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Obesity Action Coalition Second Annual Convention #YWM2013

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So I am back in Oregon after attending the Obesity Action Coalition’s second annual Your Weight Matters Convention in Phoenix, Arizona. Things have settled down a little. I had a few days with friends to unwind and now it is time to tell you about the amazing adventure that I had in Phoenix.

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We arrived on Wednesday flying in with my friend Kesha from Waning Woman and enough bags to likely provide clothes for all of our friends at the event, for a day or so at least! What can I say; we’re women who like clothes and shoes! Once we negotiated all our bags into a van we headed for the Arizona Grand Resort and got checked in.

Thursday morning I was up early and having a hard time sleeping due to the stitches that were still in my chest and left arm pit after having a little nip tuck a week or so prior. Despite my sleep deprivation; I was alive and alert and enthusiastic about being there by the time Advocacy Training rolled around. Next up, it was a crunch to rush back to the room to get dressed and steal an hour to participate in a live tweet session with Chris and Heidi Powell while eating dinner. Once I had fuel it was time to head to the OAC Member Mingle and the evening discussion “Teaming up to Tackle Obesity” with NSF players Corey Louchiey and James Throton. I sat next to Nikii from Bariatric Foodie and Joy from Kosher Bariatric and we had a great evening laughing at their humor as the two men shared their story about their with battle obesity.

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Friday morning I got up early to go help out my friend Michelle from The World According to Eggface with the morning walk she was leading and get everyone warmed up. Notice my Bobby Whisnand “It’s All Heart T-Shirt” – in the photo to the right, ( I gotta show my mentor some love) – After getting everyone warmed up I decided to join the walk. Of course, as the walk ended I was busted by none other than my dear friend, bariatric surgery coordinator and nurse Tammy Beaumont, who quickly sent me to my room to shower and clean the glistening sheen of sweat off my stitches. I listened to a whole lot of lectures about Pandora overdoing it over breakfast that morning; and likely deserved each one. Then it was time for the Convention to begin…

I could list the sessions of the day and go through each one in detail, but I won’t, instead I will share pieces of information later as we go a little at a time with you. What I will say is that my favorite speaker of the Friday educational sessions was definitely Merrill Littleberry. Her talk on “Who’s Staring back at You in the Mirror? Improving Self-Perceptions,” hit home big time for me when she displayed a list of negative quotes some people had said about some of the worlds most famous people who turned out to do some truly amazing things. It drove home my recent revelation that I needed to change my direction a little and be more about my vision than anyone else’s vision for me.

I must say, Dr. Gary D. Foster and his Saturday talk on “Weighing Success Beyond the Scale: Identifying and Maintaining and Healthy Weight” was quite possible my favorite topic of the entire convention. I felt privileged to sit in a room as so many of my peers heard the message that Dr. Robert Kushner was able to pass to me last year and finally start to see that that last 10 lb. they might be chasing could be the difference between a “dream weight” and a “healthy weight” and that our success is categorized by more than a number on a scale or chart.

Friday evening’s party was fun and amazing and boy did Kesha and I rock those Ursula costumes … what a night.  It was so fun seeing so many people all dressed up. I think Tammy and Joy had my favorite costumes on with the Tom Hanks, Castaway character and his trusted volleyball. The Sponge Bob Squarepants costume rocked as well, and the Pirates were amazing! I spent some time on the dance floor wiggling my booty and avoiding flying volleyballs for a while, but it had been a long day for me, I was exhausted and tired and it was time for this octopus to get some sleep. (The face make up did come off first though.)

Saturday morning came earlier than I expected and the sessions seemed to zoom by and I really didn’t feel like I had nearly enough time to hit the vendor booths and really talk to folks. I was able to say hi to some of my favorite Vitamin Companies, the folks at Celebrate VitaminsAmeriWell and Bari-Life and of course my two favorite protein powder companies Chike and Bi-Pro.  I also got to meet the folks at Quest and Perky Jerky, and the two best peanut butter products on the market were there, PB2 and Better Butter.

Of course Celebrate Vitamins  is my favorite one on that list because they are “How do YOU Celebrate Success” Contest Sponsors.

