Last weekend, I went to Las Vegas for the WLSFA Meet and Greet. The event was my excuse to get together with a lot of people I love from Bariatric Bad Girls Club, who are from all over the United States, Canada, and beyond. Going to Las Vegas is a mixed bag for me. Because I don’t drink alcohol, gamble, smoke, or raucously party…the appeal of Sin City is low. People tend to overindulge and let loose, and being in Vegas becomes an excuse to behave badly.
I arrived at the Las Vegas airport Wednesday afternoon, and my friend Angela picked me up. We had a few hours to kill before more friends arrived, so we went back to Bally’s and Paris. We split a crepe, walked around, did some shopping at Miracle Mile, and recharged.
We met a group of friends for dinner at Mon Ami Gabi inParis, which is my favorite restaurant in Las Vegas. I ordered the steak classique, and it was one of the most delicious steaks I’ve ever eaten. The plate was covered in frites, which didn’t really appeal to me. I wish that I’d gotten the creamed mashed cauliflower…I could have eaten a whole dish of that alone.
Next, Angela and I drove back to the airport to pick up Rhiannon, Crystal, and Kara. We had a full car and smiles on our face. I had booked another hotel for the first night to save money, so Crystal and I dropped our bags there and planned to come back after spending time back at Bally’s. We talked, laughed, snapped photos liberally, and enjoyed being together in person (as opposed to just talking online). But as the night got later, I ended up falling asleep for the night with all my luggage a few blocks away.
For breakfast, we left the hotel and went to a diner in a casino off the strip. It’s tough to find an affordable meal in Vegas, and the plentiful buffets do not appeal to weight loss surgery patients (since we can’t get our money’s worth, and it’s a trigger for overeating). If meals are not shared, they are usually just partially eaten. I devoured most of my quiche, but didn’t touch the breakfast potatoes or “fresh” fruit. After breakfast, we went to the grocery store to pick up bottled water, snacks, and foods to put into our in-room fridges.
Crystal and I still had our bags in the other hotel, so Angela drove us over to get them. It was funny that the only times we were in the room were to drop the bags off and to pick them up again. Less than 10 minutes total were spent in the room. We went back to Bally’s and were able to score an early checkin.
Once we were checked into our room, we slathered on our sunblock, put on our swimsuits, and headed to the pool.Being in swimwear is a daunting thing for anyone, especially those who struggle with their weight, but it was comfortable for me for the first time in a very long time. I was proud of my friends who have lost so much weight and were rocking the bikinis (I’ve yet to wear a two-piece in my life). I swam and laid out, and enjoyed being by the pool until I felt my skin start to burn. My fair skin doesn’t last long even with 70 SPF sunblock.
My sister Mary and her fiance Shay live in Vegas, and Crystal and I went to Margaritaville with them to celebrate the end of Shay’s finals. It’s a pretty entertaining place to enjoy a meal and the entertainment.We walked around a bit, and snapped some funny pictures. They drove me down the strip to do some shopping for a dress for the Saturday night gala.
We returned to Bally’s to meet up with the group and go out to a karaoke bar at Ellis Island. I’ve always loved to sing, and my go-to karaoke song for years has been “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips. It seemed appropriate to sing it with this group since Carnie Wilson was the keynote speaker for Saturday night’s gala. I had so much fun rocking out on stage with friends cheering and singing along. My other partners in crime for karaoke were Kara (singing Abba’s “SOS”) and Carolyn (singing Billy Joel’s “Piano Man). Once we left karaoke, many people went out dancing, but I gladly went to my room to sleep. I’ve learned what happens to me when I push myself in Vegas…I end up in the emergency room.
Friday morning was a big BBGC group breakfast at the hotel restaurant. It was fun to see more of my friends who had arrived since the day before. Most people split their meals again, except for a few rogue people who went through the buffet line for contraband bacon. We then went to the conference area for registration for the event. Many people brought before and after weight loss pictures to put on big cardboard stars…and they were posted at the gala.
There weren’t any other official conference activities going on until the evening, so I spent another afternoon with friends at the pool. There was a plastic surgeon who set up a cabana for informal consultations for reconstructive surgery (which is very common after extreme weight loss because of excess skin). We stayed outside for a few hours, then I moved into full shade – I have a tendency to burn, and didn’t want to resemble a tomato. I took a power nap in my room before getting ready for the opening party for the conference – A Night in Paris.
