Regain is real and stigma may have something to do with it.
Bariatric Surgery, healthy habits, Obesity

Regain is real…and so is the stigma associated with it.

While it’s easy to accept that there’s a certain amount of regain expected following weight loss surgery, regain is real. And when not kept in check, our habits can go off the rails and down the track of self-sabotage. According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), as many as 50% of all surgical patients gain back a small amount of weight (approximately 5%) two years or more following surgery.

Keeping it real, I fall into that category. When I think about where I have come from, it’s no big deal. These pesky 5-10 pounds is nothing considering I started at 226. I keep chugging along, doing everything I know I can and am being patient before I write it off as the horrors of peri-menopause or my broken metabolism. I know it comes down 100% to habits and accountability.

I regularly engage with the bariatric community through Twitter, Instagram, my own surgeon’s support group, and other online groups. I see that there is a need for support, especially when patients experience regain. I reached out through Twitter to do some simple research with these questions:

  • What has been your biggest challenge since surgery?
  • What would it look like if you were able to overcome that challenge?
  • What is holding you back from overcoming that challenge?
  • Would you pay for support to help you overcome this challenge?

Guess what the answer was to the first question? Fear of regain. Even patients who hadn’t experienced any regain feared it. And what it would look like to overcome that fear? Regaining that feeling of invincibility that they had right after surgery. Digging deeper, they said that was the time when they were the most committed, followed their program’s nutrition guidelines to a T, and experienced no hunger in those months after surgery. For those that reached goal, that feeling of shopping in the “regular” stores and restored confidence was a common theme. And for those who experienced regain, they claimed the reason was that they let their good habits slide, making way for old habits, old thinking patterns, mindless grazing, and making less than healthy choices in all areas of their lives.

Having these conversations made me realize that there was a need for support right at the moment where things go off track. The problem is, people are embarrassed to go back to their surgical programs for help, thinking they will just take care of it on their own. Appointments get postponed while trying to shed those regained pounds. Structured eating turns into trying every diet under the sun from keto to paleo to intermittent fasting to vegan to carnivore to [insert name of latest nutrition trend here]. By this point, they stop going for annual checkups, don’t get lab work done, and may be going down a dangerous path.

Financial barriers are a driver for seeking out help. Insurance coverage may have changed, or the cost of protein or supplements may no longer fit into budgets. People seek support in a variety of online channels, but these are groups run by patients (or even by supplement companies) offering nutritional advice outside of the ASMBS guidelines for post-bariatric nutrition and follow-up support.

Hearing the frustration in the voices of my interviewees, I decided I needed to do something. In just a few weeks, I will be completing (yet another) certification as a bariatric coach. My goal is to offer free and low-cost coaching opportunities for bariatric patients, aimed at first reconnecting them with their programs for monitoring, and helping to reverse the regain by examining habits related to nutrition, fitness, and mindset.

So where does stigma come in?

Stigma comes from so many different places. First, there’s self-stigma. The story we tell ourselves about failure, again, along with negative self-talk is our very first challenge to overcome. There’s stigma in the fitness and wellness industry, especially related to weight loss surgery. Most trainers and health coaches are unaware of the specific nutritional needs and restrictions for bariatric patients, or they view people affected by obesity as lazy or taking the easy way out. That message, unfortunately, is broadcast loud and clear on the daily. So let’s add in social media as a source of stigma. I call it compare and despair. Seeing people posting their successes and how effortless everything is can be very de-motivating when you yourself are struggling. Finally, there is also bias in the medical community. We’ve all heard “eat less, move more” at the doctor’s office. Obesity is a complex disease and there is no simple formula for treating it. Even the dread of having a conversation about weight is enough to keep patients from scheduling appointments for even routine monitoring.

I am a member of the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) who provides amazing guidance about taking a stand against weight bias. OAC’s advocacy work focuses on a number of areas – advocating for equitable treatment of people affected by obesity, improving access to the prevention and treatment of obesity, eliminating weight stigma and bias in the media, and providing a community of support for people affected by obesity. I regularly speak up when I see weight stigma in my industry and have shared information about person-first language to health and fitness coaches whose target markets include people struggling with weight management. I am often accused of being too sensitive, but so be it.

