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All of Me Movie Screening – A Post RNY Patient Perspective

All-of-Me-Poster-smallI used to think I put “All of me” out there. I used to believe that my life was an open book and that everyone was allowed to read each and ever chapter through my blog and this website. The other day I had the pleasure of watching the screening of the movie “All of me,” and you want to talk about putting yourself out there, these women left nothing about themselves and their journey unexposed.

The movie is about a group of women who started together as a Big Beautiful Women ( BBW ) Group that participated in Fat Acceptance ( FA ) parties together and then later began embarking on a journey to lose weight together through different Bariatric Surgeries. The movie focuses quite a bit on the change in the relationships not only between these women, but with their significant others as well.

We talk often about how our decision to have Bariatric Surgery changes us. How it changes our friendships and how it changes our relationships. Very rarely do we see it unfold in front of our eyes on the big screen and manifest itself in a way that actually makes these thoughts and feelings portrayed in a way that we can see them happening. This movie did that.

DawnI had the pleasure of meeting Dawn, one of the stars of the film. I wish I could express how much I identified with Dawn in the movie. I often say that at 420 lb., I was invisible in the world. I was huge and yet nobody noticed me. It is very obvious when you meet Dawn, and get to know her through the movie, that she is passionate about helping make sure that people whose voices are not necessarily loud enough are heard.

ZsalynnThe truthfulness in this documentary film amazed me. The open and candid approach to things like past BBW adult oriented modeling that some of the women in this film participated in, quite honestly made me smile. I do however think that the film included a little too much of the actual modeling content than it needed to, and I think some of the points the film maker wanted to make got lost to some of their audience in the shock factor response to this. Mentioning it is one thing and showing a few examples another. But the scene where one of the women was actually plopping down on her partner in bed was one of those moments where the audience made a lot of shocked sounds and I think that particular vision stayed with some of them for so long that they missed some of the more important relationship aspects of the film because of it. Though I think there was a little too much of it included, I still applaud the film maker and the women in the documentary for including it. The Bariatric Community as a whole can be very judgmental and so much like high school that to see this documentary where these women were completely honest about their pasts and their journeys with no regard or care as to whether or not they were judged for it, made me smile and think to myself, “This is a group of women I could be friends with.” But I’ve always been of the opinion that this community is far too judgmental to one another and far too un-accepting of one another and our vast differences.

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Watching the audience responses to the film intrigued me. Watching what characters they liked verses which ones they didn’t was interesting to me from a psychological standpoint. It seemed many in the audience didn’t like one of the characters in the movie that had successfully lost her weight, changed her attitude quite a bit, and seemed to distance herself most from those that were not on the same path that she was. It appeared that many found her cocky, arrogant and didn’t like her. I on the other hand found myself understanding the need to remove yourself from situations that are not necessarily mentally healthy for the path you are on and not aiding in getting you to your lifestyle change goals whether they are weight related or not.

I often feel within the Bariatric community we live in a bubble where EVERYTHING is about weight loss, weight loss surgery, support groups, conventions and our weight loss journeys. The thing is, for those in our lives that are not weight loss surgery patients or are not trying to lose weight, this can be a very annoying issue. I’ve seen in it my own personal relationships. My family wants nothing to do with the WLS community, they don’t want to attend events because they feel this community is all-consuming. I have been told on more than one occasion “I want to have a friendship with you, but we have nothing in common anymore because all you are about is WLS, weight loss, fitness, and exercise.” – One of my closest non-op friends told me just recently “You know your Father wanted you to have a happy healthy life. Not a sheltered one where 100% of your life was about weight loss surgery.”

At 420 lb. I was defined by my weight. It held me back from things I wanted to do. Today at 165 lb. my life revolves around my weight still, and I’m so busy doing things with and for the WLS Community that its pretty hard to get time with me outside of that. I remember not to long ago, I made the decision to come to Dallas to attend the NKOTB concert with my chosen sister, and when it meant me not attending a weight loss, exercise oriented convention I was going to attend I was ridiculed a little for it. But my life can’t always be about weight loss or I’m letting my weight control my life just as much now as I did when I weighed 420 lb.

