For this week's blog I really want to share our experience at Strides for Obesity last weekend. This is our second year being a sponsor at this incredible event, but my own personal first experience. It was incredible, to say the least.
What is Strides for Obesity?
To best explain this incedible organization, I've copied directly from their Facebook page (click the link and follow along with them!):
"It is an event that was brought about by the need for obesity awareness. Obesity is recognized as a chronic disease and is a growing epidemic and yet society, as a whole, continues to grossly blame the individuals themselves for being lazy or for having lack of self control. Even amongst healthcare providers there is a large degree of weight bias and stigma that needs to be addressed. Thus our goal..our passion..is to bring this issue forward and have it addressed and to help individuals looking for support and to advocate for increased access to weight management and treatment services. It is a 3K walk with the registration being done through the QE2 Health Sciences Centre Foundation. The first annual walk was held Saturday October 8, 2016 and was a great success! We had approximately 90 walkers and raised over $6000.00 for the clinic towards increasing patient resources and access to the clinic."
It started early - but we were prepared!
Before I get to the actual event, let me tell you a little bit about our journey to get there. We live on an island (Prince Edward Island - Nutracelle's headquarters!) so naturally to leave the island you have to be either on the ferry boat, driving over the bridge, or on an airplane. The event was taking place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, so there was no point in flying. Initially we planned on taking the ferry boat as this would save 75 minutes of driving, but upon realizing that the event started around 7am and the boat wouldn't be running that early -- we decided we'd just drive over... at 2:00AM!
I live pretty far from our office, so I actually had a sleepover with our finance manager at he & his partner's apartment. (Sidenote: their couch is super comfy!). Jeff and I awoke at 1:30AM and sleepily wandered around getting ready for the drive. Luckily we had pre-packed everything at the office the day before and Jeff loaded Mel's car up so there wasn't much to do before we left.
Our first step was breakfast, of course!
Thanks to Nutracelle, that was an easy one. I grabbed my shaker cup and put about a cup of water in, with my 3 scoops of Salted Caramel Nutralean. Shook it for a few seconds, and voila. Ready to go. Jeff did the same, but he made a Vanilla shake instead. And of course we have our sugar-free energy drinks for the drive, too!
After grabbing the last of our items, we went outside where Melanie was picking us up for the drive off island. (Mel's morning shake was a Coffee Mocha one, of course!)
Fast forward four hours, and we arrive!
The event was held at the Halifax Convention Centre, so we made our way through the building to find our assigned table as a sponsor, and immediately began setting up.
Check out our awesome table!
Registration for the walk began around 7am so it didn't take long for people to start wandering over, curious about what we were setting up. Prior to the 3K run/walk we had a few people sample the Salted Caramel (and they loved it), but mostly people were getting themselves ready for the event.
I was lucky enough to join all of the participants outside for the opening ceremonies while Mel and Jeff manned the table. The energy was incredible. Everyone was smiling, chatting, and doing their best to keep warm on the chilly morning. The attendees came in every shape & size, and the best part? Everyone felt at home. It was such a supportive, friendly, upbeat event to get to witness.
The warm-up was amazing, too! They had an incredibly talented, lovely lady (I'm not sure what her name was) lead the group of over 200 registrants in a belly dancing routine! The smiles on everyone's faces throughout this was heart-warming, to say the least. Even those that initially weren't participating in the warm-up were grooving to the music by the end of it.
Once everyone was warmed up and the professional photographers had their photos, the walk began!
It wasn't a race, it was a do-it-at-your-own-pace event, so some folks were casually strolling while others were getting their daily runs in. Regardless of fitness level, everyone was welcome.
While they were off, our Nutracelle team got to work moving most of our stuff outside. We had rows of Salted Caramel samples lined up to help replenish the walkers/runners once they made it back. This was where the real fun started for us.
We were able to chat with SO many incredible people after they finished their 3K.
