Colleen Cook is motivated. Colleen self-paid for the gastric bypass surgery in 1995 by taking a second mortgage on her home. Colleen Cook went on to become the President of Bariatric Support Centers International, a company that provides education and support services for weight loss surgery patients and the healthcare professionals who serve them.
The decision to have weight loss surgery has proven to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.” — Colleen Cook
Colleen Cook is best-known for her book, The Success Habits of Weight loss Surgery Patients, which has become a bariatric best seller. Colleen’s research-based weight loss surgery success principles continue to be a model for success throughout the bariatric community. The Success Habits Principles are now taught in hundreds of bariatric programs around the world. The principals provide structure, clarity, and simplicity for weight loss surgery patients as they reach and maintain a healthy weight. Read my review, “Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery.”
The recently released book, “Embracing Moments that Matter” is a compilation of inspirational stories from Colleen Cook and 16 other contributing writers.
Let’s get a glimpse of Colleen Cook and her inspiring journey from obesity to helping bariatric patients succeed after weight loss surgery.
Colleen Cook Bariatric Patient
You had gastric bypass weight loss surgery in 1995 that was not covered by your health insurance. Please tell us about your life at that time and how you came to have weight loss surgery.
Colleen Cook: I quietly and secretly investigated weight loss surgery many years ago in 1993. I had a personal consultation with a surgeon and knew that this was the answer for me. Unfortunately, my insurance would not cover it and paying cash was not a possibility at that time. So, I just kept it to myself and thought, “Someday, some way I will do this.” Years passed and I reached my all-time heavy weight of 250 pounds. At 5’2″, I was unhappy and unhealthy, but still my insurance wouldn’t cover it. On Thanksgiving weekend of 1995, my wonderful husband, knowing of my unhappiness and my deteriorating health, suggested that we take a second mortgage on our home and use the equity to pay cash for this surgery. Some of my friends were buying new cars and new furniture; I got a new body (and now I have the new car and the new furniture)! It was certainly a risk to undergo major surgery uninsured, but it was a risk we were willing to take. The decision to have weight loss surgery has proven to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. It has been worth every penny of our investment.
What was at the root of your obesity and why was gastric bypass the right solution for you?
Colleen Cook: Though obesity was not prevalent in my family – there were a few who struggled with weight and diabetes. At the time, gastric bypass was the only procedure offered. It was an open procedure as it was back in the day even before laparoscopic procedures were being done.
I believe the only way to combat severe obesity is surgery.” — Colleen Cook
Did you have any complications during or after the surgery?
Colleen Cook: At six years post op, I had a very rare complication. For months I ignored a little pain in my stomach. I had woken up to this pain off and on and usually, once I got up and moved around a bit, the pain would go away. It felt kind of like something was stuck. Sometimes a little sip of water or a Saltine cracker would do the trick. It was my gallbladder, I was quite sure. But one morning in February 2000, the pain did not go away; rather, it got worse and worse. Assuming it would subside as it had done before, I went about my normal daily routine. Instead of subsiding, the pain grew steadily worse and by early afternoon, I acknowledged the need for medical attention. The physician and I were convinced that I needed my gallbladder removed, so we proceeded. My husband met me at the emergency room where I was pumped full of drugs, but regardless, the pain continued to worsen. To my good fortune, my bariatric surgeon was available to attend to me and removed my gallbladder. Suspecting, however, that this was not the only problem, he ordered a CT scan. I began throwing up blood and bile in quantities unheard of for a gastric bypass patient. The doctors had found a very rare complication, termed ‘reverse’ intra-susception, wherein a small part of my bowel had kaleidoscoped over itself from the bottom to the top, just below the anastamosis. I was taken back into surgery where they removed that section of bowel. It was a strange and rare complication to be sure. All is well now, but I share this with you to impress upon your mind that as a weight loss surgery patient you must be ever-aware that you are not invincible!
What is a typical day’s food for you?
Colleen Cook: I am very consistent with my meals. I eat one egg, wheat toast and ½ grapefruit every morning. I take fresh vegetables and fruit, usually an apple, greek yogurt or cottage cheese with me each day. For dinner I eat a variety of proteins. Usually chicken or fish, vegetables – and sometimes have a snack — even a cookie or candy sometimes.
With your heavy travel schedule, how do you eat healthy on the road?