We all change, people change as they get older, as they gain more life experience, and interestingly enough that seems to be one of the big fears people have when it comes to weight loss. “I don’t want to change who I am on the inside because I changed who I am on the outside.” I always want to ask them, if who they are on the outside is a true representation of who they are on the inside. Because when I started this journey, I wanted to change. I wanted to live a happier, healthier life. As I started making those changes, my relationships changed, a lot of them. My business relationships, my friendships, my intimate relationships, they all changed as I changed and became more confident in myself. The things I wanted out of life changed and it caused me to separate myself from people who were unhealthy for me.

As I watched this film I asked myself, if I had been in this group of women, would have remained friends with this group of women or stayed with the men that the women in this film were in relationships with and my answer, because I am honest, was no, I would not.

Dawn-and-GuyIf prior to my decision to lose weight I had been a part of a Big Beautiful Women group where the theme of the group and the friendships in it were, “I’m a big woman and I believe that I am beautiful and there are plenty of people out there that believe that I am beautiful as well.” I would have distanced myself. I would not have found that sort of mindset helpful to where I was trying to go. I was always the girl who looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. I still have issues with what I see in the mirror sometimes because of the excess skin issues. But I was never ok with being morbidly obese, I was never accepting of it in that regard. When it comes to the men in the movie, to be honest I sort of felt that they were unfairly painted in a negative light. Would I have stayed with a man who wasn’t happy with my decision to lose weight and seek a happier, healthier life? No I wouldn’t have. I would have left someone who didn’t support my decisions. That said, if I had married someone who was specifically a “Fat Admirer” or someone who had a fetish for big girls, and I suddenly decided that wasn’t who I wanted to be anymore, I would leave out of respect and love for them. I would look at it and go “Who am I to expect him to give up what he wants and what makes him happy because I have suddenly changed my mind about what I want and what makes me happy and our wants and needs in the relationship no longer parallel each other.”

I wrote down a couple of quotes from the movie that stood out to me as I was watching it and there was one thing in particular that I took away from this movie that really touched me. One of the women talked about how she felt about herself when she looked at her before and after photos. – I have often discussed that I feel completely disassociated from the woman in my before photos. I think one of the biggest relationship changes that we go through in our weight loss journey is our relationship with ourselves. The thing that stood out the most for me in the movie was one of the women saying that when she looks at her before picture, she is thankful to the woman in it, grateful to her for finding a way to protect her. This was one of those lightbulb moments for me. I always looked at my before picture and thought “What was I thinking, why did I ruin my body like that, why did I let me addiction to food get so out of hand.” Today as I am packing up for the OAC Your Weight Matters 2013 Convention, I pulled out the before picture I usually take with me and as I looked at it for the first time I thought to myself…

“What an amazing woman I am that I found a self-defense mechanism that could get me through the horrible abuse I endured. I learned to have relationships with food because food didn’t hurt me when everyone else around me did” We talk about building proverbial walls around ourselves when we have been hurt and having to take them down brick my brick when it is time to start letting people back in. Fat cells were my bricks and I built a very thick wall around myself to protect me from the physical, sexual, mental and emotional abuse that I went through as child and later, a teenager. The truth is, that wall of fat cells probably saved my life a dozen times over. It protected me during a time that I didn’t have healthy people in my life and when the time came, and I was ready, I started taking those fat cells down just like we talk about taking our walls down brick by brick. I don’t think I will ever look at my before picture the same again. I don’t ever think I will look at the woman in those photos with so much disdain, disgust and dislike. That is probably one of the move valuable things I could have learned and this documentary empowered me with that.

I’d definitely recommend the film to anyone who fights a battle with Obesity. It’s a different perspective than I think we are used to seeing, but I think that is healthy. Seeing things from different perspective sometimes helps us see ourselves more clearly. Putting ourselves in other people’s shoes and asking ourselves what we would do, often times gives us a glimpse into who we are that we might not have seen before.

In closing I think All of Me is a documentary that can open doors and discussions about relationships with others and with ourselves and how they change as we battle obesity. It also made me realize that even though I think I am an open book for everyone to read, I am sure I haven’t quite put “All of me” on there… and that’s probably a good thing. I have to save a few things for the book I’ll write someday, right?

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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.

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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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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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