My name is Shenese Colwell and I am a bariatric patient and obesity advocate. I am a fitness trainer, bariatric coach, and bariatric support group leader. I love fitness, mentoring, and supporting others in their weight loss journey. I am the proud owner of L.A.B. Work & Fitness (Life After Bariatrics).

When did you start noticing your relationship with food and your body changing?

I was always very active and maintained a healthy weight, even after the birth of my second child. I lost the weight I’d gained through each pregnancy very quickly. I was used to eating whatever I wanted, and I maintained a very “happy” weight. But then I was also pretty active too.

When did you realize you had a problem?

I noticed a problem with my weight when I started to become overwhelmed with life and the responsibilities of being a single parent. I had to juggle so many things on my own and began to put everything and everyone first.  I started to put my self-care on the back burner with the hope that I’d get a chance to take care of me when everything “settled down” and I had things under control. I was working a full-time job, a part-time job, and going to school full time. I did all of this while taking care of three kids. It was a lot to deal with and I had very ambitious goals with what I wanted to accomplish in my career. I didn’t realize my health was the sacrifice.

I was constantly buying bigger clothes. It just seemed easier to do that, because I just didn’t have the time to take care of myself the way I wanted to. I didn’t have time for the gym. I had to grab food on the go most days and nights. Everything was convenient and quick because my schedule was unmanageable. My weight gradually increased and I didn’t really take serious notice until I reached about 250 lbs! My health and joints were suffering and I just hadn’t paid much attention to how serious it was because I made everything else more important than my health. It was when my doctor prescribed blood pressure medication, that I decided I had to take charge and make self care a priority.

Favorite book?
My favorite book is anything by Brene’ Brown! She is a phenomenal inspirational and motivational speaker. I also like How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.


What advice would you give others going through something similar?

To anyone struggling with their weight or not making time for self-care (mentally, physically, emotionally), I’d advise them to MAKE the time. Learn to say no and to not feel obligated to do everything and be everything to everybody. You simply can’t be it all or do it all. At the end of the day, if you have NOTHING left for yourself, that’s unacceptable.

How has it affected your mental health?
I have clarity and I feel better about myself. The confidence is back and I’ve grown so much. I’ve learned it’ s okay to put myself first. It makes me better equipped and fueled up to do what I’m passionate about. It makes me a better advocate.

How has it affected your romantic relationships?

I don’t think my weight loss hasn’t really affected my romantic relationships. I’ve been married now for 2 years, but before then, I didn’t have time for dating because of school, work, and my kids. There wasn’t time for ME, so certainly no time for anyone else in my life. It wasn’t until I made the time to take care of me and started to get my social life back, which was after I had surgery. I started dating about a year after my surgery and met my husband about 2 years after.

When was your surgery?

I had gastric bypass surgery in 2012, one day before my 42nd birthday. It was my gift to myself to reclaim my health and quality of life.

How did it go?

I’d done so much research prior to my surgery. I had a phenomenal surgical team and weight management team. My journey has been wonderful from start to present. I am now approaching 7 years post and have maintained a total of 115 pounds down.

What do people say that you wish they didn’t?

There are lots of things I wish people didn’t say to people who have had or who are contemplating weight loss surgery. ONE of the most irritating things is the thought that it’s cheating, or taking the easy way out. Totally false. There’s a lot that we have to deal with for the rest of our lives after having had this surgery. The bottom line is, IT’S ONLY A TOOL! It only enables you to eat less. The rest is up to you.

What lifts you up on a bad day?

Being able to take some quiet time and read or sew always makes me feel better on a bad day. I love fashion, and whipping up ideas and projects in my sewing room, while binge watching some of my favorite shows really recharges me. A nice glass of wine doesn’t hurt either.

Why did you become an advocate?

I became an advocate for obesity bias and I promote the positive side of weight loss surgery because I want people to educate themselves and others against the bias and stigmas associated with each of these issues. I want to be a voice and inspiration to people dealing with obesity and make them aware of the options available to help manage the disease and to be proud of whatever they choose as a method to help with their weight and overall health.

How can people find you?

You can find out more about me and follow my journey on Instagram @labworkandfitness, Twitter @labworknfitness, my website, and blog, or Facebook @labworkandfitness