Friday, July 25, 2014

Highlights From A Powerful Congressional Briefing

Nearly every seat in room "SVC 201-00" was filled yesterday with staffers from Capitol Hill who came to hear testimony about eating disorders at our Congressional briefing entitled, "Photo-shopping, Weight Stigma and Eating Disorders: What They Have in Common and Why They Matter."  The briefing was hosted by long-time friend of the EDC, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA).

(L-R: Kathleen MacDonald, Rosie Buccellato, Allyson Kapin, Dr. Rachel Adatto, Lizabeth Wesley-Casella)

Allyson Kapin, Founder of Women Who Tech and the +Rad Campaign, offered her compelling presentation on photo-shopping, including a live demonstration during which she showed the audience how, with just a few clicks on a computer, a person can be completely and radically transformed.  You could hear audible comments like, "oh my gosh" and "no way" coming from audience members as Allyson gave one model 'six pack abs' with just one mouse-click. 

+Lizabeth Wesely-Casella, Founder of, focused her presentation on weight-stigma and weight-bias.  Not only did Lizabeth share her professional expertise on these two topics, but she weaved in Health At Every Size and also her personal experience with Binge Eating Disorder (BED).  Lizabeth's testimony offered a call to action for everyone in the audience to help eliminate weight stigma and weight bias.  And, she encouraged people to see the beauty of their body in its genetically natural shape and size versus suffering to live in a body defined by the beauty-standards of society.

Dr. Rachel Adatto, Former Member of the Israeli Parliament, presented on her country's success in passing legislation addressing photo-shopped pictures and the BMI of fashion models.  Her successful efforts enlightened the audience that the 'solution' to eating disorders needs to be multifaceted --from educating doctors and society to passing legislation.

+Rosie Buccellato shared her personal story and it was clear from the tears seen and the sniffles heard that Rosie's poignant testimony touched people deeply.  Rosie's eating disorder emerged when she was seven years old after she was fat-caliper and BMI tested in front of her 2nd grade class.  Though Rosie shared of the devastation she and her family suffered during the14 years the disease held a tight-grip on her mind, body and spirit, she also shared the success of her healing, "I am not yet completely recovered.  But for the first time in 14 years of suffering, I have one full solid year of recovery under my belt."

We concluded with "Q & A."  Audience members asked several important questions, including personal ones -indicating that they truly 'get it,' intellectually and emotionally, when it comes to the seriousness of eating disorders. 

The +Eating Disorders Coalition offers sincere gratitude to each of the speakers for their expertise, for the time and energy they put into preparing their speeches, for expenses they incurred, for time they took off of work and for the emotional energy they put into making the briefing a huge success.  We are humbled by your commitment to advocacy.

So what's next?

Yesterday's briefing served as a catalyst for further discussion. In the coming weeks I will be following-up with each of the attendees, to dialogue about how we can work together to address the epidemic of eating disorders plaguing the lives of too, too many. 
Be sure to stay tuned for updates and ways that YOU can advocate with us. 

Yours from the Hill, ~Kathleen MacDonald, Policy & Communications Director

ps: Speeches, pictures and video will be posted shortly.

pps: You can already for this fall's EDC National Lobby Day which is in conjunction with the 1st ever M.O.M March on Capitol Hill! For all the details and to register, please visit:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What's Lobby Day? -- Reflections From a First-Time Advocate

 “Wear comfortable shoes.”

