Written by Wendy Nystrom

“I really don’t want to go on this trip.”

“Who picked New Orleans in August… during hurricane season?”

“I have a bad feeling about this.”

“I don’t want to get stuck there like I did in Dallas.”

The above was my internal AND external dialogue in the week leading up to the 2017 Your Weight Matters National Convention – held in New Orleans from August 10-13.

I’ve been to all the Your Weight Matters National Conventions: Dallas, Phoenix, Orlando, San Antonio, and Washington, DC. I reserved a room for New Orleans as soon as the block was opened up. I registered during Early-bird Registration. I wasn’t going to mess with my perfect attendance (where’s my medal?).

I absolutely adore the OAC staff and Board members whom I have gotten to know over the years. I have friends that I only see once a year at Your Weight Matters Conventions, and I wouldn’t leave my roommate in the lurch.

I’m going, but I’m not going to like it!

I dropped my only daughter off at her first year of college on my way to YWM2016. I effectuated a major life change mere days after the conclusion of the 2016 Convention. And, much to my annoyance, the storm of emotions that I was dealing with at the end of that weekend was overwhelming – and I ended up crying like a baby over one of the closing event activities.

I don’t cry; I suck it up and carry on.

This summer has been tumultuous; constant mental and emotional stress since June 1st. While in some respects I was itching for time away, I was also worried about what would (or wouldn’t) be going on at home while I was gone.

I lost my enthusiasm for the Annual Your Weight Matters Convention. Even the prospect of real time with my friends wasn’t enough to rouse me from my funk. The night I arrived in New Orleans, I apologized to my roomie for my whining, and I had to make a concerted effort to stop expressing my bad attitude.

The Convention kick-off was electric, and there was a vibration in the room – the anticipation of what was to come. And I sat disinterested; only half listening.

The speakers were some of the top in their fields. Their presentations were pertinent, delivered in a manner appropriate to all of the attendees and well-received. And still, it was hard for me to muster much enthusiasm.

There are always “shining stars” at any Convention. We all know these people in our lives. They put themselves out there, and at Convention they are the attendees people flock to see, the people with whom seemingly everyone wants to take a picture, etc. At the speaker events, they are frequently at the microphone to ask a question or share something about themselves. At the dinners, they are in a loud, boisterous group having fun, fun, fun!

These shining stars are fun to watch and it’s understandable why many are drawn to them. I may even be somewhat envious of the traits they possess that allow them to be this way.

But I am no shining star.

And for every shining star, there are likely dozens, if not hundreds, of others… those who sit quietly in the background. Those who are soaking everything in. Nodding their heads in agreement and feeling a common bond, or shaking their heads thinking “nope… that’s not me.”

I find myself somewhere between these two groups. I am not shy about standing up and asking a question during a presentation. I may have even challenged a speaker once or twice on something they said that I found to be inaccurate, etc.

I attended Merrill Littleberry’s special session. Now, I have to take a moment here to expand a bit more on this. If I had to pin down one solitary reason to attend a Your Weight Matters Convention, Merrill is it for me. I’m not even sure I know how to describe her – she’s a counsellor, certified Personal Trainer and all-around amazing woman. Limited to one word, I’d have to go with “genuine” to describe her. But I digress.

Merrill ran a special session (which I attended) at last year’s Convention, and she was doing the same this year. So I was there. I am a huge believer that mental healthcare is the most important component in fighting obesity – at least for me. This was basically a small group therapy session – with 150 of your closest friends. And I wanted to be fully invested in it. But there I sat again… disinterested. Or was it, really, that I was resistant? The people around me had tears running down their faces, and I sat there struggling to do the exercises Merrill was directing.

As the session came to a close, however, there were two childhood memories that came to mind. The first was a recollection of a childhood bully who affected me so deeply that I recalled being afraid – as a kindergartner – that this boy was going to somehow climb up to my second floor bedroom window and taunt me at night. The second was a family memory that most likely explains why I hold myself back from truly connecting with people.

Those memories sat with me the rest of the night, and when it came to the Sunday morning closing activities this year, I sat and struggled with how I could express any of this to those in attendance to help them understand what the conference was for me.

In the end, I stayed silent and detached. But perhaps now I have a little better insight into why I am who I am.

This narrative was the long way around to letting you know that you don’t have to be a shining star to attend a Your Weight Matters Convention. You don’t have to be the one with the best insight, or the one with the biggest crowd surrounding you, or the one with the loudest laugh.

It’s okay to be the one sitting in the back, taking it all in.

It’s okay to be the one sitting alone because you don’t have the social skills to put yourself out there.

It’s okay.You just have to be you. You just have to open your mind to new ways of thinking.

You are enough. You are worth it.

Think about it, and maybe I will see you at the 2018 Your Weight Matters National Convention in Denver, CO, July 19-22.

Written by YWM2017 Attendee: Wendy Nystrom