Step into the shoes of Kevin Stephens, a remarkable member of the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) whose personal journey with obesity has become a powerful force for change.

As a dedicated volunteer on the OAC’s Inclusivity and Diversity Task Force, Kevin tirelessly works to challenge societal biases and dismantle the barriers faced by those living with obesity. His commitment to creating a more inclusive world has earned him immense respect within the OAC Community and beyond.

In this inspiring member interview, we had the privilege of talking to Kevin about his personal journey with weight and his work within the organization. Join us as we get to learn more about this amazing individual and advocate!

Can you share with us your journey with obesity? When did you first realize that your weight was becoming a concern for your health?

My journey began when I was very young. I remember going to a Weight Watchers meeting when I was in elementary school. My weight was always a concern, but when I was diagnosed in July 2010 with lymphedema (chronic swelling) in my legs, I knew I had to make some changes.

Along with my lymphedema diagnosis, I also suffered from high blood pressure, sleep apnea and prediabetes. Several life events contributed to my decision to finally seek help for my weight. I broke a chair while having lunch with friends, had to exit an amusement park ride because the seat belt wouldn’t fasten, and once, I had to call the paramedics because I couldn’t get off the floor. So, on February 8, 2011, I had the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery and started my weight-loss journey. I consider that day to be my second birthday.

What treatment routes have you tried for your obesity, and what has been the most effective for you? Have you experienced any challenges or barriers in accessing treatment?

I’ve tried it all — Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, the Adkins diet, nutrition counseling, and various crash diets. Gastric bypass has been the most effective treatment for me. I’ve maintained a 200-pound weight-loss over the last 12 years, going from 417 pounds down to 198, and now averaging around 235. My insurance offers a complete wellness program that supports bariatric surgery and other alternatives, so I am fortunate to have never had difficulties with accessing treatment once I was ready. Moving forward, I’d like to try the new anti-obesity drugs that are currently available to assist me with my weight regain.

Have you experienced weight bias or stigma in your life because of your weight? How have you dealt with it, and what advice would you give to others who may be facing similar challenges?

Growing up, I was always the last one chosen for a team, and I often wasn’t invited to parties or other get-togethers. As I got older and began searching for treatment for some of my medical conditions, I was always told, “You need to just lose weight.” Even my leg swelling was blamed on my obesity until I met a doctor who diagnosed me with lymphedema and told me that there were other factors beyond my control.

However, my primary doctor recently disappointed me when I asked to be considered for the new anti-obesity drugs to assist me in losing my regain. He told me it was just another easy way out (referring to my gastric bypass surgery). I was so unprepared that I didn’t say anything back to him, but I wish I had. I intend to speak up in the future. So, my advice is to always respond when you feel you aren’t being treated appropriately and to express your feelings and concerns. Get second opinions and always do your own research. See what options are available to you. Obesity is a disease and there are many treatment approaches.

What kind of advocacy work have you been involved in with the OAC, and what has been the most rewarding part of this experience for you?

I currently serve on the OAC’s Inclusivity and Diversity Task Force. Being on this committee has given me the opportunity to hear other people’s stories about stigma and realize that I am not alone. It is very rewarding to be on a team where the mission is to stop the stereotypes and mistreatment of people of color coping with obesity. I am being educated and I am educating others as well. My volunteer work is a form of therapy for me.

I would also like to add that through the OAC, I was given the opportunity to help Brendan Fraser prepare for his role in the Oscar-winning motion picture. Mr. Fraser asked me to describe my life as a person living with obesity and what challenges I faced when I was at my heaviest. Being able to participate in this opportunity and share my personal story with him is humbling and rewarding. It’s a chance to share my very real and hard experiences in a small way with the possibility of helping others.

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges facing the obesity community today, and how can we work together to overcome them?

Weight bias is one of our biggest challenges as a community. We must continue to educate about obesity and speak up to eliminate it. We also have to get better at accepting each other and showing more empathy. Don’t judge someone if they are experiencing weight regain. Instead, offer encouragement and support.  Another challenge we’re facing is coming together again in person after the COVID-19 lockdowns. Many of us with obesity were isolated for over two years, so it’s not going to be easy getting back to normal for some. Discuss your fears and concerns with others in this community. Remember that you aren’t alone.

What have you learned about yourself throughout your journey thus far?

I learned that I am a stronger person than I was prior to this journey and not to let setbacks sabotage my success. I have to pick myself up and move forward.

At a conference once, a stranger grabbed me by the arm and told me she heard me discuss my journey, and it inspired her to take the next step and pursue bariatric surgery. So, I learned that my story is important because it is my story. For a long time, I didn’t think it mattered. But if my story can have an impact on just one person, it must be worth telling.

Do You Want to Share Your Story?

Whether you have a story about navigating obesity, facing weight stigma, or inspiring others, your voice is important. Visit the OAC’s story project at to share yours today. Not sure what to say? Consider one of our question prompts to guide you.

If you would like your story to be featured in a future issue of Weight Matters Magazine, please email