Recovery From Anorexia is Worth the Fight

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By: Hope Virgo

Sharing my story of anorexia hasn’t always been easy. I never know what someone’s reaction will be when I tell them that I spent a year living in hospital with anorexia. Battling to stay alive whilst my heart went in to a critical state.

But now I am out the other way. Now I can say I am an eating disorder survivor I don’t feel embarrassed about it but I want to take this time to tell you why I battled to stay well and have managed to stay well since!

  1. You think anorexia is your best friend. You think she has your best interests at heart but she doesn’t! She really is a nasty piece of work who doesn’t support you and doesn’t care about you!
  2. Realizing that what you see in the mirror isn’t always accurate! For me I looked in to the mirror every day and saw a body I hated back. I still have days when I struggle with my body image but I now know the reality of my feelings and I know how my mind plays tricks on me so I don’t see what others see.
  3. Knowing your triggers: for me exercise was a huge issue & yes it has helped me stay well but it can also be risky! When I begin to struggle again I am tempted to push myself that bit harder whether on a run or on the gym. But now I know that! When I hit that point I can challenge it and ask for support.
  4. Realizing that anorexia is dangerous: I remember when I was at CAMHs they would tell me I was going to die but I never ever believed them. I thought they were lying to me when they told me my heart was failing. But they weren’t… I was so close to dying from anorexia and it is scary how many people do. I know you won’t believe clinicians when they tell you this but please try and listen to me.
  5. Know your motivations for getting well and fighting: I used to have mine written down so I wouldn’t ever forget them. But remind yourself or the things anorexia will stop you doing – travelling, having a family, missing out on night outs with your friends.
  6. Realize talking does not make you weak: Throughout my recovery I had to learn to express my feelings through talking and I got good at it. However, it is still something that at times I struggle with. If I am having a bad day I feel like I am a failure or that I have let down these rounds me but the reality is I haven’t. It is not a failure to admit you are struggling but I guarantee talking about things makes it so much better.

I don’t want to lecture you on anorexia but I want to assure you that recovery is so much better. It is hard work yes and at times you don’t see the point of carrying on, but I guarantee your life is so much better when she is not your friend!

IMG_0056About the Author: Hope Virgo suffered with anorexia for 4 years before being admitted to hospital in 2007. She lived in the hospital for a year and since being discharged, has fought to stay well. Hope now lives and works in London, runs marathons and has a keen interest in exercise and maintaining good mental health. Her latest book Stand Tall Little Girl is available to order on

The Power of Resistance: Saying No to the Diet Culture

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By: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC

Carefully disguised in the name of health, diet culture has saturated our society, taking many different forms, including “eating clean,” veganism, elimination diets, cleansing diets and more.  When done in the name of wellness and disease prevention, many abnormal eating habits can be justified, the potential dangers overlooked when the objective is to be healthier.

With the damaging effects of dieting trends lurking about, especially for those recovering from an eating disorder, when do things take it one step too far when it comes to health and nutrition?

The Reality of Diet Culture

While diet culture has evolved over the years, often taking different forms, the reality is that our society continues to obsess about dieting, reaching an unattainable body type/weight, and all that this entails.

In the face of an “obesity epidemic,” dieting has in fact become commonplace, a false form of security and control as a means of counteracting our fear of fat and everything associated with this.  It comes as no surprise that some of the top dieting questions asked in Google include, “How to Lose Weight Fast,” followed by “Best Way to Lose Weight.”

In a recent survey about body image and dieting, 91 percent of women responded that they were unhappy with their bodies and resorted to dieting, with approximately 66 percent of Americans currently on a diet [1].  There is something startling and abrupt to be recognized about a dieting industry that rakes in billions of dollars each year.  People are looking for answers in the wrong places, often complicating their health and risking their overall quality in life by engaging in our prominent dieting culture.

Going Against the Flow

Is there anything that is justified about being on a diet? Is health, nutrition, or wellness achieved with anything that condones restrictions in any form?

The reality is that dieting, no matter its form, is counter to what our bodies are intuitively capable of doing.  For individuals who are susceptible to having an eating disorder, dieting can be the trigger that influences the development of these fatal illnesses.

