I highly encourage you to attend next year's. It really is life-changing. If you or anyone you know is interested in getting healthier... mark the calendar to attend the 3rd annual "Your Weight Matters" National Convention being held next year, September 25-28th, 2014 in Orlando, Florida! #YWM2014 I'll keep you updated and let you know when registration opens.
Here's a wrap-up of sorts from the convention. I have more to share but I wanted to get down some of the highlights in one blog entry. Especially for those considering attending in the future to see what the weekend is all about.
Thursday: We were able to register and get our name tags. I had lots of little ribbons to add this year. I was afraid to have any soup all weekend for fear of dipping my name tag in the bowl.
We wandered around and checked out the convention space. I was so jazzed to see the Tweet Board up! If you followed the #YWM2013 hashtag on Twitter (and Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook) attendees shared some great information and pictures this weekend and members not in attendance could still benefit from the tips, learning and join in the conversations. Be sure to go and check those out.
The pre-event (optional and FREE) Advocacy Training began. I attended this portion last year so was able to take pics and watch from the side as another group of advocates became "OAC Advocacy Trained" some of which will be headed off to Washington DC on September 15 and 16 to encourage passage of the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act.
Going to Washington with the OAC was a great honor and learning experience. No one can tell our story about how obesity has affected us (and continues to affect us) better than we can... we are the experts. The legislators need to have faces, voices and stories to the statistics.
After the meeting we joined the rest of the attendees at the Member Mingle and "Teaming up to Tackle Obesity" program, featuring special guests and former NFL athletes Corey Louchiey and James Thornton, who shared their personal stories about how they are tackling obesity post NFL with two different approaches.
One of OAC's Mission pillars is EDUCATION so 5 of the sessions from the convention were live-streamed and recorded so that everyone could benefit from some of the educational offerings. Not quite like being there but next best thing.
Friday: This was personally my busiest day. I was up bright and early to welcome and lead a group of 6 AM walkers. You guys know walking is one of my favorite forms of exercise. I love the outdoors. When you walk outside the time and distance (and calories) just fly. I count the minutes on a treadmill staring at the same scenery. I am an insomniac (self diagnosed) so 6 AM was perfect for me but I wasn't sure I wouldn't be the only one up at that hour. I was so jazzed to see this group of rock stars show up and special thanks to my pal Pandora Williams for helping stretch us out before the walk.
Even at that hour in Arizona it's pretty hot. Some of my walking pals headed to Yoga (Joy Jacobs, pink shirt above, you are amazing) and I took off to grab a shower before breakfast. A very sweaty me...
I was one of the door greeters assigned to welcome attendees and pass out our cute "Your Weight Matters" bracelets so I wanted to be ready to man my station before the first person got there.
Pam Davis, our board chair and Amber Huett, convention chair welcomed everyone and the educational sessions began. A highlight of the morning for me was Dr. Robert Kushner's presentation, "The Rollercoaster of Life: Major Events in a Woman's Life" which you can view online and Ted Kyle and Joseph Nadglowski's "Weight Bias - Changing Public Perception Starts with Me."
The OAC event has a unique lunch time. You choose a topic you are most interested for a round table discussion over a yummy boxed lunch. I lead a lunch on Friday. My topic was "Linking with Others: Finding your Support Online" where I shared some sources, tips, and cautions to the group. I provided each of my new lunch friends with a special "Your Weight Matters" USB bracelet with the entire presentation loaded on it so we had more opportunity to chat versus spending the whole time writing down web address and taking notes.
After lunch, I was part of an afternoon session called, "Everyday Advocacy: Simple Ways to Make a Difference" with Joe Nadglowski and Maria Caprigno (who had weight loss surgery at 14 and who along with the OAC played an integral role in getting September declared Childhood Obesity Month.) Part of the presentation was based on a blog entry I did a few months back called, "Be an advocate - 5 easy ways."
The final breakout session for the day I attended was Merill Littleberry's "Who's Staring Back at You in the Mirror? Improving Self-Perception" Merrill's presentation last year gave me the boost to wear a dress for the first time in years. I actually wore 2 this year. Her presentation was awesome and inspiring again. Merrill is worth the price of admission alone.
Friday evening's event was a "Beach Party" everyone dressed up like characters or creatures from the sea. There was a costume contest and my friend Kesha won. She was a fierce Ursula from "The Little Mermaid." I went as Seaweed... a major character in every beach movie ever made ;)
Saturday: Began another day of amazing educational sessions. Two of the presentation are available online. Don't miss them... one on "Understanding and Managing Food Addiction" by Nicole Avena, PhD and an amazing eye opening session by Gary Foster, PhD "Weighing Success beyond the Scale: Identifying and Maintaining a Healthy Weight."
I took a little time to say hello to friends, make some new ones and say thank you to exhibitor friends Celebrate Vitamins, Chike Nutrition, and the rest of the AWESOME exhibitors. A special shout-out to all those who supported our event. Please remember the companies that support our activities when you make purchases.
The evening event on Saturday was the Awards Gala a chance to get dressed up a bit and to honor a few members, advocates and volunteers that have made a special contribution to the cause of obesity this year.
The award winner's were all well deserving: Christopher Still, (one of the 3 founders of the OAC) received Healthcare Provider Advocate of the Year. Melinda Watman, was awarded Bias Buster of the Year. The physicians of the St. Vincent Bariatric Center of Excellence earned the Dr. Blackstone Outstanding Member Recruitment Award. Maria Caprigno, who I was honored to work with on the Advocacy presentation on Friday, was awarded the Barbara Thompson Award for Advocacy. Phoenix Councilman Daniel Valenzuela was named as Community Leader of the Year for helping to develop the FitPHX program which demonstrates how community government can help their citizens gain better health. Dr. Robert Kushner, who I have the honor of serving with on the OAC Board of Directors was awarded the OAC Chairman’s Award. He was responsible for designing much of the Convention's educational program. He's really nice too.
I was super excited at the winner of the OAC Member of the Year Award: Dr. Walter Medlin is not only an excellent bariatric surgeon and tireless advocate for the OAC, he is also a weight loss surgery patient. His blog articles for the OAC are some of my very favorites and I often retweet them because the weight loss surgery community needs to read every thing this man writes.
I had a special surprise when the members of the Convention Committee were called on stage and given this lovely thank you for our efforts, being thanked for a project I thoroughly enjoyed working on was the cherry on top. Thank you OAC for allowing me to take part.
Some of us hung out and chit chatted in the lobby area for a bit. Then it was off to bed...
Sunday: The Walk from Obesity. Special thanks to those that donated!! I thought of you all as I made my rounds on the course that morning. I am so lucky to have such a support network. I thank you. I also thought how it wasn't too many years ago I would not have been able to walk in something like this.
I met so many wonderful, inspiring people. I got to spend time with friends I only get to see at events xoxo I wish you all lived on my block!! Commune anyone?! xoxo I have tons more pictures and stories to share (thinking a slideshow is needed) but that gives you a glimpse at least into the awesome education and fun weekend you can have if you join me in Orlando next year! I hope you will.