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Introducing Coach Pandora! Heres to a new us Slender Seekers

30e6a8b80c6a11e2ab4c22000a1d0350_7About two years ago around this time, I had decided that I wanted to become a personal trainer. I knew I wasn’t anywhere near ready yet, I had a lot to do in my own journey still, but my goal was to get my ISSA Certification and be ready as soon as my body was.

As I started 2012 I had a goal of having several bouts of reconstructive plastic surgery after having lost 260 lb, during my own weight loss journey and I had one of my best friends in the entire world moving in with me to help see me through it. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that three rounds of plastic surgery would take so much out of me.

My plans changed along the way a little. I became more focused on getting through the plastic surgeries and the weeks and weeks of healing that came after each one, and I became passionate about blogging about my weight loss journey and the experience of reconstructive plastic surgery because I didn’t really feel like there were enough people out there doing it.

a868851aa37c11e2934e22000aa800af_7Last year I started 2013 with the same goal, to become a personal trainer and an additional goal to start my own business. In March I started that journey by taking the Personal Trainer Education course at the Cooper Institute. – As much as I thought I would take that class, take the test, ace it, and move on with my dreams, things changed a little when a fourth and final round of reconstructive plastics took precedent in July and the year really became a time of personal growth for me when it came to the mind and wellness part of my journey. In June of I returned to Cooper Institute to take some additional courses in Coaching Healthy Behaviors and Weight Management Strategies because I wanted more education and training under my belt to start my career with.

The truth was, I was intimidated by the Personal Trainers course. I love cardio, but strength and toning and resistance training had been a big missing piece of my fitness profile because I love to run so much and I love cardio so much that when I get out there and I want to exercise, that’s what I want to do. I felt inept when it came to this aspect of fitness and I didn’t know how to get around it. It started holding me back; a lot.

I also realized quickly that perhaps the best thing I could do, was to get a job in the fitness world that would allow me to get some experience under my belt in a gym environment while I worked on these very things myself but still allowed me to do what I am most passionate about doing, helping others achieve their weight loss goals. I started applying at gyms and looking for a place I would fit in.

In October of last year, a visit to my family & friends took me out to North Carolina and suddenly, just like that, things started falling into place for me. I had the opportunity to meet and talk to Brian Autry, Personal Trainer and Co-Owner of the Wilmington Ladies Fitness Gym located on Carolina Beach Road in Wilmington. Together he and his wife Krista Autry, have been working at getting women the results they are looking for through fitness and exercise for over 10 years.

slide-1.1I feel in love with their club right away. One of my biggest reasons for wanting to help other people with their weight loss journey was that I felt there was a gap in the industry were the comfort of people of size was concerned. When it comes to those of us that have suffered with morbid obesity and have the daunting task of losing over 100 lb., being in a gym can be a very intimidating place. I wanted to create a situation and a program where I could get people exercising in environments that they are comfortable in, be that a back yard, a space in their house, or a private gym. That was the ultimate goal.  Suddenly there I was, talking to Brian about what I wanted to do and how passionate I was about doing it and as I looked around the women’s only gym, I thought to myself “This would be the perfect environment to work in, most of the women I know would be so much more comfortable in a women’s only facility, and it’s very obvious that the club is a positive and welcoming place for women of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels.”

1f3948b8694411e3b28012d40f8b39a1_8Within the next two months, after a few conversations with Brian, I’m excited to announce that this is where the next chapter of my journey is taking me. As of February, I’ll be taking a dual position and joining the Wilmington Ladies Fitness team as a Membership Service Manager and a Weight Management Program Lead where I will be developing a weight management program for women that have 50, 100 pounds or more to lose and working as a Wellness & Weight Management Coach consulting with members on nutrition, exercise programming and lifestyle changes for effective weight loss.

And while I am at it I will be continuing to work on my own fitness goals of making resistance and strength training a big priority in my life and continuing to work on obtaining my personal trainers certification, at which point, I’ll also start working as a personal trainer at Wilmington Ladies Fitness.

I am so excited about taking this job, so thrilled about being a part of their team, and just bursting with enthusiasm at the thought of how many people’s lives I am about to be able to touch through this opportunity.

bariatric-foodie150I started 2013 with so many goals and so many aspirations and I made a lot of them happen, not all, but a lot. I think my dear friend Nikki Massie (Bariatric Foodie) said it best in a Facebook post she made on New Year’s Eve; 2013 was “a healing year that also brought some unexpected new beginnings.” I love the way this woman thinks, if you don’t follow her blog you should, she’s an icon of the Bariatric Community when it comes to all things food oriented.

And now, it’s time for this Wellness & Weight Management Coach to get to packing, I have a two more weeks of half-marathon training for the Tinker Bell half-marathon weekend, a cross-country road trip, a new fitness focus and a new job to get kicked into gear and only a month or so to do it. It’s the second day of 2014 and I’ve got the beginning of a lot of new chapters started. Now it’s time to write the story Slender Seekers, now, it’s time to rise.

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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.

One Person Can Make a Difference Choose To Be That Person

It’s so hard for me to decide what to write about sometimes. Usually I have so many ideas that picking one is difficult, tonight though I have one pressing thought in my mind.

“One Person Can Make a Difference.”

Pam Davis and I at the OAC Convention Costume Party Welcoming Ceremonies Dinner in Dallas, TX October 2012

This was the title of a blog post by Pam Davis, RN, CBN, Chairman of the OAC Board of Directors. It really got me to thinking.  Several months ago I was sitting at a round table with four other women at the OAC Advocacy Training Session where we were taught the basics of advocacy and participated in mock legislative visits. The biggest lesson that I learned that day at was that the power of one person, telling their story, can make a huge difference.

