Support is a crucial component of the weight management journey. For OAC Member Michele Tedder, it changed her journey with obesity altogether. Not only did it help her find a treatment option that would improve her health and help her meet the goals she had set for herself, but it became something she imparted to others to encourage them in their own journeys.
When Michele found the OAC through a past Convention, she says she “found her tribe” and learned how to strengthen herself as an advocate for people living with obesity.
Coming off the heels of our latest in-person Convention in July, where we got to see Michele again after a few years of being virtual, we wanted to talk with her one-on-one and learn more about her story.
Q: How did you discover the OAC? What led you to get more involved?
I got involved with the OAC in 2018. I was about one year out from bariatric surgery and was searching for reliable resources to support me on my journey. Additionally, I was looking for information that I could share with the bariatric community through a support group I started on Facebook called “Bariatrically Blessed.” I called the OAC office and spoke to Mckinzie, a very enthusiastic and warm staff member who invited me to attend the OAC Convention that year. The rest is history! I attended the conference, which was awesome and full of information, education, and connection opportunities with others living with the disease of obesity.
Q: How has being affected by obesity shaped your life and life experiences?
I’ve struggled with my weight since childhood. Throughout my life, I experienced many failed attempts at losing weight, which led to many feelings of inadequacy in that area of my life. Healthcare providers often saw me through the lens of weight bias, which complicated the internal feelings I developed. I felt like my weight struggles were my own fault and that I just needed to exercise more and eat less, which I was already doing. At the time, I didn’t see obesity as a disease, and I felt very frustrated with the dieting cycle and minimal results.
Q: How has the support you’ve found within the OAC impacted your personal journey?
The OAC has been such a game-changer for me. At that first conference, I felt like I had finally found my tribe. There were so many other people living with obesity who shared the same frustrations and experiences that I did. The biggest gift was gaining access to so many professional and practical resources to validate the fact that obesity is a disease, and that treating it requires many different tools and strategies tailored to each individual. The OAC led me to become an even stronger advocate for those living with obesity.
Q: Staying on the topic of our Convention, can you share more about what your first Convention experience was like? How have you seen the Convention, and our Community, grow over the years?
The first OAC conference was simply amazing! I met new friends, and I was able to network with other professionals. It ignited my passion for advocacy in this space. Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, the OAC was able to pivot through technology and offer the conference virtually. I feel they effectively turned a challenging situation into an opportunity to expand their reach with rich education, information and connection, thus giving access to more people.
Q: You mentioned recently having a tumor removed after discovering renal cancer. How has that experience impacted your journey today and your understanding of self-acceptance?
In December 2021, a small mass was detected on my left kidney during an incidental screening for another issue. Further testing revealed the mass was cancerous, which required a partial removal of my kidney to remove the tumor. This was definitely an unexpected detour on my health journey.
My weight was impacted after the surgery because I couldn’t follow my usual routine for a couple of months. I recently had a follow-up visit with my bariatric provider and I was very concerned that I had gained a few pounds. I immediately went into intervention mode and my provider told me, “RELAX!” She reminded me that my body had endured a major invasion and that I needed to be kind with myself. The conversation made me pause and think about how much I need to have the same amount of self-compassion and love for myself that I do for others. It’s so much easier to give these things than to receive it sometimes. I’ve shifted my focus on the grace I have been given to be cancer-free, and on reminding myself to celebrate the small things that I do on a daily basis to maintain my health.
Q: As someone who is passionate about supporting others who struggle with obesity, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned that have impacted you the most? What do you want to share with others?
I have learned that small changes, made consistently, will eventually lead to big results. I have also learned that my success is not defined by the scale or my BMI. It’s based on my ability to remain committed to the journey. Living with obesity means making lifestyle changes, and my journey will continue for the rest of my life. It also requires having a lot of tools in your toolbox. The key to the weight management journey is understanding your “why” and making a commitment to your health like your life depends upon it, because it does!
Join the OAC Community today to discover science-based obesity education, find support tools, make meaningful connections and take action to make the world a better place for people living with obesity!
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 WeightoftheWorld.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.