Long Island Young Amazings Want Everyone to Know: “You are Beautiful”

Posted Feb 16 2012, 2:51 pm in , , , , ,


For my day job as a software technical writer, I’ve had to learn all about social networking – weigh the risks, know the benefits, tell the trends from the fads. It was this research that spurred my novel, SEND (August, 2012, Sourcebooks, Inc.), a story about a teen who exploits technology in the worst possible way. When I hear about young people using social networks in positive ways, I get pretty excited. This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Liana Rosenman, one of the founders of Project HEAL, a non-profit organization begun in 2008 after a Facebook reunion, which helps get treatment for those unable to afford it.

Long Island natives Liana, 20, and co-founder Kristina Saffran, 19, were recently named two of Glamour Magazine’s Young Amazings at the 2011 Women of the Year Awards. Their efforts have raised over $150,000 entirely used for eating disorder treatment. Project HEAL now has a Clinical Review Board whose members review applications for treatment scholarships twice a year and a panel of Teen Activists dedicated to taking the Project HEAL message to their communities.

I asked Liana what made her decide to take on such an ambitious project on the heels of a torturous recovery of her own. As amazing as Glamour’s award was, glory was never a factor. Liana said, “I was diagnosed when I was twelve and suffered until maybe eleventh grade.” It was during her treatment when she met Kristina Saffran. Treatment, Liana told me, “…taught me coping mechanisms. Our bodies require fuel and that means food. You have to learn to what’s healthy.”

Liana lost touch with Kristina, but reunited about a year later, after reconnecting on Facebook, which in turn, led to some nights out. It was during one of their get-togethers when the rigors of recovery as an ongoing process hit home. “We were in a rest room one night, over-hearing the ways girls– and even adults– bash their bodies.” Negative self-image is a big contributor to eating disorders and the best way to correct negative self-talk? “Remember that no one’s perfect and that’s what makes us beautiful.”

The media’s obsessive coverage of every little dimple in Hollywood creates most of our negative self-images. But a new danger is quickly outpacing magazines and movies and it’s probably already in your living room. Social networks are making it easier for young girls to form and sustain the warped mental images that can lead to eating disorders. A recent Huffington Post article about ‘thinspos’ reveals this alarming trend.

I squirmed uncomfortably during this part of our chat. Earlier that afternoon, a tweet about pretty noses had reminded me of the taunts I’d endured when in my teens and I was feeling over-sensitive as a result. As Liana spoke, it occurred to me that I’ve quite literally spent several decades of my life hating something that’s part of me for no other reason than people told me to. There’s a certain amount of liberation when you free yourself from the mindless pursuit of unattainable perfection. I shared a personal story with Liana. When in my twenties, a doctor I’d consulted about adult orthodontia instead suggested plastic surgery. First, he recommended disconnecting my jaw to realign my bite, a procedure that would also correct my ‘weak chin.’ Second, he wanted to do not one but several rhinoplasties to first shave the width of my nose and then resculpt it into the ‘perfect’ shape. I declined because I couldn’t answer a question.

“Where does it stop?” Liana interjected.

Exactly. As I’ve matured, I’ve learned to fix the things I can, like my fitness level, my sugar addiction, and my creeping weight, and to accept the things I can’t. I’ll never be a five-foot-ten blonde. But Liana doesn’t want us to stop there. Instead of accepting our flaws the way we accept death and taxes, “Embrace them,” she says.

I wonder how many of us ever tell ourselves we’re beautiful?

I asked Liana about her treatment. “I had no role models. No one to look up to. I didn’t know what recovery looked like or felt like. Now, I do. I want people who want help to know they don’t forever have to be The Girl With The Eating Disorder. Recovery does not have to define you.”

That brought our conversation to another key component in Project HEAL’s mission – to make it possible for those who want treatment to afford it. “A lot of insurances don’t cover eating disorder treatment.” Project HEAL has a qualified clinical review board, whose members examine each request for funds and grant two each year based on financial and motivational factors. If you’re a teen struggling with a negative body image or eating disorder, “Get immediate help.” Liana suggests. “The faster you’re treated, the easier recovery is.” If you’re a parent, you can get advice from other parents or from Liana and Kristina directly. If you want to help, visit the website to learn how you can make a donation or start a teen chapter in your school.

“Recovery is a choice.” Liana finishes.

What questions would YOU ask Liana? Comment here.  If you need help, here is Project Heal’s contact information: 

Website: theprojectheal.org

Email: ProjectHealed@gmail.com

Twitter: @TheProjectHEAL

Facebook: Project Heal







6 responses to “Long Island Young Amazings Want Everyone to Know: “You are Beautiful””

  1. Ali says:

    That is a really wonderful project, and I hadn’t heard about it until reading this.

    Thank you, Patty, for sharing this. And thank you, Liana, for the work that you do.

  2. This is a fantastic project!! Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. I love when you share projects like this. Even though I’m in a different country, it makes me happy to know the next generation are getting it so right. We don’t hear enough of stories like this.

  4. Patty Blount says:

    I’m so impressed by these young women and glad you enjoyed the post. Please share so they get the recognition they deserve!

  5. Jeannie Moon says:

    It’s great to hear about these young ladies doing something that is so positive.

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