Proud2Bme Rock Star: Dana Land
Proud2Bme’s Rock Star feature honors the work of young activists in the body image and eating disorders awareness fields. In this interview, Proud2Bme writer Dana Land tells us more about herself and the incredible activist projects she’s been involved with.
Proud2Bme: Tell us a little about yourself.
Dana Land: I’m Dana and I study psychology at DePaul University. I am in recovery from an eating disorder. I am active in the eating disorder recovery community because I spent a decade in the darkest parts of the eating disorder and want to create and perpetuate a culture of healing for at least half of that time. I currently live in Chicago and take part in the NEDA Walks, am a resource person associated with ANAD, and will be facilitating a support group in the Chicago area as well.
Proud2Bme: How did you first hear about Proud2Bme?
DL: I first heard about Proud2Bme when I was doing some on campus activist work for DePaul University. I was Googling “DePaul” and “eating disorder awareness” and found a post that later led me to being connected to Proud2Bme and another DePaul activist. Now it seems that Proud is all over my timelines and newsfeeds and such; I don’t know how I did not hear about Proud earlier! I do remember seeing responses to a Proud chat before writing for Proud, but not exploring deeper at that time.
Proud2Bme: What was your favorite piece to write and why?
DL: My favorite piece to write was “7 Body-Positive Lessons I Learned from My Cat.” I’ve written a lot of serious response pieces, but the cat piece always sticks out to me. It had the option of being a serious piece as well, but I wanted to make it lighthearted because recovery is hard enough on its own with all of the deep self-exploration and recognitions; sometimes it warms the heart to think of the silly happy things. With how stigmatized eating disorders are, sometimes we focus too harshly on the deep stuff in an attempt to get others to recognize their importance. We cite too many depressing statistics about mortality and how difficult and long recovery is—it’s almost as exhausting as recovery itself. Writing about how my cat influences my recovery helped me find a light and remember that being recovered means having fun and being lighthearted sometimes too.
Proud2Bme: What are you doing currently (school, job, volunteer work, etc.)?
DL: I currently work as an administrative assistant and as a nanny. I’ve done both jobs for a few years now, in between other jobs as well. Aside from psychology and eating disorders activism, nannying definitely feels like a calling for me. In addition to that, I do some creative writing and performing and study as a full-time student. I was the president of a student organization at DePaul focused on bringing eating disorders awareness to campus, but it is currently on a break. I have used my schoolwork as a way to focus on eating disorders activism, both through the organization and on my own. I’ve met with many administrators, such as the vice president, to discuss how the university handles mental illness such as eating disorders. I also volunteer with ANAD (Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders) as a resource person. This means that anyone is available to contact me for support. I am also in the process of holding and leading an ANAD-affiliated support group.
Proud2Bme: What are your future goals/plans?
DL: Aside from getting the support group finally up and running, my plans are to stay focused on my recovery and see where that leads me. I’d like to continue to use my story to help others find a path to healing. In more concrete terms, I’d like to continue working on my degree and eventually get my doctorate and focus on eating disorders and work in a treatment center or have my own private practice. I’d like to eventually write more about my personal journey with my various diagnoses as well. I recently gave a speech to a sorority at Elmhurst College about diet culture and eating disorders, and it was a great experience. I plan on doing that more often as part of my activism.
Proud2Bme: How has Proud2Bme/NEDA shaped your way of thinking?
DL: NEDA is the organization that helped kick-start me in the direction of activism. Drawing from the material on the website, I was able to identify areas of my educational institution that needed some assistance. Writing for Proud has helped me identify aspects of diet culture that I had never thought to question before and has really shaped my thinking to be more analytical in daily life.
Proud2Bme: What advice do you have for aspiring body image/recovery activists?
DL: It may feel like your voice isn’t loud enough for change and that diet culture and stigma is too engrained, but that’s not true. When you really start to get deep into activism, sometimes there is pushback, but the more pushback you get, the deeper you’re getting to the root of the problem, and it’s important to keep going. Your voice will be heard. It will take time, like all types of activism, but it’s totally worth it. It’s so encouraging when you finally get to see some of your hard work pay off. Keep working towards that and always remember why you started in the first place.
Proud2Bme: Tell us something about you that might surprise us!
DL: I perform burlesque! I’ve written about it for Proud before, but it still sometimes surprises people to hear that I can perform, even with my past experience with body anxiety. I think it still surprises me too. I find the action of baring it all to a crowd is incredibly freeing, no matter how anxious I am in the dressing room before going on stage. The eating disorder no longer shames me away from displaying my body proudly. Performing burlesque has been very important to my recovery. I thought I was going to have a heart attack the first time I performed in front of a crowd of 300. I had to memorize choreography ending with me dropping my dress and having my body looked upon by a crowd of people I didn’t know, but I felt so alive and proud of myself. I was using my body for good, dancing to a song I liked, and it was a great moment. The picture below is of me walking to my last performance at Stage 773 in Chicago.