Before I knew it Saturday afternoon was upon us. I had the amazing opportunity of sitting at Dr. Al Aly’s table for lunch with the experts and listen to him answer people’s questions about reconstructive surgery, skin removal, and body contouring after massive weight loss. I attended Dr. Gary D. Foster’s afternoon session “Channeling Stress: Healthy Outlets to Replace the Calories,” and Dr. Sean G. Connolly’s “Who’s In Control? The Science Behind Willpower,” before rushing off to the Saturday Afternoon General Session – “Expectations of Your Body after Weight-loss: Plastic Surgery and Other Options,” discussion where I was member of the panel. This was my first time being asked to speak at an OAC event and it was so exciting and scary at the same time. I truly felt out of my league up there amongst such esteemed professionals. But it was over before I knew it and Saturday night was upon us. The awards dinner was underway and we were all looking fabulous!

The awards dinner is actually a sad night for me. It’s the prelude to good-bye which is just around the corner the next morning. Even though I was excited to get a peek at the #YWM2013 Convention wrap-up video that they put together to show us, at the same time it brings tears to my eyes knowing there are some many people I love in this community that I won’t get to see again until next year.

 

RainbowBriteSunday morning came too early and the Walk from Obesity where I was grounded from participating because I still had stitches and wasn’t supposed to get sweaty, in Phoenix, Arizona, in August began. (Yeah Right! Like this was even possible it was 110 outside!) I was dressed up like some sort Rainbow Brite and Punky Brewster love child, and participating via loan of a little scooter thanks to the very thoughtful Kristy Kuna at the Obesity Action Coalition. I managed to snap a few quick pictures at the walk then I did a video testimonial and then rushed up to the room so Tammy could yank my stitches out before she had to leave. Our Sunday afternoon consisted of Ethiopian food and tearful goodbyes as I had to start leaving people I likely won’t see for another year or so if not longer and close friends I made in Dallas and am going to miss dearly now that I am back in Portland, OR on a regular basis.

I am so blessed to have met so many wonderful people in Phoenix, Arizona at the Second Annual Your Weight Matters National Convention, and I can’t wait to bring you more up to date news and information from the OAC and the YWM2014 Convention as it becomes available.

The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) is the ONLY non-profit organization whose sole focus is representing individuals affected by obesity. If you are affected by obesity or care for individuals affected, I ask that you join the OAC today and help us strengthen our voice. Together we DO make a difference.

I am a proud Member, Trained Advocate and Supporter of the OAC

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Dear RunDisney thank you for breaking my heart

I need to write in order to process right now.

There are times when even though I know that I lead a charmed and blessed life, disappointment hits my table in a very big way and when it does, it hurts.

I’m not even sure that what I am trying to make happen won’t happen, we’re approaching the witching hour and whether or not I gather the necessary sponsors is left to be seen, but that isn’t even what saddens me right now, what saddens me, is that a company I have spent my entire life believing in has broken my heart and gone against a belief that they taught me to believe in.

My Dad used to tell me stories about 1955 when Disneyland first opened. When he told me that I could be anything I wanted to be, and I could do anything I wanted to do, he would tell me stories about how a man named Walt Disney created Disneyland out of a dream, a mouse and some orange orchards.

“Honey if you ever think that you can’t accomplish something you just remember what Mr. Walt Disney said, ‘If you can dream it you can do it, always remember that this whole thing started with a dream and a mouse.”

And I believed that. My favorite Walt Disney quote has always been

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Since I don’t know that it will ever come to fruition, I feel like I maybe shouldn’t talk about it, but you know I have promised to share the good and the bad, and so, here goes… today was a sad day for me.

Two years ago, my father passed away. He was one of the biggest champions in my weight loss journey. To help cope with his death I began running. It wasn’t easy at first. I could barely get around the block! But recently, I’m proud to report that I ran my first half marathon — a personal 13.1 miles! — in honor of my dad on Father’s Day.

Today I was willing to step away from my studying to pursue a dream that I have. First let me say that I think you have to understand often times my dreams are a little less selfish than I think most people realize. In a few weeks on July 9th, RunDisney will open registration for the Tinkerbell half marathon, and no matter what happens, I will register and I will run that half marathon because I committed to doing so.

But I didn’t want to just run that half marathon, I wanted to empower someone else to run it with me. And if I had more than the few weeks that Disney allowed me between registration announcement and the actual registration, I have no doubt that I would find the sponsorship to make that happen. I already have 1/4th of the sponsorship I need and I haven’t given up just yet, it may still happen.

