Friday, November 7, 2014

Be Curious, Not Judgmental

Because we're pretty used to companies like Victoria’s Secret marketing products in the way that they did in their recent The Perfect "Body" campaign, it takes a lot for many of us to 'get our panties in a bunch' over such ads.  However, Victoria's Secret's response to complaints about their The Perfect "Body" ad was rather thought-provoking, so we wanted to share with you a few thoughts in case you saw their "response" to consumer complaints about the campaign. 

We are not here to say that the women in the original The Perfect "Body" advertisement are healthy, unhealthy, unrealistic, or anything of the sort; after all, we cannot, and should not, judge a person's health or un-health just by looking at them (ever). Were they airbrushed?  Yes, likely they were. And you know we, and many of you, take issue with that. But that's not what we take issue with today.  What we take issue with today is that Victoria's Secret's response to several impassioned complaints, was to edit their advertisement slogan to read, "A body for every body"...all-the-while this amended slogan accompanied 'models' of similar height and shape as in the original advertisement.  The Founder of +Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), +Chevese Turner, called the edited slogan, "Insulting."   We agree. However, we also found one good thing about their insulting response, and that is: they really missed the boat with any attempt at fooling us with any uber-subliminal advertising; because it's actually really blatant. Right? It's not like they fooled many people into thinking: "Gee whiz, Victoria's Secret REALLY cares about promoting a healthy body image for every body. What an awesome new slogan and diversity of models!"  And yet, the sad fact remains: they probably did fool a lot of people in to buying their "Perfect Shape" product.  Our hope is that this response by Victoria’s Secret might serve as a wake-up call to everyone who spends their money there: you get what you pay for, including rather shoddy responses to a call for less perfection and more body diversity.  But if Victoria's Secret is where you choose to spend your money, we’re not judging you or telling you to stop.  We’re simply calling your attention to, and asking you to pause and consider, the way this company responded to the voices of many concerned advocates

The purpose of this blog isn’t only to shine light on Victoria’s Secret’s most recent ‘no-surprise-there’ advertisement.  We also wanted to bring up something over which eating disorder advocates and activists have voiced concern more and more lately and goes hand-in-hand with The Perfect “Body” concerns and complaints: Many companies seem to ‘promote’ a certain body type via their advertising (and it’s generally the body of a tall, thin, white woman); and many companies like Victoria’s Secret and La Perla lingerie use mannequins and models that have ribs showing.  Many of us activists and advocates do not, in the least, like what we see when we see these ads and mannequins, if for no other reason than because we are all too aware that the dissemination of unrealistic body standards has been linked to eating disorders.  So we find ourselves wanting to DO SOMETHING about these mannequins and models, and our gut reaction is often to scream, “OMG! Are you nuts? Pull that sickly looking mannequin with the ribs showing out of your store now!”, or “Hello?! Use more models of darker skin tones, because um, gee guess what: not everyone is “white”!”   As leaders in the field of eating disorder advocacy, we have been giving a lot of thought to what kind of advocacy action and message we can create (short of calling for Congress to ban size “000” (triple zero), mannequins with ribs showing and/or celebrities who “look anorexic” selling products), to constructively address these issues.  What we need to consider is that if we as advocates begin judging a person’s or mannequin’s health by his/her/its appearance, then we perpetuate the myth that you can tell if someone is healthy, ill or has an eating disorder, just by looking at them.  If we say one ‘extreme’ size is not ok because it “promotes eating disorders,” we also suggest that the opposite extreme is true --which is size discrimination at best, weight-bullying at worst.  Our field, including you as EDC advocates, has worked long and hard to dispel the myths that you can tell the health of someone by what they look like/what size they wear, and we don’t want to undo that worthy work.

Therefore, our call to action is this:  We will advocate to encourage the promotion of healthy bodies and healthy body images, and honor the fact that healthy bodies come in a variety of colors, ages, genders, shapes and sizes!!  We will advocate to urge caution that you cannot tell by looking at someone if they are healthy or ill, or if they have an eating disorder.  We will advocate to educate that being judged by weight or appearance is a long-standing and harmful battle that millions with (and without) eating disorders and their loved ones have faced, and that far too many patients have gone to their doctor to report their behaviors and symptoms, only to be told they look “fine,” their doctor “wishes I had more patients as thin as you,” or, “you don’t look underweight,” rather than their health concerns being taken seriously and looked at objectively.  Finally, we will advocate to encourage all people that we must not make judgment calls about what a person or mannequin looks like on the outside, or what size clothes they wear; we must look beyond what we see on the outside, lest our good intentions serve to perpetuate the myth that you can tell just by looking at someone whether or not they are ill, healthy, or suffering an eating (or other ‘invisible’) disorder.
As advocates linked by a cause, we have power.  Let’s raise our voices together to “Speak Out and Speak Up!”, each in our own unique way, and let’s do so with a kind and enlightened approach, including by appreciating all bodies and striving for health for all, regardless of size.

