Social Activism – Fighting Obesity

Last night I had the opportunity to be on the Diva Taunia Backstage Pass Radio Program along with Jim and Joe from the OAC and Dr. Connie Stapleton and the topic of discussion was social activism as it relates to obesity. The discussion was prompted by the recent events surrounding the humor article written by Dr. Kelly that I touched on previously here, here, here and here.

There are so many ways any of you could get involved, it would be near impossible to touch on them all. So I’m going to start by just saying… do something. Anything. It can be as simple as leaving a comment on the Facebook page of a TV show that does another “fat suit” story, to sharing a link with your network of friends on Twitter to the OAC membership page (and making sure you’re a member yourself!). The point is, every little bit helps. Every little bit is another step towards the goal. And if everyone did just a little bit, we could accomplish great things.

Then, if you are able to start doing more… but aren’t sure what to do… reach out. Reach out to others and see what they are doing, see if there are ways you could help. Ways you could team up to become more productive. Ways to create a louder voice as a group than we have as individuals.

I was given that opportunity when some folks from the Unity Hospital bariatric center (where I had my surgery) reached out to me to be part of the advocacy group they were forming. Our short-term goal is to foster relationships with our state legislators/senators in the hopes that we can help by putting faces to the obesity issues faces us today. Give them our stories, give them some basic information, and hopefully some understanding of the importance of some of these issues. I can’t tell you exactly what these issues are, at the moment our legislature is out of session and there’s nothing specific coming up that they’ll be addressing.

But I suppose this makes it the perfect time for us to try and start building these relationships. My goal here is not to lobby really, but to inform and as I said before, put a face to the issue for them.

My goal initially is to get about 10-15 minutes to speak with my representatives where I will give them a rundown of my personal battle with obesity and try to stress that while there are some great things happening when it comes to obesity prevention, that over 2/3 of our population is already overweight and we can’t forget about treatment for those folks. I also put together a short slideshow that I hope to show them as we’re talking… most likely though it will be in the form of a printout. That way I can also leave it with them for future reference.

The images that have been peppered through this posting are those slides. If there are something you would like to use yourself, let me know, leave a comment below or something. I will likely work up a generic version (powerpoint format) that I can get to folks. Additionally, I’m going to give you a copy of my “talk” that I’ve written up. I will not be sitting there and reading this to my representatives. But I wrote it out for my own use, as a way to get my own thoughts down on paper, organize them. I’ll work on whittling it down to an outline of sorts that I can take with me and use as a way to make sure I don’t forget the main points I hope to address. I am very hopeful however that my time with them is more of a conversation than my giving a presentation.

So yea, I’ve actually got calls in to my reps asking for some time to chat with them. I’ll post more as this whole thing progresses. Maybe this could be a road map of sorts for others hoping to try doing this themselves. Maybe as others do try this, we can pool resources, compare notes so that we all can be more effective. I guess we’ll see.

My notes for what to talk with my reps about:

Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. With the exception of a year in Woodbury I’ve lived in Maplewood for over 15 years now. I’m a volunteer with Allina Obesity Advocacy Coalition, having had bariatric surgery at Unity Hospital a few years ago.

There are a lot of great programs and initiatives out there right now when it comes to obesity prevention, but seeing as a third of US adults are already obese (BMI > 30 or at least 30# overweight) prevention is only part of the solution. There also needs to be some awareness surrounding options for treatment.

I personally failed at the prevention, and I sought treatment in the form of bariatric surgery. I would like for you to hear my story, hopefully broaden your outlook and understanding on this, so as opportunities come before you, you will be prepared to make informed decisions on issues that effect the obese.

I don’t know if you know anyone personally struggling with obesity, but it is all to often viewed simply as a issue of someone not getting enough exercise and not having the will power to basically push themselves away from the table. Every day research is coming out that is showing it’s just not that simple. From issues surround processed foods to showing links between obesity and childhood abuse. There are just many reasons, mental, emotional and physiological that can lead someone down the path to obesity.

For me personally, I was a fairly normal kid, playing little league sports and such. I was what was called “husky” back then. I was ok at the sports, but not great. Especially when it came to those President’s Physical Fitness tests. So I got a bit of teasing about that. Additionally, I had a father who was an alcoholic, and later a step-father who was a drug addict with a bad temper. By the time I graduated high school I was socially isolated and over 225 pounds.

Over the next decade or so my weight steadily increased, adding about another 100 pounds by the time I was in my 30s. Then after some failed relationships I ended up adding more weight until by the time I was 40 I was somewhere over 380 pounds.

I had tried a lot of different diets over the years, I was in weight watchers when I was in high school, I tried the low carb diets, all sorts of stuff. They all worked great at first, but I would end up putting the weight back on shortly after. Finally about three years ago I sought help in the form of bariatric surgery. I had gastric bypass in April of 2009 and lost half my body weight. I’ve since regained some, mostly muscle, but I’ve maintained over 160 pound loss for over a year and a half now. Additionally it got rid of my acid reflux. I was on blood pressure meds since my early 20s that I’m no longer on, and I no longer have sleep apnea.

I think what made the difference this time, is that the treatment I chose was set up to address not just my eating, but through psychological evaluation and the use of support groups it addressed, and continues to address the emotional and mental aspects of my obesity as well.

Now as for where I’m at today, I was laid off from a job in construction management a year ago and decided to pursue a career in nutrition. I received a certification in fitness nutrition and am building a career as a nutritional coach. It’s led me to other opportunities as well – I’m a co-host on a weekly health and wellness radio show and I was just recently spoke at a weight loss surgery conference out in Portland.

As I said earlier, there’s a lot of great stuff happening when it comes to obesity prevention, but there are way too many folks out there in the same position I was three years ago. It’s too late for prevention, they need treatment. And unfortunately there’s a lot of things going on that are stacking the deck against them and their quest to get that treatment. And I guess I’m hoping that by hearing about where I was, and where I am today, when opportunities come before you that have an impact on treatment options for folks like that, you’ll be able to reflect on our conversation today and hopefully help effect some changes that will help others who are suffering.

About Rob

I had RNY Gastric Bypass on April 8, 2009. I went from my heaviest of over 380 down to a low of 188 (for about a day!) before working on rebuilding muscle and such. Now I maintain at about 225. WLS has changed my life in so many ways, including my career as I now tackle nutritional coaching and other obesity education issues and is also a co-host on The Wake Up Call, a health and wellness radio show.