Why I'm Livestreaming a Yoga Camp Out on a Rooftop

When I arrived at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas at age 15, I weighed less than sixty pounds. After a five-year battle with Anorexia...

Right now I'm sitting on a yoga mat on the rooftop of 2309 Main Street in Santa Monica, California. Just below me is a giant red wall painted with the words "YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL," and there are two ten-foot tall inflatable dancing man balloons blowing in the wind beside me. There are men and women walking by on the sidewalk below, a beautiful community garden across the street. The ocean is just visible in the distance. This is #OccupyYouAreBeautiful.

Between today and Wednesday, September 19, this yoga mat will be my home. I will stay here all day and all night—I will eat here, sleep here, and I will be joined by yoga teachers, musicians, speakers, and other members of the community. #OccupyYouAreBeauitful is a public demonstration of solidarity with people who struggle with food and body image issues on all ends of the spectrum. Together, we are taking a stand—for life, for happiness, and for the right for all people to feel beautiful in the bodies they inhabit.

The statistics around eating disorders in this country are discouraging. Nearly 24 million Americans suffer from eating disorders, and millions of others struggle with food and body image issues at a subclinical level. This disease kills nearly half a million people every year—daughters, sisters, brothers, friends, and spouses. That's not okay. 32-year-olds shouldn't be dying of starvation.

My own personal story started at Children's Medical Center in Dallas at age 15, when I was admitted to the hospital at less than sixty pounds. After a five-year battle with Anorexia Nervosa, my body had reached its breaking point. The valves in my heart were leaking. My skin was yellow from liver failure. I'd had a stroke and was hanging onto life by a thread.

I spent the next sixteen months of my life in the hospital. The journey back to health was long and arduous, but fortunately I had an incredible team of medical professionals there to support me when my legs weren't strong enough to carry me. I left the hospital when I was 17, and while I'd made almost a complete recovery physically... I was still entrapped in the mental prison of an eating disorder. I was sure I was doomed to relapse.

It was just a few months after I’d left the hospital when my therapist encouraged me to try yoga. She was certain it would be good for me. I did not agree. I thought yoga sounded too touchy-feeling, too new-agey, too gentle for my tastes. But I went, most mostly because I felt my body was getting too big to tolerate. The eating disorder was by no means gone, and I thought yoga would be a good way to burn calories and prevent myself from getting fat.

Over the next several months, yoga re-introduced me to a body I hadn’t felt—truly felt—in years. The practice taught me how to listen to my body's needs, appreciate it for its functions rather than form, and cope with emotions I nearly killed myself trying to starve away. Yoga gave me practical tools for fighting an eating disorder—it answered questions that traditional treatment simply couldn't address. This is what hunger feels like. This is how you stay calm when sh*t hits the fan. This is why you take care of you your body.

Over the past several years, I've put a lot of thought into which elements of the yoga practice were helpful in my recovery and which weren't (I think some aspects of yoga culture can actually exacerbate an eating disorder). I developed a program called Yoga for Eating Disorders, which is designed to help people with food and body image issues tune into hunger and fullness signals, cope with difficult emotions, and learn to relate to the body as an ally rather than an enemy. Eating disorders—from anorexia to binge eating—take a huge toll on our healthcare system. As a complementary treatment, yoga can give eating disorder sufferers tools that pharmaceuticals and talk therapy simply cannot provide; potentially shortening treatment, reducing relapse, and ultimately saving lives.

On July 30 (my 24th birthday), I launched a crowd-funding campaign with the goal of raising $50K to take Yoga for Eating Disorders to treatment centers around the country at no charge, collect data for an evidence-based study on its effectiveness in treatment, and do a series of pro-bono talks about eating disorder prevention at local schools in each city the program is offered. It is an ambitious campaign, but I know in my heart that it's a necessary one. With nearly $20,000 raised so far, there is no doubt the community is behind it. But with less than six days left in the campaign... it was time for something drastic.

Inspired by my friend Will Baxter of the Don't Let Will Die campaign, I decided to climb on top of the "You Are Beautiful" building, lay my yoga mat down on the roof, and stay up there 'til all the funds for Yoga for Eating Disorders are raised. I can't let this campaign fail. This practice saved my life. I won't get off this mat until others get access to the same opportunity.

If you want to participate in #OccupyYouAreBeautiful, I would love for you to get involved. We will be live-streaming the entire event online, so you can tune in 24-hours a day September 15, 16, and 17 for free yoga and meditation sessions, music, public talks, and more. If you live in the area and want to volunteer, email me here. We welcome anyone who can offer a service (musicians, yoga teachers, speakers, etc.) or individuals who want to serve as hands-on-deck by telling those walking by about the campaign or bringing food, water, and supplies to the roof. Click here to add it to your To-Do list.

You can also help make Yoga for Eating Disorders possible by making a donation and sharing the campaign with your friends and family.

There is no reason this has to be the only #OccupyYouAreBeautiful. I encourage you to join the movement and host one in your own community.

Start taking ownership of your health with our DIY Health Check-up.

Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less