As 2018 comes to an end, the OAC is taking time to not only celebrate a tremendous year, but to reflect on the people we serve. During this special season of giving, please join us in creating REAL change for REAL people affected by obesity by making a financial gift to the OAC!
Your Gift Empowers Others, Like Ava from Louisiana
Your tax-deductible gift to the OAC will directly impact the lives of people we serve — people like Ava from Louisiana, who found her voice as an advocate for people affected by obesity.
Ava started her journey by seeking treatment to resolve her obesity-related health conditions. Along the way, she found a new passion for advocacy. After attending multiple OAC advocacy training sessions, she learned that she could use her voice to change how obesity care and treatment are accessed.
You can read more about Ava’s story below!
In May 2013, I reached my breaking point. My orthopedist went over my x-ray results and explained that kneeling for 20 minutes over the weekend had moved my kneecaps out of place. Dislocated kneecaps was added to my growing list of obesity-related conditions — alongside hypertension, prediabetes, poly cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), depression and chronic fatigue. I was told that if physical therapy didn’t help, I would need surgery.
The idea of surgery was terrifying. I was only 25 at the time — a newlywed planning to live happily ever after! To me, this crossroads reflected on my future. If my obesity wasn’t effectively managed, I could face an imminent health decline with a diminishing quality of life — possibly an early death. I was determined to find a solution and was fortunate to find the best resources and support systems available to help me.
I spent the next six months researching treatment options. Ultimately, I decided on the vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG) and had bariatric surgery in December 2013.
My related conditions rapidly resolved. Within two months, I felt energetic enough to be active. I used personal trainers, followed the “Couch to 5K” routine, participated in running events and started a group fitness community. I prepared binders full of healthy recipes and even planted an herb/vegetable garden. I also regularly attended support group meetings.
During one meeting, an OAC Community Member spoke about an upcoming Your Weight Matters National Convention in Orlando (YWM2014). I was instantly inspired and thought that attending would be fun, informative and motivating. I couldn’t have imagined, however, that it would mark another huge turning point in my life.
My “During” — Part 2
At YWM2014, I met countless others with similar experiences. Strangers became fast friends, some even lifelong friends, and we had a blast — whether we were laughing and dancing at the costume party or a hip-hop fitness class.
It was also educational! During breakout sessions, we heard from leading experts in obesity research and care — about mindful eating, non-exercise activity thermogenesis (burning calories from daily life), physiological effects of sugar addiction and much more. I was most impacted by a lecture presented by Dr. Arya Sharma: “Why Diets May Not Work: The Complexity of Weight Management.”
Though I had struggled with weight from a young age, until YWM2014 and Dr. Sharma’s talk, I had not understood that obesity was a chronic and incurable disease. I never knew about a “set point” or the odds that were against weight-loss — even after bariatric surgery.
Weight management would always be a great effort, and I learned that those most likely to maintain weight-loss are the ones who make their post-surgery “success” a part of their career. I took this message to heart and left determined to find such a path for myself — a career in which I could serve others affected by obesity and stay focused on health.
My determination transformed into purpose — advancing obesity research and access to care. I returned to college to pursue a master’s degree in healthcare management.
I also connect with local players in obesity research. I serve on the Project Management Committee for a study on obesity at Pennington Biomedical Research Center. I am also a patient engagement consultant for the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI).
This work has led to other projects — like facilitating training for medical school students on patient-centered outcomes research and participating in a series of meetings to define obesity-related research questions of interest for local healthcare systems.
The more actively involved I become, the more motivated I feel. I left YWM2014 asking, “What do I do now?” but I returned one year later feeling completely empowered. I began asking myself, “How can I do my best?”
The 2015 Convention provided the same abundance of fun and information, but this time I paid more attention to the OAC’s mission and advocacy work by participating in their National Advocacy Training Session. I knew I wanted to tie my passion to the OAC’s efforts, and I left the training feeling more capable than ever.
Today, when the OAC needs action, I am always ready!
After YWM2015, I applied to serve on my first OAC volunteer committee. I am also connecting with The Obesity Society’s Regional Advocacy Coordinator, the Louisiana Health Communities Coalition and the Louisiana Obesity Prevention and Management Commission. I hope to bring the powerful patient voice in alliance with the work of researchers, clinicians, policy makers, health systems, business interests and the general public. I believe my work with these networks is the best way to do so.
The OAC has genuinely changed my life.
I hope that during this season of giving, you will consider making a charitable gift to the OAC. Your generosity creates REAL change for REAL people affected by obesity — just like me.