The world needs Sofia. Sofia needs you.

Eating disorders piss me off.

Eating disorders prey on some of the most marginalized members of society: girls, women, gay men, as well as people who suffer from depression, OCD, or illnesses that make eating a pain in the ass to begin with. They prey on people of all skin colours and ethnicities. They prey on people who’ve been tormented into believing that fat is a fate worse than death. And they kill people who don’t have the money to get better.

I get riled up because I have a fifth-grader’s unreasonable expectation that the world should be fair. I understand that nature, in all her untamed glory, is the opposite of fair. But I persist in believing that the reason we went to all the trouble to build a civilization and a social contract and ethical systems and legal protections and declarations of human rights, and the reason we entered a grueling scientific cage-match against death and disease, is because we like the idea of fairness. And we will organize as a collective to fight for it, tooth and nail.

So it pisses me off when the bastard diseases that prey on people who are already experiencing a lot of unfairness are pretty much given free reign: they’re not covered by insurance. They’re not researched as rigorously as other bastard diseases. They’re considered a figment of one’s imagination, an unfortunate sign of stubbornness.

I’m here to say that eating disorders are real, and that they kill people. In many cases, they kill people who are already at a disadvantage. Eating disorders are the deadliest of all mental illnesses.

This is our fight, and we’re being picked off like flies.

But we, by and large, treat eating disorders like they don’t matter. Like they don’t kill important, valued, and deeply loved human beings.

Well, here’s what I think: Fuck. That. Shit.

Meet Sofia:

Sofia is important. She is valued. She is deeply loved. The world will be a poorer place without her.

She is engaged in a war whose outcome will determine whether she lives or dies. She’s been in heavy combat for the last four years, and she needs supplies, weapons, armour, relief forces.

Last year, she won a strategic battle at a treatment facility called Monte Nido, and the end of the long war seemed to be in sight…

It was as though all of these years I have been in a room with no doors or windows, and suddenly doors began to appear – and not only did they become visible, but I began to walk through them.

…until her crap insurance company fucked it all up.

After 3 weeks at Monte Nido, UBH stopped paying for my treatment and I had to leave. Since then I have tried, genuinely tried, to get well – and I have been unable to.

Monte Nido’s program director and all of my treating professionals were shocked…my medical state has declined significantly recently and it is clear that without appropriate treatment for my illness I will die…

So we’re gonna have to do this the old-fashioned way.

Sofia’s raising her own army, and she wants you.

Sofia’s battle is our battle. In the fight for equality, don’t let them starve us out.

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  1. Carolyn
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Permalink


    You are definitely a force to be reckoned with in this fight!! With your help, I think someday I will be too. I get angry when I see all the ribbons and bracelets and fundraisers for “Save the boobies” or “Yay Tatas”. Well guess what? They’re attached to a fucking human being! Eating disorders are not glamorous, sexually appealing, or good ice breakers at the bar! So, society does a collective bit of fingers in the ears and “lalalalala”. Well screw them. And thank you for being a warrior in the fight.

    • Posted December 16, 2010 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

      I once saw a very offensive ad that was supposed to call attention to younger victims of breast cancer but it did so by having this woman with DDD bazongas bouncing along being ogled by both men and women. The reason I was offended by this is the reason that Carolyn brought up–breasts are part of a woman. Women are people. Save the ta-ta’s? How about save the women?

  2. Posted October 23, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing this. I wish I could do more.

  3. Emgee
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps what Sofia really needs is a good lawyer. According to this website (, this is not the first time that UBH has pulled such a stunt, in:
    Wedekind, et al., v. United Behavioral Health and United Healthcare Insurance Co.
    D. Utah No. 1:07 –CV-26 TS Jan. 23, 2008
    Yes, I know insurance laws may be different where you are.

    • Posted October 23, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      Yes, UBH seems to suck. Luckily, Sofia does have a lawyer (who is currently working for free) and they are fighting UBH’s decision. The thing is, she still needs treatment while they are going through the appeals process.

      I haven’t researched it, but I wonder how much funding/reimbursement UBH gives for weight loss programs?

