National Eating Disorders Association

The first time I got in trouble for clothing at school, or got “dress-coded,” I was 12. It was around the time that wearing leggings and jean skirts was super “in.” That day I wore a jean skirt, likely an inch shorter than school allowed, black leggings to cover up the rest of my legs so I would not get in trouble, and a scoop-neck T-shirt.

“Hey, look at that tree, Annie. That’s just like you. Your roots go down so deep, and one day you will be like that tree—reaching out, expanding, flourishing so that you can help others."

So, you want to live with six girls? Fabulous. They will be the most caring, compassionate, and intelligent people you have ever encountered—but when you put so many people in an enclosed space, issues tend to manifest.

If you notice something on your school’s campus that you strongly disagree with, you may feel moved to do something about it. One way to fight for change is by creating a petition against a program or policy. But where do you even start? Here are some helpful steps for working on a petition that can bring about real change on campus.

1. Use your personal experiences.

Last February, I finally told my family about my six-year struggle with an eating disorder, and I decided to pursue treatment. It was terrifying but I knew I needed it. Even though it was my choice, I was really freaked out.

I had never talked about my eating disorder with anyone before, and in the span of two weeks I ended up telling more people than I can remember—doctors, therapists, friends, my parents, intake specialists. It was all very overwhelming.

Stephanie Covington Armstrong doesn’t fit the stereotype of someone with an eating disorder. And that’s exactly why she wrote her book, Not All Black Girls Know How to Eat: A Story of Bulimia. Armstrong is sharing her story in an effort to expand the public’s perceptions of who struggles with eating disorders and poor body image.

We caught up with her to talk about myth-busting, what it takes to gain true confidence, and why she thinks our cultural obsession with celebrity is hurting us.

Jessica Smith, an Olympian, a motivational speaker, and a social media figurehead, has a long list of impressive accomplishments that trail her name. The newest one? Children’s book author. 

One would never guess that someone like Jessica, with a grand history of success, would have faced so many obstacles in her path. Born missing her left forearm and later suffering from severe third degree burns covering her body as a young child, the concept of body image was one that hit close to home. 

It is widely recognized that there is stigma towards mental health (vs. physical health) problems. The perception is that many people with psychological disorders somehow “choose” to have them, that it's their “fault” for being “weak,” that they could just “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” and “snap out of it” if they wanted to, and that they deserve less empathy overall. 

“I think there’s something seriously wrong with me,” I tell my twin brother after our morning junior high school choir practice.

I sit on the ground in the hallway, my head in my hands, gulping down air and gasping as I can’t breathe. Waves of nausea wash over me. I shiver and tremble violently.

“I feel sick. I’m really scared,” I continue to tell my brother.

My body starts to feel like pins and needles. My chest hurts. My vision gets blurry. I feel hot and cold. Right then, I knew I was going to die.

For me, navigating school while suffering from an eating disorder was very hard. No one is watching you, and with a perfection-oriented environment it’s so easy for your eating disorder to creep in and take over.

But you can quiet the voice and take control. Every time I went back into school I never was able to finish a semester. Then I would judge myself more harshly because I couldn’t finish a semester. It was a bad cycle.