Eating Disorder Sensationalism

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A few months ago the national news spotlighted eating disorders because a young woman who was suffering from severe anorexia reached out through social media to share her story and seek funding for treatment. I applaud this courage and determination to achieve recovery. However, I have concerns about the way in which the story was portrayed in the media, and the unintended consequences that this approach may have.

It is commonly stated that the media glamorizes eating disorders. I would argue that this isn’t necessarily true. In fact I believe the media appears to poke fun at eating disorders more often than not. (Recall the scene in Ms. Congeniality when Sandra Bulluck makes a blatent joke about another contestant using an ED behavior? Or the Disney show “Sonny With A Chance” episode in which the main character states, “I could just eat you up. Well, you know. If I ate.”) I do, however, believe that the media clearly tends to sensationalize eating disorders. And this latest story fueled the media’s sensationalistic approach to eating disorders more so than we have seen in the past.

The headlines read “XX lb Woman Pleas for Last Chance at Survival.” The pictures and video footage shared showed this very ill woman being helped with different tasks around the house and asking for donations to fund her treatment which insurance had denied.

What the media fails to recognize is eating disorders can often manifest as illnesses of comparison. When I was actively eating disordered, all of my thoughts revolved around “getting sick enough.” And this is not at all uncommon. In fact many individuals delay seeking treatment because they fear they are not “sick enough” or “thin enough” to warrant it. (Side note- managed care and insurance companies fuel this fire but that is a separate article entirely). Even when individuals do enter into inpatient programs, comparison of lowest weight, blood pressure, number of inpatient stays-you name it- runs rampant. It is a dangerous and all too real occurance that individuals suffer from eating disorders experience.

By loudly displaying this woman’s weight and showing the pictures the media is sending harmful messages to two different groups of people: People suffering from eating disorders, (“I have to be dying to be “sick enough” to get help) and the rest of society, (“People with eating disorders are always emaciated white women who are on the brink of death.”)

Awareness and open communication are the keys to understanding and de-stigmatizing these illnesses. The media has the power to do this, and to impact society’s perception about eating disorders and recovery. I believe that they have an obligation to begin taking responsibility for their portrayal of eating disorders, so that they can begin to partner in the fight against eating disorders, not spur them on. Individually, we cannot stop the media’s portrayal of eating disorders, however we can, as a group continue to promote knowldge and awareness. This is why every posting, every rally, every public event, every article, every recovery talk helps. So keep up the good work warriors. We have a long way to go in terms of media and public knowledge, but just look as how far we have come.



Annual Report

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Project HEAL recently released the 2014 Annual Report, and we couldn’t be more excited to share it with you. Here are some highlights from the report:

Project HEAL 2014 Annual Report

  • We funded 10 grant recipients to get the life-saving care they need and deserve, bringing our total grant recipients since 2008 to 21.
  • We partnered with 4 more eating disorder treatment centers to provide free treatment grants to Project HEAL applicants: The Center for Discovery, UC San Diego Eating Disorder Center for Research and Treatment, Renfrew Center, and Columbus Park Collaborative. They join our 2 other treatment centers partners, the Columbia Center for Eating Disorders and Monte Nido EDTNY.
  • We added 26 new chapters, expanding our reach to over 40 chapters in high schools, colleges and communities across the United States, Canada, Mexico and Australia, and enabling us to spread our life-affirming mission even further.
  • We received 7 external grants worth over $36k to provide many more treatment grants
  • We received over 600 applications for treatment grants from applicants around the world.
  • We hosted our most successful gala to date in NYC in June – inspiring over 350 attendees with our motto that “Life is Short, Eat Dessert First” and message that Recovery Is Possible, and raising over $75k!
  • We launched our “Recovery Is” initiative showcasing what recovery means to eating disorders sufferers and their family and friends from all over the globe. We received over 300 submissions, and are currently in the process of turning this into an e-book!
  • Co-founder Kristina Saffran presented at the Academy for Eating Disorders Conference in New York City on March 28, 2014 to over 1000 eating disorder researchers and clinicians from around the globe on the plenary: Adolescents, the Media and Recovery: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
  • We’ve gained over 6k likes on facebook – growing to over 10k followers with a reach of over 180k people!  We’ve also grown to 80k followers on Google +, 2k followers on Twitter and 4k followers on Instagram.

