Fitting in Fitness

Fitting in Fitness

A few years ago, I made a promise to myself: My physical and mental health is worth 4-6 hours a week. When I take time for my health, not only does my personal health get better but my relationships with my kids, husband, co-workers, family, and friends become healthier too. But I’ll admit that being a parent is one of the hardest jobs I have ever done. Throw in a full-time job and life gets very hectic. How do you possibly fit in time for fitness?

My exercise routine has changed drastically over the years. Twenty years ago, in my BC life (life before children), I never struggled to get my workouts in, even working 60+ hours per week. I often worked out in the evening to meet people. Having just moved from Montana to Washington, my exercise program was an amazing way to help me shake my homesickness. Fast forward to 2003, I’m married and working at Columbia Athletic Clubs. I was still living my BC life and I was able to exercise after work. Often my husband would meet me so we could exercise together.

In 2006, my daughter, Ella, was born. During my 4-month leave, my exercise program consisted of walking outside with Ella in a jogging stroller and DVD workouts I could do while she was sleeping. When I went back to work, I found myself wanting to get home right at 5pm to spend time with my new baby girl instead of doing a workout. On the days I wasn’t teaching fitness classes, I worked out during lunch. On the weekends, my workouts were fun and social. I took group tennis lessons with my sister and we put our kids in the club’s daycare. We were terrible at tennis but we had fun together while exercising.

In 2013, my husband and I welcomed baby number two. With my son, Jase, I was able to stay at home for 12 months but my workouts really changed. Jase was diagnosed with sleep apnea when he was 6 months old and he would wake up 1-4 times every night. I was so sleep deprived I could no longer work out while he was sleeping like I did with Ella. When Jase was sleeping, I was sleeping. The way I fit exercise into my day was to walk while Ella was at dance class. I always kept my jogging stroller in the back of my car. While Ella was in dance class for 45 to 90 minutes, I would walk the dance studio parking lot with Jase in the stroller.

In October of 2014, I joined NWWC part-time. I now had to work out with small bits of time such as walking at work between patients, walking when Ella was at dance, and using my elliptical trainer at home when my husband could watch the kids. My workouts were not one hour sessions; they were small sessions here and there. By age 3, Jase had surgery for his sleep apnea and could finally sleep through the night. I had survived 3 years of waking up 1-4 times a night. Mom WIN!

By 2016, I was a full-time mom to 3- and 10-year-olds and working full-time at NWWC. My kids had activities and my husband was working his full-time job plus had started a small business. My workouts were suffering. I felt like my weekdays were shot and I was only getting workouts in on the weekends. How in the world was I going to exercise? I had to have an honest conversation with myself, look closely look at my days, and set myself up to be successful.

I asked myself:

  • Can you exercise after work? Before work? On the weekends? At home? At the gym?
  • How many hours do you have during the weekdays? I started with 120 hours and subtracted the number of hours I worked, commuted, slept, managed household chores, and spent with family.
  • How many hours do you have on the weekends? I started with 48 hours and subtracted the hours I had committed to kids’ activities, household chores & errands, and family time.
  • How many hours per week are you willing to dedicate to your health?

I realized my windows of time were early in the morning, late evening, and weekends. I knew late night workouts were not good for me because I get hyped up and then I can’t sleep. It was beginning to look like early mornings and weekend mornings were my days to get exercise in.

I’m that annoying morning person that doesn’t hit the snooze bar when the alarm goes off. I’m used to getting up at 6:00am. But 4:45am? OMG! That’s early, people. To become a successful early morning exerciser, I had to start with my bedtime. I had been going to bed at 11:00pm but that would give me less than 6 hours of sleep. With 15 minute increments, I changed my bedtime to 10:00pm.

I also needed to get myself organized. Before I went to bed, I put my workout clothes and shoes in the bathroom, put a water bottle in the fridge, placed a sweat towel on the elliptical trainer, and placed the TV remote next to the elliptical trainer. I eliminated all excuses I could use to not get up and work out in the morning.  

I’m not a perfect Pinterest mom and my house is not spotless. I am a mom that can keep up with a busy 13-year-old dancer and a crazy 6-year-old football player. Don’t think that one hour of exercise a day is being selfish and taking time away from your kids. You are actually adding time to your life by becoming a regular exerciser. You are going to be the active parent you want to be for your kids. Taking time to care for yourself will give you more time to be with your family.  



The way we eat, the when we eat, the how we eat, and the why we eat is motivated by many forces. Most of us will recognize and admit to eating for reasons other than hunger. Maybe you associate TV watching with chips or popcorn. A fight with your partner is soothed by ice cream. Have you ever gone to the state fair feeling full or satisfied and want to eat funnel cakes anyway? Just the smell alone of funnel cakes wafting your way brings back carefree childhood memories of fun at the fair. If you eat one, even though you aren’t hungry, maybe you can feel that way again. The taste, texture, and smell of certain foods can flood your mind with memories.