No matter the look or claim of any type of diet, the bottom line is always the same: Diets DON’T WORK!  The things that are often lost with dieting include self-esteem, confidence, energy, health, quality of life, and an overall peaceful relationship with food and body.

So what can you do in the face of our dieting culture? Resist.

Resist the urge to jump on the bandwagon of a new “health regime” you see trending on Instagram or the diets that claim to give you energy and optimize your longevity.

Anything that recommends restricting any food groups, demonizing certain foods, or deters you from trusting your body completely should be scrutinized and likely avoided completely.

do-not-give-up-2015253_640Your body contains all the innate wisdom needed to guide you safely through the diet-infested culture we live in, avoiding the heartache and misery that is attached to dieting in any form.  It’s simply a matter of resisting what our culture has deemed as desirable and fighting for normalcy; going against the flow of what everyone else seems to be doing, and making peace with our bodies through gentle nutrition, intuitive eating and exercise.

This may ostracize you from mainstream acceptability, but in the end, you will never regret the choice you made to stand for freedom from dieting.


[1]: Mintel Consumer Reports, “Diet Trends – September 2016”, Accessed 19 April 2017

Crystal Karges_HeadshotAbout the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her nutrition private practice and work with Eating Disorder Hope.  Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as a Contributing Writer and Social Media Events Manager for Eating Disorder Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

Recovery During Stressful Times

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By Madison Swart

Finals, graduation, starting a new job, moving home, moving to a new city, not having your usual routine of the school year…

It’s no secret that late spring brings a whole vat of stress along with it.

So, during this time of life transitions and stressful events, I really really REALLY need for you to remember something – Ed THRIVES on stress.

He literally sits around and waits for various moments of vulnerability.

What makes us more vulnerable than stress? (Believe me, I know the “I’m so stressed so I will just do nothing and lay in my bed and cry” feeling/action/decision more than anyone – Just ask my mom!)

When we find ourselves in personal crisis, Ed will present himself as an ally…as a friend.

He is standing (or sitting, or lying – whatever he does with his pathetic existence) there, waiting for you to break down just enough that you will find comfort in anything –

Even if that is the one thing you know you should avoid like the plague.

I started struggling with my eating disorder early on in high school, and battled it through my first semester, sophomore year of college. Ed was there for me when I went to college, transferred schools, switched majors, studied for finals, and any time I was stressed in any way.

The issue is that while he helped to relieve some of my anxiety and stress in the immediate moment, he would always bring along with him an aftermath of sadness, depression, guilt, and shame.

I realized that Ed was my default reaction to anxiety, and that there were so many other productive ways that we can deal with anxiety or stress in ways that don’t hurt our mental, physical, social, and academic health.

Psychotherapist and researcher, Angela Favaro, Ph.D., gives three guidelines for improving how to deal with stress in the book by Aimee Liu, ‘Restoring our Bodies, Reclaiming our Lives’.

  1. Understand that stress is normal

Here, it’s important to realize that you are indeed stressed, and that it’s perfectly OK. Stress has the helpful function of acting as a signal for you to recognize your needs. Thinking of stress in this way makes it a lot less overwhelming and approaches it in a ‘problem-solving’ manner rather than letting it overtake you. This is like how you’d use a relapse to figure out what’s wrong and try to come up with the best ways to proceed. For most people, our automatic response to stressful situations is to blame ourselves for feeling that way, but Favaro says ‘Criticizing yourself for feeling stressed or trying to suppress the feeling will only increase your anxiety and make it more difficult to handle the situation.’

  1. Take stoke of your current stress-management resources and abilities

Dealing with stress isn’t some innate gift bestowed upon only a select few. Everyone can deal with stress better once they have some good tools in place to cope with it. Favaro suggests identifying ‘the resources and relationships in your life that currently help you manage stress as well as factors that limit your ability to manage stress (such as fatigue, lack of free time, unsupportive relationships).’

  1. Identify the resources and abilities you still need to develop to succeed in managing stress

What are other things that would help you better manage stressful situations? Favaro lists several strategies that are known for their stress-soothing abilities: meditation, hanging out with friends, hobbies, nature. She suggests writing down, in steps, how you’ll add these tools to your day-to-day while reminding us that ‘effective stress management is not a quick fix, bur a lifelong process.’

meditate-1851165_640So as you enter this stressful time, remember to cut yourself some slack.

