I remember the first time someone openly discussed their eating disorder with me. Becca likely doesn’t even realize her impact upon me, but it has been truly tremendous. Eating disorders were kept on the down low when I was growing up, but here’s the thing: our youth worry about their bodies. And sometimes they obsess and they fixate on changing their bodies into a different, “idealized” body type.
Becca taught me, through the work and love of HIPS (Health, Image, Power, Success), that speaking up is the way to help. And the fact is, that people get eating disorders. There is no gender, no race, no size, nor shape, and anyone can struggle with their own path. We all can play an essential role in their paths to recovery by talking about it. Prevention and recovery start with education towards ending the stigma.
HIPS was the one thing I did in high school. I hated going to school, and I had no desire to participate in extracurriculars. To be honest, other than my friends being in the club, I am not sure what drew me to it. But once I was in, I was hooked. I promised myself after my senior year that no matter where I ended up for college, I would start my own chapter of HIPS.When I got to Curry College, a little bit of elbow grease and a whole lot of love and support helped me achieve my goal.
While HIPS has become a health club in every sense of the word, I held myself to a silent swear that I wouldn’t give up on ED education and advocacy. This past February we hosted our second annual NEDA Week, bringing in different speakers to speak out to our students on their own journeys. In February of 2015, our very first speaker for Curry HIPS’ NEDA Week was Lindsey Hall. Lindsey is the brilliant advocate, survivor, and writer of “I Haven’t Shaved in 6 Weeks. All the Truths About Eating Disorders, Rehab, and Recovery.”
The impact that Lindsey had on our small community will last a lifetime. One student, someone who attended for himself, by himself, was given the opportunity to talk to Lindsey one-on-one about his own struggles. This student was afraid that he was suffering from an eating disorder, but he wasn’t sure if his struggle was valid. Talking to Lindsey validated that he mattered, and that no one’s struggle looks the same. We drove her back to the train station that night, and the warmth swelling from my heart was unlike anything I have yet to experience since. Something we had done was impacting people’s lives on the most person level possible.
Today Curry HIPS participated in our very first Boston NEDA Walk. We had ten participants, which was enough to fill up a Curry van and tow us all around. Nervous as we struggled to find parking and found ourselves late to the Opening Ceremony, none of us knew what to expect. Would people be crying? Would this be a celebration of recovery and hope?
Excited to make our mark on the day, and to share some positivity throughout our fellow walkers, we were extra excited when we found out we each got our very own NEDA Walk shirts. Along with the shirts, we received canvas drawstring bags, sponsored by Aerie’s campaign #aerieREAL. We wore each with pride. Before the walk started, we were given time to explore tables of the sponsors of the walk, where many of us got face paint and temporary tattoos. As I write this, four and a half hours later, I still have yet to scrub off either.
When the walk began, everyone piled onto the track at Newton North High School, and cheerful music began to pump from the speakers; when our feet hit the track, “Shake it Off” and “Cheerleader” played. Every half of the track we walked, the MC would stop us and tell us to either interact with one another in some way, or to repeat certain phrases. We went around and high-fived other walkers, asked strangers who they were walking for, and gave ourselves hugs. We sang “Let it Go”, shouted “We believe in recovery!”, and dropped onto the track and did random yoga poses. We wanted to bring the energy for the survivors and loved ones around us, and I feel that we really succeeded.
Today, I walked for a lot of people, and for a lot of reasons. I walked for Becca, for Lindsey, and for our 2015 NEDA Walk speakers & their families. I walked for my friend who wants to remain nameless, for the boy who reached out to Lindsey, and I walked for every person who has ever felt inadequate, and in such a desperate need to change the way they look, harming their beautiful selves in the process. Today I walked for myself, and for anyone who didn’t have someone to walk for them. And next year, we’ll come back stronger than before, walking for even more survivors.
This is #WhyINEDAWalk.