We are an unrelenting group of people who believe education is the key to refuting misinformation surrounding anorexia and saving lives.
Veronica Luccioni grew up in California. She earned a Double Major at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for Civil Engineering and Ancient Near Eastern Studies. She then continued to pursue a Master of Science in Geotechnical Seismic Engineering at U.C. Berkeley. Her career in engineering spanned from being a designer for URS, a global consulting company, to being an expert witness for Exponent/Lockwood-Singh, a multi-disciplinary litigation firm. In tandem with raising her two young children, who demanded a more flexible schedule, she performed various commission works in calligraphy and photography. This passion led to the publishing of her first book in the Family Learning Series entitled, “Photography for the Family”.
Upon her daughter struggling with anorexia nervosa (AN), Mrs. Luccioni concentrated her efforts in researching the topic and saving her daughter’s life on a day-to-day basis. It is through this personal journey, she identified the need for a better understanding and clarity of the taboo surrounding AN. This amazing life changing experience is what compelled her to share her story to the world; thus, the inception of this non-profit organization: Elephant In The Room Foundation.
“I always saw Anorexia Nervosa (AN) as something that happened to ‘other people’. Anorexia was what happened to people who wanted to look like models, or people who had ‘messed up’ families. I didn’t see why anyone would ever want to look that skinny, so I didn’t see how I could ever become anorexic.”
Anorexia has the highest death rate for females between 15 and 24 years old, yet despite its prevalence not many people fully understand this condition. My personal experience with AN has allowed me to see the condition from an angle that most charity workers/founders have not.
Anorexia could have ruined my life. It was an incredible difficult and long lasting struggle that could have easily resulted in permanent physical damage or death. Two years down the line, after months of dedicated support of family and friends, I am now healthy, unscathed, and more knowledgeable about this condition than I could ever have imagined.
In my path of recovery from AN there was no exact moment that anyone looked at me and said ‘you’re fine now.’ Realization that things were normal again came gradually. However, once it had, my intense relief was mixed with a slight frustration. I would look back at my struggle and think- what a waste of time. I felt as though I’d lost two years of my life. In many ways I had: I hadn’t been allowed on many vacations; missed a lot of school; ignored my friends and stopped all sports (most notably swimming which I loved). When thinking about this, I would feel a lot of regret and anger- why did it have to happen to me? I felt frustrated by the idea of having to start over at all the things I had stopped doing two years ago.
But in early 2012 I realized something which changed the way I looked at my struggles with AN. Much as I cannot pinpoint the day of my recovery, my change in perspective doesn’t have a specific date, but it made any feelings of resentment and frustration I had seem trivial. I realized that through combating AN I had painstakingly gained valuable experience and knowledge about the condition and also about how to help others in similar positions. I hadn’t wasted my time, only spent it differently: trying to ‘solve’ AN. Those two years had saved my life; now I could put them to even better use by drawing from my experience to help others.
I don’t want the fact that I was anorexic to be something that I, or anyone else, is ashamed of. If I had a choice, I would not have chosen to suffer from the condition, but I didn’t and I want to make the most of my encounter by helping others in a way few have. Elephant in the Room Foundation (EitRF.org) is a product of that aim.
Pamela Pierce grew up in Delaware but was fortunate enough to spend her summers in a small coastal village in Massachusetts. She received BA degrees in Chemistry and Psychology from Swarthmore College as well as a BS degree in Civil Engineering and a MS degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She worked for consulting engineering firms in Boston and New Jersey, and specialized in assessment and remediation of hazardous waste sites. She is married to Thomas Jackivicz, with whom she has five children. Approximately a year after the birth of her first daughter, Ms. Pierce decided to hang up her hard hat to become a full time stay-at-home mother.
As a life-long athlete, Ms. Pierce was regularly exposed to situations where young women were making unhealthy decisions regarding diet and exercise. After witnessing close friends and family members struggle with the impact of eating disorders, Ms. Pierce is convinced that education is the key in combating decades of society’s misconception and thus her conviction in promoting the Elephant in the Room Foundation. She sees this effort becoming increasingly personal as she helps her three daughters navigate a world where they are constantly bombarded by unrealistic images of women.
Lydia Haam is originally from Riverdale, New York. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with BA degree in Economics, then worked in financial product marketing in New York until moving to Lausanne, Switzerland, where her two children were born. She also worked in fundraising for the Guggenheim Museum and as a Marketing Manager for Gottex Fund Management until moving to the UK.
