For some Elon students, this is just another week of class. But for one sophomore, this week symbolizes part of her life journey.
Sophomore Maria Rossi is president of Project Heal, a national organization that works to raise awareness about eating disorders.
The Elon chapter was brought to campus last year by Hannah Durbin, the face behind her recovery-focused Instagram account pinned “Healthy Happy Hannah.”
Today is the start of Heal Week, a time dedicated to honoring the organization’s values. The focus for this year is recovery – a topic Rossi knows well after being diagnosed with anorexia at 15.
“I had to see a nutritionist once a week, I went to therapy once a week and I had to see a doctor once a week,” she said. “All that adds up financially and I am grateful and fortunate enough that I was able to afford that. But so many girls can’t, which is also why Project Heal is so near and dear to my heart.”
Besides spreading awareness, Project Heal raises money for those who are suffering but aren’t able to pay for treatment. From the end of the tunnel, Rossi says recovery is the best decision she’s made.
“Now that I’m confidently recovered and eating well again and can enjoy my life, I want to support and help those that are struggling still,” she said. “I hate to watch girls have to deal with that because eating disorders are so hard and even recovery is so hard, but I want to express that it’s so worth it to be on the other side of it now.”
And now that she’s been through two years of recovery, she wants to educate others on her imperfect journey.
“Those thoughts obviously still do come up. I don’t think they’re every truly gonna go away,” she said. “But it depends on how you think about it and whether or not you act on them. You can say, ‘Hey, this isn’t rational, this is my eating disorder talking and I’m gonna tell it to shut up and go away.’”
To keep herself in check, Rossi writes reasons to recover – a future family, food freedom, no longer weak and frail – on her mirror.
Rossi says a strong support system is essential for recovery. She credits her family and her close group of friends for giving her the strength to recover. Her mission with Project Heal is to give Elon students that group they may not have.
“We really just want to say, ‘Hey, we’re there for you, you can talk about it,’” she said. “So many girls go through it and talking about it makes it so much better. We just want to break the stigma surrounding eating disorders and have girls know that it’s ok to talk about it.”
Throughout this week, Project Heal will be hosting events to raise awareness and fundraise for those who can’t afford treatment. Rossi said the organization’s goal is to raise $500.
To keep up with the events throughout the week, visit the Project Heal page on Facebook and Instagram.