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Affect Change: Start the Conversation

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On January 22nd of this year, Something for Kelly Foundation founder Patti Geolat hosted a small fundraising event at her home in Dallas. The goal was to bring attention to eating disorders as actual illnesses affecting more than just Caucasian women.

“I love the fact that our group was as diverse as it became,” says Geolat. “We had 25 people there, and every minority, religion, creed — almost every demographic was in my home. You could understand that in an audience of 500, but to have that in such a small gathering tells me we’re reaching out to the right groups. Until we have totally smashed this profile that eating disorders are a rich white girl disease and a choice; until we can bring both of those down, people are going to keep hearing me talk about it. I don’t hear enough discussion about it. Where is the action to follow the rhetoric?”

Our featured guest speaker at the event was Malak Saddy, dietician for The Center for Discovery, a personalized treatment facility located in a Dallas residential community.

“The Center for Discovery is intimate and individualized” explains Saddy. “The client gets 3 sessions a week, one family session, and even a dietary session with the family. We’re not just a business, it’s on a much deeper level. Everyone’s home life is different, so why would we treat everyone the same? We are literally in a house, so it feels homey and realistic. It’s very warm, not cold and spartan.”

“I think that Malak is such a beautiful soul” says Geolat. “She had everyone totally captivated by the story of her family. She’s poignant, funny, witty and relevant. She doesn’t just talk in a dry, clinical way, she gets it. She can connect with those who struggle with the illness, the family members, and she’s an excellent advocate for what she’s trying to accomplish.”

Saddy has been a dietician with The Center for Discovery for the past three years, and eating disorders are a subject near and dear to her heart. Her younger brother suffers with an eating disorder, which unfortunately has given Saddy firsthand experience of how a disorder affects the family dynamic.

“My philosophy has been empowering clients to take control of their own recovery and to put myself in their shoes,” explains Saddy. “The topic I presented at Patti’s house was vulnerability in the eating disorder community. How do eating disorders develop and what community is most vulnerable? One of the things Patti and I connected on was that eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. There is a lack of support in minority communities and men who battle this monster. Patti spoke about how there are people getting support, but I want to focus on those who aren’t. In some cultures, it’s so taboo — mental health should not be discussed, vulnerability should not be discussed. It’s incredible the message and the thought process behind Patti’s work.”

While it is important to change the public perception of those with eating disorders, Saddy felt it was important to end her presentation on a positive note.

“I think one of the things we hold on to is that sense of hope, that positive energy,” says Saddy. “So many times we can feel so defeated and so alone in this disease. As hard as all the tribulations are that we are going through, we are breaking down barriers, and we want to bring light into this disease. As a clinician, we speak a lot about vulnerability, but a lot of times clinicians aren’t embodying that as well, and we’re going to have to practice what we preach and really share that sense of safe space with the client.”

Geolat agrees and feels the time is ripe to bring this disease out of the shadows. “It’s not just about starting a conversation among the individuals who are afraid, but also to start a conversation toward hope and recovery. If we can just start connecting, then people who might otherwise feel so alone will know they are not.”

Start the conversation and donate today: http://somethingforkelly.org/ways-to-give/

 

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START A CONVERSATION: NATIONAL EATING DISORDER AWARENESS MONTH

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February is National Eating Disorder Awareness Month, and heralds the start of fundraising month for the Something for Kelly Foundation. Eating disorders are a critically underfunded area of research, and insurance coverage for treatment remains inadequate.

Children as young as six can present signs and symptoms of an eating disorder, which if left untreated can continue throughout their lifetime. Eating disorders are a potentially life-threatening condition, causing heart muscles to weaken, bone density to decrease, hair thinning, hair loss, fainting and weakness, and muscle loss and weakness. Eating disorders are also the leading cause of death in individuals suffering with a mental illness.

Let that sink in—the leading cause of death. It is estimated that more people in the U.S. are diagnosed with an eating disorder than autism, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s combined and yet it receives less research funding from the National Institute of Health than any of those disorders.

It is also a highly-misunderstood disorder as many people believe it is the result of narcissism and vanity, but an eating disorder is not a choice.