While living in London, Ms Haam was deeply touched by the profound effects that anorexia has on bright, highly motivated girls and the repercussions on their entire network of family and friends. It is deeply regrettable that anorexics are marginalised and dismissed when they are most in need of understanding and support from those around them. The Elephant in the Room Foundation is a source of assistance and encouragement to anorexics that want to live their lives in a healthy way with the support of the family.
Education and Communications Director
Michelle Cen recovered from anorexia after discovering the lifesaving information spread by the Elephant in the Room Foundation. She experienced first-hand conventional anorexia treatment, which attacks anorexia as if it were a psychological disease. This treatment left Michelle mentally and physically broken. She's alive because she learned the scientific truths about anorexia. Michelle is devoted to sharing these truths. The status quo changes with education, and EitRF leads this paradigm shift in anorexia understanding.
"Anorexic" is not a dirty word. Michelle is proud of her anorexic past because it taught her about herself. Michelle's genes predispose her to becoming anorexic. Thanks to learning the science shared by EitRF, Michelle knows anorexia's negative consequences are not her destiny. Having a genetic predisposition to "migratory mode" is in fact a blessing: heroes like Joan of Arc were anorexic. "Anorexic genes" are associated with high-achieving traits.
Michelle has a Bachelor's degree in Science, Technology, and Society from Stanford University and is now completing a Master's in Counseling. She has years of experience in writing, design, and research. Her full biography is on MichelleCen.com. She shares anorexia recovery resources and insights at EndAnorexia.com. Overcoming anorexia allowed Michelle to pursue her dreams. She knows all anorexics can find this freedom when they achieve healthy weights.
Public Relations Officer
Christine Jap recovered from anorexia in 2017 after eleven years of battling the illness since she was first diagnosed at age twelve. Her studies were interrupted while she participated in over ten inpatient admissions at three different inpatient eating disorder treatment programs and several outpatient programs. As a high achiever, she was determined to study her way out of the anorexia trap, so she extensively researched various therapy tools and recovery books in attempt to psychologically “fix” her mind.
Initially, she thought she could mentally recover without the arduous work of gaining weight since her fast metabolism was a big obstacle to weight restoration. However, after experimenting numerous times with different therapies, she concluded that it was impossible to recover without being weight restored. With support from inpatient treatment, she discovered the anorexic thoughts gradually dissipated as she gained weight.
When she finally restored her weight, she was able to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Advanced Physiology from the University of Sydney in 2018. With Christine’s passion for helping others, she went on to earn a Diploma of Counseling and Results Coaching Certification. She then decided to pursue her passion for teaching and currently enjoys working as a private math and science tutor. In addition, she is studying Master of Teaching to become a secondary school science teacher.
After discovering the Elephant in the Room Foundation (EitRF.org), she was excited by how the website provided incredible clarity into scientific evidence for the biological basis of anorexia. The organization statement that anorexics have genetic predisposition to the illness, and that weight loss triggered the migration mechanism to be switched ‘on’ explained Christine’s compulsive exercise and inability to stay still while she was ill.
EitRF.org advocates that weight restoration is the urgent first step to switch ‘off’ the migration mechanism and to ultimately recover from anorexia. This was consistent with Christine’s personal experience of being able to recover only after she was weight restored. If she had discovered the EitRF.org website sooner while she was struggling to recover, she would have experienced a faster and easier journey to recovery. Therefore, she is eager to help EitRF.org educate the public about the biological basis of anorexia and the importance of weight restoration for early intervention.
Social Media Specialist
Tim Barham is from Cambridgeshire in the UK. He graduated from the University of Essex with a BA in Politics in 2019, and has spent much of his free time helping voluntary causes and charities, including Foodbank, Scope, Age UK and Cancer Research UK, as well as working for two years as an exam invigilator in Cambridge. He also has almost a decade of experience with social media.
At the age of 17, Mr Barham suffered massive weight loss and mental health problems due to anorexia, which continued to affect his mental state until he was almost 20. After finding out about the Elephant in the Room Foundation, he was eager to help by bringing his own experiences of anorexia and the stigma towards it, and to try to raise awareness of the warning signs of anorexia and how it can be prevented or recovered from.
