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Four Things You Should Never Say to a Person Who Had Weight Loss Surgery

This is inspired by a piece done recently on The Today Show: 6 Things You Never Say to Someone Who Has Lost Weight. Those things apply but I feel like there's things people say to us after our surgeries that are just wrong (and some are potentially harmful) so here goes.

"Yeah, I'm losing weight the hard way."

Ok so I should start off telling you that here at Bariatric Foodie we call folks who haven't had weight loss surgery "non-ops."

You. Non-op. Come closer so we can speak.

Imagine waking up tomorrow and your stomach was a fraction of the size it was before. Imagine taking your first bite of food in the morning and that bite of food makes you violently ill - and you don't quite know why. Imagine everything you eat makes you violently ill. Imagine going out to eat with friends and being done your whole meal before your friends have taken three bites of an appetizer. Imagine having the whole world see you shrink into a person you don't know and have never been before, all while you are supposed to be joyful (instead of freaking out, which is what you really are). Imagine having to remember to take vitamins every day. Imagine having doing the same workout you are doing "the hard way" except your body has only a fraction of the calories to sustain it. Imaging going through all that and having someone imply that you are doing things the "easy" way.

No matter what way you do it, losing weight is hard. So don't say that anymore.

"My sister's cousin's boyfriend's ex-girlfriend's sister had weight loss surgery and they gained all their weight back."

Firstly, no they didn't. That person is an urban legend. While folks who have weight loss surgery can regain, you don't personally know anyone who did and we know that.

Beyond that, if you believe in the power of positive thinking, this statement can be really destructive. It spawns fear, self-doubt, self-consciousness. Weight loss surgery patients live in a constant tension between adhering to many guidelines and trying to live a normal life. Many of us are already so petrified of regain that, for all intents and purposes, we've actually worked in earnest to develop eating disorders.

A better thing to say is "I wish you all the best" and leave it at that.

"You've lost too much! You need to stop."

On this one, non-ops, I have a bit of sympathy. Chances are your friend or family member was overweight or obese for a while before having surgery. And there's a good chance you only ever knew them that way. They are going through big changes. They are shrinking fast.

Rest assured your loved one is being monitored by an expert medical team. They have a bariatric surgeon, a registered dietician and other staff who monitor their weight very closely for the first two years after surgery. Very often their weight and health is monitored pretty closely even after that.

Each person has a different way to determine their goal weight. Unfortunately, it's not up to you to decide what that weight is. Telling someone they've lost too much is just as bad as telling them they have gained too much weight. It promotes low self-esteem and self-consciousness.

A simple "Wow, you've lost a lot of weight!" is both honest and much more respectful.

And lastly my personal favorite...

"You've changed since you had surgery."

My initial response the first time someone said this to me was "Well...yeah. Isn't that the point?"

My grandmother had a wonderful saying. "If nothing changes, nothing changes." Obesity is not just a disease of eating. Our environments, emotions and stressors can all contribute to our obesity. The only way to sustainably address obesity is to work at all of its causes in our lives.

That said, if your loved one suddenly is less tolerant of demands on their time, or they take longer to get ready to go out the door because they want to look nice, or they like to go clothes shopping, YES they have changed. No, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

On the same token some of us go through a serious "butthole phase" where we are a bit self-centered and hard to deal with (present company included). In those cases, address the behavior in particular. For example, if you find your loved one talks nonstop about their post-op life, you might say: "Hey, I know you've got lots going on, what else is happening in your life?" We go through stages after surgery and we are human. If we are being inconsiderate it may be a stage and we may not be aware we are doing it. But implying that it's bad we are changing isn't helpful or constructive.

If we're doing something that bugs you, talk to us respectfully about the thing we are doing instead of generalizing. Bonus: you actually have a chance of working it out when you do it this way!

What happens if I don't take my vitamins?

This week's #BFHolidayChallenge is to take all your vitamins every day. I often get asked, "What happens if I don't take my vitamins?" Here is my story about why vitamin compliance is a critical habit for weight loss surgery patients to learn.

It was late. Way late. So late, in fact, that I almost wondered why I was bothering with dinner at all. The day had been an absolute disaster and I’d have loved to sink into bed and pray for a better tomorrow, but unfortunately my two young children were hungry – and none too amused that it was 9 p.m. and they had not yet been fed dinner!

