Anorexic baker faces demons in the kitchen

Anorexic baker faces demons in the kitchen

SEATTLE -- The kitchen is the last place you'd expect to find Camilla Kuhns.

But with no recipe and no calorie counting, there's no question that she can make the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

"She has a great deal of fear around food," said Camilla's mother Ilene. "So I couldn't understand why this was working for her."

Camilla immerses herself in baking without ever taking a bite. She been anorexic for nearly two decades.

Her younger brother Seth samples dough and final products to let her know if anything is off. Ilene helps with the frosting.

"Yeah, my mom's my angel when it comes to the frosting," Camilla said from across the kitchen. "I don't know what it is but it makes me very anxious."

Camilla's eating disorder began when she was 11 years old. She managed to bring it under control at different points in her life, but it always comes back.

Now 29 years old, she is 5'8" tall and weighs about 100 pounds.

She is starving herself to death.

"With the eating disorder it's never enough," she said.  "You're never going to be small enough. Really you're trying to disappear and that's not possible. So there's always more to lose," Camilla said.

She started a blog, calling herself the Night Baker, because she often turns to the kitchen when she can't sleep. Here, she reveals her daily food intake -- a head of cauliflower and a tablespoon of nuts.

And she details her compulsive exercise, which often includes four to six hours of working out. She also uses the site to sell cookies to help pay for treatment.

"There are so many girls that want help and they don't want this to be their life. And they can't afford treatment. It's so expensive," she said. "I'm just hoping this will help somebody and bring attention to it so in the future more people can get help."

One cookie at a time, Camilla raised $7,000 dollars. That's enough for one week at Utah's Center for Change. But Camilla needs six months, first to get healthy. Right now her heart beats just 37 times a minute, about half of what's normal. Then she needs intensive psychological care.

Nicole Hawkins is the Director of Clinical Services at Utah's Center for Change.

"Eating disorders are really nothing about how the patient perceives how they look, they are nothing about food," said Hawkins.  "There are underlying feelings of not feeling good enough, underlying feelings of anxiety, depression, shame."

Camilla struggles with self-image and it peaks with traumatic moments in life -- like her divorce and the death of her best friend.

In the mirror, she doesn't see skinny. She sees "unworthy."

"She is beautiful," said Camilla's mother Ilene. "I would just like her to see herself as she really is. She really doesn't see herself accurately, either physically or emotionally or her personality. All of that stuff is skewed for her."

With help from her family and church, Camilla raised more money and agreed to check in to treatment.

"I'm just terrified. This has been a crutch for me for so long," she said nervously before leaving.

Camilla's dad says she's called multiple times asking him to get her out. But she stayed. Perhaps because of what she told us before checking into treatment.

"I don't want to let these people down because they're investing in me and my future," she said. "It's terrifying. A big part of me doesn't want to do it. I believe my family loves me and they think my life is valuable, so I have to believe them."

Her hope is she will return to her favorite place - the kitchen - and that cookies will be her comfort food, not just by making them, but by eating them too.

You can follow Camilla's progress on her blog. She is asking for care packages to share with other women in the program, containing small items like lip balm and crossword puzzles.

Camilla is still trying to raise money to pay for treatment.  If you would like to help, you can donate through our Problem Solvers donation page.

Friends are also organizing a concert benefit and silent auction, but they need a venue.  If you have a facility available on November 30th or December 1st and would be willing to donate the space, email the Problem Solvers and we will put you in touch with organizers.