Category Archives: eating disorders

Reasons Why I Will NOT Boycott Seventeen (Hint: It’s not why you’d think)

By Sarah Binning, Marketing and Editorial Coordinator
Art by Elsa Moseley, 15,Oklahoma

If you’re a feminist, teen girl, reader of Seventeen, or healthy media activist (or a friend/relative to any of the above), you’ve probably heard about the amazing group of teen girls who recently petitioned Seventeen. Their request? They want this teen-centered publication to print real photos of diverse girls—without photo editing or enhancement of the images. The campaign, started by SPARK bloggers Julia Bluhm and Izzy Labbe, led a group of teen activists to hold a mock photo shoot outside Seventeen’s New York office. Armed with posters reading: “The magazine is for me—make it look like me!” and “Teen girls against Photoshop!” the girls waited for a chance to speak with Ann Shoket, Seventeen’s editor-in-chief.

Last week, someone tweeted me the news about Seventeen’s response: @TeenVoices, Seventeen denies girl’s request to stop photoshopping. Boycott Sept. issue. Use #notbuyingSept17 hashtag. PLS. RT.

Was it true? Did Seventeen really deny 25,000 signatures (which has since grown to more than 70,000)? I immediately started searching for related news articles. My heart sank when I was finally able to find an article confirming that the tweet was indeed true. After retweeting the #NotBuyingItSept17 hashtag and after several conversations with colleagues, teens, and activists, I’ve reconsidered and decided I’m not going to boycott Seventeen

My decision isn’t for the reason you would think. It’s not because I believe Seventeen’s statements that their publication is diverse and they do not enhance their photographs. I’m choosing not to boycott Seventeen because:

  1. I’d rather see changes occur willingly. I want Seventeen to see the light. I want them to understand that girls worldwide are unhappy with the size-zero, light-skinned, zit-free, cookie-cutter models we see today in their magazine. We want to see real girls. Let’s open the door for continued conversations with Seventeen and brainstorm ways they can begin to create healthier media.
  2. There are so few magazines, and resources in general, focused on teen girls.  I don’t want to be divisive and undermine another girls’ publication. I’d rather educate them about the unhealthy side effects of this constant stream of negative media. Low self-esteem, eating disorders, and teen depression are just a few of the issues that girls face today. There are steps all publications can take toward creating healthier media. Example: In 2009, French Elle printed a “no-makeup” issue. And in recent news, Vogue said they’ll no longer employ underage or underweight models.
  3. Boycotts are generally short lived. If enough hundreds of thousands of people banned together, we could probably make a significant impact in Seventeen’s revenue. But for how long? If Seventeen can just hang in there for a few more weeks, they’ll find a way to smooth this over with some good PR. Eventually something else will stir up public attention. Society will move on to boycotting something (or someone) else.
  4. Seventeen is not unique.  Like most businesses, Seventeen is a company that financially supports itself through advertising. They’re always in a constant struggle to keep their advertisers happy. And the reality is that advertisers need girls to feel ugly and ashamed so that we’ll buy their products, which “guarantee” us beauty. This issue is larger than just one magazine. Seventeen isn’t the only publication that uses extensive makeup, lightening, and photo editing. The issue lies much deeper in the roots of our society’s standards. Objectifying women and making us feel poorly about our bodies on purpose is not okay.

I’m not saying I’m going to run out and buy a copy of Seventeen magazine. (I don’t, in fact, buy the magazine on a regular basis.) You may or may not want to yourself.  If you’re morally opposed to the content inside the publication, it’s okay if you make a personal decision not to purchase it. What I am saying is that rallying your sisters together for a full-fledge boycott is not a fix-all solution.

