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.


Women who inspire Ugly Ducklings Inc and beyond

The founders of Ugly Ducklings Inc couldn’t let this opportunity pass. That is why they also wanted to share women that have inspired, are inspiring and will inspire this movement and our lives.

Banner, inspiring women for Ugly Ducklings Inc

We recently celebrated our first anniversary as Ugly Ducklings Inc. I think Erin and I had never thought that our community would be made of more than a thousand members, but most importantly, a community full of respect, kindness, positivity, and care for one another. Many of you might know how this whole movement started, but just in case you don’t, the main person who inspired what Ugly Ducklings Inc is today is Jennifer Morrison. So many days later I want to thank her once again, and let her know that every day that goes by more and more people are finding out how they can turn into beautiful swans, and that we will be here to help them out.RobynUDI

Robyn Hussa Farrell is the Founder and CEO of Mental Fitness, Inc., the non-profit we support here at Ugly Ducklings Inc.  Marie and I have been in touch with her for over a year 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.  

Malala Yousafzai“Death didn’t want to kill me”. Those are the words Malala Yousafzai told Diane Sawyer in a recent interview. This Pakistani girl is not even 20 years old yet, but she has the strength, the determination, the talents, and the influence to empower the people to do better things of any world leader today. She inspires me greatly because her life is a miracle, and she is helping both children in Pakistan to get educaction, and adults to change their mindset, and understand that girls can achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves in life.

If there is anything we know as Ugly Ducklings, it is that the human experience can be enduring terrible or catastrophic circumstances.  One thing that inspires us every day is reading the stories of the women (or men) who have had these crazy things happen but have made the choice to continue standing or to use those circumstances for good.  When one shares their story, they inspire others to do the same.  That brings light to the darkness.

So, one of the reasons we are here and we, as ugly ducklings, are working hard on is trying to help out all those victims of bullying we see both in real life and online. We have mentioned it many times, but remember that our Facebook, our Twitter forum and our website are places where you can come and talk about your experience, and get support from friends that will help you out in any way they can. 2

And how about sending a shout out to our incredible assistants? These girls also inspire us, because their support and the time they put into this cause makes us really happy. Mariah is our Resource Assistant and she helped us put together the Resource page, for all those who might need assistance. Maaike is our Research assistant and she has collaborated with our blog. Read her latest contribution here! And Camilla is our wonderful Social Media assistant and Ducklinspiration hunter. All those inspiring quotes you see everyday are found by this amazing lady.

ALL OF YOU inspire us EVERY DAY!  Every time we hear a story, see a photo, or simply see who you are, we are inspired.  You inspire us to keep going when we feel like we are out of energy.  You encourage us to continue to build this community.  

I have to say that actors inspire me greatly, because they are doing things that I want to accomplish one day. One of them is Nicole Kidman. She has said in some interviews that she felt like an outcast in school, and that’s why she decided to act. She is also a spokesperson for the United Nations. Other inspiring women for me are girls and women who fight and stand up for themselves every day.

There are so many women in my life who are inspiring.  I feel so blessed to be in touch with women who have a genuine love for life and people and a genuine compassion for others.  My sister is probably my greatest inspiration: she devotes her life to helping others and has impacted every facet of my life.  But really, I look for inspiration everywhere.  And I usually find it.  So if you need to be inspired, make sure you’re constantly seeking it!

Thank you to all the women in our lives who inspire us to be better, to be creative, to take risks and to change our lives.  Love to all of you!

– Swan Out.


Caroline Rothstein – “I am not fat”


“This is a poem about how I am not fat.”

Today, in honour of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, we wanted to share some powerful spoken word with you. Caroline Rothstein posted this video called “Fat”. This is a beautifully spoken and truly powerful piece that discusses the raw emotion and of someone in the intense throes of an eating disorder.

“I used to daydream about eating dinner without wanting to kill myself.”

Eating disorders aren’t pretty.

“I used to daydream about freedom.”

Eating disorders aren’t pretty.

Check out the full video:

Caroline is nine years recovered from a decade long eating disorder. She is a New York City-based writer, performer, and advocate. She tours her spoken word poetry nationally and has a “Body Empowerment” youtube series.  Check out her website and find her on social media today!  FacebookTwitterYoutube & Instagram!

Thanks for reading and checking out Caroline’s video, Ugly Ducklings! Remember to send us your messages for Mental Fitness Inc this week (you can email them to us: uglyducklingsinc@gmail.com)!

swan out

Erin – The Beaky One

Robyn Cruze – “I had no idea”


As many of you know from social media or our previous blog, this week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week! We work closely with Mental Fitness Inc, an amazing non-profit organization (check out our previous blog about them here and follow this rabbit hole if you’d like to donate as an Ugly Duckling to Mental Fitness Inc). To help Mental Fitness Inc and all the other non-profits spreading the word about eating disorders this week, we wanted to do a special blog series. We’re going to be posting excerpts from awesome and educational blogs with a focus on eating disorders and recovery every day for the rest of the week.

