ECPO Patient Lounge – 16 December 2020

by | Dec 20, 2020 | European News, News

Did you miss the first episode of ECPO Patient Lounge? A recording of the session is now available for you to view. On the first episode we had Teena Gates who reflected on the personal encounters she faced during the year. Vicki Mooney also chatted with Euan Woodward of EASO on policy matters, and also the inspiring Dr. Rebecca Richards Health psychologist, ASO UK Trustee. Our panel discussion saw guests join from Iceland, Denmark, Portugal, and the UK who answered your questions live as they came in.


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Hello and welcome to the ECPO Patient Lounge. My name is Vicky Mooney and I will be your host for the next hour or thereabouts. Just a little bit of information for you about where the patient lounge really originated from.

So our leadership team kind of had this idea of creating a platform to share not only the patient experiences, but to overlap into the scientific and clinical communities. So we could really share and discuss and bring the conversation really to yourselves online. So what do we have in store for you this evening? Coming up, we have a lot of interviews.

We have Ms. Tina Gates, who’s going to delve into the patient experience with us. Now, Tina, as many people know, is legendary in Ireland as a media broadcaster, and she’s a good friend of hers. So she’s going to do the patient journey with us.

Dr. Becky Richards is going to talk to us about, I suppose, that behavior and has there been a shift this year in 2020 with behavior and obesity and what we can probably do over the Christmas period as well. After that, we will have Mr. Ewan Woodward, who will bring policy and obesity to the stage for us. We will then bring you a fantastic panel because not only is it predominantly our patient community, but we have Mr. Ken Clare, who is, as many people know, Obesity UK and ECPO director.

Mr. Liam Bryant from EASO. We have Mario Silva from Portugal, who’s a member of the patient council with ECPO. We have Berglind Trygve Dorthier from Iceland, a member of our patient council as well.

And another patient from Denmark, which is Christian Pedersen. Now, we don’t really do housekeeping, but just to kind of give you an idea of, you know, whether or not you can get in touch with us, here’s what you can do. You can go onto Twitter or onto Instagram.

You can put your question, your comments, your reflections, your talks, your pictures. Make sure you just add hashtag ECPO patient lounge. When you do, our comms team will pick it up and make sure that we get them here and we can show you on screen what’s happening and what the activity is in the social media world.

We are also recording this session. You’ll be able to find it on our website later. And we would like to thank EASO and Nova Nordisk for the support to make this happen.

Now, I want to jump into this wonderful lady who is Miss Tina Gates. Now, Tina, for many people who know, is Irish broadcaster. She is a media expert.

She has done a lot of training with ECPO and has been legendary there. She is on our board of directors as well as the board of directors for ICPO. She is a lover of all things adventurous, anything that puts a bit of adrenaline in her veins.

She’s a full-time carer for her dad, Terry, and she’s mom to Google dog, who is pretty amazing. Now, Tina is a patient like myself and a longtime friend. So let’s take a look at what Tina had to say when I had a chat with her earlier.

Hello, Miss Tina Gates. Thank you for being here with me. I’m absolutely over the moon because you and I go back some years now and you’re so welcome.

Thank you very much. I love you in red. You look so festive and I love the Christmas tree behind you.

It’s just lovely. And I’m changing my earrings for each interview. So now I have my little Christmas puddings in.

Oh, they’re very good, yeah. Yes, I think it’s lovely. You’re looking fantastic.

You look refreshed. And I think let’s jump straight into deep end here because like myself, and we’ve spoke about this many times when we’ve done the Elaine show back in Ireland and we sat in the green room talking about, you know, weight and all the things that challenge us and how we’ve gone on this roller coaster through life of losing a huge amount of weight, regaining it and struggling with it. And this year has been incredibly hard for the community of people who manage and deal with and are affected by obesity.

How has it been for you? I won’t sugarcoat it. It’s been brutal. It’s been an absolutely, humongously awful year.

And the only thing good that I can say about 2020 is the fact that it’s a gateway to 2021. And hopefully there’s gonna be a new year and a new me. And how many times have I started that journey on a new me? But it has more poignancy, I suppose, attached to this coming year than it ever will have done before.

Yeah, I mean, I’ve run the gamut as we have, both you and I talked about before. I famously or infamously almost lost 13 stone in a little over one year. And I went on to climb some of the highest mountains in the world and made it to a fairly nice summit above Everest Base Camp and not the summit.

But like, I mean, I turned into an adventurous, that’s a decade ago. And I thought I had job done. I had lost all the weight and I wasn’t thrilled with the skinny me or the dresses, although that was a very nice by-product.

But I just loved the power that I had. And I loved the way and the ability that I had to do things that I never thought I’d be able to do. So I was kayaking, I was running, I was cycling, climbing mountains, doing all these extraordinary adventurous things and finding out that there was a little adventurous person inside me that I never knew was there.

And then 10 years later, I’m back at the beginning again. And I didn’t even realize, I think I kept the weight off for about six years. And then life started throwing me a few curve balls.

And it just seems as if my self-medicating place, if you like, when I come under stress, I eat. I go and I lose the run of myself. And I didn’t even, do you know, I actually wrote to Nike and I complained that their sizes were getting too small.

I was so much, sorry Nike. I was so completely in denial. But at the same time, my lifestyle, even though I was packing food into me, my lifestyle hadn’t changed that much.

I was still running triathlons in 2015 and pouring on weight. I mean, how does that happen? And there’s the frustration of asking that question, how does that happen? Because you think I’m 55 years on the planet. You’d think I’d have figured it out by now.