Instead, I pledge to:

  1. Sign the petition, and talk about it with the teen girls in my life. Unlike my initial gut reaction to jump on board with the boycott, signing the petition and becoming actively involved (i.e. sharing and discussing this issue) has allowed me to truly think through and understand my personal viewpoint about this issue. I’ve digested the information and issue in a much deeper way than I would have had I just signed on for a boycott.
  2. Raise my voice to make my concerns known! Even by writing this blog, I’m getting my thoughts and concerns into the open. You can do the same. You can even write an Op-Ed for your local newspaper (or even The New York Times). If we leverage public forums, like blogs, twitter and petitions, we can hold our ground for much longer than if we were to just boycott. We can spark discussions, conversations, and maintain our momentum on the issue, not to mention, garner the support of tens of thousands of people easily. Being vocal about the issue will keep this healthy media issue in the spotlight.
  3. Tweet about the petition, and spread the word about how others can get involved.
  4. Share articles about the amazing work Julia, Izzy, and other girls worldwide are doing to promote more real images of girls, and healthy media, in general!
  5. Promote alternative magazines that already portray real girls without photoshopping them, such as Teen Voices. Our girls are gorgeous—just the way they are! But we also know that they are more than just their pretty faces, so we focus on their ideas and experiences, not just their looks.
  6. Become involved with organizations that empower teen girls and support healthy media and education for girls. To name a few: Teen Voices, SPARK, MissRepresentation, GRLZ Radio, Strong Women Strong Girls,, Girl Up, Girl Scouts, and She’s the First.
  7. Be a conscious consumer of media. When I look at an ad or watch a television show, I’m aware that these models and actresses are wearing makeup, and have their hair styled by professionals. I know the advertiser has a mission to sell me something, and I’m skeptical and analytical of their advertising strategies before deciding how I feel about their company and products.
  8. Promote acceptance of a wide variety of images of women’s body types.  Let girls and women see that just as there are a range of skin tones, there are many body types in the world, and many ways to be beautiful—au natural.  I rarely wear makeup, and have learned to embrace the fact that my thunder-thighs, big nose, and goofy ears are here to stay.
  9. Practice promoting positive body images by giving out compliments to friends, family, and even strangers about the ways they are already beautiful—without enhancements. And be sure to include compliments that don’t focus on their appearance at all. Thank those you love for being honest and trustworthy. Congratulate your colleagues for their organizational skills, or creative thinking. Because when all is said and done, it’s really inner beauty that matters most.

I’m sure that other traditional women’s and girls’ magazines and advertisers everywhere are thinking: “I’m glad this happened to Seventeen and not to us! What a press nightmare.” But I hope they’re all paying attention because Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and Abercrombie, you could be next. You need to be a part of this conversation too. We all do.

Run The World: Kathleen Hassan On Women’s Power Source

By Jillian Martin, Editorial Intern

Last month, Teen Voices participated in NEDAwareness week, held by the National Eating Disorder Association. At the same time, the Mother Caroline Academy and Education Center mentor program held a self-esteem-building event featuring “Confidence Coach” Kathleen Hassan. The school’s gymnasium was packed with middle-school students, their parents, and their mentors and Beyonce’s girl power single “Run The World (Girls),” which kicked off the event.

Hassan teaches the girls where their power comes from: positive thoughts.

“There are girls in this room who feel like they’re not good enough,” Hassan began. “Some are starving themselves. Some would do anything to fit in.”

At this event, Hassan inspired the audience, teaching them where their power comes from—not from putting others down to build yourself up, and not from the media, which sexualizes women and portrays an unattainable image of perfection.

According to Hassan, 85 percent of women and girls have felt worse about themselves after looking at a fashion magazine and 86 percent of self-talk (thoughts) is negative. This happens because, to their detriment, many women and girls today tend to seek their worthiness and confidence from outside forces.

As a healthier model, Hassan teaches girls to get their power from within, instead of from the media, by choosing love over fear. She said, “Thoughts become things… wanted or not.” We emit energy with our thoughts; if they are negative, we will attract negative people and situations, and the energies will feed off each other, becoming more and more negative. On the flip side, if we emit positive and powerful energies, we attract powerful and positive people.

Negative images and energies infiltrate the thoughts of all young girls, but Hassan said we all have an emotional guide system that gives us the tools to “recalculate” those thoughts to something positive.

