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Lets Box Obesity Together at YMW2013 with the OAC

attendingconventionbadge2It is the beginning of June. ( Or it was when I started writing this blog ) The months ahead of me are full of adventure as I embark on the next part of my weight loss journey. June begins with me heading to Dallas to work on my studies to become a personal trainer, taking some courses at the Cooper Institute and make my final decision on what plastic surgeon I am going to use, ( Which I did already! ) and the reward at the end – a NKOTB Concert with my best friend.

My surgery will be on July 10th giving me time to heal, back in the gym and working out to my full potential by October, when I am now aiming for the soft launch of my Personal Trainer Business. Getting this last skin removal surgery is big for me, it sort of feels like winning the lottery or being on the sports team that just won the World Series or the Superbowl…

“Pandora Williams! You just finished a month of studying for your Personal Trainer Certification Test, You’ve had your last plastic surgery, you’re all recovered and ready to go, what are you going to do now?”

The answer isn’t “I’m going to Disneyland.” Though, I do love me some Disneyland, the answer is “I’m going to the OAC’s Second Annual Your Weight Matters Convention.” Yes, that is how much this event means to me. This event, being there with all my WLS Friends, is going to be my celebration of this part of my journey.

I had the pleasure of attending the Inaugural Your Weight Maters Convention that the OAC put on in Dallas in October of 2012 and the experience that I took away from that was life changing for me. I took more away from that event than I have from any other event or function I have ever attended.

  • I met the women that I know refer to as my WLS Mammas Laura Van Tuyl, Sandi Henderson and Yvonne McCarthy.
  • I met a woman who I know, I am somehow spiritually bonded with my sister from another ma’am and mister – Joy Muller.
  • I met the women that have become part of my support system and made friendships that I know will hold against the test of time.
  • I met the women (and a couple of men) of this community, who motivate and inspire me to continue my journey through helping others with theirs.
  • I met Bobby Whisnand who is like a guardian angel and my Mentor in the intimidating journey I am taking to become a personal trainer.
  • I met the people who encouraged me to select the Cooper Institute as the school from whom I wanted to get my education.
  • I met the people who wrote my letters of recommendation and made the Scholarship I got to attend the Cooper Institute a possibility. ( Thank you Joy Muller and Pam Davis )

Convention-Details-Main-Photo1I met an amazing woman who taught me to appreciate the value of the transactions in my emotional accounts, to be myself, to fight the automatic negative thoughts that creep into my head and helped me understand that I’m not alone in my struggle with body image issues. (Thank you Merril Littleberry)

I got the opportunity to meet the amazing Bloggers that helped get me from Pre-Op to Post Op Success with their honesty, recipes and positive reinforcement. Eggface, Waning Woeman and Bariatric Girl. – ( That sounds like a Super Hero team and truthfully, it is. )

I had the opportunity to sit next to a Doctor Robert Kushner who specializes in Obesity during the Lunch with the Experts “Is your Ideal Weight Ideal for you?” table talk and have him help me understand that I didn’t NEED a normal BMI to be happy and healthy or to be worthy of moving forward with my dream of being a personal trainer.

Attending this event opened more doors for me than have ever been opened before.

I could go on and on – but these are the ones that stand out in the forefront of my mind. So when you ask me, what I want to do to celebrate at the end of this new journey, that is my answer “I’m going to the OAC’s Second Annual Your Weight Matters Convention.” and guess what? I can’t wait. Last year’s YWM2012 Event was amazing and I expect GREAT THINGS this year!

This years topics are so amazing that I’m having a hard time deciding which ones I want to go to.

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The Lunch with the Experts that provided my “Wow Moment” last year, has so many amazing topics this year that I could hardly select which ones to do.

I am incredibly excited to attend some of the fitness classes ( Even if that means standing on the sidelines and cheer others on because my surgeon hasn’t released me to exercise again yet! )

I’m elated by the opportunity to hang out with my friends, enjoy their company and even more so by the opportunity to meet new people, make new friends, and open my arms to hug and welcome those that might feel new and out-of-place the way others did for me last year.

