Between March and May each year, malls are filled with more than just last-minute shoppers, speedy mall-walkers, and teenagers with nothing better to do than to wander around spending their allowance or money earned from their after-school jobs. If you meander through any department store, you’ll stumble upon racks upon racks of formal dresses and fitting rooms filled to the brim with hovering mothers and giggling teenage girls shopping for prom. But past the smiles, the “oohs and ahhs,” and under the piles of unwanted dresses, sky-high heels, and dangly earrings strewn about the fitting rooms, a less-than-glamorous accessory can be detected: insecurity.
I, for one, have experienced the body dissatisfaction that comes along with trying on clothes, and especially while shopping for a tight-fitting dress. Seeing other girls’ seemingly perfect bodies on display as they try on their dresses, perhaps the dresses you so badly want to fit you, ignites a sickening feeling that your body is a curse. Often dresses that look wonderful on a mannequin don’t fit us the same. When we carry our purses on one shoulder and a bag filled with insecurities on the other, a seemingly harmless shopping trip can quickly turn into an exhausting, anxiety-filled experience.
If you let it, this “accessory” will take over your entire prom experience. It will embed itself into your shopping excursions. It will discourage you from choosing the dress you dreamed of because it accentuates your imaginary “trouble areas.” It will whisper to you over and over that the up-do you’ve been working to perfect makes you look ridiculous. It will convince you that your friends look much better than you and to sneak off to the bathroom more than a few times to touch up your make-up. It will be like a constant buzz, reminding you that it’s still there.
But while you are wrapped up in what you look like and what everyone is thinking of you, guess what – everyone else is so caught up in their own insecurities that they only have enough judgement for one person. Not you, but themselves.
Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you that prom flies by faster than the blink of an eye. There’s no time to judge. There are so many other things to do than to gossip about others’ clothing, hairstyles, shoes, or waistlines. There are so many pictures to take, friends to hug, songs to dance to, and memories to make.
Despite the way it seems, prom isn’t just about duplicating the “perfect look” that we find on promgirl.com. It’s about celebrating the next big step in our lives. It’s about celebrating YOU – not the you you wish you were, but the you you are now in this moment, on this one memorable, one-of-a-kind night in your adolescent life.
Body dissatisfaction and fear of judgement seem to creep into many facets of our lives. On this special evening, though, try leaving your insecurities behind and appreciating your beauty, both in and out. So maybe you don’t look just like the Sherri Hill models or even your best friend who looks so good in her flowy, black dress. None of that matters. What matters is the fun you’ll have and the memories you’ll make with your friends. That’s what you’ll remember for years to come.
by Natalia Kidder
REbeL member, Shawnee Mission Northwest High School (Shawnee, KS)
Mental Health Bill Passes in Senate HELP Committee Including Eating Disorders Provisions from Anna Westin Act of 2015
WASHINGTON, DC. (March 17, 2016) — Yesterday was a historic day for the 30 million Americans experiencing an eating disorder in their lifetimes, their families, and treatment providers. For the first time in history, legislation specifically designed to help people with eating disorders passed with unanimous, bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The bill will likely reach the Senate Floor for vote in mid to late April of 2016. The Mental Health Reform Act of 2016 (S. 2680) led by Senator Lamar Alexander [R-TN], Patty Murray [D-WA], Chris Murphy [D-CT], and Bill Cassidy [R-LA] was officially introduced in the Senate on Tuesday and passed in the Senate HELP Committee by 11:00 AM EST yesterday morning. S. 2680 included key provisions from the bipartisan, bicameral Anna Westin Act of 2015 (S. 1865), including early identification of eating disorders; trainings for health professionals such as doctors; enhanced information, resources, and public service announcements to help early identification of eating disorders by the public; and clarification of existing mental health parity law to improve health insurance coverage of life-saving residential treatment for eating disorders.
“Millions of Americans suffer from eating disorders but very few get the help they need,” said Senator Klobuchar. “Whether that is due to late detection or insurance coverage, we should be doing more to give patients like Anna the support they need. Today’s vote brings us one step closer to passing legislation that would help prevent future tragedies.”
