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Weight Stigma

The Obesity Rebel Challenge

If you follow me on social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter you probably already know about the Obesity Rebel Challenge.

If you don’t follow me on social media, you should, follow the link I just gave you and take care of that.

But I want to take a moment out of the Sex Love and Obesity blog series to talk to you about the Obesity Rebel Challenge, why it is important to me and why I am personally asking you to step up and take some steps in the fight against obesity.

 

The Obesity Rebel Challenge is a fitness fits everyone event.

Anyone CAN do this challenge. There is no distance requirement, no time requirement and no pressure as to when, where or how you decide to get your Obesity Rebel steps in. All it takes to complete this challenge is you, your own two feet and the will to finish.

The only rule in the challenge is that you have to complete the distance and submit your distance by September 30th, 2018.

Because there are no distance or time requirements you can complete the challenge in any fashion you wish. You have the choice of signing up for a 5k, 10k, half marathon or 36k challenge distance.

For those that don’t know a 5k is 3.1 miles, a 10k is 6.2 miles, a half marathon is 13.1 miles, and a 36k is 22.4 miles.

There is a training plan for a 5k, a 10k and a Half Marathon included with your registration for the Obesity Rebel Challenge. Let’s say that you decide that you want to complete your first 5k or 10k as part of the Obesity Rebel Challenge. That’s awesome! What a neat thing to knock off your bucket list.

The training guides included with your registration are geared to help you meet that goal. Each one is designed for a beginning walker/runner to slowly progress you from not walking or running much at all to achieving the total distance you’ve selected by September 22, 2018. The 5k Training Plan begins on August 5th and the 10k training plan begins on July 15th.

If you decided that you wanted to take on a half marathon distance and build up to completing 13.1 miles in one day, the Half Marathon Training Plan is designed to get you there. The Half Marathon Training Plan begins on June 24th.

The Obesity Rebel Challenge allows for combined distance totals.

ObesityRebel ChallengeIf you’re not an avid walker or runner, if you have a medical issue that prevents you from doing a total distance of 3.1 or more miles all at once, the Obesity Rebel Challenge is still a very doable event for you.

I have a client that has lymphedema and just recently had knee replacement surgery. To get her 3.1 miles in she is doing 10 minutes a day on a treadmill 2-3 day a week between now and September, tracking her total distance each day and building up to a 3.1-mile distance.

I have another client who has two bad knees and is bone on bone in both knees. She has a trip to Ireland coming up. She’ll be using her total distance walked each day that she is in Ireland touring the country to accumulate her miles and is hoping to achieve a half marathon total distance of 13.1 miles.

I have another client that has decided that she and her daughter are going to do her first half marathon together. She is going to be following the Half Marathon training guide to get her distance in. That training guide will be building up her distance and she’ll be using some of her training runs to get her 5k and 10k distances in and submitting those. By the time she is done, she will have accumulated the 22.4 miles for the 36k challenge total and then some.

No matter where you are in your weight loss or fitness journey, you can accomplish and complete the Obesity Rebel Challenge.

Let’s talk about WHY participating in the Obesity Rebel Challenge is important.

A “Rebel” is a person that rises against opposition. We live in a world that marginalizes people who are affected by obesity. Those that are affected by this disease are taught that they are less than worthy. They face bias and stigma in the health care they receive, in how they are treated by medical professionals, in what kinds of treatments their insurance companies will provide.

Obesity is still commonly accepted as the punchline of the joke. People affected by obesity are often ignored or even ridiculed by clothing manufacturing companies.

They are mistreated and judged in industry standards when it comes to fitness and fashion.

They are stereotyped when it comes to mental health, and emotional stability.

Because of all of this, those that are affected by obesity or have been affected by obesity often worry about what others are thinking about them in almost any environment.

Will this doctor figure out what is wrong with me or will he blame everything on my weight? Will this nail salon charge me more to sit in their pedicure chairs? Will people stare at me in this fitness facility? Will the person on this dating site look at my photo and decide not to talk to me? Will someone yell out horrible things or make animal noises at me if I walk down the street to get some exercise in?

NONE of these things SHOULD happen. NONE of these things should be things we have to be afraid of or fear. But right now, THAT is the sad truth of the world we live in. The only way we will ever change that is by fighting back. That’s what an Obesity Rebel does. They fight back. They fight obesity and they tell the world, this sort of treatment, this sort of stigmatization, this sort of bias, this sort of judgement is NOT OKAY.

The world isn’t going to change without people teaching and educating it on how it needs to change. We are stronger together. We must rise to the opposition. We must be the Rebels leading the charge. That, in my mind is why your participation in the Obesity Rebel Challenge is so important.

If you’ve ever sat there wondering what you CAN do to help make a difference and change how the world sees and treats those effected by Obesity, I have a question for you…

Why WOULDN’T you participate in this simple fitness event?

By being an Obesity Rebel you can do exactly that. You can be an individual standing up in opposition to how the world treats and sees obesity. All you have to do is click the link register and put some steps in.

