MIrror Mirror On The Wall: Shattering the illusion that deceives

We all know the fairy tale of Snow White. As a little girl I remember being terrified of the wicked witch and her hatred for anything that the mirror on the wall could reveil would be more beautiful than she was. I reflect back on the messages I received from that one fairy tale, the impact and focus of the mirror on the wall. Determining truth, determining worth, determining value,  determining destiny. I wish I could say that the story of the mirror on the wall is just that a fairy tale however that would be false,  it is very much the reality of so many men and woman today. The mirror signifies worth, value, mood, thoughts, actions and life. What is this mirror and who decided it’s refelction of us was truth, better yet who decided it had the capacity to reflect all of who we truly are. This post takes a closer look at one of the cores of all types of eating disorder and that is negative body image and the distortions that feed into them.  I am writing to shed light on distorted body images that come from struggling with an eating disorder but for those who have or suffer from body dysmorphic disorder as well. My hope is this post will help shatter and break the glass in the mirror on the wall.

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We all have a vision or an idea of what we would like to see. For many when they look in the mirror there is a distinct focus that is the point of fixation. For so many their self worth is linked to what they perceive in the mirror but my message is that the mirror lies. I am not talking about the mirror itself but our minds mirror, the build up of words, ideas, thoughts, images that build up a visual of what we are supposed to look like, what we should see in the mirror and what we are worth. I challenge clients everyday to think for one moment if the image they saw and strived for in their minds would appear in the mirror would they stop chasing the vision, would they feel content, validated, happy. The answer is most always NO. The fear that confines and haunts those who suffer from eating disorders and distorted body images of themselves keep them wanting to go deeper and deeper, it feeds their eating disorders & validates the disorder. If their ” ideal body” was to show in the mirror, they would want to improve that image, go further, keep going. This is where the danger lies, this is the distorted body image that haunts so many people in the world. The belief that if they could achieve what their mind believes is beautiful enough that everything else in their world be alright.

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Body dysmorphic disorder is a psychological condition in which a person becomes obsessed with their appearance and a perceived flaw in their appearance. So many woman and men struggle with who they see in the mirror. They stand in front of it everyday, some in dread, some in anger, some in sadness and some in disgust. For some the idea of facing what they see in the mirror is so anxiety provoking that they avoid it all together. The race for perfection drives so many to fixate on what they perceive in their minds as flaws. The medias portrayal of what is beautiful as well as our own idea of what is beautiful can be very damaging. Kids at a young age are now paying attention to fashion and dieting the list goes on. For those struggling with a distorted body image I believe it goes beyond just the body focus but a distorted sense of self and the world. Often times those who dislike and hate their bodies dislike themselves. The core in dealing with this issue is to help a client work through what has led to their low self esteem and low self worth. By starting to uncover where they learned to question or dislike who they are. By helping them discover the connections we can slowly start to put cracks in the mirror. 

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It is said in the professional community of those who treat eating disorders that the preoccupation with body image is the last to go in the stages of recovery. While I can agree that yes body image acceptance is very challenging for someone recovering from an eating disorder it is possible. To see the transition from someone who hates their body and who they are, to someone who embraces their body and is proud of who they are,  for me as a clinician it is one of the most satisfying to witness.  I wish I could provide simple steps to loving your body etc I wish it were that easy. What I can provide is hope by just addressing this topic we are increasing the awareness for so many who struggle everyday hating their body. As clinicians I again empower you to educate yourselves and look beyond what is presented to you from your clients. I like to look beyond the negative distorted body image and start cracking that mirror. I look for patterns and connections of what else may be distorted in a clients mind about who they are and the life they could have. When clients can make the connections of the distortions they have that go beyond just their body it can be very powerful for them. If someone who suffers from a distorted body image can get a glimpse of their true reflection it can lead to them developing the tools to shatter their mirrors. If someone allows themselves to be open to challenge what they see, chances are that there may be a glimpse of their true self shown and thats where the power can lie, the reality vs. the mirror. It starts from within, developing self love, develop some empathy for themselves and one day developing pride in who they are. My hope is for anyone struggling to one day see yourselves for who you truly are and that is beautiful. 