We grew our team! 

  • We added 2 fantastic members to our board of directors.  Laura Scholsberg is the Assistant Director of the Transdisciplinary Studies Program at Claremont Graduate University and Meredith Shephard is Former Chief Human Resources Officer for Weight Watchers, Inc.
  • We added 4 new members to our advisory board.  Jessica Raymond is the founder and director of Recovery Warriors, a company focused on providing multimedia resources for people’s journey to recovery from an eating disorder.  Elizabeth Rutovsky is the Northeast Clinical Outreach Coordinator for Monte Nido & Affiliates- Eating Disorder Treatment of New York Day Treatment Program and for Monte Nido New York at Irvington Residential Treatment Program.Mark Hobbins is the President and COO of Center For Discovery, the largest provider of eating disorder and behavioral health programs in the US.Jeffrey DeSarbo, D.O. is a Board Certified Psychiatrist and the Founder/Medical Director of ED-180 Eating Disorder Treatment Programs In Garden City, N.Y.
  • Finally, we added 2 new members to our clinical advisory board. Dr. Debra Katzman is a Professor of Pediatrics, in the Department of Pediatrics and University of Toronto and Senior Associate Scientist at the Research Institute at the Hospital for Sick Children.  Dr. Rollyn Ornstein is the Interim Division Chief for the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital

Thanks for making 2014 such a great year!

Lots of Love,

Kristina and Liana

Sydney Chapter Fundraiser Featured in the News

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You may have been unaware, but Project HEAL is an international organization! We  have chapters in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Australia. As they embark on their first chapter fundraiser, The Sydney, Australia chapter was the focus of a recent Sydney news article.  Check out this bit of PHEAL international news here


Project HEAL partners with Colombia Center for Eating Disorders

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Project HEALs’ new treatment center partner is the Colombia Center for Eating Disorders!

          “Project HEAL and the Columbia Center for Eating Disorders have overlapping missions. We’re both committed to improving the lives of those who suffer from                  eating disorders and making evidence-based treatments accessible. We are delighted that Project HEAL wants to be part of the cure,” – Dr. Evelyn Attia,  director             of Columbia Center for Eating Disorders

Letter from Kristina, Liana and Sara

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Dear Project HEAL Family,

We have some exciting news to share with you. Our Executive Director, Sara Brody, has been offered a new job opportunity to continue to grow and develop in her career. Sara has done an incredible job this past year and a half in bringing Project HEAL to the next level – growing the organization to over 40 chapters internationally, expanding our treatment center partnerships from one partner to six, and enabling us to send 20 applicants to treatment – 10 of them in this year alone! We are so thankful to have had Sara as our first Executive Director. Sara is committed to Project HEAL and just could not imagine stepping away fully, so she will now join our Board of Directors and continue to offer her guidance and expertise.

As we search for our next Executive Director to bring us to the next level, we are thrilled to announce that effective February 1st, co-founder Kristina Saffran will be stepping in as the full-time Executive Director of Project HEAL. Kristina could not be more excited to take on this role, working with our treatment grant recipients, treatment center partners, chapters, volunteers, and supporters to strengthen and expand the organization and help us send even more applicants to receive the help they so vitally need. Liana will also continue to lead the organization in her various roles as Chief Creative Officer in addition to directing social media, working with treatment grant recipients and partners, volunteers and our chapters!

Change can be scary, but it can also be a great opportunity for growth and innovation. We are excited for this new chapter of Project HEAL to begin – and can’t wait to continue working with everyone to help even more people recover from their eating disorders.

Lots of love,

Kristina, Liana and Sara



Follow Us On All Of Your Social Media Sites

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Do you love social media? Project Heal has your bases covered! Follow us on all of your favorite social media outlets:  Google Plus, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin,YouTube, Pinterest, and via Email.

