Friday, August 18, 2017

Your Weight Matters YWM2017 Wrap-Up - Day 1 and 2

I'm back from the Your Weight Matters National Convention. What an amazing weekend! If you ever get an opportunity to attend... do it! You will not regret it. It's 3+ days of awesome education, world renowned speakers and the best people you will ever meet. For me, attending makes me feel energized and recommitted to my personal health goals and my commitment to advocacy efforts in combating weight bias and increasing access to care and education about obesity.

So many great memories from the weekend. I left for New Orleans early Wednesday morning. This is me at the San Diego airport barely awake...

Bariatric Surgery Social Media Health Weight Loss Journey

It was a long travel day. I was thankful I packed Mini Pecan Praline Protein Muffins they kept me going till I was able to grab some dinner... Caesar Salad with a Creole Crab Cake (minus croutons, dressing on the side) at the hotel when I arrived at about 8 PM.

Thursday... Woke up before the sun to give everyone a sneak peek of the Registration Area and get some much needed coffee.


We had an Obesity Action Coalition Board of Directors meeting. It was so nice to see everyone. We mostly communicate through phone meetings so it's always nice to have face to face time. We've got some great projects in the works and it was a chance to touch base on those and get some updates from all our committees. Oh and I was honored to be elected Vice Chair at the meeting...

YWM2017 Annual Event Board of Directors

We had a little break for lunch joined 2 friends in the French Quarter. I had a delicious Grilled Shrimp Salad (when in NOLA seafood is my jam) and then it was back to the hotel for our Advocacy Training Sessions. I was excited to share the reasons why sharing our personal stories is such a powerful tool  as well as how to use social media in our advocacy efforts. The slides of that session will be available soon and I'll be sure to add the link so check back.

We had a great Welcome Reception and the first opportunity to tour the exhibit hall. We all wore shirts from our home state... such a fun ice breaker.

Friends Support Health

Friday...


Welcome Attendees

We started with a strong and empowering message out of the gate from Amber Huett-Garcia, Obesity Action Coalition Chair and Dr. Scott Kahan, OAC's Co-chair of the YWM2017 Program Committee about why it's important to challenge the unfair and harmful bias the world too often shows those affected by obesity, Dr. Kahan shared this...
"Weight bias can be the most unfair, inappropriate, and destructive part of living with obesity. But worse still is the harm that comes from believing that bias. We stigmatize ourselves and start internalizing the bias. This adds insult to the direct physical injury of obesity. We must come together as a community to support each other and fight all that bias." 
Dr Scott Kahan Amber Huett-Garcia Michelle Vicari

There is no doubt my obesity affected my health but while we fight to regain our health it is awful that we are faced with weight bias and stigma in so many areas of society... in the media, education, employment and unconscionably in the place we should feel the most safe in health care settings. We all know the narrative that the world has created for us... we eat too much and move too little, we are lazy, weak-willed and have poor self-discipline... I won't go on... now not only does the science NOT support that but this is far, far, far from the truth of any one I have ever met affected by obesity.

Let's do an experiment...

When you are next in a store like Costco or Sam's do this: pick up a 150 pound bag of something... rice or beans or dog food and try and run... but now think about doing it when you are ill and keep that bag with you for many years, at work, at school, try and fit in this world with it's airplane seats and tray tables, student desks, hospital gowns, blood pressure cuffs and turnstiles... oh and on occasion as you are carrying that weight have someone call you names, or treat you differently, or pass you over for a promotion, or assume and make judgments, make disgusted faces or jokes or ask questions like "have you ever tried dieting and exercise?"

Wow, really?! That never crossed my mind *eye-roll*

Having to deal with bias and stigma like the situations I shared is the current sad reality for many affected by obesity. It's wrong and unfair and as you can imagine takes it's toll. I have hope and am determined that one day much like those with depression were once told "just get over it" that as we gain a better understanding of obesity and it's causes those affected will face less stigma, shame and blame. Till then we call it out when we see or experience it and find understanding and support in each other through groups like the Obesity Action Coalition and events like the Your Weight Matters National Convention.

Final thought... I'm sure you know many people who have "normal BMI's" that live extremely unhealthy lives. The size of a person's body does not tell the whole story. I have a friend who started her on her health journey at 400+ pounds. Her BMI is currently in the "clinically obese" range but not only has she lost 200 pounds, she works out daily, eats super healthy, has done extensive work on her emotional health, has stellar labs but society looking at a snapshot of her now might wrongly assume she is unhealthy just based on her size. They would be WRONG! In fact, the only thing you can tell for sure by using a person's size to make assumptions about them are your own biases. Check yourself ;)

Busting bias is one of the reasons I continue to share my story and during the Thursday Training Session I shared the reasons why I hope many more will. I know it's hard to put yourself out there but there is so much to gain for ourselves and others. I will not accept the story that someone else has written for me because my weight tells you nothing about me.

Here are 2 slides from my Thursday presentation...

Patient Stories Advocacy  Why Tell Your Story  #YWM2017
Patient Stories Advocacy  Why Tell Your Story  #YWM2017

The remainder of Friday was equally as awesome. We learned about the science behind diets and exercise. I would love those "just eat less, move more" folks to sit in on those presentations because... umm no... sorry, it's not that simple. We humans are unique snowflakes, every one of us is different and we respond differently to diets and exercise. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a one-size-fits-all solution but there isn't... it's truly about finding what works for you and... then once you do FYI since obesity is a chronic disease. Chronic: long lasting, recurring, difficult to eradicate. It will require chronic, assessing (is what I am doing working?) and adjustment (what more or different can I do?) Life happens and we adjust the sails.

After the main sessions, I was honored to share in one our Coffee/Lunch with the Experts sessions the tips that have worked for me over the years for Staying on Track in Social Situations. You don't get the awesome sharing and conversation that took place but here's my handout from the session.

Tips and Tricks for Staying on Track in Social Situations Health Weight

We rocked it out a few times throughout the day to get the blood pumping! Loved these 10 minute exercise breaks between sessions.

Afternoons are full of hard choices as 2 sessions are going on at the same time. A standout for me was the session on: Looking at Your Nutritional Needs after Bariatric Surgery. I can't stress to you how important taking your vitamins and keeping up with your labs are. That's the commitment we made when we chose our treatment. If you aren't doing it... again... adjust the sails.

Speaking of vitamins... I love the handouts Celebrate Vitamins were giving out in the Exhibit Hall along with sample packs. You get so much awesome swag. I always tell people to save room in their luggage on the way home.

YWM2017 Your Weight Matters

In the late afternoon, we had a great session (ticketed, with all $$ going to the Your Weight Matters Scholarship fund) with nationally-acclaimed motivational speaker, psychotherapist and Convention favorite, Merrill Littleberry (you've heard me share about her before) who gave us some great tools for picking ourselves up after life's inevitable hits.

Then it was party time... we put on our masks and feathers, danced, took photos, enjoyed our new and old friends. We had even had a New Orleans traditional "Second Line" parade. So much fun!!

Friday Night Fun

Friday Night Fun

and we revealed the location & dates of next year's event...


Official Storify Summary from Thursday and Friday with more pictures and videos.

My Day 3 and 4 Summary.

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