What is the solution?
The Something for Kelly Foundation believes that no child comes into this world with an eating disorder. Every person is born ready to have a healthy relationship with food. Given a nurturing family and the right external influences, eating disorders can be prevented. By addressing potential eating disorders as early as age six, it is possible to prevent a harmful and possibly intractable eating behavior from taking hold.

The programs at the Something for Kelly Foundation aim to encourage a mind shift in children with a predisposition to eating disorders, motivating them to be healthier and change their relationship with food.

The most important first step to take is to start a conversation and support the programs at the Something for Kelly Foundation.

Donate today: http://somethingforkelly.org/why/

Recovery Stories

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From the age of 8 to 15 years old, only 0.1 percent of children have an eating disorder. It seems that we do not have to worry.

But within 10 years, 5 to 10 percent of them will die. Within 20 years, 18-20 percent will have died. And 50% of them will never be cured. The reality of children with eating disorders is more than worrying: it is the harrowing nightmare from which half of our children may never wake up.

But there is still hope, and we say this because for every person whose life is ended by an eating disorder, there are four who live. For every person who never recovered, there is one who did. Recovery, for children with eating disorders, is not a brief medical prescription or two sessions with a therapy group; it is more than often a long struggle that is ultimately up to the person themselves. Yet things can get better, and we know this because of the stories of those with eating disorders who struggled, but survived.

Recovery, One and a Half Times:

kristinaKristina Saffran didn’t recover once. She recovered twice. The first time she seemed better was by the beginning of her first year at middle school, after being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa in her fifth grade. But by her third year of middle school, she had relapsed. She lost seven months of school to hospitalization, and when she returned to high school as a sophomore, she was faced with an agonizing choice. Kristina chose recovery over her eating disorder. But as she describes it, ‘there was no click’, and the process was ‘hell’. She had to obliterate everything that was her identity and life to make it work; she got rid of her measuring cups, fat intake limits, and most significantly, her scales. But the hardest part of it all was opening up socially to the world around her.  It made her ‘miserable’, but Kristina began to go out with her friends for coffee and even ate pizza at surprise parties. It was these small, excruciating decisions that made her better. And this time, she got better for real. In 2008, she co-founded Project Heal, an organization for recovery from eating disorders. She graduated from Harvard College in 2014 and is now pursuing her career in clinical psychology at Stanford University.

A Journey to Herself:

Pauline Hanuise was a normal teenaged girl. She was conscious of her body and wanted to look pretty. But there was something that went a little beyond normal: her need for people to accept and love her became a fear so intense that she would do anything to make them like her- even if that meant purging almost everything she ate. And so, Pauline began her struggle with bulimia nervosa, the disease characteristic of its vicious cycle of bingeing and purging, at 13 years old. And recovery, in the grim throes of bulimia, didn’t come easy for Pauline. It took her 15 years of suffering with the disorder to finally defeat it. At age 24, her teeth were still breaking, her nose bleeding, and her hair shedding. Her face, arms, and hands frequently became paralysed, her heartbeat was irregular, and her menstrual cycle had long terminated. Pauline realized that she needed help- but she also realized that no doctor, medicine, or even family member could help her. She finally understood that “the only person she could rely on was [herself].” So she embarked on a journey to grasp what exactly was going on with her own mind and life, and to completely “reprogram [her] brain”. It wasn’t an easy journey, but after surviving to the end, she was freer, healthier, and more happy than she had ever been.

Pauline is now a certified Holistic Health and Recovery Coach and helps women around the world to recover from body image issues and eating disorders through her online program ‘Make Peace With Food’.

Health Beats Death:

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“I would rather die than eat.”

Dana, from Newcastle, UK, was 8-years-old when she said this to her parents. A little after her eighth birthday, she had begun to slowly cut down on her food intake, without arousing any suspicion from her mother and father. But what started as an innocent break from chocolate morphed into fearfully hiding in the laundry basket at dinner time. Dana had anorexia nervosa, and as a young child who was not able to understand what was grappling her mind, the process of her recovery was more physiologically-oriented than anything else, and in some ways, more difficult.

At first, Dana was admitted to a hospital, where she refused to eat for 19 days and was force-fed by an IV drip.  At the hospital, she would raise her arm so that none of the glucose could enter her body, making it impossible for her to get better. So, with no other option, her parents finally took her to Rhodes Farm, a residential clinic for children with eating disorders. There, restoring her normal weight from 42 pounds became her route to better mental health.