In April of 2014, I showed up for my first Lobby Day experience with the Eating Disorder Coalition excited, but not knowing quite what to expect.  Sure, the Coalition had sent us first-timers a precursory email saying, "Here's what to expect at Lobby Day…make sure you wear comfortable shoes!" but until you're smack in the midst of Lobby Day and you start realizing that the phrase “next building” means something very different on the vastness of Capitol Hill, you don’t appreciate what amazing advice that is. 
The last time I was in Washington, DC was during high school when I attended a summer debate camp.  I know.  I was super cool.  While most boys growing up a few blocks from Wrigley Field in Chicago might have dreams of playing baseball, my dreams were about reading memos, writing policy briefs and wearing power suits.  So I was definitely predisposed to at least finding lobby day interesting.  (Also I had just finished watching both seasons of House of Cards, so was having delusions of political grandeur that led me to determine I was not above a little blackmail or something if it came down to it because, you know, that’s how much I care.)
I’ve had the humbling privilege of working with people suffering from eating disorders for most of my career, including developing programs and providing education to families, professionals, and the community at large.  I’m very familiar with the frustration of trying to convey the understanding of eating disorders as disorders of pain, loneliness and shame, which we know they are, and not disorders of vanity or self-obsession, which we know they are not.  Even though I know there are a myriad of very complicated factors responsible for the development of eating disorders, I’ve also seen the very real damage to self-esteem that can occur via societally sanctioned messages about weight and size and the way that these messages can be propagated as well as created by the media.  These messages may not cause eating disorders per se, but they don’t help and they are harmful in other very real ways.  So I was eager to learn about the proposed bill and to experience the process of how lobbying works.
The training day started with meeting my cohort of fellow activists.  I cannot convey how moving and humbling it was to hear everyone’s stories and their reasons for being there.  From those who have lost someone close to them to this terrible illness, those who have themselves suffered, those who were there because they were passionate about educating others about the issues, to those of us who work with people suffering from eating disorders, it was evident how deeply committed everyone was.  Everyone understood the seriousness and impact of eating disorders, but more striking to me was that there was not a sense of hopelessness despite how difficult eating disorders can be to experience and to treat.  Everyone was there to DO something, not by using position or access or money, but by the profound and simple virtue of being a constituent and a citizen and taking the time to show up and “make the ask.”
It was this last piece that was a surprise and a revelation to me, namely the reminder that we have the responsibility and the power to use our voices, as individuals and as a group, to let our senators and representatives know the issues about which we care, and to demonstrate that care not by threats, invectives or game-playing, but rather by embodying this care by speaking with integrity and passion.  Even if there is a member who might not agree with you or who might not be willing to join you by supporting a particular measure, I have to believe that simply showing up and representing the millions of people affected by eating disorders made a difference.  Maybe our efforts help a staffer open her or his eyes to the impact of eating disorders, or someone who has known a friend or family member who struggled who appreciates that someone else cares as much as they do, or even someone who is her- or him-self struggling and hasn’t been able to acknowledge it.  Having people who have experienced it and their families, friends, and professionals come talk to them about the importance of these issues can make a sea change in others’ attitudes and understanding about eating disorders.     
As someone who often feels like I am spending most of my time vacillating between preaching to the choir or to the proverbial brick wall, I found myself leaving my first Lobby Day with a sense of renewed hope and a reminder of why we all do what we do. And I left reminded that when you’re trying to change a lot of people’s minds by knocking on a lot of people’s doors, you have got to be patient.  I was reminded that one voice matters, as does one willing ear.  And perhaps most importantly, I was reminded that the efforts of a few impassioned people can have a disproportionate impact, which is why I’m so grateful to be able to join the Eating Disorder Coalition again at their fall Lobby Day.  I’ll be the one wearing super comfortable shoes. 

Norman H. Kim, Ph.D.
National Director
Reasons Eating Disorder Center

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Seriousness of Eating Disorders

