How do I find the words to describe the Walk to REbeL? Well, I probably would have described my first experience at the Walk to REbeL as “immersive.” That rainy Saturday morning, for perhaps the first moment in my life, I found myself entirely immersed — thrown into a new world, a world with more depth and meaning than what I normally encountered in my day-to-day. And that world was REbeL. I couldn’t have dreamt anything better. I particularly loved wandering around the booths before the walk — taking multipleWhiteboard photos, seeing the adorable canines at the Pup Tent, and marveling at the free food. Before I joined REbeL, I would have included a modifier before celebrating free food. I would have said to a friend or to a co-worker something like, “The food was free . . . so I ate an entire day’s worth of food before noon.” I would have felt the need to justify eating.
My membership in REbeL has highlighted my relationship with food the most — over my relationship with my body, and over my relationship with other girls. As a girl who grew up on the soccer field, I had a healthy relationship with food. I saw food simply as fuel for my body. But I was not immune to the societal and media pressures that many teenage girls, and sadly even pre-teen girls, encounter. At some point — I don’t remember when — I began to label many foods as “bad,” and I was quick to reprimand myself for eating those “bad” foods. I was also quick to reprimand myself for “overeating,” even though I was actually compensating for skipping the previous meal, which I did often. I grew to fear food.
I’ve since learned the value of moderation and have relaxed my attitude towards food. Now what I consume at mealtimes and as snacks doesn’t cause me to stress. It didn’t happen overnight; rather it required conscious effort on my part to alter my thoughts and to move toward a truly healthy relationship with food. For me, what was scary was how firmly I believed that my relationship with food was healthy when I joined REbeL. REbeL taught me that disordered eating is far from binary; an entire spectrum lies between “healthy” and “disordered.” We are all at different points along this spectrum, and where we fall on that spectrum changes from day-to-day, sometimes even moment-to-moment. REbeL also drew my attention to the sheer number of girls whose thoughts about diet and nutrition echoed mine.
This year, my third year attending this event, the word I would use to describe the Walk to REbeL is “proud.” The past three years in REbeL have been an educational experience like none I’ve had in class. I’ve learned how to educate my peers about the value of body diversity and the prevalence and dangers of body dysmorphia. I’ve learned to recognize body shaming and how to steer girls toward acceptance. I’ve learned to recognize the beauty in every form — and that every form is beautiful.
Most of all, I’ve learned to love myself. For that, I am proud — proud of myself and what I’ve accomplished for myself and in the community. Proud of the beautiful women, men, girls, boys — and yes, four-legged friends — who gather together every year at the Walk to REbeL.
Why do I walk? I walk to support and to spread the word about an organization that I am proud to belong to: REbeL.
Senior, Blue Valley West High School (Overland Park, KS)
Every year, many walks are held throughout the country to bring awareness and education to eating disorders. Many of us, Timberline Knolls’ employees and former residents alike, routinely participate in these walks… because we can. We are critically aware of the thousands of girls and women who will never walk, love, or laugh again for one reason: they died from an eating disorder.
We have always been proud to support the Walk to REbeL because it provides us with yet another opportunity to educate the community. This is essential as too many people continue to believe that eating disorders are not a real illness. Eating disorders, a mostly silent epidemic, are experienced by people of all ages and have a higher death rate than any other mental health disorder.
As an employee of Timberline Knolls, I participate in the Walk to REbeL each year with one, or both, of my children. They always enjoy the positive messaging along the route and especially love the food at the end of the walk! This year’s Walk to REbeL has taken on a new meaning for my daughter, who helped launch a REbeL chapter at Olathe Northwest High School this school year.
Education is key and I, and everyone at Timberline Knolls, applaud the young people involved in the REbeL organization for their efforts to redefine beauty, to advance the concept of positive self-esteem, and to move toward a society in which people are not daily forfeiting their lives to eating disorders.
Amy Sullivan, MC, RD
Professional Outreach, Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center
Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center is a private center for women struggling with eating disorders, addictions, mood disorders, trauma, and PTSD. To learn more, visit their website.
In a study recently published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders, 35% of 5-year-old girls reported dieting behaviors. That’s roughly 1/3 of girls in kindergarten.
Why are kindergarteners dieting?! And how do they even know what dieting is?!
People really believe they are doing the right thing by trying to teach kids to be healthy eaters and to prevent childhood obesity. The irony is that the methods that caring parents and teachers are using actually increase children’s risk of weight gain and eating disorders. Talk about the opposite of the desired effect.
What would actually make our kids healthy? Letting them continue to be the intuitive eaters they were born as. Stop interfering with their ability to self-regulate their eating. Adults certainly need to provide structure and balance to a child’s eating opportunities – and these are NOT synonymous with restricting the child’s food.
Ellyn Satter, an internationally recognized authority on eating and feeding, suggests that parents “emphasize providing, not depriving. Trying to get children to eat less or move more in the name of weight control backfires. It makes them preoccupied with food, inclined to move less when they get the chance, and prone to gain too much weight.” For more info visit ellynsatter.com.
Source: Damiano et al. “Dietary Restraint of 5-Year-Old Girls: Associations with Internalization of the Thin Ideal and Maternal, Media and Peer Influences.” International Journal of Eating Disorders. 48 (2015): 1166-1169.
By Katy Harvey, MS, RD, LD
Katy works as a Registered Dietitian at InSight Counseling in Overland Park, Kansas. She is passionate about helping others find peace with food. To read more from Katy, click here.