Monday, July 27, 2009

What is the Weight of the Nation?

What is the Weight of the Nation?

With the average American carrying 23 extra pounds, collectively that is 4.6 billion extra pounds, according to Thomas Frieden, the CDC's director who has been on the job for about six weeks.

Frieden has been at the helm of the Weight of the Nation conference, which has drawn about 1,000 leaders in the health and wellness community to talk about the issue of obesity.

Monday's Keynote speaker was former President Bill Clinton. The CDC honored Clinton with a Pioneering Innovation Award for his work with Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Clinton said, for him, childhood obesity is an obsession.

"This is a social issue, we are trying to turn the Titanic before it hits the iceberg. It is very much worth the effort," Clinton said.

When it comes to policy arguments, Clinton said most people get caught up in the how are you going to do something and much is this going to cost questions. The most important question, he said, is, "How do you propose to turn good intentions into positive changes?"

The CDC also honored Sen. Tom Harkin, who has been instrumental in initiatives such as the FDA's fresh fruits and vegetables program. Harkin talked about the importance for us to recreate society as a genuine wellness community.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Presidential Surprise At Weight of the Nation

I popped open the agenda to the CDC's Weight of the Nation Conference and got a great surprise. Tomorrow's Keynote Speaker: President Bill Clinton.

I have long wanted to meet President Clinton. I feel my Save the World Diet initiative, encouraging people to take on physical events (from 5Ks to mountain climbs) for charity as fitness and weight loss goals, is in line with his work. Of course, President Clinton's healthy lifestyle changes made news after his heart episode. Plus he penned a terrific book, "Giving" about how we can all make a difference.

I should mention that President Clinton has been at this venue, the Omni Shoreham Hotel, before. There is a placard in the hotel's lobby with a photo of him delighting guests at his 2003 Inaugural Ball here when he broke out the saxophone for an impromptu performance.

So, saxophone or not, I hope to have the opportunity to at least shake his hand. In fact, at the conference, which actually continues until Wednesday, I look forward to meeting so many people committed to the cause of curbing the obesity epidemic.

I'm just here Monday and hope to have a chance to meet you! By way of introducing myself, I thought I would include this little write-up about me from a recent news story...

So far in 2009, Kara Richardson Whitely has run in Central Park at midnight for UNICEF, jumped in icy Lake Champlain , Vt. for Special Olympics, walked amid monkeys and alligators for the MS Society, walked/jogged where Washington slept for National Parks and walked the Flying Pig Marathon course to benefit the American Heart Association.

She is taking on a physical event for charity each month of the year -- an initiative she calls the Save the World Diet.

This Save the World Diet movement -- of taking action steps toward better health and a better world -- was inspired by her 2007 trek up Mount Kilimanjaro . The journey to Africa's highest peak was not only a celebration of her 120-pound weight loss, it was a fundraiser for Global Alliance for Africa 's AIDS orphans programs. She couldn't justify not getting out of bed to train when a child needed fresh water, an education, a chance.

After the birth of her daughter a year later, she was left with about 50 pounds of baby weight to lose all over again. She remembered how motivating it was to be working for a cause as well as a fitness goal. She signed up for an event each month of 2009, knowing that it would allow her to go from feeling helpless about her weight and the problems in the world to feeling empowered and strong.

So far this year, she's down several pounds, feeling great and has raised thousands of dollars for charities.

By the year's end her treks up mountains and down the scale will help AIDS orphans and those with Leukemia & Lymphoma. She will also run on the beach for Autism research, dance for food at a Cancan for Hunger, and bicycle 220 miles from Hershey, Pa. (away from all of that chocolate) to New York City for young Breast Cancer survivors. The year will end with another Kilimanjaro climb for AIDS orphans.

Kara is the founder of, a website to inform and inspire others on their weight loss journey, and a contributor on She is an American Heart Association spokeswoman, sharing her story to inspire others make healthy life changes, and a finalist in the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women Casting Call competition.

That's all for now, tomorrow starts with morning exercise at 6:30 a.m.!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fat Woman Goes to Washington

There is a giant disconnect in the obesity epidemic conversation. Often when I attend conferences and seminars about obesity, I am surrounded by skinny people. It seems folks who struggle with obesity don't come into the conversation until it's about about weight loss or dieting.

