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Self Advocacy; What You Allow in Your Emotional Headspace

Dear Slender Seekers,

I’ve received a few letters from some of the #SlenderSeekers out there that heard that I got up and left the room during the Lisa Lampanelli show at the WLSFA event the other night and wanted to know why, so I wanted to take a moment to explain.

We each have different paths and different journeys, we each arrive at different places at different times. For me personally my path and my personal mission is to help those that are affected by obesity to overcome some of the emotional challenges they face along the way and find a path to wellness through transformation of not just their bodies but their minds as well.

For those of you that know me well, I am an abuse survivor. Verbal and Emotional abuse was prevalent in my world through my childhood and teenage years. I was also affected by obesity at a very young age; I remember being that little “fat kid” that got picked on as early as first grade.

Each and every one of us has to be our own advocate for our own emotional wellness; we are the ones that are the most responsible for who and what we allow to reside in our emotional head space.  As such, when I find myself in a situation where something that is going on negatively impacts my emotions I have a personal responsibility to address the issue.

Likewise, I have a goal, a mission, and a path that I am currently on, and if my involvement with something goes against that path, I have a personal responsibility to decide whether or not I wish to be involved with it. I have stood up in this community and said repeatedly that I will not tolerate fat jokes, fat shaming, weight bias, weight stigma or bullying. I do not feel that there is ever a time, social environment or population in which those things are ever tolerable, justified or acceptable.

My job as a Wellness Coach is to help my clients, who are affected by obesity to recognize obstacles and barriers that are in their way and to find solutions to problematic behaviors that are hindering their endeavors in weight loss in order to help them achieve their goals. I use these same techniques in my own life when trying to achieve my goals and if my goal is to be a positive beacon of light against weight stigma, weight bias and bullying, it’s contrary for me to sit in a room where those affected by obesity are the punchline to the jokes being told.

I used to be that girl who kids walked up to and said “You’re so fat when you go to Kentucky Fried Chicken you order the size on the roof.” I used to be that woman who teenage boys rolled down the window and made animal noises at when I walked down the side-walk. These things were not funny to me then and they are not funny to me today.

I understand humor as a self-defense mechanism as well as the concept of laughing at yourself so that others can’t laugh with you. We all build walls and defend ourselves from the things that we fear and the things that hurt us. I also understand that stand-up comedy has a certain kind of “expected offensiveness” to it.

There are many of my friends, dear friends, who stayed in the room and said that by the end of the show the comedian had turned it around, brought it to a place that was personal and allowed you to understand how much she cared about and wanted to help those that struggle with her weight, and it makes my heart smile that they were able to take that positive message away from it. I’m glad that there was a positive message to be heard if you waited for it.

For me personally, jokes that target people of size are never okay. If someone posted any of those jokes singularly in the social media as a community we would be outraged and I believe that if we create this gray area where sometimes it’s okay and sometimes it’s not, we weaken our stance in the fight against weight stigma and weight bias. If we say “It’s okay in this situation, but not this one or than one, we open it up for debate, but for me there is no debate, it should never be okay.  That is why I had also left the room the night before when the MC made a joke that referenced the size of someone’s belt. For me personally, with where I am in my journey, I cannot sit and laugh while those affected by obesity are used as comedy content.  Obesity just isn’t a laughing matter to me.

I have stood up several times and told you that I believe if you silently sit by and allow an injustice to take place that you have aided that injustice. So to me, if I tolerate even ONE joke that is weight biased I have done a disservice to my mission.

But this is MY mission, my path, my journey, and nobody else has to walk it with me.  I am not upset, angry or against the WLSFA, the people in attendance or anyone involved with the event.  I found myself in a situation that made me emotionally uncomfortable, that made me feel like I was betraying who am what I am by being involved and so I did exactly what I would recommend anyone else do in that position, I removed myself from the situation and went back to doing what I had come there to do; meet and greet and socialize with my friends.

There will be a few people out there who are upset with the fact that I have chosen to write about this, but as someone very special to me reminded me before I left Tampa, I’m not the type of person that lets fear of what others think drive me; I am fearless in my fight against obesity and I will always stand up and fight for those that are affected by it. Desperately Seeking Slender has always been a “I’ll shoot straight and tell you the truth, even when the truth isn’t popular,” sort of venue. And this time, the truth is that I’m not out to be popular. I’m out to win the fight against a disease that robs people of the health, their lives and their mobility and that Slender Seekers, is no joke.

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Contest Winner Celebrates Success through Motivating Others

Guest Blog by “How do YOU Celebrate Success” Contest Winner
Amy Smith

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Well, week one of training is in the books, and there are only 12 weeks left before I’ll run a 10k. When I last wrote, I was still scared about the 10k, but no longer. Week one was amazing! I found out that I can actually run my miles faster by doing intervals of :60 running/:60 walking than just running start to finish. When I set out to run a full mile or more, I hold back, worried that I will run out of energy. But when I’m running for 60 seconds, I push as hard as I can, telling myself, “you can do ANYTHING for 60 seconds.” Runs one and two were on a treadmill to monitor my MPH and heart rate recovery. But I took my 2-mile Saturday run outdoors, and Pandora’s response to my result was, “you’re going to get faster than me!” That felt fantastic.

