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A Bucket List Moment – Meeting Chris Powell

There are times when I can’t begin to figure out where to start…

My Father’s remains are in my car after my trip to Los Angels where I helped my Mother move out of the house that my parents had lived in my entire life and said good-bye to the one place, that no matter what memories it held that haunted me, I always knew I had to go back to if I needed it.

It’s been almost two years now since my Father passed away and inevitably my relationship with my Father seems to constantly put me in the right place at the right time. As I left for California a friend on Facebook asked “What do you do for a living Pandora, you are always traveling.” It’s strange the misconceptions people get sometimes, often we think someone is out gallivanting around and having fun when the truth is, life is falling apart all around them.

Things haven’t been easy for me this year, good yes, easy no. It’s been one of the most heart breaking years of my life. In January I pretty much wrote off the rest of my Family when I realized that no matter what ever happens, the drama that happens in that family will never be something that I can pull myself far enough away from without disengaging myself from it completely.

I spent the first couple months of the year recovering from my reconstructive thigh surgery, and what should have been five months full of me studying for my Personal Trainer’s certification turned into a much different adventure when my three-week “vacation” in March turned into something I didn’t expect. – There are some people who have been such an amazing part of my life, my chosen family if you will, and if they ever need anything, and call on me, I am there, no matter what. But the next few months had a lot of those people needing my help and I wasn’t really expecting it.

I wasn’t expecting to rush from Ohio to Dallas to help my friend deal with her Mother dying of cancer in an 11 day period from diagnosis to passing, I wasn’t expecting to take my course at the Cooper Institute without finishing all the reading in the book because I forgot to reschedule and just happened to be there. I wasn’t expecting to rush back to Ohio a couple of weeks later when Heather’s Step Father lost his 15+ year battle against MS and Parkinson’s to be there for her and her Family and I sure wasn’t expecting for my Mother to decide to move in the middle of those eight weeks.

I literally had two days at home, one of which I spent primarily finishing up graphics projects for the WLSFA event in Vegas before I had to unpack, re-pack, pay some bills and grab the puppy before we were headed off to California to pick up my Father’s ashes and help my Godfather Tom, run his annual Maserati Rally before digging our hands into a house project that he needed help with. After losing my Father two years ago, I never say no when someone like my Godfather needs me, no matter how much of my own life I have to adjust to make it happen. He’s 71-years-old and I know I might not have him for that much longer, so he is a high priority in my life.

Going back to the house that I grew up in for the first time after my Father was gone, was hard for me. I had walked out of that house the moment he passed away and never gone back inside. There were a lot of tears and bitter-sweet moments in that for me. Putting his ashes in my car was hard, knowing that I was taking my Father away from the only place he had ever called home in my life was a difficult task for me. Seeing all the memories and pieces of my life that were left behind because my Mother couldn’t take them was an emotionally shattering moment in my life.

To top this all off, I had also just received the news that my insurance won’t cover the final stage of plastic surgery I need to get my body back to where I am going to be happy with it after surgery. This has been a devastating blow to me, not something I am likely to get over anytime soon. My insurance will no doubt be paying for the mental health sessions I am going to need to figure out my way through this before it is all over, but I guess that won’t cost them as much, so they’ll be ok with that.

Exercising in LA was hard for me. Eating was easy and grazing as I stuffed my emotions with food exactly the way I used too, was a bad habit that was kicking back in for me while I was in LA. Sometimes when things get too emotionally heavy, we fall back on old habits… But just as I was starting to fall into the darkness, life threw me the answer I needed. It offered me a chance to meet my hero, Chris Powell and his amazing wife Heidi.

I could have cried when I met Chris and Heidi, it was absolutely amazing. I was so scared that I’d turn into a blubbering fool if I really opened up that I didn’t dare tell either of them what all was going on in my life at that moment, it didn’t matter, what mattered was that yet again, when I needed Chris and Heidi most, life found a way to put me in their path.

I jumped all over the opportunity to attend the ABC Extreme Make-Over Finale for Mehrbod at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood when I saw it posted on Facebook. In fact, I stayed in LA three extra days that I probably shouldn’t have in order to be able to go. This also made it so that I was there for more of my Mother’s move, and able to go through some of the stuff she left behind to make sure that things like old family photos didn’t end up in piles of junk that was taken to the dump or set out in boxes at a garage sale.

