Meet Denise Hamburger,

Founder & Executive Director, Be Real USA, NFP

A few years ago I was guest lecturing in a 10th grade health class in a high school north of Chicago. As I entered the classroom the teacher told me that 4 kids—of the 24 kids in this class—had already been diagnosed with an eating disorder. That was twice the appalling, national average for a mental illness with one of the highest mortality rates out there!  “What is going on?” I asked the teacher. “We are fighting an epidemic of body image problems without any tools,” she replied. “The kids are on social media all day long, seeing highly-edited, curated pictures of ‘perfect looking’ people. They feel flawed in comparison.” 

I trained as a body image facilitator hoping to help this generation of kids suffering from rampant body image distress. I understood what body dissatisfaction was, having grown up with it myself in the 1970s. Back then we had beauty narrowly defined by the rail-thin women on TV. It was easy to feel “flawed in comparison” to the actresses on Charlie’s Angels, and they were only on our televisions once a week!  Our kids have more pressure to look like an ideal growing up in today’s appearance-obsessed diet culture. They are bombarded with thousands of images of digitally altered, “perfect looking” people coming at them in a constant stream on their social media feeds. 

I founded BE REAL to address kids’ body dissatisfactionconsidered “normal” in this cultureby promoting culture change. We have education resources that teach educators how to create body confident schools. We  give educators our free, research-based, tested body image curriculum Be Real’s BodyKind. In this way, we are changing culture teacher-by-teacher and student-by-student.

SPEAKING on Body Confidence

“Denise Hamburger is one of the best presenters I have heard in years. The depth of her knowledge was apparent, and I would love to hear her again.”

“This should be shared with everyone in the school system. This was an excellent opportunity.”

Participant, Santa Fe BOSES, CO

“Thank you for your knowledge on the subject and your passion for creating a shift in our society!”

Julie Hazzard

Health Teacher, Collinsville High School, Collinsville, Illinois

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Eating Disorder Prevention Incubator, STRIPED, for the National Association of School Psychologists, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Healthy Schools Division, Washington DC

United States Department of Agriculture for the Food and Nutrition Service Division, Washington DC

SHAPE America National Convention 2024, 

Society of Public Health Education (SOPHE) 2024 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri

International Conference for Eating Disorders (ICED) 2024, Annual Conference, New York, New York

Arizona Department of Health Services Disordered Eating Prevention Public Health Training Series, Phoenix, Arizona

New York State BOCES Eating Disorder Prevention Conference, Albany, New York

Minnesota Department of Health Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP)

Society of Public Health Education (SOPHE), 2022 Youth Health Equity Advocacy Conference, Washington DC

Society of Public Health Education (SOPHE), 2023 Annual Conference, The New Age of Civil Rights, Advocacy & Equity, Atlanta, Georgia

Quad Cities Eating Disorder Conference, Keynote Speaker, Bettendorf, Iowa

Eating Disorder Coalition of Iowa, Educators Conference
Pleasant Hill, Iowa

Iowa School Nurses Organization Conference, Storm Lake, Iowa

BBYO Women’s Leadership and Advisory Council, Washington DC

BBYO Midwest Conference, Youth Presentation, Deerfield, Illinois

BBYO Midwest Conference, Parent Presentation, Deerfield, Illinois

Brooklyn Center Community High School Teacher Training, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota

Amazon Body Positive Peers, Seattle, Washington

MN Shape Conference, Lakeville, Minnesota

St. Paul District Health Teachers’ Professional Development, St. Paul, MN

Choate Rosemary Hall, Wallingford, Connecticut

Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, Michigan

The Marist School, Atlanta, Georgia

Silver Creek High School, Longmont, Colorado

Madison-Champaign Educational Service Center, Madison, Wisconsin

JMG Professional Services Client Group, Oakbrook, Illinois

Sante Fe BOCES, La Junta, Colorado

Project Maria, Rock County, Wisconsin

YogaRoots, Petoskey, Michigan

Art Impact Project, Lake Bluff, Illinois

The Nourished Girls Project, Raising Nourished Girls Interview Series.  Santa Rosa, California 

Schuylkill Intermediate, Mar Lin, Pennsylvania

West Central Indiana Educational Service Center, Greencastle, Indiana

Strive Prep Schools, Denver, Colorado

Glencoe Public Schools, Glencoe, Illinois

Chicago Lab Schools, Chicago, Illinois

Professional Development Alliance, Joliet, Illinois

Administrator Academy, West40 Regional Office of Education (ROE), Hillside, Illinois 

West40 ROE, Hillside, Illinois

New Lennox Schools, New Lennox, Illinois

New Trier High School, BodyKind, Winnetka, Illinois

ROE 3, Vandalia, Il

ROE 11, Charleston, Il

ROE 12, Robinson, Il

ROE 13, Mount Vernon, Il

ROE 20, Harrisburg, Il

ROE 21, Benton, Il

ROE 26, Macomb, Il

ROE 32, Champaign, Il

ROE 39, Decatur, Il

ROE 41, Edwardsville, Il

ROE 44, Woodstock Il

ROE 48 Peoria, Il

ROE 56, Joliet, Il

ISC South, Chicago Heights, Il

New Trier High School, Winnetka, Illinois 

Highland Park High School, Highland Park, Illinois

Deerfield High School, Deerfield, Illinois

Libertyville High School, Libertyville, Illinois

Stephenson High School, Lincolnshire, Illinois

Glenbrook North High School, Northbrook, Illinois

Glenbrook South High School, Glenview, Illinois

New Lennox Schools, New Lennox, Illinois

Women’s Exchange, Winnetka, Illinois

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