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Eating Disorders Coalition Advocacy Day 2017

On April 5th, 2017 The Emily Program Foundation and scholarship recipients traveled to Washington D.C. for the Eating Disorders Coalition’s National Advocacy Day. Below are the reflections of our award recipients from their first experiences on The Hill.

Award Recipient Jamie Margetta:

This past week I was given the privilege to attend the Eating Disorders Coalition Day on the Hill. I was graciously awarded a scholarship from the Emily Program Foundation to fund my travels to Washington, D.C. to advocate alongside EDC members who are as passionate as I am about eating disorder advocacy. I expected to walk away with a new experience and a sense of accomplishment from advocating, but I ended up walking away with so much more. My experience at EDC’s Advocacy Day was eye opening, exciting, educating, and overall an experience I won’t soon forget. I was given the Jamie, Jillian and Molly opportunity to meet with House and Senate representatives and express my passion to eating disorder research, early intervention, and education. It was very empowering to be able to express not only my passion on this subject, but why others should care. Presenting fact sheets, personal stories, and evidence that eating disorders matter and they need help was very gratifying. I am so thankful the Emily Program Foundation gave me the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. and truly express my concerns and needs for the eating disorder community. I met the most amazing group of people and learned so much from the advocates. This is definitely an experience I will not forget, and I am so grateful I was able to advocate on behalf of friends, family, and loved ones who have experienced the challenges of an eating disorder. Your voice matters!


Award Recipient Molly Britt:

As a university undergrad, I did not believe that I could make a difference in the political world without any experience. My experience at the 2017 EDC Advocacy Day completely changed my view of that. While working alongside women and men of all ages, I got to meet with congressional staffers and spread the word about the importance of eating disorders and how the political Molly Britt and Emilyworld could help. It was the first Advocacy Day since the passing of the 21st Century Cures Act which was the first time in history that specific language regarding eating disorders was written into policy. Our mission was to prompt the members of congress to put this policy into action. I was overwhelmed by the support that so many of these staffers conveyed toward our cause and felt as though I was really making a difference. To top of the great day, I got to hear Amy Klobuchar – one of Minnesota’s senators and a driving force for eating disorder policy – speak and thank us for all our hard work. This day has motivated me to participate more in policy change surrounding eating disorders and all other mental health causes.

How Minnesota Healed Me

By Amy

I had never been very good with change. A new routine, an unfamiliar environment, a brand new job ― anything different, really. Despite my awareness of this, I decided last year to pack up my life in Australia and move all the way here to Minnesota seeking adventure, freedom and self-fulfilment.

For a lot of people, this kind of choice would be considered bold and brave — something to be admired, but for me, it was also a potential risk to my mental and physical health.

In times of change and uncertainty, Anorexia would come to me as a friend, providing an evil shoulder to lean on. Years ago, when I moved out of home to attend university, I felt completely out of my depth, overwhelmed and terrified. I was away from my hometown, my family, my friends, my bedroom. Everything that had provided comfort and stability was suddenly gone and I was left sitting alone and frightened in my dorm room.

I wasn’t at university long before Anorexia introduced itself to me for the very first time and provided ― what I thought was some much-needed comfort and company. It initially spoke to me with reassurance, introducing goals to strive for, giving me the illusion of regaining some of the control that I had lost since moving away from my safe-haven. Suddenly I had routine, structure and purpose.

Of course, what I had also gained was a severely poor state of health. I was constantly exhausted, unable to concentrate in class and the pressure to continually push myself to the limit rapidly took its toll. Anorexia’s assessment of my initial success did not last. Suddenly I was not good enough. Despite all efforts, I could never quite reach the standard its evil voice had set for me. I soon learned that Anorexia was no longer a friend, but a harmful enemy.

Years on, with family support and medical care, I slowly began to fight back. I realized what my health was worth ― what I was worth. As I grew mentally and physically stronger, Anorexia’s voice weakened and became a faded memory in the back of my mind. Its voice, more often than not, was replaced with one of kindness, encouragement and compassion.

With my continuously challenging progress of recovery, last year’s decision to internationally relocate was always going to be a potential risk. It could have been the ultimate opportunity for Anorexia to crawl its way back into my mind, to once again take advantage of me being out of my comfort zone. However, to my astonishment, something entirely different has happened since being here.

