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My spin on WLS Advocacy – What I am doing to help

A lot of people have asked me about my involvement with the Flab to Fabulous Pageant since segment aired on KOIN6 Local News on January 11,2013 about my weight loss journey didn’t really go into great details and they didn’t air any of the details they had about organizations that I am passionate about.

Last week, I was named the Ms. Fabulous 2012 Honoree and invited to the pageant week in Atlanta GA scheduled to take place May 26 through June 02 of this year. 

I’m very passionate about the Weight Loss Surgery community and always eager to do anything that I can to help it grow and flourish. A passion of mine, that I have often spoke of on my blog is to raise money for people who are not lucky enough to get their insurance to cover the costs of plastic surgeries the way mine did. My insurance has paid for all of my plastic surgery, that is pretty much unheard of in the weight loss surgery community, and because of my great fortune I am passionate about paying that forward to my community. My goal is to one day have my own Personal Trainer Business with Vendor Booths at all the events and be using my work and my passion to help pay for other people’s skin removal surgeries. This is something I am extremely passionate about. And that is exactly what the WLSFA does. The WLSFA, Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America, is a non-profit organization that funds grant recipients for patients that need these lifesaving Bariatric Surgeries and Reconstructive Plastic Surgeries after they have achieved massive weight loss so that they can take their lives back from obesity just the way I have.  When I first set out to start my business I mentioned things about how I wanted to help pay for people’s surgeries, I even talked about wanting to set up some sort of Scholarship Donation Program in my Father’s name someday as a memorial to him since he is one of the biggest inspirations in my own weight loss journey. It is this passion, this love of my Father and his down home Texas, “Treat others the way you wish to be treated,” upbringing that drives my passion to make sure I give back to the community the things that the universe has so generously gifted me with.

oca-logo-footerIt is this same philosophy that drives my passion behind the OAC.  The OAC, Obesity Action Coalition changed my life and my participation at their Inaugural Your Weight Matters Convention in Dallas Texas gave me things that I never would have had prior to going. The professionals at that event gave me the confidence in my business approach, what I want to do, and where I am going with career as Personal Trainer as well as the education and empowerment to help me move past some of my own unhealthy body dimorphic issues and the guidance and direction that would empower me to attend one of the most respected schools in the country to obtain my certification. It gave me the opportunity to start making friends within the community, friends that I would bond with and that I know I will be friends with for years to come. It allowed me to meet some women that I looked up to an admired for their voices on their blogs; The World According to Eggface and Waning Woman. It allowed me to get feedback from my peers and it motivated me to push forward even faster with my goals as I truly saw that others were inspired by my success and determination, it allowed me the opportunity to get my voice heard by more women and some of those women are on Chris Powell’s Facebook page today asking him to get involved with this community and help us fight against the stigma and bias that people look on Weight Loss Surgery patients with. When I see a woman stand up and say that I am her WLS Idol, I am humbled, I am honored and I am even more driven because I am seeing first hand that my story can help inspire someone just starting out in this journey and help them know that they can make it. The OAC opened doors for me with their convention and that is why I have done things like volunteered for their committees this year, put myself in DC for a week on my own dime just hoping they can use me and my passion to share my story in an effort to help others get the sort of medical coverage that I did. That is why I have gone to my own Bariatric Surgery Center, and my own Bariatric Surgeon, Leslie Cagle , M.D., F.A.C.S. with Pacific Surgical Specialists and personally asked her to get involved with the OAC and sponsor all of their Bariatric Surgery Patients with OAC Memberships.

My Goals in 2013 Remain the same as always, which is why I am taking an entire week in February, pushing pause on my life here in Oregon and heading out the Dallas to go to the Cooper Institute and take their Certified Personal Trainers course in person. The opportunity to do this comes from a gentleman that preferred I not mention his name publicly  who has followed my blog since I first started it and who wanted to support my career change and saw that I was struggling with the intimidation factor of having to “study” and learn and pass a test again for the first time in nearly twenty years and wanted to give me the opportunity to learn in an environment that I will be more successful in. His gift came with a note that read “Because you wish to support others in their WLS and journey and success and I wish to do the same for you.”

I think that the Ms. Fabulous 2012 Honoree title is an amazing title to have. I was given the title after a couple of hours of conversation with the Pageant Director, Charlie Brown, because we just sort of clicked and my story touched her and my positive attitude, desire to help others in their weight loss journey and overall approach to “Life after Weight Loss” embodied the vision of what she has for Ms. Fabulous.  I see the Fabulous Pageant as a way for the weight loss surgery community to stand up and band together.