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“Maturity is that time when the mirrors in our mind turn to windows and instead of seeing the reflection of ourselves we see others.” 

For more from Priscilla Jadallah and on eating disorders please check out her internet series Behind The Mask: Eating Disorders Unveiled

http://www.therapycable.com/streams/content/69-behind-the-mask

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Walk On Guest Blog Post written by: Madison Nixey

When discussing any difficult issues or topics what motivates me and keeps me hopeful are the people who live a life of inspiration. I was honored and touched when such an amazing woman Madison Nixey reached out to me and asked if she could write a post for my blog. My immediate answer is yes. Madison is someone who I met about three years ago. I have had the honor of seeing her along her journey in recovery and she inspires me in so many ways. Her spunk, her say it how it is attitude, her humor and her strength never stop surprising me. Madison was recently in New York City participating in the NEDA walk and that is where her blog post starts. Thank you Madison for writing and sharing a part of your experience to the world.

(Madison & I at the Norooz Clinic Art Fair where Madison spoke about her journey  & recovery from her eating disorder)

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Walk On written by: Madison Nixey     

Last Friday, October 4th I flew out to New York to attend my second ever NEDA walk. Sunday morning, October 6, I laced up my Nike’s and hopped on the subway. The Los Angeles NEDA walk was in February this past year and my experience there left a lot to be desired. I got off the subway at Foley Square, right by the big courthouse in New York. We wandered for a little but confused because there weren’t many visible signs up. We made a left and found ourselves on the outskirts of a huge group of NEDA walkers. Around 1300 people came out to support the cause. 1300 PEOPLE GUYS! That’s like, a whole 1100 more than attended the walk in Santa Monica!!! The atmosphere was incredible. All around me I could hear stories of sadness and hope. There were many people walking for their kids and their mothers and also lots of groups walking for people who had passed away from complications of their eating disorders. The emotion was overwhelming walking around talking to people. It was a great mixture of pride and sadness and fallen dreams. There were parents mourning the loss of the great future their child could have had and children mourning the years lost spent with their mothers.

The walk was across the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge. You could hear chanting and screaming and laughter. It was truly an amazing event to attend. People were stopping me to ask about the cause and the amount of people who even just turned and gave us a second glance was unreal. Along our route/gathering place, there were signs with statistics and ‘fun facts’ about eating disorders. One of the ones that stood out to me the most was; “35-57% of adolescent girls engage in crash dieting, fasting, self induced vomiting, diet pills or laxatives”. Take a minute and let that sink in………

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Anorexia is the most deadly mental illness and the least talked about cause. It is so so important for awareness to be brought to this issue and we all need to get together and talk about it. Everyone knows someone and everybody’s life whether we know it or not has been affected by disordered eating, whether it be within ourselves or people around us. We need to get together to fight. Fight for better government funding, fight for better insurance coverage, and fight for the right to not be ashamed of what we’ve been through and to be proud of the fight we will have to constantly go through for the rest of our lives.

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My eating disorder started when I was 12 years old. I fought to get treatment at age 17. I’ve been in recovery for three years in February. It’s been the hardest, most challenging road I have ever had to walk but it is also the most rewarding and I wouldn’t ever go back and change anything. I view my anorexia more as a blessing than anything because it has taught me to be a strong, independent woman who knows how to fight for what I want. I spend all my free time I have (which is getting to be less and less being in nursing school) dedicated to talking—sharing my story, sharing my recovery and being an open book. The power of sharing your story holds so much, you never know who is still secretly struggling and who could benefit.

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Breaking Binge

I love to address and discuss topics that inspire me, motivate me or allow me to think of things in a new light. When I decided to start an eating disorder recovery & support group I was baffled that majority of the emails I received were from men and women looking for help with binge eating. I personally have noticed and this is my opinion that binge eating is less frequently talked about or discussed. I believe that clinically and socially anorexia and bulimia are more focused on because of the more obvious physical presentation of the eating disorder however binge eating while physically not as apparent is equally as tragic, harmful and devestating. Statistics state that binge eating is the most common of all eating disorders. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), binge eating disorder statistics are as follows: 1.2% of adults experience BED in any 12 month period. This means that 1.6% of women and 2.0% of men will experience BED in any one year. Binge eating is an uncontrollable urge or impulse to intake an overconsumption of food. I am writing this post and dedicating it to those who suffer from binge eating. I have heard many clients desperate to find a way to control their urges to binge. They feel helpless, lost, trapped in the vicious cycle of their binge eating and many feel hopeless. This blog post is not only to educate the clinicians but to give hope to those who feel they will never regain their control. Recovery from any eating disorder is possible.