I decided to throw together something quick. Chili. The kids love chili, especially spicy chili. I figured this was perfect because it doesn’t take long to make, it produces lots of leftovers, and those leftovers taste better with each passing day.
So as soon as I got home from my class, I set to chopping onions and green peppers, browning ground turkey and draining cans of beans. It only took me about 30 minutes to make the chili and when it was done I called my children down to help set the table. I was determined we’d sit down to eat together.
My oldest daughter was the first downstairs so I set her to work. I pointed to the cabinet to ask her to hand me a…a…
What is that thing called? The thing. That you put soup in. And chili in. The thing???
Forgetting the word for "bowl" scared me and made me get my short-term memory loss checked out!
Yes, people. Standing there in my kitchen, rushed and stressed, I forgot the word for bowl.
Scared Straight
Now if any of you have had a family member with dementia, you can understand why I was freaked out by this incident. But as I thought about it later that night, I realized that my memory had been fairly shoddy lately. I’d walk into a room and not remember why I was there. I’d put my keys down and just a minute later couldn’t find them. And heaven help me if I didn’t immediately put an event on a calendar. I missed quite a few because I failed to jot it down, then forgot it completely.
There are myriad medical conditions that can cause memory loss. When I went to the doctor to inquire about mine, the doctor ordered labs and when they came back I got a stern talking to. My doctor asked one simple question that “outed” me, “Have you been taking your b12 supplement regularly?”
I had not. At that time I took it by injection. I was instructed to do so monthly. One fact I’ve since learned is that the less often I am required to do something, the more likely I am to forget to do it. So I forgot my monthly injection – for many, many, many months.
(NOTE: This was a problem for me because, as a RNY patient, I no longer have the ability to properly absorb B12 in the body's natural way - because that portion of my stomach is missing. So instead we need to take sublingual B12 which allows the B12 to be instantly absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin under your tongue.)
While my doctor was hesitant to deem that the only source of my short-term memory problems (after all I was also a working single mother and that carries a certain amount of stress which can also exacerbate short-term memory problems), the fact that mine was low at the time led us both to believe it was contributing to my problems. Again, my past freaked me out.
B12 is no joke!
My grandfather, before he died, suffered from dementia. At first he was thought to have developed Alzheimer’s Disease – a disorder that can only be 100% confirmed after death. As it turns out, he did not have Alzheimer’s Disease, but a very severe b12 deficiency. So hearing that I was low kind of scared me straight.
So what did I do? Well, several things. First, I asked if I could switch to a more regular regimen of taking b12. My doctor told me that I could switch to a daily sublingual tablet (one that melts under the tongue) instead of doing the monthly shot. (IMPORTANT: When figuring out what’s best for you, ALWAYS talk to your own doctor. My method and your method may not be the same!)
I also took advantage of an app called “My Med Schedule” to remind me to take ALL my vitamins, not just b12. It was easy to set up and I get daily reminders for all my vitamin doses. I still am not perfect about vitamins all the time but at least the reminder is there and persistent.
Lastly, I had to accept the fact that my short term memory problems might not go away, so I had to work with them and not against them. So I put my bottle of b12 tablets next to my toothbrush. I brush my teeth every day. When I brush my teeth, I see the bottle and I take my b12. I am the same way now with most things I want to remember. Put something I don’t want to forget next to something I can’t forget. I put my work ID next to my house keys, and my car keys are attached to my house keys, etc.
The Bottom Line
I share this with you all to encourage you to do whatever YOU need to do to stick to your vitamin regimen. In my case it vitamin B12 was low, but you can have many different kinds of deficiencies and they can cause many different kinds of problems. Here are a few things to think about:
·       Vitamin deficiencies can take a while to show up in lab work. I get a lot of folks who are a year or so post-op who tout their good lab numbers despite not being vitamin compliant. Remember your body usually has a store of vitamins it can draw on when deficient. Unfortunately that means that in some cases when your lab work comes back with a deficiency the stuff has actually hit the fan.
·       Some deficiencies can cause permanent damage. B12 deficiency is one of them. If you have severe memory loss, nerve damage, etc. as a result of this deficiency it can be irreparable and sometimes the best your medical team can do is help you manage.
·       WLS patients have DIED because of vitamin deficiencies. I don’t say that to upset you but to let you know this IS important. Failing to take your vitamins doesn’t have the same immediate negative effects as, say, eating sugar and dumping but it can be so much more harmful!
So I hope sharing my story has inspired you all, not only to take this week’s #BFHolidayChallenge, but to figure out a good, convenient and, most of all, sustainable system for taking your vitamins. Because you have to do it – for the rest of your life.
If you're unsure what vitamins you should take, here are the American Society of Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery guidelines for:
If you've not had a conversation with your surgical practice about vitamins, make sure you talk about it the next time you are seen!
And if you have any questions about my story, leave them in the comments below. I’m happy to answer.

#BFHolidayChallenge Week 3 Winners

But first...have you checked out this week's challenge, sponsored by CLICK Espresso Protein? If not, go check it out!

Sorry I could not post the winners yesterday, but I am very, very, very encouraged by how hard folks went at last week's challenge. For some of you the challenge is what you were already doing, but for others it was very hard and I commend you all for doing your best!

