OAC Your Weight Matters #YWM2014 Wrap Up

This past weekend I was in Orlando, Florida attending the Obesity Action Coalition "Your Weight Matters" National Convention #YWM2014 learning about the latest science-based research in weight, health, nutrition, fitness and wellness and having a great time making new friends and catching up with old ones. I flew in on Wednesday and my friend Sarah picked me up at the airport. We found the nearest Starbucks and got to sit and chit chat over a latte which we only get to do in real life once (or twice if we're lucky) a year. I ate peanuts, a few pieces of dried apple, a protein bar, and a protein shake all day so I was really looking forward to dinner. We found a few people who had also come early and had dinner in the hotel restaurant. I had sashimi and steamed edamame. My protein count for the day ended up being pretty darn good. I went up to my room to take a last look at my presentation for the Beginning Advocacy Training Session for the next day...

This session sprang out of a discussion at the last retreat (the OAC National Board has a planning retreat each year) and the desire have more members armed with the tools to share their story and spread the word about the Obesity Action Coalition's great efforts on behalf of the 93 million people affected by excess weight and obesity within their own community and sphere of influence.

During the new session I presented a segment on how you can utilize the power of social media in advocacy efforts. This is super important to me and a place I think everyone of us can make a HUGE impact in educating the public about obesity, increasing access to care and treatment, standing up to weight bias and bullying, advocating for community issues like access to healthy foods, safe streets, more parks, community gardens, childhood obesity issues, so many areas. We can use social media to put our faces and stories to those headless images of those affected by obesity you find in the traditional media. For those of you that follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest you've seen some of my OAC messages, links to resources and brochures, calls to action... just imagine if we all shared just a few of those messages a month. We can use the power of social media to do so much for the causes we care about.

If you ever get a chance to go to the OAC Convention (FYI you ALL will be going next year! More about that later in the post) I highly recommend taking part in the Thursday Advocacy Training sessions. They are a completely free, optional add-on. There is also a National Advocacy Training that will give you the tools to take your advocacy to the next level. The OAC often draws from that group for the people they bring to Days on the Hill in Washington DC.

We had a nice Mingle that evening with tidbits (Mmm cheese) and chit chat and then ate dinner in the hotel, more sashimi. I was on a kick.

Friday morning Convention officially began and I was on stage at 9 AM to help welcome the crowd before our keynote speaker, Dr. Arya Sharma spoke, never miss an opportunity to hear Dr. Sharma, not only is he super smart but funny too. Follow him on Facebook.

The day was filled with amazing speakers: Dr. James Hill, Merrill Littleberry, Dr. Stephen Cook, Dr. Lloyd Stegemann, so much information. I facilitated a Lunch Session: "Linking With Others: Finding Your Support Online" and met a lovely group of ladies. Thank you to my pals at Sworkit (one of my favorite exercise apps) that provided me with a free pro-app download for each of my group.

The Expo Hall had lots of great vendors sharing goodies. At the OAC booth you could get all the great publications and learn more about how to get involved. Some of my favorites like Celebrate Vitamins and fitness inspiration Robanne Robin were there. I was especially jazzed for the health testing area.

That evening we danced, laughed and took crazy pictures at the Decades Party. You could dress in any decade you wanted. I was a 80's rocker. P.S. Everyone needs an inflatable guitar. It's awesome.

The Obesity Action Coalition also announced the dates and location of next year's convention. If you haven't heard: The OAC's Your Weight Matters #YWM2015 National Convention will be held in San Antonio, Texas, August 13th - 16th. Mark your calendars...

Saturday I started my day off before the sun came up with a group walk. I love walking in the AM it's a great way to start the day. Grabbed a shower and head down to the sessions...

The sessions began with Dr. Jim Levine. I could listen to him all day, he sounds like Chris Martin from Coldplay. Speaking of Coldplay "Sky Full of Stars" was this year's theme song. We also heard from Dr. Michelle May, Dr. Mark Gold, Ted Kyle... the list goes on. I'll talk more about all the education and things I learned in future blog entries but I have to share this pearl of wisdom from Dr. Michelle May's session I just had to tweet...
Amen. We need to work on that head stuff. It was a nice lead in to my lunch session. I facilitated a Lunch Session on Saturday called "In it for the Long Haul: Tips for Success in Your Bariatric Surgery Journey" I wasn't crazy about the title because you know if you have read my blog for any length of time that I believe there is no such thing as "success or failure" as long as you are in the game so to speak but I hopefully gave the table a few tips and resources that are helping me and will hopefully help them too. There were a few familiar faces from the Riverside Jarupa Valley Bariatric support group I spoke at last month. Thank you to my local peeps for your support.

After the final speaker session I went up to my room to get ready for the Awards Gala. I wore a black and purple dress. I NEVER wear dresses but Merrill's session back in Dallas changed that and now I vow to wear one every year. I didn't count on having to zip it up without assistance. Just call me pretzel girl. I twisted in ways I don't think I have ever twisted but thankfully I did it. This is the only full length shot I could find so far. That's James Zervios, Director of Communications for the OAC.

It was a lovely night. Several of my pals received awards Sarah Bramblette, Rob Portinga, the aforementioned Merrill Littleberry and the lovely Abby Lentz. BTW I have copies of Abby's Yoga DVD's I'll be trying out and sharing my thoughts about. I have been told yoga will help with body image "stuff" so I'm jazzed to try them out. Thank you Abby. We danced a little and said some goodbye's to those catching early flights.

Sunday morning's Inaugural Advocacy March to Washington, DC. was extra special to me. I had a little extra input in the planning of this portion of the event and seeing the ideas that I had jotted down on paper months ago turned into the real life interactive stations was a thrill. I was beaming as I watched participants making their voice heard by signing a petition for patient access to treatment, taking a stand against weight bias, learning how easy the OAC makes it to reach out to their local legislators, and getting a visual of the power of the OAC's voice across the country.

The event was an add-on and ALL MONIES raised went directly into next year's scholarship fund to help those that are unable to afford to attend come to the event. When next year's application process opens I will be sure to post that info on the blog.

All weekend convention attendees and those of you at home that took part had been logging their steps, we heard updates throughout the weekend and I was hoping we would get the necessary steps to make it to DC. WE DID IT! It was a powerful end to an amazing weekend.

I am glad we weren't a few hundred steps under. I know my Saturday count was missing at least that but I couldn't get the reading from my original pedometer because umm it fell into the toilet. Yes, that happened. I heard a plop and well I wasn't going in after it but we made it so thankfully those steps of mine that are swimming in the sewers of Orlando weren't missed.

So now... you must make plans to come to the event next year. I am especially asking you all to attend and help me make #YWM2015 even more awesome as I go from co-chair to taking the committee's lead next year. They say everything is big in Texas and I am counting on it! There will be tons of great speakers, even more wonderful opportunities to learn and try new things, lots of friend making and BIG smiles. Speaking of smiles... my face literally hurts from smiling and I lost my voice from talking so much. I miss everyone already and have been playing this weekends theme song on repeat. I'm sure I will share more videos and photos as I spot them online but I wanted to give an update let you know I made it home. I've been cooking up a storm too so tomorrow watch for a food post. Back to reality.

More Photos from the #YWM2014 on the OAC's Flickr Stream
Tweets from the event #YWM2014