Completing the puzzle for bariatric patients

Adobe Spark (1)

When I was researching bariatric surgery for myself, I was initially given very little guidance from the referring doctor. Pinterest became my friend, and I discovered a few valuable resources, namely Reeger Cortell’s Weight Loss Surgery Podcast, which I recommend for anyone considering bariatric surgery and for post-surgery patients at any and every stage. I have links to a few other resources on my personal blog. I also joined a number of different Facebook “support” groups.

On these groups, you’d see questions like:

I’m six weeks out from surgery. When can I eat pizza again?

No joke. This is the one that I always cite as an example of a SMH moment. You’ve undergone major surgery, with many risks, and you’re thinking about pizza? I see people making taco shells out of cheese or pizza with wonton wrappers — basically continuing the same eating patterns that resulted in the need for surgery.

A few things about bariatric surgery: whether you choose a sleeve gastrectomy or Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, the surgery is on your stomach, not your brain. Your sleeve or bypass is just a tool and part of the equation. And it’s a very powerful tool! To some degree, the weight loss will continue over the course of 12-18 months. Some people lose with easy, while some people have to follow the dietary guidelines to a T (that’s me — more on this later). And incorporate exercise immediately post surgery. Behavior change is key. And building healthy habits needs to happen before surgery.

Some bariatric programs have amazing support. Orientations, nutrition classes, guidelines for supplementation following surgery, meetings with psychologists and nutritionists, and active support groups. It’s obvious, however, from observing the conversations in these Facebook groups that people are not researching this surgery prior to permanently altering their bodies, nor do they receive proper pre-surgery education or post-surgery follow-up. This education and support is something I see as a gap in the bariatric surgery process.

I’m one of the most fortunate patients. Not only am I a rule-follower who thrives on structure and rules, but I also had a fantastic surgeon who provided excellent guidance both before and after surgery. She teaches the nutrition classes herself, and is far more knowledgable about nutritional needs, malabsorption, quality of supplementation, adjusting for stubborn metabolisms, and other guidance following surgery. Her practice now has a private support group ( which I’ll add that I helped start up and function as an admin), and she is actively participating in the discussion.

As a health coach, I can help close that gap by coaching from experience. I am still working on reinforcing the positive lifestyle changes required for being an obesity ass-kicker. The most important thing I have learned is that everyone has their own unique journey. People lose weight at different rates, people have difference medical co-morbidities that may change how their bodies’ metabolism functions, and people react differently to certain foods. Guidelines are just that – guidelines. Everyone has a unique prescription for unlocking their optimal health, even bariatric patients. They just need to discover what that is. I still have more discovery to do in order to hit that sweet spot, but I am enjoying what I am learning from the process.

And the answer to the question “when can I eat pizza again?” — for me, it’s never. However, the exploration of more appropriate options is all part of the fun.

Welcome, and My “Why”

Journey_blogpost

Welcome to Off the Plate, a health and wellness blog that will accompany my future practice as an integrative nutrition health coach. I recently started studying at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I am in the midst of my own personal journey to optimal health and wellness, and along the way, I realized that I can share my experience with others to help them achieve their goals.

In July 2016, I underwent gastric bypass surgery and my life was forever changed. I am now an obesity survivor — an obesity ass-kicker. This journey has been a long one, having been obese since I was in my teens (and literally on one diet or another since I was 11). When I decided to have bariatric surgery, I researched the lifestyle changes, I read books and blogs, and committed to making this change permanent.

Stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, and a variety of endocrine and metabolic complexities prevented me from losing weight, no matter how much I exercised, and despite following nutritional guidance from my doctors. Although the surgery radically changed my digestion and absorption of nutrients, it didn’t change my brain. I had to make those changes myself:

  • Adopting a more positive outlook on life
  • Identifying stress triggers and learning how to manage them
  • Incorporating a daily gratitude practice
  • Changing my self talk with daily affirmations
  • Practicing meditation and yoga
  • Journaling
  • Establishing routine exercise goals
  • Building daily rituals to reinforce these lifestyle changes

In my quest to learn more about how food — a whole foods approach to nutrition — can impact weight loss and metabolism, I found this health coach training program and it was immediately apparent to me that I had found my purpose.

My goal is to inspire and support others on their health and wellness journeys to identify and achieve their goals, providing support for nutrition, but also providing support for the nourishment off the plate: nourishment for the body, mind, and spirit.

You’ve all heard the expression, “having too much on my plate.” How many times have you let the wrong priorities guide your life, depriving you of a healthy self-care practice? It’s time to get some things off the plate so you can start feeding the areas of your life that are the most satisfying. I can help you find your own approach to creating that balance in your life.

While I won’t officially be seeing clients for the first six months of this program, I am offering free guidance during this time to a limited group who in turn will help me refine my coaching skills, participate in health history sessions or provide feedback on pilot programs I would like to offer. If you are interested in this introductory coaching proposal, contact me at marilyn.clark@offtheplatehealthcoach.com.