Lastly, we just want to say to each of you: please don't ever let anyone’s marketing influence you to believe anything less than the truth that YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL BECAUSE YOU ARE ALIVE!! ...and part of being alive is being uniquely you, aging, having a body that isn't in need of airbrushing, and not comparing your body to the body of anyone else. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL BECAUSE YOU ARE ALIVE!! That's not a slogan designed to sell you anything. That's a 'slogan' to simply remind you of the TRUTH :-)

~Thank you for your advocacy.  We look forward to seeing you soon at National Lobby Day, Spring 2015 to "Speak Out and Speak Up!" ~

(ps; we'll announce the date for spring Lobby Day just as soon as the Congressional calendar is released)

blog written and edited by: Kathleen MacDonald and Sarah Ohanesian

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Adolescents and OTC Weight-Loss Supplements

Eating Disorders Coalition Board Member, Bryn Austin, Sc.D., helped author two very important articles on adolescents and the use of over-the-counter dietary supplements for "weight control" (aka: weight loss).  "Over-the-Counter and Out-of-Control: Legal Strategies to Protect Youths From Abusing Products for Weight Control" was published in the American Journal of Public Health.  "The Dangerous Mix of Adolescents and Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss and Muscle Building: Legal Strategies for State Action" was published in the Journal of Public Health Management Practice.

Both articles raise important considerations necessary to address this dangerous mix.  The full articles can be read here: Adolescents and OTC Weight-Control Supplements

Two news articles came out about Dr. Austin's, and her colleagues', supplements study.  The news articles do a great job summarizing the key points for what state governments can do about the problem of dietary supplements marketed for weight control and muscle building:

Thank you, Dr. Austin, for allowing us to share these articles with our advocates.

The EDC welcomes your advocacy.  If you would like to get involved, please visit our website and sign up to be an "Individual Advocate" or email: with your advocacy ideas.

Advocate Action Alert on BMI

Dear Advocates,

Yesterday we shared the exciting news with you that as a result of YOU using your voice to advocate for Members of Congress to sign onto the “Dear Colleague letter” addressed to Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) regarding BMI screening in schools, CDC decided to IMMEDIATELY start working on several changes*.  That CDC acted so quickly is NOTHING SHORT OF AMAZING (miraculous really); rarely do things happen this fast on Capitol Hill.  CDC responded so quickly, in large part because of YOUR ADVOCACY. 

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

However, despite the immediate actions already being taken by CDC, there is more to be done and we need you to help ensure CDC follows through on the requests of the Dear Colleague letter. We need you and your friends, family, colleagues, clients (if appropriate) to call your Member of the House of Representatives and ask them to sign on to the Dear Colleague letter by Close Of Business (COB), Monday, October 27, 2014.
If you would like to use your voice and be part of the solution that addresses school-based BMI screenings, please make one very simple, yet very important, phone call. All the details on how to make your call can be found here: Advocate Action Alert.

To each of you, for all of your advocacy and belief in the EDC championing this issue on Capitol Hill for you and with you, I cannot say thank you enough.  But we must not yet rest yet. We must make our calls. We must get as many signatures as possible by COB, Monday, October 27, 2014. We must...we can...we will...together.   

Our work continues, ~Kathleen

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Together WE DID IT!! (and there's more to be done...!)

Dear EDC Advocates:

I can barely contain myself as I type up this blog!! 

We ("we" includes all +EDCoalition1 Member Organizations and every single advocate (aka: EACH OF YOU)) just got HUGE news from Congressman Ted Deutch's office regarding +Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and our advocacy on school-based BMI screening, surveillance and reporting!

Today we learned that CDC reviewed the Dear Colleague letter Congressman Deutch's office initiated and that YOU advocated for, both in-person and virtually, on October 1, 2014.  As a result of the Dear Colleague letter and Joel Richard, Ted Deutch's amazing staffer, having a conversation on our behalf with CDC about the concerns expressed within the Facts and Concerns About School-Based BMI Screening, Surveillance and Reporting and the Dear Colleague letter, CDC decided to IMMEDIATELY start working on several changes to improve availability of information to schools conducting in-school screenings!! These immediate changes include:
  • CDC will update changes to the BMI measurement in schools information available on their Healthy Youth webpage:
    • Create a web page that emphasizes the safeguards and considerations outlined within the BMI Measurement in Schools journal article and executive summary
    • Send out the new page to CDC grantees and CDC partner organizations to disseminate
    • Offer the new page to the Department of Education to send out through their grantees and partner networks
  • Provided targeted webinars on this topic to:
    • Department of Education grantees (e.g., PEP grantees)
    • Presidential Youth Fitness Program grantees
    • CDC grantees funded for school health strategies (note: these make take more time to schedule and/or record)
  • Add cautionary, safeguard language to CDC’s BMI tool for school calculator webpage.

