Last year at the Obesity Action Coalition "Your Weight Matters" Convention (and it will be offered again this year) 68+ people flew in a day early to take part in an intensive Advocacy Training Session to learn how to speak directly to elected officials on Capitol Hill on issues related to obesity. It was a great learning opportunity and I highly recommend it but... you don't have to ever step foot in Washington DC to become an advocate.
Here's 5 easy ways to be an advocate in your own backyard:
1. Just becoming a member of the OAC and encouraging others to become members is an easy way ($20/year) The OAC is currently 40,000 members strong representing 93 million people affected by obesity, that is a powerful number to share when advocating for obesity issues. Three people may walk into a legislator's office in Washington but our powerful nationwide coalition stands with them at the ready.
2. Educate the media (and uninformed commenters) - When you see an article about obesity related issues share your story in the comments and if the story is inaccurate contact the author and editor and inform them, tell them you are happy to be a source for future articles.
Prepare to have your blood pressure rise a bit. When I comment on articles, I often get bashed by people who say things like "just close your mouth and get off the couch" or worse name-call. I choose not to engage, "I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed man." ~Oscar Wilde
Instead I just share my story and let that speak for itself.
3. Contact your elected officials and share your story. The majority of legislators know little about obesity, its effects and treatments. You are the expert and can educate them. There is no one better to share the social, emotional, physical and medical impact of obesity than someone who has been personally affected.
How to find contact info for your legislators.
Sign up for OAC Action Alerts - basically it's an email "heads up" that an issue is being discussed and how you can help.
4. When you spot or are the victim of incidents of weight bias or stigma challenge it by educating others. Example: My Costco experience. I know some may think, heck even some in our own community think, "What's the big deal?" "Don't you have a sense of humor?" but consider this fact... weight is a leading cause of bullying and nearly 20% of girls who faced weight bullying attempted (not just thought about, but actually attempted) suicide (per CDC - Center for Disease Control study.) It is a big deal.
The OAC also has a program called "Bias Busters" that directly combats weight bias issues. Past examples: PETA Ads, Facebook pages and sadly countless more.
5. Spread the word.
- Ask your Doctor's office or support group to join the Obesity Action Coalition or take part in a Walk from Obesity.
- Share Obesity Action Coalition FREE publications, there's a great Weight Bias in the Workplace Guide every Human Resources office should have a copy of. My favorite to share is the OAC's Understanding Your Weight Loss Options brochure.
- With your OAC membership you get "Your Weight Matters" magazine when you are done reading it why not pass it on to your doctor's office, library, heck even the hair salon.
- Share, repost, retweet articles and information on social media and forums you belong to. (FYI: I'm @Eggface and the OAC is @ObesityAction on Twitter)
- Share your story with others, especially those that had weight loss surgery, dispel the misconceptions and inaccurate information out there by proudly leading by example.
Together we will make a difference.