So what am I going to do about regain?

I want to provide a number of free and low-cost tools that can help people who are struggling with regain or plateaus after weight loss surgery. The first offering I have developed is a habit tracker that’s structured around bariatric lifestyles. You can download your daily habit tracker free by signing up for my mailing list.

Next up is a new program called Reverse the Regain. I am offering limited spots at a dramatically reduced price while I work to refine the program. You can sign up for a free consultation with me to see if that program is a good fit for you.

Third, I’ve launched a brand new Facebook group which will remain free of charge, focused on cultivating healthy habits and a sense of community. Join my Healthy Habits Bootcamp group for extra support, free recipes and guidance, and fun prizes!

Finally, I’m working on developing some lower cost group programs, both online and in-person. Much more coming in 2020!

Does this sound like a lot for one person? It is. Maybe I am crazy. But — I am committed to helping people get on track and stay on track so they can continue on their journey towards improved health.

Stay on track: surviving the busy holiday season with your healthy habits intact.
healthy habits, Hormone Health

Going into the holidays like….

Is anyone else scratching their head wondering how we got to November in the blink of an eye? This year has sailed by and while it isn’t quite over, I’m thinking about all the things I have done this year and all of the great things yet to come. Retiring from the day job being the biggest accomplishment, I’ve also had some big developments here at Off the Plate. Here’s just a few of them.

Hormone Health Class Complete!

I have been taking some advanced courses through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, including their Hormone Health and Gut Health classes. It was a lot to take on while wrapping up things in my government career, but that’s how I roll. Always learning. I completed the Hormone Health class a few weeks back and I’m not loaded with lots of information to help clients manage their hormone balance through nutrition and lifestyle modifications. Stress is a huge player on the hormone stage, so stress management and sleep hygiene go a long way for managing health over all.

I’ve also enrolled in a bariatric coaching program as well. I’m shifting my focus to work with more bariatric patients to provide guidance through all phases of weight loss surgery. I’ve found many patients do not have support of their programs other than post-surgical visits and monitoring for labs. Without making deliberate lifestyle changes, weight loss surgery only gets you so far. You have to change how you think, eat, move, and live your life. I’m developing a program that focused on mindset and other lifestyle factors that can impact both weight loss and weigh management after surgery. I’m excited to give back to this community, as I have learned so much through other patients sharing their stories. You can read about my new Reverse the Regain program to get more information. I am offering a special 3-month introductory program, so let me know if you’re interested in setting up a discovery call.

Healthy Habits Bootcamp Launch!

I know that finances can be a barrier to success for some weight loss surgery patients. Vitamins, protein, healthy food — all that stuff adds up. I wanted to be able to offer some free resources to help people stay on track, get back on track, or figure out where the actual track is! I launched a free Healthy Habits Bootcamp facebook group that is open to anyone, whether you’ve had weight loss surgery or not. The group is intended to provide accountability and tips for establishing healthy habits, community, and positivity through the next few months (and beyond). Come join the tribe and join in on the conversation.

If you haven’t downloaded my Healthy Habit Tracker yet, make sure you sign up for my mailing list and I’ll send you one free as well!

I look forward to interacting with you more as we navigate the holidays together and enter the next decade!

healthy habits, the key to unlocking your potential
Bariatric Surgery, Goals

Healthy habits are the key to everything

I’ve been reading James Clear’s book Atomic Habits and find myself telling everyone about it given the opportunity. At the core of every aspiration or goal are the steps needed to get you there. I work with clients on goal setting and creating S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevent, and time-bound) all the time, and we break them down into actions they can take to get closer to the goals. But we’re still talking about big steps at that point. Atomic Habits talks about how goals are achieved through the building of small habits consistently, that lead to gradual improvements over time, and which compound over time, much like interest in your bank account.

