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
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