In order to meet her weekly requirement of 1 kilogram in weight gain, Dana was required to eat up to 3,000 calories a day, a strict goal that was satisfied by high caloric meals ranging from pasta and banoffee pie to risotto and baked potatoes. For twelve weeks, Dana endured regular weight checks and supervised mealtimes- both horrors for anorexics. Yet Dana made friends and appeared to be doing better.

One day, her mother got a call from the clinic. Dana had eaten chocolate. But to prove that she was indeed better and could go home, Dana would have to succeed at her test of finishing an entire meal and a large portion of dessert outside of the clinic. She didn’t leave a crumb of lunch on her plate.

Dana was released after 12 weeks, and although it is possible that she will always live with a predisposition towards anorexia, she is now happily eating again. Her favorite food include pizza and fried chicken.

 

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Signs & Symptoms of Eating Disorders

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Eating disorders, such as Anorexia Nervosa, Binge-eating Disorder, and Bulimia Nervosa, are unfortunately quite common among our youth today and can have serious and potentially devastating effects on those who are affected by them. When I was in high school, I witnessed a few friends suffer from eating disorders and was unsure about how to approach the situation or if my friends actually had eating disorders. As I am sure this is the case with many people, in high school or at any stage in life, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of eating disorders so that you can know when it is time to seek help for a friend or family member or even for yourself.

The three most common eating disorders, as mentioned above, are Anorexia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, and Bulimia Nervosa. Let us begin by touching on the signs and symptoms of anorexia. People who suffer from anorexia often have an abnormally low body weight, an intense fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of weight or shape. These people usually intake an inadequate amount of food, have an obsession with weight and weight gain prevention, and cannot appreciate the severity of the situation they are in. These people may also exercise excessively, use laxatives or diet aids, and may often vomit after eating. Anorexia can cause severe health problems and can even lead to deadly self-starvation, so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms so that you may help someone who potentially suffers from this awful eating disorder.

Warning Signs of Anorexia:

  • Dramatic weight loss.
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting.
  • Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g. no carbohydrates, etc.).
  • Frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss.
  • Anxiety about gaining weight or being “fat.”
  • Denial of hunger.
  • Development of food rituals (e.g. eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing, rearranging food on a plate).
  • Consistent excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food.
  • Excessive, rigid exercise regimen–despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury, the need to “burn off” calories taken in.
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities.
  • In general, behaviors and attitudes indicating that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns.

The next eating disorder I would like to touch on is Binge-eating disorder. With this disorder, one regularly eats too much food with no control over what you are eating. These binges occur without any efforts to prevent weight gain, such as self-induced vomiting. During or after a session of binge eating, the victim often feels strong shame or guilt regarding what he or she is eating but is out of control during the episode. Binge-eating disorder becomes a larger issue when the victim eats when he or she is not hungry, eats to a point of discomfort, or eats alone because of shame about the behavior. A new round of binging usually occurs at least once a week, and a person who suffers from this disorder may be a normal weight, overweight, or obese.

Warning Signs of Binge Eating Disorder:

  • Evidence of binge eating, including the disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or lots of empty wrappers and containers indicating consumption of large amounts of food.
  • Secretive food behaviors, including eating secretly (e.g., eating alone or in the car, hiding wrappers) and stealing, hiding, or hoarding food.
  • Disruption in normal eating behaviors, including eating throughout the day with no planned mealtimes; skipping meals or taking small portions of food at regular meals; engaging in sporadic fasting or repetitive dieting; and developing food rituals (e.g., eating only a particular food or food group [e.g., condiments], excessive chewing, not allowing foods to touch).
  • Avoiding conflict; trying to “keep the peace.”
  • Certain thought patterns and personality types are associated with binge eating disorder. These include:
    • Rigid and inflexible “all or nothing” thinking
    • A strong need to be in control
    • Difficulty expressing feelings and needs
    • Perfectionistic tendencies
    • Working hard to please others

The final eating disorder I would like to cover is bulimia. Signs and symptoms of bulimia contain aspects of both anorexia and binge-eating disorders and is quite dangerous for those who suffer from it. Victims often have episodes of consuming very large amounts of food and follow these episodes with behaviors to prevent weight-gain such as self-induced vomiting. Those who suffer from this often feel out of control while eating and will try to restrict consumption during the day, only to have more binge eating and purging episodes. Victims often feel guilty and shameful during such episodes and also have an intense fear of weight gain from overeating. Victims will not only purge after overeating, but may also exercise too much or use laxatives to get rid of the consumed calories. Those who suffer from bulimia are very concerned with body weight and shape and can be severely judgmental of self-perceived flaws.