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I wish I could provide the ultimate answer on how to stop binging or how to overcome an eating disorder, while I may not have an answer my mission has been to educate people on the different resources, techniques and ways clinicians and someone struggling can help think about and fight eating disorders.  I believe every person I work with or see functions and responds differently. What works for one person will not work for another. This is why I am constantly stressing for the clinicians to look at the bigger picture and think outside of what has been or is being conventionally done. Not to take away or say it doesn’t help but I believe we can go further, research more and find new answers or approaches to help those who may be suffering.

Binge eating has always been looked at as an emotional way of coping which it is. So clinicians tend to ask questions and dig deeper into the emotions, triggers and thoughts associated with or what happened before, during and after a binge. These are all great questions and things to examine and explore. Yes binge eating resonates with a great deal of the emotional turmoil going on inside, like I said in my previous post “Untangling The eating disorder web” binge eaters tend to take in to much never feeling fully gratified or satisfied. I am challenged however to look at Binge eating in multiple lights. I discovered this amazing book titled “Brain over Binge” written by Kathyrn Hansen. Reading this book my mind was blown away at her way of describing the binge cycle. While yes for many of our clients and for those who suffer from binge eating it is very emotionally driven however once in therapy and those emotions, issues and triggers are unveiled and identified what about the binge urge itself and the brain chemical component of the cycle? How do we tackle the brains urges and break the habit that has been conditioned and formed for so long. I can honestly say as a clinician like most of us do, we want to find the emotional answers, identify the triggers use distraction techniques coping skills, but what if those do not work for some of our clients? This book gives insight onto another way clinicians and someone who may be suffering can view themselves and their binge urges.  

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The author viewed her urges to binge as a survival instinct coming from a place of restriction or constant thoughts of not overeating. Scientifically if we look at someone who is starving themselves or restricting their food the brain and body kick into overdrive, needing food and nourishment to survive. This can lead to an insatiability and a need to eat more than one normally should to satisfy their body. This is where the guilt and shame come in and for some purging takes place .This cycle is triggered by the brain and body going into survival mode. She calls it the cycle of the divided brain. She splits up the behaviors assigning them as your conscious choices to restrict and diet, they are you and under your control. She describes the binge part the part with no control as “it” meaning the brains survival instinct. This revelation or way of viewing it was very powerful and in many ways made sense.  The cycle diagramed below many clients have expressed to me gave them hope that they could regain control over their urges. They felt their binge eating was not a part of them or their identity which I feel for many can be freeing. They said it explained to them what their binge eating truly was and that they were not helpless to give in to it. 

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As clinician we tell our clients when urges to restrict, binge or purge come up to use coping skills or to distract until the urges go away and for many clients this is very powerful and works and has helped many to recover. I am speaking to those out there where distraction only heightens the urges or delays them until eventually they are given in to. The author has stated to sit with your urges allow them to come over you like a wave and allow the thought to come but DO NOT act on them. She likens it to a storm the waves will come and crash down on you but eventually the storm will settle. She breaks down her steps that helped her which I have listed below from her blog.

1.    View urges to binge as neurological junk. (This means quit believing the urges signaled a real need – physical or emotional – and stopped assigning the urges any value or significance whatsoever.  View them as automatic brain messages generated in the  lower brain that deserved no attention. 
2. Separated the highest human brain from the urges to binge.(This means realizing the urges are not you, but instead are generated in brain regions inferior to your true self. Your true self resides in your prefrontal cortex – Your highest human brain – and it gives you the ability to say “no” to binge eating.  You have to know your urges are powerless to make you binge, and your true self has ultimate control over your voluntary actions.)   
3.  Stop reacting to your urges. (This means stop letting your urges to binge affect you emotionally and spiral you down to guilt and shame.  Allow them to come and go without getting wrapped up in them. This will make the urges tolerable and eventually easier to resist.) 
4. Stop acting on your urges. ( You don’t have to substitute any other behavior or emotionally satisfying activity for binge eating. I only had to refrain from binge eating.)
5. Get excited. (This is a bonus. By rejoicing in the success you do have even if its one urge or one day  you speed along the brain changes that can change habits and behavior.)     

