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Speech at EDIN's Celebrity Dance Challenge, December 3, 2011

Fifteen  years ago when we started EDIN, eating disorders were a taboo topic in schools.  People avoided talking to kids about these issues out of their fear of creating problems. But we started planting seeds.  We started openly addressing the issues surrounding eating disorders for the first time.  Now high schools, middle schools and elementary schools all over this state are using our model and our materials, creating student-run EDIN Clubs and hosting creative, educational and fun events throughout the year focused on media literacy, the dangers of dieting and the importance of Loving Your Body.

Fifteen years ago, the Obesity epidemic was a blip on the screen. But with the increased attention on this issue, EDIN has been at the forefront of efforts to make the connection between obesity and eating disorders, advocating for a non-diet approach to weight issues, shifting the focus from being skinny to being healthy.

We were thrilled this year when The Georgia Department of Education decided to feature our children’s book “Full Mouse, Empty Mouse” in its Georgia Eat Smart Initiative to combat obesity, sending the book to every elementary school in Georgia. Now instead of kids starting on diets, they’ll be hearing about respecting the signals in their bodies and healthy ways to cope with feelings. Without EDIN to balance out the cultural pressures to diet, we’d be ushering in a new generation of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating.

But what’s truly gratifying is to hear about EDIN’s impact on an individual scale. I was recently approached by a teacher who thanked us for bringing EDIN’s programming to the school. She admitted that she’d been suffering from binge eating disorder for years, and through EDIN’s website she’d found a dietician and a therapist who were helping her recover. Or the mom who attended an EDIN talk at her kids’ school focused on preventing eating disorders, who reached out to us saying, “I’ve had bulimia for 30 years. I realize now that, for my kids, I need to get help.”

THIS is true prevention, because that mom and that teacher will now be passing down the right messages through their words AND their actions, to their students and their children.

Prevention is about changing a belief system. It’s about changing the way we talk to each other and the way we talk to ourselves so that we can provide a buffer from the cultural trends that vilify fat and glamorize anorexia. We have our work cut out for us.

This past Tuesday 9 million people watched the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, and Model Adriana Lima walk down the runway with a LOWER body mass index than is required to receive a diagnosis of Anorexia. Asked how she achieved this body, she shared that she worked out twice a day for months, then drank only liquids for the nine days leading up to the show then didn’t eat or drink anything for 12 hours before the show, forcing her body to devour any ounce of fat that was left. Not only were people unconcerned about this potentially life-threatening behavior, but the Twitter-verse lit up after that show with people inspired to start starving themselves to look like her.

No other potentially deadly mental illness is so highly promoted and glamorized in our culture. I just hope it doesn’t take an angel collapsing on the runway from cardiac failure for America to wake up.

Thankfully you, here, tonight, are awake! Thank you for coming tonight and for helping change things. For ourselves and for our kids, keep fighting the fight. THANK YOU!

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