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Lets Box Obesity Together at YMW2013 with the OAC

attendingconventionbadge2It is the beginning of June. ( Or it was when I started writing this blog ) The months ahead of me are full of adventure as I embark on the next part of my weight loss journey. June begins with me heading to Dallas to work on my studies to become a personal trainer, taking some courses at the Cooper Institute and make my final decision on what plastic surgeon I am going to use, ( Which I did already! ) and the reward at the end – a NKOTB Concert with my best friend.

My surgery will be on July 10th giving me time to heal, back in the gym and working out to my full potential by October, when I am now aiming for the soft launch of my Personal Trainer Business. Getting this last skin removal surgery is big for me, it sort of feels like winning the lottery or being on the sports team that just won the World Series or the Superbowl…

“Pandora Williams! You just finished a month of studying for your Personal Trainer Certification Test, You’ve had your last plastic surgery, you’re all recovered and ready to go, what are you going to do now?”

The answer isn’t “I’m going to Disneyland.” Though, I do love me some Disneyland, the answer is “I’m going to the OAC’s Second Annual Your Weight Matters Convention.” Yes, that is how much this event means to me. This event, being there with all my WLS Friends, is going to be my celebration of this part of my journey.

I had the pleasure of attending the Inaugural Your Weight Maters Convention that the OAC put on in Dallas in October of 2012 and the experience that I took away from that was life changing for me. I took more away from that event than I have from any other event or function I have ever attended.

  • I met the women that I know refer to as my WLS Mammas Laura Van Tuyl, Sandi Henderson and Yvonne McCarthy.
  • I met a woman who I know, I am somehow spiritually bonded with my sister from another ma’am and mister – Joy Muller.
  • I met the women that have become part of my support system and made friendships that I know will hold against the test of time.
  • I met the women (and a couple of men) of this community, who motivate and inspire me to continue my journey through helping others with theirs.
  • I met Bobby Whisnand who is like a guardian angel and my Mentor in the intimidating journey I am taking to become a personal trainer.
  • I met the people who encouraged me to select the Cooper Institute as the school from whom I wanted to get my education.
  • I met the people who wrote my letters of recommendation and made the Scholarship I got to attend the Cooper Institute a possibility. ( Thank you Joy Muller and Pam Davis )

Convention-Details-Main-Photo1I met an amazing woman who taught me to appreciate the value of the transactions in my emotional accounts, to be myself, to fight the automatic negative thoughts that creep into my head and helped me understand that I’m not alone in my struggle with body image issues. (Thank you Merril Littleberry)

I got the opportunity to meet the amazing Bloggers that helped get me from Pre-Op to Post Op Success with their honesty, recipes and positive reinforcement. Eggface, Waning Woeman and Bariatric Girl. – ( That sounds like a Super Hero team and truthfully, it is. )

I had the opportunity to sit next to a Doctor Robert Kushner who specializes in Obesity during the Lunch with the Experts “Is your Ideal Weight Ideal for you?” table talk and have him help me understand that I didn’t NEED a normal BMI to be happy and healthy or to be worthy of moving forward with my dream of being a personal trainer.

Attending this event opened more doors for me than have ever been opened before.

I could go on and on – but these are the ones that stand out in the forefront of my mind. So when you ask me, what I want to do to celebrate at the end of this new journey, that is my answer “I’m going to the OAC’s Second Annual Your Weight Matters Convention.” and guess what? I can’t wait. Last year’s YWM2012 Event was amazing and I expect GREAT THINGS this year!

This years topics are so amazing that I’m having a hard time deciding which ones I want to go to.

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The Lunch with the Experts that provided my “Wow Moment” last year, has so many amazing topics this year that I could hardly select which ones to do.

I am incredibly excited to attend some of the fitness classes ( Even if that means standing on the sidelines and cheer others on because my surgeon hasn’t released me to exercise again yet! )

I’m elated by the opportunity to hang out with my friends, enjoy their company and even more so by the opportunity to meet new people, make new friends, and open my arms to hug and welcome those that might feel new and out-of-place the way others did for me last year.

