Project Stop The Stigma Takes Eating Disorder Stereotypes Head On

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Check out my interview with Amanda Nedzwecky, founder of Project Stop The Stigma, an organization passionate about educating the public about eating disorders. Amanda shares about the Project's first mission, which is focused on debunking the stereotypes and stigmas in society around eating disorders. Read on to learn about the Project's unique and sure to be moving approach to accomplishing this task. What an honor to interview Amanda and help spread the word about this amazing organization!

1. What is Project Stop the Stigma?
Project Stop the Stigma (PSTS) is an organization that seeks to eradicate the stereotypes and stigmas in society surrounding eating disorders. Our goal at the moment is to create a documentary that explores these mental illnesses and the media's impact on their development.

2. What inspired you to create PSTS?
I've battled with my eating disorder since I was 15, and I've recently (in the last 12 months) been able to say that I'm in a solid place of recovery. Along with recovery obviously comes a lot of questions from other people, and often times inappropriate comments. I can't even count the amount of times I've heard "You don't look sick!" or "You look like you eat well." In recent months especially, I've noticed there are certain media outlets that seem to portray only a small glimpse into the reality of eating disorders. I have no experience with creating a documentary, and I am in no way a professional in this field, but I saw a need and I want to educate people and create a platform where people can find accurate information and resources regarding this life threatening illness.

3. What are the stereotypes about eating disorders that you want to shatter, and with what information do you wish to replace them?
Many people are under the impression that all eating disorders are easily recognizable, mostly having to do with the desire to achieve a certain body type, and are similar to fad diets. We want to spread awareness that eating disorders can take many different forms, most of which may not be easily recognized based on a person’s body. We've gathered a team of professionals who are seasoned in dealing with individuals with eating disorders. We plan to share statistics, facts, and information on the many different (and equally life-threatening) types of eating disorders. We also have an amazing group of women who have personally struggled and are willing to share their personal experiences.

4. Why did you choose a documentary format over other formats?
The media's representation of eating disorders is the problem that we are trying to combat, so we thought that presenting the information in a similar format was only fitting. We also chose this route in an attempt to create a source that was easily accessible by most people. We plan to make the documentary free on our website (projectstopthestigma.com - Coming Soon!) as well as YouTube.

5. Why is this project important to you personally?
I've personally struggled with bulimia, which is an eating disorder that's not often represented or talked about in the media--it's almost taboo. While I want to make clear that anorexia is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening disease, there are many other forms of eating disorders that are frequently misrepresented or overlooked altogether.  I don't want to share just my story; I want there to be a safe place with real and accurate information and stories from people who have struggled with these dangerous illnesses.

6. What advice can you offer to those who feel trapped in stereotypes about their eating disorder?
The first point I'd like to make is that I am not a professional in this field, so any advice I may give should always be taken with a grain of salt (haha). With that being said, I have personally been affected by the stereotypes surrounding eating disorders and I know it’s extremely uncomfortable and can be often times invalidating. If you're feeling trapped behind certain stereotypes, I would definitely recommend reaching out to a close friend or trusted family member to talk about what you might be struggling with. There are so many resources and support groups available for those who might be grappling with recovery.

7. How can people get involved or contribute to PSTS?
Currently, we are in the process of creating a media team to help with the filming, producing, and editing of the documentary. We are searching for people who are willing to volunteer their time to this extremely important cause and help us bring our vision for the film to life. (Email PSTS if you are interested in volunteering.) We are also on all social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter), so another great way to help would be to "like" us and share our project!

8. When do you anticipate PSTS to be available for the public to view?
If we stick to our tentative schedule, PSTS should be ready to view in March of 2018. However, we don't want to stop there! We hope that PSTS will always be a safe place for those with eating disorders to find a loving and accepting community.

More about Amanda and Clara, PSTS' co-creator...

Amanda
I was born and raised in Abington, PA, and after my parents got divorced I moved to Florida for 8 years. I come from an extremely tight-knit family with 3 sisters, a brother, and 6 nieces and nephews who mean the world to me. I currently teach preschool in Elkins Park and I LOVE what I do. I've had my eating disorder for almost 9 years. It began when I was 15 as an attempt to cope with trauma I experienced. I mostly identify with bulimia, however, over the years I've struggled with cycles of restricting as well. I've been to residential treatment twice in the last 12 months, here in Philadelphia. I've been hospitalized many times as a result of complications from my eating disorder and still have prevalent medical issues now, even though I find myself in a solid place of recovery. I've always been really passionate about the things I believe in, and the opportunity to spread awareness about an issue that obviously hits close to home has been my driving force behind creating this project. I am eternally grateful for the people I've met on this journey, and while we obviously have many things in common, I feel so strongly that their individual stories should be told in an attempt to educate people on the many different types of eating disorders that exist.

Clara
I'm an aerialist at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, and eating disorders are unfortunately not rare among my fellow circus artists. After one of my best friends told me that she was suffering from anorexia, I committed to advocating for body positivity and shattering the unreasonable standards that society insists we meet. I heard Amanda's story and fell in love with Project Stop the Stigma immediately, and I hope that this documentary will help create the positive change that our culture needs.

Please help Amanda and Clara spread the word about PSTS by liking and sharing their social media pages (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter). Email PSTS if you are interested in volunteering.