Take a study break and go to a yoga class with your friend, or even just try and meet up with friends to study (I’m all for killing a few birds with a single stone!) When you notice yourself getting stressed, or overwhelmed, close your eyes and count to ten. It’s amazing what this quick and easy exercise can do to your perspective. Often it’s when we act in the moment that we regret what we do – and think of how many times Ed has preyed upon you in moments of impulsivity.

Lastly, remember that nothing is permanent. If things are going great – enjoy it, because it won’t last forever. If life really has been throwing you around lately – don’t worry, because ‘this, too, shall pass.”

0e6fca243e254133b5e305ec6d7825c5About the Author: Madison is the Founder and President of the Ohio State University Chapter of Project HEAL! She is a senior majoring in Social Work and Psychology currently working as an addiction counselor for The Ohio State University Student Wellness Center. After graduating in May, Madison plans to stay involved with Project HEAL while pursuing a career in Social Work, hoping to help individuals struggling with mental health struggles. Madison runs a blog,, and paints in her free time.

The Four Seasons

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By James McLaughlin

Living in the northeast of the United States has allowed me to live life through the ever-changing four seasons. Over the course of my life I have found there is something intrinsically special about each one of them.

Autumn is a time to let go of things we cannot change, but also a time to accept and let go of things that have changed–just as the branches of a tree let go of their changed leaves.

I consider the winter months to be a time to go inside, not only physically, but metaphorically as well. It’s strange that people say things like “this blanket is so warm!” When the truth is that blankets do nothing but allow us to insulate and feel our own warmth. Winter is a season of hibernation for some animals, but for us, winter provides a period of introspection–a time to become cozy with oneself, a time for us to warm up to who we are.

And then there’s our current season, my favorite–spring. What I love about spring is the new life that begins to sprout its way into the world, primarily in the places that were let go in the fall. They say when one clears a space of the old, it makes room for the new–I agree with whomever they are.

I find that spring presents an opportunity for new perspectives. For me, the simple, yet exquisite smell of spring is a reminder to be present–to experience the world with all of our senses, to rediscover joy and gratitude in the small details of our life’s larger picture.

Perhaps there is no greater clichéd phrase pertinent to this specific time of year than April showers bring May flowers–perhaps there is not a clichéd phrase that holds so much truth.

Spring flowers and grey skies. Photo by: James McLaughlin
Spring flowers and grey skies. Photo by: James McLaughlin

Our lives are not always full of sunshine, and rainbows seldom appear after a storm has settled. And it is no secret that flowers need plenty of sunshine, but flowers also depend upon rainy, grey and gloomy days.

Similarly, our rainy days, our life’s difficult times, not only enable our ability to blossom, but also allow us to appreciate the light and love that shines in our lives. That light at times may be cloaked by grey skies, but it is always shining beyond that vail of mist–in the sky, and inside of ourselves.

When we let go of what no longer serves us, when we learn to love ourselves without our evergreen leaves or bold-colored blossoms, when we sprout new roots and grow into the person we truly are, we find that the joys of summer are not contained to several months of blue skies, but something unchanging, something exquisite, something that will always exist inside of ourselves.

10685458_10152412384291548_4590576595723063741_nAbout the Author: James McLaughlin recently became the blog manager for Project HEAL. He is a senior at Montclair State University majoring in Communication & Media Arts. His hope in managing the Project HEAL blog is to be a link between informative and inspiring content & a readership who can relate, grow and find peace with each written word.

A letter written by a caregiver to her partner’s eating disorder

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Dear ED,

How dare you.

How dare you turn my partner into something I no longer recognize. You make her selfish, which she is anything but. You make her hide things from me, yet I am the only person that knows everything about her.

How dare you shame her.

How dare you tell her that she is not enough. That she is not worth it. That she is dirty.

How dare you make her live in a world full of fear when she is so full of nothing but love and empathy for people. How dare you.

How dare you make her want to crawl out of her skin. How dare you make her want to be just skin and bones in order to be invisible. How dare you take her voice away from her when she is full of knowledge and insight that should be shared with the world.

