An article from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders states that “9% of the U.S. population, or 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime.”
18-year-old Toronto native, Kate Farmer, falls into that 9%. Her battle with anorexia took off during junior high and high school. Farmer is currently a BYU-Idaho freshman studying Art. Her spark for art didn’t come by accident.
“People are always talking about depression and anxiety today,” Farmer said. “You never hear people talk about eating disorders. It’s not just for teenage girls or dancers. It’s people all around and we don’t even know,”
Farmer now speaks confidently about her struggle with the disorder in hopes that it will help others who stand oblivious in the middle of their eating disorders.
“At the time, I really didn’t understand my situation,” Farmer said. “It’s hard when you’re right in the middle of it. It was hurting my health in ways that I wish I learned about earlier on. I had no idea that severe anorexia can hurt your ability to have kids, cause hair loss and lower blood pressure.”
Many people are quiet about their eating disorders and may not even clearly recognize that they have them.
According to anad.org, “Less than 6% of people with eating disorders are medically diagnosed as ‘underweight’.”
The Alliance for Eating Disorders states, “Eating disorders include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, and PICA.”
Three of those disorders stand out as more common: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder.
Anorexia Nervosa, commonly referred to as anorexia, entails starving oneself and being extremely self-conscious at the thought of food. Those who struggle with anorexia have a constant fear of being fat, even if they are merely skin and bones. Anorexic tendencies are often well hidden, and it can be hard to recognize when someone is affected by it. Not everyone who struggles with it will look weak or be extremely skinny.
“It’s funny when you have an eating disorder, you become an expert in your own illness,” Farmer said. “You know pretty well what it’s doing, and you research everything about it, but you can’t stop. That’s why so many victims go on to become counselors and nutritionists after they heal. They want to help others,”
Farmer recounted on the reality that was counting calories and restricting meals as punishment.
“I put myself on pretty strict caloric intakes, and to this day, I can tell you about how many calories are in almost anything,” Farmer said. “If I ate over 500 hundred calories at any point in the day, I would punish myself by skipping each upcoming meal that I could get away with. I became good at hiding it all from my family.”
Bulimia entails the purging of food and ridding it of the body as quickly as possible whether through laxative medicines or forcing oneself to throw up. These methods can also be common for those who struggle with anorexia, but what sets people with bulimia apart is the purging beforehand. They overindulge in lots of food and then immediately search for ways to rid the body of every possible calorie.
Binge-eating entails eating large amounts of food very quickly even when one isn’t hungry. The bingeing often leads to eating to the point of being uncomfortable. While many people overeat from time to time, it can become a full-fledged binge-eating disorder.
“I realized later that it was never about the amount of weight I lost,” Farmer said. “I unhealthily lost over twenty pounds in about a year, but no matter how fast I lost it … it was never enough. There is a feeling of never being satisfied. Anorexia is mental, and it lies to you about feeling better or satisfied once you lose the weight.”
“Like I said, you never know who is struggling and who isn’t,” Farmer said.
She went on to explain that her brother, who is about seven years older than she is, also struggled with anorexia for a few years.
According to the , “While 60% of the contributing factors stem from a genetic component, genes alone do not predict who will develop an eating disorder.”National Alliance for Eating Disorders
“I still think about my battle with Anorexia often, but I gained things in getting past it,” Farmer said. “I was never really into art before I struggled with it, and now I paint or draw all the time. I know it helped me get through everything. Having that escape of creating something helped me cope, and it took my mind off of things.”
Farmer easily made the decision to release her name and photos to the public in order to tell her story.
“If being this vulnerable and telling my story out loud is going to help someone else, then I feel okay with doing this,” Farmer said. “People can beat this. They need help and support.”
Beating an eating disorder can require the help of professionals. Visit the site below for help from the National Eating Disorder Hotline, web chats, and phone calls.