Instead of eating the same calculated meals every day, I have been eagerly trying a wide variety of amazing, unique American foods. For the first time in years, I am excited about which meals I will be able to enjoy next. Nothing is ever off-limits, nor measured, tracked or compared. It is all savoured.

Rather than enforcing a relentlessly rigid schedule, my new job requires rotating shifts which means with every week comes a freshly renewed lifestyle. Sometimes I have to work late so I sleep in and enjoy an afternoon walk. Other weeks, I get the chance to get up early and move my body in the cool morning air. It is wonderfully impossible for weekly comparisons to be cruelly drawn.

The desire to experience cultural events, to connect with people or enjoy a thrilling sporting match means I frequently choose to attend a Wild game or have dinner with new friends over forcing myself to work out or stay at home with a “safe” meal. Living life and seeking meaningful relationships now take precedence.

The foreign, but exciting experience with ice and snow this winter has been encouraging me to seek alternative ways to relax. I have been allowing my body to stay indoors and be still through reading books ― a pastime I had lost in childhood. I laze, I read and I watch movies without any nagging obligation to do otherwise.

What I have come to realize since being here in Minnesota is that change is not something to be feared. Embracing change, no matter how big or small it may be, has the potential to encourage a mindset of self-care, freedom and power over punishment. It can lead you on a path to truly loving who you are, inside and out.

I have been exposed to so many changes here in Minnesota and yet my body is nourished and my mind is clear. For the first time in years, I really believe that I am beautiful, worthy and free. This sincere belief within myself is truly the most amazing and important change of all and one that I would encourage anyone to aspire to.

Amy Hastie Photo - MN healed


It’s All About the Journey

By Jessica Kaliher

A lot of people are under the impression that the journey to a better anything is a straight, constant, line upward. I hate to break it to you, but this is not the case at all. Unfortunately, it is more of a roller coaster with a lot of ups and downs. There are good days and bad days. There are solid weeks when you finally feel you are on the right track, only to have something happen and your progress go back a little bit, but fear not.

Trust the Journey

Your progress is not derailed. It’s okay to have downs, in fact they can even be helpful because this is where you learn and grow…if you allow yourself to. To really make progress, we should be able to bounce back quickly, but often times we go in circles and ruminate on one little slip up. It does not make you a failure if you slipped back into bad habits; it makes you human and you are capable of overcoming whatever it is.

If we see life and our goals as a journey we are less likely to feel so discouraged every time we aren’t 100% happy, because that’s just not possible. Humans have a wide range of emotions and it is okay to feel all of them. If we acknowledge that we are on a journey, we know that better times are coming. A string of those moments mixed with hope and hard work will produce a more uphill squiggly line, rather than just constant ups and downs.

Path to Success

Hopefully one day, you will have more ups than downs, but what I am trying to say is that it’s okay to have the downs because life is an adventure.

I don’t want anyone to be under the impression that those who have reached their goals are always happy, content, and “finished.” It takes constant work to maintain where we are. This “destination” is a complete illusion.

It is great to have goals, and once you achieve one, you should celebrate! But then keep growing on the path you’re on and be prepared to handle any experiences that may go outside of the “perfect” line you have envisioned for yourself.

Every Victory Counts

If you have the mindset that it’s all about the journey rather than the destination, you will be more present and grateful for each small victory. There is no rush. Anything good takes time and you are surely worth it! Slow down, be mindful, take care of yourself, and trust the journey.

There is no “right” way to recover or love yourself. So, here’s to not being so freaked out and discouraged every time we aren’t acting in alignment with our goals. Here is to being brave, picking ourselves up, and moving on along our crazy, twisted, beautiful path.


Accepting and Embracing Change

By Jessica Kaliher

We are constantly changing. Our bodies are constantly changing. Think about your interests, moods, and feelings even just a week ago. We are not static creatures. We’re human and life throws us curveballs. No matter how much we embrace-changeplan, life can still get in the way. You could think you want something and then come to find out that it’s not right for you, and that’s okay!

It can be difficult to accept change, especially with your body. I know firsthand.

