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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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One Person Can Make a Difference Choose To Be That Person

It’s so hard for me to decide what to write about sometimes. Usually I have so many ideas that picking one is difficult, tonight though I have one pressing thought in my mind.

“One Person Can Make a Difference.”

Pam Davis and I at the OAC Convention Costume Party Welcoming Ceremonies Dinner in Dallas, TX October 2012

This was the title of a blog post by Pam Davis, RN, CBN, Chairman of the OAC Board of Directors. It really got me to thinking.  Several months ago I was sitting at a round table with four other women at the OAC Advocacy Training Session where we were taught the basics of advocacy and participated in mock legislative visits. The biggest lesson that I learned that day at was that the power of one person, telling their story, can make a huge difference.

Your voice and your story are the most powerful advocacy tool that you have.

Before attending the OAC Convention in October I had a dream, I wanted to become a personal trainer, go back and work with other pre-op Bariatric surgery patients and help them achieve the same sort of things I did through my weight loss journey. I wanted to help others fight this obesity epidemic.  But my dream was a little bigger than that too, humbled and grateful for the insurance coverage that had covered not just my gastric bypass, but three rounds of extensive reconstructive plastic surgeries, I wanted to make sure that I did something to help make sure that other people received those same sorts of benefits, and I wanted to make sure that I somehow helped those less fortunate than I.

I have said before that the OAC Convention was a life changing experience for me.  Let me tell you a little bit about my life since October.

Since leaving the OAC Convention in October I have worked on making sure that wherever I go, and whatever I do, I am using my voice and my story to try to make a difference.

This Sunday I embark on a whole new adventure. I’ll be flying to OH on March 3rd to spend some time with Heather’s family. While I am there I will be meeting two women for the first time that have been following my blog and my journey for a while now.  I’ll be attempting to hook up with the OAC while I am there, taking a trip into Washington DC and hopefully doing some advocacy work for them. While I am there I have two women that are currently working on losing weight that are committed to running a 5K with me.

Thanks to my time at the OAC Convention, and the people I met there, I’ll be spending the entire month of June in Dallas Texas at the Cooper Institute taking classes to get my Personal Trainers Certification and a few other certifications as well; this was made possible for me by a $600 donation form a blog reader that wanted to help me help others and generously donated the amount I needed to take the CPT Course. More was made possible by the Susan Sterling Scholarship I received from the Cooper Institute for $500 and the rest, well; the universe is looking out for me. I have faith.

Once I get back from the Cooper Institute and have my CPT Certification I am planning on a business Launch in July with a small-scale fundraiser for the WLSFA so that any money we raise goes to helping someone else start this journey.

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Since October I’ve had lots of exciting things happen but there was one, which beyond a shadow of a doubt changed all the cards for me. Since last year I have had a sort of pseudo-friendship on Facebook with Celebrity Fitness Trainer Chris Powell.  I’ve had several exchanges with him and his wife Heidi Powell on Facebook and it is one of my biggest dreams to meet and work out with them.  Recently I posted something on Chris Powell’s Facebook page and some of my friends went in and commented. There were a few comments that just really took my breath away.

“I admire Pandora for all she does to bring us all together and help us be successful. She’s not just in this for herself; she sees the big picture and is doing something about it” – Angie Bulakites

“Pandora is my WLS idol!!! Her amazing determination and willpower inspire me every day to continue on in my personal WLS journey to a healthier and happier life.” – Jessica DikeyBariatric Beginings

“I have only met Pandora once in person and heard her talk and ask the right questions and in that one small time frame of our interaction she has impacted my life tremendously. I can only imagine how my life would be if I saw her more often. Everyone she come in contact with whether it be on Facebook, her blog, or conferences and I can only assume in person as well.” – Michelle Mata

“Not only has this woman transformed herself into a fitness inspiration, she is actively helping others make the same journey. I urge you to give her your support. She is moving small mountains.” – Colin Hatcher

But the one that brought tears to my eyes was Heather’s cousin, a woman I have yet to meet:

“Pandora is truly an amazing woman! she doesn’t just inspire WLS peeps. she has been such an inspiration to me and my husband, to the point that we have joined a gym and have completely changed our way of eating. since January 6th, my husband has lost 32 lbs and i have lost 17 lbs  my husband has diabetes and sleep apnea, among other health issues and I have battled with my weight my whole life, but there is something real about Pandora that has sparked something in us. I think she has just saved our lives. we, and our 4 daughters thank you for inspiring her!!!” – Jennifer Heredia

In her article Pam tells you “All you need to become an advocate is your personal experience and to feel passionate about the issue. The OAC will help you with the rest.” She couldn’t be more right. Just attending the OAC Convention changed so many things for me and propelled me forward in my goals of helping others and now, there are many people; Some that I met at that Convention. Some that have known me for years and some that have never met me at all, that will tell you that I have made a difference in their life. In fact, some of those very people nominated me for a WEGO Health Activist Award and their judges selected me as a finalist among sites that have to do with all sorts of different sort of health issues. It was never my intention to become an “Advocate” it was just my intention to help make what was a lonely and hard fight a little easier for someone else. It was never my intention to be an “Activist” I just really wanted to help others and continue my WLS Journey through doing so. Pam is right, when you start sharing your story, when you start sharing your personal experiences:

  • You will be heard
  • You will be appreciated
  • You will make a difference
  • And you will be an advocate
  • And you’ll feel amazing when you see it happen.

There is nothing more rewarding than to know that I have touched people’s lives in the way that I have. The fact that people feel like I bring them together and help them be successful or that I inspire them in their WLS journey and their quest for a happy healthier life or that some people feel I have helped saved their life is amazing to me. It tells me that I am doing something right. I know that the path I am on started at the OAC Advocacy Training Session and that the OAC has empowered me an helped point me in the right direction. If you are not a member of the Obesity Action Coalition I encourage you to join and stand with this national non-profit organization whose sole focused is helping individuals affected by obesity.

93 Million Americans are affected by Obesity and advocacy comes in many forms. Whether you are writing blogs, going to the hill or signing petitions and sending letters to your elected officials you can make a difference in the lives of these people by getting involved in the OAC Advocacy & Support Programs.

“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person.” – R. Buckminster Fuller

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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