Kate: Why I Attend ObesityHelp National Conferences!January 23, 2023
Why I Attend ObesityHelp National Conferences: The ObesityHelp National Conference is back and gearing up for 2023! After a three-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic, bariatric patients, pre-op patients, patient supporters, information seekers, vendors, and speakers met together in October 2022 to hear the latest medical information, to share in the successful journeys of WLS patients, and to learn how to tackle that pesky nemesis regain. The weekend-long conference was the renewal of an annual event bringing together the WLS family and building a strong community to support and encourage one another. Offering the latest information in bariatric care, nutrition, and post-op life, the conference also holds two nighttime community events, a costume party and a celebratory Fashion Show!
My First Conference
My life changed in June of 2015 when I had my Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG) surgery. My support system, outside of my loving husband, centered around Instagram and WLS meet-ups. However, in 2016, with the encouragement of one of my WLS sisters, I attended my very first ObesityHelp conference. Having struggled with obesity most of my life and always feeling out of place, the tremendous sense of belonging is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about that conference. From world-renowned doctors to the wide variety of vendors, I was deeply touched by the care, concern, and support that was offered. The conference reignited a fire to do what I thought was impossible. I wrote a goal to run a half marathon on the 2016 ObesityHelp banner and seven months later; I met that goal.
Why I Attend ObesityHelp Conferences
I have attended five ObesityHelp National Conferences since 2016 (and would have attended 2020 and 2021 had the conferences been able to run). Why do I continue to attend? What makes me keep coming back despite being seven years post-op? The big three: Knowledge, Community, and Renewal.
ObesityHelp brings together surgeons, dieticians, psychologists, vendors, and post-op patients to help educate and support pre-op and post-op patients. Topics can range from plastic surgery options post WLS surgery to transforming recipes into healthier options and everything in between. WLS patients share impactful and emotional journeys. Additionally, vendors offered the latest products and apps to help pre and post-op patients navigate a healthier lifestyle. At the OH2022 conference, I not only learned about what I should and should not be eating for a healthy gut biome, but was able to take home groundbreaking information, which helped alleviate a long-term medical issue for a family member. Every year I learn something which positively impacts my WLS journey. At the 2017 conference, two different speakers shared what they thought were small pieces of information. Those tiny nuggets about post WLS life impacted me so much that they were the catalyst for me speaking at ObesityHelp 2018 in a presentation geared toward post-op pitfalls.
No WLS patient is an island, no matter how much we may want to be. At times, we do feel isolated in our journeys, as we are often surrounded by unsupportive or uneducated people. Obesity is a multifaceted disease which is only now becoming more understood. However, the world at large has little to no understanding of its complexities or the struggles faced by those battling obesity. We may want to be strong, stand on our own, or wall ourselves away from misinformation and sometimes outright hostility towards us, but isolation can create obstacles in our fight for better health. Why do I attend conferences year after year? Community. The ObesityHelp staff and the attendees, along with the speakers and hosts, create a sense of family, of belonging. Over the years, I have maintained communication outside of the conferences with other WLS family I met at ObesityHelp. Through the shared conference experience, including the celebratory nightly events, conference goers build a supportive, enveloping community which offers understanding and safety. Regained weight after some tough life events? No judgment here. Needing a pep talk to make better choices? Let us share some tips. Scared about this tremendous life changing surgery you are about to undergo? We are here for you. Yearly conferences are like family and friend reunions. Only with education. And costumes.
Knowledge and the sense of community come together to create my final reason for attending yearly ObesityHelp Conferences. Renewal. Battling obesity is tiring. It’s difficult. And it is never ending. Along the way, we have to combat stress from relationships and work. For me, I also struggle with medical issues which affect my ability and my drive to stay on track in my WLS journey. Every year, as my energy to fight wanes, the ObesityHelp Conference comes along and I recharge. I reevaluate. I set new goals. I meet old friends and spend time with my beloved conference buddy. The annual conference makes me remember why I had surgery in the first place. It allows me to be encouraged by and to celebrate my WLS family. It renews my sense of fight and my desire to be strong and healthy. ObesityHelp 2023 will definitely be a destination in the new year!
Kate Nash had a vertical sleeve gastrectomy in 2015 and has lost 113 pounds.
ABOUT THE AUTHORKate Nash had a vertical sleeve gastrectomy in 2015 and has lost 113 pounds. As a veteran high school teacher, Kate spends time not only teaching English, but helping her students make healthy life choices. Her love of running and video games are only eclipsed by her devotion to staying healthy and her ever growing sneaker collection.