What Friends Are For: Karyn Simmons


Age: 29
Home: Carbondale, Colorado
Profession: Program director for an adolescent drug-abuse-prevention program
Passions: Playing Scrabble (and winning!); hanging out at home with friends; a good, sweaty trail run

“If you dont take care of your body, where will you live?”

Just about any woman whos ever struggled with a body-image issue is celebrating the recent backlash against superthin supermodels—and no one more so than Health reader Karyn Simmons. Karyn has made it her mission to help young women embrace the idea that being healthy is as much about your mind, your emotions, and your relationships as it is about how much you weigh or how often you exercise.

For Karyn, the issue is personal. Eight years ago, after seeing a close friend die from anorexia, Karyn struggled with guilt. “I felt pretty worthless at the end of Carries life,” she says. “Every time we talked, I told her I loved her. But after she died, I realized she needed to know I loved her not because she was tall, thin, and beautiful—but for the way she listened, for her silly jokes, for her humility. And she needed to hear that when she was a teenager, not when anorexia had completely taken over.”

This realization prompted Karyn, a middle school English teacher, to jump at the chance to teach her schools health and wellness class, where she spent three years sharing Carries story. “Many teens believe they need to be perfect—the smartest, the most popular, always happy. I want them to know its not about being the best; its about balance.”

Now working with a substance-abuse-prevention program, Karyn continues to inspire change in kids when theyre most vulnerable. “I talk about Carrie in the present tense because I believe she served an incredible purpose in this world,” she says. “I feel like I have found my lifes work.”

We met Karyn during Healths Real Beauty Road Tour 2006 with photographer Nigel Barker of Americas Next Top Model.