But anyhow, your question was about this year in particular. I’m looking after my dad, he’s 95. So this year has been horrendous because not just dealing with my own problems, I’ve been trying to cuss at him and mind him and protect him.

And I’ve had him in lockdown in my house. And the first lockdown was particularly bad because we were all overwhelmed and terrified by the images that were hitting us. And we didn’t know as much as we know now about this disease.

And it’s obviously the virus is still a mystery. But back then we were all so scared about being overwhelmed. And I really, really allowed it to permeate every cell of my being.

And I was spraying the air, I was polishing the banisters. I was one of the people that washed the shopping that was being delivered before I brought it into the house. I put the post into a box before I’d allow anybody to open a letter.

And I ended up being carted off in an ambulance with blue and white flashing lights to the very place that I didn’t want to go after two weeks of the doctor coming to me with illness. And it turns out I was after developing a type of IBS or irritable bowel syndrome, which I’d never had a problem with before. And it seems to have been just pure stress that ended up seeing me rushed into casualty.

And so fortunately I was kicked out after a couple of hours and sent home and I had to start minding where my head was going. And I got a bit of a… I started then realising the stress that I’d put myself under and started… It got to a stage where I could feel when my body started getting ill. I could feel my muscles in my gut tensing.

And I literally had to have a talk with myself and say, right, turn off the news, get off social media, take the dog for a walk. And of course that was a problem because we had a 2K restriction. So I couldn’t go to my lovely Phoenix park.

And then we had a 5K. We had a 2K originally. You had a total lockdown.

I don’t know how you coped with that. Cause I mean, the park killed me, but the 5K still kept me away from the sea. And up until in Ireland, up until a couple of… Until just two weeks ago, we had the 5K was back the second lockdown that we had in Ireland, which hit me not as bad as the first one, but still it hit me pretty significantly.

And it stopped me going to the sea. And I never realised how much cold water swimming meant to me mentally, but also physically. And I asked my doctor for a letter to allow me to drive to the sea.

And I was willing to go to a bit of coast that nobody was at. I was happy to go to a… No, no. She said, I mean, that’s her decision and total credit to her.

Everybody has to do what they think they have to do during this. But I did feel, as I have felt many times over the years, that the medical profession doesn’t see me as a patient. They see me as perhaps a victim of my own disorderliness or my own culpability.

But I really feel unsupported because I felt the one thing I was holding onto was the sea. And I thought my doctor could see the bigger picture and how much that meant to me. And I really felt let down by that.

Do you know that is like a common tread with so many people? So we had actually run a, just a little kind of questionnaire that we throw out summer patient communities going back to March. And it was the same with everybody. It was that dread and fear of the images they were seeing on TV and what they were hearing and the correlation with obesity then and how that was playing out and the fear of actually getting COVID-19 and not being able to be ventilated or intubated in hospital and that kind of thing.

And all of a sudden people were getting this, these old habits coming back into play and these old behaviors. And for me, it’s pass me a glass of wine and give me a small piece of chocolate. Now I’m not talking about like 10 bars of chocolate.

I’m talking about like just a bit of chocolate, my little comfort. And a lot of people went through that and that was a real struggle. So you’re not on your own.

And actually coming up actually is Becky Richards who’s going to talk about all of these kinds of behavior issues in that and how they’ve kind of been ingrained in us and how we can change them and that. So you are so not on your own. But one of the points that I absolutely love that you brought up is about physical activity.

And we were talking about this earlier, you were saying, and for you, you are a real wonder woman. You’re a sports woman. You love to get out there and be thriving, the adrenaline running through you and everything else.

And like, we know through research that the average person who loses a huge amount of weight has to do two to three times more exercise than the average person to keep that weight up. And for yourself, how did that make you feel when you kind of realized that I need to do more than do so next door just because I’ve lived with obesity? And how has that been this year because you couldn’t get out to do anything? Yeah, it’s been pretty soul destroying. And I did mention that my weight gain started while I was actually competing in triathlons.

And in 2015, I did 10 triathlons in one year and I put on three stone over the course of the year. I mean, and I just kept saying to myself, how in the name of God can that possibly happen? And, excuse me, and I was doing a phenomenal amount of exercise because apart from actually taking part in a triathlon at weekends, I was also training for it. So I was cycling, I was in the gym, I was swimming.

I was doing all of this physical exercise and still putting on a ton of weight. Now, I kind of think myself that part of the reason was because I was traveling around the country to go on the triathlons. So I was eating outside of my routine because if I don’t have a routine, I’m in Never Neverland.

Like, you know, I’m just, for me, everything has to be planned out in advance. And whereas somebody else, like my friends might say, I’ll have a bar of chocolate or I’ll have a takeaway and it won’t affect their life. If I have a bar of chocolate or a takeaway, that’s it, I’m destroyed.

Absolutely ruined. And I mentioned looking after my father. Like, I mean, I cook beautiful meals for him, you know, I nourish him.

He’s 95, he’s wonderful, he’s strong, he’s thin. And he’s got great muscle tone for his age. And like, you know, I’m the one who’s there cooking breakfast, lunch, dinner, taking wonderful food, plenty of vegetables, lots of dairy, all good things.

And he eats about a fraction, well, no, he eats about 10 times more than I eat, I eat about a fraction more than he eats. And he’s like that. And I’m not, you know, how does, I mean, I keep coming back to it.

I’ve got people in my family, you know, and some are thin and some are not. And again, when you look at what they’re eating, it doesn’t really add up. Now I do know, I’m not saying that I’m just accidentally overweight, because I do have this emotional eating thing.