Obesity Rebel Challenge

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and Cooper Institute Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies. Her training and coaching services are offered exclusively through GoGirl Fitness Studio.

The Teeter-Totter of Weight Bias

DssButton2FB2-150x150As a Weight Loss and Wellness Coach, I often use the illustration of a teeter-totter when sitting down with a new client to go over the theory of “calories in, calories out” and to explain the importance of putting good fuel in our bodies to support vigorous activity.

As I lay in bed restless tonight, I am thinking about an article I read about people who sit on both sides of the spectrum of weight bias. That is, those who know what it’s like to be overweight and struggle with obesity but are not anymore and now live as people of so-called normal size.

In thinking about this strange predicament, that image of a teeter-totter resurfaced.

 

Being the Chubby Kid

As a victim of emotional, physical, verbal and sexual abuse in my childhood, my mind is my playground. My imagination was my escape mechanism from the time I was very small child. As I grew older, food became my friend, confidant and lover. Before I even realized it, my escape into food had pushed me into the furthest reaches of the weight spectrum.

From as young as five years old, I recall being the chubby kid that nobody wanted to pick for dodge-ball and the target of weight biased jokes. “Fatty Fatty two by four she can’t fit through the kitchen door” is one of the first childhood rhymes I remember the “mean kids” chanting at me.

I remained the largest child in my class long into high school. That fact affected my relationships with both girls and boys alike. I was an unpopular outcast who got teased and ridiculed. In the sixth grade, I became the target of a school bully – shocking, considering that the bully was a boy very much in the same predicament as me.

He was heaviest boy in our class, endless teased himself, and in reaction he started punching me as his way of lashing out. One day, after he shoved me out of the lunch line and into a wall, I asked him one day with tear-filled eyes, “Why do you pick on me?” His answer was to punch me in the stomach. Confused and bewildered, that night I asked my father “Why do they hate me so much?”

His reply: “Because you’re different and unique and sometimes that scares people or makes them jealous and people do some really mean things when they are scared or jealous. They make fun of the thing that makes you different because it’s the only thing they have to justify their feelings.”

 

A Traumatic Adolescence

As I got older, this life lesson followed me as I grew in age and, unfortunately, also in size. As the bullying continued, I continued to question why people seemed to hate me so much. I also developed coping mechanisms to deal with it with what I felt was an inevitable fact. I was overweight, actually now I was plagued with obeisty.

So I became sexually active. I dressed in all black. The other kids called me “goth” and considered me uncool for it. I began to cut myself and the other kids accused me of doing it simply for attention. I cried myself to sleep at night, wondering why nobody understood me. I wasn’t doing any of these things for attention, but to try to feel better.

Sleeping with boys made me think someone loved and cared for me. Dressing in black, I thought, was figure flattering. I cut myself because when I got to a point where I was emotionally numb, the pain reminded me that I was still alive. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to win. The more I tried to survive, the more the bullies tried to push me underwater.

I did have a few brave moments when I stuck up for myself. One time a girl in my class took a note I had written to a boy we both liked and she photocopied it, passing it around for lots of other kids to see. I confronted her, asking why she hated me so much. Her answer was sharp and simple: “Because you are fat and ugly.” With nothing to lose I challenged her, demanding to know, “Why do you care that I’m fat?” She had no response.

I was fifteen at the time and I had spent nearly a decade – most of my life at that time – being  of the victim of weight bias, bullying and fat shaming.

 

Coming of Age

When I finally decided to take my life back from obesity, I was shocked that my true battle was to stop seeing myself as a victim and learning to see myself as a survivor. From there I learned to live, to thrive and strive. I’m proud to say I lost my weight, I have won that round in my fight against obesity. In this victory I told myself, “I will never again be defined or disliked by the number that shows up on the scale or the way my body looks.”

But oh how wrong I was. Because I hadn’t learned yet that in the world of weight bias, there was a teeter-totter – and a whole different end of the spectrum.

I’m new to the world of being slender. It’s ironic how hard I fought to get here – thinking if I did I’d win my battle – only to find new battles to fight and new demons to face! Body image issues took their toll on me, and I found myself associating the extra skin that hung from my body with my former abusers and the emotional addiction that perpetuated my obesity for so long.

To help free myself of the remnants of that past, I turned to reconstructive plastic surgery. I fought with body dysmorphia – that is, not being able to see the true image of myself in the mirror. I also felt haunted by “ghosts of the past,” the people whose behavior drove me to inflict so much harm on myself.

I beat myself up emotionally when the number on the scale, along with the Body Mass Index, told me that despite the fact that I’d lost more than 250 lbs, I was still “overweight.” I allowed that emotional self-abuse to hinder where I wanted to go in life and who I wanted to be. I put off my career in the weight loss, wellness and fitness industry because I thought I needed to be perfect before I could help others fight obesity.