I remember stopping competitive dance my senior year and finally growing boobs, and then crying when the woman at Victoria’s Secret told me I had gone up two sizes. Or feeling horrible that I could no longer fit into a certain size of jeans. I can’t even remember all the times I wasted looking through old photos and wishing I could just have what I once did (even though I hated my body at the time and was unhealthy), feeling like a “failure” for going backwards.

Weight gain can be a hard thing, but it can also be very healthy in some cases. A “Transformation Tuesday” doesn’t always have to be weight loss or muscle gain.  It can simply be transforming your way of thinking and loving your body. No picture or size can show/measure progress because it’s not the same for everyone.

When your body changes for whatever reason, whether it be recovering from an eating disorder, an injury/accident, or puberty, you cannot compare your body, life, motivation, or anything else to others, not even your past self.

So, you used to wake up at 5 am and workout before school? If you no longer find joy from this and it no longer works with your schedule, find something else that works.

So, you used to be able to hold a plank for several minutes? Was it really worth over exercising out of fear of gaining weight? Does your core strength define you as a person?

These are the types questions you have to ask yourself if you are constantly comparing yourself or dwelling on the past.

We can’t compare because first of all, we often romanticize the past. Sure you felt “in control,” “fit” and “proud” back then, and you wish to have those things now, but really think about how you were treating your body and how you felt.

Secondly, you are now a different person than you were yesterday with different things going on. Don’t judge yourself so harshly for not getting up early and working out if you have all 8am classes. Don’t make yourself miserable. Come up with a new plan that works for the new you. There isn’t only one way to be healthy.

All we have is now, so we can really only be grateful for who we are in the present moment. I know it can feel like the end of the world when you are not where you want to be, but try to focus on all that your body does for you. It can handle a lot more than you think—even a little weight fluctuation.

To prevent this unhealthy relationship with ourselves, the topic of body changes needs to be talked about more.

We should be telling young girls that their body’s weight, shape, and size is likely to fluctuate over time and that is OK, we should be telling young girls that their bodies; naturally and instinctively know how to take care of themselves, and that might look different and work differently for every girl and woman. We should teach people that your belly protects organs and stretch marks show how much your body is able to adapt. Normalize the fact that your stomach might appear bigger after a meal. You are not bloated or fat, but healthy and nourished as you should be. Embrace the food baby, baby!

Please do not live in the past and let it consume you. Comparison is the thief of joy, even if it is comparison of your own self.

Live without fear. Live your life how you choose and how it works for you NOW. There is SO much out there other than restriction and strict gym schedules.

I hope you find peace with your body at any size because it will not come later if it wasn’t present from the start. You can do it!


The Summer Body

By Heather Barto

In the warm summer months of the year, our ears and eyes are filled with messages about obtaining and maintaining a perfect summer body; we are told what to eat, how to exercise, which swim suits will make us look the best, mistakes we are making while we earn our body, and so much more in between. But what exactly does having a “summer body” mean? Love Summer

The “summer body” commonly advertised with the strong emphasis on toned, tan, and slender bodies, is not what a true summer body should be. A summer body is a body playing beach volleyball with friends, jumping off of boats into cool lakes, laying in the hot sand on a beach reading a good book, laughing with friends and family at a barbeque, watching and taking pictures of sunsets.

Take your body to an outdoor café and order a refreshing lemonade or ice cream cone. Walk your body through parks or busy city sidewalks, with a friend or even a dog. Go shopping for your body and buy the things you feel most comfortable in, whether that be sandals and a floppy hat, a one-piece swimsuit, athletic shorts, or a flowing sundress. Lay and relax your body in a hammock and watch the clouds float by. Because the truth is, your body is already a summer body; it is beautiful just how it is. Don’t feel pressured to follow extreme diet or exercise routines to lose weight just to be happy in the sunshine and the outdoors.

It can be difficult to turn off the media messages of what is or is not acceptable for an ideal body, and it is even more difficult during the summer months, when outfits lose their layers and more skin is on display. But it is an uplifting feeling when you are able to push those negative thoughts about your body and self-image from your head or surroundings and truly be in the summer moment, loving life and having fun relaxing in the warmer weather. It isn’t easy to banish the self-doubt that makes it difficult to go to the beach, to wear a crop top, or to show off your body when going for a swim. Just know that your summer body is already ideal, already beautiful, and already summer-ready: go ahead, love it!