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Obesity Action Coalition Convention Day 4

So it’s my last day in Dallas and I think I was easily out till 2am again last night socializing in the Media Bar at the Hilton Anatole that we are staying at for the OAC Convention. I know I’ve done a lot of late nights this weekend and I have no doubt my body is going to make me pay for it in the next couple of days. We’ll see. But this day was no different from normal, I woke up to the alarm clock screeching in my ear in a way that would make you completely homicidal if that noise came out of any human being as you were trying to wake up. Now it was time for the typical morning dialog.

Me: The alarm is going off, time to get up, no sense trying to go back to sleep it never works, time to get up and be productive.

Sleepy Me: Grrrr

Me: Seriously get up! You’re wasting time! You could be doing several productive things already

Sleepy Me: Grumble

I looked at my phone and saw a text from Rain Hampton, you all might know her better from her website but she’s my Rain. Interestingly enough, and I don’t think I mentioned this to Rain, my first BFF growing up was a girl named Raina Halverson that I met in the third grade and stayed friends with all the way through high school. Perhaps I just needed more Rain in my life? That sounds funny coming from someone who lives in Oregon, but really, Rain and I just had this instant connection. I absolutely adore her and she’s someone who I look up to immensely in the weight loss surgery community. So my text from Rain said “Good morning…have fun at the OAC walk…” I gave Rain a quick response asking if she had decided not to go because it was freezing. Which it was! This Portland Oregon girl who is used to running in cold weather and rain started the morning with exercise clothes, a hoodie and a jacket on and I was wishing for my gloves and a skully. Of course once we started I warmed up and the layers started coming off.

Now if you follow my blog and have read my post “Things I want both Personal and Private” you will understand my excitement here. The bike rental vendor at the Walk From Obesity had an ElliptiGo on display! Not only was it on display but it was on a stationary stand that allowed you to get on it and try it. You KNOW I was all over this opportunity. Yes Sir-e-bob I was. And I can still say, I WANT! I WANT! I WANT! I really wish I could afford one but not anytime in my near future. My future is filled with paying off my credit card from attending this event. I had hoped that SWWMC would see the benefit of helping send me to this event and how much of an asset it would help make me for them and chip in, but they completely ignored my request and I never heard anything back from them after I contacted my Weight Loss Surgery Coordinator Cathy Geir. I love Cathy, adore her, would do anything she asked, but I’m pretty disappointed with SWWMC and their lack of interest in me. It’s ok, they’ll figure out sooner or later that I’m not your typical girl and that I’m going to be someone in this community. Regardless of that, and yeah I said that aloud and they will likely read it, but I’m honest and honestly, they dropped the ball. Regardless, it’s going to be awhile still before I can drop money on something like an ElliptiGo when it looks like I’m going to be dropping major cash to try to get to all these Conventions and Meets so that I can continue to meet and touch people the way I aspire too. I apologize to my Family ahead of time for the financial burden I’m about to put on us, but, this is important to me and being at this OAC Convention definitely taught me that this is what I NEED to be doing now, both for me, my career and the people who I am so desperately seeking to help.

Before the Walk From Obesity started I took the time to walk around and talk to the Vendors that had set up booths for the walk and collect a couple of Freebies along the way. Then it was time to get warmed up for the walk, or in my case, the run. Bobby Whisnand, the Personal Trainer that I’d had so much fun talking with the day before lead our little group in some exercise warm ups. Me being the fitness fanatic that I am, I was doing a lot of hooting and hollering cheering for exercise. I was pumped and ready. My new friend Joy Muller and I had decided to run the 5k instead of walking it, and we had a couple other girls doing the same including Lisa Tucker. I was so excited to have friends that wanted to run this 5k with me! It made my day!

So we had our runners in the front, and we started off the walk as we took off. Ok, let me just say that this was probably by far, the greatest running experience of my life thus far. My first official 5k run. I only stopped to walk three times, and there were so many people cheering me on! It was amazing, inspirational, motivating and, where do I sign up for another one?


