Overcoming Eating Disorders with a healthy body and mind.
In 2009, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. Thankfully, I am now an overcomer, a healthy woman who understands that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. I lived through this ordeal which included health scares and extreme stress. I began my own recovery journey after feeling like I was going to die. Having made peace with food, I now love my healthy, muscular body. I am uniquely me and I am strong. I tell my story to encourage those struggling to recover and with those who may be questioning their own body, self worth, and relationship with food.
Over 30 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder but only 35% get specialized care. There are several different types of eating disorders many with co-occurring disorders and addictions. According to the New York Times, residential programs cost an average of $30,000 monthly and in turn, many people struggle silently and feel ashamed. According to a survey of 109 specialists, representing nearly every inpatient eating disorders program in the U.S., 96.7% of eating disorder specialists believe their patients with anorexia nervosa are put in life threatening situations because of health insurance companies refusal to cover treatment. It is for this reason I have advocated for my social impact initiative in Washington, DC. on Capitol Hill, with the Eating Disorders Coalition and on several local television shows. I have spoken with U.S. Senators and offices of five House Representatives to advocate for increase healthcare funds. An eating disorder is not a lifestyle choice but it will take over a life.
Our society and media show unrealistic expectations of what is beautiful and young girls are falling for it every day. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that people ages 19-32 who used social media platforms on a daily basis such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube were more than twice as likely to have eating and body image problems. If honored to serve as Miss Florida and subsequently, Miss America, I will continue to spread messages of hope, encouragement, and how to have a healthy body and mind. I plan to use social media in a positive and truthful manner. I have and will continue to utilize my voice to educate students at many Elementary, Middle, and High schools about the effects of eating disorders, prevention, and how to live a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise. I have volunteered with the National Eating Disorder Association’s annual walk to raise funds for therapy scholarships for several counseling centers. Speaking with young women during their road to recovery while in treatment has had a lasting impact on me. Music often speaks when words fall short, so I post powerful messages and songs of hope and encouragement on social media. I helped raise $2,000 for Advanced Recovery Systems eating disorder division and created a Uniquely You Shine marketing event with 80 businesses and 800 attendees to raise awareness and funds.
Four out of ten people either have an eating disorder or know someone who does. It is prevalent and not getting the worldwide attention or funding that it needs. I want people, especially young women, to know they are strong, worthy, beautiful, and uniquely created.
If you or someone you know is struggling click the link below. Recovery is possible and you are not alone.