A support system after weight loss surgery is essential, shared Kiley Williams-Bowls and Linda Donaldson. After both underwent bariatric surgery, the Kansas City mother-daughter duo behind BariGirls have set out to help others who’ve experienced the procedure maintain healthy habits.
“We discovered that there are hundreds of thousands of people that have had weight loss surgery, but there’s no main platform that they can go to once the doctor releases them,” Donaldson said. “They just need someone to walk with them.”
The BariGirls provide guidance through healthy recipes and cooking demonstrations, plus exercise and healthy living tips. They’re quickly becoming niche health influencers with a wide-ranging audience.
“I don’t like to call it a diet because the first three letters of diet are d-i-e, so I’m not trying to die from anything,” Williams-Bowls said. “I want to create a nice, fabulous lifestyle where I can sustain it and teach my child and teach my mom.”
The duo has posted about 950 videos on social media, Donaldson noted — a mix of educational, supportive, and funny content, she said. They have more than 47,000 followers on TikTok and one video amassed more than 665,000 views.
The two also share their tips and recipes on a cooking show for grocery store chain Hen House — and Cannata’s in the Louisiana market — and sometimes host in-store cooking demonstrations. On their website, they offer a cookbook, a line of spices, and a BariGirls Eats Kit, which contains a small-portioned bowl, plate, fork, and spoon.
“When your palate doesn’t have new and delicious things to be excited about, you fall off the wagon,” Donaldson noted. “So Kiley comes through with fast, delicious, cost effective meals. In 20 to 30 minutes, you get your dinner and then you get leftovers for lunch.”
Williams-Bowls and Donaldson also provide pre- and post-surgery emotional support, leaning on situations they have experienced: divorce after surgery, weight gain after having a baby, and what they call bari remorse (similar to buyer’s remorse). They often speak at support groups and provide one-on-one consulting.
“It’s where you’re upset because you can’t take in food and you feel no one can understand you,” Williams-Bowls explained of bari remorse. “You see a lot of people eating what you want to eat, but you can’t eat it. And then people are maybe judgmental about your surgery. It’s a big mind game and a lot of people don’t know how to maybe counter those feelings. So that’s where I come in. That’s where mom comes in. It’s very important to have a good support system that is aware of what you’ve been through.”
After having weight loss surgery in 2009 at the age of 22, Williams-Bowls started the platform — originally called My Bariatric Family — in 2010.
“There was no guidance; there’s no direction,” she explained. “There’s no help out there for us to reach for. All we had was support groups and that wasn’t good enough. So I’m like, ‘I need to find a way — since this is my new life — find a way to make this work.’ And what I did was throw myself into learning about healthy foods and exercises and learning a different lifestyle.”
Five years and one unsuccessful lap band procedure later, Donaldson — who has type 1 diabetes — underwent the surgery with the support of her daughter.
“Complications from diabetes scares the bejesus out of me,” she said. “I wanted to do everything in my power to prevent those complications. So that was the catalyst that made me be like, “Alright, Kiley’s doing so well. I’m gonna have that surgery, too.’”
Donaldson is a familiar face in the KC weight loss surgery scene. Saint Luke’s Health System followed her story with a two-year ad campaign and a series of videos called “Go Linda. Go Life,” she shared.
“They won an award for this campaign,” she added. “ It chronicles my journey — pre-surgery, after surgery, and then also how Kiley has helped me with making healthy food choices. So that’s my claim to fame.”
In 2023, the mother-daughter duo said they are hoping to put out a new cookbook and participate in more community events to encourage healthy lifestyles across the board. They are speaking and doing a cooking demo at a I Am 4:Thirteens event for teenage girls in April. Donaldson is also working on pitching their story to casting companies in hopes of reaching and helping even more people.