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My spin on WLS Advocacy – What I am doing to help

A lot of people have asked me about my involvement with the Flab to Fabulous Pageant since segment aired on KOIN6 Local News on January 11,2013 about my weight loss journey didn’t really go into great details and they didn’t air any of the details they had about organizations that I am passionate about.

Last week, I was named the Ms. Fabulous 2012 Honoree and invited to the pageant week in Atlanta GA scheduled to take place May 26 through June 02 of this year. 

I’m very passionate about the Weight Loss Surgery community and always eager to do anything that I can to help it grow and flourish. A passion of mine, that I have often spoke of on my blog is to raise money for people who are not lucky enough to get their insurance to cover the costs of plastic surgeries the way mine did. My insurance has paid for all of my plastic surgery, that is pretty much unheard of in the weight loss surgery community, and because of my great fortune I am passionate about paying that forward to my community. My goal is to one day have my own Personal Trainer Business with Vendor Booths at all the events and be using my work and my passion to help pay for other people’s skin removal surgeries. This is something I am extremely passionate about. And that is exactly what the WLSFA does. The WLSFA, Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America, is a non-profit organization that funds grant recipients for patients that need these lifesaving Bariatric Surgeries and Reconstructive Plastic Surgeries after they have achieved massive weight loss so that they can take their lives back from obesity just the way I have.  When I first set out to start my business I mentioned things about how I wanted to help pay for people’s surgeries, I even talked about wanting to set up some sort of Scholarship Donation Program in my Father’s name someday as a memorial to him since he is one of the biggest inspirations in my own weight loss journey. It is this passion, this love of my Father and his down home Texas, “Treat others the way you wish to be treated,” upbringing that drives my passion to make sure I give back to the community the things that the universe has so generously gifted me with.

oca-logo-footerIt is this same philosophy that drives my passion behind the OAC.  The OAC, Obesity Action Coalition changed my life and my participation at their Inaugural Your Weight Matters Convention in Dallas Texas gave me things that I never would have had prior to going. The professionals at that event gave me the confidence in my business approach, what I want to do, and where I am going with career as Personal Trainer as well as the education and empowerment to help me move past some of my own unhealthy body dimorphic issues and the guidance and direction that would empower me to attend one of the most respected schools in the country to obtain my certification. It gave me the opportunity to start making friends within the community, friends that I would bond with and that I know I will be friends with for years to come. It allowed me to meet some women that I looked up to an admired for their voices on their blogs; The World According to Eggface and Waning Woman. It allowed me to get feedback from my peers and it motivated me to push forward even faster with my goals as I truly saw that others were inspired by my success and determination, it allowed me the opportunity to get my voice heard by more women and some of those women are on Chris Powell’s Facebook page today asking him to get involved with this community and help us fight against the stigma and bias that people look on Weight Loss Surgery patients with. When I see a woman stand up and say that I am her WLS Idol, I am humbled, I am honored and I am even more driven because I am seeing first hand that my story can help inspire someone just starting out in this journey and help them know that they can make it. The OAC opened doors for me with their convention and that is why I have done things like volunteered for their committees this year, put myself in DC for a week on my own dime just hoping they can use me and my passion to share my story in an effort to help others get the sort of medical coverage that I did. That is why I have gone to my own Bariatric Surgery Center, and my own Bariatric Surgeon, Leslie Cagle , M.D., F.A.C.S. with Pacific Surgical Specialists and personally asked her to get involved with the OAC and sponsor all of their Bariatric Surgery Patients with OAC Memberships.

My Goals in 2013 Remain the same as always, which is why I am taking an entire week in February, pushing pause on my life here in Oregon and heading out the Dallas to go to the Cooper Institute and take their Certified Personal Trainers course in person. The opportunity to do this comes from a gentleman that preferred I not mention his name publicly  who has followed my blog since I first started it and who wanted to support my career change and saw that I was struggling with the intimidation factor of having to “study” and learn and pass a test again for the first time in nearly twenty years and wanted to give me the opportunity to learn in an environment that I will be more successful in. His gift came with a note that read “Because you wish to support others in their WLS and journey and success and I wish to do the same for you.”