I’m still working my way through the book, but it’s a great read and provides some great lessons on how to keep your habits going, even when things get tough.

This ties in perfectly with some of the new programs I am working on. As a successful weight loss surgery patient, there are things I do habitually every day. I take bariatric formulated vitamins. I drink whey isolate protein. I get 7-9 hours of sleep. I exercise. I plan my meals. I track everything. I journal. I meditate. I take time out for self-care. I did NONE of these things before my surgery. I mean, I did some of them, inconsistently, but it wasn’t built into my DNA. For something to become a habit, it must be done consistently.

I’ve been engaging with folks in the bariatric community about some of the challenges they face, and the number one thing that came up consistently was the fear of regain. And when you dig into that a little further, you start to uncover that the reasons why people regain are not only that they slip back into to their old bad habits, but they also never put the healthy habits in place consistently to the point where they become automatic.

Based on these conversations, I decided I wanted to create a free resource for people to help them get back on track by going back to the basics of bariatrics! I developed a bariatric-focused habit tracker for download when they subscribe to my mailing list. Be sure to subscribe and get yours too!

Which leads me to the most exciting thing! I’m working on a program that’s specific to bariatric patients to help them navigate their post-surgery life with regards to maintenance, plateaus, and regain. When you download the habit tracker, you’ll get a little more information about what’s in store, but stay tuned. If you’re interested in learning more now, schedule a free discovery call with me or check out what’s in store for my Reverse the Regain program. I’m excited to help people wherever they are on their weight loss journey. Looking forward to continuing to connect!

Meal Prep
Food Prep

By request: meal prepping for convenience

So many of my clients are constantly on-the-go, whether work-related, kid-related or just busy schedules. When we’re busy, it’s easy to let go of our healthy habits and wing it when it comes to our planning, shopping, meal prep, and exercise.

Life happens. We get busy. But when we invest in our health and well-being, we stay fueled for the busy, and we keep focused on our goals. Is it overwhelming? It can be, but it doesn’t need to be.

First things first

Let’s look at the big picture. Are you setting yourself up for success?

When it comes to nutrition, environmental control is one of the biggest keys for success. Having the right things on hand is one piece of the puzzle, but first, take an inventory of what you have at home. Are there trigger foods in your house that you will reach for when you’re tired, hungry, and in a rush? If so, remove them if you can. If you can’t remove them, move them. Find yourself a spot for all of your go-to health foods and put the trigger foods out of sight. At my house, anything on the top shelf is going to take me a lot of effort to get to (short girl problems) so I have to really think about my choices.

Have you ever done a pantry makeover? Check out my post about things to consider when cleaning up your pantry. There’s a few helpful hints for crowding out some of the less healthy staples you may be hanging onto in your kitchen. Makeovers are also one of my favorite things to do with clients as well!

Keep it simple

As a bariatric patient, it’s hard to balance meal prep when the amount of food we can eat is so small. The goal here is to not waste food, so learning how much to prepare for yourself is key. Buying or prepping food in bulk that can be frozen is a good way to make sure nothing goes to waste. There are some really simple things you can do to make sure you’ve got some solid choices available for your meals and snacks. I try to keep things basic and versatile so they can be worked into any meal.

  • Hard boiled eggs (a great source of protein you can use in salads or on their own, any time of day)
  • Grilled chicken breast (keep seasoning simple so you can use in different ways, like in salads, with roasted veggies, taco salads, etc.)
  • Roasted vegetables (you can roast anything from broccoli and cauliflower to cabbage and Brussels sprouts to mushrooms and peppers)
  • Cottage cheese (great with fruit like berries, or apples with cinnamon, or on a salad with chickpeas)
  • Yogurt (plain greek yogurt is versatile and can be used as a topping for chili, as a base for salad dressing, as a chicken marinade, or mixed with berries for a sweet treat)
  • Prepped raw vegetables (for use as snacks raw or as ingredients for quick meals such as stir fries)
  • String cheese
  • Tuna (canned or packets for portability)
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables (berries are great for smaller portions for smoothies or with cottage cheese and yogurt, and riced cauliflower or other veggies are great for quick sides for dinners)

