Las Vegas WLSFA event…….SO INSPIRING!

For those who could not make the WLSFA(Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America) Meet and Greet in Las Vegas last weekend, you missed a great event.    Yvonne Mc Carthy did a great job as the MC.  I had no idea I was going to be attending a wedding!  How cool was that??  I am such a hopeless romantic and my own anniversary had been Thursday.  Antonia and crew did such a great job!

I was sad that a prior commitment for another conference across town kept me from the speaker sessions Saturday.  My husband, producer, and marketing director, Ben, did attend all of them and brought back some incredible feedback. While he enjoyed all of the sessions, one in particular led him to do a little project.  Cari De La Cruz spoke about how we feel about ourselves and talk to ourselves etc.  She apparently was trying to get the audience to really think about what they like about themselves and put to death all of the negative talk and negativity we heap onto ourselves when we do not do things perfectly.  I thought this was a great idea and when Ben and I met up later, it turned out she had inspired him to write a note listing all of the things he likes and loves about me. 

Yes, it made me cry to hear them as he read the list.  Thank you Cari for inspiring my husband to write something like that randomly and for encouraging the participants to hold a funeral for and put to death negative thoughts and feelings about themselves.  We really can be too hard on ourselves.  I hate seeing fellow patients get frustrated and start reverting back to their old ways of calling themselves fat, and failures, etc.  It upsets me.

I did have the privilege of being at both the Friday night and Saturday night events and they were great.  If seeing the presentation of the first grant to Connie Bailey, and hearing her sister Rose speak didn’t move you to tears, then nothing will.  These are two amazing ladies and how wonderful that WLSFA chose to help them.  Hopefully one day, insurance companies will “get it” and stop denying so many procedures. 

Antonia Namnath and her team did such a fantastic job.  The entire event was well thought out and well done.  It makes me so proud to support this organization through my company, The Bariatric Guru and also through my radio show Fit Living.  My dream is to one day be able to donate a surgery for someone.  Hey, you never know, it could happen!

On a lighter note, thanks to Allie Raye and her clumsiness, I got to try rum flavored sugar-free cupcakes Friday night!  Allie, you may have created something girlie! Oh and Antonia, the next time someone wants to get married at an event, the better half of the Bariatric Guru is an ordained minister and would be GLAD to help! 

This is Ben….. BEFORE the cupcakes became rum infused!

WARNING- SUB-BLOG AND NOT A HAPPY TOPIC- FAST FORWARD PAST THIS IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ THIS PART………

One thing really did strike me as sad though and that was the need Rose Almgren felt to mention in her speech Friday night the divisiveness and negativity in our community.  I see it, I hear it, and it breaks my heart. This was her night to celebrate her sister and she had to deal with such an unpleasant topic.   When I hear one WLS patient saying ugly and negative things about another person or group whom they may not like or agree with, I get sad….truly sad.  I am nice to everyone and do NOT say UGLY things about my peers.  Does it make me special?  NO, it just makes me a nice person and I pride myself on being a truly nice person, sometimes too nice…..but it is better than the unhappy alternative.  So why say ugly things about people?  It is just not productive.  Why do it?  What purpose does it serve? 

As formerly obese people, we have all been subjected to enough negativity and hatred.  Why now do some insist on keeping up the practice?  I love diversity.  I saw a VERY diverse group of people this weekend.  That is what makes our community so great.  We are all different and can all bring different points of view to the table.  If everyone pooled their strengths and stopped picking apart the actions of those different from themselves, imagine the influence we could have on the way this disease is viewed and the way bariatric surgery is perceived in the world?  If you have a strength, use it, help people, and if you can do what you love, help others, and make a living in the process, GREAT!  This is America.  If I need something bariatric-related, I would rather spend my money with someone in our community.  I don’t buy vitamins from the drug store, I like Bariatric Advantage.  It is all I use.  That is my choice.   You don’t agree?  That is ok too!  This is America and we are a diverse group and free to all use the products we like, buy from where we want, and so on.  Do I have the right to tear you apart for NOT buying Bariatric Advantage?  Of  COURSE NOT. 

