For Bariatric Educators
“Know your limits. I stick to my eating plan when I go out by mindfully ordering exactly what I want and ONLY what I want. For instance, I order a hamburger – hold the bun and 4 French fries – not 3 not 6, but 4! I know myself well and know how much of what kind of foods I can enjoy.”
20 years post op
18 years post op
“My trick is meal planning! I keep an inventory of all of the proteins I have in my freezer on the side of my refrigerator and all I have to pick up for the week are vegetables and eggs!
Really simple but stress free and a huge time saver!”
“Staying hydrated is one key to keeping both physical and head hunger under control for me. I do not allow myself to make my morning cup of coffee until I have 24 oz of water down, usually herbal tea. This helps me get and stay hydrated which in turn helps me feel good and stay focused.”
18 years post op
27 years post op
“Though I am not diabetic, I have learned how to improve my metabolic health by
controlling my insulin. For the last year or so, I have embraced Intermittent Fasting and daily apple cider vinegar”
WLS Success Since 1995!
An enduring inspiration, for 27 years Colleen Cook has educated and motivated audiences all over the world. She is a successful weight loss surgery patient from 1995 and President of Bariatric Support Centers International Named “Bariatric Professional of the Year” in 2009, and honored by the International Federation of the Surgery for Obesity for her research. Colleen is the author of the internationally acclaimed, bariatric best seller, The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients book and is a sought after speaker for both professional healthcare conferences and weight loss celebrations. As an obesity education advocate, Colleen’s research-based presentations are a valuable addition to any healthcare conference for nurses, dieticians, or mental health professionals.
Yes, it’s been 27 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?
Twenty six years as a weight loss surgery patient and this year as been one like no other!
I have learned some fascinating things, adopted a few new habits and have lost 28 pounds! And I feel fantastic! I can’t wait to share some insights and details.
As you may know, my book, The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients continues to be the # 1 bariatric best seller, and a must have basic for all weight loss surgery patients. This book is research based, surgeon recommended, and contains essential truths for anyone and everyone embarking on their surgical weight loss journey. If you don’t have one, Get your copy at the link.
I will share here an overview of my upcoming articles & videos designed to help you implement not only the basics but the success habits 2.0 principles.
My decision to have weight loss surgery nearly 26 years ago was one of the best decisions of my life. It provided me with a break in time to get control, engage an effective tool and lose 125 pounds. I am always and forever grateful for that decision and the opportunity I have had to work within the bariatric community all these years.
In 26 years, my weight has fluctuated up and down; I’ve been on track and off and on again. I have continued to read, study, experiment and learn why, when and how my body burns or stores what I eat. I am intrigued by new science and research that has emerged these past few years. And I am especially motivated as I have implemented some of these new principles for myself and found great success in more effectively managing my weight!
Knowledge is power and I am energized by the greater understanding we now have of metabolic disorder, insulin resistance, and the essential role that hormones play. I am 62 years old and by implementing what I have learned, in the past 6 months, I have lost 28 pounds that had crept up on me over the last few years. And the best part is that it has been easy! I feel fantastic and I have zero interest in abandoning these new habits. They are awesome!
Now, once you learn and understand the basics and embrace these essential habits for yourself, then join me to learn more it’s time to learn more do more to ensure your long term success. I am beyond thrilled to share with you The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients 2.0!
Over the coming weeks, I will share a series of articles, videos, links to research, and recommend you follow and learn from a variety of new thought leaders in the field of weight loss and metabolic medicine.
The exciting things I have learned and implemented have increased my understanding, influenced my daily habits and led to a healthier, happier me. Stay tuned here…
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.
Finally! At least we hope that your bariatric surgeries are on the move again. We are pleased to hear reports of bariatric programs resuming surgery schedules and providing once again, access to this important intervention to those who have been waiting.
With new protocols, added tasks and an anxious weight list, you may find that there is more expected of you than ever before. Here are a few ideas that may help.
- Engage the help of successful veteran patients to provide peer support for new patients. If you ask, you will likely find many who are willing to volunteer and even manage and maintain your buddy groups. They are also potential administrators for your social media accounts. And yes, they will need to know when and how to refer questions to medical professionals and only speak to their own experience. But once organized, these grateful and willing volunteers will expand your outreach and enhance your patient’s experience. The Dangers and Benefits of Using Patients in your Program.
- If you have not already done so, consider recording your informational session and make it available online. Easily done by recording a live session on Facebook, Google or YouTube, or consider offering even more educational modules on an elearning platform such as Thinkific.com. See Bariatric eLearning. Offer a test or quiz to ensure patient understanding of the materials. Providing 24 /7 access to these essential, but general basics, will free up your time for one on one appointments to answer questions and discuss individual needs and expectations prior to surgery.
- For those of you requiring pre op attendance in a support group consider, referring your patients to one of BSCI’s online or telephonic groups. Facilitated by BSCI’s experienced and skilled bariatric educators, these groups provide insight, connection and encouragement. Participants can request a letter of attendance for their file.
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.
Though some restrictions have been lifted, we still live in a world of change, uncertainty and for some, fear. The extra stress of current circumstances may find your patients continuing to struggle to maintain their healthy habits and stay committed to their weight loss goals. As a bariatric coordinator, program director, support group leader, nurse, dietitian, coach, or mental health professional, you see the picture quite clearly but may not know what you could do or what should do about it.
We can help you, help them. For over 20 years BSCI’s contribution to the bariatric community has been helping patients learn and embrace a healthy, lasting bariatric lifestyle; day in and day out. Here are a few of ideas that you can offer to help your patients stay focused, connected and engaged in positive behaviors.
- Subscribe them to Bariatric eNews, Articles & Insights
- Inspire them by watching “Back to the Beginning Interviews” with successful long-term patients.
- Encourage them to join us for our free Telephonic and Online Support Groups.
- Help them stay accountable by weighing each week and posting picture of themselves on the scales to your website or Facebook page.
- Offer a cooking show with your dietitian, or daily workout with your exercise specialist.
- Organize a buddy system to connect new patients to veteran patients for calls, texts, chats, etc.
- Connect them to BSCI’s Facebook Bariatric Support Group for helpful posts, insights, & videos.
- Gift them a copy of the #1 Bariatric Best Seller The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients (hard copy or ebook)
- Video broadcast live interviews with your most successful patients
- Arrange an online Q & A panel discussion with your bariatric surgeons and staff for those awaiting surgery.
Helpful ideas, we hope. Now what about you? How are you managing through these difficult times? How are you keeping yourself engaged, moving forward, learning and serving? Now may be a great time for you to invest in opportunities to sharpen your skills, improve your program, support your staff. We can help there too. Visit Bariatric eLearning for some wonderful online resources.
And for a little personal boost, you may enjoy Colleen’s latest article, “The Time You’ve Been Given – 15 Positive Ways to Spend 15 Days.” Enjoy!
Our best to you, your family, your bariatric program and patients.
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.
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.