Now this is where I have to pause and send a shout out to my Sponsor Pace Setter Athletics and thank them for sending me to the Walk From Obesity prepared. You see those beautiful, well-fitting, perfect for my feet Saucony Running shoes on my feet? Yup, I’ve got them to thank for it. And did I mention how excited they are to get involved in an Obesity Walk? I’m going to be doing everything I can to put one together in 2013 – The also told me that any of you who might find yourself in the Portland area, you know, like if you were attending some event that might bring you here in July 2013 – they’d be willing to give you a nice discount on running shoes. I wanted to take a picture that showed the spirit of what the donated these shoes to do, help me help others in the fight against obesity, so what better picture than this all shoes in photo. Anita, if you only knew who some of those feet belong too, you’d smile, such amazing women in the weight loss surgery community. I’ll hope that when I repost this picture on Facebook they will all shout out, say hi and tell you which foot belongs to them ( ad LIKE your Facebook Page too) Show my Sponsor some love folks! They’ve promised to keep me in running shoes so I can keep working on motivating you and that is quite a gift! Oh and don’t ask me WTH Beth was thinking with her sparkly flats, but she was out there warming up, and walking in them so I give her credit. I’m sure my Sponsor is wincing at those and those pretty pink flip-flops Sarah was wearing!

The Walk From Obesity was held on the running trail in the outside area of the Hotel. The path was .25 miles all the way around and, to help people keep track of how far they had to go volunteers handed out Mardi Gras beads every time you looped the path. We needed to collect 13 to end up with 3.25 miles which is .15 over a 5k but if you only did 12 laps you’d only get 3.0 which would be .10 miles short. I found it so interesting, that after listening to Merrill Littleberry’s session the day before, by far the best educational session of the entire Seminar in my opinion, all I could think about every time those beads shook around my neck and made that cha-ching sound was that every time I was handed one someone was putting a deposit in my emotional bank account. As I thought more and more about it when I ran I realized that for me, running is a multiple deposit payout. For me running makes a deposit in my Spiritual account as it makes me feel so close to my father while another is, it makes a deposit in my Physical account because it’s great exercise, and it makes deposits in my emotional account, especially when surrounded by a ton of super supportive people encouraging you and helping motivate you as you encourage and help motivate them. It was amazing, and I felt on top of the world.

When the run was finished I had a few really important people to hug. Heather, Joy, and Merrill herself. In fact, Joy and I both took advantage of the photo button souvenirs that one of the Vendors was handing and got our picture taken together with Merrill to commemorate the event. That button is going to become a magnet on my refrigerator that will always remind me of two of the people who touched me the most at this event. I got one done with Heather as well of course, because that woman is my own personal cheerleader. I wish I had gotten one with Rain but she stayed up to late the night before and was being a typical CA girl and avoiding the too cold weather. 😀 I love picking on you Rain <3

Now that the Walk from Obesity was over. I had one more little thing I needed to make sure I took care of while I was in Dallas. Some of you may recall a certain confessional episode on Desperately Seeking Slender Episode X where I made a promise to swallow my fears of spoiling a very special memory I have of my Father and try to ride a bike again in honor of my Father while I was in great state of Texas, a place my Father loved with all his heart. My original plan had been to try to squeeze a bike rental in on our first day there, but that just wasn’t doable considering what time we got in and how much was on the agenda and truthfully, there was so much to do, and I had promised Heather we’d go to Six Flags after the Walk on Sunday, so I was running out of time. But I headed back over to the bike rental booth and explained my story to the woman who was running the booth. With tears in my eyes as she helped me get on that bike, I rode it around the same little track that I had just ran around 13 times. A victory lap with my Father, on a bike. I faced my fear, the memory is still as special as it ever was to me, if not more. As I finished my little lap, and let me just say thank goodness there were not many people on it because if I was ever going to ride a bike seriously again I’d need some practice, I almost hit a few things and I totally forgot how the brakes worked. As I came back, tears falling down my cheeks, and knowing that my Father was with me in spirit and armed with the knowledge that Dr. Kushner had given me that allowed me to realize that I don’t need to achieve an “ideal weight” to achieve my dreams I felt, for the first time in all of this, like I had reached my goals, that I had successfully lost the weight and I knew, without any doubt, that my Father had been there to see me do it.

