Interview with Colleen Cook: Weight-Loss Surgery Patient and Thought Leader, Part 1

My Bariatric Life Health Guide
  • Colleen Cook 


    Colleen Cook is a successful weight loss surgery patient (WLS). Colleen also is a weight loss surgery thought leader. This is the story of her personal weight loss journey, as well as a story of how she helps bariatric patients succeed after weight-loss surgery.


    Colleen Cook is a successful weight loss surgery patient from 1995.  She is the President of Bariatric Support Centers International, a company that provides education and support services for weight loss surgery patients and the professionals who serve them.  She is a also the founder and former chair of the National Support Group Network an Integrated Health Committee of the American Society for Bariatric & Metabolic Surgery. Colleen has also served on the National Advisory Board for the Walk From Obesity.

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    In 2009 she was named “Bariatric Professional of the Year” by the Bariatric Care Network, headquartered in Atlanta, GA. She currently serves on the Membership Committee for the Obesity Action Coalition.


    Learn more about Colleen's impressive accomplishments in the bariatric community in Part 2 of this interview.


    Interview Part 1: Colleen’s as Weight-Loss Surgery Patient


    Q: 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. 


    A: 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


    Q: What was at the root of your obesity and why was gastric bypass the right solution for you?


    A: 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 laparascopic procedures were being done.


    Q: Did you have any complications during or after the surgery?


    A: At six years post op, I had 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 bariatic surgeon was available to attend to me and removed my gallbladder. Suspecting, however, that this was not the only problem, he ordered a CAT 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!


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    Q: What is a typical day’s food for you? 


    A: 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. 


    Q: With your heavy travel schedule, how do you eat healthy on the road? I find dining out particularly challenging.


    A: 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.


    Q: Please tell us how else you maintain good health?


    A: I am proud to say that I am an exercise! 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!


    Q: What advice would you give to obese people who are seeking to take control of their health and their lives?


    A: 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.


    Continue to Part 2 of this interview.


    Living life well-fed,



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Published On: March 16, 2013