Liana Rosenman, 20
Liana Rosenman was first diagnosed with an eating disorder when she was 12; it had begun, she remembers, around the time she started losing weight for her bat mitzvah.
“People were commenting on how great I looked,” she said. “And then it just kind of spiraled out of control.”
Rosenman would spend the next several years, most of her adolescence, battling on and off with anorexia.
In 2008, Rosenman started Project HEAL, which helps young women combat eating disorders through education and funding, with her friends Kristina Saffran and Becky Allen. The three teenagers had supported each other throughout their treatment for anorexia nervosa, and had noticed several issues in the process: that school environments tended to reinforce body negativity, and that there was no real role model for eating disorder recovery. In addition, they often heard about people motivated to get the treatment they needed to recover, but were unable to afford it. A good residential program (which Rosenman did not attend) can cost about $30,000 a month.
Project HEAL has organized chapters throughout the country, and Rosenman often speaks at schools. The organization also raises money through events and the sale of merchandise, including T-shirts, to support scholarships that send selected applicants to treatment programs. To date the group has raised more than $200,000. And, Rosenman says, HEAL’s team members form personal relationships with those they help.
“We never knew when we started this how it was going to turnout, but were really amazed how it did,” says Rosenman of Project HEAL. “We’ve grown so much together and as people,” she says of herself and her co-founders. “It helped us tremendously as well.”
Rosenman has worked with synagogues and Jewish youth groups, but does not limit her aid to Jewish women. She points to her heritage as playing a part in her troubled past. “Part of the reason I developed an eating disorder may have been because my grandmother is a Holocaust survivor,” she says. “Food kind of became the focus,” for her grandmother, and then her mother. Still, she has also taken strength from her family history.
“My grandma is my role model,” she said. “She survived.”
Multitasker: Less than a month before her bat mitzvah, Rosenman placed first in the 100-meter free style at an invitational swim meet.