I think that the Ms. Fabulous 2012 Honoree title is an amazing title to have. I was given the title after a couple of hours of conversation with the Pageant Director, Charlie Brown, because we just sort of clicked and my story touched her and my positive attitude, desire to help others in their weight loss journey and overall approach to “Life after Weight Loss” embodied the vision of what she has for Ms. Fabulous.  I see the Fabulous Pageant as a way for the weight loss surgery community to stand up and band together.

DSSAdvocacyFunDSS: Advocacy Through Fun. Please Join Me

One of the things that people love about me is that they respect me because I say what I think and I call things like I see them. And something  that I can tell you honestly as both a person that is trying to come into this community as a professional trainer and as a blogger who passionately cares about this community and the men and women that are members of it is that the stigma against weight loss surgery patients is unfair and biased. Weight loss should be celebrated equally on all levels, whether you lose the weight through diet and exercise alone, or whether you needed a program like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers, Whether you were doing Atkins or Carb Cycling with Chris Powell, or whether you had weight loss surgery once, or even twice, the point is not HOW you lost your weight. The point is THAT you lost your weight.

The point is that you found what worked for you. Let me ask you something, if someone was standing in front of you dying of cancer and they had several options to try to attack their cancer, and they decided to choose the one that would go at it as fast and most aggressively as possible; would you fault them?

Obesity is a disease. I was just reading in my Cooper Institute Textbook last night that the leading causes of death in the US today are Cardiovascular Diseases, Cancers, COPD and Diabetes and we all know that obesity causes co-morbid conditions. I had Diabetes, I had Sleep Apnea, I had High Blood Pressure, I had Chronic Back Pain, I had constant skin rashes and sores, I had constant shortness of breath, and I had limited mobility. Gastric Bypass was my chosen method of attack on my taking my life back from being morbidly obese and being able to live a happy and healthy life my father wanted for me.

As Ms. Fabulous 2012 I had the opportunity to sponsor candidate for every category in the competition. I’ve got three contestants that are going to compete under my sponsorship and who I will be helping try to get the sponsorship funding they need to go to pageant week if they make Semi Finals. Two of my contestants are local Oregon WLS Patients who both had their surgery at the same hospital I did, though we had different surgeons and they are both success stories for two of the local Portland area Bariatric Surgeons. I am so excited to have them representing Oregon and I’m thrilled that they are both so passionate about telling their story and helping the weight loss community that they were both more than happy to volunteer to donate any cash prize money they receive throughout the pageant to the WLSFA Pacific Northwest Chapter.

I’ve always been the kind of person that likes to pay back to my community. I love the fact that I get to help some people of this community maybe become the next Mr. or Ms. Fabulous (or Active Fabulous) and help them showcase their own weight loss surgery stories. The fact that I can use this title to try to help our community by raising money for a cause I believe in excites me and the fact that I can hopefully draw attention to something that we all want to fight against, the stigma of Weight Loss Surgery from the general weight loss, fitness and media is unfair and unjustified.

That OAC Convention gave me all this confidence I have right now as did all my friends in the WLS community to really get out there and go for my dreams. There was a Bariatric Surgeon there named Lloyd Stegemann who introduced a room full of weight loss surgery patients to the concept that standing alone we are weak, by taking a chopstick and snapping it in two. Then he held a large group of them together and demonstrated that he could not break them and reminded us that together we are strong.  It is my hope that since you all know what my goals and aspirations are; you will really get behind my endeavor to use this 2012 Ms. Fabulous title to unite our community.

My mission is to prove to the weight loss, fitness and media industry that weight loss surgery is not a dirty word and that it isn’t the easy way out. The Fabulous Foundation chose me as their Ms. Fabulous because I have a story that when I have the floor to share it, disproves that concept several times over. I am living proof that even after WLS we work as hard as anyone else for this sort of transformation.