Thankfully around this time of my life I found an organization called the Obesity Action Coalition, an organization that fights weight bias through education and empowerment. I got the amazing opportunity to attending their inaugural “Your Weight Matters Convention” in 2012. There I was able to sit at a “Lunch with the Experts” table with Dr. Robert Kushner, M.D. who helped me realize that neither the BMI nor an extra 5-10 pounds of weight loss was going to change how effective I could be or how inspirational my story would be to those that employed me seeking help in their weight loss journey.

Over the past three years, my membership to the OAC has taught me more than I can ever write in one article. It has also given me the courage to stand up against weight bias, weight stigma and weight discrimination whenever I see them.

You’ll understand the irony, then, when I tell you that it was at the third “Your Weight Matters” Convention this month in Orlando, Fl. that I discovered for the first time that I would battle weight bias no matter where I fall in the weight spectrum.

 

A New Day, A New Battle

Without going into the details (and perpetuating a lot of drama), I found out that someone had made a very harsh and superficial judgment about me based on this new body I’m working so hard to love.

I have to say I was shocked when I first found that out. Part of me thought it was a joke. But over the past three years of being in the weight loss community there seems to be a recurring cycle of drama and bullying. I’ve seen individuals targeted and shut out. I’ve seen others discouraged from associating with those so-called outcasts and I’ve heard from people who felt pressured to alter themselves and their friend lists just to fit in – or at least to prevent themselves from being the next victim. I’ve heard stories and recounts of this sort of behavior that predate my own presence with this community.

It puzzled me at first, how a group of people who have fought such similar battles – and have had such similar experiences with bullying, weight bias and stereotyping – could behave that way. You would think our common experiences would bond us together in a united front, make us join arms and rally for the same cause and empower us to support one another. After all, we’re all fighting the same fight against a disease that impacts more than 93 million people in our country.

But there I was facing a situation I had been through so many times. The fact that I was on the other side of the spectrum didn’t make it any less hurtful. I found myself once again asking that question, “Why do they hate me so much?” Apparently, now it’s because I’m skinny and my breasts are too big.

The shock I felt at that moment is about the same as the shock I felt when plastic surgeon told me that there wasn’t enough fat left on my body to perform the procedure I was asking him to do. My jaw hit the floor.

Never in my whole life did I think people would dislike me for being “too thin.” I won’t even touch the ridiculousness of the comments about my breasts.  After taking a moment to recover from that information, I asked, “Don’t you find it a little hypocritical that we’re sitting here at a convention that fights weight bias and weight stigma and that we protest judging and shaming people for the size of their body, the number on scale and their outward appearance and yet, that is exactly what I am apparently being judged for?”

 

Balancing Your Core

The answer to that question made me angry. Yes, it is ironic. It’s stupid really. And it needs to stop. I’ve sat on this experience for a few weeks now. I’ve dissected it to figure out what lesson it was supposed to teach me. Now, as I lay in bed tonight with that image that teeter-totter in my head, I’ve finally sorted out what I want to say.

While I was in Orlando, I met with a remarkable woman named Melinda Watman, the chair of the Weight Bias committee of the Obesity Action Coalition. I explained to her why I’m so passionate about fighting weight bias, why I wanted to be a part of OAC’s Weight Bias Committee and why the OAC’s Bias Busters programs calls to me.

Every year that I attend the OAC’s convention something absolutely life changing happens to me and I learn something I would never have had the chance to learn otherwise. This year, I learned that there is two very different sides to weight bias and that each of them are equally stigmatizing. I also learned that stigma, in general, is a lot less traumatizing when you have a solid foundation and a strong perception of your core strengths and beliefs.

Because when I was told that some people didn’t like me because they thought I was too thin or they thought my breasts were too big, I didn’t react the way I did so many years ago. I didn’t crawl into the solitude of my room and weep. Instead, I stood firm in my convictions and called it for what it was: weight bias.

The truth is, neither the size of my body nor the size of my breasts define who I am. When I am gone and the winds have called my name for the last time, neither of them are what the world is going to remember me for. In fact, I rather hope that the only numbers in my eulogy are the years I existed in the world. Instead, I hope to be remembered for the person that I am and the way I lived my life.

As an exercise instructor, my class and I stand in front of the mirror constantly moving our bodies in an effort to improve them. There are days I like what I see, and there are some days I don’t. But at the end of each day, the only person that has to like my reflection is me.

So if you ask me what I took away from the OAC “Your Weight Matters” 2014 Convention this year, my answer is very simple, I took away not only the education, but also the realization that if I want to truly stand up against weight bias, weight stigma and bullying I have to be prepared to do it from all sides and angles.

In the gym my clients often quote my tips on maintaining good posture while exercising and to build their core strength: “Shoulders back, girls out, core engaged.” Finally tonight, I understand why that teeter-totter was so prevalent in my mind. Because no matter what side of the battle of obesity you are on, if you can stand in the middle of that proverbial teeter-totter and engage your core, retain you balance and posture, you’ll be much stronger in your stance and your fight.

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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.
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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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