I’d like to brag that it’s because of my close personal friendship with Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) CEO Joe Nadglowski that he took the time to talk with me about weight, the disease of obesity and his passion: patient advocacy.
The straight scoop however is that I’ve only met Joe briefly and we don’t play doubles tennis at the club.
Joe nonetheless quickly replied to my email and was happy to discuss his journey and mission at the OAC (Obesity Action Coalition) with the CrackerJack Nutrition family.
Read on to find out how awesome it is that we have a male face representing our cause and why it’s essential that we all get involved!
Elizabeth: As CEO of one of the country’s most influential obesity advocacy groups, why is it important for you to share your personal weight story?
Joe: I think the sharing of personal experiences with obesity is important. It humanizes the condition. Too often, people with obesity are reduced to just a statistic and a number on a scale. I’m not a statistic nor a number, I’m a real person with real feelings, real problems, etc.
I also believe it is important to show how difficult addressing and living with obesity can be. I hope it helps others with obesity recognize they are not the only one living with the self-blame, internalized bias, negative experiences, etc. and ultimately helps them seek better health.
Elizabeth: How do you handle the different approaches and beliefs OAC members have about dealing with their weight: surgery, HAES, (Health at Every Size) diet & exercise, medical weight loss, etc?
Joe: This is pretty simple for me. Obesity is complicated and in my opinion, it is not the same for each individual. Someday, I suspect science will identify many types of obesity (just like we have types of cancer and diabetes). As such, we need a multitude of approaches. Plus, I know with my own experience that often times, as you age, you need different approaches. When I was younger, I was able to go the self-directed care route to address my obesity but as I’ve aged I’ve needed more help from the behavioral and medical treatment realms. I find that most people end up needing more than one treatment type throughout their lifetime.
Elizabeth: Have you ever received ‘push back’ from women who feel that as a man, you cannot fully understand a woman’s battle against weight bias?
Joe: I recognize and the data clearly shows bias primarily impacts women. There are many examples of bias I’ve never personally experienced (though I’ve definitely experienced it especially in the healthcare environment) but it is my privilege to represent the many, many who have. You just have to sit with our members for a few minutes to realize how much bias has scarred them. I think it’s the nature of the OAC and our connection to our members that lets me fairly represent the impact of all those affected.
Elizabeth: Why is the OAC and groups like it so important today?
Joe: There’s an expression that’s now become common in the patient advocacy community – “Nothing About Us Without Us.”
That’s why OAC is so important. Too often decisions on what to do about obesity are made by people who have no personal connection to obesity. They want to do things to us instead of with us. That’s why it’s important that OAC stand up and give a voice to those with obesity.
Add to that of course, the need for support and quality education as well for those living with obesity. There is so much garbage and misinformation out there and the OAC helps cut through the “snake oil.”
Elizabeth: What message do you have for people struggling with obesity who feel isolated and deeply disheartened?
Joe: I have three messages for those who are struggling.
First, you are not alone. The OAC is made up of a diverse group of people who know first-hand what it’s like to live with obesity. We exist to help you and while we are all different, we’ve likely had many similar experiences. Join us.
Second, please don’t be so hard on yourself for lack of progress in addressing your obesity. So much of obesity is biological, genetic and environmental. For many of us, finding both short and long-term solutions takes time and lots of hit and miss attempts (I believe very strongly that no one “fails” a treatment, the treatment “fails” them).
Finally, please don’t give up. Maybe the right approach isn’t yet available for you, but in addition to making sure people know the pros and cons of existing treatments, we at the OAC are also working very hard encouraging the development of future obesity treatments as well.
Elizabeth: Can you briefly explain the role of the OAC and how people can learn more?
Joe: The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) is a more than 54,000 member-strong 501(c)(3) National non-profit organization dedicated to giving a voice to the individual affected by the disease of obesity and helping individuals along their journey toward better health through education, advocacy and support. Our core focuses are to raise awareness and improve access to the prevention and treatment of obesity, provide evidence-based education on obesity and its treatments, fight to eliminate weight bias and discrimination, elevate the conversation of weight and its impact on health and offer a community of support for the individual affected.
Everyone is invited to join us by visiting http://www.obesityaction.org.