Archive for August 25, 2016

Take Action for Mental Health Reform

#PassS2680#MentalHealthReform (1)


by Kitty Westin, eating disorder activist

The last time I wrote to you was on July 7; I was hardly able to contain my excitement! It was the day after the United States House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly (422 to 2) in favor of mental health reform, which included provisions from the Anna Westin Act. At the time I told you I believed that after a 16-year marathon we were nearing the finish line. After 16 years of hard work and the commitment of thousands of grassroots advocates we were close to passing the first eating disorders specific legislation in the history of the US Congress. As I watched House Member after House Member vote “yes” I allowed myself to hope and to believe that this long journey was coming to an end.

Today, I am writing to give you an update and ask you to join me in a vitally important effort to push our bill past the finish line. The finish line is still in sight and I am still hopeful that we will reach it. However, if we hope to cross it before the 114th Congress adjourns at the end of the year we need to rally the troops and make one final epic effort.

The Eating Disorders Coalition is organizing a Virtual Action Day on August 30th. We are asking people from across the United States to contact their Senators. This is a national effort involving several prominent advocacy organization and thousands of individuals. We are collaborating with APA, MHA, APA, NAMI, and Sandy Hook Promise to do a unified virtual action week…with the eating disorders community and Sandy Hook Promise’s day being August 30th. Let’s show the Senate how active, committed, involved and vocal the eating disorders community is! Every voice is important and every voice matters.

We need to put A LOT of pressure on the Senate to pass the Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 (S. 2680) this September. The Eating Disorders Coalition was able to get provisions from the Anna Westin Act into the Senate bill and when S. 2680 passes so does our language! There are other issues that the Senate will be considering when they reconvene in September and we need to make certain that mental health reform is a top priority.

Because this is an election year the Fall session will be very short, only a few weeks. With the uncertainty of the election season we must make our voices heard. We need you to encourage your networks, families, friends, neighbors…the mail man…everyone to participate!

The EDC makes it easy and quick to email or call your Senators.

We are targeting ALL Senators and we are putting extra effort to reach Senate Majority leadership and Senators in re-election campaigns. The following Senators are key: McConnell (Kentucky), Alexander (Tennessee), Ayotte (New Hampshire), Toomey (Pennsylvania), Kirk (Illinois), Johnson (Wisconsin), Burr (North Carolina), Rubio (Florida), Murkowski (Alaska), and Portman (Ohio). We’re also targeting Senator Minority leadership—Reid (Nevada), Schumer (New York), Franken (Minnesota), Klobuchar (Minnesota), Stabenow (Michigan), and Warren (Virginia).

Please help us cross the finish line. The time is now and with your help we can get this done. Mental health reform will help countless Americans who are struggling with mental health issues including millions of people who suffer from eating disorders. I promise that I will send photos from the Senate Chamber in September when the bill passes and standing next to President Obama as he signs it into law!

With deep gratitude,


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!




To the Ones Who Didn’t Give Up on Me

By Angela Haugen

I spent many years in the middle of my eating disorder. It literally ate me alive – the drive to continue as well as the drive to stop.  Those competing forces were so strong. They sent my mind into overdrive. letting-go-being-free-aiden-galvin

It never rested. There wasn’t a moment of peace.  More than 5 years on high alert trying to make change.  Keeping the same path.  Changing course.  Maybe this way would be better.  Or perhaps that way might provide more success.

What was success? How do I get there? The thoughts pulsed and pushed.  It was as if I opened the door to a flood that couldn’t stop coming no matter which door I shut or which one I opened.

I would still consider myself “recovering”, even more than a decade without any sign of disordered eating or disordered mindset of my body. I remain alert to what is being said around me and what I’m saying to myself.  This is as much for me as it is for my daughter – I pay attention to how I interact with others, how I interact with food, how I talk about and engage in exercise, how I encourage and compliment, and what I look for in compliments and encouragement from others.

I walked a long hard road to recovery, as anyone with an eating disorder does. Many addiction recovery stories include avoiding the triggering substance – ED’s are forced to face their biggest hurdle multiple times each day.

I find it easy to still think I’m in it all alone. So much of it is in my head – it must just be me that feels the weight of it all.  But in truth there are and always have been many along my path that helped me.