But most of all I am honored to be a part of this event. I am honored to be a Post-Op Speaker on the panel led by a Pioneer in Reconstructive Surgery after massive weight loss, Dr. Al Aly, to be chosen to sit in the company of such esteemed professionals and bring you the Patient Perspective on this topic is flattering and rewarding in and of itself.

It is rare for me, to stand up and ask anything of my blog readers, followers and friends other than emotional support in the form of a “Like” on Facebook or a “Retweet” on Twitter; I feel like it is my job to give to you, it’s my mission to pay it forward and to help anyone that I can, to try to empower and try motivate and inspire others in their weight loss journey. But this my friends is one of those rare times when I am going to ask you for something.

IMG_5258Please, if you have even considered attending a Weight Loss oriented event, make it this convention. No matter where you are in your weight loss journey and no matter where you are in the social climate of our community, I invite you to “Rise to the Challenge” and take advantage of this opportunity to come together for evidence-based education, and gain some of the helpful tools with weight an empowerment that I was able to gain from attending last year and attend the YWM2013 Convention.

Attending this event last year was life changing for me. ( And others just check out Last year’s Testimonials ) It empowered me in so many ways, not only did it lend to me finding some of the most important people in my support system, but it taught me that I didn’t have anything to prove and that I didn’t need to reach the “normal BMI” I was chasing to pursue the career I wanted as a Trainer. That my story, and my journey from a BMI of 69.9 to a BMI of 26.6 is enough to make me successful and to inspire the clients I want to work with. It empowered me in my desire to advocate for others…

That said … I have a message for you .. if you want to fight weight bias, if you want to fight fat shaming, if you want to fight weight prejudice, if you want to fight bullying, if you want to fight obesity, then set EVERYTHING else aside and join me at YWM2013 and let’s crane kick obesity together!

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The OAC is currently running a contest where one Blogger will win an all expense paid trip to the event and if I win, I will be using it as an opportunity to make sure that the woman that welcomed me with open arms and made sure that I felt included and has been there to support me through some very emotionally trying times in the last eight months (Waning Woman) is also able to attend this event. So if you are already registered and you did so with some inspiration or motivation that came from yours truly, please let the OAC know by sending an email to convention@obesityaction.org and telling them that Pandora at DeperatelySeekingSlender.com sent you and if you register now, be sure to put my name down on the referral and give me a chance to pay it forward to someone deserving. Join me at that OAC YWM2013 Convention and lets fight obesity together in an empowering environment that will be filled of positivity, inclusively and fun!

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Does the WLS Community Feel Like High School?

Alright Ladies and Gentlemen, It’s taken me awhile to decide how I wanted to approach this topic…

Let me share a story with you…

A Picture of Me at 15

A Picture of Me at 15

It was my Sophomore year of High School and in general, I wasn’t a very happy teenager. I had a very hard time making friends, I rarely fit in, and any boys that showed any sign of liking me wanted to keep it a secret, because nobody wants all their friends to know that they are hooking up with the fat girl.

This year in particular I had a girl friend named Sharon who was pretty much the only person that hung around me on any regular basis. I wore dark colored clothes, a lot of eyeliner and I painted my nails black. I was “Gothic” before it was in style and before the sort of clothes that everyone buys at Hot Topic and Torrid became mainstream.

And being so visibly different, and being smart, and being fat, in the nonsensical world of high school earned me a lot of teasing, bullying and… rumors. Rumors were one of the things I most detested in high school because combating a rumor once it got started seemed like an impossibility. Rumors were one of those things that immature young women used as a tool to lash out when they we’re upset…

I was walking through the Quad, an area I avoided largely because it was populated by the types of kids that intimidated the hell out of me. But I had a crush on one of the most popular boys in school. He was kind to me, I must say, I don’t have that story of some boy who traumatized me, my unrealistic high school boy crush was gentle with my feelings. As I walked through the collection of popular kids that hardly knew my name one girls voice called out over the crowd.

“Oh look, it’s little miss slit your wrists.”

( Laughing and pointing )

“Wait she’s not l little. I mean here comes big fat miss suicide prevention line.”

