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Obesity Action Coalition Convention 2012 Day 1

So I had every intention of writing blogs and doing a video at the OAC Convention, then I got there and realized how incredibly busy I was going to be and how many new friends I would be wanting to spend time with and decided the writing must wait.

So we arrived in Dallas on Wednesday. Heather and I got checked into the Hilton Anatole and got our room in the Tower area of the hotel. The room was very nice, the hotel was very nice too, very large, it had several restaurants, shops, a spa and fitness area a running trail, two bars, pretty much anything your heart could desire. Even a Fed Ex place to save my butt and get my business cards that were left at home.

HJ and I decided to have dinner at the Media Grill were we planned to take advantage of their free Wi-Fi, I’d planned to get a blog written while we had a drink but I decided to check in with Rain Hampton from AfterTheFat.com, someone I was very excited about meeting, and low and behold we were seated about 3 tables away from each other in the restaurant, she and Linda we’re having dinner there too and being the lucky girl that I am I met one of my new besties my very first night there! Rain, Linda, HJ and I spent several hours sitting and talking and dancing. Rain and I stayed out late, talking, sipping on cucumber water and dancing. In fact we danced so much we both left the restaurant sweaty and certain we’d gotten a workout in.

On the way to my Advocacy Training session I decide to head to the gift shop for some hairspray and boy I was so excited when I happen to run into Michelle from The World According to Eggface! I’ve admired and looked up to this woman for so long. I’ve followed her voice through her blog for nearly three years now. Her blog and what she has been able to do for the Bariatric Surgery community through sharing her passion and love for food by providing healthy, delicious and easy recipes for the weight loss community is simply amazing.  Along with Michelle I also met another Weight Loss blogger that I had just recently found and started to follow, Beth AKA MeltingMama the founder of the Bariatric Bad Girls Group on Facebook. I tagged along with both of them and their friend Sarah and we had breakfast together. I also got the opportunity to meet Shawna and Carla, two members of the BBGs for the first time at breakfast. A whole table of what would become new friends by the end of the weekend. And then we were off to the Advocacy training program.

The next morning we were up bright and early for the Advocacy Training program. Now I have to admit, going into the OAC Convention I wanted to get involved. My passion for fighting obesity is limitless and my desire to help others is one the biggest needs I have ever felt within myself. But I had no idea how much attending this Advocacy Training session would change my life. I’ve never been a very political person. I’ve never been the type of person that would get into an opinionated  conversation about a political issue. I’m more the type to avoid Politics and Religion knowing that they often lead to disagreements. But as I sat there and listened to Joe Nadglowski, the CEO of the OAC and Chris Gallagher, the OAC’s Policy Consultant explaining the concept of Marching to Capital Hill in defense of a bill that might affect people with obesity; suddenly I realized, there is a point I will indeed get involved in politics, a point where I care enough. When the politics start affecting the goals and aspirations I have by affecting the people I want to help. You’re damn right I’m ready to risk talking about one of the big No Nos in order to try to make a difference.

The best way I can explain this, I’m the type of person that always roots for the underdog, that always fights for the victim and wants to take down the bully. I’m that girl who will be completely non confrontational with you, I’ll be calm and rational with you, but you mess with my friends and I’ll come out swinging like a mama bear defending her cub. That’s just who I am, I’ve been a fighter my whole life, I’ve fought emotional battles for a long time, I’ve got good training, and I’ll come out with my gloves on to defend someone else so that they don’t ever get emotionally beat up the way I did faster that you can blink.

Several times along my weight loss journey I have had moments of epiphanies. Moments that something hits me and I realized that I have just achieved another mental breakthrough. I love these moments because for someone who was used to having mental breakdowns ALL the time this is a very big non scale victory for me. It shows how much I have grown as a person and how far I have come in breaking the cycle of abuse that plagued my family.

