We were able to share our personal stories of how eating disorders affected our lives and the lives of others, giving us a chance to create an environment of education and awareness for each person we spoke with.
I was absolutely thrilled and fortunate to receive a generous scholarship from WithAll to attend the Eating Disorders Coalition Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. last week. I have visited D.C. many times before, but this particular trip was very meaningful and special to me. I have done advocacy work in the past, during my time as an undergraduate college student, but I have never had the opportunity to advocate on such as high level.
During the day, we would advocate for the Nutrition Counseling Aiding Recovery for Eating Disorders (CARE) Act. This act would modify Medicare coverage to extend coverage to eating disorder nutrition counseling, something that is already covered with counseling for diabetes or renal failure. The information presented to us at the beginning of the day was very helpful; we had talking points, statistics on eating disorders, and a detailed schedule of which Congress and Senate staff we would meet with. Upon first hearing of the CARE Act, I was already learning new information on eating disorders in the Medicare population, something I had not previously known about.
Our team was small: only myself, our leader, and another advocate from Michigan. This small size was not a disadvantage, however. In fact, it made the experience even more involved! Myself and the other advocate were able to interact more with each staffer, the representatives for congressional staff. We were both able to share our personal stories of how eating disorders affected our lives and the lives of others, giving us a chance to create an environment of education and awareness for each person we spoke with.
I felt nervous at first speaking to these individuals, but everyone we talked to was polite and friendly. Some of the staffers seemed rather busy and were not as engaged, but they still took the time to listen. We also had a few staffers who were very engaged, eager to learn, and willing to listen. For one staffer, he was asked both of us to share our stories, which was unusual, but it was much appreciated how involved he wanted to be! It made me feel accomplished, with a sense that I helped educate and share stories of eating disorders, showing how effective the right policies and treatment can be.
The day had a full schedule, but it was very worthwhile. The weather was perfect; it was bright and sunny all day, with blue skies and green grass. The buildings of Capitol Hill looked impressive and inspiring, especially knowing what could be accomplished inside. Meeting with staffers and knowing I was meeting with leaders who represented our country made me feel like a true American, being a constituent whose voice could be heard in the nation’s capital. I had a great time at Advocacy Day, and I hope I can attend again in the future!