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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The WLS Window of Opportunity:
Fact or Fiction?

by Kaye Bailey

In the WLS world we’ve come to revere the “Window of Opportunity” as some kind of magical solve-all Emerald City where the Wizard replaces our obesity with a svelte healthy new being. Miss that window and we are DOOMED to be whisked away by the flying monkeys back to fat-land.

But does the sacred secret “Window” really exist? Is this “Window” our only chance for fat-redemption? Is there a curtain behind which a wizard poses holding the magic keys of which we have always held possession? What if – Glory Be – we are actually in charge of our own “Window of Opportunity?”

Sorry to inform you O’Great Wizard but today we are pulling back the curtain and revealing your tricks. Turns out the only one in control of the great mystical “Window of Opportunity” is the patient.

Opportunity – Noun

1 : a favorable juncture of circumstance

2 : a good chance for advancement or progress

What is the WLS Window of Opportunity?

First – the WLS “Window of Opportunity” cannot be delineated by a specific time frame. Chat sites and doctors all tell us, “You better lose what you can in the “Window of Opportunity” because that is your only chance for weight loss after WLS.” So we ask them the scared whispered question, “Just how long is this Window of Opportunity?” “Four, six months at best" they tell us. Scary, right? Do they think because we are fat we are stupid? In four or six months following surgery the body does not suddenly repossess the gastric bypass and say “Sorry Charley” the window is now closed. Are you kidding? The Window of Opportunity exists for as long as we are COMPLIANT with the STRICT perimeters of weight loss surgery. Compliance with the WLS strict diet, exercise, nutrition and mental health guidelines keeps the window open. No one is in control of this except for the patient. See Ya, Wizard! Buh-bye!

Second – Compliance with the WLS controls the Window, which means we have ultimate control. Listen to this, listen and live what I am about to tell you. Compliance with the guidelines your WLS center provides is the easiest way to keep the Window of Opportunity open. Every time a patient disregards his or her WLS guidelines the window pushes closed. Honest patients who regain weight admit failure to comply with the guidelines caused weight regain. Compliance keeps the window of opportunity open. Disregard the guidelines the window closes. It’s a simple as that. Learn your guidelines. Live them. Keep the Window open. Easy? Hell No! Best chance for success? Hell Yes!

Third – Smart weight loss patients focus on the “Opportunity” of the open window. Now is the perfect time to use the “Window” to educate and retrain ourselves to embrace healthier “skinny” habits. The reward? Rapid weight loss! What better incentive to learn about nutrition, health, weight loss, exercise and mental wellness than when the body is rewarding the mind with weight loss. Learn it. Live it. Educate. Embrace. LIVE!!! The “Window of Opportunity” is about entering, celebrating and embracing a new life. Seize the OPPORTUINTY to reinvent yourself. This is the chance of a lifetime – do not surrender it.

Ahhhh, but you say you have “Head Hunger.” Get over it! Prior to WLS you had “Head Hunger” too – Head Hunger to lose weight, to be healthier, to be more attractive. The “Head Hunger” was so bad nights were spent lying awake plotting the next argument to the insurance company, defending your obesity crisis and fighting for this miracle of modern medicine. Head hungry? THAT was Head Hunger. You fought so hard for this and now you want to say “Oh, I’m so hungry for chocolate cake or Alfredo sauce or XYZ, just this once it’s ok – I deserve one little treat!” This thinking is exactly what got us to morbid obesity in the first place! Forget about Head Hunger – don’t you dare indulge it for one minute. Instead focus your Head Hunger on the lighter, more attractive more confident person you fought to become – to HELL with the chocolate cake. It just doesn’t matter anymore.

Fourth – Psychologists have proven repeatedly that positive reinforcement is the best motivator for behavior modification. Patients who actively engage in behavior modification during the “Window of Opportunity” have the greatest chance of long-term weight loss and successful weight maintenance. Yes, this is hard work and frankly some days it sucks. But what sucks worse is loss of mobility due to morbid obesity, sleepless nights due to morbid obesity or worst of all, early death due to morbid obesity. It is hard work to engage in and embrace a healthy lifestyle. But face it, it is much harder work to be morbidly obese. Actively engage in a healthy lifestyle – WLS is your second chance – don’t take it for granted.

Finally – The wise WLS Owner knows that the WLS tool is for life. It may seem the window closes and weight loss becomes more difficult but the truth is the WLS tool is always there. Like a garden trowel we may abuse it, dent it and leave it in the rain to rust. But bring it back to shelter, nurture it and pamper it – it will always be there. We never lose the tool. When times are rough and we’ve abused the tiny pouch, step back, apologize, pamper it like the newborn tiny tummy. The WLS tool is forgiving. You may be surprised how willingly it opens that Window of Opportunity again. The WLS tools is for life.

How about you? Is your “Window of Opportunity” open?


Jenn said...

Kaye - Thank you so much for your post and for your blog. I'm coming up on 5 months since surgery and have seen my weight loss slow down a little, so I was beginning to panic. I so desperately want weight loss to continue, and this post is going to help me stay the course.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kaye -

At first when I read this I got mad because it is pretty stern especialy for you. But than when I thought about it more I NEEDED to be told sternly what you said. You are right that Im' in charge of my tool and I have been making excuses and bad choices and closing my own window.

Thanks for the stern but much needed reminder. Today I am taking back my opportunity.

Erin L.

Anonymous said...

i never thought of head hunger like that before but its true. i was a lot more hungry for the wls and to lose weight than i am for the mac and cheese.


Anonymous said...

Well said. It reminded me of a wonderful quote I heard last week at a convention on autism regarding windows of opportunities for development. They said that there may be a window of opportunity and it may close some, but the window is always opened. Early intervention is best, but later intervention is better than none. I can relate this to the wonderful tool we have been given in WLS. My weight loss has slowed down. Yes I am frustrated with this, but I know it is in my court to make the changes to get the weight loss going again. Thank you for your post.

Linda Van Sciver Rodriguez said...

Thank-you for giving me hope! I had my wls in January and had lost 80 lbs by July. Up until then I experienced constant nausea and had trouble eating all I was supposed to. Then finally the nausea went away along with constant bouts with dumping, only to be replaced with an appetite. I was thrilled to be able to eat and enjoy food again, so I started “snacking,” justifying it to myself by thinking that as long as I counted the calories, I would be O.K. I also continued exercising. But I then found as I felt more normal again my focus (and discipline) drifted off my eating, and I began the slippery slide into “grazing.”

Now after 3+ months, I have had to face the ugly truth that my “plateau” maybe more than that, and even a dead-end. I feared that I had missed my “window” and the only hope I now had was to try and maintain and not gain the 80lbs back.I have also convinced myself that if I could only eat a ½-3/4 cup serving of food in one serving, that it made no sense not to eat six small meals vs. three (I’m still not sure about this, but I do now that the unplanned snacking will sabotage everything I had worked so hard for).

You’ve given me hope that my tool still exists, and that my dream of reaching my goal weight is still possible!

[P.S. – can anyone share examples of their diet, 9+ months out and still loosing? ~ thanks!]

Rob said...

Thanks Kaye! As irrational as it sounds, I too have wondered if that magical window was closed for good. I'm still gradually losing inches but my weight loss has hit a plateau that seems much more permanent than I'm comfortable with.

My activity level is still up - been very busy with home projects getting geared up for holiday guests in the weeks to come - but I've not been making time for formal exercise such as walking and riding my bicycle. The shorter days certainly make this far more of a challenge!

So, thanks for that swift kick back to reality!