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Self Advocacy; What You Allow in Your Emotional Headspace

Dear Slender Seekers,

I’ve received a few letters from some of the #SlenderSeekers out there that heard that I got up and left the room during the Lisa Lampanelli show at the WLSFA event the other night and wanted to know why, so I wanted to take a moment to explain.

We each have different paths and different journeys, we each arrive at different places at different times. For me personally my path and my personal mission is to help those that are affected by obesity to overcome some of the emotional challenges they face along the way and find a path to wellness through transformation of not just their bodies but their minds as well.

For those of you that know me well, I am an abuse survivor. Verbal and Emotional abuse was prevalent in my world through my childhood and teenage years. I was also affected by obesity at a very young age; I remember being that little “fat kid” that got picked on as early as first grade.

Each and every one of us has to be our own advocate for our own emotional wellness; we are the ones that are the most responsible for who and what we allow to reside in our emotional head space.  As such, when I find myself in a situation where something that is going on negatively impacts my emotions I have a personal responsibility to address the issue.

Likewise, I have a goal, a mission, and a path that I am currently on, and if my involvement with something goes against that path, I have a personal responsibility to decide whether or not I wish to be involved with it. I have stood up in this community and said repeatedly that I will not tolerate fat jokes, fat shaming, weight bias, weight stigma or bullying. I do not feel that there is ever a time, social environment or population in which those things are ever tolerable, justified or acceptable.

My job as a Wellness Coach is to help my clients, who are affected by obesity to recognize obstacles and barriers that are in their way and to find solutions to problematic behaviors that are hindering their endeavors in weight loss in order to help them achieve their goals. I use these same techniques in my own life when trying to achieve my goals and if my goal is to be a positive beacon of light against weight stigma, weight bias and bullying, it’s contrary for me to sit in a room where those affected by obesity are the punchline to the jokes being told.

I used to be that girl who kids walked up to and said “You’re so fat when you go to Kentucky Fried Chicken you order the size on the roof.” I used to be that woman who teenage boys rolled down the window and made animal noises at when I walked down the side-walk. These things were not funny to me then and they are not funny to me today.

I understand humor as a self-defense mechanism as well as the concept of laughing at yourself so that others can’t laugh with you. We all build walls and defend ourselves from the things that we fear and the things that hurt us. I also understand that stand-up comedy has a certain kind of “expected offensiveness” to it.

There are many of my friends, dear friends, who stayed in the room and said that by the end of the show the comedian had turned it around, brought it to a place that was personal and allowed you to understand how much she cared about and wanted to help those that struggle with her weight, and it makes my heart smile that they were able to take that positive message away from it. I’m glad that there was a positive message to be heard if you waited for it.

For me personally, jokes that target people of size are never okay. If someone posted any of those jokes singularly in the social media as a community we would be outraged and I believe that if we create this gray area where sometimes it’s okay and sometimes it’s not, we weaken our stance in the fight against weight stigma and weight bias. If we say “It’s okay in this situation, but not this one or than one, we open it up for debate, but for me there is no debate, it should never be okay.  That is why I had also left the room the night before when the MC made a joke that referenced the size of someone’s belt. For me personally, with where I am in my journey, I cannot sit and laugh while those affected by obesity are used as comedy content.  Obesity just isn’t a laughing matter to me.

I have stood up several times and told you that I believe if you silently sit by and allow an injustice to take place that you have aided that injustice. So to me, if I tolerate even ONE joke that is weight biased I have done a disservice to my mission.

But this is MY mission, my path, my journey, and nobody else has to walk it with me.  I am not upset, angry or against the WLSFA, the people in attendance or anyone involved with the event.  I found myself in a situation that made me emotionally uncomfortable, that made me feel like I was betraying who am what I am by being involved and so I did exactly what I would recommend anyone else do in that position, I removed myself from the situation and went back to doing what I had come there to do; meet and greet and socialize with my friends.

There will be a few people out there who are upset with the fact that I have chosen to write about this, but as someone very special to me reminded me before I left Tampa, I’m not the type of person that lets fear of what others think drive me; I am fearless in my fight against obesity and I will always stand up and fight for those that are affected by it. Desperately Seeking Slender has always been a “I’ll shoot straight and tell you the truth, even when the truth isn’t popular,” sort of venue. And this time, the truth is that I’m not out to be popular. I’m out to win the fight against a disease that robs people of the health, their lives and their mobility and that Slender Seekers, is no joke.

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Celebrate Weight Loss with Fitness – Meet our Contest Winner

Today is the day! Are you ready for the big news? We have an official winner of the Second “How Do you Celebrate Success” Contest.

Before I tell you who she is, let me share her story with you…

I found out I was different in kindergarten when a boy asked if I was pregnant. That was the first time I was made aware of my weight at school, but not the last. In 7th grade I was excited to wear my new yellow ESPRIT sweater to school, where I was devastated to be called “a yellow balloon.” In 10th grade I skipped school when we had to run the mile in gym, because I didn’t want my peers watching while it took me another 10 minutes to finish what they had long since completed.

HDYCS2aMy hatred of running began in 8th grade gym. As “the fat kid,” laps were torture. I’d make it one lap before walking. One day the teacher announced, “if Amy runs all of her laps without walking, nobody has to run any more.” So there I was, in a gym of classmates who had finished, screaming at me to RUN. Not screaming supportively, but threatening. Dizzy and fighting to hold in my breakfast, I finished. For a moment, I felt victorious. I’d been hugely embarrassed, but I had saved us from ever running laps again! Then the teacher said, “I expect you to run them all tomorrow, now that we know you can.” Someone reminded him of the deal: my success meant no more laps! With a sneer, he said, “I meant no more laps today. You’ll run again tomorrow.” Everyone else groaned then moved on. I went to the restroom where I vomited and cried, humiliated. I carry the pain with me still, over two decades later.

