In this episode of Sally Hubbard’s Women Killing It! podcast, Kristina Saffran, the co-founder and CEO of Project HEAL, shares how starting her non-profit at age 15 helped her complete her own recovery from Anorexia Nervosa.

“One of the positive things about starting something when you are so young is that you actually don’t always realize the full implications of what you’re doing…The thing that was on my mind most critically when I was 15 founding it was ‘Whoa, now I really have to stay well because now I have a responsibility for others.’ And that actually healthy pressure was incredibly critical in my own recovery.”

In the last ten years, Kristina Saffran and her co-founder Liana Rosenman have grown Project HEAL to be the leading non-profit organization in the United States delivering prevention, treatment financing, and recovery support for people suffering from eating disorders. Project HEAL has over 40 chapters in the US, Canada, and Australia and continues to grow. Kristina has even worked to develop new treatment models for those who are suffering from eating disorders.

Listen as Kristina talks about the complexities of eating disorders, which are mental health illnesses. In the United States, an estimated 20 million women and 10 million men – 10% of the population — suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating or other disorder. 90% of these people never receive treatment.

Eating disorders have been under-researched and eating disorder treatments have been under-funded, and Kristina and Sally discuss how sexism and shame play a role in the way eating disorders are perceived. Eating disorders are highly misunderstood; they are not about vanity, and recovery is not as simple as just eating. In fact, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.

Kristina also talks about the “thin ideal” and how it does a disservice to all women, whether they suffer from an eating disorder or not. The thin ideal is a waste of women’s time, money and mental energy, and it puts them at risk of eating orders.

“What a horrible shame that 95% of American women feel this way — hate their bodies, have a troubled relationship with food — and more than that, spend a really inordinate amount of time thinking about these things … What a waste. How many other amazing things could we be doing with that mindshare if we directed it elsewhere?”

More Women Killing It! On Women You Should Know

Coming up… next week’s Women Killing It! interview features Jennefer Witter, author of The Little Book of Big PR and CEO and Founder of boutique PR firm The Boreland Group. She shares the pearls of wisdom she’s learned on her journey.

In case you missed it… check out Sally’s previous episode that features Jill Filipovic, writer, lawyer, and author, who shares how the cult of female sacrifice does a disservice to women, and how attitudes toward sex are disconnected from reality.

For even more inspiration, you can subscribe to Women Killing It! on iTunes…