Hassan taught the audience two strategies to recalculate and achieve. Give them a try so that you, too, can feel confident and worthy and choose love over fear.

Soerny Cruz, a graduate from the program, "achieves" in the final part of the Body Prayer.

The first, Hassan calls a “body prayer.” She called four girls with big dreams to the stage to help out. The first girl was “dream,” and she laid her head in her hands. The next was “believe,” and she held her hands over her heart. The third was “receive,” and she held her hands out open to take in the positive energies. The final girl was “achieve,” and she flexed her arms, showing strength. Within minutes, Hassan had the entire auditorium dreaming, believing, receiving, and achieving.

The second strategy is the use of affirmations. Hassan suggested that everyone pick one affirmation from the list that she showed (these short sayings were accompanied by inspiring photos and the melodic voice of Bruno Mars singing “You’re amazing, just the way you are”) and repeat it every day for a month, as it takes a month to create a new habit. Here are just a few of the affirmations:

  • I choose LOVE over FEAR
  • I am fit, strong, and healthy
  • Peace begins with me
  • Happiness is a choice
  • I am strong

Readmore about NEDAwareness week and Teen Voices’ Artist of the Month Contest and vote on the March art—March’s theme was “Beauty is More than Skin Deep.” Learnmore about Mother Caroline’s adult education, shining star, and mentoring programs, including events and how to get involved.

Beauty is More Than Skin Deep

By Kate Szumita, Editorial Intern

Art by Mary Davis, 15

In the United States, it is estimated that more than 10 million people of all ages struggle with the adverse effects of eating disorders every day. While the causes of these disorders vary, the effects are potentially fatal, and the National Eating Disorders Association is determined to help eliminate, or at least reduce this statistic.

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention and access to treatment of disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating. It strives to support affected individuals and their families and at the same time combat the causes. NEDA hopes to remove the stigma surrounding eating disorders through community-conscious activism.

For the past 25 years, NEDA has facilitated NEDAwareness Week, the collaboration of volunteers and experts in the fields of health, medicine, and social work seeking to create a nationally recognized support system. NEDAwareness week was last week, February 26th to March 3, and it helped spread the word that eating disorders are not a choice, but a disease, and there is help available. This year’s theme was “Everybody Knows Somebody.” Whether it’s you or someone you know who has battled an eating disorder, or if it’s something you’ve learned about and want to get behind the cause, NEDA wants your help in raising awareness of this widespread illness. Last year’s NEDAwareness Week recruited a record-breaking number of supporters spanning from all 50 states and 29 countries throughout the world

Like NEDA, Teen Voices wants you to love your body! In recognition of our proud partnership with NEDA, March’s theme for our Artist of the Month Contest is “Beauty is More than Skin Deep.” With the media’s perpetuation of the airbrushed, size-zero body as the standard for perfection, we realize that it can be hard to remember to “love the skin you’re in.” We’re dedicating the month of March to healthy bodies, healthy habits, and healthy attitudes in the hopes of raising awareness of body image and self-esteem issues and preventing eating disorders. Help us challenge unrealistic beauty standards and celebrate the things that make us unique—even the things we might consider “flaws.” Each month’s Artist of the Month Contest winner will be eligible to win Artist of the Year, with the prize of a full scholarship, including room and board, to the Pre-College Summer Art Studio in Boston a the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.

Find out how you can get involved with NEDA, participate in upcoming events, or contribute to our art contest in support of healthy, beautiful minds and bodies.

Pass the Mashed Potatoes? Eating Disorders and the Holidays


By Carolyn Schweitzer, Editorial Intern

Photo by Christina McCafferty, 18, Massachusetts

The holiday season, though “the most wonderful time of the year,” can also be the most stressful. As  a teen, besides end-of-the-semester schoolwork, there may also be trips to plan, cards to send, parties to attend, and presents to buy, not to mention the colder weather! Holidays can really take a toll on all of us, but this time of year can be especially difficult for those who struggle with eating disorders.