This feeling, this mental mindset, this emotional breakthrough, is the most rewarding thing that I took away from the Inaugural Your Weight Matters Convention 2012 and to be perfectly honest, the money it cost me to get there was well worth what I got out of it. In fact, I don’t think years of therapy would have provided me the emotional payout that this did.

It is hard to explain some times, the impact my Father’s death and on me and how terribly I needed to know that he saw me reach my goals and that he knew that I would have a happy, healthy and long life. And I know that if he was here today to see me starting a new career as a personal trainer, getting actively involved with the OAC, the WLSFA, enjoying exercise and making all these new friends, that he would smile and tell me this is exactly what he wanted for me.

This Convention, gave me something I don’t think anything else ever could, a chance to be in Texas, run with my Father, ride a bike with my Father, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my Father knows what I have accomplished. I cannot thank enough the people who attended this event, the friends that accepted me, the professionals that helped validate me, and those that see in me the potential that my Father did and are holding their hand out to me to help me get my foot in the door and get involved. I’ve proven to my Father that I don’t disappoint, and I’ll be proving the same to you as I seek to help others in their weight loss journey.


Obesity Action Coalition Convention Day 2

Okay so maybe, and I’m just saying, maybe staying out as late as I did Wednesday night wasn’t the brightest thing I did. But I made several friends that night that I know will last a lifetime now and I’m willing to accept the fact that I sacrificed 7am Aqua-fit in order to make those friends. I’m sure I can find a Aqua-fit Class at 24-hr Fitness when I get home and give it a try in honor of the one I skipped. I’m committed to that as part of the next confessional series or something.

I hit the Convention floor in time to grab a quick, and I mean zippy quick bite of breakfast and met up with Michelle from The World According to Eggface and Beth with MeltingMamma Bariatric Bad Girls Club and Shauna Cox who I sat next to as the Convention started. The Morning speakers were amazing. First up was Joe Nadglowski and Pam Davis from the OAC to Welcome everyone to the inaugural Your Weight Matters National Convention. Next we heard from Amber Huett from the OAC and Dr. Robert Kushner, both again welcoming us to what we all knew was going to be quite a monumental moment in the history of our fight against obesity.

The first speaker that truly impacted me was Dr. Lloyd Stegemann, a Bariatric Surgeon who serves on the National Board of Directors for the OAC as he explained to us that each of us was represented by a stick, alone, we were fragile and easily broken, but together we are strong. As we entered the grand ballroom area for the morning sessions of the convention, each of us were handed a lone chopstick. At the beginning of his analogy Dr. Stegemann snapped his easily in two. Then he grabbed a handful of chopsticks and held them together to show that they could not be so easily broken. It was wonderfully illustrated for us. Tweets were going crazy on the #OACConvention hashtag quoting this part of the morning session. Dr. Stegemann had made quite an impact on several of us the day before at the Advocacy Training session when he played an evil United States Senator that tried to offend us with weight biased comments during our Mock Capital Hill meetings.