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Help Us Help Others Recover!

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Tis the season of giving. This Tuesday, December 2nd is Giving Tuesday. Please help us lift the financial hindrance of life threatening eating disorder treatments.


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End of Year Letter from our Founders

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Did you know this past year has been Project HEAL’s most successful year to date? And this only happened because of supporters like yourself — those who take time to participate in critical conversations to change the tone of eating disorders; those who take time out of their day to fight for those who are voiceless; and those who donate as much they can in order to send someone to a life-changing treatment center. Project HEAL would love to thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Thanks to you, we’ve been able to provide the following this year:

We’ve funded seven more grant recipients to get the life saving care they deserve, bringing our grand total of grant recipients to 15!

We’ve partnered with four more treatment centers – The Center for Discovery, UC San Diego Eating Disorder Center for Research and Treatment, Renfrew Center, and Columbus Park Collaborative – to provide free treatment grants to Project HEAL applicants.

We’ve expanded to over 38 chapters in high schools, colleges and communities across the United States, Canada and Australia, enabling us to spread our life-affirming mission, even further.

We’ve hosted our most successful gala to date – inspiring over 350 attendees with our motto that “Life is Short, Eat Dessert First ” and Recovery Is Possible.

We launched our “Recovery Is” initiative to showcase what recovery means to eating disorders sufferers and their family and friends from all over the globe, and to remind everyone that full recovery from an eating disorder is possible. We received over 300 submissions!

Clearly, we can’t thank you enough. You’ve made miracles happen and for that we are grateful. However, and as you know, there are still so many people that need help with their future. Something they can hold on to, something they can give thanks to. And you can help by giving them the gift of hope, happiness and health this Thanksgiving. Donate today, and help someone in need this Thanksgiving.


For most of us, Thanksgiving is a time of joy and celebration – feasting with family and giving thanks for all that we have. But for those struggling with eating disorders, Thanksgiving is one of the hardest days of the year. The glorious meal that most of us look forward to causes panic, shame and dread. The anxiety that is a consequence of the eating disorder is in full force, combined with a fear of not being able to recover, is almost unbearable.


It is likely that someone sitting at your table this year is also suffering. In the United States, it is estimated that about 1 out of every 10 Americans- 20 million women and 10 million men-suffers from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life. These including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, or an eating disorder not otherwise specified. Unfortunately, 90% of these people never receive treatment. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses, and carry with them a host of negative medical and psychological consequences, including osteoporosis, electrolyte imbalances, depression, and social isolation, to name just a few. However, with proper treatment, full and lasting recovery is possible.

After we received proper treatment to help us heal from our eating disorders, Thanksgiving became one of our favorite days of the year. Our ninth grant recipient, Amanda, writes, “Thanksgiving used to bring a rush of anxiety and uneasiness to my body. I dreaded all aspects of it – especially the large amounts of food that left me sitting with discomfort both emotionally and physically for hours on end. Coming out of treatment and now in recovery, I am not only looking forward to the amazing food this holiday, but I am also looking forward to spending time with people I love and appreciate. It feels great to be able to look forward to enjoying all aspects of this Thanksgiving and not focus my energy dwelling negatively on the food and my body. Bring on that pumpkin pie!” For this, Project HEAL has you to thank because it is your support that enables us to make a positive difference in the lives of those we serve.


As you sit down to give thanks this year, please consider making a year end gift to Project HEAL. Every donation, no matter what the size, helps in our ongoing fight to save lives and help people recover from eating disorders.

We know you’ve done your part this year, and we greatly appreciate it. But can you help one more person battling an eating disorder? The smallest donation can make the biggest difference.




liana and kristina



Shop on Amazon for Project Heal!

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holiday amazon shopping

It’s the season of giving! What better way than to shop for a cause and help us give the gift of recovery? When you do your Holiday shopping at Amazon Smile, Amazon will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to Project HEAL. Bookmark the link [] and support us every time you shop. Who needs Black Friday shopping when you can shop online & support #ProjectHEAL (especially on Cyber Monday!)