How dare you break her down into nothing and take her away from me. How dare you make me miss her so much although she is physically standing right in front of me. How dare you be an illness that very few people understand limiting the amount of people that I can confide in. How dare you separate us when we are supposed to be building our lives together. How dare you keep me up at night wondering if she’s okay. How dare you make me pull over to the side of the road and cry alone in my car. How dare you make her so scared and anxious to put anything in her body and take away the joy of food. How dare you make me tell her to take two more bites of food and act like her mom when I am supposed to be her equal. How dare you make me get so mad, frustrated, and disappointed at her just because you embody her.

Shame on you ED. Shame on you for making me scared that she may not wake up the next morning because you made her destroy herself physically and mentally. Shame on you for making me navigate our broken mental health system alone without my partner and best friend. Shame on you for showing me a glimpse of hope, of “normalization” only to completely tear it apart and put our future farther and farther away from us. When will you leave us? Our lives are supposed to be beginning, but instead they’re on hold.

Why won’t you just leave her alone? Her head is full of you. Full of distortions. Full of torturous thoughts.

Please I beg of you just let her be. Your thoughts are a waste of time. She could be spending this time creating and giving back to the world and making it a better place and filling it with joy and happiness, but instead she’s stuck with you. She’s stuck attending to your needs and your desires. Have you ever thought about what she wants? About all that she can give to the world without you present? Please just let her go. I can’t bear to live with you for another day. I’m so tired of fighting you. I just want to be with OJ, just OJ, just as she is without you in her head taking away from our time together. I am ready to continue to grow with her and discover all that we can do together, without you.

In spite,


Jamie third wheelAbout the Author: Jamie Dannenberg (CJ) is the primary carer of her partner, also named Jamie but referred to as OJ, who is in recovery from an eating disorder. As the partner of someone with an eating disorder and a registered dietitian, CJ has had to learn to navigate various roles in their relationship. With OJ, Jamie has become involved in global advocacy work and together they share their experience as a queer couple in recovery on their blog thirdwheelED. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

Road to Recovery: Liza Kulimanova

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By TJ Spencer

Project HEAL provides grant funding for people with eating disorders who cannot afford treatment. For many, this treatment has gone beyond saving their lives – it helps them save others’ lives as well.

Such is the case for Liza Kulimanova, a 2014 Project HEAl grant recipient who currently runs a website, educational YouTube channel and a blog dedicated to helping others overcome their struggles with bulimia.

For Liza, her 13-year struggle with bulimia began in her home country of Russia. She remembers being happy until around age 11, when she began dedicating more and more of her time to her studies and striving for perfection. After trying different weight loss centers and Chinese acupuncture to help cope with her struggles, she was prescribed Fluoxetine to help with depression – but it just wasn’t working.

Her days before treatment were filled with a routine of “dwelling on negative thoughts, zoning out, restricting, binging, purging…being extremely busy and ‘productive,’” Liza explains.

This routine was further perpetuated with she immigrated to the United States in 2010.

“I had no support in the USA and I was extremely isolated,” she says.

She then began searching online for scholarships for eating disorder treatment and discovered Project HEAL. With the grant, she was able to attend treatment at The New Beginning in Scottsdale, AZ.

“Treatment was hard and painful, but at the same time giving me relief and making me feel so much better. I am so grateful for treatment and I see bulimia as a gift now. It really allowed me to become a healthier and better person and grow tremendously from the inside,” she explains.

Today, Liza’s routine is filled with smiling, being more present and aware, checking in on herself, creating time for herself and being open to people, along with blogging and bodybuilding.

“I am very determined and disciplined, and willing to grow consistently,” she says.

This determination and discipline has allowed her to become an ambassador for bulimia treatment through her website, blog and YouTube channel.

“Believe that recovery is possible, because it is. Love yourself enough to get better — just take the first step and see where this journey will lead you. Let your life to unfold and let go of the control,” she advises.

headshotAbout the Author: Second-year journalism and French double major at Seattle University, TJ Spencer is originally from a small town in California, but Seattle stole her heart. In her free time, she enjoys writing, reading and showing off her embarrassing dance moves at cardio dance class. You can find her around Seattle photographing anything and everything, or in her bedroom practicing her French by talking to her roommate’s rabbit.