When I had the honor of becoming the EDC's Policy & Communications Director on June 1, 2014, the EDC President,  +Johanna Kandel, and I immediately agreed that BMI screening in schools was an issue we wanted the EDC to champion on behalf of families, treatment providers, researchers, sufferers; on behalf of ALL those impacted by school-based BMI screening.  We had heard too many horror stories from parents, students, school nurses, teachers and others, about some of the ways this practice was taking place in so many schools, and we knew that something needed to be done to put an end to the irresponsible and oftentimes harmful screening practices. 
In early August 2014, Johanna and I met with Joel in Congressman Deutch's office to describe the problems that many of you had relayed to us in private conversations and emails in which you detailed the unsettling (at best) ways that your child, you, your best friend, etc., had endured a BMI screening in school.  Joel listened to us detail your concerns and immediately took the issue to the Congressman.  The next thing we knew, Joel let us know that the Congressman was willing to author a Dear Colleague letter to address the issue with CDC.  Thanks to the Congressman and Joel for their hard work, they provided us the Dear Colleague letter in time for our fall National Lobby Day so that YOU could fight back against this practice by asking Members of Congress to sign their name to the letter and get the attention of CDC.  That CDC has acted so quickly is NOTHING SHORT OF AMAZING (miraculous really); rarely do things happen this fast on Capitol Hill.  CDC responded so quickly in large part because of YOUR ADVOCACY!!

HOWEVER, despite the immediate action by CDC, there is more to be done and we need you to help ensure CDC follows through on the requests of the Dear Colleague letter (which was updated since Joel's conversation with can find the revised letter here)  We need you and your friends, family, colleagues, clients (if appropriate) to call your Member of the House of Representatives and ask them to sign on to the Dear Colleague letter by Close Of Business (COB), Monday, October 27, 2014.

As a result of CDC's already-acknowledged commitment to properly address this issue, the Dear Colleague letter has been revised to include two very "easy asks" that are zero-cost (a huge plus!).  The revised Dear Colleague asks CDC "for additional efforts to communicate guidance and recommended best practices, and coordinate with the Department of Education so that schools can administer BMI screening without inflicted unintended harm on students."  (The Dear Colleague letter is also now being copied to the Department of Education's Secretary Duncan.)

To each of you, for all of your advocacy and belief in the EDC addressing this issue for you, with you, together, I cannot say thank you enough for allowing us the honor of championing this cause with you on Capitol Hill.  But we must not yet rest yet. We must make our calls. We must get as many signatures as possible by COB, Monday, October 27, 2014. We must...we can...we will...together.

Our work continues, ~Kathleen  

The Eating Disorders Coalition is so very appreciative to the following organizations and researcher for their collegial spirit in collaborating with us to create the "Facts and Concerns About School-Based BMI Screening, Surveillance and Reporting" document. Without your expertise and dedication to working together as a group to flush things through and suss things out, the document would not have come together so thoroughly. Thank you: The Academy for Eating Disorders (AED),   +Binge Eating Disorder Association, +F.E.A.S.T. Videos (Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders), Strategic Planning Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders (STRIPED) and +kendrin sonneville.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

One Week Ago Today

Debra Schlesinger, Nicole's mom and Founder of Mothers Against Eating Disorders (MAED)
Dear friends:

One week ago today, many of you were here in Washington, DC, on the West Lawn of the Capitol, standing in the midst of countless advocates, moms, friends, family, providers, treatment centers, virtual Marchers/advocates...

One week ago today, though we stood beneath the Capitol Dome, the dome did not cast a shadow on us. No, in fact WE were the ones who cast our shadow over the Capitol Dome. We cast our shadow of united voices, power, strength, hope, passion, resilience, hands clapping, hearts breaking, tears falling, arms hugging, and butterflies flying...

One week ago today, we stood together because we know that together we will not fall apart. Together, we know our message that, "Eating disorders are serious, there IS hope and Congress CAN make a difference!" WILL be heard. Our message WILL resound from beneath the Capitol Dome through the Halls of Congress, and it WILL be heard by the President...

One week ago today, we joined together to combat the deadliest of all mental illnesses, the insidious monster we call "eating disorder." We wept as we cried out, "NO MORE GREEN SHIRTS!"...

Soon, "one week ago today" will turn into one month ago today, two months, six months... But I believe this without a doubt: We will not lose conviction. We will not diminish our call to action. We will not give up. We WILL continue our advocacy. We WILL continue to educate Congress. We WILL continue to do every single thing we can to ensure "no more green shirts!" at the next March. And we WILL, one month from now, two months from now, six months from now...we will still remember the emotions that came when hugging each other for the first time; we will still tell ED, just as forcefully as one week ago, to, "Get Back!"; we will still well-up with tears when we hear Wind Beneath My Wings; we will still call up a strength within us to USE OUR VOICE and make a difference; we will still stand together until legislation passes; and we will still remember making history, together, one week ago today.

Thank you so very much for coming to DC, for Marching, for Lobbying... I am a better person, and Policy Director, for having met you and walking this journey with you by my side.

Our work continues, together. ~Kathleen

EDC National Lobby Day, October 1, 2014