A Call To ACTION: National Eating Disorder Week

Many people do not know that there is such a thing as National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.  On February 23-March 1 is NEDA. week. This week is important for many reasons, yet is rarely acknowledged in our culture. Eating disorders are commonly looked down upon, and I feel a big reason is because they are misunderstood. Eating disorders are an ever-growing epidemic. Many are not aware of how many around them could be suffering from this disease. Mothers, Grandmothers, Sisters, Daughters, Brothers, Sons, Grandfathers and Dads may be suffering from an eating disorder. It is a hidden secret that is often guarded, protected, and veiled with fears of judgment and shame. It is time to break down the walls. It is time to empower and fight for those suffering from an eating disorder, as well as educate those who are unsure of how severe of an issue this may

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Over 24 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder (anad.org). Eating disorders, specifically Anorexia, are the number one… the NUMBER ONE killer of all mental disorders. NUMBER ONE!!!
Eating disorders can be difficult to understand, but they affect more people than we realize. Dialogues must be started. Media stereotypes and the messages we send to the youth of America must be challenged. This growing epidemic will only continue to get worse, unless we shine a spotlight on this issue and increase our awareness.Young children are not immune to this disease. I have seen patients who have stated that their eating disorders started as young as the age of 5. How can children that young learn to hate their bodies? How do they learn to harm themselves in such a physical way to cope with internal pain? Information about this issue must spread; we cannot stay silent any longer. It is time to speak up, to learn, grow, and face this problem. For someone suffering from an eating disorder, it may feel like being locked in a silent prison that slowly kills.
 
By talking about eating disorders and reducing the stigma associated with them we can start to make a difference
There are many misconceptions about eating disorders and people who have or are currently struggling with one. I’ve heard time and time again, “Why can’t the behavior just be stopped?”, as if it were as easy as turning an on switch off. What many people don’t know is that an eating disorder is a disease, and also an addiction. Eating disorders are more than just a behavior; it is a mindset and a thought process that takes over many aspects of a person’s life. There is more eating disorders than an obsession with weight and body image; there are factors that contribute to the extreme mindset and feelings that come with an eating disorder. If we can better understand the mindset and find ways to help then maybe one day the recovery rate of won’t be as low as it is now.The purpose of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is to ultimately prevent eating disorders and body image issues while reducing the stigma surrounding eating disorders and improving access to treatment. Eating disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses – not choices – and it’s important to recognize the pressures, attitudes and behaviors that shape the disorder. We have come far in the last two decades but eating disorders research continues to be under-funded, insurance coverage for treatment is inadequate, and societal pressures to be thin or look a certain way remain rampant. Some doctors fail to recognize the signs or offer the help that many people suffering from an eating disorder need. Education is vital. 
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We need acceptance, we need love, and we need hope. Most of all, those who suffer from an eating disorder need support. The more we can make them feel safe to share their stories and feel understood, the more we can continue to combat for and help those in need. I have hope that one day we will live in a society where our shape and weight are not what define us. I have hope that one day those suffering will continue to find the courage and strength within themselves to fight and know it’ll be ok; that recovery is possible and that they have a voice we want to hear.This is a call to action. Please do your part and increase awareness with eating disorders. You can visit nationaleatingdisorders.org. The smallest things make the largest difference. Thank you.By talking about eating disorders and reducing the stigma associated with them we can start to make a difference.
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Hope For The Holidays

The holidays can be a very magical and special time for many people around the world but for others the holidays equate stress, anxiety, sadness or anger. This can be for a variety of reasons, familial issues, relationship issues, money issues, health issues the list goes on. For some reason the holiday season is the flashlight that shines on many of these issues for so many. This blog post is written to hopefully shine the light away from all the stress and anxiety and shine the light on the ways you can turn the stress and anxiety into peace, comfort and joy.