A Photo from the Finale that Heidi Powell posted on Facebook. Wait till you get to see Mehrbod now on May 28th, 2013 on ABC Extreme Make-Over Weight Loss Edition

I wasn’t sure if I would actually get the opportunity to meet Chris Powell, but I knew I would get the opportunity to see him live on stage and I knew that would be amazing in and of itself. Seeing my hero in action… what could be better. Okay, meeting him could be better, and it was. When I first walked up to Chris Powell he was talking to someone else and taking photos with them and he looked over at me, stopped for a moment smiled and said “Hey, I know who you are!” Then he went back to taking photos and when he was done and I walked over, he wrapped his arms around me in a big hug and said “It’s great to finally meet you.” By this point I was a little bit star struck, and I honestly can’t remember the entire conversation, but a few pieces of it stand out a bit. Chris Powell told me how proud he was of everything that I had accomplished, how much he appreciated me staying the extra few days in LA to come to the Finale, and how impressed he was with my determination to pay it forward. He told me that his favorite quote is by Gandhi “Be the Change you wish to see in the world.” and he said that he saw me doing that. He told me that I looked amazing, and asked me how it felt, and reminded me that from here on out, I don’t really even have to say anything to people, that they will see how far I have come, what I have accomplished and how good I look, and just start asking me what I have done to get there.

I got the opportunity to take a picture with Chris, and then I had the opportunity to meet his wife Heidi Powell. You want to talk about an amazing human being! I have never met a woman that exuded kindness the way Heidi Powell does. She is just one of those people who when you first meet them, you think, “What a kind-hearted soul and generous nature she has.” Of course I should have known this already, it must take such a special woman to share her husband with the world the way she shares Chris, and it was so touching to me when she and I had the chance to talk about our Father’s passing away. I had no idea until a post on her Facebook page a short time ago that our Father’s had passed away so close to each other, but Heidi and I had a few moments to talk about our Fathers and about how losing someone so monumental in your life can change it so much.  Heidi mentioned how it made her appreciate her time with Chris so much more, and how it made her fear losing him every time he traveled without her and I got a chance to share with Heidi how much Chris coming in and telling me he was proud of me once my Father was gone and could no longer do it had really saved me.

It was very interesting, because during the Finale, Chris talked a lot about “Falling without Failing,” the ability to fall off track without failing and ruining all the hard work you have accomplished so far. I guarantee if you watch the finale for Mehrbod when it airs you will hear a lot about this. I found it so interesting because quite honestly I was at a point that I was falling, for the first time since my weight loss I saw a weight gain of 10 lb. on my scale and instead of my normal panic that would set in and make me start working hard to get back on track, the depression of the bad news about the remainder of my skin removal surgeries had set me in a tail spin where for the first time I found myself thinking “What does it matter, I’m always going to look like this and I’m never going to be who I want to be or do what I want to do because of it.”

Then all of a sudden there was Chris and Heidi Powell. giving me hugs, thanking me for coming to meet them, telling me how great I looked and what a great job I had done. Then the next day, Chris went on Facebook and responded to a post I had made talking about how great it was to meet him and said, “It was wonderful to meet you! Keep up all you are doing. I would love to hear how your training goes.” – Heidi came in right behind him with “It was so fun to meet you in person Pandora! Wasn’t it an amazing transformation?” – Heidi had also thanked me the night before for all the updates I send them, and they both asked me to keep in touch.

I call Chris Powell my hero and it’s not something I say lightly. There are very few people in the world today that I believe live up to my expectations of a hero, Chris Powell is hands down one of them. In the two short years since my Father has died, Chris has single handily pulled me out of two of the darkest moments of my journey, one with a letter and virtual pep talk, and one with a hug and the promise of being interested in what I am doing to help other’s fight obesity.

There are not many celebrities that I look up to, admire, or say “I want to be like that when I grow up,” Chris Powell is one though, and when I say “Grow-Up” I’m talking about my wimpy little Cardio Queen no weight training muscles. But I have plans to fix that between June and October when I am doing more studying at the Cooper Institute, working with some trainers in Dallas to get some experience under my belt and taking on my own weight training program as if I were my own client.

Thank you Chris and Heidi Powell for such an amazing experience, meeting you in person was as awesome, moving and motivational as I expected it to be. You are both so special to me. <3

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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.

IMG_1629

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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