Just a short eight months ago, four women Senators – Senators Amy Klobuchar [D-MN], Kelly Ayotte [R-NH], Tammy Baldwin [D-WI], and Shelley Moore Capito [R-WV] – introduced the Anna Westin Act of 2015 along with their colleagues, Congressman Ted Deutch [D-FL] and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen [R-FL], who introduced the House companion bill HR 2515. The Anna Westin Act was named in honor of Chaska, Minnesota-native Anna Westin, who struggled with anorexia for five years and lost her life due to the illness at the young age of 21. To learn more about Anna’s story, you can view a short video created by Netsmart’s EveryDayMatters here.
“A few days prior to her death, my daughter Anna told me to keep dreaming of a future filled with joy and love and to never let my voice die” said Kitty Westin, mother of Anna Westin and Eating Disorders Coalition board member. “I took her words to heart, and I have spent 16 years being her voice and the voice for millions of Americans who are fighting eating disorders. Today I feel like all of our voices were heard and we are on the brink of passing historic legislation that will change the way we understand and treat eating disorders.”
Since the bill’s introduction, four of the Senate leaders have taken proactive steps to gain bipartisan support both inside and outside of the Senate HELP Committee. Senator Klobuchar has made a call to action for her colleagues to support this life-saving bill both privately and publicly, most recently taking the Senate Floor on February 26th to speak on the bill during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. A video of her floor speech can be viewed here.
Additionally, Senator Kelly Ayotte has played a key role advancing the Anna Westin Act as the Republican lead of the bill by strategically navigating the internal politics of the Senate HELP Committee and by making it one of her top priorities. On February 27th, Senator Ayotte also spoke passionately about the bill and the need for legislation during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week at an event with Cambridge Eating Disorders Center of Concord.
“I am grateful to the Committee for including key provisions of the Anna Westin Act in this critical legislation. It is so important that we bring greater public awareness to the dangers of eating disorders, as well as help health care professionals and the public better recognize behaviors that may lead to or signal the presence of an eating disorder,” said Senator Ayotte. “In my home state of New Hampshire, an estimated 45,000 individuals are struggling with an eating disorder, and by clarifying existing law related to mental health parity, this legislation will help better support both women and men who need treatment.”
Senator Tammy Baldwin, sitting on the Senate HELP Committee, has tactically pressed the Committee on the bill through the internal process as well as through Committee Hearing questioning and official statements, such as during the October 29, 2015 Mental Health hearing. Senator Baldwin’s questioning of U.S. Health and Human Services officials on October 29th can be viewed here.
“I am proud of our bipartisan effort to advance these essential reforms of the Anna Westin Act, which I worked on with Senators Klobuchar, Capito, and Ayotte, to improve health insurance coverage of treatment and to help health professionals better recognize and understand eating disorders,” said Senator Baldwin. “Women and men with eating disorders deserve the same access to quality health care that is available to individuals who are suffering from medical conditions and other mental health illnesses. The Anna Westin Act would help improve prevention, treatment, and diagnosis to better support the 192,000 Wisconsinites who are struggling with an eating disorder.”
Furthermore, Senator Shelley Moore Capito has endlessly pushed her colleagues to support the Anna Westin Act both inside and outside of committee, leading to every West Virginia Congressman’s support of the bill. Senator Capito also visited West Virginia University Disordered Eating Center on February 22nd, expressing her great concern for people with eating disorders and need for further action in West Virginia.
“After recently visiting the West Virginia University Disordered Eating Center and learning more about the millions of Americans who suffer from eating disorders but don’t receive treatment, I am 100 percent focused on bringing relief to those coping with this very difficult disease. I am pleased that the HELP Committee advanced key provisions of the Anna Westin Act and look forward to this legislation receiving a vote on the Senate floor,” said Senator Capito.
The Anna Westin Act of 2015 currently has more than 80 bipartisan, bicameral Congressional supporters who span the nation geographically, including Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, Congresswoman Grace Napolitano from California, Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand from New York, and many more in between.
The Eating Disorders Coalition is a Washington, D.C.-based, federal advocacy organization comprised of treatment providers, advocacy organizations and entities, parents of children with eating disorders, and people experiencing eating disorders nationwide. For more information, contact Katrina Velasquez at the Eating Disorders Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional resources can also be found at www.eatingdisorderscoalition.org.