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The other feel-good moment of the week came via my supporters. I created a Facebook event for Team Slender Seekers and asked my local friends to join my team for a 2k color run to benefit the United Way in my hometown of Dover, Ohio.

I needed four or more people for a team, so I hoped for at least 3 volunteers. But my local Slender Seekers rallied, and I’ve organized a team of 26 people with $530 raised for the United Way. I experienced so many emotions as friends emailed me their fears, saying, “I don’t think I can do this, but I want to.” I promised to finish the race as the last Slender Seeker so I could guarantee each participant that she would not be the last to finish.

My friend started training with her sons and wrote about how much she loves the quality time outdoors with them, and I received an email thanking me for inspiring the sender’s previously inactive relative to begin running. More email poured in that brought me to tears:

“I just want to say thank you for accepting my friend request and allowing me to join your 2k. Your weight loss and journey is such an inspiration. You have given me a spark of hope that has been long lost. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

“Your courage to go public is gonna save lives. I hope that as your team grows, it can become a huge movement!”

“I met a high today. Before when I walked with the kids my calves and back would hurt so bad I’d be in tears. Today I walked 1415 steps without any pain at all. And barely outta breath!”

“Oh Amy I keep looking and looking at this 2K and want to do it so bad, but I’m so scared. PETRIFIED is more like it. I have not been walking or anything all winter and am up to XXX lbs (with tears in my eyes). How do I get over this anxiety of being so scared of doing this 2K? I must sound so silly…”

This last one really hurt my heart, because I could have written it myself one year ago. I replied:

Silly??? Are you kidding me? That’s exactly how I felt when I registered for the Hot Chocolate 5k when i weighed 200+ and hadn’t run one step!

I truly DON’T know if you can walk 1.25 miles. But here’s what I DO know:

You definitely won’t finish it if you don’t try.

You probably will finish it if you do try.

I also know there’s no section of the paper where they print the names of the people who tried and didn’t finish.

And I know it would be a lot of fun to have you there, and that I’d be so proud of you for even trying.

And I know that you have 2.5 months to just move a tiny bit every day to prepare.

I also know that they don’t chase you. They don’t throw things at you or poke you with hot sticks. All that happens is they say “go,” and you start moving with your friends, and you keep moving until you finish or until you feel like you can’t or don’t want to move anymore. There’s no pressure, no rules, it’s just fun, and it’s for a good cause. Nothing scary.

And do you know what happened next? She signed up. And THEN she walked .75 miles, more than HALF of the 2k distance she will need. She’s got it in the bag! I told her to start with .15 miles per day, and she hauls out .75? THAT’S MY ROCKSTAR!

So now tons of people are moving, feeling confident, and getting excited about the journey, and I couldn’t be more…. miserable. Wait. WHAT?

Trust me, I’m THRILLED about the above developments. Inspiring people and making them feel like anything is possible has been a dream come true. But somewhere in the mix, I briefly lost my focus and willpower almost entirely. I invested a ton of time in gathering 2k registrations, planning team t-shirts and tutus, and promoting the event. Then I also tried to cram in every social activity possible before my training began. I totally over-indulged in some food and beverages, stayed up way too late night after night, and I didn’t get (or make) the time I needed in the gym before training began. To say I’ve stretched myself thin is an understatement. So now I’ve actually managed to gain a few pounds and totally screw up my mojo. I’m over here emailing words of encouragement to others while thinking, “I’d better get some wine and fondue into muh belly before things get too serious!” I know. IN-SANE. By the end of last week I was getting headaches and was in a bad mood, and my mom even asked if I was having a nervous breakdown. No good.

new_blog_headshotSo here’s the plan: I hereby declare this to be THE WEEK OF AMY. I’m going off of the grid. No non-emergency social events, email, phone calls, Facebook messages, smoke signals or texts, please. I’ve stressed myself out, and I need a week for just me. I’m 12 hours into a 5.5-day body, mind and spirit detox. My priorities are going to be eating right, exercising enough, sleeping 8 hours, getting my taxes done, and cleaning my house. And if I have a few minutes to spare, I’d love to either finish the book I started a month ago, or watch one of the episodes of Parenthood on my DVR, which has sat untouched for 3 weeks now. I feel like a big dumb jerk saying “don’t call me, don’t talk to me, don’t ask to see me (unless you want to go to the gym with me, which would totally rock).” But it’s what I desperately need in order to get focused, and I hope everyone will understand. I’ll rejoin the world next Saturday at 1:00 when I’m having lunch with an old friend and our moms.

Until then… work hard, Slender Seekers. But most importantly, stay true to yourself, and make YOU your own first priority. Treat yourself to time in your day for working on your goals. You’ll end up being a better friend, co-worker or family member because of it. Right now I’m kind of no good to anyone, so I’m checking out. But I’ll be cheering for you from behind the scenes all week. Make me proud, and I’ll do my best to reciprocate.

As always, a great big, huge, very large, monstrosity of a thank you to my incredible sponsors, Wellese, Kay’s Naturals, Ameriwell Bariatrics, BariMelts, Celebrate Vitamins and Desperately Seeking Slender for making all of this possible. Not only for my trip to the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon, but for the domino effect it’s had on my community. People are running, walking, spending time getting fit as families, and even $530 raised for a fantastic organization. I’m pretty sure I’m the luckiest girl in the world.

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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.

Check out the Second “How do YOU Celebrate Success” Contest

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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