The tools I listed above may only help some people and for others it may not but the beauty in educating people and increasing awareness is getting all different methods and inspiration out there. Every human being is different which is why what may work for one will not work for another. As clinicians we need to to understand and know the different ways to view eating disorders. If we look at them based on characteristics and treat them in one specific way we are doing a disservice to so many people who do not fall into “designated general categories”  We as clinicians by doing more research by exploring new avenues give our clients  to benefit from it. My message today is there is hope, there are alternatives, we just have to be open to explore all outlets and all forms of thinking because for those who suffer educating them and trying to understand who they are will help uncover the ways we can guide them on their path to recovery.

For more information about Binge Eating watch my discussion on the show  Behind The Mask: Eating Disorders Unveiled.

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Untangling the Eating Disorder Web

I reflect back to when I was younger and I remember talking with my friends, laughing over music, movies, actors we had crushes on and I remember how much of my childhood was organic innocent and fun. I now think about times today and it baffles me how much the focus and conversations of todays youth has changed. Young girls and boys have become increasingly more aware and fixated over not only body image but overall appearance and image of self. The focus has become so heigntened and it only continues to grow. With today’s  celebrities, media fixations etc  the younger generation is being fed false images and personas that are impossible and dangerous to want to obtain. I do not blame any specific avenue for the increase in our younger generations precoccupation with self and image but I think there are many contributing components for what leads children at a younger age to develop a complex with their body, themselves and their self esteem.

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I like to compare an eating disorder to a spider spinning its web. It starts small but slowly and over time can continue to be spun and develop and grow bigger and bigger. As it develops it has unmeasurable strength and has developed into the foundation of what the spider lives on. Eating disorders are like the web. It is my mission to help clients untangle that web and remove the tangles that bind them. What makes an eating disorder one of the hardest things to overcome is, like the spider in its web, it becomes the source of survival and a sense of comfort and a home. Understanding this concept alone as a therapist has helped me to help those who are struggling. To understand and be able to empathize with the fact that for someone who has a an eating disorder it is serving a purpose in their lives, it is tangled within them, it is not who they are or a life they are choosing to live but it is what they are are tangled in. Understanding the many layers of their eating disorder web will help the therapist bring to light new revelations but most importantly empower a client to untangle themselves from the web and break free.

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I attended a very interesting talk from a wonderful woman in the eating disorder field, Anita Johnson and she imparted so much wisdom into me and how I will further expand on the way I treat eating disorders. One thing she spoke about really stuck out to me and it was her saying to look past the eating disorder behaviors. As a clinician in private practice or working in treatment centers one thing I have noticed clients say is not everything is related to their eating disorder. If a client is sad, resistant, angry, frustrated I have noticed the clinician will automatically assume it is caused by their eating disorder. This is where the danger lies because we are reducing their whole being to being fixated on the fact that they have an eating disorder. The message is being sent that ” you of course are only upset because you are suffering from your eating disorder, your eating disorder thoughts are causing your emotions for the day” My questions is can someone who has an eating disorder not be upset about anything else? As clinicians we have to be careful and examine all the layers that make up our clients, not ourselves be fixated on their behaviors and relating everything to it

Anita opened my eyes to this powerful revelation. The eating disorder behavior is a symptom of the pattern someone has within other aspects of their life. A powerful question to ask someone who is battling an eating disorder is to see in what other areas of their life are they restricting, binge purging, binging etc. You may be asking how does someone binge purge anything else but food, well here are some examples.