Where is My Chip or Ribbon?

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By: Jeff Holton

I would like to first start by saying that I do not have an issue with anyone or any group that has representation for their struggles, triumphs, and circumstances.  In fact, it has been seeing firsthand the many different people that have been in my life and the joy, encouragement, solace, and unity that each have drawn from their own ribbon or chip, that identifies what they have personally dealt with, and many times still continue to battle through.  I greatly admire what each signifies not only for the cause, but as important the individual person.

When I initially decided, or maybe better finally admitted that I needed to enter treatment for ED my thought was that I would be away from work for eight to twelve weeks, gain a certain amount of weight, and come out on the other end as the same person I was prior to ED.  In fact I was so sure of this that when people would tell him how happy they were for me, and they would be thinking of me, I still remember telling many that it was no big deal and that I would be gone for a little bit of time and comeback with added and needed weight.  It is not easy for me to admit when I am wrong, but this I WAS WRONG!  In fact I was not even in the ballpark, zip code, area code, or whatever analogy you like to use.  I am still shocked at how much I underestimated the process.

I entered PHP September 6. 2016 and left October 26, 2016.  During that time I attended around 35 days of therapy.  The total hours ranged between 250 and 280 hours.  Safe to say that I underestimated greatly what would be involved while in full time therapy, what would be involved immediately after I left, and what would be involved for the next five to seven years of my life.  Since leaving therapy I continue to spend 1.5 hours a week working with my therapy team which includes a dietician and psychologist.

What I failed to realize is that treating ED is not something that has a defined game plan, path, timeline, or basically anything that my structured mind wanted.  In fact treating my ED at times feels like getting all four of my kids on the same page for what is for dinner, the movie we will watch that night, and what the movie snack will be.  There is always a chance that all four (ages 9 through 3) will agree on everything, but more than likely it will be much like treating ED– a 5 to 7 year process to see success.

I bring this up not for anyone to feel sorry for me and what I am going through.  In fact, the opposite.  This is process is me and “my team’s” battle, one that we ARE going to win, and I do not want sympathy, only empathy.  My point in sharing is that treating ED and getting to a place of recovery, which looks different for each person is a long and winding process over many years.

Battling ED, and yes I view it as a battle, is a process that one breath has you feeling as if you are on top the world, and the next scared of a menu or something on your plate. Then you find yourself contemplating what in the hell to pick for your snack, to not having confidence that you are following your meal plan, to being back on top of the world.  This can all happen before lunch, and can happen many times throughout the day for those of us battling ED.

It is a constant process to be mindful, breathe, use your skills, slow down, be present, ask for help, sit with emotions, not be self-critical, and many other things that occur throughout the day while battling ED.

Today there are over 80+ different color ribbons that are designed to create public awareness to health, medical conditions, disability, and other issues. An awareness ribbon is defined as a piece of colored ribbon folded across itself creating a loop shape. Today, awareness ribbons are used globally as a way for wearers of the ribbon(s) to make a statement of support for a particular cause or issue.  There are 100’s of different causes, issues, and diseases that are represented and are very much deserved.

I bring all of this up as I know many on the outside of the ED battle tend to think “Hey Jeff went to therapy for a couple of months, gained some weight, looks better, all is fixed and good.”  Yes things are MUCH better than they were when I entered treatment, AND I am now only six months into my process AND I know that at the very minimum I still have another twelve months left and in most situations another four or five years.  I am comfortable with my process, all I wish is that for myself and everyone else battling ED that we had a ribbon, chip, or some symbol that signified our process, how long we have been in the process, and where we are at.  The battle and process are real and there is no definite end date or finish line.

In the grand scheme of things I know that this is a small item, AND I also know that it is something that I want AND I have learned from many great people that it is healthy and necessary to ask for what I need.


About the Author: What does Jeff do on his days off?  Well, he has four children under the age of 9, so that keeps him pretty busy at soccer matches, basketball games, baseball games, and acro recitals.  In between chasing after kids, Jeff loves watching Ohio State Football and playing golf.  He is also quite the connoisseur of craft beer.