As I sat there participating in the OAC Advocacy Training program; all I could think of was the day that my Personal Trainer first introduced me to Kick Boxing. While we were doing combo punches on that bag I felt so much emotional release. It was a physical manifestation of the anger I needed to release. I beat the heck out of that bag. Ever since I’ve used exercise as a physical outlet for anger and frustration. The more I need to workout the harder I push myself to do it. I saw what the OAC was telling us we could do on Capital Hill as my opportunity to find my emotional release. I believe that our weight loss journey consists of several elements, some physical, some emotional, some mental. I think we need to be engaged in all those ways, and I think; working with the OAC is going to be another way for me to be engaged emotionally and mentally. I’m so excited.

We ended the evening at the meet and greet at the hotel where I got to meet WanningWoman for the first time. You have no idea how excited I was. There are two women in this community whose voices I followed through a time in my life that was full of darkness. It is amazing how much one person’s voice can stand out like that. But for me, when I was struggling through one of the most emotional times of my life after my Father’s death, there were two women who were really able to help me with what they were sharing on their blogs.

Michelle: The World According to Eggface: I could follow her voice and find answers about what to eat and put in my mouth when I was struggling to eat at all, her examples and suggestions kept me trying things and eating rather than sitting in bed crying and grieving.

Keisha : WanningWoman: This woman’s confidence, her take no prisoners approach and her drive and determination coupled on top of her ability to persevere against crazy odds reminded me often of what kind of voice I wanted to have when I was done healing emotionally. Her voice guided me back into the light and every picture she posted in that I’m bringing my sexy back attitude reminded me of the woman I wanted to be. We headed out with Keisha and several of her friends, and I’ve got to say, this Dallas local crowd were the first to open their arms up to me and truly make me feel welcome. The moment I hung out with these women I knew I had started to build friendships that would last.

I got to meet both of these women my first day at the OAC Convention and both of them were just as genuine in person as they are on their blogs. I’ll always admire these women greatly for what they were able to give to me trough sharing their voices on their blogs and websites. I’ll always credit them for inspiring me to do the same. But now, after visiting the OAC Convention I have the privilege of calling these two amazing women my friends.

My first day at the OAC Convention was amazing. But it just got better and better each day…

Stay Tuned for day two!

Healthy Changes in Life After Weight Loss

My Coffee Cup is almost empty and the two hours that I allow myself in the morning to wake up, browse the internet and figure out what I want to write about for the day is almost over and as usual I’ve been influenced by a few things. But the pressing thought on my mind this morning is…

The changes in my overall health after losing 250 lbs…

I spent a lot of time in hospitals in my twenties. I can recall being hospitalized for breathing problems that they labeled asthma before I was even twenty-one. Before twenty-three I was diabetic, taking insulin, Glucophage and Avandia and was hospitalized for high blood sugar several times. Then there was the bronchitis turned pneumonia that landed me in the Intensive Care Unit at twenty-four. That was fun; I ended up on oxygen for months. There were sleep studies and sleep apnea and c-pap machines. And that was all before I had even met Jason and moved to Oregon at twenty-six.

I was such a sickly person. There was always SOMETHING wrong with me. I hadn’t even lived in Oregon for an entire year when my plumbing decided to start doing me really wrong and I spent the next year finding a OBGYN that would actually check me for Endometriosis at twenty-six and NOT just tell me that I was too young to have it or to consider a hysterectomy.

After that I had a couple of years where I was relatively healthy except for a migraine here and there, Jason and I were living a pretty active and healthy life, eating a low carb (Atkins) diet, and doing a lot of hiking as we participated in an outdoor hobby called Letter-boxing  I’d lost a bunch of weight on Atkins, and when I say a bunch I’m talking over 200 lbs. I’d gone from 410 lbs to 225 lbs and then put it all right back on. But as soon as I started putting my weight back on all my health problems started right back up again.

Pretty soon I was full-blown diabetic again, taking shots three times a day and feeling like a human pin cushion. Then there were the water pills for the edema and high blood pressure medication too. I took muscle relaxers and pain killers daily for lower back pain. I was on antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills. I went from a C-Pap to a Bi-Pap because I just kept gaining more weight and exacerbating my already profound sleep apnea.