And I do know I go for a takeaway and it has nothing got to do with wanting to eat the brown, bland food that comes from the end of a phone. It’s something that is hotwired into my brain that when I’m stressed, and when I’ve had a really difficult day, and when I’m scared or worried, I pick up the phone and I think it’s, it almost feels as if somebody else is wrapping their arms around me and feeding me. And it’s more the fact that somebody is coming to the door with food.

And maybe that comes from childhood, or I don’t know. But for me, that gives me that reassurance. It’s like a hug.

It’s like, you know, it’s literally like a warm hug. And that’s, it’s so difficult for me to remind myself that that is a lethal hug for me. I mean, I’m back up, I’ve put on so much weight.

I gave up during, I don’t know whether it was during lockdown one or halfway between lockdown one and lockdown two, but I completely gave up. And my weight just skyrocketed and went up to the 300 pounds again. And I just, I sat in front of a mirror and I said, I’m 55, do I have the energy to start all over again? You know, do I, is it worth it? Can I do it? And I went around in a depression for a couple of days thinking, you know, how did I get here again? And how did I waste all of that energy in that time? And how did I manage to do this to myself again? And then I just made the conscious decision that giving up isn’t enough, you know, giving up isn’t the answer.

So yeah, I have to kick myself in the butt and I have to start all over again and dust myself down, but yeah, I’m clawing off two pound at a time again, but it is exhausting. It really is exhausting. Yeah, so I know you’re incredibly busy and you’ve got to go in a minute or two, but like for me, you’ve just shared what every single person I know that has obesity is faced with and challenged with.

And now that we know obesity is, and I wish that more of our society and healthcare practitioners and that actually understood as well, obesity is lifelong. We’re going to have to manage this for all of our life. Yeah, like I got to my forties and I was like, I started gaining more weight rapidly.

And I was like, what’s going on here? And I’m menopausal, quite young. And I was like, hormones, hormones are a play here. Not only that, my environment’s a play as well because I’ve been gooning all year.

And then nevermind a little bit of self-medicating as I did as a child with a piece of chocolate, I was upset, it was a bit of trauma and I’d dip in for a piece of chocolate or have a bar of chocolate. And all of that comes into play. As you said about the portion sizes, Matt, my fiance would eat two and three times as much as I would.

And he might gain a pound in a month, but I’d be damn sure to gain about a stone of weight, 14 pounds if I had what he was having. And that’s the challenge that so many of us are facing. But just before you go, if I could just ask you, because you’re saying about heading into the new year and you’re not going to give up.

And I would say, take it slowly. I know I have to take baby steps. I definitely have to take baby steps.

When I try to do too much, I get overwhelmed. But what is your, probably your number one, would it be to get out and get more fresh air, get back into the sea, swimming? Or is it cooking those yummy meals that I see on Facebook all the time because you’re always posting the most amazing recipes that are just purely nutritious? I think the most important thing for me, and I think, and in my battle, which, as you say, I’m only recently, I suppose, recognizing that it’s a lifetime battle, that I don’t win it by just losing weight. I have to keep fighting it every day.

So I think that the most important thing for me is that giving up just isn’t an option because giving up just leads to more misery and more heartache and more weight and more disability and more lack of mobility and lack of fun and happiness and all the things that make my life good go when I give up. So giving up is not an option. So that’s the first thing.

Now, the sea is just definitely my magic weapon because it clears my mind. It makes me feel good about myself. I can do things because my weight, possibly, Isabel, is supported by the water.

And the cold of the water takes the pain of the arthritis away as well. So it’s just this wonderful panacea where I can be a normal human being in the sea for whatever length of time the cold water will allow me to be in it. So that’s my go-to happy spot.

And please, no more lockdowns so that I can keep going to the sea. My dog is wonderful. My dad is wonderful.

All those. And do you know what? Friends are so important because I have, on occasion, pushed friends away when I feel so bad about myself because I just don’t want to engage and I don’t want to party and I don’t want to admit that I’ve failed again. And I feel guilty.

And I wrote a book about losing weight and then I felt as if I’d left everybody down by going and putting it back on. So you have that guilty feeling that you don’t want to let people down. And again, I’ve got to work very hard on pushing that away and just surrounding yourself with good, supportive friends and knowing that people aren’t judging you.

Well, some people might, but if the proper people, the important people, they’re not judging you and nobody can judge you as harshly as you’re judging yourself. So I’m going to try and not judge myself for the new year and just try and do a good job and as good a job as I can do. Absolutely.

And just be kind to yourself and your thoughts and how you speak about yourself because for me, you were just such an inspiration to so many people. When the work that you’ve done with your dad and ensuring that he has the best of everything, how you are on social media, how you portray yourself, how you spoke here today. And I know for a lot of people, they’d say, you know, oh, what about your healthcare provider and treatment options and plans? And people have to realise that we all have our own way of managing our obesity, our weight and to respect how you’re doing this.

And I’m looking forward to seeing pictures of you in the sea. I’m looking forward to seeing Google dog in the sea. I’m looking forward to seeing more meals with Terry on wheels.

Thank you so much, Tina. Have a wonderful Christmas. Be kind to you.

Thank you. Be kind, everybody. Everybody be kind.

What a fantastic 16 and a half minutes of Miss Tina Gates. It resonates so well and it has resonated not only with me, but a number of people on Twitter as well have reached out. And I want to thank the likes of Bernadette and we’ve had, I’ve written them down here.

Jacob has been on. We’ve had Audrey and Carl. We’ve had Christine on as well and all recognising that, that patient experience in 2020 has been incredibly stressful and challenging for us all.

