Friday, April 29, 2011

Mercy High School Students Against Destructive Decisions

"There's no place like home. There's no place like home."

Mercy will always be just home-- there is nothing like being surrounded by red plaid and black buck shoes and the infectious sensation you get when you enter our doors. It has been a decade since I had walked through those doors for the first time, and yet it was as if I had never left. I sunk into my seat in the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Auditorium, turned around and inserted myself into the girl talk that was ensuing behind me just moments before my presentation.

Historically, SADD has been dedicated to helping young people say no to drinking and driving. When I was contacted to speak today, I was happy to find that the organization had expanded their mission to provide students with positive strategies to prevent all types of destructive decisions. And this is where my eating disorders come into play.

Despite today's incredible opportunities for life and career development, my chance for personal and professional happiness was nearly cut short by the choices I made, putting physical image ahead of health.

I talked about being a minority in the middle school I attended-- bullying has made national headlines in recent months, but it is by no means a new phenomenon. After the assembly, I was approached by a young woman who had been singled out during her own childhood because of her dark complexion. Boy can I relate! The moment I was identified as being different was the moment I began to wish I were just like everyone else.

From a 14 year old girl who was living a lie to a 27 year old woman who embraces what makes me unique and encourages others to do the same… I shared my evolution as a Mercy girl. We all have our own journeys to take, but what is great about this institution, is that it fosters an environment that gives all individuals the opportunity to succeed and discover their best selves.

Thank you Uma Schroeder, SMAS, the officers of SADD, the faculty and students at MHS for your time and support today.


Photo below is of myself, SADD officers and SADD moderator Ms Schroeder.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Maryvale Preparatory School

Thank you to the Director of Counseling Cathy Cunnane at Maryvale Preparatory School for extending her congratulations to me and requesting that I speak with an outstanding group of young women about my history with eating disorders today. There is always a little trepidation about stepping into unfamiliar territory. Would they listen? Would they care if I wasn't an alum? Could I relate?

As promised, I was welcomed by a captive and extremely receptive audience. I was inspired by the courage they had to voice their concerns and ask questions. Thank you for making me feel right at home!

It made me realize that the issues regarding body image are not unique to the school we fact, they may be the universal thread in the fabric of just being a young woman in today's society.

These sessions are always just as powerful for me as they are for those I am speaking to. I find myself evolving and my lectures more engaging as my confidence builds and I see that what I have to say, truly resonates with them.

Today was especially powerful because I had disclosed something I had not shared before. A few months ago, I returned to Sheppard Pratt. I saw a few old habits creep their way back into my daily routine-- calorie counting in my head, restricting the foods I was eating and turning to coffee to curb my appetite. Now, I have regularly scheduled conversations with my psychologist and frequent meetings with my nutritionist that keep me on track.

I was embarrased to admit it and nearly cut it out of my presentation-- I felt like a complete fraud. I had spent the past two years, parading around the state, telling everyone I had overcome these terrible diseases. But there I was. Back at the Center for Eating Disorders. But there is great strength in asking for help. This is my reality-- it has been a long process and without continuing professional help, who knows where I would be today.

These struggles will always be a part of who I am, and I am OK with that.

The sunflowers are beautiful and have brightened up my apartment quite nicely! The fiery blooms remind me of the passion and joy I felt today, despite the downpoor heard roaring during the assembly. "After a hurricane, comes a rainbow."

All my best and I look forward to hearing from you!

Maryvale Preparatory School is an all girls’ college preparatory school in the tradition of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Visit

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Two New Eating Disorders?

In preparing for this week's speaking engagements, a friend of mine (ahem, Latoya) turned me to an article featured on today that explores two new types of disordered eating. Turns out... I am quite familiar with both.

1) Selective Eating-- individuals allow themselves to consume a small range of foods. Everyone gets into habits of eating certain foods, I know, but for those that have heard me speak before, you realize I took it to the EXTREME.

As a student athlete in high school, I would run upwards of 8 miles a day after having only coffee (for breakfast), and a pear and half a bag of mini pretzels (for lunch), and water throughout the day to fill an empty and noisy tummy. Today I have a strong distate for both items.

As you can imagine, this will lead to significant deficiencies. This past fall, I was hospitalized for chronic anemia. Over several days, I was given 4 units of whole blood, potassium and other essential nutrients. My body had become so accustomed to running on "E" that I showed little sign of fatigue, light headedness, shortness of breath, etc. In fact, I had run 5 miles the morning I was admitted. It's amazing what your body will do to survive.

2) Orthorexia-- it is a term used to describe a fixation with healthy eating. I.e. those affected may avoid procesed foods, animal products or other ingredients considered to be unhealthy.

My junior year in high school I decided to be a vegetarian. Much to my family's confusion, I eliminated all meats. Malnutrition ensued.

Although this idea has not been recognized as an official mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association, practioners continue to document the damaging results of these habits.

Thank you for the tip and topic of a great blog post. For the original article, visit

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Get Real Barbie Campaign"

College student, Galie Slayen, made a life-sized Barbie look alike to highlight the unrealistic proportions of the doll as a part of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. The model she created had the following measurements: 39in breasts, an 18in waist and 33in hips.

Having fought a battle with anorexia herself, this was her way of letting others know how distorted the perception young girls have about themselves and women around them.

For more information on the Get Real Barbie Campaign and Galie, see her interview with HLN’s Dr. Drew posted today on cnn:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Baltimore Prep School Tour

I will be wearing a lot of red this week as my visits to the Baltimore Prep schools continue-- next stop... Maryvale Prep and Mercy High School.

I'm looking forward to hosting conversations with some of the most honest and oustanding young women in town. We'll be tackling issues such as media messages, cultural awareness and acceptance, self esteem and others.

See you then!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

D.A.R.E Commencement

Thank you to Claude Nelson, Maryland State D.A.R.E. coordinator, Maryland D.A.R.E and the Immaculate Heart of Mary school in Parkville for inviting me to be today's keynote speaker for this year's commencement ceremony.

Congratulations to all students completing their curriculum and special award winners!

During the year, these students were provided tools on how to deal with peer pressure and make healthy decisions regarding drug use. No, I have never used drugs but the students found out that I did encounter something in my life that was just as destructive-- and that is eating disorders.

Not everyone has to face the physical barriers I did in their day to day lives, yet all too often we live with other, less obvious barriers that hold us back from finding and realizing our dreams like our inner thoughts and feelings.

The road to Miss Maryland began with me and my dream of winning the title. My message to them, D.A.R.E. to dream and don't let anyone, especially yourself, prevent you from getting what you want out of life!

Photos courtesy of IHM.