Get to Know Us – Kristy Kuna
10 Questions with Kristy Kuna, OAC Director of Programs and Membership
1. How did you become involved with the OAC?
I have spent the past 12 years working in the non-profit world, previously serving as Program Manager with a non-profit patient advocacy organization in kidney disease. I worked under Joe Nadglowski (OAC’s current President/CEO), and when he was recruited away to start the OAC, he brought me along with him to start this exciting new venture. The OAC literally started in Joe’s son’s playroom in Tampa, Fla., and here we are… nine years later! It’s been a whirlwind adventure since opening our doors in 2005, and I am so fortunate to be part of such a dynamic and growing organization.
2. Have you personally dealt with obesity, and if so, how has it impacted your life?
My weight has never been a consistent variable in my life, and I definitely have experienced more struggles than ease. I was a competitive swimmer in high school and spent an average of 2.5 hours, 6 days a week in the water training. Despite this extreme physical activity, my weight was always a factor in my life. I can relate to many of our members with gaining and losing a lot of weight in my life. Shortly after college, my weight crept up on me, and I was actually diagnosed with high blood pressure. My doctor told me that since high blood pressure was in my genetics that I would just have to take medication. He never addressed the underlying issue, which was my weight. I wasn’t willing to accept this notion, so I decided to address my weight head-on. I found success through starting to do triathlons and focusing on my eating behaviors. Though, I knew my fight would not be over and that my weight would be something for me to contend with for my entire life. This was especially true after I had my child four years ago. I have found that what worked in the past to get my weight under control is even more challenging now. Even with completing two half marathons and leading a pretty active lifestyle, my weight is still something that I struggle with and am still trying to figure out. My personal experience and the experiences of others are my constant reminder of how complex of an issue weight management is and that there is not one solution that works for everyone. I wish that our society knew this because I do believe it would breed a lot more understanding.
3. What is your favorite part about being a staff member of the OAC?
This is a tough question because there is so much. Professionally, I love all of the opportunities that the OAC offers me to lend my talents and creativity to help others. I love that we have a real opportunity to impact significant change that needs to happen with how our society views individuals with obesity. I often wish that people had the privilege of getting to know all of the folks in our world because I do think they would see everything very differently. On a personal note, being on staff at the OAC is like being part of a family. With this, family is an important part of our work culture and work/life balance is definitely a priority for us. My daughter, who is four years old now, literally grew-up in our office and thinks of all of our staff as an extension of her family. She calls them her “workie friends.” I am eternally grateful for this aspect of my job and as most of my friends tell me, “you are lucky to have what you have.” I agree – 100 percent!
4. Why is the OAC valuable in advocating for obesity awareness?
This one is easy. Because we are the only organization that does it and CAN do it, specifically for individuals with obesity. And the reason we can do it is because of the solid foundation that we have built with our members. As Director of Programs and Membership, I have had the privilege of leading the effort alongside our membership committee under the leadership of Dr. Lloyd Stegemann, and I am very proud at what we have been able to build in such a short amount of time. The momentum only continues, and it is invigorating to see new and renewed memberships come across my email every day. This always reminds me of how important that our work is and the need for it to continue.
5. What is one major goal that you want to accomplish as a staff member?
I want to see us utilize our membership in a greater capacity. We have long talked about the need for more member engagement, and I personally want to take this organizational goal to the next level, and I really believe that we can. We are in the midst of integrating some new systems internally which will give us an expanded ability to activate our membership in ways we have yet to do, and I am very excited about this.
6. What is your favorite film?
My go-to favorite film is Gone With the Wind, though it has been a while since I have watched it start to finish. I will blame that on the fact it is nearly four hours long and that I have a four year old, so most of the films watched in my home these days are animated. But, something has always intrigued me about the Gone With the Wind era and about the character Scarlett O’Hara. I can always sit and watch that movie if time was on my side. I can’t say that about many others. But, I honestly can’t complain about the animated movies I get to watch with my daughter. My new favorite is Wreck-it-Ralph. It’s such an ingeniously imagined movie, much like Monster’s Inc. Of course, Frozen is a pretty big deal in my house now, too!
7. What is your fondest memory from this past year?
Professionally, my fondest memory was going on Capitol Hill in September to experience real legislative visits while pushing the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act legislation. For so long, I never considered advocacy “my thing,” but after these visits I was surprisingly invigorated for action on this level and it gave me a real sense of how we can effect change in Washington, DC. Personally, my fondest memory was recent when I got to join my daughter at her Montessori school for Mother’s Tea. What I loved so much about it was the pride my daughter felt to have me there and celebrate Mother’s Day with me. I won’t ever forget her constant smile on her face the entire time. I feel fortunate that I don’t ever have to miss moments like that, thanks to the beautiful work/life balance that the OAC allows me to achieve.
8. If you could’ve had any career other than your current one, what would it have been?
Growing up, I always thought I wanted to be a news anchor, but I am quite thankful I lost that bug because the local news drives me crazy now. I must say that there really isn’t any other career path I would choose if I had the opportunity to go back and choose another. I really love what I do and couldn’t imagine a better fit for me and my personality than to get to do the work I do every day.
9. What is your favorite place to vacation?
Vacations are mandatory in my home. My husband and I LOVE to vacation, and we take the opportunity every chance we can to get away with our daughter and family. We love to cruise a few times a year and also mix in some other interesting places when we can. I am intrigued by majestic backdrops, so I love the mountains. But, Europe (specifically France) is one of my most favorite places and somewhere we will go back to as much as we can. We took my daughter to Europe with us when she was 2 and she still talks about seeing the Eiffel Tower and Peter Pan’s Clock (aka – Big Ben). For those who don’t think a child remembers things like that, I would have to disagree! But who could forget things like that, anyways?
10. What is your most prized possession?
Obviously my family is my most precious gift, but I must say if I had to name a possession, it would be my gold Tiffany locket that my husband gave me on my first Mother’s Day after my daughter was born. The locket has a picture of my daughter when she was a baby in it. She loves it, too, because when I wear it I tell her, “See… you are always in mommy’s heart!”
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Join us next time as we feature OAC Board member, Georgeann Mallory, RD!