This event is not only an effective fundraising opportunity which is crucial for our organization to continue to grow but also a wonderful outreach opportunity! By inviting members of the community to this event, they are able to see REbeL members “in action,” learn about our mission and message, and see our empowering messages while exercising. The educational and affirming signs that line the entire route are the signature aspect of our Walk to REbeL and one of my favorite parts of the event to this day! To me, the Walk to REbeL is truly an example of Margaret Mead’s famous quote in action: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Laura Eickman, Psy.D.
Licensed Psychologist & REbeL Founder
To learn more and to register to walk with us on May 7th, visit our website.
In 2012, I moved from my childhood home in Warrensburg, Missouri to the dorms on the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) campus. I’d been a cross-country runner in high school, and I signed on to run for UMKC’s cross-country and track team. Moving and taking on the challenge of college-level classes was stressful enough, but add onto that the start of my first experience as a collegiate athlete – it was a perfect storm.
The start of the cross-country season rocked my world. I was running more than I ever had in high school. A lot more. I was on the Division I stage, which meant that I was a small fish in a HUGE pond. I knew I had to amp up my game to keep up with my teammates.
During our first semester, my teammates and I did everything together – we lived together, trained together, and went to class together. We became very close. However, with six highly stressed and competitive girls spending so much time together, something was bound to give. Part-way into the year, we all began monitoring what the other ate, avoiding the dessert table, and skipping lunch altogether. We weren’t just too busy to eat – a common excuse. There were underlying reasons for our newly formed habits.
My teammates and I held each other accountable for becoming the next all-American class. But it wasn’t just us putting pressure on ourselves. There were pressures all around us – from our coaches taking us to the grocery store and telling us what to and what not to eat in order to achieve success, to being bombarded with images and stories of the sinewy, rock star athletes who came before us. We were told, in not so many words, to excel by any means necessary.
The numbers on our scale dropped, and one by one, my friends started losing their menstrual cycles. And then orthopedic walking boots and braces became a fashion statement. I didn’t know at the time, but I do now, that we were all experiencing what’s known as the Female Athlete Triad. This syndrome is a combination of three conditions: disordered eating, abnormal absence of a menstrual cycle, and depletion of bone density. Long-term side effects are severe – heart problems, osteoporosis and fractures, infertility, anxiety, depression, etc. We were slowly but surely destroying our health.
After the cross-country season ended, we all had a couple of weeks off and went back home. This time off was a pivotal point in my college experience, and ultimately my life. If I had continued engaging in the disordered behaviors that ruled my life during my first semester in college, I would have developed an even more severe problem. Looking back, I am so thankful for this pause. It was taking this time to step back that allowed my friends and me to recognize that we were headed down a dangerous path and to return to a healthy mindset.
To whoever is reading this, here is my call to action: be thoughtfully aware of all the influences on your health and body image. It is easy to get wrapped up in your behaviors and to not realize the magnitude of the actions. Simple behaviors – like skipping a meal now and then –may seem so normal, so innocent, but you may find yourself slowly walking – or running – down a treacherous path. I would never have guessed I would be one to suffer from an eating disorder, but I found that with the perfect combination of environmental and psychological factors, I was not immune to this dreadful mental illness. And no one is. Pay attention to your own behaviors and those of your peers. Be honest with yourself, and don’t be afraid to question your friends’ actions. Take a step back or intervene if necessary. Doing this can save you. It saved me.
By Brooke Guiot
“Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive that is youer than you.” — Dr. Seuss
This is our favorite Dr. Seuss quote. It comes from a book called Happy Birthday to You! published in 1959.
Let’s look at what else happened in 1959.
We’ve certainly come a long way in 57 years. What has not made strides is our self-acceptance. For 57 years, this simple rhyme has been reminding children and adults alike to just be you. But have we listened? No. We need to hear this message just as much now, if not more, than we did all those years ago. Why? Because arguably we’re confronted now by far more barriers to self-acceptance than ever before. Everywhere we turn, we’re told that being you isn’t enough. And we listen. Many of us spend much of our lives seeking acceptance from others, not from ourselves. And this must change. Let’s start today. Today, on Dr. Seuss’s 112th birthday, let’s starting listening to him instead.