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KOIN6 Local News Segment Aired on January 11, 2013

Please, go to this link and use the comments section to lend your voice to my mission. Share your WLS Success Story and help break the stigma. Share the stories about struggling with regain and just how NOT easy this journey is. Share the stories about how you now run 5ks, 10ks and half Marathons. Share the stories about the people you reach through your blog voices, share about your struggles to find good protein shakes J — share…. Comment… and take the time to let Chris and Heidi Powell and their Management team know that we want them to stand behind this community too. 220,000 weight loss surgeries are performed in this country each year. Surely I can get some of you to put your sticks with mine so that they can’t be broken?

My Letter on Chris Powell’s Facebook Page: I cannot tell you how much this means to me. I am begging my friends and family to take the time to go comment on this page and help make this happen. If you take the time to read my stuff, please take the time to support me too.

http://www.facebook.com/realchrispowell/posts/10151226631791864?comment_id=25326741&notif_t=feed_comment

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Chris Powell answers my letter. Please help make my dream come true.

I’ve got to take a deep breath. I need to write this all down and honestly I’m so excited about everything that is happening right now that it’s hard to bring myself to stop and actually do that.

I posted on my Facebook account on January 3rd, “You know that old saying go big or go home? I’m actually scared of something I got brave and decided to do, Details to come soon.”

That was 5 days ago. And since then things just started falling into place for me. Originally my post was because I had decided to enter the Flab to Fabulous Pageant, and there was that little voice in me at first that said “Why would YOU enter a Pageant.” Then I reminded myself to keep up with my daily affirmations resolution and I looked myself in the mirror and I told myself “Because you are Fabulous and you were a Flabtastic ( I know that is not a word ) and you deserve to showcase your weight loss and tell the world about your accomplishments.”

FlabtoFabulousHonoreeNext I contacted the Pageant Director, Charlie Brown, to talk to her about the Pageant. During our conversation she offered me the slot as their 2012 Ms. Fabulous Honoree. The opportunity to be the Ms. Fabulous Face for the time leading up the pageant, and to be on stage with a crown and sash and crown the next Ms. Fabulous 2013. How could I turn that down? I get to be Ms. Fabulous 2012 and I get to help someone else become Ms. Fabulous 2013! This was originally the BIG NEWS that I was so excited to announce back on January 4th with I posted on Facebook “OH MY GAWD!!!!! Something AMAZING has happened for me. I can’t tell you yet, I want to so bad, but I can’t. But I’m working on getting all the right things to all the right people so that I CAN… Oh gosh this is big… remember when I said I was scared and that maybe I needed to remember go big or go home? Yeah, this is it, it’s coming…. 2013 I <3 you so far.

photo569The next thing I did was set out to find people who would be willing to represent OR in the Flab to Fabulous pageant but, I saw a possibility here, with cash prizes, I thought hey maybe I can find two people to compete on behalf of Oregon; I’ll sponsor their entry fees so it doesn’t cost them. I’ll help them with finding local sponsorship to get them to the Pageant if they make it to the Finals and I’ll ask them if they would be willing to donate their cash portion of the prize to one of my favorite charities the WLSFA! What a neat idea! So I found a Oregonian Bariatric Surgery patient that is willing to do JUST that. Steven Gray, who is my own personal Mentor and 8 year post op Gastric Bypass Patient, Steven, boasts a total weight loss of 265 lb. I cannot even begin to explain how proud I am to sponsor this contestant and send Oregon representation to the Flab to Fabulous Pageant!  The fact that he is willing to donate his prize money if he wins is amazing to me! The fact that he is willing to help me help a charity that I believe in as passionately as the WLSFA by trying to raise money for our PNW Chapter while getting a chance to experience something we never would have gotten the chance to experience before is absolutely FABULOUS!

