Weight Watchers Makes Weight Loss Surgery Successful

I’ve been asked to speak at a Weight Watchers’ Success Event this month. So I put together a WW Success Story.  Any suggestions for things to change/add/delete are appreciated!

Diabetes and sleep apnea were threatening her life. After 2 years on Weight Watchers, Karen learned how to “do weight loss surgery right” and not regain. 145 pounds later, she has changed her life and feels ready to face the biggest challenge of all: maintenance.

I’ve always been the “smart one” but there’s nothing smart about getting so out of shape that you get diabetes type 2 and sleep apnea. I needed to sleep with a respirator and I was only 45 years old. Although my doctor was urging me to consider weight loss surgery, I was worried that it would not be a success with my existing habits. I didn’t want to lose a lot of weight and then gain it back – again! I wanted this to be a permanent change. I will always be grateful that my doctor suggested that I give Weight Watchers a chance.

Small Changes
I’ve always been good at losing weight, but not keeping it off. That’s because I never did it sensibly or consistently. I always wanted the quick fix and after almost 30 years of yo-yo dieting, I finally learned my lesson. I didn’t get to be 321 pounds overnight and if I wanted to lose it and keep it off, I had to make permanent changes. With Weight Watchers I learned that I could make small substitutions that were pretty painless, but had a big impact. Instead of white bread, I switched to a high fiber whole wheat bread. Instead of white potatoes, we now eat sweet potatoes. I learned that while lean beef can be a healthy choice once or twice a week, chicken, fish and turkey are lower in fat and with the right recipes, they taste fantastic.

By following the daily habits, I learned how to drink my water, take my vitamins and get enough calcium. With what I knew about weight loss surgery, these were vital habits to maintain long-term health and avoid vitamin deficiencies and dehydration.  I also learned about mindful eating and stopping when I was satisfied. The Simply Filling technique has served me well before and after surgery.

The Biggest Change

By far the biggest change that I made was incorporating activity into my daily life. I literally went from couch potato to triathlon in three years. After checking in with my doctor and buying some sneakers, I started walking as far as I could every day. I was amazed at how soon I could walk a mile. It was a slow mile, but once I could do a mile, I started trying to see how much faster I could walk. My first mile was over 22 minutes. This summer I competed in the Iron Girl Triathlon and last week I ran a 5k in under 38 minutes – an average of 12 minutes per mile! Small changes make big successes possible.

Life Changing

Having the surgery was a hard decision. Even with a 10% loss and the increase in exercise, my diabetes was still getting worse. Then it happened – the life changing moment. I was on a business trip to Singapore and I tripped and fell. I didn’t have good balance and with so little muscle tone, I seriously injured myself. It was a difficult decision, but I decided to go ahead with the surgery.

Weight Watchers and Weight Loss Surgery

Weight Watchers was the best possible preparation for weight loss surgery. I knew how to measure and weigh my food to watch my portions. I knew how many points I should be eating every day. I knew how to be active and incorporate exercise into my daily life. I knew how to take my vitamins and drink my water.

I was ready, but surgery was still hard. Having your stomach and intestines rearranged is not something that should be taken lightly. Like many people, I had complications that required a second surgery and added two weeks to my planned recovery period. Plus, it hurts, and pain medications only last for so long.

Weight Watchers – Post Surgery

Some people claim that weight loss surgery is a guarantee of weight loss. Sure, many people lose amazing amounts of weight in a short time, but it isn’t a guarantee for permanent weight loss. Over 50% of the people who have weight loss surgery regain over half their lost weight. And many patients never reach a healthy BMI.  The reason is that just having the surgery isn’t enough. You have to change your habits or what made you obese in the first place will send you right back to the 3X clothing rack.

Today I have lost 145 pounds and only 5 pounds from my goal weight. With all the struggles that I’ve had to get this far, I suspect the biggest challenge is still to come: maintenance.  I plan to keep doing everything that I’m doing now, especially Weight Watchers, so that I can continue to lose until I reach my goal weight and then maintain it for life.  I know that if I stop tracking my points, or getting my activity or slip back into bad habits, I’ll become another statistic of weight loss surgery failure.

Karen’s Tips:

  • Reframing is so important. Think about how you move, eat and live. Why do you eat the way you do?  Why don’t you exercise? What’s stopping you from making those changes?
  • Get some sneakers and take a walk. Write down how far you walked and how long it took. That’s your starting point. Then keep going. Try to add just a little distance or a little speed every week.
  • You need to plan your eating and eat your plan! I plan my weekly points every Sunday and then keep track of what I eat that is off plan. Tracking makes it possible to see where I need to make changes.
  • Experiment with food. I try new recipes all the time. I even learned to make my own homemade Greek yogurt. It’s easy and tastes deliciously cold and creamy with blueberries, almonds and a teaspoon of honey.
  • Substitute a good habit for a bad one: Like my afternoon soda and chips. I substituted unsweetened ice tea with splenda and a handful of almonds for crunch.
  • Try something new with exercise every month. I now have a whole list of activities to choose from: walking, swimming, biking, kickboxing, running, weight lifting, skiing and more. I never get bored exercising. This month I’m trying scuba diving and next month I’m taking a belly dancing class.
  • Get help from your friends! I started posting on Facebook as soon as I decided to make changes. My friends really encouraged me and I even motivated some people to make changes.
  • Set goals: Last year I set a goal of competing in a triathlon and last month I ran a 5k to celebrate my first year after surgery. My next goal is to run a 10k and in two years I’m going to run the London Marathon.
  • Give away your fat clothes. I have changed 13 sizes in the last three years. If I gain my weight back, I’m going to be naked because I’m never buying bigger sizes again.

2 thoughts on “Weight Watchers Makes Weight Loss Surgery Successful

  1. Karen,
    I’m curious. You mentioned some of the food changes that you made to prepare for WLS. They included chaning white carbs to whole grain carbs. Have you been eating bread and sweet potatoes as a postop?

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