Next Dr. Robert Kushner, a Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University, the Clinical Director of the Northwest Comprehensive Center on Obesity in Chicago who serves on the National Board of Directors for the OAC spoke to us on the topic: Losing, Gaining, Maintaining – Is it a Science? I think the most impressive part of his session for most of us was the correlation we all felt to the graphs that he displayed on the prompter that charted an individuals battle with obesity not by the numbers they saw on the scale, but by the events in their life that were happening at the time. I think I will return to this session later on and see if I can’t duplicate one of his charts with my own life history and share it with you all. During the questions and answers segment of his session I got the opportunity to ask Dr. Kushner what his thoughts were on the Opinion of some in the Nutrition and Fitness industry that believe that if you consume too few calories or if you maintain too much of a Caloric Deficit for too long through low-calorie intake and high caloric burn through exercise that it can actually prevent your body from losing weight. This theory is often referred to as the Starvation Syndrome Theory, and suggests that your body begins to hold on to fat and produce a slower metabolic rate if you make it think it is starving. Dr. Kushner spoke of finding our harmony, the point at which we are balanced with the calories we are taking in and the calories we are burning each day to keep ourselves in a healthy weight maintenance phase. I must admit, hearing Dr. Kushner speak really made me wish that I had one of those 24-hr Fitness Body Bugs things so that I could really figure out what my average daily caloric burn is and work on an exercise regimen that would put me in harmony.

The second speaker of the day could have talked for hours and hours and I would have eagerly listened. Dr. Tim Church, Director of Preventive Medicine at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, spoke to us about “Leading and Active Lifestyle in a Sedimentary World.” I sort of refuse to sum up this Doctor’s Education Session for you because I honestly feel that everyone can benefit from watching it and I think you should just do that instead. You can do that here: Dr. Tim Church speaks at the OAC Convention.

After the morning Education Session we headed off to Lunch with the experts. I had the pleasure of sitting at Dr. Kushner’s table where the Topic was “Is my ideal weight ideal for me.” – Dr. Kushner asked us all to sort of go around the room and introduce ourselves and talk a little about who we were and why we had chosen to sit at the table for this topic. I explained to my table that I had a Gastric Bypass in October of 2010 and that I had lost 260 lb. and that I struggled sometimes because my friends think I am getting too thin and I desperately feel the need to have what is considered a “Normal” BMI to be able to validate myself in the Fitness world as a Personal Trainer. This has been a big mind block for me for the last several months, I’ve actually avoided committing to obtaining my certification because I felt like I needed to have a normal BMI before I felt qualified to sign up. Dr. Kushner spoke to our table about the difference between an “ideal weight” and a “healthy weight.” But what Dr. Kushner pointed out to me specifically, was that I can’t expect my body to forget that it once weighed 420 lb.; that I have to take into account where I came from and what is reasonable and attainable to me. Today, I weight 157 lb. that gives me a BMI of 26.0 ( Normal is 18.5 – 24.9 ) What Dr. Kushner pointed out to me is that for me to have a normal BMI I would need to lose another 7 lb. He asked me if there was anything that I felt I couldn’t do now that losing 7 lb. more would allow me to do. He also assured me personal that my weightless was outstanding and that I didn’t need to achieve a perfect BMI score in order to be able to inspire people; that my story and journey and success alone made me qualified and relevant. It was very validating to have someone as notable in their community as Dr. Kushner, this man is an expert on obesity, he conducts clinical research and educates medical students, and here he is taking the time to tell me how well I have done and how much I will be able to inspire people. Dr. Kushner made me see that I don’t need to chase an ideal weight, I just need to maintain a healthy weight and let go of an ideal that isn’t necessarily attainable for my body particularly. I easily admit that I am a little OCD, okay a lot OCD, in fact I’m of the belief that it should be called CDO ( Compulsive Disorder Occurrence ) because I just really think it should be in alphabetical order. But, Dr. Kushner was able to get me to see that I don’t NEED to obsess on an ideal weight that says I am normal, because I’ve already proven I’m above normal with my weight loss success story. Thank you Dr. Kushner again, for giving me the ability to understand something my friends were deeming concerned I might be missing. The healthy weight concept.