But you know I couldn’t stop there. I mean I sponsored a local candidate as Mr. Fabulous. But there was someone else that I felt I needed to reach out too, someone else that I needed to repay a favor to. You see, there was a part of my WLS Journey that was very hard and dark for me when my Father passed away. And there was a woman whose voice shown through the dark and spoke to me during a time that I hardly had anything in me but to listen, to eat, and to work out. This woman’s voice through her writing and blog carried me through. If you have followed my blog you will know who I am talking about by now, my dear friend Waning Woman. So I called her, and I asked her to allow me to pay her entry fee and help her get sponsorship in any way I can to send her to the Finals if she makes it. I knew that this Flab to Fabulous Pageant was right up her ally, and I wanted to help make sure she got to participate. I am happy to Announce Waning Woman as my Ms. Fabulous sponsored contestant.

I am still looking for a local Oregon Female to Sponsor as well as a long distance Male Contestant; if you are interested in doing either, get in contact with me!

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So that done, I decided to write Chris Powell another letter. Many of you know I wrote Chris back in September and when he responded it was a monumental moment of my weight loss journey.  I talk about how Chris Powell is my hero all the time and how when he wrote me and told me that I was amazing and that he was proud of me, it really was the next best thing I could have had to hearing my Father say those same words to me. Since my Father passed away in just 9 months after my weight loss journey started he didn’t get to see me through. And so, I don’t know something in me just said, Hey, I think I will write Chris Powell and ask him if he would be at these events for me, because well, I would really like my Dad to be there and he can’t and Chris Powell would be the next best thing.

The next thing I knew I was getting a call from the local news station because one of my friends had tipped them off to my story, and by yesterday afternoon, my first time back in the gym after my reconstructive thigh lift, I was being interviewed by KOIN 6 News about my weight loss journey, about my trying to get the attention of Chris Powell, about the Flab to Fabulous Pageant, and about some of the Organizations I am most passionate about helping.  The segment is scheduled to air on Thursday during the 4 o’clock on KOIN 6 in the Portland, OR area. ( That is why I had a t-shirt on in that picture yesterday that said “Desperately Seeking Slender” )
chrispowell2I went to bed last night, without announcing anything that had happened, I needed some time to absorb everything that was going on. Then I woke up this morning and CHRIS POWELL WROTE ME BACK AGAIN.

I can’t even begin to explain to you the excitement here. I’ve written Chris Powell three times and he has written me back each and every time. I truly believe at this point that my dream of meeting Chris Powell might actually happen, and I honestly believe that there MIGHT be a chance that he’ll consider coming to these events that I asked him too.

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I chose to have Gastric Bypass because my Father came to me before he died and told me that he needed to know that I was going to live a Happy and Healthy life.

A Happy Healthy Life. Those were my Father’s exact words to me that day….

Today when I pulled up Chris Powell’s New Vemme Bod-e Weight Loss Management Products Page to look at the nutritional information on the Powell Protein drinks I saw a quote at the bottom of the page I had never seen from him before…

 

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I’m sorry but sometimes you just know something was meant to happen.

Please! I’m begging you! Go tell Chris Powell that WE all deserve to live a happy and healthy life! That we do not deserve to have the cover of People Magazine taking pot shots at us. We do not deserve to be ignored because we choose the tool that would help us make this journey. Al Rocker has paved the way for us without even realizing it, we are TALKING about weight loss surgery right now in the media and how it’s being viewed with an unfair bias. PLEASE let Chris Powell know that this community wants the POWELL PACKs support. By going to this page and commenting and ASKING them to get involved.

This community is growing by leaps and bounds each day.  220,000 Weight Loss Surgeries being performed each year. Let’s help continue to pave the way for others to help ensure that they do not face some of the WLS biased that we have faced, let’s help advocate and educate and utilize this chance to rise and asked for involvement from someone who could really help this community.  By going to this page and commenting and ASKING them to get involved.

“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.” The OAC Event taught me this philosophy, put your stick with mine my friends, please; together we can make a difference.

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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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