National Volunteer Week Spotlight: Michelle Vicari

Today we’re happy to share with you about a volunteer who has gone above and beyond in various areas here at the OAC. Michelle Vicari is an OAC National Board of Directors Member who also serves as the OAC’s Your Weight Matters National Convention Committee Chair.

Ms. Vicari has given numerous hours of service to the OAC by helping plan our National Convention, providing assistance for the overall growth of the OAC and by spreading the word about our events and initiatives on her blog, “The World According to Eggface.”

We took some time to ask Ms. Vicari why she volunteers for the OAC and why she feels others should as well. This is what she said:

1. How did you become involved with the OAC?

Vicari: Several years ago I stumbled on the Obesity Action Coalition’s Web site and was thrilled at the amount of information and resources that were provided. I spent about two hours reading that day, and signed-up for a membership before I logged off. I started following the OAC’s Facebook and Twitter posts and learning about the organization and all the wonderful work it does and I wanted to get more involved. I volunteered to serve on a committee, and traveled with the OAC to Washington, DC to share my story and help in the fight for access to obesity treatments. A few years ago, I was honored to gain a seat on the National Board of Directors.

2.What is it about serving as the Convention Committee Chair that you enjoy the most?

Vicari: I am excited to be the Convention Chair of #YWM2016, our National Convention being held in Washington DC August 25-28th. The education and speakers who come to share their research and knowledge with our attendees are simply amazing. These are people who are at the top of their fields in health, weight, nutrition, emotional health, fitness and wellness. They aren’t just speaking and taking off, they are interacting with our attendees and sharing tools we can use right away to live the healthiest lives we can. I learn so much each year.

My favorite part, though, is the awesome and inspiring people I meet each year. I know for some it can be hard to put yourself out there and attend a convention, but I hope you make that leap because I promise you it will be life-changing!

3. What is your favorite memory of volunteering for the OAC?

Vicari: I have so many favorite memories of volunteering for the OAC. Recently I was able to share all the wonderful free educational materials OAC offers at this huge local health fair the hospital in my area hosts. I met so many people that day. I enjoyed chatting with people about the work the OAC does, from our nationwide advocacy efforts with lawmakers in Washington, DC and providing our perspective on policy, to creating public awareness of weight bias and stigma and its harmful consequences and of course inviting them to #YWM2016. I remembered the day I first learned about the OAC and how I felt knowing there was someone out there fighting the good fight for us, and for those we love.

4. What drives you to continue volunteering for the OAC?

Vicari: I am a person affected by obesity. At 34 years old with several obesity-related health issues: severe Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, High Blood Pressure and requiring eight prescription medications, I was told by my doctors that many of those painful, debilitating, and life threatening conditions could be potentially relieved and that having bariatric surgery was the best option.

Despite my qualifying BMI of 54 and multiple obesity-related health issues (all of which were being treated by my doctors and costing my insurance company and myself thousands of dollars), I was denied the surgery. I was denied any weight-loss related treatments: no weight-loss or fitness programs, nutrition classes, pharmaceuticals, therapy, nothing related to the treatment of weight-loss was covered. I remember receiving my insurance denial. I sat in my car and cried.

The denial threw me for a loop for a while, but within a year I was able to gather the needed resources to self-pay for surgery. I started my blog, The World According to Eggface, documenting my journey to better health where I talk about the physical and emotional aspects of weight-loss, healthy lifestyle tips and recipes in hopes that it helps make others’ paths easier. Finding the OAC and my volunteer involvement helps me work toward ensuring that others have access to education, support and treatment if they seek it. I don’t want anyone to feel like I did that day in my car.

5. Why should others volunteer on behalf of the OAC?

Vicari: There is a proverb about the value of uniting together for a common cause: “Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable,” one voice is powerful but together unbreakable. If you are interested in adding your voice to the OAC’s efforts they will be stronger because of you. I encourage you to join the OAC, follow us on social media, share the free resources, and attend our National Convention. We even have two training sessions to help you learn even more ways to get involved. I hope to see you there!

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