Your voice and your story are the most powerful advocacy tool that you have.

Before attending the OAC Convention in October I had a dream, I wanted to become a personal trainer, go back and work with other pre-op Bariatric surgery patients and help them achieve the same sort of things I did through my weight loss journey. I wanted to help others fight this obesity epidemic.  But my dream was a little bigger than that too, humbled and grateful for the insurance coverage that had covered not just my gastric bypass, but three rounds of extensive reconstructive plastic surgeries, I wanted to make sure that I did something to help make sure that other people received those same sorts of benefits, and I wanted to make sure that I somehow helped those less fortunate than I.

I have said before that the OAC Convention was a life changing experience for me.  Let me tell you a little bit about my life since October.

Since leaving the OAC Convention in October I have worked on making sure that wherever I go, and whatever I do, I am using my voice and my story to try to make a difference.

This Sunday I embark on a whole new adventure. I’ll be flying to OH on March 3rd to spend some time with Heather’s family. While I am there I will be meeting two women for the first time that have been following my blog and my journey for a while now.  I’ll be attempting to hook up with the OAC while I am there, taking a trip into Washington DC and hopefully doing some advocacy work for them. While I am there I have two women that are currently working on losing weight that are committed to running a 5K with me.

Thanks to my time at the OAC Convention, and the people I met there, I’ll be spending the entire month of June in Dallas Texas at the Cooper Institute taking classes to get my Personal Trainers Certification and a few other certifications as well; this was made possible for me by a $600 donation form a blog reader that wanted to help me help others and generously donated the amount I needed to take the CPT Course. More was made possible by the Susan Sterling Scholarship I received from the Cooper Institute for $500 and the rest, well; the universe is looking out for me. I have faith.

Once I get back from the Cooper Institute and have my CPT Certification I am planning on a business Launch in July with a small-scale fundraiser for the WLSFA so that any money we raise goes to helping someone else start this journey.

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Since October I’ve had lots of exciting things happen but there was one, which beyond a shadow of a doubt changed all the cards for me. Since last year I have had a sort of pseudo-friendship on Facebook with Celebrity Fitness Trainer Chris Powell.  I’ve had several exchanges with him and his wife Heidi Powell on Facebook and it is one of my biggest dreams to meet and work out with them.  Recently I posted something on Chris Powell’s Facebook page and some of my friends went in and commented. There were a few comments that just really took my breath away.

“I admire Pandora for all she does to bring us all together and help us be successful. She’s not just in this for herself; she sees the big picture and is doing something about it” – Angie Bulakites

“Pandora is my WLS idol!!! Her amazing determination and willpower inspire me every day to continue on in my personal WLS journey to a healthier and happier life.” – Jessica DikeyBariatric Beginings

“I have only met Pandora once in person and heard her talk and ask the right questions and in that one small time frame of our interaction she has impacted my life tremendously. I can only imagine how my life would be if I saw her more often. Everyone she come in contact with whether it be on Facebook, her blog, or conferences and I can only assume in person as well.” – Michelle Mata

“Not only has this woman transformed herself into a fitness inspiration, she is actively helping others make the same journey. I urge you to give her your support. She is moving small mountains.” – Colin Hatcher

But the one that brought tears to my eyes was Heather’s cousin, a woman I have yet to meet:

“Pandora is truly an amazing woman! she doesn’t just inspire WLS peeps. she has been such an inspiration to me and my husband, to the point that we have joined a gym and have completely changed our way of eating. since January 6th, my husband has lost 32 lbs and i have lost 17 lbs  my husband has diabetes and sleep apnea, among other health issues and I have battled with my weight my whole life, but there is something real about Pandora that has sparked something in us. I think she has just saved our lives. we, and our 4 daughters thank you for inspiring her!!!” – Jennifer Heredia

In her article Pam tells you “All you need to become an advocate is your personal experience and to feel passionate about the issue. The OAC will help you with the rest.” She couldn’t be more right. Just attending the OAC Convention changed so many things for me and propelled me forward in my goals of helping others and now, there are many people; Some that I met at that Convention. Some that have known me for years and some that have never met me at all, that will tell you that I have made a difference in their life. In fact, some of those very people nominated me for a WEGO Health Activist Award and their judges selected me as a finalist among sites that have to do with all sorts of different sort of health issues. It was never my intention to become an “Advocate” it was just my intention to help make what was a lonely and hard fight a little easier for someone else. It was never my intention to be an “Activist” I just really wanted to help others and continue my WLS Journey through doing so. Pam is right, when you start sharing your story, when you start sharing your personal experiences:

  • You will be heard
  • You will be appreciated
  • You will make a difference
  • And you will be an advocate
  • And you’ll feel amazing when you see it happen.

There is nothing more rewarding than to know that I have touched people’s lives in the way that I have. The fact that people feel like I bring them together and help them be successful or that I inspire them in their WLS journey and their quest for a happy healthier life or that some people feel I have helped saved their life is amazing to me. It tells me that I am doing something right. I know that the path I am on started at the OAC Advocacy Training Session and that the OAC has empowered me an helped point me in the right direction. If you are not a member of the Obesity Action Coalition I encourage you to join and stand with this national non-profit organization whose sole focused is helping individuals affected by obesity.

93 Million Americans are affected by Obesity and advocacy comes in many forms. Whether you are writing blogs, going to the hill or signing petitions and sending letters to your elected officials you can make a difference in the lives of these people by getting involved in the OAC Advocacy & Support Programs.

“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person.” – R. Buckminster Fuller

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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