Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bariatric Betty's inspirations

Inspiration comes from many directions. I was thinking yesterday about a woman who inspired me when I was in college.  Her name was Deirdre Taylor, and she was a wonderfully fun, enthusiastic, and beautiful obese woman.  She traveled as a Chapter Consultant for my sorority - Phi Mu.  Phi Mu was founded in Georgia, and we were used to women coming to visit and work with us in Ohio having southern accents, charisma, and being perfect size 2s.  Deirdre shattered that last stereotype for me and many others. 

I was overweight (although probably not obese) at that point, and felt welcomed in my sorority.  Unlike the generalizations that sororities are intolerant of differences, there was never any pressure to look a certain way, or lose weight, and my sisters were always there with a compliment when I looked extra nice.  Even so, I was surprised when Deirdre showed up my Junior year to work with us on leadership, risk management, and other training.  Our national officers had picked her to represent our sorority nationally; to be the face of Phi Mu to thousands of women she would meet over her year term.  As I got to know Deirdre it made perfect sense.  Her intelligence, poise and beauty were evident to everyone who met her, and her weight was merely one part of her. 

As I talked more and more with her, I became very interested in her position.  Working with collegiate women and helping them have positive, supportive, and successful experiences in college.  Improving study habits and GPAs, raising money for Children's Miracle Network, presenting themselves well for recruitment (and future interviews), and enjoying the friendship and bonds of their sisters.  I was inspired to apply to be a Chapter Consultant myself, and was selected to travel around the country for Phi Mu for the year after I graduated.  That experience ended up being one of the formative experiences of my life.  I learned I could arrive in any city, set up a temporary home and within hours be ready to meet with college administrators, lead workshops, and help women who were struggling with various situations.  My confidence went through the roof!  It led to my next position - being a Clinical Trial coordinator for a Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial. 

I was applying at The Ohio State University Medical Center for numerous positions - with my chemistry degree and enjoying the medical field, the location being hours away from my family, yet I had friends nearby... it was a good fit.  When I heard about the position I was asked "Do you think you could feel comfortable talking to older and elderly gentlemen about their prostates, urinary and sexual functioning?"  I didn't even miss a beat - "Sure!  I can talk about anything."  I had a two day window to learn everything I could about prostate cancer and make a presentation to the doctor who was the lead investigator.  Nailed it.  This was the beginning of my career ( until I became a full-time mom).  It was also where I met my husband. 

All of this because I saw a woman do something I had previously assumed wasn't appropriate for me.  She was a great example of how to not limit myself and my opportunities based on how I looked.  That carries on even now that I'm no longer obese.  Just last night I was jogging in preparation for my first 5k this weekend, and was joined on the track by 5 lovely middle-school/ high school girls.  Seriously, am I the only one who thinks 14 year olds look at least 18 these days???  When I jog, I try not to feel self concious about my appearance, but I am aware that there is a lot of jiggling and wiggling going on.  So last night as I jogged next to these young women I thought about Deirdre and about how these women probably didn't expect to find a middle-aged mom with more sagging and flapping parts than most joggers have jogging along with them.  And I thought "I'm proud to be here, jiggles and all.  I didn't even start to perspire until I was finishing my third mile.  And these girls can hope that they can jog a 5k when they're an "old mom" like me!" Then when I finished my workout I ended up talking to two older sisters who were trying the track for the first time and were interested in bariatric surgery.  It was a good night.

Today my hips and knees are a little sore, but I've got plenty of time to recover before the race Saturday.  Today my major accomplishment was throwing out the extra frosting after decorating the gingerbread for our tree instead of being tempted to eat it.  One day at a time...

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