DSSAdvocacyFunDSS: Advocacy Through Fun. Please Join Me

One of the things that people love about me is that they respect me because I say what I think and I call things like I see them. And something  that I can tell you honestly as both a person that is trying to come into this community as a professional trainer and as a blogger who passionately cares about this community and the men and women that are members of it is that the stigma against weight loss surgery patients is unfair and biased. Weight loss should be celebrated equally on all levels, whether you lose the weight through diet and exercise alone, or whether you needed a program like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers, Whether you were doing Atkins or Carb Cycling with Chris Powell, or whether you had weight loss surgery once, or even twice, the point is not HOW you lost your weight. The point is THAT you lost your weight.

The point is that you found what worked for you. Let me ask you something, if someone was standing in front of you dying of cancer and they had several options to try to attack their cancer, and they decided to choose the one that would go at it as fast and most aggressively as possible; would you fault them?

Obesity is a disease. I was just reading in my Cooper Institute Textbook last night that the leading causes of death in the US today are Cardiovascular Diseases, Cancers, COPD and Diabetes and we all know that obesity causes co-morbid conditions. I had Diabetes, I had Sleep Apnea, I had High Blood Pressure, I had Chronic Back Pain, I had constant skin rashes and sores, I had constant shortness of breath, and I had limited mobility. Gastric Bypass was my chosen method of attack on my taking my life back from being morbidly obese and being able to live a happy and healthy life my father wanted for me.

As Ms. Fabulous 2012 I had the opportunity to sponsor candidate for every category in the competition. I’ve got three contestants that are going to compete under my sponsorship and who I will be helping try to get the sponsorship funding they need to go to pageant week if they make Semi Finals. Two of my contestants are local Oregon WLS Patients who both had their surgery at the same hospital I did, though we had different surgeons and they are both success stories for two of the local Portland area Bariatric Surgeons. I am so excited to have them representing Oregon and I’m thrilled that they are both so passionate about telling their story and helping the weight loss community that they were both more than happy to volunteer to donate any cash prize money they receive throughout the pageant to the WLSFA Pacific Northwest Chapter.

I’ve always been the kind of person that likes to pay back to my community. I love the fact that I get to help some people of this community maybe become the next Mr. or Ms. Fabulous (or Active Fabulous) and help them showcase their own weight loss surgery stories. The fact that I can use this title to try to help our community by raising money for a cause I believe in excites me and the fact that I can hopefully draw attention to something that we all want to fight against, the stigma of Weight Loss Surgery from the general weight loss, fitness and media is unfair and unjustified.

That OAC Convention gave me all this confidence I have right now as did all my friends in the WLS community to really get out there and go for my dreams. There was a Bariatric Surgeon there named Lloyd Stegemann who introduced a room full of weight loss surgery patients to the concept that standing alone we are weak, by taking a chopstick and snapping it in two. Then he held a large group of them together and demonstrated that he could not break them and reminded us that together we are strong.  It is my hope that since you all know what my goals and aspirations are; you will really get behind my endeavor to use this 2012 Ms. Fabulous title to unite our community.

My mission is to prove to the weight loss, fitness and media industry that weight loss surgery is not a dirty word and that it isn’t the easy way out. The Fabulous Foundation chose me as their Ms. Fabulous because I have a story that when I have the floor to share it, disproves that concept several times over. I am living proof that even after WLS we work as hard as anyone else for this sort of transformation.

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KOIN6 Local News Segment Aired on January 11, 2013

Please, go to this link and use the comments section to lend your voice to my mission. Share your WLS Success Story and help break the stigma. Share the stories about struggling with regain and just how NOT easy this journey is. Share the stories about how you now run 5ks, 10ks and half Marathons. Share the stories about the people you reach through your blog voices, share about your struggles to find good protein shakes J — share…. Comment… and take the time to let Chris and Heidi Powell and their Management team know that we want them to stand behind this community too. 220,000 weight loss surgeries are performed in this country each year. Surely I can get some of you to put your sticks with mine so that they can’t be broken?

My Letter on Chris Powell’s Facebook Page: I cannot tell you how much this means to me. I am begging my friends and family to take the time to go comment on this page and help make this happen. If you take the time to read my stuff, please take the time to support me too.

http://www.facebook.com/realchrispowell/posts/10151226631791864?comment_id=25326741&notif_t=feed_comment

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Why Weight Loss Surgery?

