In 2003, the 5’ 7” Toni Saiber was admitted to the hospital. Her odds for survival were next to nil. She was in a coma, and she weighed a paltry 84 pounds. Eight days passed while Toni was standing at death’s door, bare feet on the skull-shaped welcome mat, her fist raised and ready to knock. Last rites were performed--three times--as Toni remained in critical condition in the ICU bed. Luckily, she never rapped her knuckles against that door. Toni’s life was spared, she believes, for a reason. She would win her twenty-two year battle with an eating disorder, and she would dedicate herself to helping others suffering from similar, complex, painful illnesses.
Toni Saiber’s near-death experience led to a renewed life of service
Toni Saiber rewrote herself, starting the very day she woke from that coma. She went back through the archives of her heart and mind and redacted the hateful, self-loathing thoughts. She highlighted the great things. And she revised her outlook on life. After more than 20 years of suffering and a variety of treatments, she knew that it was time to write a new chapter. This chapter would be about the person she would become, how she’d impact the world, and it would be shared with anyone willing to read it. Just eight months after she nearly lost her life, Toni had her first meeting to establish The Eating Disorder Foundation.
In the coming months, Toni was appointed to Executive Director of EDF. She has recruited and inspired an astounding number of volunteers over the years, helping EDF participants by providing the support, education and camaraderie required to fill-in between treatments. Toni’s mission is to provide the support that keeps someone suffering from an eating disorder on the path to recovery. She and her EDF crew speak in schools and visit organizations all over the state of Colorado. They host eight free weekly support groups for people struggling, as well as their families and friends and an additional two groups that meet monthly. EDF also provides a warm home-like place for folks to just drop in if they need support or resources. They have structured classes and activities, yoga and a program uniting treatment providers for support, outreach, and networking called EDF Professionals.
For Toni, the work is more than personal. She knows firsthand what EDF participants have been through. It’s more than eating, or not eating. In fact, eating disorders are not about food, they are about feelings. Eating disorders are complex, convoluted foes. They convince us that we are something that we are not. They convince us that they are a solution when they only add to our problems. Toni’s mission in life, the life she knows she is so lucky to rewrite each day is to raise awareness about eating disorders and save lives, like hers.
Eating disorders are the #1 killer of all mental illnesses. In the U.S. alone, more than 11 million people are struggling with food, body image, and self. Toni Saiber is out to save every single one of them. She sees big things for The Eating Disorder Foundation. And she does everything with passion because her second chance, her shot at a rewrite, is something she knows not everyone gets.