My Afternoon Break out Session Selections were Exercise Essentials with Julia Karlstad, who I must say I had the pleasure of talking with a couple of times about my desire to get my personal trainers certification and who made some recommendations to me that really changed where I have decided to get my certification. Between my talks with Julia and my talks with Merrill Littleberry; Vitamin M, and my chat with Mike C. Harper, Associate Director of Education from the Cooper Institute I think that I have pretty much decided two very important things that are going to change where I am going to go with this a little bit. First and foremost I think I am going to get my Certification from the Cooper Institute, and I am going to apply for one of their scholarships that way I can apply the $800 my friends have helped me fundraise through our IndiGoGo Fundraiser, that I was going to use to get a different certification and apply it to my first semester fees because I’ve decided I want to go back to school and get a degree in Exercise Science. I’ve got to see how the timing is going to work out for that though because whatever I decide to do, it is going to HAVE to have me certified in time to open the doors of my Personal Trainer business on my Father’s birthday, July 20th, 2013. 13 has always been my lucky number and my Dad is such an important part of this journey for me that I know that is the day this needs to happen and I will do whatever it takes to achieve that goal right now. I hope that those of you that are reading this that were not able to attend this years conference truly realize how many of these people touched my lives in ways so significant this weekend that I can only hope to do justice to them with the words I write about them. Each of them in one day impacted a huge change in my direction in a few moments of speaking to me.

One of the biggest questions I was looking to resolve for myself going into this Convention was making the decision between which Personal Trainers Certification Program I was going to select to get. I was currently debating between the ISSA and the ACE Programs. But Strangely Enough when I was introduced to Merrill Littleberry, Vitamin M, a Certified Personal Trainer, and Psychotherapist, ( We’ll be talking about her a lot in the future, don’t be surprised. ) she mentioned to me that Michael Harper from the Cooper Institute was there and that I should speak to him about their Personal Trainers Certification Program.  I had never heard of The Cooper Institute, but I took her advice and spoke to Mike after the break out session. Ironically when I also took the time to stop and speak to Julia Karlstad from JKFitness author of Rx Fitness for Weight Loss: The Medically Sound Solution to Get Fit and Save Your Life, and told her of my desire to get my Personal Trainers Certification and after having just listened to her tell her audience that they should only hire a Personal Trainer that was Degreed, Certified and Experienced, she too shook her head when I told her the certifications I was originally considering and suggested The Cooper Institute as one of my considerations as well as the NASM, which they concurred is a difficult exam, but one of the best certifications out there. You know that old saying, “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, fool me a third time i must be stupid,”? I apply that philosophy to my life in a fate works in mysterious ways sort of fashion. When three people in a row, completely unprompted lead me to the same answer I figure if I fail to hear what the universe is saying to me I’d be making a big mistake. The Cooper Institute here I come!

