I am a Patient Advocate, Public Speaker, Media Personality & the Executive Director of the ECPO. I am a founding member of the EASO Patient Council, a Disease Experience Expert Panel (DEEP) representative and I sit on the Global Obesity Patient Alliance (GOPA) team, the board of directors for the ICPO (Irish Coalition for People living with Obesity) and the faculty board for the Johnson & Johnson Professional Education Team.
Originally from Ireland, I now live in Lanzarote with my fiancé & 3 children. I use my voice to help address the stigma, bias and discrimination perpetrated against people living with Obesity. Whilst not only working on various projects across Europe, and now globally, to ensure we not only see better access to quality treatment, management and education, but also to help drive forward prevention of Obesity across Europe’.
As a patient, I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. In fact, when I look at my family history, Obesity has played a role genetically, and predominately in the females of my family on both my parents sides, so its unsurprising to discover years later, that genetics can be 40-70% responsible for Obesity in people.
I was always the bigger kid, the chubby teenager, and the girl who didn’t get picked for the team due to how I looked, and how I was perceived. Stigmatising comments from peers was part of my normal everyday life. So it’s no surprise that I allowed my weight to define who I was, and it wasn’t until I had reached over 350lbs at the age of 26, that I realised I needed outside help and treatment, as dieting alone couldn’t help me. Even though, like everybody else, I thought I should simply ‘eat less, and move more’. I thought that I was entirely to blame for my Obesity, little did I realise, if only i knew then, what i know now. I asked my GP for help, and he referred me to a clinic in South County Dublin. I was lucky to have received treatment from a multidisciplinary team in Ireland in 2004, which lead to my Bariatric surgery (Roux en Y) in August 2005. At the time of my surgery, I was patient number 50 in Ireland to have such a surgery, and the youngest.
After the surgery, I managed to lose half of my body weight, and I felt the world had opened up for me. Since then, I’ve engaged as a patient advocate in Ireland, and more recently on the European stage. I am a founding member of the EASO Patient Council, which launched as an Independent Coalition for People who live with Obesity in 2019, And I am incredibly proud to work as the Executive Director with a remarkable team of colleagues from across Europe. Losing so much excess weight gave me a sense of empowerment, and an eagerness to know more about how we can help others who were just like me.
Since my surgery I’ve had weight regain of 100lbs, which is upsetting in many ways, but as I read the research on Obesity and weight regain, I realise I am unfortunately, not alone, and this chronic, progressive and relapsing disease, needs more treatment options, more prevention, and education for all on the complexity of obesity. Personally for me, I would love to see less stigma in our society and more discussion on the management of this global pandemic from policy makers and stakeholders, to discussions at the dinner table amongst families.