Protein first

Most bariatric patients continue to use protein supplements to ensure they meet their protein recommendations from their surgical programs. Making sure you always have protein on hand is key (and a variety of different flavors is helpful so you don’t get bored). A few tips for making protein shakes more convenient include:

  • Get pre-mixed ready to drink proteins
  • Mix protein shakes in advance that you can just grab and go
  • Store a scoop of protein in a small container that you can toss in your purse or lunch bag in case you need a boost while you’re on the go
  • Get an insulated shaker bottle to keep your protein cold while you’re running around

Have a game plan

While it takes a little practice to get this done efficiently, it’s good to have a game plan for your healthy habits. Sit down the night before you shop to think about what food you want to have on hand for the week. When prepping for the work week, I’ll sit down on Saturday or Sunday morning to come up with a list of ingredients for my shopping list. I always double check what I have on hand to make sure I use up all of my fresh fruits and veggies or any leftover food from the week. The keep it simple approach works well. The list above is pretty much what I buy when I am keeping the thinking to a minimum. If I am planning specific recipes, I’ll figure out what spices, herbs, and other ingredients I need. Sometimes when I get bored, I comb through my Pinterest boards for ideas too.

Be efficient

I’ve memorized the layout of my grocery store, so I typically make my shopping lists to reflect the flow of the store. I’m a nerd like that. But efficiency continues when I get home. Meal prep starts the minute the grocery bags hit the counters. Any frozen items go right into the freezer, of course. Fresh veggies get washed and prepped before they go into the fridge. I store prepped veggies in glass containers so I can see when when I stack them in the fridge, making it more likely that I will use them in my meals for the week. I typically make 6-12 hard boiled eggs for the week, so I can get those on the stove while I am prepping veggies or putting everything away. Things I like to prep in bulk are chicken breasts or thighs that I season and grill for dinner, but make extra for use during the week. Pro tip about chicken: picking up an already cooked rotisserie chicken is a big timesaver too! I break it down and make bone broth that I use later in the week for quick sautéed vegetables to cut down on the need for cooking with oil.

Another tip I have is to get everything in containers the night before to take with you for lunch the next day. That way, you can just grab your meals, pop them in your lunch bag without too much thought. This saves you some more time, so you can get that workout in before work!

What are your tricks?

Have some cool tips for meal prep and planning? Share them in the comments!

Field of flowers with one area in focus
Goals, Positivity

Focus Focus Focus

September is as a good a time as any to check in on goals. Even though it’s still summer weather here, the pumpkin spice latte season started earlier than ever, the 31 days of Halloween are back on TV, and soon, the weather will turn.

In summer, everyone is working hard for their summer bodies (which incidentally, are the same bodies we have the rest of the year). How do we make sure that we stay focused on our goals once fall gets here, vacations are over, the kids go back to school, you go back to school, or whatever this season brings you?

Laser focus your nutrition

Did Labor Day barbecues derail your nutrition goals? You may think so, but they didn’t. Labor Day is just one day in 365. No need to fall into that failure loop. Dust yourself off and get back to basics. Get some meal prep done this week, or just come up with a plan to fit in some more nutrient dense foods and all of the leafy greens and vegetables you can. And water too, but you already knew that!

Refocus your physical activity

Are you over your fitness routine? Find something fun to do with a friend. Get out in nature and take a walk. Take that yoga class you’ve always wanted to try. Try stand-up paddle-boarding! (That’s what I want to try next!)

Movement is critical to our bodies. We were designed to move. But not everyone is designed to move the same way. Running might be your thing, but it’s not everyone’s. Until you figure out your thing, crank the tunes and dance around your house a bit. Any movement is better than no movement.