“Well if you ate so much that you were that fat before 40 you’d want to kill yourself too.”

“Oh I think it’s more, “You took my fried chicken away I want to die sort of thing.”

( Laughing and point )

“Yeah when she walks into KFC she orders the size on the roof!”

( Roaring Laughter )

I always hated fried chicken but they assumed because I was fat that I ate it. I did want to kill myself, but it had nothing to do with my size or shape it had to do with my life and with my personal emotional struggles. It had to do with my dysfunctional family, and it had to do with the fact that I had absolutely no self-esteem because I was the boys dirty little secret and the girls punching bag. It had to do with the fact that everybody looked at me, judged me, made up stories about me, gossiped about me, started rumors about me and teased me. It had everything to do with how judged I felt, how excluded and unaccepted I felt, and how lonely I was, because I didn’t fit into any of the little cliques. I wanted friends so bad, I wanted girls to like me and accept me, and I was jealous of everyone else and all the friends they had.

And you know what… I’d make a friend, and then all their friends would suddenly pay attention to me and hang out with me and accept me, but then we’d have a falling out over something stupid and suddenly that whole clique hated me. None of them were my friends anymore, they were afraid to hang out with me or talk to me and suddenly I was that groups new target of ridicule. It was a vicious cycle. I hated high school, there isn’t one part of me that would ever want to go back and do that part of life over again unless the story was written entirely differently.

So let me tell you why I have brought this up. Because while we are one of the most vocal group of people when it comes to anti bullying, anti teasing… you see an awful lot of it in this cliquish WLS Community, and nobody is really talking about it out loud because they are scared of becoming the target of anyone’s ridicule.

IMG_2943I am a very big believer in personal accountability. It has been my saving grace through my weight loss journey, the fact that I hold myself accountable for actions that are essential to my weight loss, whether its tracking calories and water intake or writing a blog about a mistake I made in my journey hoping someone else might glean some insight from it for theirs, I believe that personal accountability has been a key factor in my success.

In the last few months I have had so many people write me and talk to me about how decisions they are making in their lives are effected by how they feel people within this community will judge them….

  • There were the women that are afraid to post what they are eating for fear they will be judged and lectured and publicly humiliated over it.
  • There were the women that were scared to their own experience or input on topics they felt passionate about because it might differ from that of someone else and they would get chastised for it.
  • There were the women that were afraid of talking about the parts of their journeys that they are struggling with because they don’t want to give too many personal details and give the WLS world more ammunition against them.
  • There were the women that didn’t know who to hang out with at an event and felt like if they were around one clique they weren’t accepted by others.
  • There were even women I know, making business decisions, based on some of these very issues.

And because I am honest, I’ll say it, I experienced many of these fears myself first hand several times since I emerged in the WLS community back in October.

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My idea of healthy cliquish behavior! Obesity Fighters banding together for a Walk From Obesity in Dallas Texas 2012

I believe, this is one of the few negative factors in the WLS community and it’s a behavior that I personally cannot participate in. To me, doing so makes me no better than the kids in high school doing it to me and it makes me a hypocrite. I can’t stand in front of the world and say “I will help you in the fight against Obesity, stop the bullying and put an end to the bias against weight loss surgery.” if my actions mimic the behavior of immature teenagers that were so emotionally scaring to me.

So me, I root for the underdog, I hang out with the unpopular kids, I flirt with guys that I think might need a little confidence booster, and I try to listen for what a person needs support on and give it to them. My behavior, the way I conduct myself among my friends and peers is one of the examples my 17-year-old step daughter has, and I try to make sure that the behaviors I model for her are healthy and conducive to the way I want her to treat people.

Sometimes I think if we all just remembered a few of the sayings that I’ve heard over the years we’d have a stronger more untied WLS Community…

      • If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
      • Do not combat positivity with negativity unless you want a negative reaction.
      • Don’t assume… you make an ass out of “u” and me.
      • Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.
      • If everyone was the same, the world would be a boring place.
      • Do unto others as you would have done unto you.

