"Filled with enthusiasm, having watched lots of short video’s online, I went to TEDxMaastricht 2013 as a visitor last year. In addition to terrific presentations, I was struck by something else that day. The atmosphere in the audience; the people were genuinely interested in the speakers and in everything they said that day.
Could the story that I have been carrying with me since secondary school be told now? The appeal for speakers for TEDxMaastricht Pitch Night in Lumière Cinema was the last little push that I needed. To my great surprise and astonishment, I won the pitch and the organisation saw me as a speaker for the TEDxMaastricht 2014 main stage. Apparently my pitch did not only hit close to home with the audience. Suddenly my story was an idea worth spreading.
This was followed by weeks of writing, crossing out and practicing. Not in front of the mirror, I have never understood why people do that. I practice while taking large steps through the park or cycling around on my racing bike. And I practice in front of the members of the TEDxMaastricht team, who help me dot my i’s with valuable feedback.
On the day of TEDxMaastricht, I was awake at six o’clock. I practice my talk one more time in the changing room of the Vrijthof Theatre, and then it’s my time. One of the sound technicians hangs a microphone on my ear. I feel to see if my hair is okay.
My heart is pounding heavily and my legs are shaking. There are nine steps to the red spot. I look into the hall and suddenly I feel my body relax.
I tell the audience everything. About the Anna that they see before them today once being forty kilo heavier. About how even now, seven years later, it is still difficult to look into a mirror – even though my body looks completely different now. But the most important thing: that losing weight is such a complex and personal problem, that there is no standard step-by-step plan, no standard recipe to losing weight. And that in order to change outside you have to have the courage to look deep inside.
I could not have felt more vulnerable on the stage if I had danced around naked. But the reactions afterwards were overwhelming. They kept applauding. There are cuddly toys, thumbs up, my Twitter account explodes, people are touched, congratulate me all day long.
Lying in my own bed in Eindhoven that evening, I know that when I wake up tomorrow the world will still be exactly the same. But in some way or other, I will never feel the same again.
The TEDx video of Anna Verhulst is now online