There are people in the Weight Loss Surgery community that put themselves out there to "help others" when their true intentions are nothing more than self promotion. It's the kind of nepotism we associate with the "Good Ol' Boys" here in Louisiana. The person or organization present as a "friend" or "ally" to support a cause, when the true objective is supporting their own agenda. It can be a struggle to have unbiased intentions.
Recently, I was encouraged to do some financial watchdog investigating of some 501 3 (C) organizations that support the weight loss surgery community. I had always had a gut feeling that the true intentions of some people were not genuine in nature. What I uncovered had me appalled but confirmed my suspicions. I found IRS tax documents confirming that conference events were funding a big party for the elite members, more than $17k in Entertainment/Food/Beverage expenses. (Ref. Form 990-WLSFA-2012) Wow, what I read there is "Bar tab!" What happens in Vegas, does not stay in Vegas. I heard all about the excessive drinking, smoking and folly that follows when you get a bunch of people together to socialize. I thought we were advocating for awareness of the dangers of drinking after weight loss surgery? I thought we were promoting healthy lifestyles... I thought... I thought.... Wrong.
I understand for many who spent their lives being an outcast or on the outskirts of the social scene due to self esteem issues, it can be uncomfortable, even anxiety provoking, to deal with large crowds of people or strangers or individuals who might ask you many questions about yourself OR talk endlessly about themselves without letting others get a word in edgewise. Instead of addressing these issue head on, drinking was encouraged and funded from the looks of these reports. When I offered to present at one of these conferences on my own dime, I got no reply. I believed my education and expertise in mental health, anxiety, ADHD, depression and human ecology were useful to the community, and what I could offer was the cognitive restructuring instruction and expression that would make each individual in attendance assess their commitments, examine a self inventory, and work through their own integrity. I wasn't asking for money, I was offering a service at no charge, my expenses paid by me. Nothing, not even an acknowledgement of my message was ever provided.
Let's go back to that $17k figure. That's nearly $50 per day a year for an organization that holds on one major event per year and maintains one full time employee, who does not take a salary.
(*applause here.*)Now, I don't have a problem with people getting paid a salary. There are many people who work really hard for free (myself & many others in the WLS community) and don't care about making money because the intention of their actions is to do good for others by taking on the ethical responsibility to care for those in need. I maintain my commitment to advocating for mental health issues in the weight loss community by offering ANYONE who contacts me, a referral to a local mental health professional (counselor, psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist, in-patient treatment, etc.) whom I have checked out. That means, usually, that I will spend anywhere from 1-3 hours researching, through various resources, an appropriate provider for that individual's needs. I have only ever had three people take me up on that offer.
The disclosure of the grant recipient selection process has also been a mystery to me. It seems like the concentration of candidates for grants has come from a small pool of patients. It seems to help to be a friend of so-in-so and the requirements to be an Ambassador for a year after to the organization confuses me. Define how this is to be done... Help me understand what the entails. What happens when someone can't fulfill the obligation? What happens when having gone through the process traumatizes the person to the point they are emotionally broken by the experience?
Please, beware of anyone asking for your money. There are many people out there who tout themselves as "Coaches" or "Support Leaders" who have no true training in psycho-social group dynamics. Case in point: I am supervised in a group weekly for my license. A group member, who had personal issues that effected her relationship toward me, verbally attacked me one day in group. I retreated in defending myself because there was no right, wrong, rhyme or reason for her to target me in this manner. I let her air her grievances and returned them with silence. My supervisor did the same. Not everyone in the world can let such a matter go as we did. The next session, another group member confronted her and requested she apologize to me, without me saying a thing. This dynamic played out over 3 separate group meetings until I spoke up and asked her what made her so defensive with me.
It was simple: insecurity within herself. This person suffered from obesity, past addiction and drug use, and she choose to attack me, whether it be due to my success with weight loss or my lack of an alcohol or drug addiction. (That's a crowning achievement in this city, there are few people that you can count on to be sober 99% of the time, I am one of them.) My confidence in discussing my clients and my actions are always so precise. Her questions to me were always trying to pull apart what I did to find something wrong with my actions. She was trying to make me wrong by extracting details I always had an answer for, and she could never find much to criticize other than her excuse that, "I don't know what it's like." But I kept my bases covered. I always, always do my best to do the right thing, in the moment and in the end.
"There's no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit."
I'd tell you who said that, but he wouldn't want to take the credit.
Some people out there would have you believe that they themselves are living "Proof" that weight loss surgery works ALL the time. They will tell you that you are to blame if you were not able to lose weight or you had complications. I'm here to tell you that it's more than just doing the right things. It is finding the right mental framework, it is addressing ALL of your issues with emotional, psychological, and/or substance use and abuse, it is genetics, it is hormones, it is disease of the mind and body, and even the scars on the soul. It is everything that encompasses the complex disease that is obesity and goes straight down to the core of who you are. Anyone who makes you feel inferior without listening to your story, understanding your struggles and assumes their prescription exactly what will work for you and is to have you pay them for support to tell you what they did/do, is not treating you as an individual but rather as a dollar sign.
What most people don't realize about counseling is that it is NOT advice giving. It is NOT a quick fix. It is a emotional journey, a personal excavation, and an opportunity to find genuineness of character within yourself. Act out of integrity to yourself and others, admit that you are not without flaw or fault. Embrace the imperfectness, realize where your weaknesses lie. Be honest with yourself and others. If you have honest intentions, your results will always have positive outcomes. Now, if someone were to call me for counseling services, yes, I do charge my clients for services. However, I will always consider financially challenged clients and work with them to find a rate that they can afford.
Dear reader, whomever you are, please refrain from the judgement that I am trying to start a riot in the WLS community or that I am targeting people. I am only pointing out observations and reporting facts. I would hope that you take into consideration the charitable donations that could have gone to financially challenged patients out there who are struggling to regain their health but rather went to a bar tab and office supplies. Advocacy starts with ethical action and unbiased intention. If the issues that I point out are resolved with action to correct the indiscretions of the past, the purpose of my tirade is served. However, I completely expect people to criticize me and call me names and say mean things about me. Because, ya know, bullying is so productive!