The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients
As bizarre as it may sound, each spring we clean our home with a leaf blower! Yes, the garden tool. At first, I thought my husband Roger was crazy, but he was right. It’s messy, but effective. We live in a log home in the woods; its dusty and the logs are hard to clean. Through the years, we’ve put into place quite a process. First, cover the furniture, especially the small items that are hard to dust. Then, with goggles and a mask, start at the highest point, in the loft and go to town! What a mess!!! Dust and debris fly down and around and out the doors. Then, we leave for a few hours let the dust settle. When we return, the real cleanup begins. Shake out the sheets, vacuum and wipe down all the surfaces. Then vacuum and wipe down the surfaces again. And again. Then the windows. It takes time but it feels so great! Clean, clear, and crisp.
We finished this task just a few days ago, and I can’t seem to get the phrase, ‘clearing the cobwebs’ off my mind. Webster defines this phrase as follows: to remove a feeling of confusion, vagueness, or lack of clarity about something (from one’s mind).
With all that is going on in the world around us, it is easy to ignore the gathering dust bunnies and cobwebs in our heads. Perhaps it is time for each of us to clean our emotional and mental houses. For those who clean up regularly, it may simply take nice walk, a bit of yoga or meditation. For others some, we’ll need to get the leaf blower out!
Here are a few suggestions that I have found helpful when I know it is time for a refresh.
- Dig in the dirt – plant a garden.
- Spend time near water: the beach, lake, pond, river, streams. There is something healing about water.
- Go barefoot outside, in the grass or sand. I love the how the energy from the earth flows and strengthens.
- Create a ‘energy up’ playlist. I created a favorite file of songs that ONLY create good memories, positive thoughts, and uplifting messages. I listen often.
- Important to write it out. Free your mind of negative thoughts, bad experiences, and resentment towards others. It is freeing and great way to make space for joyful new things.
And finally, de-junk, clean and organize your physical space. It may take some time, but well worth it to make the effort to both literally and figuratively – clear the cobwebs!
“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…
It’s cold here! And there has been so much snow that our road is like a luge run and almost claustrophobic. Somehow, I have gotten into the habit of checking the temperature and weather forecast first thing each morning. And twenty below is what I woke up to today. Checking the temps during the winter months can be a discouraging and disheartening habit that has the power to set the mood for my whole day. However, I am grateful for my ability to choose to focus my thoughts and energy elsewhere.
Choosing to live in gratitude each day helps me to re-direct my thoughts towards more positive, uplifting and enriching elements of my life. Roger and I have shoveled and plowed snow for several days, but today the sun is shining, the trees and fields are glistening, and we have a warm, comfortable and happy home to enjoy. I choose to keep my focus on that.
A few years ago, I was taught in a coaching class the importance of and the value of learning to re-frame. To deliberately look at circumstance and situations in a different way, from a different perspective.
As you approach your next potentially bad day, may I challenge you to stop for a moment, count the many blessings of your life and reframe your thinking. Yes, the “weather outside is frightful but the fire is do delightful!”
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.
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.