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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!


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!


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?


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:


AmeriWell Bariatrics
Like AmeriWell Bariatrics on Facebook ]


Like WELLESSE on Facebook ]


Celebrate Vitamins
Like Celebrate Vitamins on Facebook ]

Kay's Logo

Kay’s Naturals
Like Kay’s Naturals on Facebook ]

BariMelts Logo

Like BariMelts on Facebook ]

#TeamSlenderSeekers would like to thank these early entry Sponsors

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Social Media and YOU – Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

Do you know what my biggest gripe about being a blogger in the WLS and Weight Loss community is? I’m a tell-it-like-it-is sort of girl, so I’m not afraid to come out and say this… I dislike the lack of support.

i_dislike_button_by_calisoldier805-d3yzvu1I’m not the only one; I talk to fellow bloggers often who say the same things. Who are disappointed by the responses that they get from within this community. I won’t call attention to people who don’t want to be named, but just as an example, last August at the OAC Convention one of my fellow bloggers received a large amount of products from one of the vendors to host a fan appreciation give away. I warned her not to be disappointed if she ran a contest and didn’t get very many entries for it. You know why? Because it had happened to me too many times. Sure enough it happened to her as well and she found it disheartening.

This is exactly why you don’t see me host fan appreciation giveaways. I hold contests to give away Half Marathon experiences because quite honestly, I don’t care if only one person enters, if that person has the desire to do something amazing in their post weight loss journey and I can help facilitate it, I won the contest myself; that’s just who I am and what I am about.

But let’s talk about a few things from a blogger perspective. As someone who strives to put information out there that helps motivate and inspire others in their weight loss journey, I have a few concepts to share with you.

images (1) “Sharing is Caring,” I’ve said this a lot. Just in case you don’t understand what I mean by that, that is my way of telling you that when your favorite bloggers, nonprofit organizations and companies post things on their blog or in social media venues like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and what not, what they are HOPING for is that you interact with them. Not only are they hoping that you will like or favorite what they do; they are hoping you will hit the share button, hit the retweet button, pass the message along and hoping you will comment. Do you know why? Because their success in these venues is dependent on how well they engage their audience. How well you respond to a post decides how much attention the social media platforms give it.

Focus on the Positive and Avoid the Drama. Have you ever noticed how if there is something people don’t like or disagree with, or someone else is kvetching about something they are upset about, it tends to get more likes and more comments than your average run of the mill status update? I see more shares of snarky eCard messages within the weight loss and WLS community than I do shares of things that we claim we care about. People are more inclined to share an eCard that says “I don’t care what you say,” than they are to share a message that says “Look at this amazing recipe for Mahogany Chicken Wings from Kosher Bariatric” – Why not keep it positive and share the stuff that people are putting out there to try to help the community rather get into a 60 comment long debate about someone else’s eating habits or exercise routine?

downloadReturn the FavorOk so let’s be straight up here, the bloggers aren’t all innocent in this either. There are certain bloggers you will see me promote on a semi regular basis. People like Nikki over at Bariatric Foodie, Shelly from The World According To Eggface, Joy from Kosher Bariatric, Kesha from Waning Woman — and there are other bloggers that you won’t see me promote at all. You know why? Because sharing is caring, and if I share for you and you don’t share for me, then I don’t have the desire to share for you constantly and feel like the affection is unreciprocated. This is just the truth. I got an email not too long ago from someone asking me to support and share the information for a fitness oriented event they were doing. I did so because that is the sort of thing I can get behind and support. But when I’m doing something and I ask for it to be shared they seem to miss it. That only happens once or twice before I notice and next time you ask me to promote something for you, I nod my head, roll my eyes and end up busy with other things. Sorry, true story folks. Nobody like being asked to do a favor by somebody that never does a favor back. I abandoned supporting organizations with causes that I actually believe in and feel passionate about for the same reason, just as I have stopped social media interactions with people for the same reason. Nobody likes to feel taken for granted or like a relationship they have built only goes one way; so return the favor and keep your friends and supporters just that; friends and supporters.

Practice Empathy rather than Apathy. The ability to mutually experience the thoughts, emotions and experiences of others goes far in this community. Just because we might not agree with what someone says, or even feel that way ourselves doesn’t mean we can’t understand it. It also doesn’t mean that our social network won’t benefit from it.  Just as an example, as a weight loss coach I believe that professionals need to have a starting point to discuss weight issues with you. While I believe that BMI is a grossly negative standard when it comes to setting the bar, I believe it one of the only realistic measurement points available right now for professionals to start with. I believe you need to look at that number alongside many others like body fat percentage, lean muscle mass calculations, bone density calculations… and often you need to look up at the person you are talking to and judge for yourself whether the numbers are an accurate assessment of their physical fitness. I also understand all sides of the equation. I empathize with the folks that hate BMI calculations and think they are a false representation when used as a standalone measure or who have come so far in their journey that they are angered by a number on a chart that says “You are still overweight.” – Trust me, I struggle with this myself.  I empathize with the professionals that say it’s one of the most accurate measurement tools we have without more financially feasible technology at our disposal. Guess what? You will see me share information on both sides of the debate. Why?  Because both sides of the debate offer relevant information to my social network.


On the same note you might see me share information on an article about body image issues. Not because I have had the same experience (mine might have been vastly different) but because someone else might benefit from reading the information. And if someone else could benefit from it, I’ll share it.

So next time a blogger you follow holds a contest to give away a product that you use, enter the contest. Next time a blogger you read posts an article that has information pertinent to your social network or a nonprofit organization you support posts a link, share it. The next time someone posts something that you agree with or appreciate, leave a comment. Take the time to show you care and appreciate what they do. Take the time to be positive and proactive. Take the time to reciprocate the friendships you’ve built with the people who you’ve met in this community so that you stay friends. I encourage you to remember that when you take the time to do these things for others, they will take the time to do them for you, and in the end, we’ll have a much stronger, friendlier and more positive community.


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.
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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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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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