We as a nation are spending billions on weight loss products, programs and supplements, and yet we're getting fatter and fatter. My mission in life is to help bridge the gap between intention and action on this issue.

So I am heading to the CDC's Inaugural Conference on Obesity Prevention and Control next week. The event, called Weight of the Nation, is designed to highlight policy and environmental strategies in communities, medical care, schools, and workplaces.

While I am not a speaker at the event itself, I hope to be able to share my story with those heavily involved in the obesity epidemic. I want to talk about my Save the World Diet mission, and 120-pound weight loss journey so that somehow we can help get the country moving in the right direction when it comes to weight.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

July's Save the World Diet Challenge: Running the Family

The July Save The World Diet Challenge was all about family so my husband and I packed up the car and headed to the beach -- Virginia Beach.

We were heading to the Mount Trashmore YMCA's July 4 event to support their We Build People Campaign. Each one of us got to participate somehow. I was signed up to jog/walk the 5K. My husband took a run during the one-mile event. My daughter -- now 17 months old -- was going to do the Tot Trot.

YMCAs are collectively the nation’s largest providers of health and well-being programs, according to If you didn't already know, the YMCA serves people, regardless of their ability to pay.

I selected the Mount Trashmore YMCA event in Virginia Beach because my friend Bridget works there. In fact, she works non-stop for this awesome organization that does so much for its surrounding community.

I am a YMCA member in my hometown. To me, the place is a godsend. It's an affordable facility with free childcare while I workout. Having a break to be healthy makes me a better parent.
They have family events, and swim time. This summer our YMCA is helping me step up my weight loss routine with an outdoor boot camp and other benefits such as personal training and nutritional counseling. These are just a part of the YMCA's mission, and work.

But back to the race -- I had a great run/walk in the hot Virginia sun (even at 8 a.m.!). I didn't finish last, which was a big victory. Chris had a good run. Then we all went to the starting line of the Tot Trot for our daughter's first race. There were a few stumbles, and a few times when she had to be redirected toward the finish line. But she finished, and clapped as we all yelled, "Yeah!"

(She finished last, but with no other kids under two years old, I suppose she won her age division.)

Like all the other runners, she received a Tot Trot ribbon, a red fabric badge that she watched flap in the breeze, as she proudly held onto its string. She seemed to know that ribbon meant achieving something great.

For me, this event was so special because it symbolized our committment to staying active as a family. We know doing so is fun, and it builds community and character. I'm so happy that the the nation's 2,686 YMCAs are there for so many other individuals and families.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

07.05.09: Catch Up With Ruby

Since Ruby's docu-series first aired last year on The Style Network, thousands of people have contacted her, telling her her journey has given them the courage to get started on a path to better health.

So, to celebrate her second season (which debuts 8 pm. tonight -- Sunday, July 5-- on The Style Network) she hosted walks in cities across the country including New York, Philadelphia and Savannah. (The Los Angeles event is July 11).

I caught up with Ruby during the New York Walk With Ruby on June 26.

As the walk began, it was clear Ruby has stepped up her workouts from her first few days huffing and puffing on the treadmill. One of her trainers, Drew Edmonds, led a cardio workout mid-way through the walk. And then, Ruby, who began her television series at about 500 pounds, was off to lead the pack again.

It was clear what an impact she had made as she walked and talked with her followers in the not-quite-a-mile circle around the South Street Seaport piers in lower Manhattan.

Thomas DaCunha and Yoandi Interian of Wethersfield, Conn., left their homes at 3 a.m. that day to make sure they first in line to get the dozens of hugs and kisses Ruby gave her fans.

"She is just so amazing," DaCunha said. The two gave her a "R" they had decorated themselves to cheer Ruby on her journey, and to thank her for the inspiration she gave them.

Ruby has had her own setbacks, even 100 pounds into her journey, as viewers will see in tonight's season premiere. Her father dies unexpectedly. Meanwhile, her exboyfriend Denny returns to the picture, trying to woo Ruby ad her friends with Rascal Flatts tickets. (Ruby is friends with Rascal Flatts band member Jay DeMarcus).

You can catch up with Ruby too. The second season of Ruby debuts 8 p.m. tonight (Sunday) on The Style Network.