The BBGC group met by the Eiffel Tower outside of Paris to take a group picture, but I arrived just late enough to miss it. Luckily, lots of fun candid shots were taken. The official party was a little…disorganized. We were told a time that the event would begin, but we had to stay out in the lobby for a good half hour. Once they started letting people in, the food was gone within ten minutes. For a group of bariatric patients, the food choices were not ideal – especially baskets of bread and raw veggies. The location for next year’s event was announced, there was a presentation about the WLSFA grant recipients, and then there was a variety show. I stayed for a few acts (where Jeris totally knocked her vocal performance out of the park) and then left with friends to do my own thing for the evening.
Saturday morning was when I felt like the actual conference started. I talked with some great vendors in the Expo hall, including Celebrate Vitamins, Wellesse, Slimpressions, Big Train, and many more. I attended several sessions, my favorite being by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff about the fallacies of dieting and why so many people fail on “diets.” (For a great recap of that session, read the post on Fatty Fights Back). I attended most of the sessions, had some fun in the photobooth with Beth and Eggy, and then spend a little time at the pool.
Saturday night was the big gala event with Carnie Wilson. After seeing how fancy everyone was dressed, I was glad that Crystal talked me into getting another dress. We did lots of posing and photo ops, and enjoyed being all dolled up. There was a “bling off” beauty pageant where we cheered for the ladies and gents most dazzled up for the night.
The Bariatric Bad Girls Club raised money to donate to the WLSFA to help pay for grants for weight loss surgery patients. I was excited when Beth and Michelle asked me to come up to the stage to present the check with them, and they asked me to announce the donation. I announced the Bariatric Bad Girls Club with pride, and asked for all of the members to please stand up. There was wild applause and cheering as I handed the check over. It was the most exciting moment of the conference yet.
Imagine my surprise when the WLSFA later rejected the donation…for reasons that are still somewhat unclear to me. It felt like a slap in the face to many people. Beth wrote more about the voided donation on her blog, if you’re curious about the details. But let’s skip back to the gala when I was still on cloud 9.
Finally, it was time to hear from Carnie Wilson. Carnie has been a person I’ve looked up to since I started listening to my first Wilson Phillips cassette tape. I related to her because I loved to sing, but I always felt like I was put in the background because I was the biggest girl. I’ve watched her public struggles with her weight, and have always appreciated her honesty and candor. Her address at the WLSFA was no different. She kicked off her uncomfortable shoes, and talked to us like friends. She revealed her history…struggles, addictions, triumphs, and heartache. She inspired me to make some changes in my personal life on habits that could become destructive to me in the future. And wow….I laughed so much.
I was one of the lucky 20 people randomly selected to meet Carnie in person. As I walked up to her, she said “You have the most gorgeous hair! I can’t get over how pretty it is! You’ve gotta tell me your regimen!” We had about 2 minutes to chat, hug, and pose for some pictures. There are some people you meet in life that just radiate warmth. For me, Carnie was one of those people. I felt like she was 100% authentic and cared about me. She even followed me on Twitter later that night.
Sunday was a pretty chill day for me. People checked out of their hotels, had their last meals together, and many flew home. I was certain that I purchased a return flight for Sunday night, but somehow booked myself for 6:00 am Monday morning. When I found out that my friend Kara had been stranded at the airport after delayed and canceled flights, I decided to rent a car and rescue her. We got some lunch, and went to her comped room at South Point. I met up with a group of friends for dinner at Harley Davidson, and then took Crystal to the airport. I had one last visit with Mary and Shay, and headed back to South Point with Kara. Coming home from Vegas was difficult because it required a 3:45 am wake-up, returning the rental car, and getting to the airport. Then, I went straight to work for the day, physically exhausted but emotionally satisfied.
Online support has been vital for my weight loss success, but it’s the connections I can nurture in person that make such a difference. While I left the event feeling like I would no longer attend WLSFA events, I am glad that I attended this conference if only to see my friends. I have found who I can rely on for support, and met people who have been inspired by me.
Oh, and if you want to know which weight loss surgery events are on my calendar…I will be attending the Obesity Action Coalition‘s Convention in Phoenix this summer, as well as speaking at FitBloggin in June and ObesityHelp in October.