I read a blog today that I think it does a great job of discussing different aspects of eating disorders that are not as well known to those who don’t have an in-depth understanding or experience of this illness. “I had no idea” by Robyn Cruze explains:ED Awareness Pink

“In a world where being obsessed with body weight is wildly accepted and even promoted by the media and societal norms, it is difficult to spot an eating disorder. The misconception that only people who look overly thin and “sickly” or “obese” have an eating disorder can make it almost impossible to spot, unless you are the actual sufferer.”

Robyn also discusses the stigma; secrecy; and mental, emotional and physical ramifications of having an eating disorder.

Check out Robyn’s full blog here – the whole thing is a good read and you will probably learn something new.

“Robyn is fully committed to inspiring teens and emerging adults recovering from eating disorders, body image dissatisfaction and alcoholism to overcome life obstacles and follow their dreams” – check out Robyn’s website here. You can also find Robyn on Facebook and Twitter and her recently published book Make Peace With Your Plate is available through her website.

Thanks for reading and checking out Robyn’s blog, Ugly Ducklings! Remember to send us your messages for Mental Fitness Inc this week (you can email them to us: uglyducklingsinc@gmail.com)!

swan outErin – The Beaky One

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

EDRA week

Hello Ugly Ducklings!

This week is “Eating Disorder Awareness Week” and as most of you know, this is an issue that is very close to our hearts. Our ED Awarenessfavourite charity, Mental Fitness Inc, focuses on providing information about eating disorders, healthy coping mechanisms, body image and stress management to schools. The Ugly Ducklings support this charity with a portion of our monetary proceeds; this year we did #OperationNORMAL which raised additional funds for Mental Fitness Inc; and one of our own Ugly Ducklings Allie gave her birthday to helping out Mental Fitness Inc!

We don’t want to list a bunch of stats about eating disorders in this blog to demonstrate how important it is for us to bring attention to the issue. Instead, we want to direct you to the resource page at Mental Fitness Inc so you can educate yourself, especially if you think you or someone you love may be struggling with an eating disorder.

This week, we want to send loving, positive and inspiring thoughts to Mental Fitness Inc and the CEO and Founder, Robyn Hussa who we know is working incredibly hard, this week and every other week, to raise education and awareness about eating disorders. We are grateful for Robyn and how supportive she has been of Ugly Ducklings Inc and we cannot wait to see what happens next!

Do you want to make a donation as an Ugly Duckling to help out Mental Fitness Inc? Check out this page to find out how to do that!

Hmm, wouldn’t it be awesome if Mental Fitness Inc got bombarded with donations this week? Let’s do it, Ugly Ducklings! This week only, if you donate through our link to MFI and email us the confirmation, we’ll send you a little something to say thanks! To make it a little extra special, feel free to include a personal message for Mental Fitness Inc and Robyn and we’ll compile them all and send them off to her once this crazy week is over!  (Also remember, a portion of all our PRODUCK profits go towards supporting MFI as well!)


swan out

Operation Normal Update


What IS Operation NORMAL?

Our last blog was a quick announcement explaining Operation NORMAL, but we have updated the contest, so here is some new information.

What is it?  Operation NORMAL is a raffle for two amazing prize packs.  100% goes to Mental Fitness Inc.

Captura de pantalla 2013-08-30 a la(s) 22.06.07What are the prizes?   We have two amazing prize packs!  One is a “Charmers” prize pack and includes an autographed photo of Josh Dallas, a Charmers wristband, magnets and a t-shirt.  The other is an “Ugly Ducklings” prize pack and includes an autographed photo of Jennifer Morrison, Ugly Ducklings accessories and magnets and an exclusive t-shirt.IMG_0596croprbrightSM

How do I win?   Enter the draw for a chance to win!  To get entered in the draw for one of these awesome prize packs, what you have to do is simple:

1. Donate a minimum of $5 to Mental Fitness Inc (tickets are $5 or five for $20)
2. Send proof of your donation (either forward your receipt or do a screenshot of it) to uglyducklingsinc@gmail.com
3. Include your name and what prize pack you want your tickets to be in (or how many you want per prize pack)

That’s it!  $5!  That’s about what most people spend at Starbucks on their coffee every morning; and this is going towards an amazing cause – check out our interview with the CEO and Founder of Mental Fitness Inc to find out more about the amazing and important work this organization does everyday!

There are TWO ways to donate to Mental Fitness Inc.  First, you can support their Indiegogo campaign here: if you take this avenue, you get some extra perks from MFI.  Second, you can support them as an Ugly Duckling here: this avenue gives you the option of getting a tax-receipt for your donation!

UPDATE: When we started this raffle, we set a minimum goal of $100 per prize pack and we set the Charmers and the Ugly Ducklings in a friendly competition to see who would reach their goal first.  Here are where the standings are at the end of day two…


HUGE thanks to everyone who has donated and congratulations to the Ugly Ducklings who have reached and surpassed their goal!   BUT… the competition is NOT over yet.  We’re wondering who is going to raise the most amount of money for Mental Fitness Inc.   Will it be Josh Dallas’ charming charmers or Jennifer Morrison’s beautiful swans?  Keep donating and we’ll keep updating!

We love you, Ugly Ducklings (and we love the Charmers too!)

swan out

– Erin

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

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.