      • Emgee
        Posted October 25, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        I agree completely, and have posted this link on my facebook page.

  4. Sofia
    Posted October 23, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    WOW, Michelle. Thank you SO much for this.
    I do have an amazing lawyer – who has won in court against United Behavioral Health (through the same company, also – the University of California system) before with a woman in a similar position to me who was at the same facility, and she actually not only got her family reimbursed but got them ordered to have to cover the level of care and length of time in treatment per her treatment team. Which is unheard of; I really lucked out with her, she’s wonderful.
    The deal is though that she thinks in order to get that for me, that I need to get into treatment and then stay there AFTER they pull out – and at that time we can begin the appeal. She thinks I’ll win, because they’ve historically pulled out after an absurdly short length of time (recommended for me is 3-4 months minimum – they authorized 3 weeks last time), but that I need to remain there for the entire duration of an appeal – and that’s expensive. The woman she won for before didn’t have that kind of money, no one does, but her family was able to somehow borrow it thank god – unfortunately my family can’t really even pretend we have that kind of money to pay upfront, even if we were guaranteed reimbursement.
    I am astonished at how gracious, compassionate and generous so many people have been. Thank you so much, Michelle!

    • Posted October 23, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

      You are so very welcome, Sofia. Thanks for coming by and letting us know what’s going on. I really hope you get into treatment and that the appeal goes well.

      I think it’s obvious to everyone who reads your story just how much you want this, and we all want it for you, too.

  5. KelleBelle
    Posted October 24, 2010 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    Good luck Sofia, Michelle is an awesome supporter, and I hope you and your family find a solution that allows you a longer chance to stay in treatment. I hope to hear good news about you soon.

  6. Hywelis
    Posted October 24, 2010 at 4:09 am | Permalink

    Sofia, I’ve had a thought about this – have you thought about contacting Ady Gil and asking him for help? He’s a very sensitive and generous man, a kind soul. I think it’s worth a try. You can find him through Facebook.

  7. dominique
    Posted October 25, 2010 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    You know what sucks? HAVING TO PAY for health treatments. Period.

    Here in Canada psychological treatments are not covered by the national health insurance. That means that psychological illnesses are not taken seriously by health officials. It pisses me off immensely.

    I had the chance to be in a community treatment centre, only 20 dollars a month as a symbolic fee. Those centers are underfinanced, and government prefers to invest in fucking wars and giving fiscal gifts to big enterprises.

    In a short time, I bet our system will become private, and that will be SHIT, because we SEE stories such as Sofia’s story EVERYDAY. And they still say that making it private will help the situation. GRRRRR!

    Sofia, I’m with you, and Michelle, you are RIGHT! We have to say out loud that this is not acceptable and unite to help the world acknowledge the deadly EDS.

    Sofia, hang on. You deserve to have a decent life and you have the right to complete recovery.

    • Bookwyrm
      Posted November 20, 2010 at 12:49 am | Permalink

      While technically what you said is accurate, your claim is misleading and exactly the sort of thing that certain Americans use to prevent the establishment of a universal health insurance program in their own country.

      While psychOLOGICAL services are not covered in all provinces, psychIATRIC care, including inpatient hospital care (in a general hospital) for severe mental illness, are in fact covered by the Canada Health Act, and thus by each province. Psychiatric specialty institutions are excluded from the Canada Health Act for historical reasons (they used to be percieved more as warehouses than actual treatment facilities) but are covered by some provincial health insurance programs.

      The difference, in part, is because psychiatrists are actual medical doctors. Like nutritionists (hi, Michelle!), psychologists are health care professionals who are not medical doctors. This means that, unless they are operating in a hospital program with actual medical doctors, there is plausible deniability that their care is actually medically necessary for the purpose of maintaining health, preventing disease or diagnosing or treating an injury, illness or disability.

