I’ve personally struggled with weight, so I felt a little intimidated when I took on a role in obesity communications at Novo Nordisk. How could I help people understand what I and others have been through? If only there were people willing to share their stories of what it’s like to live with obesity.

Luckily, we found those people, and today they’re our Novo Nordisk Obesity Patient Ambassadors.  

At our first Ambassador meeting, we entered the room as strangers and left with a real, lasting bond. We helped each other understand that obesity isn’t a life choice or simply about willpower; that people with obesity deserve care.

These ambassadors are real people with a real disease and a real passion for challenging stigma and breaking down barriers to effective obesity care. I remember watching proudly as Tom Coonley, a retired insurance executive, stood on stage in Washington DC in his beige three piece suit, in front of a 250-strong audience, and shared his story, advocating for access to treatment for patients like him. And I was honored when he invited me to meet his support system, his wife Sally and granddaughter Courtney, near his hometown of Littleton, Colorado.

There are hundreds of moments we’ve shared, and over the years, Tom and the rest of our ambassadors have not only changed my views on obesity, but given me a sense of purpose. They inspired me to pursue an obesity-related PhD in Health Communication, and encouraged me to do all I can to change perspectives, and work to make change happen at every level, even when it comes to federal policies.

I’m grateful to know this group of people, and let our collective voices be heard. Especially this week, as it’s National Obesity Care Week, a movement that aims to change the way society thinks about obesity. Be part of the solution: use person-first language, call out stigma and bias when you see it, and visit obesitycareweek.org to make a difference.