Sure, some got frustrated and left. It’s understandable, even though it was hurtful.  Recovery is a hard road and the square-root of the burden lays on the person engaging it.  The burden so greatly impacting the behavior; the burden so symbolically needing to be lifted to find recovery.  But it weighs on those around us as well.  Many could not handle not being able to control my poor choices.  They didn’t understand it.  They had no idea the dizzy speed of my mind or how desperately I was trying to find a way out.  They only saw the wrong in what I was doing and the need I had for change.

At the time I didn’t get it – but now I have more grace. I see their hurt and pain in the loss of control.  In watching me hurt.  It’s too much for some people.  I look back in love, understanding that they too were unable to hold that pain and had to release it to be lighter themselves.  Some people feel the need to hold on too tight.  Their letting go is for them and, truly, ends up being better for you.

Instead though, it’s the people that have stuck with me. Those that have held me loosely.  The ones that have known my pain in the midst of this low point – they are the ones that I know I can turn to with anything.  They continue to make my road lighter.  They accept my expectations, my boundaries – or they set their own with me.  They see me as I am: imperfect and trying.  I return the grace-filled favor.  I truly believe that those that held me in that time of internal chaos would hold me now even if I was still there.

We rarely talked food or weight or exercise. We talked life, and hurt, and happy, and annoyance.  They invited me out, they invited me over.  They invited me to talk.  They invited me to sit and be.  We had fun.  We went out.  We stayed in. We talked.  We ate… or not. With them, I wasn’t only a girl with an eating disorder – I was just a girl in the world that they shared life with.

They set an example and eventually, I followed. With them, through these relationships, my mind was set free. I eventually couldn’t focus on another goal or what was going on in my head.  I was re-calibrating.  I was feeling loved for who I was right there.

Despite needing to make changes on my own, I could not have overcome this on my own.

So, to the ones that stood beside me in the depth of my hurt, the ones who never let my setbacks define me, the ones who let me be where I was and loved me anyway – I have nothing but the biggest debt of gratitude. You allowed me to freely be me. To move at my pace.  You never took on my burden – you just made it lighter by walking beside me, helping me to focus on what was good about the moment, helping me to find a new identity. You sacrificed time and conversation – opening ears and schedules and space.

Thank you!

There is NO Right or Wrong Way to Have a Body

By Kirstie, a Foundation Volunteer.

Why do we live in a world where we contemplate which is the right way to have a body? What is the right body supposed to look like?

Every day we see pictures and ads of what “real women” are supposed to look like. Is a real woman someone who is a model or anyone who can wear a size zero? I don’t think so.there-is-no-wrong-way-to-have-a-body

When I was in the midst of treatment for my eating disorder, one of my counselors told me that 2% of Victoria’s Secret models actually look like Victoria’s Secret Models. When I heard this, I was shocked.

We live in a world where we let the media sum every little thing up for us.

Body. Weight. Clothing. Hair. Status. Even happiness.

Personally, I don’t like being controlled – being controlled makes you feel like a puppet. You don’t have any say in anything and when you do say something you get ignored or rejected.

Today is love your body Thursday and I am here to celebrate loving our bodies because having a specific body size or shape does not guarantee total happiness.

A person’s body weight or shape is not limiting, anyBODY can dance, sing, sleep, laugh, cook, have fun, be loved, and be happy.

I learned over the course of recovery that as long as you are healthy and happy you are ok and that is all that matters! You may not like some parts of your body but you have to learn to accept that, this is how you are supposed to look to be healthy.

There is no right or wrong way to have a body.

If you look at every single person in this world, you will find that everyone has differences in body appearance and that is the way it is supposed to be.

Recognize that, because you are a one of a kind art piece. No one can get a copy and even if they did, it wouldn’t be as good as the original.

Sifting Through the Weeds

By Angela Haugen

We moved into a new house this last year. It hadn’t been well-cared for, so the number of projects to do were endless at best.  Since the weather was changing to spring, we decided to tackle the outside first so the kids could be out with us. digging-up-weeds-in-garden-e1463765253590

I looked at the landscape and almost waved my white flag of surrender before even starting. Even though I knew it needed change, I scanned the yard and didn’t know where to start.

I think recovery can look a lot like this. We know something needs to change and we even know there is something more waiting for us in the end, but getting started – getting dirty – that’s the hardest part.