According to the Eating Recovery Center of Denver, Colorado, more than 11 million Americans struggle with an eating disorder. Major life events, such as leaving home for college, can cause those who are genetically predisposed to having eating disorders to develop them for the first time. In fact, the average age at which an eating disorder first develops is 19. The pressures of living away from home, class work, making new friends, and all around stress can trigger these unhealthy habits in some students. Approximately 10% of women in college are estimated to have an eating disorder.

Families and loved ones often don’t realize that their loved one has developed an eating disorder or may be at risk for one until they come home for the holidays. It’s important to be aware of how new college students are dealing with stress and of any possible problems that might have developed.

The Eating Recovery Center recently outlined five important warning signs that families and friends should keep in mind over winter break.

  1. Noticeable weight loss or weight gain since he or she entered college.
  2. Helping with the preparation of holiday meals but not eating them.
  3. Excessive exercise, even outdoors in poor winter weather conditions.
  4. Withdrawal from family and friends and avoidance of gatherings, even if he or she has not seen loved ones for months.
  5. Discussing college in a “stressed out” or obviously anxious manner or altogether avoiding conversations about school.

If you do notice any warning signs, set aside some time to talk to your friend or family member in a private place. Even if he or she denies any problems, be sure they know that you’re there for them. Showing someone with disordered eating that you care is important before, after, and during treatment. If someone does need professional help, be informed about the counseling services available on campus and nearby treatment programs that specialize in eating disorders. Asking for help is hard to do, but you can make it easier for them by simply being there.

During the holiday season, it’s easy to get wrapped up (pun intended!) in everything you have to do. But take some time out of your busy holiday schedule this year to check in with all of your friends and family. Let them know that you care. Keep in mind that early treatment is the best way to combat eating disorders and reach out now!

To learn more about eating disorders and what you can do to help, visit:

The National Eating Disorders Association:

Eating Recovery Center:


ED NOS: The Silent Sickness

By Fallon Kunz

Photo by Hanna Thieme, 16

ED NOS? What the heck does that stand for? It’s a diagnostic abbreviation that stands for Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Research shows that more than 50 percent of adults seeking treatment for eating disorders are diagnosed with ED NOS.

Eating disorders are very serious, and can be life threatening. They affect people of all genders, ages, backgrounds, and even weights.  Some are easier to recognize than others. All are characterized by severe disturbances in eating behavior and a distorted perception of body image.  Individuals suffering from eating disorders may use a variety of strategies to achieve an ideal weight, combat a fear of gaining weight, or cope with a seemingly uncontrollable situation. Here, a contributor shares the story of her own eating disorder struggles and diagnosis.

On July 19, 2010, my nurse practitioner confirmed what I had known for just over a year. Underneath the heading Diagnoses were the words infantile Cerebral Palsy, migraine headaches, and finally “eating disorder, unspecified.” Most people would be terrified of such a diagnosis. For me, it was a welcome relief. It meant I wasn’t crazy. It wasn’t all in my head. I had not imagined its existence or tricked myself into thinking I was ill. No, it was real. Alice* was listening, and she was going to help me.

Unspecified eating disorders are the most common type of eating disorders seen in outpatient clinics.  According to The Huffington Post, nonspecified eating disorders make up 70% of all diagnoses among patients with eating disorders.  Also known as ED NOS (eating disorders not otherwise specified), these disorders come in all shapes and sizes. ED NOS is a “blanket term.” Currently, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness (Fourth Edition) basically says a patient has ED NOS if he or she fails to meet all the diagnostic requirements for Anorexia or Bulimia.

Most of us know about the spotlight disorders. Anorexia and bulimia seem to get all the media’s attention. However, most people have no idea that other EDs (eating disorders) exist. Most of these lesser known disorders never enter the public’s consciousness or come up in a high school health class discussion. Some of these are Binge Eating Disorder (BED), Bulemiarexia, Food Addiction, Orthorexia, Non-Purging Bulimia, CS (chewing and spitting), and Pica. Each of these is unique. Each has its own set of symptoms, and treatment for them is often as individual as the patients themselves. However, they all are considered ED NOS by the medical community.

