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Anna Neustaedter

Raising money and raising awareness

Getting through a tough situation usually requires the help of a few good friends. That is what happened to Anna, a girl who battled an eating disorder but turned to her friends, family, doctors, and even traveled to recover. She started her own charity to help raise awareness about eating disorders by selling sweets to kids and people around town. Read her inspiring story to learn more about her ongoing recovery and how she's an inspiration to everyone around her.

How old are you, what grade are you in, and where is your hometown?

I'm a 16 year-old junior from Irvine, California.

Tell girlshealth.gov what you do that makes you unique.

I wasn't sure how to answer this question, so I had my good friend Kasie do it for me. She wrote, “I think you are unique because of how much you really care for people and are striving to make a difference in people's lives so they don't go through what you have experienced. And despite the difficulties, you have persevered and stayed strong and continually care for and help those around you.”

You come from a really large family, how has that made you who you are today?

It's made me more tolerant of people and appreciate how different every single person is. Even though my six siblings and I all came from the same two parents, we each have our own individual personalities. It's made me realize that everyone has his or her own uniqueness.

You started a fundraiser to help raise money for eating disorder awareness. Tell us why you thought that was a good idea.

To be perfectly honest, I started the fundraiser to help myself. Part of the reason I suffered from anorexia in the first place was that I was lonely and had too much free time on my hands. I thought that raising money for eating disorder awareness would give me something to do, something to care about, and something to think about besides food. It worked. It did help me get better. Now that I am actually making money, it makes me feel so good knowing that I can help other girls in the same position.

Tell us what you do to raise money for eating disorder awareness.

I started a group called "Treats for Charity." What we do is bake and sell cookies, brownies, and other sweets around my school campus. We also take orders from people that have a sweet craving that needs to be satisfied. Once we make enough money, I will donate all the proceeds to organizations that aid people suffering from eating disorders.

Tell girlshealth.gov about "Treats for Charity" and how you are trying to get publicity for your cause.

I began "Treats for Charity" last year as a solo project. I basically told people around school that if they ever wanted any type of baked good, they could just order it from me for a reasonable price. Once this school year began, though, I decided to turn it into a club at my school. My friends and other people have joined, and we sell cookies around campus about once a week. I would like to branch out and take orders from people who are hosting a party or event, or would just like some homemade cookies. So if anyone in the Orange County area is interested, just look me up. I would be more than happy to satisfy your craving for baked goods.

How have eating disorders affected your life?

For more information about body image and eating disorders, check out this page!

For sure, it has made me miss out on a lot of teenage experiences that I now regret not taking part in. However, I don't like to dwell on the bad things, so I like to believe that my anorexia made me a better person. Getting better has made me such a stronger person and has taught me never to give up. Beating anorexia is a long process, and I am still far from being fully recovered, but I will not give up. I know that someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, I will have a normal, healthy relationship with food.

What is your life like now that you are getting better?

I feel so free and so much less pressured. My confidence has skyrocketed and I could care less what people think of me. After trying for so many years to be "Little Miss Perfect," it feels so good to just be me. And the best part is I've realized that I truly do like who I am.

Was there someone in your life that helped you through it?

There were so many people that helped me and made sure I was cared for, but I believe that the doctor I started seeing in January of 2005 has made the biggest difference. On one visit with her, she told me that if I didn't gain any weight by the next time I saw her, she would send me to an in-patient program. I guess threats work with me, since I was terrified. The next time I saw her, I had gained two pounds and I have been gaining weight ever since then.

Do you have a role model?

My mom. Having seven children would be difficult for anyone, and we definitely are not the easiest kids to take care of. Not only did my mom have to deal with my eating disorder and depression, but she also has to constantly watch over my oldest brother who has Autism, a mental disorder. She devotes her entire life to her children (and our two dogs), and asks for nothing in return. Such a selfless person is hard to find these days, and it's really an inspiration.

What was it like living in a boarding school in Israel? Tell us about that experience and how it changed your life.

Living in Israel was the greatest experience. Not only did I make friends with people from all over the world, but I also met the best friends of my life. In addition, when I first arrived in Israel, I spoke little Hebrew, had only distant relatives, and had very few personal items (the suitcase that held most of my belongings was stolen on the way there), so I got the chance to start my life over. I am now a very independent, adventurous, and knowledge-seeking person, thanks to Israel. Unfortunately, I could not escape Anorexia even on another continent, and was sent home because of it. Still, my time in Israel is certainly something that I will look back on fondly when I am old and gray.

What do you want to do once you graduate from high school? What do you think you would like to do as a career?

Once I graduate from high school, I would like to attend college and either major in drama, film/broadcast, or psychology. I am very passionate about each of the subjects, and haven't yet decided which to focus on. Also, I would like to take a year off of school to join the Peace Corps and aid those in need of help.

Tell us what makes you happy now. What makes you smile and laugh?

People. People make me smile and laugh. Everybody has their own odd quirks, and I enjoy discovering those. I love to meet strangers and turn them into friends. I also adore movies. When people are not entertaining me, I am most likely watching a movie. I am a huge movie geek. In fact, I work at a movie theater. And of course, my best friends make me happy. As do my two adorable dogs, Shadow and Frankie.

Content last reviewed February 01, 2006
Page last updated February 01, 2006

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.

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