But what bothers me is, that I shouldn’t HAVE to be on such a tight time limit to make it happen, and the only reason I am is because of the ridiculous politics of them requiring the name of the person that I take with me on registration day, 7 months prior to the event.

If I could simply purchase my registration and a second spot, and notify them within a reasonable time frame who the second runner would be, this would be much more feasible. I’d purchase the registrations myself and then in I could obtain the rest of the sponsorship I needed for us to go, we’d go and if I didn’t well then I’d sell the registration to someone else that could participate and that would be that. In the mean time I would have a few months instead of a few weeks to try to make this all happen.

But instead I have to try to find the sponsors, run a contest, pick a winner and have that winner’s name in place to register them for the event by July 9th. Thank you RunDisney for making this awesome idea nearly impossible.

I tried so hard. I spent hours and hours today trying to contact people involved with the RunDisney events to see if they could help me make this possible. But really, what I felt like today after talking to most of them was that I was a little fish in a big world and since I wasn’t a non-profit organization willing to secure race registrations for thirty people instead of two, I wasn’t important.

At 6pm tonight here in Dallas where I am visiting, I finally got ahold of a very nice woman named Cindy Hernandez who tried to help me. But Sadly, all the resources she had to try to help me, I had already exhausted. She wanted to send me to talk to the woman I talked to early this morning Katie, who had only been the first to make me feel like that insignificant little person in a great big world. After she had spoken to Katie herself who informed her that she had already talked to me and had “forwarded my request” to their Florida Office Cindy tried for quite some time to find a number for that Florida office that I could call and talk to someone at. She even called the number herself to try to find a way through the bureaucratic red tape. But to no avail, she couldn’t get through the computer animated message that had forwarded me to her any better than I could. Cindy suggested that I email a woman named Shannon who is Katie’s supervisor, to see if she could help me, but she warned me that Shannon and Katie worked very closely together and that she wasn’t sure she could help me either. She apologized to me over and over and expressed her sadness that she couldn’t help me.

At one point during the conversation I told Cindy “Disney is a company I grew up with. I had a father that was born before your doors were even open and I spent so much time in Disneyland as a kid. I’m not asking you guys for money or charity or anything more than the ability to do something great and empower someone else to do it with me. Your company was founded on the beliefs of a man who believed if you can dream it you can do it. And this is a really small ask, all I’m asking for is a little time before an event that occurs 7 months down the road to give you a person’s name. If Walt Disney was here right now, he’d be ashamed of this.” Cindy very compassionately said to me “I really hope he wouldn’t be ashamed of me.” I assured her she was right, he wouldn’t be, as she was the only one that I had gotten on the phone today that really and truly tried to help make this happen for me.

It’s nearly 8pm and I really want to go to bed early tonight, I am emotionally drained from this day of doing nothing but writing letters to sponsors asking them to get on board at the last-minute, reaching out to people to try to make this dream happen and I am emotionally exhausted from it. I’m sad that RunDisney made this so impossible and I am heart-broken than a company I have always believed so much in left me feeling like Aladdin, the lowly street rat who didn’t have enough to offer.

“Riffraff, street rat, I don’t buy that, if only they’d look closer. Would they see a poor boy? No, siree, They’d find out, there’s so much more to me.”

All you had to do was look at what I was asking you for to see that deep inside, I’m a diamond in the rough. I might not be able to put it all together in the time frame you are setting, which is just a horrible unrealistic time frame, heck RunDisney YOU don’t even have all your details hammered out yet. You don’t even have pricing available yet, nor does your event travel coordination company because they don’t have your pricing or even know how many registration blocks you are selling them yet. If you call the Disney resorts and ask to for the prices for room reservations for that weekend they will tell you they can’t tell you because the pricing for the new year doesn’t come out until August. So you can imagine how hard it was for me to even put together a budget to take to my sponsors this morning. But you can’t find a way to cut me a little break on having to have the name of my team member ready to go registration morning?

Disney, you’ve broken my heart today. I’m going to hope that somewhere in the night while I am sleeping the answers come to me, or that by Monday morning my own little Genie shows up and starts waving wishes around.

For right now I am going to go do something that will make me feel better. I’m going to go find a little Pandora mental health reprieve and I am going to remember …

“No Matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you dare to wish will come true.”

RunDisney, Mr. Walt Disney would be ashamed of you for they way you shattered my dreams today, but he’d be super proud of me, who I am, what I have accomplished and how big my dreams are.

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

This is #MyBariLife

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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