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As you are reading this I am sure you are saying how? I know many eating disorder blog posts related to the holidays are focused on the food and food anxiety associated with this time of year. I want to mainly focus on the emotional aspects associated not only surrounding food but surrounding holidays in general. Someone who has or is battling an eating disorder has created a relationship of protection and need surrounding their eating disorder. For many who are still in their disorder the holidays reflect a time where protection and a feeling of safety needs to take place. Protection meaning how do I avoid food this holiday? How do I binge this holiday and have no one notice? How can I purge this holiday without anyone noticing? For someone in recovery the dilemma is how can I prepare for this holiday? How can I stay calm around food this holiday? How can I make sure I don’t under eat or overeat this holiday? I am sure the list of questions and thoughts go on and on. I am here to focus on the fact that these questions and worry can actually feed into the anxiety and stress one may be experiencing. Do not get me wrong to be prepared and mindful and have a plan in place are of utmost importance however ruminating in the thought and worry will only increase thoughts and worry. Implementig action plans and solutions to counteract these thoughts is key.

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For many people that I work with the anticipation of the holiday is often times worse than the holiday itself. Acceptance of where you are at in your recovery or in your disease is a crucial first step for helping you create an action plan.

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Accepting and releasing- This is an important skill because so many people fight and beat themselves up over what they may be going through or facing in life. Accept that you may be struggling, accept that things may not be where you want them be and release any guilt or shame associated with it. Guilt and shame is truly like a prison that keeps you locked up, bound and stuck where you are. If someone who is struggling can come to a place of acceptance, then the light can be shown on the underlying issues that need to be cared for, addressed and movement can begin to happen. This holiday accept and release that this may be a hard time, a stressful time but its ok, you are ok. Release the guilt and shame, release that it may be a hard time for you and accept that for anyone struggling you are doing your best and like any other day the holiday will pass. 

Mindfulness – Become aware of what triggers any emotional upsets or anxiety for you. Whether it be food triggers or emotional triggers. Identify what they might be and for each one create an alternative thought, plan or identify someone you can turn to for support. Many times when someone is triggered the reaction is fueled off of  instinct and impulse. Instinct to push away or ignore feelings, impulse to act out, numb or find a way to cope that may be unhealthy. When someone can become aware of what their triggers are and how it affects their behavior it can be empowering because then an alternative action plan can be created. This holiday if food is your trigger think of a safety person or anchor (object) that you can reference or go to for extra support to help ease your anxiety. Visualize a safe space and take a moment for yourself to be in your safe visual space and breathe.

Presence- Be present with yourself often times someone who is battling or in recovery from an eating disorder has to learn how to reconnect mind body and spirit. An eating disorder serves for many as a way to disconnect from self, people and emotions. The concept of being present can be a difficult one.The concept of being and staying present is important because often times the build up of thoughts of what could or would happen is the catalyst for emotional turmoil and fear. This holiday season challenge yourself to stay present with where you will be, with the people surrounding you, to conversations, to the atmosphere. By becoming present you will allow yourself to become more aware and these are powerful skills to learn.

Prepare- For someone with an eating disorder the stress of being surrounded by food and what to eat and how much can be very tiring. If you are in recovery one of the best things you can do is stick to your meal plan the best you can. For anyone struggling, do your best to plan what you will eat ahead of time so you are not overwhelmed or panicked in the moment. Preparing will allow you to be more present and aware of your surroundings. The anxiety of comments families or loved ones can make or conversations that may be triggering can cause a lot of anxiety as well. Be honest and open beforehand with your family and ask that certain comments not be made or conversations not be had. By setting boundaries you are not only keeping yourself safe you are communicating your needs to the people who love you.

Love and compassion- Be loving and compassionate to yourself, the holidays can be hard, but getting through the holidays when struggling with an eating disorder can be very challenging. Remember to be kind to yourself with your words, actions and thoughts. Reach out for support and allow yourself to be your own support system as well. Love and use your voice to be open with any struggles you may face and set boundaries with family or friends to help them understand your needs and wants. By loving yourself you are allowing others to love and help you as well.

Have hope, if the flashlight can be focused not on the stress, worry and anxiety but onto the hope that is within, chances are the light will showcase things that for someone struggling with an eating disorder can begin to look at, focus on and be grateful. Lets shine the light on hope this holiday season and most of all shine the light of hope within ourselves.

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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

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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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. 

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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