Regardless of the society, culture, religion or ethnicity, we are taught from a young age to associate pain, suffering, happiness, celebration, depression, and a vast array of other emotions with food. Sometimes it is a formal teaching via our faith where certain foods are eaten to play a part in religious ceremonies. Other times, under less formal circumstances, we are taught from our mothers to treat the pain and humiliation of being stood up at the prom with a milk shake. Celebrating a win from a game? Let’s have a pizza! Is it Christmas? Well then, we must have cookies.  

You can start learning about your eating habits by writing down what and when you eat and what you are feeling when you eat it. I’ll bet it isn’t hunger. At some point, to really make progress with your weight loss, you need to uncouple. You need to disassociate doughnuts and disappointment, boredom and beer nuts, suffering and sundaes. You need to uncouple these emotions and experiences with food. Food is many things, but it is not therapy. It is not a tonic. It is not a coping mechanism. After all, if you are disappointed before you start eating, think how disappointed you will feel after eating those doughnuts. What will follow is another wave of emotions, usually self-doubt, defeat, self-deficiency and failing. Now how did that doughnut serve you? Sounds to me like you just rode a roller coaster of self-destructive behavior that brought you back to the same place that you started. Wanna go for another ride?

Uncouple. The next time you are sad. Stop. Think. Maybe you should be sad. It is okay to feel sad at some point in your life. Why are you sad? It is okay to feel. It may be uncomfortable and sometimes unpleasant, but that’s okay. Sadness is natural. Spend your time wondering why you are sad and how you can feel better without food. You can talk it over with a friend, family member or counselor. Share your sadness. Often just talking about it and expressing your emotion verbally is enough release you from its grip.

Uncouple emotion from the food. Food is not the cure. Smell the funnel cakes, remember your feelings of youth and happiness. Tell the story in your head to a friend or your spouse. Eating the funnel cake will not return you to a happier time. You cannot step into a funnel cake and slide down a magical hole to a happier place. You will more likely wind up in a pool of tears like Alice did.

Feelings are part of the human experience. Stop being afraid to experience. When we admit we have feelings and emotions, we are vulnerable. Vulnerability is a dangerous place. It will take time to sort through the doughnuts and cookies in your life, but until you allow yourself this indulgence you will continue to medicate and manage with food. By exposing yourself to your feelings you will find a new beginning and a new emotion. Success!

It’s Not Just About Losing Weight…

It’s Not Just About Losing Weight…

When we hear bariatric surgery, the first thing that comes to mind is weight loss. But surgery is about much more than just weight loss. There are many health benefits related to weight loss that are even more important than achieving a certain number on the scale.  Let’s have a look at those:

Improvement of Type 2 Diabetes: After bariatric surgery, your stomach is much smaller so you will be consuming fewer calories. The surgery also affects your “gut hormones”, such as ghrelin. These changes to your eating habits and gastrointestinal tract can make your body more sensitive to insulin, improve your glucose tolerance, and help your pancreas produce its own insulin. Many people with type 2 diabetes notice lower blood sugars within days of surgery, even before they have started losing much weight.

Healthier Heart: Research shows that weight loss of 17 pounds can reduce blood pressure by about 8.5mm Hg systolic and 6.5mm Hg diastolic. This lightens the load on your heart. When you add in the healthy eating changes you’ll make, you will also likely improve your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Sounds like a win-win for the heart!

Less Joint Pain: Studies estimate that each pound of weight loss reduces the load on your knee joints by 4 to 5 pounds. This means a 10-pound weight loss feels like 40-50 fewer pounds with every step you take! Weight loss also reduces strain on the lower spine and reduces inflammation which makes physical activity less painful and more enjoyable.

Better Sexual Function:  Many people experience improvements in their sexual life satisfaction after surgery, including in desire, activity, and physical health limitations. Surgery also improves fertility among women. We’ve had dozens of healthy “bariatric babies” born into the NWWC family!

Enhanced Quality of Life: Beyond the number on the scale, you are able to enjoy a new life as a healthier you after surgery. You’ll feel more confident when you are successfully achieving your health goals. You might be wearing clothes that you haven’t worn in years, able to exercise without pain, traveling more comfortably, and having fun keeping up with your kids and grandkids. There are unlimited possibilities that come with an improved quality of life.

Whether you’ve already had surgery or are thinking about it, remember to consider all of the health benefits that come with weight loss. It’s not just about losing weight; it’s about gaining quality of life!

Staff Spotlight: Leigh Swope-Johnson

Staff Spotlight: Leigh Swope-Johnson

Name: Leigh Swope-Johnson

Role: Administrative Operations Supervisor; Billing Manager

Joined NWWC: July 2008

Personal Life: Leigh lives with her husband (pictured with Leigh) and has 3 children. Her daughter is a high school sophomore, her son is studying music at Edmonds Community College and will transfer to UW in the Fall, and her step-daughter is studying communications at Grand Canyon University in Arizona. She also has several furry family members: 3 schnauzers and a boxer/lab/retriever mix. Leigh has been working her way up the pacific coast; she grew up in California, moved to Oregon in grade school, and moved to Washington with her first job.