I spoke to people who told me their struggles and successes when it came to weight loss. So much of it sounded just like my own personal story. You may not know this about me, but I'm actually a very shy person. I tend to find it very hard to approach new people, but there was something about this event that took me out of my shell. Maybe it was just knowing that everyone there was like-minded in the sense that they were all there to support better health, and awareness about obesity. Or maybe it was just that I couldn't have been more proud to represent such an incredible company. Either way, I had an incredible time getting to know so many new people.
We were so proud to tell the Nutracelle story.
We were proud to hand out samples of an all-natural, clean-ingredient, Canadian-made product. It was so easy to brag about our gluten-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free formula that had been the main instrument in changing my own life.
The best part of my day was watching their faces light up in delight when they sampled the Salted Caramel. You really don't know how much of a 'need' there is for healthy, safe products until you're in a crowd of 200 people who have never heard of your product before. People kept confirming, "This is diabetic-friendly?!" "This is nut-free?!" "THIS IS PROTEIN?" -- they really couldn't believe it. They would read the back of the bag and look at each other and say, "Oh my GOSH! Look at this!". One lady placed an order after sampling the Salted Caramel and winked at us saying, "My husband isn't allowed to touch this. He can stick to his nasty stuff unless he wants to buy his own Nutracelle!"
Shake. Bake. Blend.
We talk a lot about how versatile Nutracelle is on our site, but to see first-hand the reaction from future-customers when you say "You can even make things like cupcakes, pancakes, bread, etc!" was amazing. One lady's eyes lit up when I told her that I had made salted caramel cookies! I can't blame her, my eyes still light up every month when I receive my order. It still seems too good to be true most days.
I was proud to tell my own story.
You guys are used to my story as I write about it fairly often. These people though? They'd never met me, and most hadn't even heard of us! (We're still a new company, believe it or not!) I put myself way outside of my comfort zone though and bragged about my successes so far. Everyone was so supportive, and a few incredible ladies even told me that I inspired them to get started, too. I received hugs, high-fives, literal pats on the back, and even had some heart-to-hearts with a few people. I'm so, so, so thankful to be a representative of a life-changing product, and participating in Strides for Obesity was an amazing reminder of that.
Here are a few photos of us from the day that we love:
Concluding the event we reluctantly packed up and began our journey back to the island. I say reluctantly because to be honest: none of us wanted to leave. We were all, though sleep-deprived, so excited and full of energy from talking to so many inspiring people. We spent the entire trip home talking about how excited we are for next year's event.
When I asked Melanie how she felt about being at Strides for Obesity, here's what she had to say:
As a fellow weight loss surgery patient, participating in Strides for Obesity is a joy and a blessing! It's an opportunity to talk with, hug, cry and cheer on other folks like me who know first-hand what the struggle with obesity is really like. Strides is so much more than a walk or an event - it's a way to connect with other bariatric patients on the same journey. It's a way to change the perception of obesity and to say - loud and proud - that I had weight loss surgery! Obesity is complex, and no one chooses to become heavy. Many of us face judgement, criticism and sometimes discrimination when we are obese, and it can be really discouraging. For me, Strides is about raising awareness that there IS a treatment, there IS hope and it's about celebrating success and life! Thank you to all the volunteers and everyone who came out to walk, run and have fun!!! This amazing event is an inspiration!!!
Jeff's experience was equally as awesome:
Being able to help represent Nutracelle for Strides of Obesity is one of the main reasons I love my job. I am able to talk to people about what Nutracelle can do for their health and what an incredible product it is. I was so happy to see the positive response that everyone was having when they had that first sample of our Salted Caramel, seeing them say things like, "o=Oh my Gosh, this tastes so good...no way this is a protein shake", makes me so proud to represent this amazing Canadian Company that is all about supporting and promoting a healthy lifestyle. We met and chatted with tons of people, which is not what your typical Finance Manager gets to do, and I feel very lucky to have been there.