Woman battles anorexia with baking
Aug 18, 2023, 3:37 PM | Updated: Aug 19, 2023, 2:15 pm
SALT LAKE CITY — There’s a high probability that you know someone with an eating disorder. It could be your daughter, your friend, your wife.
A contributing factor: a culture obsessed with weight loss and body image.
Utah County has had one of the highest rates of eating disorders in the country. Camilla Kuhns has battled anorexia for most of her life. And while she fears food, ironically baking is her passion.
Camilla began baking desserts and blogging about her eating disorder to raise money for treatment. She often baked at night when she couldn’t sleep.
People from all over the world have visited her site and are cheering her on. Many anorexics say they appreciate her courage to openly discuss a mental illness most people suffer with in silence.
Camilla makes her favorite cookies from scratch.
“It’s more of a workout if you do it by hand,” she said. “Which I know I shouldn’t care about, but I do.”
Her mother helps with the frosting, while her brother is the taste tester. She has to take his word that it’s good.
“I’m afraid I’ll eat it somehow,” she said.
Camilla lives in constant fear of calories. She has battled anorexia since she was 11 years old. Her family has done everything they can to free her.
“I would just like her to see herself as she really is,” her mother said. “She really doesn’t see herself accurately, either physically or emotionally or her personality.”
Despite all the delicious food she bakes, Camilla lives only on cauliflower with hot sauce and a few nuts. She details her habits and health on her blog.
“My heart rate is between 32 and 35 beats per minute,” she said. “My doctor tells me my body is eating my heart. It’s slow suicide.”
While she starves her body, Camilla also pushes herself with endless exercise.
“I’ve been on a treadmill just bawling because you feel like you don’t have a choice,” she said. “It’s like, just get off the treadmill. Get off the treadmill. And your eating disorder is sitting there saying no, because if you do that then you fail.”
It’s that fear of failure and the fight for control that drives her illness. “It’s not about how you look, it’s about control,” Camilla said. “I don’t see a skinny girl.”
Measuring at 5 feet 8 inches and weighing less than 100 pounds, Camilla sees only how much more weight she could lose.
“When you think about it, since everybody is so obsessed with food, what a great way to show your willpower and control by not giving into it,” said Dr. Nicole Hawkins.
People often mistakenly assume anorexics are seeking attention and simply want to be thin. The reality is, most want to disappear.
“Eating disorders are really nothing about how the patient perceives how they look, they are nothing about food,” said Hawkins. “They are underlying feelings of not feeling good enough, underlying feelings of anxiety, depression, shame.”
“It’s very isolating, it’s very shameful and it’s very lonely,” said Camilla.
Teens and college-age women have the highest rate of eating disorders.
“Parents would be shocked to know how many of their daughters are dealing with this,” said Hawkins.
But doctors at the Center for Change say they are treating more young mothers through outpatient programs, along with women in their 50s and 60s. They’re also beginning to treat more men.
Camilla has tried numerous outpatient programs. Last month, she finally agreed to hospitalization at the Center for Change in Orem.
“It’s very hard to want to get help when you don’t really care that much about your life,” she said.
Doctors suggest she stay at least four to six months.
“I’m moving slowly because I’m just terrified,” said Camilla. “This has been a crutch for me for so long and I just feel like I’m losing my crutch.”
Camilla’s treatment runs $900 a day, which could end up costing more than $150,000. Insurance companies are beginning to help with some of the costs of eating disorder treatments, but don’t cover residential treatment, which has the highest recovery rate.
Why does it treatment cost so much? Patients require a of medical care, often to deal with their hearts and psychiatric treatment. They also need 24-hour supervision.
Camilla says it’s hard to believe her life is worth that enormous price. But she loves her family.
“I want my siblings to have their sister,” she said. “We talk about this, how they don’t have their sister right now. They have an eating disorder that lives with them.”
Camilla’s treatment is going well but she is still months away from recovery and doesn’t have enough money to stay much longer.
Friends have organized a benefit dinner in Salt Lake on Dec. 9.
Night Baker finds strength, healing in blog readers
OREM, Utah — For a Utah woman battling anorexia, sharing her story with the world ultimately helped save her life.
Camilla checked into the Center for Change in Orem, not knowing how long she’d be able to afford to stay. Treatment costs $900 a day.
But Camilla said the generosity of family, friends and strangers who follow her blog kept the money and support coming, giving her the funds and the strength to fight for her life.
Five months ago, doctors told Camilla she could have a heart attack at any moment. Her eating disorder has controlled her life for 18 long years.
“This has been a crutch for me for so long,” she said. “I just feel like I’m losing my crutch.”
Camilla entered treatment terrified to let go of the habits that were killing her. But now, five months later, she has a new take on life.
“I feel so much better,” she said. “I’m so much more fun and I enjoy things more. I am excited about my life and that is so much better than being skinny.”
Her family is grateful to have this Camilla back.
“I have my daughter back,” said David Kuhns, Camilla’s father. “She is fun. She’s energetic. She’s all the things that I knew she was.”
Camilla said treatment wasn’t easy. She wanted to quit many times, but she knew people all over the world were praying for her.
“They really saved my life by following the blog and reminding me that I had an audience and that it wasn’t just about me,” she said.
Camilla didn’t realize the full impact she’d had on others until she met a woman who went into treatment because of Camilla’s story.
“It’s so humbling because this woman is so incredible and she has a family and she is so successful,” she said. “I though that if this is the only person who saw my story and got anything out of it then it was so worth any ridicule I’ve gotten from sharing my blog.”
Camilla hasn’t completely conquered her eating disorder.
“It’s still there and it yells at me sometimes, but I feel like my voice is louder now,” she said.
For the first time in almost twenty years, Camilla said she finally feels in control of her future.
“My dream as a child was to grow up and not be an anorexic woman,” she said. “I’m getting back to that person who has other dreams, better dreams, and it is just a really good feeling.”
Camilla will receive a few more weeks of outpatient treatment at a center in Arizona as she makes the transition back into the real world.