Now, when I think about that and I think about one of the tweets that I seen there, actually somebody saying, the importance of your healthcare provider. We also had to remember that in the Action IO study that we learned that 14 and a half thousand people living with obesity were interviewed on that study or surveyed. And they waited an average of six years to approach your healthcare provider.

So we all have to be as supportive as we can to each other. And for me, that support is for Tina Gates to get her booty into the sea as soon as possible in the new year and enjoy it. So I want to move on because we have a very fantastic and I would say a ray of sunshine second interview with Rebecca Richards.

Now, Becky is a postdoctoral researcher and health psychologist in University of Cambridge. Her focus, I suppose, really is on using psychology to improve the care and support that people like myself and many of our team living with obesity have. And she is a passionate Welsh lassie from the valleys of South Wales, as you would say.

She’s a love for Instagramming that we’re going to hear about now, weight lifting and she is an absolutely horrendous and terrible cook. Her favorite thing to do is spend time with her friends and her family. And let’s have a listen to what Becky has to tell us now.

Hello, Becky. How are you? It is wonderful to have you with us. Thank you.

Hi, Becky. How are you doing? I’m really, really good. I love that you’re here with us because, as you know many of our patients who have been following your Instagram which we’ll delve into a little bit later but I know we don’t have a lot of your precious time.

So we’re going to jump straight in as a deep end as we speak about a lot. And as Tina has spoke about just before yourself this year has been really hard on our community of people. I think it’s been hard on every single person on the planet but when it comes to living with obesity as a disease and trying to manage cocooning and 2020 and COVID and all the challenges that brought I really wanted to get your own perspectives and your own perspective on what has happened this year.

Has there been a shift in behavior and that kind of thing? So take it away, baby. Yeah, absolutely. So I mean, across the spectrum we have plenty of research evidence now from different patient surveys for example, from Liverpool University and University College London that have shown us that behavior has certainly changed.

So we found that people living with obesity and everyone really were experiencing sort of high levels of stress, anxiety and depression which is completely normal. And on top of that then, where a lot of people are stuck at home in their home environment so we’re not able to be as active. And of course, when we’re at home then we’re more at risk of kind of snacking and going back and forth with the fridge because that’s an environment a lot of people struggle with.

So that combined really has led to concerns about gaining weight during the pandemic. And that’s exactly what the research showed. And then while we look at sort of anecdotal evidence so on social media, family, friends, whoever you talk to, it’s the same kind of experiences people have generally struggled because it’s completely normal to, we call it emotional eating.

So to eat in response to stress, sadness, worries. So we have seen quite a bit of that. I mean, there have been some people who have experienced the pandemic in a sort of different way in that they found themselves with a bit more time.

So they’ve been able to be more active or get outside more or have had more time to focus on some cooking healthy meals and that sort of thing. But I think the majority of people really have struggled more with kind of emotional eating and have that sort of response. You know, that’s me in a nutshell because that is something I always struggle with.

It’s so funny because my father passed 10 years ago and it’s coming up to Christmas. It’s his birthday. And as much as I love Christmas and I really do, I’ve got my reindeer earrings.

I seen you had your Santa hat on when you were doing one of your interviews and I loved it. And I was like, I’m going to wear my reindeer earrings. But I find that as soon as that emotion kind of kicks in and I start thinking about him and I start missing him and it kind of flares up, I go, oh, do you know what? I’ll have a piece of chocolate or I’ll have a glass of wine, you know? And that’s one thing that I found fantastic about your Instagram.

So you kicked off a little while ago on Instagram and I think you’ve done something that is really needed on social media. Tell us a little bit about that. Yeah, so I kind of started this Instagram, it’s just a very small sort of side hobby.

I started it about a year ago and the idea was to make the information and the conversations we have as a research community and sort of with the patient organisations. They’re very closed off. The public don’t have access to this information and I wanted to have these conversations and share this information in an accessible way and hear about other people’s experiences because as much as people have said they’ve learned on Instagram, actually I learned far more from other people.

So it’s actually quite selfish because I’m learning a lot as I go along. But yeah, I mean, for example, my mum and dad, they’ve always struggled with their weight but they don’t have access to kind of any accessible information and so I thought, well, there could be people out there like them who are on Instagram, Facebook and things. Absolutely.

Maybe they would come across and they’d enjoy some of the talks or the posts, who knows? But I’m learning as I go along so stay with me on the Instagram. No, I think it’s phenomenal because we were talking about this before we actually started to record. My daughter Mia is 13, she has autism.

And just out of curiosity, when I was reading one of your posts, which is just really laid out in that kind of fun, young, fresh way rather than the scientific infographic in your face, you kind of look at it and go, that’s all intimidating language. And I turned her phone around and I showed her and she was like, oh, that’s so cute. Look at the clouds.

And I was like, you have coffee attention on a 13-year-old who if I showed her a scientific infographic would go, and, you know. So that’s what I love about it. And you’ve been doing a lot of interviews yourself as well.

And I know people look back to last week, they’ll see Giles was on as well. So how has that been? You’ve really enjoyed that, haven’t you? Oh, it’s been so much fun. And first of all, I mean, the guest speakers that I’ve had on are really busy people, you know.

They’re doing amazing work and they’ve been so generous, you know, in doing that for me. You know, they don’t really know me and, you know, I’m not a follower. So I think it’s really kind that they would take their time to share that information.

So I think that’s a sign that people are really keen to share this kind of information to start with. It’s just really good to talk about this stuff in an accessible way. You know, it’s more visual because I’m not keen on podcasts so much because you can’t really see who’s talking.