 Warning Signs of Bulimia:

  • Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or finding wrappers and containers indicating the consumption of large amounts of food.
  • Evidence of purging behaviors, including frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, signs and/or smells of vomiting, presence of wrappers or packages of laxatives or diuretics.
  • Excessive, rigid exercise regimen–despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury, the compulsive need to “burn off” calories taken in.
  • Unusual swelling of the cheeks or jaw area.
  • Calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles from self-induced vomiting.
  • Discoloration or staining of the teeth.
  • Creation of lifestyle schedules or rituals to make time for binge-and-purge sessions.
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities.
  • In general, behaviors and attitudes indicating that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns.
  • Continued exercise despite injury; overuse injuries.

These signs and symptoms mentioned above are certainly not all-encompassing, but they are definitely signs you should watch out for if you believe a friend or loved one may be suffering from an eating disorder. Please do not be afraid to reach out for help if you believe you know someone suffering from an eating disorder. Acting sooner rather than later can save that person from the dangerous and potentially lethal effects of eating disorders.

Eating Disorders in the Wrestling World

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When hearing the word eating disorder, most people associate this terrible disease with girls. However, studies have shown that boys are linked to this disease as well. In North Carolina in 1995 during a middle school study, 10% of girls and 4% of boys have been reported vomiting and using laxatives to lose weight. Most students that use these methods of “weight loss” are involved in sports. One sport that involves a lot of focus on weight restrictions is wrestling. We will be shedding some light on this world of wrestling and how research shows it could be one of the deadliest sports for eating disorders.

Students involved in this weight sensitive activity are especially prone to use methods to limit their food consumption based on 3 facts: improved appearance, better performance, and perceived competitive advantage. Since wrestling is a sport based on meeting certain weight requirements, it’s known for being lethal to someone on a normal healthy diet. In 1988, three collegiate wrestlers died from excessive weight loss.

Wrestlers have to be aware with monitoring their food consumption during the season because they have to “make weight” for their matches. In wrestling, athletes strive for success for competing in a lower weight class because then they believe that if you are at a lower weight and taller height you would have the upper hand competing. How crazy is that? A sport primarily based upon your weight? Athletes may not want to compete with someone in their weight class due to the fact that they could lose or they want to help the team fill an empty slot. Throughout the wrestling season, “making weight” is a cycle of shedding weight for long periods of time. Research has shown that athletes have lost or gained 5 to 10 lbs every week. Isn’t that unbelievable? Every week, people!

The requirement to be a minimum of 7% body fat in males and 12% body fat in females may increase the pressure to losing weight in males than females. Think about it, men are viewed to be the predominant sex and in the sports world, they have to look the part. To meet these body fat minimum requirements wrestlers have turned to purging, food limitation, or other methods. In an overall study, it was shown that 45% of wrestlers were at risk for eating disorders. With an obsessive outlook on the athlete’s weight cycles, I wouldn’t be surprised if this number increased in the future.

With vast amounts of weight loss, thermoregulatory capabilities and cardio output start decreasing. The body starts having dehydration through the athlete’s sweating and cooling system when they perform during hard activities. For cardio output, a threat can be found when decreased amount of output can produce a lot of strain on the heart with any effort. Heart rate and decreased stroke volume increases when cardiac output drops after reduced blood volume from dehydration. So, the weight loss from the wrestling season increases the risk of athletes not producing the healthy amount of hydration and cardio activity to regulate the body.

