Katie’s story

Passionate writer & college student who has spent more than half of their* life consumed by bulimia nervosa, NORTH CAROLINA


College student, Katie, 20, North Carolina, began to struggle with disordered eating at the early age of eight.

Katie suspects their* disordered eating was caused by strong familial and societal pressure to lose weight, and be perfect, coupled with trauma they experienced at 11 years of age.

During their first year of college, Katie, then age 18, was diagnosed with bulimia nervosa by a dietitian and therapist on campus. At the time, they were completely consumed by their eating disorder, which involved binge eating, purging, over-exercising, and excessive laxative use.

Post- diagnosis, Katie has been receiving professional, multidisciplinary treatment and care for their illness from a psychiatrist, therapist, dietitian, and other doctors. They are also participating in family therapy.

Given their first-hand knowledge of an eating disorder, Katie has chosen to “do some good”, by participating in the Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI) research study – the world’s largest genetic research study of eating disorders ever performed. The study aims to identify the hundreds of genes that influence a person’s risk of developing anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, to improve treatment, and ultimately, save lives.

This is Katie’s story.

At eight years of age, Katie began to show signs of disordered eating.

Twelve years later, they never imagined they would be continuing to exhibit this potentially life-threatening behavior.

During their first year of college, rather than focusing on their studies or socializing, Katie invested all of their energy into binge eating, purging, over-exercising, and over-using laxatives.

“While I have no memory whatsoever of my first-year classes, what I do recall, like the back of my hand, is every bathroom on campus,” said Katie.

Katie likens an eating disorder to “living in a home with terrible roommates.” They explain, “an eating disorder gives you a feeling of homelessness in your body, which you can’t escape.

“One roommate tells you to stop eating, and judges every decision you make around food. Another constantly tells you that you’re not sick at all, while yet another forces harmful behaviors down your throat, until you can’t breathe without engaging in them.”

When Katie was 18 years of age, they were diagnosed with bulimia nervosa by the Campus Health dietitian at the University of North Carolina (UNC), and a therapist at the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders.

Their insidious eating disorder has since taken a huge toll on their health, from a physical, emotional, and financial perspective. They have already experienced a cardiac event, and have spent thousands of dollars on treatment, in their relentless pursuit to overcome their bulimia nervosa.

“More than half of my life has been consumed by my eating disorder, to the point where it feels like it courses through my veins, as a part of me,” Katie said.

On two occasions, in 2019 and early 2020, respectively, Katie received higher level of care treatment at specialized centers for eating disorders. Today, they are continuing to receive care from a multidisciplinary healthcare professional team.

In 2012, famous actor and singer, Demi Lovato, released a warts-and-all documentary canvassing her rise to fame and her mental health struggle with binge eating and purging that she developed during her preteen years. This documentary allowed Katie to witness her first open, authentic, public discussion on the dangers of bulimia nervosa.

“After seeing Demi Lovato break the silence on eating disorders, it made me feel like I wasn’t alone, and that it was possible to get help.

“I then decided I would use my voice to make other people feel less alone, and hopefully, help at least one person in the process,” said Katie.

Katie believes genes play a significant role in the development of an eating disorder.

“Both of my parents have struggled with disordered eating, as have two of my siblings, although they are yet to receive a formal diagnosis.

“We also have a history of mental health problems in my family, including depression, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse,” Katie said.

To learn more about one’s genetic predisposition to the development of an eating disorder, Katie has chosen to participate in EDGI, and is urging Americans aged 18 and over, with first-hand experience of an eating disorder, to follow suit.

“EDGI is an extremely important study. It has the potential to demonstrate that people do not choose to have an eating disorder, but rather, there is a genetic component that contributes to the onset of the illness.

“Given eating disorders thrive on shame and silence, performing more research on their potential genetic causes, will lift some of the burden off those affected, and allow them more space to heal,” said Katie.

*Katie has chosen to identify with gender neutral pronouns