But most of all I am honored to be a part of this event. I am honored to be a Post-Op Speaker on the panel led by a Pioneer in Reconstructive Surgery after massive weight loss, Dr. Al Aly, to be chosen to sit in the company of such esteemed professionals and bring you the Patient Perspective on this topic is flattering and rewarding in and of itself.

It is rare for me, to stand up and ask anything of my blog readers, followers and friends other than emotional support in the form of a “Like” on Facebook or a “Retweet” on Twitter; I feel like it is my job to give to you, it’s my mission to pay it forward and to help anyone that I can, to try to empower and try motivate and inspire others in their weight loss journey. But this my friends is one of those rare times when I am going to ask you for something.

IMG_5258Please, if you have even considered attending a Weight Loss oriented event, make it this convention. No matter where you are in your weight loss journey and no matter where you are in the social climate of our community, I invite you to “Rise to the Challenge” and take advantage of this opportunity to come together for evidence-based education, and gain some of the helpful tools with weight an empowerment that I was able to gain from attending last year and attend the YWM2013 Convention.

Attending this event last year was life changing for me. ( And others just check out Last year’s Testimonials ) It empowered me in so many ways, not only did it lend to me finding some of the most important people in my support system, but it taught me that I didn’t have anything to prove and that I didn’t need to reach the “normal BMI” I was chasing to pursue the career I wanted as a Trainer. That my story, and my journey from a BMI of 69.9 to a BMI of 26.6 is enough to make me successful and to inspire the clients I want to work with. It empowered me in my desire to advocate for others…

That said … I have a message for you .. if you want to fight weight bias, if you want to fight fat shaming, if you want to fight weight prejudice, if you want to fight bullying, if you want to fight obesity, then set EVERYTHING else aside and join me at YWM2013 and let’s crane kick obesity together!

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The OAC is currently running a contest where one Blogger will win an all expense paid trip to the event and if I win, I will be using it as an opportunity to make sure that the woman that welcomed me with open arms and made sure that I felt included and has been there to support me through some very emotionally trying times in the last eight months (Waning Woman) is also able to attend this event. So if you are already registered and you did so with some inspiration or motivation that came from yours truly, please let the OAC know by sending an email to convention@obesityaction.org and telling them that Pandora at DeperatelySeekingSlender.com sent you and if you register now, be sure to put my name down on the referral and give me a chance to pay it forward to someone deserving. Join me at that OAC YWM2013 Convention and lets fight obesity together in an empowering environment that will be filled of positivity, inclusively and fun!

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Ellen says “Fitch, Please” to Weight Discrimination

I had every intention of writing a blog today about my wonderful weekend at the WLSFA Event. I have so many great things to share, but I am afraid that will have to wait, something more important to our community is on my mind this morning.

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Yesterday Ellen Degeneres weighed in on the current controversy surrounding a public statement by Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries that the brand was “Absolutely Exclusionary” and only “wants to market to cool, good-looking people.”

 

The original comment was made in 2006 interview with Robin Lewis, co-author of a new book, “The New Rules of Retail.” But let this be a lesson that they things we say can often times bite us in the butt later, right Mr. Jeffries? Because he’s now publicly apologizing for the comment nearly seven years later.

There are a few aspects of this issue that I want to address. First and foremost let me say that as a small business owner I believe all business have the right to target to their selected audience and target demographics and to choose who that audience is. There is a big difference between however between a positive message being sent to your selected demographic audience and a discriminatory message that tells other people they are not good enough to wear your clothes. What was inferred Mr. Jeffries comment was not, young beautiful people wear are clothing it was, people of size are not cool or good-looking. The error is in the delivery of the message, and it was a big error that bit him in the butt down the road.

Ellen’s monologue on the topic was great, and in true Ellen style, delivered the positive message that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and has very little to do with how you dress, what you wear or how much you weigh. Which, let’s face it, is a pretty important message to get to our younger generation in a society where weight bias, weight discrimination and bullying and name calling is an often accepted act.

