What does Mental Fitness mean?

mental health ED

Many of you know that Ugly Ducklings Inc works closely with a nonprofit organization called Mental Fitness Inc. This is work that we are very proud of and very passionate about. But… what is “mental fitness”?

We’ve asked Robyn Hussa Farrell to guest-interview with us this week to discuss Mental Fitness Inc, and building resiliency in children, youth and adults, among other things.

Welcome, Robyn. Thank you so much for being here with us!

Thank you Erin and Marie and all!

We’ve interviewed Robyn before, but for any new readers, could you tell us who you are and what you do for Mental Fitness Inc?

I’m the Founder and CEO of Mental Fitness. I created the organization almost 9 years ago when I produced a rock musical in New York City that led to many of my friends and loved ones entering treatment for eating disorders. Mental Fitness brings evidence-based arts and media programs into schools to build resiliency in kids of all ages.

How do you define ‘mental fitness’? What is so important about it when it comes to Mental Health?

We are so obsessed with physical fitness, that we wanted to create a way to look at health that includes mental wellness, too. Interestingly we are one of the only wealthy nations in the world who DOESN’T have measures that include social, emotional and psychological well being for our kids. It is time to change that!

The website talks a lot about the “Seven Pillars of Mental Fitness”… can you tell us more about what they are?

pillarsWe have been collaborating with researchers for the last decade and found several protective factors that increase resiliency and help to build mental fitness. These include mindfulness, stress-management, nourishing the body and mind, media literacy, community connections, body image and self-esteem. We’ve written about them on the new b:resilient website here.

We brought together all of the prevention-focused research in one place and created a mental fitness map which helps kids and adults improve seven key areas of fitness. We know that if a person focuses on each of these areas, they will improve overall health measures! The seven categories include:

  • self-esteem and internal validation
  • body image
  • media literacy and critical thinking
  • stress management
  • connecting with community through volunteering and role models
  • nourishing body and mind by understanding facts about Intuitive Eating and other evidence based prevention models
  • mindfulness

The way we teach about mental fitness is through evidence-based programs. So, for example, for the Body Image category, we help schools connect with the evidence-based programs that exist in that area including Dr. Becker and Stice’s “Body Project” or Kathy Kater’s “Healthy Bodies” programs.

Where can we find more information about Mental Fitness Inc and each protective category?

There is a handout here with lots of information. 

What is next for Mental Fitness Inc?

Online learning tools at b:resilient so that more educators and professionals have access to this amazing prevention research!

Thank you so much for being here with us today! We’ll post your bio below, but what is the best way for our readers to support MFI and find you?

Our website has more information about our mission and programs. You can ‘like’ us on facebook and follow us on twitter. I am also on twitter!

Robyn Hussa Farrell, Mental Fitness IncRobyn Hussa Farrell is the Founder and CEO of Mental Fitness, Inc., the non-profit we support here at UglyDucklings Inc. Marie and I have been in touch with her for almost two years now, and she is a constant inspiration to us. Robyn works incredibly hard to ensure that children grow up with a healthy mental fitness; something that is very important and inspiring work. We are so happy and proud to be a part of such an amazing organization that really is changing the lives of children in America. You can check out our other pieces about Mental Fitness Inc and our interview with Robyn to learn more… additionally, be sure to check back in the new year as we will be having a HUGE charity raffle to raise support for Mental Fitness Inc.

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Courtney’s Ugly Duckling Story

she found life again - Ugly Duckling Story

 

Trigger warning: Eating disorders, purging, self-harm, drug abuse, suicide

I just want to start off by saying thank you to Ugly Ducklings Inc for giving me the opportunity to share my story with all of you. Through my crazy year and recovery I’ve learned so much from the words I’ve heard from others and I hope I can somehow impact one of you as well.

My name is Courtney Leigh, (I love my middle name way too much to just leave it out) and I was born in Moscow, Russia. When I was six months old, I was adopted and started my childhood adventures in Springfield, Illinois. I was truly the “little princess” of the household. I had two older brothers, and for three years it was just me. I had the childhood almost any kid could dream of.

I had parents who were well off, so anything I wanted I pretty much got at the drop of the hat. When I was three, I began ballet and had parents who supported me 100%. When I was four, my parents went back to Russia and adopted my baby sister. And even then with an extra little girl in the house, we always got what we wanted. My parents, my family, anyone who knew us instantly could realize we had the dream childhood.

When I was about five or six I began to be bullied. It was about weight, my hair, my chubby cheeks, I was tall, anything these kids could think of it was brought up. I never wanted to disappoint my parents and tell them about any negativity in my life so that’s when I started hiding things from them.

Courtney's ugly duckling storyI always thought if I never showed emotion I would never have to deal with anything. Really smart for a six year old in my opinion. I think when you are so small and you want to be accepted you will do what is necessary to convince yourself you fit in.

The more advanced in dance I got, the more self image and perfection took over my mind. I was eight and probably one of the most muscular girls of my age in the studio. So instantly that translated into “you are fat”. My costume sizes were getting bigger, my thighs were touching, and I was miserable. At nine years old I decided to stop eating. From such a young age I always saw food as such a negative thing. I did not see it as fuel or energy, but only as: ‘this is what makes you gain weight’. At this point, the bullying got to where I couldn’t go to school. I’d get so sick from starving and being so sad I couldn’t make myself go to school.

