming, but we all know that playing with them is great for me but does not challenge them much, and that is what they come for. Still I go, several times each week and I am getting better and better! Can’t wait for summer pickleball. It is good for me in so many ways. Plus, I simply feel better because I followed through on something that was hard for me to do. Yeah!
3. Do something you have been putting off. If you are
like me, you have a to do list that seems to never end. Things I like to do
always get done. Things that I don’t like to do, continue week after week to
get pushed to the bottom of the list. Going to the dentist is one of those
things I avoid. I needed to have a check-up, no big deal, but I also need to
have a molar pulled. No fun. But, I did it, I made myself pick up the phone,
make an appointment and KEEP it! I did and you know what? I feel even better!
I am confident that you too, have all you need to bootstrap yourself into a better mood, an improved situation, a new outlook. When you find yourself down and out like we sometimes do – give these three things a try. Do something that is hard, do something that is kind and do something that you have been putting off. Trust me, you will be feeling better soon!
Colleen Cook is a successful weight loss surgery patient from 1995. She is the President of Bariatric Support Centers International and a sought after speaker for both bariatric patient events and professional conferences. She is the author of the internationally acclaimed, # 1 bariatric best seller, The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients
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?