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Kirkland woman battles anorexia, bulimia with baked goods
Kirkland resident Camilla Kuhns has a passion for baking desserts. She attended Juanita High School, graduated from Brigham Young University with a 3.78 GPA and she loves her church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But what many may not know is Kuhns has harbored eating disorders for most of her life.
Kuhns, who weighs 102 pounds and is 5 feet 8 inches tall, will embark on her recovery on Oct. 15 after nearly 18 years of fighting anorexia nervosa and bulimia. And she’s using her disorders’ adversaries - cookies, brownies and other sweets - to battle it out.
“I’d like to be under 100 (pounds),” said Kuhns, 29. “Well, I’d like to be healthy, but my eating disorder would like to be under 100.”
After three months of baking desserts while blogging about her disorder and posting photos of her sweets, she’s earned $5,000 to help contribute to the cost of treatment. Substantial help from her grandparents, a second mortgage taken out on her family’s home and help from her Kirkland church will help cover the rest of the steep price it takes for Kuhns to get inpatient treatment at the Center for Change in Utah.
“Not everybody has help or amazing support systems that will donate money,” said Kuhns, who bakes everything from pies, truffles, and cookies to bread. “I am so lucky … I cannot imagine trying to do this without support. It’s so isolating and lonely, private and shameful that if you don’t have people that say you matter, then I totally understand how people can just die.”
The crude mortality rate nationally for anorexia is at 4 percent, 3.9 percent for bulimia, according to the American Journal of Psychiatry. Malnutrition, heart or organ failure and suicide are among the top causes of death for people with eating disorders.
Kuhns is on the brink.
Her doctor Jessica Valentine wrote in a letter posted on Kuhns’ blog that she was medically concerned about Kuhns’ cardiac changes from her electrocardiography test (EKG) taken back in August. Valentine said Kuhns’ heart rate has been between 30 and 40 beats per minute. A healthy resting heart rate is between 60-100 beats per minute.
During her inpatient therapy at Center for Change in Utah she will receive medical, psychological and dietary treatment for about four to six months or as long as she can afford it.
She says insurance covers up to $2,000 of treatment, however, inpatient treatment costs around $1,000 a day ($120,000 for four months).
“When I was at Opal, every girl there felt the same guilt from the money side of it,” said Kuhns of the outpatient clinic in Seattle. “It feels impossible to get better when you have this guilt … it’s a huge hindrance to recovery but you have to deal with it.”
While outpatient therapy may work for some people, Kuhns said when she was at Opal: Food+Body Wisdom in January, she was still “left to her own devices” in which she would exercise excessively and restrict food.
In September, she wrote in her blog that she eats a tablespoon of nuts and one head of cauliflower with hot sauce every day and exercises for three to four hours at the gym.
“There are times when I’m at the gym and I’ve been sobbing,” she said. “I’m sure people just think I’m sweating … and I want to get off the treadmill or the Elliptical machine but I just push through. I just wish my little brother would come through the gym doors and pick me up and take me home.”
Kuhns started with bulimia when she was in seventh grade. She remembers thinking “boobs and hips meant fat” as her body began to change with puberty. She is not alone.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 42 percent of girls between first and third grade want to be thinner and 47 percent of fifth and 12th-graders reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures.
Her ability to maintain control affected the severity of her eating disorder as her life progressed. Huge life events - such as her divorce four years ago and the death of her close friend Lindsey more than a year ago - left her feeling as though she was spinning out of control.
But despite her fears of losing her eating disorder to therapy, “giving up her crutch” and gaining weight, she is confident Center for Change will help her gain energy, muscle, clarity and, she says, the ability to speak coherently again.
“I was on the Deans List and I really struggle to communicate (now) and that’s never been a problem for me,” she said.
After therapy Kuhns dreams of taking her baking to the next level by creating “Cookie for a Cause” via a food truck. Her signature sugar cookie would be her fund raising cookie and all of the proceeds would go to a scholarship for someone else who wants treatment and can’t afford it.
And eventually, maybe someday, marriage and children are in her future.
“I was dying to be a mother when I was married before,” she says with tears in her eyes. “Eating disorders can mess up your body and I’m worried there’s a chance that I’ve ruined that. It’s a huge motivator.”
To donate to Kuhns’ treatment, visit her blog: millathenightbaker.blogspot.com