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I want to take a moment to say thank you to Ellen personally for standing up against this sort of discrimination and bullying and making sure to send a more positive message. While I may be able to fit into A&E clothes today if I wanted to, there was a time when I weighed 420 lb. and I couldn’t fit into the seat of airplane or a small car let alone some of Abercrombie and Fitch clothes. There was also a time, when I was that teenager getting called “Fatty,” listening to the fat jokes as I walked through the halls of my Southern California beach community high school, and pretty much being alienated from life because of my size. But more importantly, there was a time that my size 26 prom dress had me sitting in a bath tub trying to slit my wrists because of the hurtful, hateful, mean, and derogatory comments that people made to me made me feel helpless and worthless. I’m not telling you this for sympathy, I am telling you because I feel it’s important that we as a society understand how horrible comments and actions like these can be on a sixteen year old girl. The people who teased me had no idea WHY I was big. They had no clue how bad my home life was. They didn’t know that I had put on weight as a self-defense mechanism to the sexual abuse I had endured as a kid. They didn’t know me at all, all they knew was that I wasn’t “Normal Size” and so of course it must be ok to make fun of me and tease me.

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Of course, now, with her joke about a size 0 and size 00 clothing, Ellen has upset a whole new audience. But hang on a minute folks, you’re missing the point. Ellen isn’t saying there is anything wrong with being small, being petite or being thin, what Ellen is saying is that the way that such things are marketed and labeled are unhealthy to our society. What would you think if I walked up to someone and said “Hey you’re not here, you are invisible, you have no value.” or “You’re nothing,” or “You’re the lowest point or degree on a scale of human beings.” – It’s not the people who wear these sizes that Ellen is speaking out against, it is the clothing industry for the way they are labeling it. You notice she wasn’t joking about size extra-small, size small, or anything of that sort, she is making a point that the clothing industry is taking this too far. Several years ago there was an episode of One Tree Hill where the model stood on stage wearing a shirt that said “Zero is not a size,” The message here is NOT “you are too skinny, there is something wrong with you.” The message here is, “It is not ok for society to pressure you into eating disorders with their marketing strategy because they think beautiful is defined by a big fat zero whether it’s a size, a body fat percentage or part of a number you see on the scale. The message here is NOT shame on you for wearing a size 0, the message is shame on the clothing manufactures for making a size zero.

Now you can defend a size 0 all you want, but let me ask you something, why did they need to make it? Why must there be a size 0 to begin with? Because what a size 1 or 2 wasn’t small enough? Have you been shopping lately? I have, a lot, and you know what, I have clothes that range anywhere between a size 6 and a size 12, and you know what? Because everyone makes their clothes differently, some run big, some run small, some use metric sizes, some use centimeters, some use inches. Then there is Misses, Juniors, Petite, the list is endless. So why do we need a size 0? Why do we need a size NOTHING? Why do we need a size “I Don’t Exist?” Why wouldn’t clothing manufactures just make their smallest size a size one or an XXS? And what is next? When size 0s aren’t good enough will we go into negative digits? Why would anyone want to be defined as a zero to begin with? And why doesn’t our society see how damaging this is to our sense of self-worth?

Obesity is a disease that over one-third of our nation is fighting. It is one of the top killers in our country right now. People are dying every day from obesity related conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, cardio respiratory disease, sleep apnea and instead of standing up and battling this disease our society thinks it is ok to call them names, make fun of them, exploit them, and treat them like they are less than deserving and when we allow companies to do things like tell us that zero is a feasible size, and if you aren’t a size 10 or lower you aren’t beautiful or worthy of shopping where the beautiful people do, we are tolerating weight biased, weight prejudice and weight discrimination. I’d like to know how many people would tolerate the sort of behavior that is accepted against people who are overweight towards people battling some of the very diseases that obesity causes. Just think about that one for a moment.

Ellen DeGeneres is an amazing example of a human being and I hope that if I am ever in a position one day to impact so many with my voice and my words, that I am strong enough and brave enough to stand up and send the same sort of message she sent with her monologue “Fitch, Please.” I would buy this shirt in a heart beat if Ellen produced one, and I will always support anyone that stands up in the fight against obesity and size discrimination.

If you’d like to join the fight against weight bias, weight discrimination and help in the fight against obesity, I invite you to check out the following non-profit organizations. The Obesity Action Collation and the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America.
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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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BariLife has decided to send me back to Paris to represent the WLS Community as I attempt to find my love of running again.
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