You don’t really get a sense of the person. So for example, the interview with Giles Yeo last night of Genetics from Cambridge, he’s so animated. It’s a real shame for people to listen to him on a podcast because they just miss out on all his facial expressions.

Do you know what? When I clicked on it for a moment, I literally seen his face come straight to the camera like this, you know. And I was just like, that is just quality. That’s what you want to see.

You want to be engaged and intrigued. And I think even for people like myself, I would be more visual. Now, when I click on a podcast within two or three minutes, my mind has drifted somewhere else and I’m completely tuned out from it, you know, and I’m just so visual.

It’s so descriptive as well. Yes, it is. Yeah, you want it to be more casual.

And actually, now that we have you and we’re heading into that really tough time here and considering all the interviews that you’ve done, I’m sure you’ve got a wealth of information. Christmas is a tough time for the obesity community. It can be a tough time for most people, but I think after the year we’ve had, it’s going to be a really challenging Christmas for many, many people.

And I know I have to stop myself from reaching to the roses tin because my hand before I know it is in there. So what would your advice and tips be for people? Yeah, I think, so when I was listening to you talk about, you know, your dad and a glass of wine and a bit of chocolate and that, you know, it’s instantly what our brain wants, isn’t it? We feel, you know, these kind of overwhelmed emotions. It’s actually a really evolved and clever response because we know that this chocolate and glass of wine is going to tangle out and it’s going to help us and make us feel better.

So I think my number one tip, I think, for all of these issues really is to practice self-compassion. And it really is easiest ever done. It’s a skill that needs to be practiced and you need to work at it.

And there are lots of resources out there, so I can definitely point you in the right direction. Just being kind to yourself, you know, this is a completely normal response. We’ve had such a tough year and, you know, people with obesity have really had it really tough.

And then Christmas on top of that with all the emotion, I mean, it would be abnormal, in my opinion, if you didn’t want to reach for the wine and the chocolate. So first of all, just being kind to yourself and not beating yourself up for having those thoughts. And if you do do that, you know, don’t worry about it.

It’s not going to put any sort of catastrophe. The second tip I would have is to, if you know you struggle with Christmas and a lot of people do, I think now is the time to plan ahead before we kind of really get into, you know, full on Christmas mode and we’re off work and that kind of thing, and we’re left with far more time to think about these things. Maybe write down a self-care plan.

So thinking about what sort of things help to make you feel safe and warm, content, and that sort of thing. So it could be, you know, going for a walk with the family, phoning a friend, having a favourite Christmas movie ready. And they’re really simple things, but actually putting them into practice when you need them is the tricky part.

So having that plan written down in the first place, you know, if I feel like this, then I will do avials. And that takes the mental energy out of deciding how to cope in the moment, because, you know, then it’s far easier to reach for the chocolate and wine. So having that plan in place is like, okay, I’m going to give this a go and see how I get on.

Yeah, you know, I was only talking to Matt about this and I was saying, you know, Christmas can be so tough. And when I kind of feel my hand going for the roses, Tim, like this, you know, not like this, but like this, I’m like, okay, what I’ll do is we’ll say, right, let’s go for a walk with the dog. Let’s turn on Love Actually, my favourite Christmas movie.

And just doing things that make me feel good rather than reaching for that, going into that old habit. And the thing is, I’m now prepared to allow myself some treats over Christmas, but I have that because I’ve listened to you. I have that go to plan in my mind, which is fantastic.

So just for people, we’re going to show up on screen so they can find you on Instagram, they can find you on Twitter. They can ask you some questions via hashtag ECPO patient lounge. And it has just been a pleasure to have you.

You’re a ray of sunshine. Oh, thank you so much. And you as well.

I love talking to you, Vicky. And I’m really looking forward to seeing what ECPO does going forward in 2021. Have an absolutely wonderful Christmas, lady.

Speak to you soon. You too, take care. You’re welcome back.

And thank you to Dr. Becky Richards for such a tremendous interview. So much crammed in, in what I think about 10 minutes or thereabouts. Now, there was a huge amount of, for me, a lot of tips and ideas on what I can do heading into the Christmas period, which I know is a real daunting and for some people a fantastic time, but for some people a very challenging time.

I’ve been looking at the Twitter and the Instagram, which is bouncing around a lot of comments. Alina, thank you so much for your sharing and your comments, same with Bernadette and Carmel. I know Tim Edgar is out there watching and Martin has asked if I would put a Santa hat on.

And the answer is no, my Christmas tree is my Santa hat. So without further ado, I want to jump to our next interview, Mr. Eoin Woodward. Now, Eoin is not only sitting on the board of directors for ECPO, but is the executive director of EAS, or the European Association for the Study of Obesity.

He is also proudly from Scotland. He is a fantastic mentor, a wonderful wine drinker, and he has a love for his family and for cycling. Now, he has fallen off the bike a few times this year, but we won’t hold that against him.

So let’s check in with Eoin and hear what he had to say. Hi Eoin, welcome along. It’s lovely to have you here.

It’s lovely to be here. Thanks for inviting me. You’re so unbelievably welcome now.

What I want to do is jump straight into and go all the way back to 2016, where my knees were absolutely shaking with anxiety and nerves as we were in the European Parliament for the healthy breakfast, and looking for that recognition of obesity as a chronic disease. And has the needle shifted since then? And if so, what’s the shift been? Well, I remember that meeting very well, and thank you for attending it. You’ve been to a lot more since then too.

So yeah, the needle has moved, but it actually took longer than we had hoped or anticipated. So between 2016 and 2019, we held a lot of advocacy campaigns, European Obesity Day with policy conferences and more briefings. But really until the end of 2019, I think policymakers and politicians were still thinking about obesity in terms of prevention, in terms of individual responsibility, eat less, move more mantra, no personal blame and choice.

