Use Your Voice. Make a Difference: Speaking Up for Eating Disorders Prevention on Capitol Hill
If you could talk to your members of Congress about the impact that eating disorders and body image issues have in YOUR community, what would you say?
These teens from the Boulder Youth Body Alliance traveled to Washington, DC as part of the Eating Disorders Coalition to share their stories and ask for support of the FREED Act (Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders). Here are excerpts from their speeches.
"One of my friends and fellow members of Boulder Youth Body Alliance recently went through a difficult battle with an eating disorder. Luckily she had the support of her family to pay for treatment and was able to attend inpatient treatment for about a month and is now attending outpatient treatment. She is getting better day by day and is a living example that with the right treatment, eating disorders can be overcome. She is one of the most loving, selfless, considerate people you will ever meet and is passionate about spreading awareness for eating disorders. If she did not have access to treatment I am not sure where she would be now. I can speak on behalf of everyone that knows her we are so grateful she is overcoming this terrible disease. I wish every person struggling with an eating disorder could have a story with a happy ending like my friend’s...How many more innocent friends and family members do we have to lose before our society realizes how important it is to save these lives?"
"At school, my peers are constantly teasing each other for the way they look. Seeing this so often makes it seem like no one understands how tragically impacting body-related teasing can be. Especially if someone is already having an inner battle over the way he or she looks. Currently, there’s nowhere at school I could go to get help if I was struggling with an eating disorder. In my experience, teachers just don’t know what to say if a student says he or she is struggling, which is depressing because there are so many people I know that are. My experiences of seeing what’s happening in my school and with friends were what really pushed me to come to Washington, DC to talk to Members of Congress...Coming here made me realize that with a little bit of time (and money), I could talk to my congressmen, and have an influence on what decisions they make... I realize now that my one voice is enough to have an effect on whether or not someone’s sister, or daughter, or mother, or brother can get the treatment he or she needs. And though I’ve wondered whether my voice really matters since I’ve never had an eating disorder, speaking to Members of Congress has taught me that I have a lot to say about this topic and it feels good to advocate for people who need it."
"I believe in the importance of prevention, and that is why I have devoted three years of my high school life trying to prevent eating disorders in my community. I have observed one of the most deadly forms of cultural prejudice in this country through my work as a peer educator with the Boulder Youth Body Alliance. This prejudice discriminates against bodies that fall outside of the lines we currently call acceptable. Ninety-eight percent of us cannot naturally fit within these guidelines and I am so sick and
tired of seeing my peers lose their vibrancy and hope in an attempt to conform to society’s standards. When I came to Washington, D.C. for the first time in 2009, I was excited to lobby because I knew it was an experience few high schools students get to have...It was a very successful and meaningful trip, one that I will never forget.
The second time I went in September of 2010, however, was much more impactful. Upon arriving to the training, we were informed that one of our fellow lobbyists had died two days before to her eating
disorder. Nicole had been planning on coming to that lobby day, her registration forms sent in and her name tag ready. She had died in her sleep. This news had brought me to tears. I have known people who
suffer from eating disorders, my mother once one of them, but I had never personally known someone to die from it. It was a jarring wake up call.
[E]ven though I’m just a teenager, I know I am actually doing something that will change lives. I have learned that my voice makes a difference. I also lobby knowing that I’m part of a larger movement of people who all work together for a common goal."
Want to learn more about how you can get involved in advocating for better awareness, prevention and treatment of eating disorders? Join the STAR program!