People with ED NOS may do some of the following behaviors:

  • Binge eat (eat abnormally large quantities of food in a short period of time—for example, eat an entire package of Oreos in an hour)
  • Hide food
  • Eat non-food items, such as chalk, dirt, crayons, etc. (aka  Pica)
  • Obsessively weigh themselves (e.g., step on the scale daily, or several times a week)
  • Eat very fast
  • Prefer to eat alone
  • Obsessively count calories
  • Always seem to be dieting
  • Systematically cut out entire food groups from his/her diet
  • Excessively use laxatives, diuretics, or vomit after meals (all forms of “purging”)
  • Skip meals
  • Exercise excessively

So what causes a person to develop ED NOS or another eating disorder? The short answer is that no one knows exactly. So to get some answers, I went straight to the source–women who suffer with ED NOS every day. Rachel believes she was genetically predisposed to an eating disorder. She has a family member with BED, and has been fighting various eating disorders for nearly 10 years. Emma’s ED NOS began when her daughter became addicted to drugs and alcohol. Nakita isn’t sure of a diagnosis, but she has been periodically binging and vomiting for 35 years. She isn’t sure what caused it, but it began in high school. She was an athlete and began this cycle to control her weight.

For me, there wasn’t one pivotal moment in my life that triggered my ED. What I can tell you is that I was always uncomfortable in my own skin…I was a very small child. This plus my Cerebral Palsy (CP) made me self-conscious. By eleven, I had accepted my disability. But my CP stunted my growth and I gained an incredible amount of weight. My new body came complete with acne and a “muffin top.” It was humiliating. I felt fat and unattractive. That year, I began binge eating. I regularly hid food in my bedroom, backpack, and purse. Diets were also regular occurrences. Bigger disappointments needed more food. Diets regularly failed me. This cycle only shoved me back toward the refrigerator. I continued this way throughout middle and high school. Shockingly, no one noticed. But then again, I was good at hiding it. Binge eating was never discussed in my health classes. This sounds unbelievable, but I thought my behavior was normal. I honestly had no clue I was developing ED NOS.

In college, this behavior escalated. Starving myself was never intentional. On a particularly busy day, I simply forgot to eat. After bingeing, I never wanted to eat because my stomach hurt so much.  This pattern of bingeing and starving continued until last year. God began dealing with me about my eating habits in May. By October, I had found a support group and attended my first Overeaters Anonymous meeting online. By January of 2010, my family and friends knew. As of this writing, I have not binged in almost six months and haven’t starved in two weeks.

Are you reading this and seeing yourself or a loved one here? If so, what do you do?

First, you tell someone. If you are concerned for a loved one, tell them so. It’s a difficult conversation to have, but it is vital. If you’re suffering, tell someone trustworthy and supportive. A doctor, parent, or teachers are safe bets. It is important to remember that ED NOS is just as serious as other eating disorders.

Second, you get educated. Use books, the internet, and your medical professional to get a handle on what you’re dealing with. Some of the books I’ve found helpful are The Battlefield of the Mind and Women, Food, and God.

Third, get treatment. Treatment does not necessarily mean inpatient eating disorder rehab. However, this is always an option. ED’s can be treated by seeing a therapist, counselor, nutritionist, or other expert. I have personally known some people who have successfully treated their eating disorders through 12-step programs such as Overeaters Anonymous.

I hope this article has given you a better understanding of ED NOS. It is a very serious illness that requires treatment. ED NOS is just as valid as any other eating disorder. If you suspect that you or someone you love has it, please get help.  It is important to remember that it is possible to recover.

* Author’s note: To protect the privacy of others, all names-with the exception of authors cited-have been changed. This article is dedicated with all my love to the brave women who shared their hearts with me for this article and to the ladies at DailyStrength who have blessed my life with their friendships.

For a comprehensive guide to information, news, resources, and research efforts related to eating disorders, visit the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website at

Editors Note 10-5-11: Want to  make “Real the New Ideal?” Join NEDA for their tween summit on  body image, self-esteem and media, October 15, 2011.