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Project HEAL is a 501(c)3 non- profit organization that raises money for people with eating disorders who are not able to afford treatment, and promotes healthy body image and self-esteem in hopes of preventing future eating disorders. Our co-founders met while undergoing treatment for anorexia nervosa when they were just 15 years old, helped each other to reach full recovery, and then wanted to help others achieve it, as well.
First, we have seen firsthand so many eating disorder sufferers not being able to get the treatment that they so desperately need because of insurance issues, or if they are lucky enough to get into a center, being kicked out because they are "medically stable" just when they are beginning to scrape surface on the real issues. We were really lucky because our insurance did cover most of our treatment, and our parents could thankfully afford to pay what it didn’t, but we have known so many people - often who were a lot more motivated than us - who have not being able to get the treatment that they so desperately want and need.
Second, when we returned to the "real world" after receiving treatment, we realized that the kids back at school and in our communities were really hesitant to talk about eating disorders, and when they did there were a lot of misconceptions and mis-portrayals. One of the things that was most disturbing to us was that there seemed to be an element of glamour associated with anorexia amongst girls in middle and high school. And, somewhat related to this, we realized that, not just the people we knew who had struggled with an eating disorder, but our "normal" high school friends also really struggled with body-image issues and low self-esteem, and held themselves to unrealistic standards.
And so, seeing all of this, we really felt that there was a need for increased awareness of eating disorders among teens and adolescents, especially. And we felt that, for us at least, eating disorder awareness would be a lot more powerful coming from people close to our age who had personally experienced the disorder.
Finally, we know that when we were in treatment, we really lacked hope. And the few times that we had heard stories of girls who had recovered, it sparked that hope a little bit. We really wanted to serve as a role model and mentor to girls who thought, "I can never get better" because we once were those girls who thought, "I can never get better." A big part of Project HEAL is simply serving as a testament that full recovery from an eating disorder is possible.
- Kristina Saffran
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