Brianna Portner was joined by nearly 30 close friends and family for the Third Annual National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) Awareness Walk at the Mall of America.  The event attracted hundreds of participants and raised over $50,000 for the cause. Brianna is pictured at the right of the two children in the center, front row.

Local woman leads Project HEAL

Brianna Portner shares her story regarding recovery, urges support for people with eating disorders

Brianna (Utz) Portner recently had the opportunity to co-coordinate the 2015 National Eating Disorders (NEDA) Awareness Walk at the Mall of America.  The event on February 22 attracted hundreds of participants and raised more than $50,000 for the cause.

“This is not a typical walk. It is an event to raise awareness for eating disorders — the deadliest of all mental illness,” said Portner, who is recovering from Anorexia Nervosa. “It is also an event to build community, raise funds, and show support for those who have suffered, are suffering, and for their friends and family.”

This year’s walk featured Dez from KS95 as emcee, a performance by “The Mrs.” female rock band along with their Magic Mirror experience, speaker and author Lee Wolfe-Blum, a zumba warm-up, a stroll around the mall, and time to mingle, give support, and educate each other.

 Portner serves as a resource and testament for those who are struggling with eating disorders as well as their loved ones. “When I was first diagnosed, my parents did not know where to turn,” she said. “That needs to change. This illness needs to be de-stigmatized and taken seriously. The resources need to be more readily available. Treatment options need to be made known.  Lives need to be saved.”

 “I am beyond grateful to have the support that I do: those individuals who have stuck by me throughout this horrific battle; those individuals who say a silent prayer,” said Portner. “I am now in my second year of active recovery and I have conquered more than I ever imagined. I am thankful that the Lord gave me the strength to choose recovery from the 10+ year battle.”

NEDA awareness week is a good time to educate yourselves, open your hearts, open your minds, and work to end the stigmas that surround eating disorders and all forms of mental illness,” said Portner.

 “I remember writing to all of you readers: “Do not judge what you fail to try to understand,” Portner said, recalling her story that was published in the Springfield Advance-Press on October 13, 2013. 

“It still rings true today. We are a society that is still far too quick to speak, far too quick to judge, and far too reliant and concerned with our rank on the social ladder. We forget what is truly important in life. It wasn’t until I came to fully realize and believe that nothing in this material world of ours goes with us when we pass. Not our money, not our fame, not our success, not our homes, not our brand new car, not our closet full of new clothes and not our physical outward appearance, Portner said. “So why waste so much time on trying to fit into the mold that society has set before us?

“In my recovery from Anorexia Nervosa, the deadliest of ALL mental illness, I have come to understand what is important, and that is this: I and you must work on bettering our hearts and minds — not our outward appearances. 

“I write not only to address the importance of and my passion for raising awareness for the disease that was only minutes from killing me — but for all who struggle. Whether it be stress, a job loss, separation from a loved one, loss of a loved one, financial troubles, or whatever troubles you may have. I write for all who are hurting. All who feel alone. All who think they need to meet certain expectations in order to be successful in this life. 

“Know that you are not alone. There is hope. There can, and will be a better day. Have faith, because without it, the ground on which you stand will always be rocky. 

“Aside from my support people, my renewed faith has contributed the most to my successful recovery. Through Him, all things are possible. I know that. Even on the days where I find myself sobbing uncontrollably for doing the hard thing — which is choosing to love myself and live life for God — not my illness. 

“I consider myself 90%+ recovered. I want readers to know that I am doing well and that recovery, though harder than one can fathom, is possible. The army of support and words of encouragement from those who have reached out to me keeps me going every single day. Prayer is powerful. I am thankful. 

 “I suffered for more than 10 years. It has taken me more than two years of active recovery to heal. That is how nasty this illness can be. But thank God for renewed strength and the ability to overcome pure hell. 

“Not everyone is given that chance. 

“I end with a special thank you to those who attended the walk this year: My parents, Dan and Darla Portner; my sister, Brittany Portner; my brother, Alex Portner, and his special friend, Olivia Hopwood; my brother-in-law, Chris Dauer; my nephews, Jace Dauer and Levi Hamlin; my aunt and Uncle Cindy and Al Wendinger; incredible friends, Taryn Rosa, Jacque Olson, Darcy Hauth, Joel Wellner, Ryan Christensen, Keith Olson, Vicki Bolton, Laura Grabow, Debbie Grabow, Jan and Christina Davis and family, Kathryn Block and family, and Caitly Fiedler and family. Also a special thank you to Sharon and Catherine Weller for donations to my team. It was beyond great.

“I would like to add that my last name is in the process of being changed because I was officially adopted in January. Who says a 24-year-old cannot get adopted? 

“My family is my greatest blessing. I love you Dad, Mom, Britt, Chris, Jace, Levi, and Alex. You guys are my rock! Without you I would not be back in college finishing my degree, working, living on my own, speaking at schools/to groups sharing my story, and appreciating this new life!”

Project HEAL: 

Help to Eat, Accept and Live is a 501(c) not-for-profit organization in the United States and Canada. The organization provides scholarship funding for people with eating disorders, promotes healthy body image and self-esteem, and serves as a testament that full recovery from an eating disorder is possible.

As the founder of Project HEAL Southern Minnesota (non-profit organization aimed to raise awareness and funds for Eating Disorders) Brianna Portner is soliciting contributions for the organization. Support is needed in order to grow and gain presence in Minnesota.

If you would like to get involved in the NEDA organization or contribute financially, please send cash or check to Brianna (Utz) Portner, Southern Minnesota Chapter Project HEAL,  26½ N. Broadway Apt. 2, New Ulm MN 56073. Committed volunteers are always welcomed!