Colleen Cook: The greatest challenge for me when traveling is to be sure I get all my water in each day. I carry a water bottle with me and flavor it with vitamin crystals. I like the taste, not too sweet and no aftertaste – so that helps be be compliant with two of my Success Habits – vitamins and fluid intake.
Please tell us how else you maintain good health?
Colleen Cook: I am proud to say that I am an exerciser! I go to the gym 4 – 5 days each week and alternate between weights and elliptical machine. Sometimes I do Zumba or Body Pump with my daughter. I know – who would have ever thought!
The Success Habits principles have been key to my weight loss and maintenance.” — Colleen Cook
What advice would you give to obese people who are seeking to take control of their health and their lives?
Colleen Cook: Without question, I would recommend a surgical intervention. When someone needs to lose 40 or 50 pounds – conventional therapies have a chance – but when our bodies get to the point where we have 100 or more pounds to loose – it is a completely different ballgame! I believe the only way to combat severe obesity is surgery.
Colleen Cook Bariatric Guru
The many contributions that Colleen Cook has made to the bariatric community include: the Bariatric Support Centers International website, the Success Habits for Weight-Loss Surgery Patients book, a back on track program, and training for bariatric support group leaders and back on track facilitators. Let’s take a closer look at these resources.
It has been my life’s work to share my experiences with all who desire to learn, to improve, and to implement habits that will ensure their long term success.” — Colleen Cook
You wrote the Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients book. Do WLS patients need to follow these principals for all of their lives? What has been your key(s) to successfully maintaining your impressive 115-lb weight loss since 1995?
Colleen Cook: The Success Habits principles have been key to my weight loss and maintenance. On a good day, I own all 6 of them. On other days I struggle with one or two. The key is I am always mindful of what I need to be doing and the Success Habits provide the structure as well an an anchor that I can rely upon to keep my behavior in check.
You have a back on track program for weight loss surgery patients that have regained weight. Once a patient has regained weight, how is it possible to lose it again?
Colleen Cook: Weight regain is a concern to bariatric patients and professionals alike. Since 1999, struggling weight loss surgery patients have turned to BSCI for hope and help through our extensive Back on Track Program designed especially for those who have reached an extended plateau or who have regained weight.
What is the most common reason or reasons for weight regain?
Colleen Cook: Our recent research indicates that weight regain occurs for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, patients list lack of structured support, personal motivation and accountability, and unresolved emotional issues.
What are your tips for avoiding weight regain after weight loss surgery?
Please tell us about other resources on the Bariatric Support Centers International website that help patients to be successful after WLS.
Colleen Cook: Since 2000, BSCI has served tens of thousands of weight loss surgery patients, providing long term educational support resources for new, veteran and struggling patients. Additionally, we assist bariatric professionals as they seek to improve the quality and consistency of their bariatric support and educational programs. We have certified over 600 professionals through our Support Group Leader and Back on Track Facilitator Courses. Our professional training programs and resources are designed to support the people who support the patients.
Lastly, of the many things you have done to give back to the bariatric community, what has been most meaningful to you and why?
Colleen Cook: It has been my life’s work to share my experiences with all who desire to learn, to improve, and to implement habits that will ensure their long term success. It has been a privilege to work with thousands of weight loss surgery patients and professionals through the years. My involvement has blessed me with greater health, wonderful insights, and dear friends.
Colleen Cook, thank you for all that you continue to do to help weight-loss surgery patients! Read more inspiring Patient Stories on My Bariatric Life of real people who have taken control of their health and their lives by overcoming obesity.
About Colleen Cook
Colleen Cook is a sought after International speaker for both bariatric patient events and professional conferences. Colleen is the former host of the radio show, “Obesity’s Surgical Solution”. She is the author of the internationally acclaimed, bariatric best seller, The Success Habits of Weight Loss Surgery Patients book, workbook and educational program. The Success Habits resources are used in bariatric facilities throughout the world, helping patients learn and live these important principles for a lifetime of success.
Colleen Cook is the founder and former chair of the National Support Group Network and Integrated Health Committee of the American Society for Bariatric & Metabolic Surgery (ASMBS). Colleen also has served on the National Advisory Board for the Walk From Obesity. In 2009 Colleen Cook was named “Bariatric Professional of the Year” by the Bariatric Care Network. Colleen currently serves on the Membership Committee for the Obesity Action Coalition.
Read more inspiring Patient Stories on My Bariatric Life of real people who have taken control of their health and their lives by overcoming obesity.
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life