So to me, running was a punishment. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could run for fun. For me, “success” wasn’t exertion, it was avoiding exertion! My celebrations were never healthy. They were cheesecake or a pizza. I’d been taught at a young age that success meant treats! Plays, musicals and concerts ended at Friendly’s with a sundae. My favorite part of elementary school was reading books to earn free pizzas. Success = a full belly!

In April 2012, I applied to The Biggest Loser. I stared at my application photos in disbelief. At 5’4” and 243 pounds, I was morbidly obese. I was terrified I’d be chosen. What would happen when Jillian screamed at me to RUN and I couldn’t? As I stared at my cheeks that swallowed my eyes, I realized I shouldn’t need to go on TV with my fat rolls hanging out to get healthy. I cancelled my audition and made a plan. On April 22nd, I began my weight-loss journey, on my own.

First, I celebrated success with marbles. I decided my goal was to lose 100 lbs, so I bought two vases, and filled one with 100 marbles. After weigh-ins, I’d move a marble for each lost pound to the other vase. Moving marbles felt better than sundaes! Seeing the empty vase begin to fill up was incredible!

Then I celebrated success with tools to help myself. Lose three, buy a yoga mat. Lose ten, a pair of jeans. I was able to wear my first pair of skinny jeans! I celebrated that by sending my BFF a picture doing the dance of joy at Target.

After doing the “walk of shame” from a roller coaster in 2010, another goal was to fit onto coasters. When I hit a comfortable weight, I celebrated success with a trip to Cedar Point. With shaking hands, I sat down and brought the seat belt together… click. It fit!!!! We had a blast, and for each 10 pounds lost, we went back to Cedar Point, a total of three times!

HDYCS2bAfter losing 55 lbs, I wondered if I should try running. I downloaded Couch to 5k and joined a gym. I told myself it couldn’t be THAT hard, day one was only running 60 seconds at a time! Well, it WAS hard, but I survived. Soon I completed week three. I celebrated that success by registering for a race I’d read about, The Hot Chocolate 5k. I was nervous but excited! I had two months to train.

As I got stronger and leaner, I decided to try a 5k just to see how I did. It ended up being 85 degrees that October day, and I had to walk some, but I finished under 45 minutes, the minimum pace I’d need for the Hot Chocolate. I celebrated THAT success by signing up for a third 5k!

By the end of 2013, I’d lost 85 pounds and did nine 5k’s. I was no longer morbidly obese, but I WAS a runner. A slow runner, but getting better all the time! I celebrated my success by making a video with photos from my 5k’s for Facebook. Prior to that, I hadn’t publicized my diet or weight loss, afraid of public failure. But for the first time in my life, I felt like I was truly a success.

Right now, a half marathon seems nearly as unimaginable as a 5k once did. It was on a trip to Disney when I first became aware of RunDisney. That was before I began C25K, so it was more of a curiosity than a goal. But as I ran races this year, it turned into a dream. If there’s one spot in the universe for a dream to come true, it’s Disney. I want to show everyone that they too CAN do this, no matter how impossible it seems. I want to prove to that 8th grade version of myself that I’m taking care of her now, and that I’ll never let her be humiliated by her weight again. From now on, the only way for me to celebrate success is by setting another goal, reaching it, then reaching farther. The Disney Wine and Dine weekend falls on my 37th birthday, November 7th. What better way to celebrate my re-birth as a healthier, happier, stronger woman than to cross the finish line of my first half-marathon? That is how I’ll celebrate success!

CONGRATULATIONS to our Second How do YOU Celebrate Contest Winner :

Amy Jo Smith

She will be celebrating her 37th birthday with me at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida!

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Amy was selected as the topic pick of all of the entries by an outstanding 4 out of 5 judges and we’re very happy to celebrate her weight loss success by giving her this opportunity!

After her entry was submitted and Amy received the email confirming her entry Amy wrote me a short email. What she said, while i had no baring on her entry whatsoever, is the sort of thing that inspires me to do not only do things like the How do YOU Celebrate Contests, but to help others on their weight loss journey whether through motivational speaking, wellness coaching or weight loss coaching.

Again, thank you for this contest. Even if I don’t win, it has really inspired me this week to read the posts on your page, watch your video, look at your pictures, learn more about your victories and what drives you. It has helped me motivate myself to get to the gym when I wanted to lay on the couch. To push harder to run another minute or another two minutes. On Monday I ran 5 minutes on the treadmill before I walked. After entering the contest on Tuesday, I went and ran for 12 minutes. I felt so inspired, so much more strong and capable.

You are a truly special human being, and I hope to one day run by your side.

Have a great weekend!

Love,
Amy

Thank you Amy. For such a sweet note, and congratulations on being the winner of the Second “How do YOU Celebrate Success” Contest.

I cant wait to run with you, beside you, celebrate your weight loss, your 37th birthday and your first half marathon with you! You can now consider me your official motivator, coach, cheerleader and of course, friend.

And of course, a special thank to our sponsors. None of this would be possible without you. Ameriwell Bariatrics, Wellesse, Celebrate Vitamins, Kay’s Naturals and BariMelts thank you all for making dreams come true…

Amy Jo Smith I have a question for you. You just won the “How do YOU Celebrate Success Contest” What are you going to do now?

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.

Check out the Second “How do YOU Celebrate Success” Contest

Team Slender Seekers Sponsors:

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

This is #MyBariLife

BariLife has decided to send me back to Paris to represent the WLS Community as I attempt to find my love of running again.
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