Proud2Bme Rock Star: Chelsea Kronengold
By Jen Rubino--Meet Chelsea, our new volunteer Proud2Bme National Outreach Coordinator! She is helping to organize Proud2Bme teams all across the country.
You can join the Proud2Bme nation!
In today’s world, there are so many pressures to look perfect and be thin. These pressures can lead to problems with confidence, self-esteem, body image and even eating disorders. Anorexia and bulimia are the most commonly discussed eating disorders, but those are not the only ones. EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified) and binge eating disorder are eating disorders too and they can be very serious.
Chelsea Kronengold has experienced these struggles firsthand and is on a mission to combat them. She recently coordinated, organized and ran the first annual NEDA Walk in Gainesville, Florida and she has taken on a new role with Proud2BMe while she pursues a professional career in this field. Through all of this great work, Chelsea hopes we can one day see a world in which healh and happiness matter more than “fat” and “skinny." I had a chance to speak to this inspiring young woman about the NEDA Walk, her advice for others, and more!
1. Congratulations on such a great NEDA Walk. What was this experience like and what specifically inspired you to get involved?
Thank you!!! It was an honor and dream come true to bring the 1st annual NEDA walk to Gainesville this past April. Due to my experience with chronic yo-yo dieting and weight-loss camps, I have always been interested in body image and self-esteem, but it wasn’t until I started university that I also discovered my passion for helping individuals with eating disorders.
My interest and knowledge of NEDA started my sophomore year of college. I was a research assistant for the Body Image Research Group at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL. A few of my lab mates were on the Tampa NEDA Committee and they introduced me to the organization. When I transferred to the University of Florida last year, I was looking to continue my eating disorder studies and extracurriculars. I was surprised and disappointed at the lack of eating disorder awareness on a large college campus such as the University of Florida. I realized that the closest NEDA Walk was 2 hours away (the same Tampa walk that inspired me to get involved with NEDA in the first place), and it dawned on me that I could be the person making a difference in my community and the ED field by organizing the first annual NEDA in Gainesville (University of Florida).
2. I love what you said in your speech about not letting weight or insecurities run your life! What would be your advice to girls and women who are struggling with body-image and eating disorders?
While trying to come up with a witty response to this question, the Dr. Seuss quote, “be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind” keeps popping into my head. As long as you are proud of the person looking back at you in the mirror, it really doesn’t matter if you have an extra 5 or 50 pounds on your body. Nobody important in my life looks at me and defines my greatness and success by how much I weigh. And those people who are small-minded enough to judge you on your weight or appearance are insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
3. Anorexia and bulimia are the most publicized eating disorders. What would you like to tell people on the importance of being aware of other eating disorders such as binge eating or EDNOS?
Everybody is aware of anorexia and bulimia, but very few people know about EDNOS and binge eating disorder. While anorexia and bulimia are the most talked about eating disorders, most people with an eating disorder actually fall under the EDNOS classification. EDNOS, or eating disorder not otherwise specified, is the disorder of anybody who does not fit all of the criteria of anorexia or bulimia, but suffers with disordered eating. It is important for people to be aware of EDNOS since a small percentage of people who suffer with an eating disorder actually meet the criteria of AN and BN.
Binge eating disorder, or BED, is getting more and more recent attention due to its inclusion in the newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the DSM-V. As an individual who struggles with binge eating disorder, I feel the need to spread awareness about the reality of this disorder. Many people assume that those who binge and/or are overweight are just lazy, self-indulgent, etc., but BED is just as real of a disorder as AN and BN.
4. Do you think helping others with the NEDA Walk helped you with your own struggles, as well? If so, do you have any advice for other eating disorder survivors or body image suffers on using their struggles to help others?
I do think that the NEDA walk helped me with my own struggles...For me, getting involved with NEDA showed me that I’m not alone with my BED struggles. Most of the people who came out for the NEDA walk either have, had, or know someone with an eating disorder. It was amazing to me how supportive the Gainesville community was about this walk and it helped me with my struggles to know that I was using my eating disorder for the common good by educating and inspiring the public.
However, I do not suggest that anyone who is recently in recovery from an eating disorder (particularly AN or BN) take on responsibility for their local NEDA walk (either coordinating or being a member on the committee). I found that people who were released from treatment within the last year or so felt it hit too close to home and helping plan the walk actually served as a trigger. But I do suggest that anyone that has or had an eating disorder come out to their local walk and partake in this powerful and life-changing event. Many people came up to me after the event and admitted they were suffering with an eating disorder and thanked me for providing them with not only resources but hope and strength to get the treatment they need. It was an unforgettable moment in my life to hear that I touched the hearts of many and made a difference in people’s lives.
5. You have taken on a new role as the Proud2BMe National Outreach Coordinator and with your future career in the ED field, it seems like you are certainly hoping to make a big difference. What would you like to see change with women, girls and body image?
It is true, I have made it my personal and professional mission to make a difference in the
eating disorder and body image community. Ideally, I would like a world where it doesn’t matter if you are “fat” or “skinny," as long as you are healthy. I don’t know if many people realize this, but discriminating against someone because of their weight is one of the only prejudices still publicly existing in our society.
My main area of interest is the effect of the media and advertising industry on an individual’s self-esteem and body image. There have been recent strides in providing a more inclusive and realistic image of beauty in the media, but we still have a long way to go.
Additionally, when I attended the Proud2Bme summit in Tampa last fall, there was a demonstration of how Photoshop is used advertisements. Many girls, and formerly myself, don’t realize how manipulated these images of women are in advertisements. It is this “false advertising” that is contributing to women and girls putting an obscene amount of pressure on themselves to achieve an unachievable image.
It is important that women (and especially young, impressionable girls) seek out websites such as Proud2Bme, which is designed to provide young women with resources, expert advice, and stories that inspire activism in young adults, too.
6. As we speak right now, there is a girl or woman out there somewhere who is struggling feeling too skinny, too fat, too ugly ect. What would you like to say to her?
In addition to my responses in question 3, I would encourage women to approach media consciously and critically. Stay clear of “thinspo” and “pro-ana” sources, which will only reinforce those unnecessary feelings of not being good enough. Instead, surround yourself with realistic images and start admiring women (in the media) not for their looks but for the difference they are making in this world.
I would also encourage women to speak out against these matters. It is never too late to be an activist in your community, which can start by forming or joining a Proud2Bme team at your local NEDA walk (contact me at email@example.com with interest!).