Journeying Through Depression Recovery

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By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

When it comes to eating disorders, it is not uncommon to assume that the more obvious signs and symptoms are what define these mental illnesses. However, this falls into the stigmas and stereotypes that are too often created about eating disorders. On the surface, it may appear that eating disorders involve a problematic relationship with food, but there are many more factors that interplay in the development of these diseases.

One common aspect of eating disorders that is overlooked is the frequency that other mental illnesses, such as depression, co-occur with eating disorders. In fact, is is estimated that more than half of individuals who develop an eating disorder, such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, also have a comorbid mood disorder, like depression or anxiety [1]. For some, it may be an undiagnosed and untreated mood disorder that triggers the development of maladaptive eating behaviors associated with eating disorders. Because of this common connection between mood disorders, like depression, and eating disorders, effectively treating and managing both conditions is essential to treatment.

Learning From My Own Journey

As a survivor of both depression and an eating disorder, I can attest firsthand to the hope that is found in the recovery journey. Is it an easy process? Not by any means. In fact, the diagnosis of co-occurring depression and an eating disorder can feel hopeless, even overwhelming at times, yet there are effective interventions that can support you through this recovery journey, even when you feel unreachable and at your lowest point.

Some of the most powerful tools for recovery from depression and an eating disorder include the combination of psychotherapy with medication management, such as the use of antidepressants. While some people may feel vehemently against the use of any type of medication for depression, there are several potential benefits that should be researched thoroughly and discussed with your doctor and/or treatment team as an option for your care.

Depression, like eating disorders, is likely influenced by several different aspects, including both biological and environmental factors. Depression can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, and antidepressant medication may be helpful in correcting this. Developing healthier coping skills with therapy, DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is also a fundamental part of healing and recovering from both depression and an eating disorder.

Individualized Treatment for Recovery

While our diagnoses may feel like a life sentence, it is important to remember that neither your eating disorder or depression defines who you are or what you are capable of achieving. Ultimately, it was through my own struggles with these comorbid conditions that I found healing and became inspired to help others do the same through Eating Disorder Hope. Wherever you may find yourself today, take the necessary step toward recovery by asking for help and discovering what treatment approaches might work best for you. Treatment for co-occurring depression and eating disorders is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and with the help and support of your treatment team and loved ones, you can find your path toward healing and recovery.

References: [1]: Ulfvebrand, S., Birgegard, A., Norring, C., Hogdahl, L., & von Hausswolff-Juhlin, Y. (2015). Psychiatric comorbidity in women and men with eating disorders results from a large clinical database. Psychiatry Research, 230(2), 294-299.

Jacquelyn-Pic-2-22-16-250x250About the Author: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC founded Eating Disorder Hope in 2005, driven by a profound desire to help those struggling with anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder. This passion resulted from her battle with, and recovery from, an eating disorder. As president, Jacquelyn manages Ekern Enterprises, Inc. and the Eating Disorder Hope website. In addition, she is a fully licensed therapist with a closed private counseling practice specializing in the treatment of eating disorders. Jacquelyn has a Bachelor of Science in Human Services degree from The University of Phoenix and a Masters degree in Counseling/Psychology, from Capella University. She has extensive experience in the eating disorder field including advanced education in psychology, participation and contributions to additional eating disorder groups, symposiums, and professional associations. She is a member of the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), Academy of Eating Disorders (AED), the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (iaedp). Jacquelyn enjoys art, working out, walking her golden retriever “Cowgirl”, reading, painting and time with family. Although Eating Disorder Hope was founded by Jacquelyn Ekern, this organization would not be possible without support from our generous sponsors.

Connect with Eating Disorder Hope with Twitter & Facebook.



Messages for My Non-Disordered Friends & Family

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By: Erica B.

1. You mean a lot to me: If I have divulged to you that I have/had an eating disorder, you must be pretty important to me. This is not something I share lightly, so if I have shared, I want you to know that I trust you implicitly.

