Liana Rosenman thought the worst was behind her.
At 16, she had already been diagnosed with and treated for anorexia, relapsed and hospitalized again. The second time around, she was on suicide watch for three days after throwing a tantrum when her parents took away the measuring cup she used to monitor her food intake.
Back in school and committed to her health, Rosenman realized just how difficult full recovery would be.
“I had all these coping mechanisms,” she said. “And then I’d go into the bathroom at school and there would be all these girls there trashing their bodies.”
Rosenman, of Commack, knew that part of her own recovery and those of others was to promote a healthy lifestyle and positive body image for all girls, and to provide healthy role models for those overcoming an eating disorder.
In 2008, Rosenman and her friend Kristina Saffran, whom she met in treatment, founded Project HEAL, a nonprofit organization that serves as a resource for people with eating disorders and promotes a healthy lifestyle. Through Project HEAL, the girls visit schools and treatment centers to talk about their experiences with anorexia and raise money to pay for treatment for those who can’t afford it.
“We saw so many girls get kicked out of treatment because they couldn’t afford it,” Rosenman said, adding that treatment is often not covered by insurance. “We knew we wanted to do something to help.”
Their first event was a benefit dinner and silent auction, which raised $14,000.
Saffran, 19, of Douglaston, said that was their first hint that they were on to something bigger.
“When you make that much money in one shot,” she said, “we thought, ‘OK, we have to continue this.’”
To date, the organization has raised about $170,000 and sent five girls to treatment. Other chapters of Project HEAL have also begun in Boston, Oklahoma and North Carolina, organized by girls who were either helped by Project HEAL or inspired by the idea.
Saffran, who was diagnosed with anorexia when she was 10 and relapsed when she was 13, said they don’t know who nominated them for the Glamour award, but said it was a gratifying and inspiring night.
“We love Project HEAL, we know it’s awesome but we don’t get to take time like that and reflect, like, look where we’ve come from,” Saffran said. “So it was pretty great.”
Rosenman’s parents and Saffran’s mother also attended. The girls and their families sat in the front row and received a standing ovation after their project was announced.
Mark Rosenman, Liana Rosenman’s father, said first lady Laura Bush referred to all the “Young Amazing” winners and said she was proud of them.
“Politics aside, when the first lady says she is proud of your child,” he said, “that’s a landmark moment.”
Liana Rosenman said she’s amazed to think of how far Project HEAL -- and she and Saffran -- has come. She said when they first proposed the idea of starting the project to their parents, they warned them of the pressure it would put on their own recoveries.
“We would have to be the role models,” she said. “We both were not fully recovered at that point, but we knew that we had to be what we were trying to get others to be. Project HEAL helped us do that.”
Photo: Project HEAL founder Liana Rosenman, of Commack, and Kristina Saffran, of Douglaston.