Now as fate would have it, because lets face it my fellow Seekers, i believe in fate and in karma and in putting out positive energy to people so that you can motivate them. So I bet none of you will ever guess what the other big question plaguing my mind was coming into this Convention weekend. I’m flying home to Portland on November 19th 9 days later, on the 28th I will be going in to do the skin removal surgery on my thighs and I’m scared of the recovery time. I’m also having a lot of body issues. I look in the mirror and I have issues with the woman I see looking back at me. I think she looks old, washed out, worn out, tired and beat up. I find myself being more and more critical of myself everyday. I used to weigh 420 lb. and I could look in the mirror on any given day and muster up the “If you don’t like me kiss my butt.” attitude,. yet now, when I am the healthiest, the fittest, the most active, and let’s face it, the prettiest I have ever been in my life, I am harder on myself than anyone else would ever be. I  notice every little flaw, and I have to constantly remind myself that I will not allow myself to become obsessed with trying to make something “perfect.” I already bounce back and forth with oh should I do a revision on this because it didn’t end up quite as tight as I wanted it. I keep telling myself I’m not going to do anything that I don’t feel I REALLY need to do, or address anything that doesn’t REALLY bother me. So far I’m still leaning towards not doing the implants I had originally planned on and only considering doing an arm revision at this point. But with these being the things that were plaguing my mind as of late as well as, I will admit this now because I’ve been sitting on it and not saying it outloud loud for fear of upsetting my Plastic Surgeon; I’ve been having a little doubt as to whether or not I could have gotten better results with different surgeries. You know how it goes, we always wonder if the grass is greener on the other side, we always want something different from what we have. Would I have been tighter if we had done an anchor incision? Should I have done a 360 Upper Body lift instead of the side gather Abdominoplasty that Dr. O’Brien and I opted for? These thoughts are all normal I’m sure but you can’t even imagine my delight to find myself sitting in the afternoon break out session for Dr. Al Aly, the Pioneer in Body Contouring after massive weight loss. Dr. Aly has been performing plastic surgery on post bariatric surgery patients longer than anyone else in the world. He has lectured or performed live surgery demonstrations in more than 25 countries around the world and educates plastic surgeons about plastic surgery for the bariatric surgery patient. As I sat and listened to Dr. Aly speak I found myself talking to my new friends and telling them how my results looked just as good as the results he was showing in his best results group where the patients had reached the lower BMI ranges. What really tickled me though was when I stood up to ask Dr. Aly a couple of questions about things that concerned me like addressing the lower portion of my arms where incisions from my brachioplasty stopped. I also asked Dr. Aly if he could address the topic of skin relaxation a little bit. He laughed and said that my questions were so good that people were going to think I was a plant in the audience. He told me that my arms could be easily fixed by extending the incision from my brachioplasty down my arm as far as to the wrist if necessary to address that issue and also said that skin relaxation was completely normal and talked about the fact that sometimes a surgery could have to be done over again to address such issues and that there were times as well that even after a revision the same sort of relaxation issues could be experienced. Dr. Al Aly, without even knowing it completely put my mind at ease and looking at his best case scenario before and after pictures has definitely made me realize that I have an outstanding surgeon. I’ll likely get up the courage one day, when my plastics are all officially done to post my before and after photos, but it won’t be for quite a while, post all plastics and post the tattoo work that I will have done do cover the scars afterwards is all done.

I have to admit that only real big moment of the earlier afternoon breakout session, Bariatric Surgery 201 – Giving You the Tools for Post-op Long Term Success was the brief introduction that it gave me to Merrill Littleberry. But I’ll be speaking much more about her in my coverage of Day 3 of the OAC Your Weight Matters 2012 Convention. I in fact left that seminar a bit  early to talk to the CEO of the OAC, Joe Nadglowski about a key point of that seminar and to let him know how impressed I was with the professional and businesslike feel of the convention. After the afternoon sessions I was rushing off to my room in time to change and literally run through the hotel to get to the 5:30 Zumba Class Gold class I signed up for. I was a little disappointed in the turn out for the Zumba Class but I’d wager that had a lot to do with afternoon sessions running later and there already being a ridiculously short time to get changed and make it to the other side of the hotel where the spa and gym facilities were located. The Zumba class still had about 5-6 people show up though, and even though the instructor was fun and upbeat I still found myself struggling to follow the steps. Being a seriously uncoordinated person it takes me a good deal of time to learn choreography type stuff and this was just way out of my element. Zumba is not something I would keep up with on a regular basis. I’ll stick to running and kick boxing and step stuff thank you very much. When you start adding music and you want me to move to a beat to my work out you just get me in the wrong head space completely, it stops being fun and starts being me trying not to embarrass and humiliate myself due to my obvious lac of rhythm.

After my Zumba Gold class I rushed back up to my room to change into my Halloween costume for the evening Festivities. It was a great night! A great party! Lots of photos were taken, lots of friendships were made and lots of bonds formed. I don’t think I can even do justice to the evening with words, I know there was a lot of sharing and a lot of realizing how special our community is. I think sharing the pictures with you is likely the best I can do. In Honor of all of those that attended the OAC Your Weight Matters Convention, I had a lovely evening. Thank you for the memories, and the friendships I know will be growing in the future.

Please bear with me as I get my coverage of the OAC Event posted, late as it may be. I’m in Oakland visiting with Family and friends and awaiting the birth of my niece. I’ll be writing about Day 3 and the OAC Your Weight Matters Convention just as soon as life comfortably allows.

Until then please visit my Facebook Album for pictures from the Halloween Party and the Awards Dinner!

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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