A Warm Welcome from the YWM2016 Welcoming Committee
by Rob Portinga
I was asked why the Your Weight Matters National Convention is important to me, and how the event has made an impact in my life. In some ways, I thought this question was going to be a difficult question to answer.
The first part was actually pretty easy. At Convention, I see people I have met through the online communities that I have been a part of since my bariatric surgery back in 2009, as well as those I’ve met and continue to keep in touch with since first attending the YWM Convention in Phoenix back in 2013. There is continuous support and encouragement I’ve received from many of those same people as well, and just knowing I’ll continue meet more great people and develop more friendships reminds me of how important this event is in my life.
In addition to that, there are the great educational components. There are a great number of speakers I’ve had the chance to listen to and meet over the last few years. The speakers that are at YWM always are so inspiring — not just in the topics they present, but in their willingness to not just speak to the crowd, but to interact with everyone throughout the event.
Those are the easy answers for why Convention is so important to me, and while very true, the more I thought about this, the more I realized the second part was actually pretty easy to answer as well.
For me, attending the Your Weight Matters National Convention in 2013 was just the start of my involvement with the Obesity Action Coalition, but even then I knew I wanted to get more than just the socializing and educational aspects out of it. I made it a point to sign up for the National Advocacy Training, arriving to the hotel just in time to get checked in and take a quick look around before the training session started.
After the event, I was invited to join the OAC and others for a trip to Washington, DC to talk to Senate and Congressional staff members about the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act. It was thrilling, nerve-wracking, awe inspiring and overwhelming all at once — and it was over all too soon.
That’s when I knew I needed more: to learn more, and to do more. And I’ve done so, as part of the OAC’s Weight Bias and YWM Convention Planning Committees. I’ve been able to work with, learn from and participate in a lot of great things that the OAC had done these last few years, fueling a passion I’m not sure I fully realized was there.
So maybe the best way to answer how the OAC’s National Convention has impacted me is by what it’s given me — a purpose.
Attending the Convention each year helps fuel that purpose on so many levels. It helps me be able to keep in touch with, be inspired by, be informed by, and just plain be around so many great people. It’s more than just speaking out about bias; it’s about letting others know there is a safe place for them to be themselves. It’s about getting so much out of it for yourself, that you can’t help wanting to able to offer some of that back to others.
It’s a purpose that keeps me coming back for more, year after year. This year is sort of coming full circle to 2013, as I’ll be back in Washington, DC again. And no matter what the Your Weight Matters National Convention means to you — either as a brand-new attendee starting a brand-new adventure with us, or an individual who’s returning for similar reasons as my own — I hope to see you there.
Want to join the OAC at the 5th Annual Your Weight Matters National Convention? CLICK HERE to register now!
About the Author:
Rob Portinga is a member of the OAC and serves on the Your Weight Matters National Convention Committee, and the Weight Bias Committee. Mr. Portinga joined the OAC on Capitol Hill to advocate for the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act, and was also the recipient of the 2014 Barbara Thompson Award for Advocacy and the 2015 OAC Member of the Year Award. As a health coach, blogger and host of a local integrative wellness show, Mr. Portinga knows how important it is for individuals to have access to the right education and support for their journey.