2. Please refrain from “diet talk” or “fat-shaming”: Though it may not seem like a big deal, calling yourself “bad” for having an extra brownie or commenting on how you need to “diet for bikini season” is incredibly triggering to me. I understand that commenting about how “huge your thighs are” is an activity that bonds women and is very prevalent in our society; I can go on for days about how stupid all of that is, but that’s not relevant here. What is relevant is that those comments can send me into a downward spiral of my own insecurities; this may or may not be a problem for non-disordered people, but I will spend days thinking about how “huge I am” and how you all “must be thinking about how fat I am.” It might cause my behaviors to fly off the walls, and that can be really dangerous for my physical and mental health. One seemingly innocuous comment might break me, depending upon any number of factors, so please just avoid them.

3. Please don’t tell me about your friend’s disorder: You may have the best of intentions when you tell me that “you understand” my disorder because your childhood friend went through this “phase where she stopped eating and got super skinny, but then she got over it when she found cross-fit a few months later, and now she eats super healthy and is super fit, look at this picture of her now.” When you tell me well-intentioned anecdotes about eating disorders, my mind immediately jumps to a number of disordered thoughts: I can get competitive, or worried about you comparing my body to your friend’s, or convinced that I must do cross-fit in order to get better, which may not be healthy for me. Whatever my response is, I do not want to see a picture of this girl now. Everyone’s disorders are different.

4. Please don’t make comments on my body: Hearing about how “healthy I am now” is not always a compliment in my mind. Hearing that I’m “thick, but in a healthy way” might send me into internal hysterics. I know you mean well when you make comments about how “sexy” I look in that outfit, but I might then spiral off worrying about the benefits of looking “sexy” versus “skinny.” Body comments are rarely helpful, so please refrain.

5. Please don’t comment on what I eat: Odds are I’ve already given too much thought to the nutrition content of what I’ve put on my plate. If I take a second cookie, I probably didn’t do so cavalierly. I don’t need to hear whether I “eat like a bird” or “must be ravenous today!”

6. Please don’t ask me how low my weight got/how much I’ve put on: This is really personal information. It also doesn’t matter AT ALL. Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, so weight is not always indicative of severity. Also, I wouldn’t ask you how much you weigh.

7. I am not crazy: This is here more to ease me than for your benefit. I fear that people associate eating disorders/mental illness in general with insanity. I am not my disorder; I am the same smart, kind, responsible person you knew before I revealed to you my struggle.

8. Feel free to ask questions: Other than ones about specific weights, I am open to questions. I don’t want this to be an elephant in the room. If you want to know something, please just ask me. If it is something I don’t feel comfortable answering, I’ll tell you.

Bonita’s Testimony

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Almost a year ago, I submitted an application. I thought I was just another name on an application. Basic stats: female, late 20’s, African-American, dying, please help me. They only had my words that were typed with trembling hands, and a phone call or two to base their decision on…and they, Project HEAL, gave me a chance to save my life. Being selected for the Project HEAL treatment grant has been like seeing colors after only seeing in gray, hearing music for the first time, smelling the sweetest folds of the earth, tasting myelf smiling, and touching all the atoms that make me who I am and confirming that I am a soul that is worth saving. Project HEAL says I am worth saving. They have made one of the biggest differences in my life. Because of their belief in this “name on an application”,  because of their strong belief in recovery, they gave me the gift of starting my own recovery journey. One that I thought was never going to happen, that I thought was impossible. The exquisite and fierce founders of Project HEAL, Kristina and Liana, turns impossible into I’M POSSIBLE. They chiseled me from the concrete grasp of my eating disorder’s suffocating arms, and placed me in the perfect treatment facilities for residential and outpatient, just as the darkness of despair was about to completely engulf me.
I feel very strongly that if my path had not aligned with Project HEAL, I would not be typing this testimony today…in this month of February, as a proud Black woman during Black History Month. I am alive! Without Project HEAL, I would not be able to say confidently that: Yes, recovery is possible. I have a ways to go. And when I begin to question myself, I know that Kristina and Liana believe in me…and that is worth staying in this fight for. Project HEAL, I thank you for constantly opening up recovery doors for me, never shutting out faith and hope, your consistency, your transparency, and challenging this disabled health insurance system. This corrupt health insurance system that told me they did not care to cover any type of eating disorder treatments for me. But you did and do. Project HEAL, you are a positive and motivating force. Thank you for believing in me. I am forever humbly grateful.
Bonita Jackson Picture 2017
Bonita is Project HEAL’s 51st treatment grant recipient.