If we remembered these things on a regular basis and reminded ourselves that we all share a common goal that bonds us together, our passion for the fight against obesity our community might not feel so much like a High School.

You can say that I am crazy, that this isn’t going on, and that nobody in this community feels this way. But, instead I encourage you to apply the teachings of Merrill Littleberry, a wonderful speaker several of us got to hear speak at the 2012 Inaugural Your Weight Matters Convention put on by the Obesity Action Coalition. ( OAC ) and ask yourself if your actions towards others will help them, hinder them, heal them or hurt them and if you can’t say in honesty that your actions will help or heal others, press pause and reconsider. Because honestly my friends, none of the women in this community deserve to feel ridiculed, judged, teased or chastised for choices in their WLS journey, choices in who they hang out with, or because they say or post something you don’t necessarily agree with.

Out for a walk with HJ’s family encouraging movement and Fitness Fun! THIS is what I’m all about!

Personally, I’ve never participated things like internet flame wars, I try to avoid heated conversations on the internet because I think people forget to use their social filters sometimes when they are communicating online rather than face to face. I don’t get involved in fights between others and when people, I don’t take sides, and I don’t choose whether or not I am friends with someone based on anyone else’s opinion of them. I don’t label myself or include myself in any specific group, that’s just not what I am about.

I am about fitness, exercise, inspiration, motivation and helping others in their weight loss journey. HELPING … and I will always shy away from behaviors that I feel are counter productive to that. And if there is something I don’t agree with, if there is someone I don’t like, or if someone posts something that irritates me or annoys me, I hit that little button that makes it go away on my computer. The one that looks like an X — because my personal accountability tells me that if I allow something to let me react in a way that is negative or unhelpful to others that I have hindered my own goals.

I received an email the other day from a woman who noticed that I was in a group she didn’t approve of. Apparently she had some falling out with the owner of the group and she wanted to know if I was a friend of the group owner. This was my response to her email.

Dear Madame,

Thank you for taking the time to write me. It is always nice to hear from fellow WLS folks. In regards to the group that you mentioned my being a part of, I’m not sure what you consider an active member. I suppose I am an active member of every group I am in since I am an active member of the WLS Community. I believe in positivity and inclusion rather than exclusion. My participation with any person or group within the WLS Community is just that, participation in the WLS Community. I am a friend of the fight against obesity, any opportunity or venue I am offered as a means to aid that fight I will gladly accept.

I am a member of many support groups, many WLS forums, I follow many WLS Bloggers, I friend anyone that asks, I’ll try to help anyone that asks.

I am saddened to hear that your opinion of me might somehow be altered by the fact that my named is next to a group  you don’t enjoy participating in. I would ask you to consider whether or not whatever behaviors lead to your dislike of this group have been exhibited by me personally.

I’d also ask you to remember, that my personal goals are likely different from yours. This part of my journey isn’t necessarily about making friends and having people like me, it’s about starting my career as a personal trainer, helping people who are struggling with the fitness aspect of the journey and my distancing myself from large groups of people based on the personal likes and dislikes and friendships of others only hinders my ability to reach those people and limits the venues that they have to reach out to me.

I apologize if any decisions I have made have changed your personal views of me or caused you to no longer wish to read my blog, and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me. I’m very glad to hear about how successful you have been with your weight loss. That’s really the most important thing. You have my best wishes for a happy and healthy life and if there is anything I can ever do to aid you in your journey or if you ever want to team up together in the fight against Obesity, please don’t hesitate to let me know!

Sincerely,

Pandora Williams

http://desperatelyseekingslender.com

In closing I’d ask you all to do two things the next time you are about to participate in the WLS Community, ask yourself if your contribution is helpful and constructive to the community and the people involved in or if your behavior exhibits that of the immature teenagers we were in high school. If you find that the truth lies in the latter, practice a little personal accountability.  After all, this community and our fight against obesity is far more important than whether or not you think someone else is nice or you like what they put on their plate at lunch or whether you agree with their methods. We’re all going to approach this journey differently, if you cannot allow others the space and uniqueness to do it their way, maybe you should ask yourself why you are participating in the community being with?

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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