I personally LOVE supporting my community and those in it and patronize bariatric businesses.  It doesn’t mean YOU have to do the same.  But I choose to operate that way.  My point is, we are all such a strong and diverse group with so many untapped talents.  I think if we all came together, we could REALLY rock the planet!  So why are some bringing others down to the point where Rose had to take time out of what was such an incredible moment for her family to speak to this topic?  Am I the only one who sees that as very unfortunate?

When I hear one person making fun of another because they do not like their hair, or do not like their clothes, that just kills me.  OR if one group doesn’t like that another group uses a different product than they do, or likes a surgeon who they may not like, any little thing like that, it just breaks my heart.  What if someone in the community starts a bariatric based business?  Should we rip them to shreds?  No, we should be supportive.  Now don’t get me wrong, if you don’t like what they are selling, don’t use it, or if they are selling crack to babies, yes get upset, but ripping a peer apart for their choice of protein to carry?  Or because they want to counsel bariatric patients and help them?  Or for following the American dream and trying to work for themselves and have a business?  Really???? (that is just an example, not a direct reference…..it could be any product or service)  If you don’t like it, don’t buy it!  But do you really think you have the right to tear that person apart? 

I have been on the receiving end, when we started the radio show and The Bariatric Guru.  How did I handle it?  I ignored it and it went away.  I know my business, I know my credentials, and I love the people I get to work with daily.  I do not have to justify myself to anyone.  I let my actions speak for themselves.  I also will not allow anyone to use The Bariatric Guru Facebook page or discussions to trash anyone else.  NOT gonna happen. 

Before you participate in something negative and hurtful like that, I suggest you ask yourself what positive purpose are you serving?  How are you helping your peers?  If you can’t come up with an answer, you may want to consider tuning it out. 

I saw people this weekend who came to the event dressed up and looking glitzy all the way and guess what?  They looked gorgeous.  That was awesome! 

 Then I saw some in jeans and flip-flops and guess what?  They were looking gorgeous as well!  Does that make the one who dressed up a snob or the one who dressed down a bum?  OF COURSE NOT!  It means that we are a diverse group, some of whom take pleasure in getting dolled up and some of whom take pleasure in being as comfy as possible and both are great groups and both had a blast and looked great. 

It bothers me to read comments online by people claiming that those who came dressed to the nines were simply being showy, just as much as it would bother me to see anyone being critical of ones who came in a t-shirt.  I feel like we all need to be who we are and not let anyone else direct us towards being someone or something we are not.  If you like to dress up and it makes you feel good, GO FOR IT!  If it makes you feel good to be natural and you take pride in not having to wear makeup and being happy in blue jeans, GO FOR IT!  BE YOURSELF and NO ONE has the right to judge you for it, either way.  NO ONE!

I happen to be a person who loves getting to come out of my jeans and workout clothes and get dressed up on occasion.  Does that make me a snob?  Of course not!  I am just as comfortable in my sneakers and like wearing those too! 

See below:  Dressed up Erin AND workout Erin.  Is one version of me better than the other?  Of course not.  Does Erin on the right think Erin on the left is a snot for being dressy?  Do not be silly.  Does Erin in the left frown on Erin on the right for not being dressed up?  Of course not.

I know what it means to have NOTHING but the clothes on your back and your family.  There is not a snotty bone in my body and I wouldn’t judge anyone else as such by their attire either.

Get my point???  Let everyone be who they are! 

There were a lot of great people at this event.  They were tall, short, heavy, thin, black, white, asian, hispanic, long hair, short hair, dressed up, dressed down, loud, quiet, drinkers, non drinkers, sugar eaters, non sugar eaters…….I could go ON AND ON.  Tons of amazing and diverse people make up this community.  I just wish I had gotten to talk with all of you more. 