Restricting: Restricting relationships, restricting emotions, restricting pleasure, restricting work and jobs etc

Binge/Purge: Taking on too much and feeling overwhelmed and then needing to get rid of things. Taking on too many jobs, relationships, commitments etc

Binge: Never getting enough of or feeling fulfilled by: love, sex, work, school, friendships etc

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To look at how certain behaviors are translated into other areas of someones life can be rather freeing, to say look you are not just defined by your eating disorder, everything you do is not because you have an eating disorder it is your pattern in many other things. This pattern is serving a purpose in your life! As clinicians we need to help our clients discover their web and all its components and free themselves from it. We cannot continue to fixate on one part of the web and think it will be untangled we must be the facilitators to untangle the many dimension of an eating disorder and the many dimensions of our clients.  We must become the facilitators of change! 

To see more from Priscilla Jadallah watch her online series with Bryan Bixler titled 

Behind The Mask: Eating Disorders Unveiled

It’s not about the FOOD

Having worked with eating disorders for over five years I have had many conversations with many different clients. Each story is unique, the way their eating disorder started, the triggers they feel, how they used their eating disorder to cope, the reasons are all very different. One main point I always try to educate people about is no person who suffers or who has suffered from an eating disorder is the same. The behaviors, patterns may be similar but the underlying issues, reasons etc are all very different. One other point I try to educate people on and bring awareness to is that EATING DISORDERS ARE NOT ABOUT THE FOOD!  One common thing clients have come to me and said was, they were triggered or angered by a family member or friend telling them ” To just eat a burger” “Why can’t you just eat ” These types of  question comes from no fault of the person asking it but it does stem from a lack of understanding and education about the depths of an eating disorder. This is why my mission has always been to increase awareness and education because the more people can understand the many layers to the emotional aspects and causes of an eating disorder the better the support system of those who have an eating disorder can understand and cope themselves. My main message to people is that an eating disorder or any addiction for that matter does not discriminate, it does not care about your race, age, financial situation or gender. It can affect anyone anywhere the more we as a nation can understand eating disorders the more we can help those who are fighting them.

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The common assumption is that eating disorders are about an obsession or fear of food. That the main focus for someone with an eating disorder is a fear of getting fat and body image. While these are slightly true and what seems to be the most focused on, the reality is that an eating disorder like any other addiction or drug of choice is another avenue of emotional coping. It is another way to numb out, to feel a sense or release and to escape or avoid unwanted emotions. Anorexia, Bulimia & Binge Eating are also like a drug they give a person a sense of a high or release. The truth is that an eating disorder is often the cause of some sort of trauma, emotional event, life situation, or a number of many other factors.

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I also like to educate people to not blame the parents or family environment. Like anything else a child may have had very loving healthy parents but an outside source could have caused some emotional damage. A person with low self-worth or without a strong sense of identity may be more vulnerable. . This a why eating disorders  can occur at younger ages because at a younger age the identity is just forming and often times the opinion of peers is so important that it can shape how a young adult or child views themselves. I also often hear that people assume eating disorders are a way for someone to gain attention or  “attention seeking”. This infuriates me and further motivates me on my mission to educate. Someone does not choose to develop an eating disorder it is an all consuming disorder that if someone had a choice to just stop they would. It is like any addiction or disease once it reaches a certain point interventions must done to recover. This is why understanding the emotional background of the eating disorder is crucial to developing an appropriate response and treatment approach. Education at an early age is important. Bullying and the medias portrayal of beauty as well as our nations preoccupation with dieting etc are all contributing factors. 

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My message to everyone is do not judge anyone and assume their road is easy. Do not diminish the struggles and challenges someone may be facing. Instead be curious ask questions, educate yourselves there are too many stereotypes about eating disorders that we must break, we must make people aware of the reality. That there is much more to someone who is suffering from an eating disorder than a fear of getting fat and a fear of food. Look beyond what you see. 

