We had the opportunity to chat with Reba Tobia, creator of the “Brave Box.” Tobia is in recovery from ED, and her product has been recognized by NEDA, Dr. Colleen Reichman, The Multi-Service Eating Disorders Associations (MEDA), and many other experts in the space.
How did you develop the idea for the Brave Box?
I came up with the idea for the Brave Box while going through recovery myself. I do not have an abundant support network and noticed that the process can feel very isolating and lonesome. I also realized that since eating disorders are so difficult to talk about, individuals don’t know how to show support in a safe and effective way. Thus, the idea for the Brave Box became apparent to me. I am so grateful that this product bridges the gap between the supporter and the loved one. It also gives the recipient coping skills (such as our distress tolerance putty or self love cards) to use in difficult times. Likewise, it allows those who don’t have a support system, to feel loved and connected through this box.
How do you think the media contributes to eating disorders in young people? How could we really make changes here? Do you feel that more body diversity in the media has (and will) affect the number of people who experience eating disorders?
I think the media plays a huge role in any individual’s mental health whether it is apparent or not. Diet culture is everywhere-now even in our pet food! On top of that, so many of the images we come across daily are photoshopped and represent an unattainable image. Unfortunately, this portrayal of bodies doesn’t just affect celebrities and models, but they’ve also portrayed “eating disorders” in a stigmatizing way.
For instance, anorexia is not a “white girls” disease, nor do you need to live in an emaciated body to be diagnosed with this illness. Eating disorders affect ALL genders, ALL races and don’t have a particular “look.” You cannot tell if someone has an eating disorder by looking at them. Since the diet industry is a billion dollar industry it is such a struggle to make change, AND I truly believe that it can happen, even if it starts small. For myself, I only follow individuals on social media channels that add something to my life, who showcase all different bodies and who are actively fighting against diet culture. Social media can be a huge trap, especially for those with low self-esteem or body image issues. I love the idea of “cleaning out” your social media, just as you would clean your room. I am grateful for the companies who actively choose NOT to Photoshop images, who represent body diversity and are inclusive of ALL shapes, sizes and genders. Progress is being made and I hope I, can also, contribute to this change.
I am SO grateful for body diversity in the media. I think by showcasing more unaltered and “real” bodies, we have the opportunity to change, not only the patterns and wiring in our brains, but also positively affect the generations following. We are not born believing there is a hierarchy in terms of bodies or categorizing foods as “good” or “bad”. We learnthis; and therefore we can unlearnit. This brings me hope and a strong belief that this could change the amount of humans who are affected by this disease.
Research is showing us that ED typically falls more on a spectrum. How do you think recognizing this will affect how people seek treatment?
Gosh, this question is so important and I am so glad you asked it. I think I’ve touched upon it a little here but when it comes to being “diagnosed” with an eating disorder there is a huge “stereotype” regarding what humans who are struggling look like. Let me make this loud and clear for the people in the back-you CAN’T look at someone and know if they have an eating disorder. There is no “look” to them and not one person is immune. Anorexia is not a “skinny white girl’s disease,” restricting your food intake is not “better” than binging and purging. In fact, many individuals diagnosed with this are not “underweight” or living in these gravely emaciated bodies that the media, and even well intentioned physicians, makes them out to be. Messages like this need to be shared SO much more. In fact, if they’re not made to be more present, so many humans will go on struggling in silence, believing they’re “not sick enough.” Moreover, if more education and awareness is done on the possible symptoms of disordered eating, prevention can be done early enough to intervene before the individual is struggling for years. There is NO barometer to being “ill enough” to get treatment. Prior to my diagnosis, I didn’t know these facts and statistics and I absolutely believe it prevents people from getting help. If you think your relationship with food is off; if you think you’re struggling, if you have questions-THAT’S enough. You deserve care. You deserve a life free of disordered eating.
How have you seen the Brave Box affect others so far? Have you built any new friendships as a result? Where do you see the brand going?
It is amazing the people who have reached out telling me how grateful they are that I am sharing my story- that I have created this company. I’ve had some individual’s, in particular, let me know that they use the contents of the Brave Box on a daily basis and being apart of this “community” has helped them know they’re not alone in their fight. I have always said that even if I sell only 1 box and the customer feels seen, that I had done my job; so I feel so humbled and grateful that my mission has spread far and wide. Other customers or even eating disorder professionals have reached out and called me an “inspiration.” This comment is tricky for me, because I don’t necessarily feel that way. I just know creating this resource and sharing my story is what I am suppose to be doing; it’s what I was put here to do. I’m going through the recovery process, just like these customers. If I’m inspiring, so are they.
Sara Remus is the founder and Executive Director for Pop Culture Positive. A California native, she lived in the golden state’s high desert and Central Valley until 2015 when she relocated to Boston to start a new East Coast life. She is passionate about creating spaces for inclusion, critical thinking, and changing how we handle body image. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.