The bottom line is, we can be a strong voice and powerful positive energy if we choose to be, or we can choose to be a dysfunctional group of people who fall victim to infighting and silliness.  It is one thing to be honest and speak your mind and show a different point of view from mine.  I welcome that!  I LOVE learning new ideas and new things from people around me. 

 Look at the strengths we have- Bariatric TV ladies- strength of being able to be on camera and communicate…how awesome is that?  Antonia- an organizer who is passionate about her cause!  Yvonne- photography, public speaking.  Taunia- her incredible voice and confidence to get up there and dance, along with the rest of her girls.  I could NEVER be that brave.  I admire that.  I have my voice on radio…..I could go on and on and on and there are so many more that are not even known yet!  Photographers, writers, speakers, musicians, chefs, singers, dancers, advocates, etc.  WE ARE A GREAT GROUP!

What I do NOT welcome is surrounding myself with negativity and voices  from whom I hear nothing positive and nothing that leans towards helping our community and instead only divides it further.  When did someone decide that it was ok to dislike a person or group because of how they look or because their ideals differ from yours? 

If you have something of value to say that can help our community grow stronger and help advocate for dispelling the negative myths about WLS, then I say scream loudly and boldly and be a help to our community.  Do not misunderstand me……I do not look for everyone to scream sunshine and perfect success.  That is not reality.  We all have issues and difficult parts of this journey.  We all have bad days where we do not eat right etc.  But these should be the times where we come together and help each other and encourage each other to pick up and start over tomorrow and get back to our goals.  

 I also say speak the truth regarding your own personal experiences as not everyone has an easy road or an easy surgery, but if the only thing you have to scream out is how you dislike this group or that group, and really cannot give anything of value, those screams are falling on deaf ears from my end. 

Bariatric procedures can save lives and do save lives.  That is powerful stuff!

 Isn’t it a really exciting thought that all of the hard work we have done and all that we have each endured, good and bad, could be the catalyst for change that saves someone else’s life?   Isn’t promoting that a much more meaningful way to live than just cutting down certain people for no true and valid reason?  I have to remind myself that in life, there will always be unhappy people who want to see everyone else unhappy, and that is sad.  I feel sad for those people.  But I will not let that negative energy knock me off course.  I just want to reach out to anyone who is doing this and who is spreading that kind of vibe and ask them to try to stop and try to put the good of the WLS world ahead of their own agendas.  I promise it feels good to be nice.  I HATE having to even write about this, but the things I have been seeing online since the trip have really bothered me.

Not trying to be a Pollyanna, but just sick of the senseless sniping and critique of those who are different or not like the one sniping. 

END OF SUB-BLOG

The Bariatric Guru Team chooses to be ambassadors.  I want to surround myself with people who are true advocates for our cause and look forward to getting to know many of you even more.  It literally brings tears to my eyes to be at a support group or speaking engagement and hear the stories of hundreds and hundreds of pounds lost and lives changed for the better. 

Through our Bariatric Breakthrough Challenge, we are being part of the good vibe and positive energy and it feels awesome!  When a client emails me that they lost three pounds last week, of five in a month, that is such a wonderful and powerful thing. 

I feel like hosting Fit Living  brings a great responsibility with it to the WLS community to help educate myself and my peers through awesome guests and through a commitment to being a positive voice for those going through the lifetime journey of being a WLS patient.  It doesn’t end when you get to goal.  It is a way of life.  And we need to support each other for life.

I challenge you, the next time you hear something negative from or about another member of our community to really think about whether you want to be an ambassador, or a divider.  Think about what purpose towards the greater good of our community is served by participating in negative talk and gossip.  How is this helping yourself or others?

Thank you Rose for mentioning this issue and for being such a strong positive influence for so many, and thank you to all of the incredible strong and positive voices I got to hear last weekend.  I am so proud to be a part of this community of diverse, strong, and amazing people.  I look forward to telling some of your stories on my show in the coming months!