So as I took on this goal of trying to find beauty within the weeds, here’s what I learned in the process:

Start somewhere – anywhere.

The yard was literally so full of weeds and overgrown brush that I didn’t even know how to formulate a plan.  I had no good strategy.  One day, our friends brought over a leaf blower and just started gathering up pieces of the mess.  It was just the beginning, but so valuable.  After that, I just decided to start pulling weeds.  Recovery is similar – you don’t need to know how you are going to make the changes that need to be made.  Start somewhere.  Get a counselor, talk to a friend, be honest with someone about what you are struggling with.  Any step in the right direction is a beginning.

It’s not a one day project. 

I finished the first day and felt alive with all that we had accomplished.  I was no doubt going to be done and have a whole new yard in weeks.  I may not have had a vision, but I had a goal.  I thought I could will my way through, but the reality was weeks of on and off rain and tons of setbacks in other projects that took my focus off my goal. Weeds kept coming, I needed new tools, as well as extra hands.  It was definitely not going to be a fast project.  Once you take that first step in recovery, it’s easy to think that it’s going to be a quick and easy fix, but the reality is often quite different.  You can make great strides in adjusting your perspective, only to have old hurts and painful relationships sidetrack your efforts.  You may need to try new tools for self-talk or join a therapy group for a while to be reminded that you aren’t alone.  Recovery is a journey, not a project.

Weeds are complex and come up… all the time.

I pulled, raked, yanked, hoed, tilled the soil – but weeds still came. Weeds come in dense patches. They come widespread.  They are just below the surface. And they are deep in the soil.  They can look just like a plant while totally choking out something that is trying to thrive. Weeds are funny things because the ground can appear completely clear, but a little rain or inattention, and pop up they come again.  Landscaping, like life, requires constant attention – diligent effort to make sure that you are on top of all that is going on around you.  Negative and unhealthy thoughts, just like the weeds, are are trying to choke out the beauty in the surroundings.  They can easily be hiding just below the surface.  Recovery will be an ongoing maintenance of catching thoughts before they bloom too full, so they don’t get a chance to ruin what is lovely. You may not be able to catch them all at once, but you can keep an eye out for them so they don’t grow too fast.

It’s ok to work on one section at a time.

I saw the big picture of the lawn and knew my end goal I wanted to be done, but realistically I need to take on one chunk at a time. Each time I’d weed and water and plant, I’d celebrate my accomplishment for that part, it looked good and I’d worked hard. Working hard on one area of recovery is a valuable part of the journey. There is a lot to celebrate in each part of the process that you work hard on; celebrate it. It’s ok to only have the energy to take it one part at a time – legalize one food, capture one thought, release one part of your hurt. Celebrate all you’ve done and where you’ve come from. Pick your next area to do, but then remind yourself that this area will still need to be weeded and maintained occasionally as well.

You’ll learn… and change your mind.

We initially picked a spot for our kids to plant some flower seeds. It was a cute nook and seemed a great place for them to be able to participate a bit. The seasons were moving quickly and I had my green thumb cruising so I rushed it a bit and quickly yanked out weeds, did a few swipes with the rake, and after seeing a mostly dirt-ed area, I had the kids plant their seeds.  It didn’t go well. I hadn’t realize how little sun that area got and these seeds required a lot.  I also didn’t know that they were better planted at another point in the year.  None of these things led to good results.  Additionally, with our heads out of the proverbial weeds, we had more time to make a better plan for the yard.  It was time for a restart in this space.  I had to dig the area up again – more thoroughly – and ended up relocating the plants that would do better in a new area.  Recovery was a lot like this for me.  I rushed some things and had to come back to them.  There were things that seemed like a great idea to try, but they didn’t work well for me.  I needed to find what worked for who I was and what season of life I was in.  I know certain areas of my life are well-cared for and getting just the right light.  I can also tell when other areas aren’t getting enough light or water.

The more you pay attention to your landscape: what looks and feels beautiful to you, what thoughts help you grow and change and which ones don’t, seeing where you need extra help and where you can get victory on your own – the more you do these things, the more you realize that you won’t always get it right and you may need to make a new plan, but your hard work will pay off.

I hope that your garden grows – that you flourish and bloom in the space that is just right for you. Remember, making your own landscape is a journey and not just a project.