Life Before NWWC: Leigh was a line assignment operator with GTE for 6 years and worked for Compass Health for 13 years. At Compass Health, she started at the front desk and was promoted to the office manager of 3 separate sites.

A Day in Her Job: Leigh manages billing for all NWWC services and oversees operations related to insurance and self-pay requirements for bariatric surgery preparation. Her days are filled with emails and phone calls with patients as well as insurance representatives. She handles billing inquiries, billing reconciliation, surgery scheduling, advocating for patients’ insurance benefits, and contract negotiation with payer organizations. The insurance and patient care coordinators report to her so she fills in when there’s a need and meets with her team regularly.

What Else to Know about Leigh:

  • Leigh has an obsession with schnauzers. Neishah, a 6-month-old schnauzer, was her first rescue dog before she had children. “Neishah was my everything, my first kid.” She loves their personalities and can’t turn down an opportunity to rescue one. She might be willing to show you a picture of one of her current loves: Snazzy, Pepper, or Sherlock.
  • Leigh channels her love for cooking into an opportunity to support the community. She donates self-catered 4-course-dinners as prizes for non-profit organization fundraisers. At home, she preps meals on the weekend for the whole week. “It’s family time. My kids love to cook. My husband loves to try.” 😉
  • Leigh was a patient at NWWC before she became an employee. She had a gastric band placed in 2007 with Dr. Montgomery. She lost 150 pounds during her first year and was recruited to join the team as the front office supervisor. In this role, she discovered that NWWC was outsourcing billing. She offered to bring it in-house and has been our billing guru ever since.
  • Leigh is thinking about her fast-approaching empty nest years. “My life is my kids. We’re thinking about what we want to do when our life doesn’t revolve around our kids.” She and her husband would like to do some traveling. Will there be room for schnauzers on those trips…?
Hair Shedding After Weight Loss

Hair Shedding After Weight Loss

“How can I prevent hair loss?” It’s a question we hear frequently from people preparing for bariatric surgery. Hair shedding is an unpleasant side effect that affects some people more than others after surgery. There are some things you can do to manage it but it’s not completely preventable for everyone.

Telogen Effluvium  (Stress-related Hair Shedding)

Most people who experience hair shedding will notice it in the first 3 to 6 months after surgery. It’s called telogen effluvium. It’s a form of temporary hair shedding that happens after stress or traumatic events. In this case, the stress is rapid weight loss.

The hair growth cycle has three phases:

  • Anagen (growing; lasts 3 to 5 years)
  • Catagen (transition; lasts 10 days)
  • Telogen (shedding; hair follicle is inactive for 3 months after hair sheds)

Normally, only 5 to 10% of your hair is in the telogen phase at any given time. However, in a state of stress, about 30% of your hair moves into the telogen phase so you will notice more shedding than normal. You might notice this when washing or brushing your hair or when you see hair in the drain or on your pillow.

The hair shedding you experience in the first 3 to 6 months after surgery will start resolving when your body feels less stressed by the weight loss. Your hair will get back into its normal cycle. You can prevent further damage to your hair by avoiding chemical or heat treatments during this time.

Nutrition-related Hair Shedding

Nutrition is also important for hair growth. We suspect that a nutrition deficiency is causing your hair shedding if it:

  • gets worse when you are more than 6 months out from surgery.
  • starts when you are more than 6 months out from surgery and isn’t connected to other major stressors in your life.
  • continues past 1 year after surgery.

Protein, zinc, iron, and biotin are the most important nutrients for hair growth. If you are taking a complete bariatric multivitamin, it will already contain the zinc, iron, and biotin in the recommended amounts:

  • Zinc 20 to 25 mg
  • Iron 18 to 45 mg (depends on type of surgery, menstruation status, history of anemia)
  • Biotin 300 to 600 mcg

Taking megadoses of biotin beyond your bariatric multivitamin will not prevent hair shedding. It can actually alter your thyroid lab values so we don’t recommend going overboard on biotin.

For protein, we recommend 60 to 75 grams protein daily for women and 75 to 90 grams daily for men after surgery. This comes from your food and beverage choices, including protein shakes. Using a food tracking app can help you determine whether you are meeting your protein needs consistently.

Other Causes of Hair Shedding and Loss

For most people who have hair shedding after bariatric surgery, it will be related to weight loss or nutrition. There are other causes of hair shedding, such as hormone changes related to pregnancy or menopause and other types of stress, such as divorce or unemployment.

Hair loss is different from hair shedding. With hair loss, the hair doesn’t grow back. Hair loss can be caused by genetic factors, medications, immune system overreaction, and harsh hair treatments. If you think you are having hair loss, you should talk with your doctor.