For anyone reading this who is looking for a good charity to help out, I cannot stress enough to you how wonderful I think WLSFA is and how great their goals are.  Please give them your support because you never when it could be YOUR family member who desperately needs WLS and cannot get approved. 

Thanks again to all who worked on this event from vendors, to volunteers, to make it so much fun and I am already excited about next year! And thanks to the lovely group who kept Ben company in my absence!  He really enjoyed meeting and visiting with you all!

I just know in my heart that next year, Antonia and her team will have DOUBLE the participants they had this year, and I will proudly be among them! 

For more information, please go to www.wlsfa.org and see the ways in which you can support this very worthy cause.

And please spread the word about the Bariatric Guru page on Facebook.  Have your peers go in and “LIKE” the page and then send me show ideas.  Like I say all the time, this is YOUR show and I want to know what YOU want to hear about!

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About Erin Akey

I am a formerly morbidly obese wife, mother, Christian, author, speaker, water fitness instructor, nutritionist, anti-obesity advocate, and Emerald Ambassador with Plexus Worldwide. I am passionate about helping people fight the disease of obesity and also preventing and addressing obesity in children. I believe we have so many amazing tools available to treat this disease and we all need to take advantage of the ones we feel are right for us. I am also passionate about women taking the time to care for their needs. We live in a world where so many of us spend all of our time taking care of others that we neglect ourselves. I am all about making God the center of everything and letting His will take control of our lives and watching the beautiful blessings come from that release of power! Live, Laugh, and LOVE every day! Be grateful and be humble and watch the world around you change!
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33 Responses to Las Vegas WLSFA event…….SO INSPIRING!

  1. Beth says:

    You say it’s easy – be yourself. It’s not. Be yourself means being open to hate.

    • I know who I am and what I stand for so if someone chooses to hate me, that is their issue. My advice to you would be to ignore anyone who is hateful towards you. You cannot control how anyone else feels. But you CAN control your reaction. If ignored, a hateful person usually goes away.

      • Beth says:

        I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
        Maya Angelou

  2. What an eloquently simple and honest post, Erin. I am so humbled and gratified that Ben found something in my talk that inspired him enough to give you that amazing gift; what joy it brings me to know that my message was not only heard — it was carried forward with love. You are a special couple, and I look forward to working with both of you on lots of positively AMAZING projects in the coming months. I stand with you as a proud ambassador of the WLS community. God bless you for your work, and may continued success come your way! Muah :-*

  3. Thank you for your kind words. I so enjoyed meeting you and your husband. He is so proud of you. We talked “sound engineer” talk and could relate. It’s funny that you posted so many of the same words I have…but you did it better. Thank you for your wisdom. We are all beautiful. We all should have a safe haven especially at our events. I love when women come and dress up after they’ve felt so ugly for years. They deserve to have a space to try out a look without being judged. I hope we talk again really soon. Hugs, Y

  4. Marie Cicogni says:

    Erin, I am sorry I did not get the chance to meet you – hopefully I will before next year’s event! Thank you (and Mama Rose) for talking about the “sniping” that seems to be the joy of some in our community. I am sorry it is so obvious that you each felt compelled to address it but THANK YOU! I agree wholehartedly with every word you said – it is so EASY to just be nice. We are not all going to get along or agree – but SO WHAT? One doesn’t have to agree – but it’s not necessary to take pot shots.

    I love this community more and more with every encounter I have – and look forward to many more!

    Marie

    • Marie, I love this community too and it WILL become a place where all opinions can be expressed openly! We all justhave to make it happen! And yes, being nice really is easier. And better for our health! 🙂

  5. Michael Towe says:

    Very well stated dear!

  6. What a wonderful blog post—- and great recap of a very special weekend. You did a beautiful job of capturing the priceless moments.Keep up your great work….the community is moving and changing as we speak. There is positive hope on the horizon. It is that easy. Like Cari, I choose to wear the ambassador hat—spreading the positive messages of hope and HELP. Looking forward to many more great adventures with you and your delightful husband!

