As a reporter at WLBZ-TV in Bangor, Kaitlyn shared stories about real people suffering from eating disorders as they fought for their lives.
“At least every 62 minutes someone dies as a direct result from suffering from an eating disorder.” ~The Eating Disorders Coalition for Research Different types of eating disorders
Catie Colby’s doctors said that if she didn’t get treatment quickly, she would likely die from her eating disorder – anorexia nervosa. For nearly Catie’s entire life, she has been battling the emotional trauma she relives when she looks at food. Starting at 3-years-old, Catie suffered sexual, physical, and verbal abuse from men in her life. To keep her quiet, the men would give her food. Doctors believe that Catie developed anorexia nervosa as a way to cope with the abuse.
"I'm scared that touching food it's going to make me gain - it sounds crazy, but I feel that touching food with my bare hands is going to make me gain weight," said Catie. "I have a lot of dizziness just moving the body is a chore, breathing is a chore," explained Catie.
If you saw Julia Osborne on the street a few years ago, you would have thought she was a normal girl. While she looked healthy on the outside, she was battling a debilitating illness inside her mind. Julia's all-consuming fears of becoming overweight began her downward spiral of suffering from bulimia and anorexia nervosa.
"I didn't like the way I look or felt and just really was not happy with the person that I was in general," said Julia. "I was hoping at some point that I would get where my stomach was inward almost and every time I'd look in the mirror I was like, 'ugh,'" said Julia.
Food is comforting to many people, but for Dan it is an obsession that consumes his entire life. For the last 40 years, Dan has been battling an internal war. At 9, he started restricting and bingeing on food in an effort to cope with his emotional pain. He's had this relationship with food ever since, and describes it as almost robotic - as if his brain short circuits and he blindly stuffs himself with food. Dan has asked Kaitlyn not to reveal his face or share his last name, but he claims this eating disorder has ruled his life.
"I would not eat all day long and then by the time I got home from school I'd eat everything in site," he said. "Regardless of how I felt, I was eating far beyond feeling full. I was using the food to fill me up, but there was never an end to the emptiness," he said.
When Morgan Horn looked in the mirror, she used to see “…a disgusting overweight person.” In reality, however, she was wilting away. Morgan saw herself as worthless, and she had an intense fear of weight gain. Her parents helped her get access to immediate treatment and she was able to learn how to accept herself and build a healthy relationship with food.
"I went a whole day without eating, I was super happy like super happy. (The feeling) fed into everything; like life is great. Life is great," Morgan explained. "I just hate everything...to just look in the mirror and hate everything you see," she said.
Statistic: “The number of children under the age of 12 admitted to the hospital for eating disorders rose 119% in less than a decade.” ~Eating Disorder Coalition
Recovery is knowing who you are, what you want, and being able to communicate those desires. Recovery is knowing that YOU have a right to be here and take up as much space as you do.
Kaitlyn Chana was a perfectionist. The drive to be perfect led her down a path of exploiting her insecurities. She felt she was not smart enough. Not pretty enough. She always wanted to be the ‘perfect’ child, student, and athlete; she felt unsafe at her natural weight and felt more secure with herself the thinner she became.
I didn’t believe I deserved to live, eat, or take up space on Earth.
In middle school, she struggled with anorexia nervosa; it consumed her. She had this intense fear of becoming obese, and even when she was emaciated she saw herself as fat. She saw food as poison. She’d make excuses, lie, and hide food to make sure it didn’t touch her lips. Nothing stopped her from this obsession to be thin; death didn’t scare her nor did the idea of her soon-to-be failing organs. She felt invincible - by controlling what she didn’t eat made her feel like she had leverage to take on the world.
As her recovery treatment evolved, her feelings of control were reflected from one eating disorder to the next. In high school, she transferred eating disorders to bulimia nervosa as a way to cope with her feelings.
When she binged, she’d essentially ‘stuffed’ her feeling and fears instead of expressing them. It’s a pain so deep and insidious that it can be paralyzing even to begin to feel.
Recovery is getting your life back, being your own true self, and living life to its fullest
She would restrict for days and then binge on an exorbitant amount of calories and then undo by purging on laxatives. It started as a few pills, then a dozen until she was taking hundreds a week.
From an outside perspective, Kaitlyn appeared to be doing fine, but she was depressed, suicidal, and emotionally unavailable. She kept everyone at a distance so no one would find out about her need to take these pills. The laxatives were her lifelines to cope and survive from what was happening personally in her life.
Her weight talked. In college, as she learned to ‘feel’ she developed binge eating disorder. Her body and actions said all the things, she couldn’t say verbally.
Language is a huge component of eating disorders. Words have power; they can validate your insecurities and feed on your self-doubts.
For Kaitlyn, part of her treatment was focused on learning to feel again. She was so detached from her emotions she didn’t understand what feelings actually were. For years she went without crying. She felt empty inside. She was lost.
Recovery is the full restoration of physical, nutritional, psychological and emotional health.
Let me break it down for you --- If you know Kaitlyn, she always appeared happy, but what are the indicators of happiness? When someone asked how she was doing, she’d say fine. Fine isn’t a feeling. Kaitlyn had to understand what it felt like to be happy, sad, angry, or scared. Not only did she have to ‘learn’ by sitting with the emotions she had to recognize it’s okay to express those feelings.
It took Kaitlyn about ten years to develop a healthy relationship with food. Recovery from an eating disorder is not a linear process. It wasn’t until she realized she couldn’t live a duel life that included her eating disorders and wanting to pursue her dreams.
She had to pick one. You get two choices with eating disorders: live or die. Kaitlyn chose to live and go after her aspirations.
Recovery helped her learn to appreciate being imperfectly perfect. The transformation process allowed her to learn how to get through a day without worrying about what to eat, so she could learn to appreciate the person she saw in the mirror.
It took time to let food stay in her body and understand the feeling of fullness. In order to heal, Kaitlyn had to listen to her needs, wants, and desires. Recovery isn’t an easy process, however, Kaitlyn believes getting your life back is worth the roller coaster ride. Kaitlyn Chana is completely free of her eating disorders – and her life is filled with passion, enjoyment, and acceptance.
Recovery helped her learn to appreciate being imperfectly perfect.
Through the nonprofit, Reel Stories. Real People., Inc., we’re creating a narrative educational film along with a curriculum free for school districts as a way to enhance their curriculum surrounding eating disorders. This short film will introduce students to three eating disorders that are plaguing our country. Educating people in a dynamic, visually appealing way that includes strong storytelling allows participants to develop a “well-rounded” base of information on this topic.
A film addressing mental health will expose people to a topic that’s typically taboo. There’s a stigma attached to eating disorders, however, the only way to fight this belief is to educate with valuable knowledge. After students watch this film, teachers will facilitate a guided discussion to help further the conversation about mental health.
Eating disorders don't discriminate; it doesn't matter if you're a girl or boy, young or old, black or white. Instead of hating our bodies we should learn to celebrate every body.