***Media Advisory***
Congressional Briefing on Seriousness of Eating Disorders
What:  The Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action (EDC) will hold a Congressional briefing for House and Senate staff to address the correlation between photo-shopped images and disordered eating and to raise awareness of the seriousness of eating disorders.  The briefing is hosted by the office of Senator Tom Harkin (IA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.  Senator Harkin is a long-standing supporter of EDC advocates and their mission to bring federal attention to eating disorders.  Over several Congressional Sessions, Harkin was a lead co-sponsor of the Federal Response to Eliminate Eating Disorders Act (FREED Act). “Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are widespread, insidious, and too often fatal.  Contrary to widespread beliefs, adolescent women are by no means the only people suffering from eating disorders; these diseases don’t discriminate by gender, race, income or age,” said Senator Harkin.  “We all have a responsibility to ensure that we undertake the necessary research, and provide the treatment and prevention that can help us beat eating disorders.”
Tremendous misperceptions about the severity of eating disorders influence the federal resources devoted to eating disorders, especially research funding.  Barriers to treatment, despite Mental Health Parity and the Affordable Care Act, continue to plague sufferers and their families, and people continue to die prematurely as a result.  At the time this media advisory goes to press, the news of another young woman's death from anorexia on July 17, 2014, is heavily on our hearts and minds.
Dr. Rachel Adatto, Former member of Israeli Parliament (Knesset)
Rosie Buccellato, Person in Recovery
Allyson Kapin, Co-Founder of Rad Campaign and Founder of Women Who Tech
Kathleen MacDonald, Policy Director of the Eating Disorders Coalition
Lizabeth Wesely-Casella, Founder of

     When:         Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 12:00 p.m. EST (a boxed lunch will be served)
     Where:      Senate Visitors Center (SVC) 201-00
     RSVP:        Pre-register by July 23, 2014. To register, please email:                                                         
The Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) is comprised of over 40 organizations and is dedicated to unifying the voice of America’s eating disorder organizations in order to raise Federal awareness of eating disorders .  Together with our member organizations and advocates, the EDC serves the over 30 million American's who suffer with eating disorders, the deadliest of all mental illnesses.
            EDC Advocate Voices: "I Stand for the FREED Act because..."
            Learn More: Facts About Eating Disorders
Media Contact: David Jaffe – or 202-543-9570
# # #

Friday, June 13, 2014

EDC Speaks in Support of the MEPS Act

May 22, 2014, Washington, DC.

The Eating Disorders Coalition was humbled to speak at Congressmen Glenn Thompson and Congressman Tim Ryan's Press Conference on May 22, 2014, in honor of the Medical Evaluation Parity for Service Members (MEPS) Act (HR: (H.R. 4305 / S. 2231).  The MEPS Act passed the House on May 22, 2014, and, in short
will "provide an individual with a mental health assessment before the individual enlists in the Armed Forces or is commissioned as an officer in the Armed Forces."

Why does the EDC care about this bill?  For several reasons, including what the bill states in its findings:
(1) More focus needs to be put on mental health in America. (2) The large number of suicides among veterans and members of the Armed Forces is unacceptable, especially given that more members have died by suicide than in combat. (3) Many of those suicides in the military were members of the Armed Forces who never deployed. (4) Members of the Armed Forces, having been at war for more than a decade, have been put through acute physical and mental stress. (5) Many of the suicides in the Armed Forces can be prevented, and studies have found that improved screening reduced later behavioral problems by 78 percent and reduced thoughts of suicide by more than half. (6) Although the military currently has a baseline measurement process for physical health, the military does not currently have similar standards for mental health. (7) It is important that the military ensures that the members of the Armed Forces are both physically and mentally fit for all the missions the United States requires.

Additionally, we care about this bill because a recent study of abnormal eating behaviors in 3,000 active duty women in the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps revealed that more than 60% of respondents had some type of eating disorder, and nearly every Marine Corps respondent (97.5%) met criteria for an eating disorder.  Of active duty Navy men, 2.5% suffered with anorexia, 6.8% bulimia, and 40.8% suffered with "other eating disorders."  Navy men classified in the "normal" category (49.9% of those sampled), reported current behaviors of vomiting, water pills, diet pills, laxatives and binging.

The MEPS Act will help address these alarming statistics.

Thank you so very much to the champions of the bill and their colleagues, Senator Rob Portman for introducing a companion bill in the Senate.

photo credit: Representative Glenn Thompson

To read more about the MEPS Act:

#TruthinAds June press event

June 11, 2014, Washington, DC.