    ~ Best,
    Laura Preston — Bariatric Regain

    • Laura, we are looking forward to it as well. Ben and I loved getting to meet so many people who are working so hard to promote unity and a positive spirit in our community! PLUS- I gotta love ANY LADY who can make me feel short at 5’11 1/2″!!! TALL GALS ROCK!!! (and yes, so do short ones) 🙂

  7. wendy says:

    I had no idea where your words were headed until they went there. . .I applaud you. I personally did not hear any such comments during the event, nor read any posts on Facebook, BUT I did watch a video on YouTube today that made me scratch my head. There were no names mentioned, but a fellow WLS peep kept referring to the “model”of the event and how at least she “thought she was a model, but she is not”. That really pushed my buttons. Obesity and our choice for WLS is what connected all of us, the goal is to be as healthy as you can be and change your life. so if some of us change our life in a way different than others, dress to feel great and express ourselves differently than others we become “models”and are disliked for being at our best? That is just WRONG! Your words really moved me. I have posted your blog on my Proof WLS Works Facebook page and have encouraged my friends to read and think. Thank you!

    • Wendy I wish I could have met you at the event. Oh and I see you are a fellow runner! THe hubby and I are doing the Walt Disney World Wine and Dine Half Marathon as our next event! If you have never raced at Disney, you should try it! AWESOME!!!!! Hope we get to meet at next event!

  8. Nena says:

    Hello Erin! I did not go to the meet and greet but I sure wish I would have. I started reading this because Wendy posted this on facebook. I love all the positivity and the way you think. You are so right! No one has a right to bring anyone down in any way shape or form. I truly think that whomever has something to say about somebody else should keep to themselves. We are all in this community for a reason! What brought us to the community?…..OBESITY! Being opinionated is not the issue, the issue is having a negative opinion and taking the time to share it with the world. Thank you for writing this! I truly am happy that you did.

  9. Maryellen says:

    Erin, as the recipient of a lot the negativity and sniping since the meet and greet I choose to side with you and continue to put forth the positives in my life. My opportunity of rebirth through weight loss surgery has propelled me to a strong committment of helping others with their journey. I particularly love this blog as it typifies my own beliefs… admitting that all is not rosey, yet I continue to focus on the positive and PAY it FORWARD! With peers and friends like you to serve as my inspiration, I, choose to keep on smiling.
    Thank you for your words.
    (((HUGS)))
    Maryellen

    • I agree Maryellen. I think there is sometimes a misconception that if your attitude is positive it means you have had a perfect and rosey journey which isn’t the case. I have struggles every day but I choose to focus on how much better my life is since my surgery and keep going forward and trying to improve it EVEN MORE!

      Hope to see you at the next event! 🙂

      • Wow…no kidding. Just because you lose weight your life doesn’t magically improve. I chose to think of it like this….I’d rather have my problems at this weight than my highest weight. And who knew how many additional problems come along because you lose weight? I choose every day to be grateful for getting out of the prison of obesity. Thank you again for a great post.

  10. Lynnda@BTV says:

    Awesome post.. Thanks!

  11. Marie Cicogni says:

    I borrowed this from a FB link I follow – “Simply Positive” – it seemed uniquely significant this morning – and so I felt compelled to share it ….

    “Many times we don’t notice things about “our own” behavior & actions. We believe we are right, doing good, or trying our best. We also don’t realize a small fact possibly inhibiting our success! Don’t be so fast to get angry or defensive about criticism. Stop to listen carefully. Take it in, reflect, & self evaluate with it even if you initially don’t agree! “IT” could BE the sudden INSIGHT in life that you were missing or NEEDED…in order to get “unstuck”, clear, move forward, grow, achieve, & succeed more! That is positive, not negative. :)”

    Love and growth to all …

  12. Diana says:

    It sounds like most everyone had fun at the meet and great and that is what counts!
    I am excited for the Long Island meeting in October as I booked a room and ticket. I really hope that many of you will be there so I can meet you all!

