RMNAAFA At 2001 NAAFA National Convention

RMNAAFA was well represented at the 2001 NAAFA National Convention. Six members in all came from the Denver area; JeanMarie, Sherry G., Debbie B., Angela, Patti K. and Leslie. The convention was held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey at the Hilton Hotel.

I find I have a range of feelings about this year's convention. Certainly the fellowship with other NAAFA members across the country, not to mention the world, was more then valuable. Being at a convention of people of all sizes is truly a marvelous thing. There is so much you can gain by sharing with other people of size. The interaction and exchange of ideas is never ending. For those of us that feel we are always the largest person at any gathering you might well understand how such a convention gives many a feeling that this is home--you are now among your friends. As good as I feel in this arena of large people I know that many midsize members felt left out. Unfortunately there was no Mid Size SIG meeting this year. I have no idea why this was left out. I do know the woman that usually heads up the Mid Size SIG meetings was at the convention. I also know NAAFA goes out of its way to make sure that supersized members are well accommodated for. Chairs without arms, special wood blocks to support the toilets (they came out from the side of the wall rather then the floor so support blocks were placed under them so that our weight would not break them from the wall mounting), chairs at all the elevators to use while waiting for elevators to arrive, and a Super SIG meeting for the supersized women to name a few. Now I understand that supersized people need more accommodations but I do feel NAAFA should not forget it's smaller members and make sure ALL members feel welcome and like this is their convention too.

Another sad note is that attendance seemed very low this year. This was my third convention and it seemed much smaller then the 1999 and 2000 conventions I have attended. Several things surely contributed to this. Perhaps the slow economy and the increasing number of other events that cater to large people that seem to be popping up all over the USA. Just a few weeks before the NAAFA convention there was a Philly bash held at the same hotel. Web pictures I have seen of it gave the impression it was very well attended.  But it wasn't just registration that seemed lagging. There was not the media coverage like we have had the last two years and it seems there were fewer workshops.

All that said did I have fun? YOU BET I DID! I had a blast! On a personal level I got to do more swimming then I have had a chance to at other conventions and I enjoyed the parties they held.  The workshops I attended were fantastic. The keynote speaker, Dr. Glenn Gaesser, gave a riveting speech at the welcoming breakfast. And last of all I do enjoy coming together with all these big, beautiful people from all walks of life.

The welcoming breakfast started off the convention for most of us. Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D., associate professor of exercise physiology at the University of Virginia, and author of Big Fat Lies: The Truth About Your Weight and Your Health presented us with his address "Body Fat and Health: Conventional Wisdom vs. the evidence." He was well prepared to share with us scientific evidence to support that much of the medical community's fears for fat people's health are not founded on scientific evidence. I wish every one of you could have heard this address. Dr. Gaesser spoke of the need for physical activity and how that is much more important in overall health then numbers on a scale. I think his book is a must have for any person of size that has to battle their family, friends or doctors about their weight in relationship to their health.

Much of the days were filled with workshops. BBW Dating, Body Esteem, FA Guide to Supersize Care, several workshops involving exercise and movement, as well as a discussion about weight loss surgeries are just a few of what was offered. I attended "Flying Fat", a workshop given by Sandy Sabo with some very good tips about how to prepare yourself for air travel as a large person. She had many interesting things to share with us and the group added even more tips. I also made it a point to attend the Super SIG (Special Interest Group) workshop. Headed by Super SIG coordinator Sherry Collins-Eckert and backed up by Lynn Meletiche, R.N. this workshop once again proved to be a great value. Much of the discussion centered on hygiene and special health related issues faced by the super sized woman. Much of what is discussed here is also brought up in the Super SIG newsletter. I encourage any member, mid sized or super sized, that feels they have challenges with personal hygiene, mobility or health to join the Super SIG.   For me this SIG is one of the best things NAAFA has to offer. RMNAAFA Chairman Leslie Curtis and RMNAAFA Secretary Angela Dutro attended the Chapter Leadership workshop. There they were able to meet with leaders from other chapters across the country as well as a board member from National NAAFA for some exchange of ideas about the future of NAAFA and how to help our chapters grow.

Thursday was the Chapter/SIG Lunch and Rally and the evening event, the annual Fashion Show. Friday was the opening of the Trade Show with vendors selling items unique to the needs of the larger person. Clothing, jewelry, personal items, and exercise tapes were a few of the things available. It's hard not to spend a lot of money here! Also on Friday was the Award Luncheon with speaker Alicia Mundy, author of Dispensing the Truth. RMNAAFA received more awards then any other chapter. We took home awards for:

Chapter Outstanding Performance- Production or Publication
Chapter Recognition - Outreach/Events
Chapter Recognition -Activism and Community Education
Chapter INDD - Basic

Our chapter has done a lot with just a small membership. I think we should all be proud of these awards.

Friday and Saturday we also had our fabulous dances. These are always a fun time. Saturday there was also the Activism event, held again this year at the hotel. Sunday ended with the Farewell brunch with speaker Bonnie Bernell, author of Bountiful Women: Large Women's Secrets for living the Life They Desire.

With three RMNAAFA officers at the convention we made an executive decision to purchase a videotape for our RMNAAFA library.  Kelly Bliss has made several excellent exercise tapes to be used by people of all sizes and physical abilities. Having viewed parts of these tapes at the trade show we felt our members would benefit from the tape Sitting Aerobics I and this is what we purchased for the chapter. An interesting side note is that when we were talking with Kelly about what we wanted to do and that this tape would be for our chapter library, there was another woman that overheard our discussion. I regret that I don't know this woman's name because at the farewell brunch she announced that she would be buying one Kelly Bliss Exercise tape for each NAAFA chapter. She came up to Angela and I after the brunch and said when she overheard that we were buying a tape for our chapter she was inspired to do the same for every NAAFA chapter. I have no idea when to expect this gift, but we can be looking forward to having two Kelly Bliss exercise tapes in our video library!

In closing I would like to add I hope all of you at some point in time get a chance to attend a national NAAFA convention. There is no way I can convey to you how much these conventions have meant to me. There is much that cannot be expressed in words and much that would lose something in the translation. I have gained so much having been a member of NAAFA and I know the convention is responsible for a big part of that growth.

Patti Kelly

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