The winners of the week 3 prize back of Torani sugar-free syrups are:
  • Mary Ann Atzrott
  • Jodi B.
  • Maryann Forest
It was a big week for people named Mary Ann, eh? Congratulations, ladies! All three of them have been emailed and all three claimed their prize (thank you for making my life easier!).

After this challenge we still have two left. Like I said, check out this week's challenge, where you can win a fantastic prize from my friends at CLICK.

Keep on inspiring each other. You all inspire me!

#BFHolidayChallenge Week 4 - Sponsored by Click Espresso Protein!

Ok so I lied about something.

Well,  not really lied. I accidentally didn't tell the truth. (Isn't that the same thing.)

You see, I said last week's challenge was the most challenging for me and that's just not true. This week's challenge is far harder. That's why this week I'm going to blog about doing the challenge right along with you, Keeps me honest!

But first...

This Week's Prize Sponsor

CLICK! If you've never tried CLICK Espresso Protein Powder, you don't know what you've been missing! Seriously. (Well unless you hate coffee, in which case...yeah.) The folks at CLICK have made a rich, smooth coffee-based protein powder that packs lots of vitamins and minerals, along with 15g of protein per serving (making it the perfect post-workout recovery snack). It comes in Mocha (my favorite), Mocha Decaf, Vanilla Latte (not decaf) and Caramel (also not decaf). Aside from the Mocha Decaf, the others have the amount of caffeine equivalent to a triple shot of espresso.

I love the stuff. I love the stuff so much I have a whole selection of recipes I call Click Frapps. Heck, I love the stuff so much I wrote an e-recipe book for them called 50 Ways to CLICK! (You can download for free by the way.) You can check CLICK out for yourself at

This Week's Challenge

Ok so back to this being a challenging challenge for me. For some of you this will be easy. For me this has ALWAYS been hard.

This week, CLICK Espresso Protein challenges you to:

Get all of your vitamin doses, every day this week.

Oy. I mean...yay! For those who take the challenge - and report back at the end of the week - you will be entered to win one of THREE prize packs from CLICK, which includes a canister in the flavor of your choice AND some stylish CLICK swag.

Some Questions I imagine you have:
  • "Nik, can you tell me what vitamins I should be taking?" No. That's both wrong and illegal (as I'm not a physician or a registered dietician. BUT I can tell you what the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) recommends for RNY, Lap-Band, the Sleeve and the Duodenal Switch (DS). From there, you'd need to consult your surgeon or RD if you don't already know what you should be taking.
  • "Every dose, Nik? Really?" As I've said in all the past challenges, do your best. As long as you are accountable it counts, so simply reporting back (whether you are successful or not) will get you entered. But I encourage you to pay attention to any roadblocks you experience in doing any of these challenges. Identifying them will help you in the long run.
  • "I'm joining in late, can I still participate?" Absolutely. But once you accept the challenge you have to do your best to meet the challenge AND you have to report back in order to enter to win the prize. I will post here on the blog starting on Saturday, December 20 asking you to report back. You'll have until 11:59 p.m. EST  Sunday, December, 21 to enter.
If you have other questions leave them in the comments. Also (just for my curiosity) leave in the comments: ARE YOU IN???

#BFHolidayChallenge: Time to Report Back to Win Some Torani!

Are you all floating away yet?

I must say I read everyone's check-ins this week on Facebook and you guys showed UP to this challenge! For some of you this was easy peasy (as some of the other challenges probably are to others) but guess what? Even if drinking 64 oz. water/day isn't challenging for you, this week you reinforced a good habit and that is a beautiful thing.

Now it's time to be accountable so that you can win some sugar-free goodness from Torani! THREE of you will win a starter set of syrups (full sized bottles too, not the sample sizes!)

Since the report back last week was fairly uneventful, I'm going to do it the same way. Leave a blog comment with the following information:
  1. Your name (first name/last initial will do)
  2. Your email address
  3. Did you take this week's challenge? (Last week I had folks who entered who did not do the challenge. If that's you - join us next week! But I do want to limit the entries to those who gave this week's challenge a try. Thanks for understanding!)
  4. If you took the challenge, how did you do? Did you get 64 oz./day? If not, did you increase your intake over the amount you were getting before?
  5. Please list ALL the extra chance items you did (see below).
Then of course there are bonus entries! If you do any of these things please put that in your blog comment so I can give you the # of chances you deserve!
  1. Like Torani on Facebook or follow them on Twitter (if you do both, say so as you get one extra entry for each one).
  2. Leave a thank you note on their Facebook wall or Tweet them a thank you. IMPORTANT: Make sure you mention that Bariatric Foodie sent you so I know to give you your extra chance! (Again, if you do both please let me know and I'll give you an extra entry for both.)
That's it! The winner will be announced Monday evening. And a new challenge starts tomorrow (Sunday, December 14)!

I hope you're enjoying the Challenge so far. Good luck, everyone!

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