Breaking the Silence: Eating Disorders and the men who suffer

Eating disorders are commonly associated as a struggle that only women go through even commonly referred to as a “woman’s disease”. Preoccupation with image, body,  and self is highly associated to be issues that women struggle with and think about. I am here to break the silence and inform you that this stereotype is far from true. The reality is that out of the 8 millions people who suffer from Eating Disorders in the US 10 percent of them are male. In fact between 1999 and 2009 the government estimates indicate that the number of males admitted to hospitals for complications from eating disorders rose by a whopping 53 percent. Recent studies and surveys show that young males have admitted to vomiting, restricting or have used laxatives to control their weight as well as taken diet pills. This can be rather shocking as men stereotypically are not thought of to suffer from an eating disorder. I estimate that the rate of men who suffer is probably a lot higher but the embaressment and shame that many men feel stops them from speaking out and seeking treatment for themselves. I am here to shed some light that yes men suffer from eating disorders too.

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I can speak on this personally because I have worked in three residential treatment centers and I have seen many young boys and men come into treatment. I have seen boys as young as 10 and the ages range up to the age of 50. Speaking with these boys and men shed so much insight into the gripping affect body image and pressure that men themselves can feel. I have noticed this especially among male athletes who must meet weight requirments for different types of sports. Men feel their own pressure to achieve a certain look or body image type.

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Today men are more aware and conscious of their bodies. Media portrays the look of lean, fit built men with muscles and depending on the sport or peer groups, more men are feeling pressured to achieve a certain look. I have noticed that especially men who are involved with wrestling, running, football and other sports feel intense pressure to be above or under a certain weight class. This leads men to either overeat, restrict, purge or use laxatives to meet this criteria. The bottom line is we need to end the stereotypes that eating disorders are a woman’s disease. I want to educate and increase the awareness that an eating disorder can affect anyone! No matter what your age, gender, status etc eating disorders are on the rise and affecting more people. Education needs to start at an early age and that begins with parents and in the schools. We also need to end the shame associated with having an eating disorder. It already is a disorder that those who suffer feel guilt and shame and have a hard time reaching out for help, but the men who suffer feel an even heightened shame to seek help.  Treatment and groups have  traditionally been targeted to women so we need to branch out and make avenues of help more open so people feel more comfortable reaching out. It’s time to end the invisible struggle, its time to break free, its time to heal!

Project HEAL’s new social media & marketing chair… ME!

Happy Tuesday Everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday vacation. I have been keeping very busy and have so many exciting and wonderful projects to announce. I am so excited to announce that I will be Project HEAL’s Southern California Chapters new social media and marketing chair! 

ImageI have always seen my mission as a person and as a therapist to spread hope and love to people who may be struggling not only with eating disorders but self-esteem issues, depression anxiety the list goes on. My heart has always been tied to the eating disorder community and a passion to increase education and spread awareness of just how prevalent eating disorders are in our society and how so many people are suffering from an eating disorder.

When I discovered Project HEAL my heart nearly exploded with excitement and delight. For those of you who may have never heard of Project HEAL they are a non profit organization that was started by two young girls who met while undergoing treatment for anorexia nervosa. They helped each other to reach full recovery, and then wanted to help others achieve it as well. In the spring of 2008, they founded Project HEAL to raise money for others suffering with eating disorders who want to recover but are unable to afford treatment. Unfortunately, insurance coverage for eating disorders is severely lacking, leaving many unable to get the help they need.Additionally, and equally important, Kristina and Liana have expanded Project HEAL’s mission by serving as mentors and consultants with the hopes of diminishing the societal obsession with body image that often contributes to eating disorders.

Project HEAL has since expanded to many different states as well as other countries. When the opportunity came to apply to be Souther California’s social media and marketing chair I jumped at the chance and was so happy to have received the position. Eating disorder awareness in my opinion is lacking, there is little to no education and it such a prevalent disease that affects so many people it leaves me frustrated at times wishing there was a way to spread the message, to tell people what to look for, to spread a message of hope that recovery is possible. Project HEAL is an outlet and organization that is doing all of these things. I love their saying ” I choose to HEAL because.?” I believe that such a simple question yields powerful results. So today I ask the world why do you choose to heal? 

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 I want to thank Project HEAL for allowing me to partner up with your organization so I can continue to fulfill my passion and my purpose which is eating disorder awareness, education and hope. Please visit their website for more information 
visit on Twitter: @ProjectHealSoCa
visit on Instagram: ProjectHEALSoCal
Visit on Pinterest: Project HEAL Southern California Chapter
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