And the thing that has changed it, and I don’t think it should have done, but it has anyway, is the COVID situation because it has become very aware, we’re all very aware that people living with obesity have a higher chance of complication of COVID. And of course, that has really put obesity in the spotlight, but it has allowed us to make some positive changes. So at the European level, obesity is now recognized in the EU Foresight Report as an MCD, an uncommunicable disease, actually specified alongside cancer.

The ECDC has classified people living with obesity as a vulnerable group in the COVID response. So these are very positive things that we can take away from the challenging year that we have had some opportunities that we’ve been able to take advantage of. You’ll have to, excuse me, I have to keep muting myself.

I live by the airport and there was a plane landing and I didn’t wanna drown you out with a Boeing 737. I know the feeling, I’m near Heathrow. So when we talk about the spotlight being on obesity, really, and why COVID, I suppose there is a silver lining of the awareness, the heightened awareness.

So going into 2021 in the policy world, what are you guys are planning to do to kind of like keep that going and build even more awareness? Yeah, I mean, there are quite a lot of things that we are doing and can do even more. So at the beginning of the year, we launched OpenEU. So Open is the Obesity Policy Engagement Network.

And the EU version of that is a wide coalition of different stakeholders, multidisciplinary stakeholders. So they are doing a lot of work in both advocacy and communications and really bringing that community together to try to make policy change. We’re also launching a special interest group at the European Parliament on obesity and resilient health systems.

So that’s, let’s say, endorsed and sponsored by specific MEPs. So that’s fantastic because it allows us to get, let’s say, some comment and some communication and support in and from the European Parliament. And we’ve got, of course, European, or World Obesity Day Europe, our policy conference on the 4th of March, where we’re having a chance to really talk about obesity to policymakers from national and European settings.

And then ongoing communications and policy work throughout the year, which will involve ECPO, IASO, and a whole range of other stakeholders, trying ultimately to have the manifesto of OPEN implemented, which will ultimately lead to national obesity strategies in every country and proper access to care and availability of care for people living with obesity. And like that last line that you said there is really what we want. We want that treatment, that management and quality care for people like myself and our community across ECPO.

And we’re incredibly grateful for the work that IASO has done over the years. And for us, we’ve learned a lot from you guys. And thankfully we have that backup of the scientific evidence and the research that you guys do.

And it gives us that courage to go out and share that and advocate. And as you said, on national levels, it’s just phenomenal what’s happened with OPEN EU because we had that fantastic work in Italy and we’ve had more work in Germany, which is brilliant. And I just think the campaigning that is done between the scientific, clinical and patient communities all working together and pulling together.

And as we head into 2021, we’ve got one more day Europe, as you said. What can people actually do? What can they, where can they go to to find out more and what’s available for them to do so we can all actually continue to work and strive together in this? Yeah, I mean, I completely agree firstly with that whole approach of working together. We can’t do anything on our own.

And the more we work together in collaboration as a coalition, then the more chance we have of making an impact. And actually there are quite a lot of things that we are doing to help your communities and the scientific communities together. So the first thing we’ve got is a series of training, advocacy training.

So we have some stakeholder sessions which are overview sessions starting next week. We then have an advocacy or advocating in obesity workshop series, which is taking colleagues through a step by step approach to developing and implementing an advocacy campaign. And then we go even deeper for national challenges and what we call policy clinics.

So there are three training opportunities for people. And then we’ve also got some support mechanisms around World Obesity Day Europe. So I mentioned the policy conference, which is on the 4th of March.

So everybody can attend and get involved in that. But we’ve also got resources on the World Obesity Day website. So these are toolkits, ideas for campaigns.

And on top of that, we’ve got an award scheme so people can undertake activities, even if they did them last year or this year, and they can win awards for that. And we’ve got some grants to help people fund the campaigns that they want to do. So all of that information is available on the site as well as the application process for both the awards and the grants.

So we would encourage people to get out there and try and work with different groups within their country and then come to us and see how we can help them. That’s just phenomenal. We’re going to pull the website up on the screen as well for people so they can go to the World Obesity Day Europe website and see what’s happening and how they can join into all this now.

I should probably let you go because when you said all of that, I actually felt shattered heart. My thought, Ewan is going to need to sleep from now until like January to get your strength for everything ahead of next year. So I just want to say thank you and absolutely have a wonderful Christmas yourself and the family.

Have a good rest and break and looking forward to the advocacy sessions next week as well. You too. Thank you very much.

And I just want to finish by saying how proud I am of ECPO and how pleased I am to be a small part of that. It’s just a joy to to work with you guys and to see what we’ve achieved together in the last months and years. I’m looking forward to the future.

So yeah, Merry Christmas to you too. And yeah, see you next week. Thanks.

Thank you so much, Ewan Woodward. Fantastic to hear what is happening in 2021 in the policy area. Fantastic to hear how we can get involved locally, nationally, on a European scale, what we can actually do.

So let’s jump into it because hashtag ECPO patient lounge has been buzzing, which I’m so excited about. The team, the comms team behind the scenes, super excited about it as well. And I want to bring on our panel to discuss your questions and your comments, because we’ve had some beauties in from Carmel and Martin and various others that are out there and about.

Now, our guest panel, you will see here on the screen beside me, I have Mr. Ken Clare, who is not only an ECPO chairman and Obesity UK director of metabolic and bariatric services, but an ASO trustee and a longtime compadre. Miss Cherie Bryant is with us as well. She is the director of communications for EASO, the founding member of actually our patient council, which we’re very grateful for.