I was constantly getting sick. Sore throats, stuffy noses, runny noses, colds, flu, if you were sick and came around me I got sick. Next I started getting photo-sensitivity rashes on my face if I was in the sun for too long. Discoid Lupus, Lupus on the skin is what they called it. Strangely enough it too has improved greatly with my weight loss.

And then there were the rashes and bumps and boils that we never want to admit to having when we are overweight. It’s so embarrassing, and if you are really big, like I was, it gets even worse because it gets to a point you can’t take care of them on your own and you have to ask someone else to do it for you or go to the doctor. Heck I ended up in the operating room once because a small little infected hair follicle turned into an abscess the size of cantaloupe on my labia. Yeah I told myself when that happened that it could have happened to anyone, had nothing to do with the fact that I weighed nearly four hundred pounds. Strangely enough, post weight loss and skin removal I’ve had no such skin problems.

I could go on all day long about much healthier I am. I’m no longer diabetic; I don’t take medication for anything anymore. The only pills I take on a regular basis now are vitamins and Tylenol for sore muscles after a workout. But the biggest health change I see in me is in my mental health. I’m not depressed and sad anymore. I don’t turn to food for comfort. I don’t settle for unhealthy relationships. I don’t depend on someone else to motivate me. I don’t dislike myself and most importantly I don’t feel like a victim anymore and as such I don’t allow myself to be victimized anymore.

That is an amazing statement coming from someone who has battled a life of Mental Illness and Obesity.

People ask me what motivates me a lot. This motivates me. Looking in the mirror seeing a healthy and happy woman motivates me. I finally feel like I can say that I took my life back.

It’s sort of ironic as Halloween approaches, but I think when I was morbidly obese it was like I was wearing a costume every day. Most people who knew me then wouldn’t even recognize me today. I don’t even recognize myself in the mirror sometimes. It’s like I was a zombie, just so emotionally decayed by things that had traumatized me that I shuffled along with only one purpose… to eat.  That’s all changed for me now though, and really that change hit me very hard after my last skin removal surgery. Once I really started to see the girl underneath the sagging skin that made me feel like an obese eighty-year-old my whole world shifted. Suddenly I’m more confident, and suddenly I’m ready to put myself out there in front of the world and LIVE the life I always dreamed of instead of walking through it like a zombie because some people hurt me when I was growing up.

I finally feel like I took back control and like I’m no longer letting the horrible things other people did define who I am or limit who I can be.

When I look in the mirror I see a strong woman determined to make sure that others can benefit from her experiences as much as she has instead of a scared little girl crying for help.

When I look in the mirror I see a healthy, active, fit woman who continues to try to strive to take care of and improve herself instead of a morbidly obese woman hiding her emotions and pain behind walls of fat cells.

When I look in the mirror I see a Bariatric Beauty Queen, I see the product of my hard work and though my body is not perfect and will likely never be perfect, I am happy with it and feel that it justly represents me instead of seeing the aftermath of my abuse. ( OH! I think I just gave a clue as to what my Halloween Costume  for the OAC Convention is! If you catch it and post your guess on my Surgiversary Giveaway page in the next three days I’ll give you an extra +1 entry! )

I look in the mirror a lot eh? It’s how I justify all those mirror shots that we take post Gastric Bypass 🙂

And that is really what it all comes down to for me. For me, my journey needed to bring me to a point that I no longer looked in the mirror and saw something different from who I wanted to be because as long as I did, I felt like a product of my abuse rather than myself.

This is what motivates me. It’s what has driven me to do the excess skin removal surgeries. It’s what I feel has driven me to want to become a Personal Trainer and Weight Loss Life Coach, the empowerment that I feel having accomplished this, truly feeling like I am ME, and LIVING for the first time in my life. It’s just amazing.

Incidentally, I just paused to answer my cell phone when I saw my plastic surgeons office was calling and got the news that the insurance approval has come through and we are all clear to go on the next skin removal surgery. I’ll be discussing my skin removal surgeries on the next episode of Desperately Seeking Slender which should be out sometime this week! Right now I’ve got to go celebrate. Seriously my insurance has now approved EVERY SINGLE ONE of my skin removal surgeries.

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About (Pandora) The Author

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender
Jaime "Pandora" Williams

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