My friend Jessica at Bariatric Beginnings wrote a blog today called Why Weight Loss Surgery. It addresses the seemingly common occurrence of WLS patients being told that by having weight loss surgery they took the easy way out.  Jessica discusses the process to surgery, she explains that for many we are taking our lives back…  I’ve decided to elaborate a little bit…

IMG_2353Hi I am Pandora; I used to weigh 420 lbs.

The first time I can remember being abused I was 4 years old.

My Family was one of the paradigms for “dysfunctional family” – My real mom was 14 when she had me. She tried to kill me, gave me to her older sister to raise instead. I was molested by my then grandfather, who molested someone else in my family before me, and my entire family knew about it and my grandmother married him and they all let him have access to me knowing what a monster he was.  Several of my aunts and uncles where junkies, my mother was emotionally, physically and verbally abusive and by the time I was 14 I was trying to commit suicide on a regular basis because I was so tired of fighting to live.

I credit my High School sweetheart, a boy named Chris Hanna that will likely never see this, with the fact that I made it out. Him showing me that someone could love me, and that there was a chance that someday someone could love me that had a normal and healthy family that would accept me and that I could be a part of instead of mine and his mother Sandy, a high school principal that saw a girl drowning in her family and showed me that there was a way out, are probably the only reason I decided to stand up and take my life back from what had been done to me.

Food had been my coping skill in a childhood of misery. Some of my best childhood memories are of eating cereal in front of the TV alone in the morning watching cartoons and sneaking Dr. Pepper and Ding Dongs late at night.  But you know the first time I remember food being my friend. Was when I’d visit my grandmother’s house and after something horrible had happened to me, I’d get an ice cream cone or some money to walk to the corner and get a donut.

By the time I left home and got on my own I was over 200 lbs  Next I went through my abusive men cycle. First I picked a boy who convinced me I should do crystal meth to lose weight. After I saw the bottom, and I do mean the bottom of the meth head phase, I moved on to the next one; the physically abusive boyfriend. But you know, I was so full of my own self-loathing then that I didn’t really care if he abused me, I was so mentally ill at this point that I had turned to self-mutilation and some guy beating the piss out of me wasn’t such a bad thing in my head space. It took a hospital psychologist forcing me to see a therapist, to get me to my next phase, a diagnosis of Dissociative Identify Disorder.  It took me about 6 years of therapy, being put in hospitals over and over again, months and months of inpatient programs and a really damn good doctor, to get past this part.

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But food was still my only real friend and now I weighed 420lbs. So I decided to try to tackle it. I tried weight watchers, I tried Jenny Craig, and I tried Calorie Restrictive diets nothing worked. I’d lose some, gain it back, lose some gain it back and I was always hungry, I always felt my stomach growling and I never felt satisfied. I did Atkins, lost 195lbs, got married, went back to eating like a normal person, you know some carbs, and I gained it all back.

I chose to have gastric bypass surgery when my 83-year-old father came to me and told me that he was scared he would die without knowing that I would have a happy and healthy life. I decided to have gastric bypass when I realized that I was scared I was going to die before 40. I decided to have gastric bypass when I realized that because my family treated me so bad that food was where I found love and comfort, I had always used it that way, and really I was killing myself with food. I was still allowing what they had done to me to drag me down and stop me from living my life.

And once I made that decision I did all the things my friend Jennifer wrote about. I struggled with insurance I did all the pre-op requirements… and before I could even have my surgery I had to lose 70 lbs on my own so I was not a death risk. I did that. And for six weeks before my surgery I gave up food completely and drank only milk.

And let me tell you what I did AFTER my Gastric Bypass

I became an avid exerciser. I started to learn about food and nutrition since I had never been taught. I followed all the new super restrictive rules I had agreed to follow in return for a CHANCE that MAYBE I could lose the weight and keep it off and get a chance to live my life.

10152012 008And after I had lost the weight, then I stood there looking in the mirror and all I saw was all the skin that hung off me, made me look old, worn, ugly, and… abused. Yup, I saw all that skin as remnants of my abuse. It was like even still no matter how much I fought to overcome one thing there was something else there to told me back that I still tied to my abusers.

So I spent a year of my life dedicated to cutting it off.

For the first time in my life I look in the mirror and I feel GOOD about myself. I feel like I see ME for the first time instead of seeing a broken woman still trying to recover from being a broken little girl. And for the first time in my life, I won’t allow anyone else to break me.

There isn’t one thing about my life or any decision I have made that has been easy.

Why gastric bypass? Because I deserve to live my life as much as you deserve to live yours.

And if I ever hear someone actually say that gastric bypass is an easy way out…  I’m going to smile and… educate them.

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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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