A mum, a grandmother, an all round legend of a lady. Mario Silva is with us. He is the president of APCOI in Portugal, a member of our patient council, public speaker and a lover of changing the world for the better for the children of today.

Ferdeland Trigvarottir is with us, our Icelandic member of our patient council. She is also a counsellor for young people in the community and helping people find better ways for more meaningful life. And a former member of staff at Helzberg in Iceland, which we absolutely love.

Christian Peterson is with us and he is our Danish representative, public speaker, and he is fighting the fight and changing the stigma of obesity and type two diabetes. You are all super welcome along. Hello, panel.

It’s great to have you here. So I’m going to delve in and we have a few tweets. We have a few comments.

We did have our very first question in from Dr. Michael Brotty back in Ireland. And he had, you know, I suppose asked us about how have people kind of been affected in a positive way during Covid-19? And I want to jump in with Ferdeland and perhaps Dr. Christian down with that. And Ferdeland, what’s what’s it been like for you? Has there been any positives? Yes, absolutely.

And I all got filled with seminars online. And one thing I got trampled around was the so-called emotion art. And this was a this was a trial seminar.

And it was about, you know, painting and drawing and in mindfulness and doing things and getting rid of your criticism, your inner criticism. And so there was a lot to learn because there’s always this guide telling you this is not good enough. This is not good enough.

Just like we the people living with the obesity has have been living like always judging ourselves. And actually, this seminar made me do a lot of art. And have made me made me more self-confident.

And I was it was a new mindfulness for me. And it couldn’t be happened in a better time because in the in the first Covid, I was emotional eating. And this was a little bit later.

And yeah, having a better time now with my mindfulness. So your creativity has come out, and I take it from for a lot of people, we’ve had more time to do the things that we love as we’ve been home. I remember lockdown first hit, and I was sat here with the family in the evening, so but we know where to go so we can play board games.

And they’re all like, oh, gosh, you know, it’s like, but it’s exploring the things that we love to do and giving you time to reflect. Yeah, that’s like sometimes I was in kindergarten. Yes, well, it’s wonderful.

And you were a huge part of our Living with Obesity Day campaign video. And I love your part in it. So thank you so much for your work there.

I’m going to ask Christian to jump in and share what positives he’s kind of taken from being locked down. And yes, I think first of all, it’s quite difficult to find out this positive thing there is. But my motivation of keep on training and still be helpful is he’ll help help me a lot and to found out these small things.

Actually, we have been taking them for granted. And now we can now see how positive they can be. That has been really positive for me here in for the last couple of months.

But also to see how we people we can connect together and stick on and hold in to work something like this disease and fight it together. That has been really, really positive for me to see. And it’s always good to remember to think about this thing that’s going to work, going to the gym.

So normally we just take them for granted. And maybe after this, we might going to think about how lucky we are to actually to have a have a job or just getting to the gym or getting this normal training, but also figured out how we can make training out of actually nothing. Take a walk and take your bike to work instead.

So for me, that has been the most positive in for the last couple of months. I think what you said there actually ties into the second question we had, which was around motivation. So we know that a lot of our patient community lost their motivation.

And I suppose it was the one tricky part of trying to watch your diet and your calories and the fats you absorb and make sure you’re hitting every kind of all the vitamins and ticking the box every single day is your food source and being at home. And I find the weekends and evenings at times when I slip up immensely and a lot of people lost motivation as they were stuck home. So I think you’ve identified that quite well.

And I just want to actually bring and Ken into the conversation there on motivation, as I know it’s been challenging for you in lockdown this year. And we talk every single day. I know you’re absolutely sick of me at times, but like how have you found as you’ve really cocooned, how have you found that? And what have you done to keep yourself on top of it and keep motivated to keep going? Well, I think, you know, Vicky, that I belong to several support groups for different things, all of which shut because of the pandemic.

And Zoom has created a massive opportunity across the world to link up with people for support 24-7. So going to meetings in America, New Zealand. And that’s been a real opportunity for me.

I think the other thing that I’ve done that’s helped me stay focused is I’ve been learning a language, which I started in January and I’ve carried on every day. I’m learning German and my German is awful, but it’s getting better. If I’m right, you’re about 300 days into this German, you’re applying it.

350. Coming up to a year, I guess. There you go.

Well, you know what? It’s good to be able to to look at what you do and the support groups, the peer to peer support groups have really been instrumental for a lot of people. A lot of them have shifted to online and we encourage patients all the time to, like I know for myself, maybe I’m biased with being Irish and being a part of the Irish community there. But the support groups for ICPO are just tremendous, where health care professionals are jumping on and getting in with the patients and sharing and that, you know, working together.

Now, I know, Cherie, you have been instrumental in the resources that we created this year to make sure in COVID people kept, you know, on top of things, their energy intake, their water intake and create those resources with us. And what has your thoughts been really around that? And what can people continue to do? Because you created some fantastic artwork. Oh, thanks so much.

Well, we’ve we’ve created this series of infographics which are available on the ECPO website as well as the EASA website. And please, they’re free to access. Please use them.

And the idea is we can provide work to people during various stages of lockdown all the better. So another thing we’ve done in conjunction with ECPO is we’ve launched a survey, which is underway. It’s still underway.

But a survey of patients in 10 countries. And we hope to find from this data information that will help provide additional resources to patients during various stages of of the pandemic. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is going to conclude in the next six months.

Vicky, a little a little longer to go and a little longer to support patients and vulnerable people until until we have a vaccine. So this survey will be is concluding now and we should have results in the next days, really. So that’s exciting.