      Yes, it still sucks that I can see a pill-pusher without paying out of pocket but most forms of talk therapy or even complicated diagnosis are not covered, but it is quite a bit less bad than the impression I fear you originally gave. When my mental illness is life-threatening, I receive the care that I need to survive, and it is taxpayer-funded. Unfortunately, this is not the case for those in the United States, and those who profit obscenely from the current situation there exploit any complaints about our system to combat comprehensive, universal health care there. :-(

      Sofia — I wish you well, and regret that wishing will not fix it. I’m sorry.

      As for life not being fair . . . The world is arbitrary. Individuals are either fair or unfair because they have the capacity to understand the difference and the pro-social responsibility to create an environment in which all may thrive. So there. Or something.

      • Erin
        Posted November 29, 2010 at 8:34 am | Permalink

        This still varies by province. Saskatchewan has some psychological care that is covered by our provincial health care. My district covers in patient care for eating disorders.

  8. Posted October 25, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    It’s good to see you posting again, Michelle, especially about something so important. I’m unemployed and have limited financial resources at the moment, but I’m happy to pass this along to people I know, many of whom have been personally affected by eating disorders.

    And to Sofia – good luck.

  9. Posted October 26, 2010 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Sofia, good luck. I hope that you can get the care you need, and that your insurance company has to actually pay for it (you know, providing you the service they agreed to provide when you’ve been paying for insurance). It’s really encouraging to hear that your lawyer has won cases like this before. It sounds like you’re in good hands there.

    Also, Michelle, I really love this bit:

    I understand that nature, in all her untamed glory, is the opposite of fair. But I persist in believing that the reason we went to all the trouble to build a civilization and a social contract and ethical systems and legal protections and declarations of human rights, and the reason we entered a grueling scientific cage-match against death and disease, is because we like the idea of fairness. And we will organize as a collective to fight for it, tooth and nail.

  10. UBH is not my friend
    Posted November 10, 2010 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    UBH is the worst….their idea of mental health coverage is to deny, deny, deny….

  11. Mandy
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Sofie. This is heartbreaking. My heart goes out to you. I do so hope you manage to get the help you need.

  12. UBH is not my friend
    Posted November 13, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Sofia please be candid with your family about your need for help. We were exactly the same predictament with UBH failing to pay for residential care for a dependent. We made the decision to find the money….loans…remortgage…etc. the alternative was way too painful.

  13. FlameWriting
    Posted November 23, 2010 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Does anyone know where to find the paypal link? I can only find the option that requires entering all your credit card details etc, rather than to log into paypal and send money that way.

    • Posted November 23, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think there is a paypal option through GiveForward. But you can contact Sofia directly at and ask her if she can accept Paypal somehow.

      Thanks for wanting to donate, at any rate!

  14. LauraElle
    Posted November 27, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    What’s the word with Sofia? Is she back in treatment?

    • Posted November 29, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

      She is! She had to go back a bit earlier than intended because her health was getting worse. Now they’re going through the appeals with the insurance company, I think, and trying to make sure she gets enough funding to stay in treatment for the long haul.

      • Emily Buker
        Posted December 24, 2010 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

        If you don’t want to give money on gift forward for Sofia Benbahmed, you can send a check to her dad Salim Benbahmed 1920 Fairwinds Dr.
        Graham, NC 27253, thank you, her mom.

  15. Ruben
    Posted December 23, 2010 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    Why Sofia needs to go to this ultra expensive place? So many people in third world countries have these and many other severe disorders…what makes her more special and them nothing – they don’t have lawyers or access to computers to share their problems on the www ? Nothing against Sofia..just another point of view – sometimes life is not fair.

    • Posted December 26, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

      Life is definitely not fair, and it is true that people in less advantaged situation have eating disorders and deserve just as much treatment and care. But, in my opinion, helping those who have access to that help doesn’t diminish the plight of those who don’t. And not helping Sofia in this situation wouldn’t do anything to help others who also need it. And highlighting Sofia’s situation doesn’t magically make other people’s situations less special, or “nothing.” That’s not how it works.

      But I agree with your sentiment that we should probably be more aware of those who have far fewer resources to help with the same problems. If you have some info or resources about eating disorders in poorer countries, I’d be happy to read it and maybe post about it.

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