For younger wrestlers with 5 to 10 lbs per week with 5% to 10% dehydration levels, it poses a greater threat because they have a greater body surface area for every kilogram of weight. With all of this information, young wrestlers are at risk for eating disorders that result in unhealthy bodies and ultimately death. Please become aware of these severe risks when involved in sports and especially in wrestling. Ask help from a loved one or teacher  immediately if you feel like you may be demonstrating any eating disorders or excessive amount of weight loss in a short amount of time.

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3 Ways Social Media Can Absolutely Kill Positive Body Image

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Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders. Unfortunately, social media can play a role in one of the risk factors of these illnesses: negative body image.  For a child who’s prone to eating disorders, understanding the ins and outs of social media can be a life or death issue. Here are three ways social media can kill positive body image and a few things you can do about it.

1. Create an Unrealistic Reality
According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), a common thread in many eating disorders is a distorted view on body image. The digital landscape we’re navigating is all about what we see. It’s the perfect breeding ground for creating an unrealistic reality. Gone are the days of blaming Photoshop. There are hundreds of apps that have the sole purpose of making your selfie stand out. Take a look at Perfect 365, AirBrush and FaceTune.

With 76% of teens using social media, it’s safe to say they’re seeing tons of images that have been edited to perfection. Sadly, all children don’t realize the images they see are often fake.

It’s time for a reality check. Start speaking up about the false images on social media.Your voice can help a child realize their body image shouldn’t be affected by a fantasy. The more you speak up, the better equipped children are to love their own bodies. You can even team up with Something for Kelly to spread awareness in your community.

2. Convince You There’s One Type of Beauty
Sometimes a glance at a magazine stand, runway or social media stream will only show you one kind of beauty. For some children, these images of ultra slim bodies or perfectly painted abs become the standard–and they start endangering their health to measure up. Research has shown that a negative perception of body image plays a role in binge eating disorders. But what if we gave children a wide range of beauty, and body types, to celebrate?

Let’s challenge the status quo. Give children the education and support they need to love their bodies and help them realize beauty has many definitions; They don’t have to measure up to an artificial standard.

3. Convert Your Confidence into Self-Consciousness
Self esteem can take a hit on social media. All it takes is one negative comment, or absolutely no positive comments (or “likes”),  to make a child self conscious. Environmental factors like teasing and bullying are known to play a role in eating disorders.

The online world allows the bullying from the lunchroom or school yard to now intrude a child’s life at home. It’s on-demand and in real time, 24/7! These experiences can cause children to hunt for validation from their peers.The end result: an impossible pursuit of perfection, which is yet another risk factor for eating disorders.

Let’s get serious about being social. We need to build strong minds and strong habits that combat the negative effects of social media. Giving parents tips about healthy online limits is a great first step. Then, get involved with a program that informs people about the warning signs and causes of eating disorders. By working together, we can protect kids and watch them grow into healthy adults.

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It Takes a Village

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In today’s society, there is a lot of emphasis placed on appearance, especially on body weight. This contributes negatively to the mindsets of future generations. Most of the time, people push themselves to extremes to attain the unattainable – perfection.

Sadly, the preoccupation of achieving a flawless figure starts at a very young age with girls as young as 8 being hospitalized for anorexia nervosa. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA),“42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner” and “81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.” There are a variety of factors that can cause stress in a child’s life (parental divorce, bullying, death in the family, grades) and without being equipped with the proper coping techniques, children are susceptible to using food intake as a way to gain control in their young lives. While it’s primarily the role of parents to encourage healthy practices at home, we are excited to celebrate the many organizations and individuals who are working to create a cultural mindset shift towards body image and health.

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The first shout out goes to the First Lady Michelle Obama who founded Let’s Move in 2010, an organization dedicated to fighting childhood obesity in the US. According to Michelle Obama, the goal is to “promote vegetables and fruits and whole grains on every part of every menu” as well as “help create a culture where our kids ask for healthy options instead of resisting them.” Thanks to her dedication to provide healthy choices for children, President Barack Obama signed the child nutrition bill into law in 2010, requiring schools to “serve more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy products”. The social ambiance in school shapes a child’s approach to future life decisions, so why not create a uniform alimentary system in schools that every child can enjoy.