Gina Stewart grew up in New Zealand, where she earned an Honours Degree in Engineering and a Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching. She has vast work experiences as an engineer, teacher and professional trainer in multiple countries, including the United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada.
Ms. Gina has particular interest in education and as a secondary school teacher she saw the benefit of parental support and guidance having a much larger effect in influencing the youths than anything done in the classroom.
Educational Art Designer
Viviana Bagnato is Italian born and received her BA degree in Architecture from Federico II University in Naples.
She spent the last 15 years living in 5 different countries where beside her role of wife to Stefano and mother of two children, she pursued to combine her knowledge in Architecture with her passion for Art. This led to her experience as Artist Assistant for the program “Learning Through Art” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. She then became a Teaching Artist developing programs for Public Elementary Schools.
Viviana has always thought that Art Education is essential to make connections not only with ourselves but with the world around us. In addition, working with children made her understand how empowering can be, especially for young people,to have the chance to express themselves through art. She truly believes that engaging children in art activities can be of great help to prevent and solve problems related with Anorexia Nervosa.
Deborah Danson is a graduate student pursuing a M.A. in Public Policy and Administration at National Louis University. Deborah has spent the past 12 years working in her community as a volunteer tutor, fundraiser, event organizer, and mentor. She has served on several non-profit boards including her role as a board president where she oversaw an organization through rapid growth and executive transition. In addition, Deborah has 16 years of corporate IT management experience enabling her bring data management, project management, and strategic planning skills to her future endeavors in public policy. She holds a B.S. in Business Administration from The Ohio State University and a M.B.A in Finance from DePaul University. Deborah lives in Evanston, Illinois with her husband and two daughters.
Deborah has been deeply impacted by the struggles endured by her friend’s daughter and their entire family as a result of anorexia. She strongly supports continued investment in research and education on the biological and genetic factors associated with AN to not only improve treatment, but the policy that supports it.
Dr. Shan Guisinger
Eating Disorders Expert
Dr. Shan Guisinger is a clinician with 25 years experience treating eating disorders. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and completed postdoctoral work at the Yale University Eating Disorders Clinic. In her research and practice, she seeks to understand how biological, psychological, and social factors interact to create or ameliorate emotional problems. Dr. Guisinger has authored articles for Psychological Review and The American Psychologist on evolution of Anorexia Nervosa and interpersonal relatedness, and she is at work on a treatment manual for Anorexia Nervosa.
Dr. Guisinger has written Anorexia Nervosa: A Guide for Patients and Their Loved Ones that the Founder of EitRF.org has found to be pivotal in saving her daughter.
She offers an insight to the condition of AN which puts into perspective all evidence-based data from history, scientific studies and personal testimonies.
Here is a summary of one of her lifelong study. Anorexia nervosa (AN) is commonly attributed to psychological conflicts, attempts to be fashionably slender, neuroendocrine dysfunction, or some combination of these factors. Considerable research reveals these theories to be incomplete. Psychological and societal factors account for the decision to diet but not for the phenomenology of the disorder; theories of biological defects fail to explain neuroendocrine findings that suggest coordinated physiological mechanisms.
AN’s distinctive symptoms of restricting food, denial of starvation, and hyperactivity are likely to be evolved adaptive mechanisms that facilitated ancestral nomadic foragers leaving depleted environments; genetically susceptible individuals who lose too much weight may trigger these archaic adaptations. This hypothesis accounts for the occurrence of AN-like syndromes in both humans and animals and is consistent with changes observed in the physiology, cognitions, and behavior of patients with AN.
Narrator and Editor
Brent Leaman was born in Ohio and life took him to the West Coast for trips on occasion but he eventually settled in San Francisco as a technology consultant. He has natural affinity towards science and logic, as is reflected in his educational background in computer science and his sport of choice, inline speed skating. Mr. Leaman is known to have the highest standard of accuracy in his work and has specific knowledge among his peers in the very technical sport of speed skating. What makes him unforgettable, and even more extraordinary is his compassion for people.
Upon learning the science behind anorexia, Mr. Leaman became convinced of the necessity to denounce the damaging biases that he once subconsciously held himself and are still rampant in society today. He devoted many hours to help decipher scientific jargons into clear and concise language that lay people can understand. His deep voice has become the familiar, revered vocals behind the 9-part video series of the foundation’s educational campaign: Anorexia Re-Explained.