Eating Disorders Coalition champions Lois Capps and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen accepted the delivery of 28,000 petition signatures, in support of the Truth in Advertising Act of 2014.  The signatures were generated by Seth Matlins' petition on (Seth is the father who conceived of the idea behind the bill).

Seth, the EDC and both Congresswomen gave impassioned speeches detailing the dire need for Congress to take action on the Truth in Advertising Act of 2014 (#TruthinAds), a bill that is one part in the complex solution to addressing eating and body image disorders.

Said Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, "For too long, our nation's women and men have been subject to false, impossible expectations of beauty --expectations with consequences so severe that America is facing a full blown public health crisis. While we hope that the advertising industry eventually self regulates, the government has a duty to protect the public when o
ver 30 million people are suffering from eating disordered behaviors."

Congresswoman Capps echoed the urgency for addressing this issue that leads, all too often, to behaviors that drive eating disorders, "Millions of Americans struggle with an eating disorder, and so many others struggle with a healthy body image, comparing themselves to an ideal that often does not exist. We know that while these altered images affect the norms and expectations of all who see them and research has shown that these psychological effects persist, even when the viewer knows that the images could be altered. This is especially impactful on our young people, particularly girls."

The EDC gives a shout out to ALL the many and varied individual activists and advocates who took the time to sign the petition. YOUR VOICE MATTERS and is making a difference!!

For more pictures from the event, please visit:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014 features the Truth In Advertising Act of 2014

Thank you to Jennifer Still at for writing about the Truth in Advertising Act of 2014.

As a related sidenote, we just want to remind everyone that this bill will not impede the right to free speech, in part because advertisements are commercial speech. Also, because the bill simply instructs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to report recommendations for regulatory framework with respect to advertising in order to promote truth-in-advertising and protect the consumers, in particular children and girls, from harm. To that end, Lois Capps said it so well, "Just as with cigarette ads in the past, fashion ads portray a twisted, ideal image for young women. And they’re vulnerable. As sales go up, body image and confidence drops."

Below are just a few reasons why the Eating Disorders Coalition teamed up with the dad who conceptualized the idea for this bill and with Members of Congress Representative Capps, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Congressman Ted Deutch to make the bill a reality:

Three of the most common mental health problems among girls (eating disorders, depression and depressed mood/self- esteem) are linked to media’s representations of women and girls.

42% of girls in 1st through 3rd grades want to be thinner.

51% of girls aged 9 -10 feel better about themselves when they are dieting.

53% of 13 year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies; 78% of 17 year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies.

80% of women feel worse about themselves after seeing a beauty advertisement.

By the time they are 17, children have seen 250,000 television commercials telling them they should be a decorative object, sex object or a body size they can never achieve.

There are three easy ways YOU can be an advocate of change:

Sign this petition:

Vote on PopVox:

Write or call your Members of Congress:

Thursday, April 24, 2014


The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, The Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action (EDC) and Mothers Against Eating Disorders (MAED) proudly announce the first annual M.O.M. March on DC, September 30, 2014!

This inaugural M.O.M (Mothers and Others) March will be an historic unification of moms, families, advocates and organizations dedicated to eating disorders and related issues, collaboratively marching together on the Nation's Capitol.

The mission of the M.O.M March is both simple and powerful: raise awareness of the prevalence, stigma and devastating consequences of eating disorders; unite people from around the world to advocate for those affected by eating disorders; honor those who have lost a loved one to an eating disorder; and educate Congress in order to influence federal policy related to eating disorders.

Eating disorders are the deadliest of all mental illnesses, yet access to treatment is gravely inadequate and people continue to suffer and die unnecessarily as a result.

Please join us in marching together on September 30, 2014, followed by advocating on the Hill at the EDC's National Lobby Day October 1, 2014. Together we will make a difference and ensure that not one more precious life is lost to these treatable diseases.