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Academic success starts with proper nutrition. For this reason, the second shout out goes to Whole Foods Market which has a mission to provide healthy alternatives to its customers. Whole Foods not only guarantees quality products but has also established the Whole Kids Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving children’s diets. Some of the foundation’s greatest programs are the School Garden Grant, the School Salad Bar and the Healthy Teachers Program, all of which are designed to inspire healthy eating habits. In addition, Whole Foods Market has made an impact on the international spectrum by establishing The Whole Planet Foundation, an organization that encourages economic development in the countries that provide Whole Food’s fresh products. Finally, what sets them apart within the industry is their famous ‘5% Days’ where a total of five percent of sales is donated to local nonprofits and organizations.

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Recently, the grocery chain Price Cutter from Springfield, Missouri has taken an innovative step towards empowering healthy diets. In the vegetable aisle, they have placed a basket with free fresh fruit for children. This is a brilliant idea as it not only provides children with a healthy shopping experience but it also contributes to transitioning mindsets of future generations. Now, children will ask their parents for a fresh and healthy snack.

The effort done by all the organizations is greatly valued in the community, and it is essential to continue the battle until no child, teenager or young adult is ensnared by eating disorders. After all, as a community, we have the power to alter society.

Kelly & Friends

Shedding Light on Eating Disorders – A Call to Action

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“Nobody told us.”
“They never told us.”
“We didn’t know it.”
“We were SO unaware.”

When Nancy Burk, Kelly’s mom, spoke before guests at the Something for Kelly’s Illinois Gala on February 26, hearts were touched when she shared details of Kelly’s struggle not otherwise known. She shared what’s become a dangerous theme – a lack of awareness.

Due to the secretive behaviors characteristic of eating disorders, loved ones or caretakers are often left in the dark, or worse – they know something is wrong but they don’t know what to do. Unfortunately, eating disorders are most dangerous when they’re left undetected or unaddressed.

When Kelly was in high school, her friends realized that something was wrong and went to one of their teachers. S/he didn’t know what to do so it was brushed under the rug. Her parents were never notified and nothing was done.

When Kelly went to college, she became preoccupied with avoiding the notorious “freshman fifteen” that plagues a lot of college students their first year. She began to exercise, make changes to her diet, and lose weight. What Kelly’s friends and family didn’t know was that she was exercising so hard that she was passing out at the gym. Instead of acknowledging that the severity of the situation, the school’s only reaction was to ban her from the gym. Her family was never notified and no actions were taken to ensure her recovery. Her school’s RA notified her roommate that Kelly was banned from the gym, but nothing else was done. And Kelly’s family was left in the dark.

When Kelly came back from college, her family realized something was wrong so they took her to a doctor. The doctor said her weight wasn’t low enough to be a problem, not acknowledging that the  devastating health and psychological effects of eating disorders are not weight-dependent.  She was then sent to a nutritionist who gave her a diet plan of 2200 calories, not realizing that the nature of the eating disorder would obstruct this plan and prevent her from achieving optimal health once again.

Kelly was surrounded by all sorts of professionals: teachers, professors, doctors, nutritionists. All of them were told something was wrong, but no one knew what to do. Eating disorders are insidious and still widely misunderstood, and like most illnesses, if left untreated, become increasingly difficult to overcome. Unfortunately, by the time that Kelly found people who could help her, the damage was already done.   

But this isn’t the time or place to place blame on anyone. This is a call for action. It’s time to step up, to spread the word, to prevent another beautiful life from being lost. If we are able to stop these disordered thoughts from taking root, we would be stopping the “fire” from starting in the first place, instead of working tirelessly to put out a flame that’s rigorously spreading.

Something for Kelly’s mission is to raise awareness and prevent eating disorders in young children, an age where disordered thoughts first take root. We are achieving this by passing out copies of Yummy Wisdom, a children’s picture book which teaches healthy eating habits, to elementary schools and pediatric clinics, by arranging speaking engagements where we educate teachers, nurses, and other caregivers about eating disorders, and developing a children’s summer camp for kids aged 6-12 where healthy eating and body image are taught in a fun way.

But we need your help.

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Are a teacher? A member of your child’s PTA? A nurse? A member of your local Junior League? We would love to speak with your group, class, or association about the signs and symptoms of eating disorders in children and steps to take to prevent this deadly disease and/or put a copy of Yummy Wisdom in your classroom or clinic. Contact us for more information! info@somethingforkelly.org

Are you interested in getting involved? With volunteer opportunities ranging from fundraising, blogging, marketing, community outreach, office administration, and more, we would love for you to join our dynamic team. For more information, click here or contact Evann Whitt at ewhitt@somethingforkelly.org.