This pattern of no school, not eating, and being upset, continued into the sixth grade where it was brought up that I may in fact have an eating disorder. I was taken to a dietician once, and hated it. I pouted my way out of counseling. It got to a point of being so bad my parents switched me into the private school district in our town. Good idea right? Take the girl who’s been bullied for multiple years and move her into a school where her class size is only 20.

I ended up joining the cheer squad, (you’ll see how important this is later). Needless to say it was awful, I was bullied, I was starving myself, and then I picked up self harm and purging. I ended up telling the school I had mono for nine weeks while I stayed home because my malnutrition got to a bad enough point I couldn’t get off the couch. I couldn’t even walk up the stairs to my room. I somehow managed to pull myself together physically, and somehow made it out of there alive.

My freshman and sophomore year of high school I decided to try out for cheerleading, and I didn’t make it. I joined a competitive cheerleading squad and instantly fell in love with the sport, and I finally found somewhere I belong. Cheerleading was the one place I knew I could go and be happy. Then my junior year I somehow got the courage to once again try out for the school cheer squad and I made varsity. I also started drinking, smoking, my cutting got worse, and so did my eating disorder.

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Public shaming because of something you’re eating!?

Public shaming for eating food

Your body. How conscious are you of it? Of the way you look? Of the way people might see you?

It’s the society, really, and I think that media has a huge influence in this too. The constant input of photos, TV shows, and films showing slim figures and girls who might not seem from this world (and some are really not, as they are significantly modified thanks to graphic editor programs) make you think twice about your figure.

But then there’s other girls -and boys too, don’t forget boys- who don’t feel like they have to subscribe to this image of what a “perfect body” is, and they feel perfectly fine with their current weight.

And what if you are eating something while walking to work? Or perhaps indulging in a scrumptious cupcake that you promised yourself as a reward if you finished your paper on time?

What if someone stopped you or caught your attention while you’re in the bus, nibbling on a yummy snack, just to make you feel bad about what you’re eating? That’s one kind of street harassment no one talks about these days. 

That’s the reason why we wanted to share this with you. No one has a right to criticize you or make fun of you because of what you’re eating in public. Don’t let them get you. Click here to watch this interesting discussion on the subject.

How would you respond to someone who mocks you because of your figure or what you’re eating? Tell us in the comments.

Recovering from alcoholism, and an eating disorder

Sitting ducks with Robyn Cruze

April is about to end, and besides raising awareness on autism, sexual assault prevention, and child abuse prevention, it is also the time of the year when organizations around the world want to remind people of the danger and damage that alcohol has on a person and their families.

Ugly Ducklings Inc is truly proud to present this podcast, where we talked to Robyn Cruze, who might not ring any bells to many of you, but, when you listen to her you can see the superhero that’s inside her.

Some of the strinking things that she mentioned are:

  • “When my mom told us she was going to die my whole world came undone (…) and I really felt like the eating disorder served that for a really long time”.
  • “I thought my feelings were going to kill me”.
  • “I was viewing my beauty through other people, and I just did not measure up”.
  • “My eating disorder had many phases. It had multiple personalities”. 
  • “When people started calling me ‘Robyn blobbin’ I immedately understood that my body was betraying me, so I went into restriction”.
  • “When we want to start recovery we really need to identify those people that are non-judgemental”.
  • “The more I shared my story with the people that I trust, the more support I got, the more encouragement I got”.
  • “When we can own our story, that’s when we find our purpose, and our passions“.
  • “I’m on the ground, in fetal position and my little girl Lily, she was 3, she came in and said to daddy: ‘Daddy, I think mommy needs a band-aid“.

Every word she said, every thought she shared with us was inspiring. And you can listen to it here:

There is hope. There is ALWAYS hope. 

Sitting Ducks with Robyn Hussa Farrell

Interview with Robyn Hussa, Mental Fitness Inc
Erin and I recently had the opportunity to be sitting ducks with Robyn Hussa, the CEO and Founder of NORMAL Nonprofit.

We just love Robyn and as you may know, Ugly Ducklings Inc has supported NORMAL from our take-off and we are so thrilled to have gotten this time with her so everyone can learn more about what her organization does.

We started the interview the way any interview should start… getting to know Robyn with a little “Swans Revealed”! She told us about Audrey Hepburn and how she got inspired by her.

Robyn runs a multifaceted organization. In part 1 of our chat, you’ll find out how NORMAL got started, how we got to know about them (thanks to Meghan Ory’s contribution), and what types of things they are combating in American schools.

We know that many of our Ugly Ducklings and Swans struggle with issues like self-harm, eating disorders, and bullying at home and school. We asked Robyn a vital question: what are healthy coping mechanisms? She had some really helpful things to say!

Finally, Robyn answered some of YOUR questions, and there was a touching moment, after we asked Robyn how Ugly Ducklings could contribute. Plus, a bonus part where she explains all about how to get the script of NORMAL the musical.

– Marie and – Erin

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new contest donation | Normal In Schools
Josh Dallas photographGOODY DRAW: Mental Fitness Inc. (formerly NORMAL) is committed to helping all the Ugly Ducklings out there become Swans, and are currently focused on developing the first ever Mental Fitness Institute in the US.

Being entered in this contest is simple: make a minimum donation of $5 to Mental Fitness Inc’s new Indiegogo campaign.

  • For every $5 you donate, your name will be entered in a draw for the Charmers pack or the Ugly Ducklings pack!

If you want to be entered, just email proof of your donation (forward us the confirmation email, or do a sceenshot) to uglyducklingsinc@gmail.com.