Refresh your mindset

The greatest thing about mindset is that we have complete control over it. We have control over whether we let negativity set in or whether we keep our focus on positivity. If the hectic pace of the post-Labor Day grind has got you down, start your day on a positive note. Set your intention for the day. Affirm your gratitude for the good things and people in your life. Knock a thing or two off your to-do list and give yourself a pat on the back. We sometimes set ourselves up to fail by striving for perfection or overcommitting ourselves. Use this season as the opportunity to weed out obligations that aren’t serving you. Spend a little time this week taking inventory of your priorities and set yourself up for success.

And if all else fails, make your own pumpkin spice latte!

Hormone Health, nutrition

Combat cravings, balance blood sugar

Chocolate cravings. Can you relate? Did you know that chocolate cravings can be linked to low magnesium levels? Would you ever think that by increasing your consumption of foods rich in magnesium you could keep those cravings at bay?

Magnesium is an essential nutrient for your body, and many people can have low magnesium levels without knowing it. Magnesium plays an important role in balancing your blood sugar levels by helping convert glucose from your food into fuel. If you don’t have enough magnesium in your body, your cells can become less effective at processing glucose. Insulin, a hormone that the pancreas makes, allows cells to absorb and use glucose. In people with insulin resistance, the cells are unable to use insulin effectively, resulting in elevated levels of glucose in the blood, or high blood sugar.

Low magnesium levels are commonly found in people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes as well.

Nutritional strategies for raising magnesium levels

Your doctor can check your magnesium levels if you are concerned about your glucose levels, and they may recommend supplementation. However, you can make some adjustments in your diet by adding foods that are rich in magnesium (as well as other necessary nutrients). Some examples include:

  • Dark leafy greens, especially spinach and swiss chard
  • Pumpkin and sunflower seeds
  • Sea vegetables such as kelp and dulse
  • Black beans
  • Almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts and pecans
  • Cacao or high-cacao-content dark chocolate (70% or higher)
  • Avocados
  • Bananas

Adding these magnesium-rich foods to your meals can help with balancing blood sugar, but can also help to keep those chocolate or sugar cravings at bay as well. For some people, consuming a square of a high-quality dark chocolate is enough to squash that craving, but just be cautious if even a little is a trigger for you for more cravings.

Other strategies for balancing blood sugar levels

  • Eat within 1 hour of waking
  • Space your meals 5-6 hours apart
  • Avoid snacking before bedtime (intermittent fasting, or simply fasting between dinner to breakfast has also been shown to improve blood sugar levels as well)
  • Drink plenty of water (shoot for at least 64 ounces a day)
  • Avoid eating carbohydrates on their own, by pairing with a protein and a fat, even while snacking. The ideal combination is protein + fat + carbohydrate + fiber at all meals.
  • Get your Omega-3 fatty acids from fish, flax, walnuts or eggs

Every body is different, so everyone responds to different foods in different ways. You know things are out of balance if you are struggling with keeping your energy up, experiencing brain fog, are hungry, nauseous or dizzy, it may be a sign that something nutritionally is out of balance. Usually cleaning up a few things in your diet, like processed foods or excess sugar, can help. If you need help in putting together a plan for a balanced diet, let me know. I’m here to help!

Health Coach

Fresh look, fresh outlook

Over the past few months, I have been gathering ideas and writing them in a little notebook, waiting until the exact right time to implement them. At the end of July, I walked away from my day job — a career in state government. I decided to retire for a few reasons. Most were related to my personal health and happiness, but the biggest reason was to focus on how I can help more people through nutrition and lifestyle coaching.

I planned to take a few weeks off and then regroup, but that notebook of ideas kept calling to me. There’s a few more boxes to check off and so many more things I want to offer, but my first achievement is a redesign of my site. A remix of ideas and some clarity of focus. One of my favorite things I’ve added is the ability for visitors to book a free discovery call directly with me through my website. I’ll be adding more features like that for clients as well.

And with that, I welcome you to my new site with a fresh outlook on life. Stay tuned for more to come. Be sure to subscribe to my newsletter too for a special download just for subscribers.