Interested in contributing financially to the Something For Kelly Foundation? Your donation, no matter how big or small, will go directly towards preventing eating disorders in children and will impact the growth of our organization and development of our programs. (All gifts are tax-deductible.) For more information, click here!

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Education and awareness are the first step for prevention. With eating disorders still so misunderstood, we need to break the stigma and start an open conversation. Get involved today!

Doll Evolved

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The doll has evolved. It took her 57 years, but finally, she’s here.

She looks a little different.

Remember the most perfect plastic girl in our childhood? Say she turned human. She is five feet, nine inches tall. She weighs no more than 110 pounds. Her neck is 3.2 inches taller than yours, and her waist six inches less. Her bust size exceeds the average by five inches. She must be no less than beautiful. If someone asked you whether you would trade places with Barbie, you would too easily nod your head.

But think again. The reality may frighten you.

Say you became Barbie. Because of her ‘beautiful’ proportions, you aren’t able to lift your head anymore; your neck is too thin and long. Crawling on Barbie’s tiny wrists and ankles has become your only mobility. With a waist size of only 16 inches, high chances are that you can no longer menstruate and have long fallen in the crippling category of anorexic girls.

Rehabs.com reports that the probability of finding a girl with Barbie’s chest-waist ratio is one in billions of billions, or rather- impossible. But every second, somewhere in the world, this standard of beauty is still fed to young children, made to believe that girls like Barbie really can- and do -exist. Then they are insinuated by Barbie to question feeding themselves. In 1965, Mattel released the “Slumber Party Barbie”. She came with a comb, a sleeping bag, a weight scale, and a book with the cover ‘How to lose weight’. Pages stopped at the words “DON’T EAT.”

Times have progressed and manuals for starvation may no longer accompany Barbie, but girls aged 5-12 are still highly in danger of the connotations of the doll and the standards she sets. Out of 10 young girls today, four are afraid of being overweight. Five girls say they feel better about themselves when they diet. Two of them wished that they were thinner by the age of six to eight. One will finally go to high school with an eating disorder. (Source: National Eating Disorder Association)

Advocates have pushed Mattel for years to model Barbie after a frame that doesn’t reflect unrealistic body expectations, and some have even taken the job of melting and recasting her plastic limbs into their own hands. In 2013, a Pittsburgh based artist, Nikolay Lamm, declared, “average is beautiful.” He went on to create an average looking doll called ‘Lammily’, a girl with average height and average weight, and the public received her with showers of appreciation.

Subconscious or not, the effect of Barbie’s body has been palpable to children’s perceptions of their own body. A psychological study revealed that “when girls aged 6 to 10 were assigned to play with either a very thin doll or an average-sized doll, the children who had played with the thin doll ate significantly less food”.

Relenting to decades of attacks on the body image she creates, Mattel has finally revealed the truth to Barbie after 57 years: ‘Dear doll, you need to make way for reality.’ The New 2016 Fashionistas Line, released in January, has a range of three body types apart from the original version: curvy, petite, and tall. The new Barbie is finally true to what girls have been for millennia- anything but ‘original’.

“This is radical, because we’re saying that there isn’t this narrow standard of what a beautiful body looks like,” says Robert Best, Barbie’s senior director of product design. In the video that was released on the main website along with previews of the evolved Barbie, young girls are shown playing in a room with the redesigned dolls. A girl in braids who looks five or six flies her new doll in the air and says, “It’s important for Barbie to look different. You know, like the real people in the world?”

The new Barbie is not just curvy, thin, tall, and petite. She is real, accepting, unexpected and unimposing. A small, plastic part of a child’s world is evolving, and it signals to us the evolution of something bigger. Perhaps, one day, we’ll see Ariel change. And Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White. Perhaps the coming generation will be able to raise children in whose playgrounds don’t strut misleading presumptions of a body high on heels and bizarre in reality.

Maybe, someday, we’ll buy our daughters a Barbie. And maybe the Barbie won’t be unlike them.

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