And one of the things we’re hoping to find from the survey is not just where people are and where people have been, but what kinds of resilience can we identify that have come from from patients themselves that, you know, share things like, well, I’ve improved my mindfulness and the kinds of strategies people implemented to get them through. Yeah, that, you know, it makes perfect sense. And I think back to as we had done our quick questionnaire back in March and sharing those results and, you know, none of it was too shocking.

But it is so insightful to know what people truly are at and what they need the most. So I’m incredibly grateful for the work that you do and for bringing us together many, many years ago and and being our go to person and hugging us when we needed it and providing what we needed. And I want to jump to Mario as well now, because Mario in Portugal, the work that you do is with children and your organization is instrumental in childhood obesity in Portugal.

So when it came to, I suppose, motivation for children, that what would be your I suppose your top tips and helping them when they’re locked down? And we may see more lockdowns as we go into 2021. And how do we work better with them? How do we keep them on top of things? Thank you, Vicky. Well, I was thinking about what happened in the first lockdown in Portugal, and we received a lot of emails and a lot of requests from mothers and fathers of children because, of course, as everyone, we’re having trouble with waif management of their children and their family and their their self themselves.

And what I think we did better for these persons was to relieve them from guilty because many of mothers and fathers were having troubles because they felt it was their fault. And this is because they are still with this idea that to treat obesity or to manage the weight, they just have to eat less and move more. And because they are with so anxiety and stress, of course, they didn’t know how to manage this.

And this is the first relief. It’s not their fault. They are not guilty.

They don’t need to feel this. And the tip that I can tell, of course, anyone to motivate children to do anything is to give presents. And we are in Christmas and every of us, our children’s in Christmas.

Everyone like presents. So if just if you just put a goal on your lifestyle, any change that you want to make, you put also like a price. If you can stick to it, if you can do this little, little change, you receive a price.

And this price can be a family price like to go somewhere, if it’s possible in your country due to the restrictions or possibly just to make a cook a receipt for all the family. So that is the tip that I can tell everyone, celebrate every little step and seek for professional help and the support of these peer to peer groups. Because in my experience, what I take from this horrible year is that there is solidarity in every part of our community.

We can help each other. And together we are stronger and we can do much more if we are together. And that’s what I discovered with the CPO also.

That is incredibly true, and I know we only have a couple of minutes left, so I’m just looking here at the amount of tweets that are jumping up and down. And I know we won’t be able to get to everything, but we did actually have a question there about the role of employers and helping people living with obesity. And I know we won’t be able to address that in two minutes, but I think it’s something that we could perhaps work on for our next patient lounge, because it is hugely important.

But I want to just jump to the panel and Tim’s question there about could you kind of share probably in two lines with about 20, 30 seconds each what has been the journey for ECPO? So what has been, I suppose, this year, ECPO has gone from not to 120 quite quickly and what has been, I suppose, a highlight for you with ECPO? And I’m going to jump in first to Ken, because he is our chairman. So, Ken, a couple of lines. I think the major achievement for me is all the things we’ve done and getting our name out there in social media and making all the campaigns and just the team that we’ve developed and supported.

Absolutely spot on. Cherie, as our our communications director of the ASO and our liaison. Absolutely.

So from 2014 in Sofia, Bulgaria, where a group of patient advocates got together to focus on coming to perform in all the way to April 2019, where ECPO was formed and incredible what’s the last year and a half for you all, really. It really has. And I just want to ask Mario Bergland and Christian.

So, Mario, I’ll jump with you first. We have a few seconds. What’s been your highlight with ECPO? What do you think makes ECPO what it is? The people, the people.

What you did was to find the most incredible people in each country. Some of in some countries we are learning to be advocates, but we are a family and we feel this. We feel we are a family.

And together we can put this voice all over the world, all over Europe. And for me, that’s it. It’s the people.

I love you. We love you, too. And we’re so happy that we have you on board.

Bergland, you’ve been with us a while. What’s your highlight then? And what do you think makes ECPO what it is today? Well, I’m very new to the council. And so this was an extremely strange year for me to begin with the organization.

But it’s family, like Mario said. It’s unbelievable. And what we have achieved in this year and especially this team who has had all the heat.

But also the meetings we have had, feeling the warmth and also the learning, even though it’s through the Internet, you know, online. It’s unbelievable. You feel the warmth and the yeah, it’s just amazing.

And I say, as Mario, for this period of time I’ve been with you. I just love this organization and I love you all, guys. No, we’re just lucky to have you.

And just to jump to Christian, as Christian, you’re fairly new to us this year. You’ve come on board from Denmark and you’re a strong voice. And I think I’ll probably rephrase the question to you and going into 2021.

And what do you want to see? What would you want to see more of? And I always felt this connection that I’ve spent. But in this last 12 months, I really felt that standing together, how big that power can be. And also for this next couple of years, how important it is that we stand together.

So we all can feel that if you need some help or reach out for help, you can get it from this kind of group or this social network. I just want to see more of it. I think that is a real unified response.

And we’re seeing that from all of the tweets that we’ve received in. Diane, thank you so much. And all of our colleagues that are on Twitter, all of the comms team, a huge thank you to you.

And sadly, that is actually all we have time for in the very first patient lounge. I believe it’s a success. I’m delighted with how it’s gone.

Keep your comments and your reflections going on hashtag ECPO patient lounge, where our team will answer them and the conversation can continue there on social media for us all. So from myself and from our team and ECPO, stay safe and stay well. Have a wonderful Christmas.

And as all of our team have reminded us, don’t take anything for granted. Be kind to each other. And that’s goodbye for now.