  13. Erin, First off I LOVE your Husband he is amazing. I thought I hit the Jackpot when I got to know you but then BLAM Ben shows up at the event and was the most helpful , friendly, happy person I have met in a long time. Every time I turned around he was offering to help me or someone else he is a GEM!

    Regarding this post WOW is all I can say.
    I try my VERY HARDEST to stay our of all the PEEP DRAMA!
    It is Human nature and not specific to the WLS community so it does not surprise me.
    It does however DISTRACT me and I do not appreciate that!
    I do appreciate Diversity of thought and passion and I HOPE HOPE HOPE that some healing can begin within our community because we need to work together to accomplish our goals.
    “A house divided can not stand “~ Abraham Lincoln June 16, 1858
    Love to ALL of you in our amazing WLS Peep Community!
    Antonia

    • Antonia he really is a GEM! And he loved meeting you and your hubby too. I am so honored to get to help WLSFA. Ben is as well. I think what you are doing is so fantastic!!!! I hope it spreads to the point where you are doing a surgery a month!!!! YOU are a gem yourself!!!!

  14. ileneefalley says:

    Hi. you were seated at our table. I was wearing a red sequins dress. I wanted so much to compliment you on how lovely you looked. I will do it now. I am sorry that we didn’t have a chance to speak to another. What I saw Fri and Sat was alot of people who were happy with their progress. Not all of them were skinny minnies, however, while taking photos they were so excited with their sucess. And yes they all looked beautiful. I flew to Las Vegas from South Florida. I wished that I would have been able to meet alot of people but, I didn’t. I am kind of shy… It was interesting to see how friendly all the other peeps were to each other. Since I only have my band a little more than a year it would explain why I didn’t know people there. For the ones I knew, I was so happy to finally meet them and receive and give a hug… I enjoyed your blog. Thanks

    • I remember you! I remember thinking how pretty that dress was! You were with your husband right? And yes you very correct. Everyone looked great and it had ZERO to do with size! I wish you had said hello!!!

      We really do have an incredible community! I am blessed to be a part of it and to get to speak to everyone each week through my radio show!

  15. Autumn DeHosse says:

    Erin, you hit it right on the nose! Ignore them and they will just go away.
    On the flip, I had the most amazing time in Vegas with such a welcoming group that really does exist outside this internet. It was inspiring to see so many people who share such personal journey yet display such a wide range life. Already planning on next year!

  16. Wow. What a powerful message. Thank you! I wish I had met you at the meet and greet! Your words really touched me.

    There were so many amazing women that welcomed and help teach me and my team about the joys and challenges of not just obesity, but of post-surgery life. I thank every one of you. We were, to be honest, worried that not having had surgery, we wouldn’t be accepted. (We were the ones offering the It Works skin care solutions and wraps.) But we were welcomed with open arms and more importantly, open hearts. (Oh, I’m getting teary now.)

    So, here’s a laugh, we showed up Friday night decked out because we got our evenings wrong! You can see pictures at http://www.wlsfa-itworks.com.

    Anyway, I had to comment because I just yesterday read an equally moving post about Mean Girl syndrome and how it had just happened to this woman in her 30’s. We think that Mean Girls grow out of it, and some do. But, unfortunately, some just grow up – at least in years, if not behavior. They come in all shapes and sizes and run in clicks. What this woman compassionately pointed out, was that she couldn’t control their behavior, only her response. She also looked deeper and observed that insecurity often is a root cause of this behavior. Having faced it myself, I suddenly had more compassion and less of my own judgement around those events in my life. I can’t change their behavior, but I can confront it when I see it.

    Kudos to all of you who spoke your truths and let it be known that being mean isn’t something you will support. I feel very blessed to be part of your world now.

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