“How Paula Abdul Helped Me Conquer My Eating Disorders”

We first met Cami in September 2011, at the Hollywood Premiere of The X Factor USA. She is a singer, aspiring actress, student, and is only a teenager. We had no idea what she was going through and just thought she was just another typical happy-go-lucky teen girl with a superstar dream. How wrong we were. Since then she has become good friends with our team and has even been brought on board to write guest posts. But first we wanted to share Cami’s story because she has been through a lot and we know her story is going to inspire and empower so many others…

cami-julaine

How and when did your battle with eating disorders begin?

I remember being as young as 7 years old and my grandma telling me I was too fat. From then on she would comment on everything I ate, and told me what my body shape should look like. I started to become really insecure about my figure and started to envy other girls at school, especially the tall blonde skinny pretty girls, thinking I wanted to look like them.

When I was 13 I started binge eating and would get in trouble by my parents for it. One day I would binge on cookie dough, the next day I would eat nothing. I started to develop really unhealthy eating habits, and this was also when I started to make myself throw up after feeling guilty for binge eating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You mentioned you had a very traumatic experience that exacerbated your eating disorder in High School…

Both my parents were diagnosed with cancer a few months apart from each other in 2010, and my whole world fell apart. I would have anxiety all day at school and hardly eat anything because of it. I dropped from 120lbs to 92lbs at the age of 16 in a month, and I am only 4’11”. My daily meal at this point consisted of 2 cranberries and a walnut for breakfast, an apple for lunch, and 2 pieces of lettuce for dinner. After a few days I would get so hungry, bake a huge batch of cookies then throw up from guilt. I started hating myself so much from eating that I would spray Windex on food to prevent me from eating it whenever I would binge.

How did this lead to you being admitted to hospital the first time?

I found to courage to confide in one of my teachers at school and told him what I was struggling with. So in December of 2010 my teacher along with my parents had an intervention which resulted in me being admitted to a hospital. But it wasn’t exactly the best thing for me. While I was there, they basically forced me to eat. I was put on a strict 5000 calorie diet a day, with no exercise. So between December 2010 and January 2011 I gained 25-35 lbs from my stay.

But I realized this just made my eating habits worse. After I went home, I was addicted to food because of the hospital and started over-eating. Once again I would feel guilty after and make myself throw up. In June 2011 I started restricting my food once again and lived on a packet of baby food a day. So I feel like my intervention and stay in hospital really did nothing for me at this point but make me worse.

Tell us about meeting Paula Abdul and how your friendship with her tied into your eating disorder?

I first met Paula Abdul in April of 2010 at an event and we became friends. Paula likes to mentor young girls in the industry and I became one of those girls. She helped me a lot with my singing and even gave me advice for my eating disorder as I would regularly confide in her about it. She was so great to me, and always promoted self-acceptance, love and positive energy.

Fast forward to June 2011, and after telling Paula that my stay in hospital made me worse, she recommended I speak to her assistant Angela whose girlfriend is the CEO of a treatment center in Laguna Hills, CA. The very next day, after throwing up from drinking a glass of water, I found the details of the treatment center called ‘Rebecca’s House’ and called them. It took 4 months for me to even get into the treatment center because of my fear and resistance. I was afraid it wouldn’t work, just like my hospital stay, and I would develop worse eating habits again.

How did your parents react when you told them you wanted to go to a Treatment Center?

My parents did not want me to go because they didn’t think I had a problem anymore! They would see me eating junk food all the time and figured “Oh she’s eating, she’s fine” and didn’t know I had an eating disorder. I guess they weren’t educated enough to see the signs, or know what an eating disorder is and how many types there are. The media paints a picture of people with eating disorders as only people with anorexia so how are we to know what the signs really are?

I finally made a deal with my parents and Candace the CEO of Rebecca’s House, who I had become close with at this point from months of communication, that I would go to the center for only a week during Thanksgiving so I wouldn’t miss any school.

Tell us about the transition going into Rebecca’s House?

So in the fall of 2011 I was invited to the X Factor live taping by Paula. This was literally a day before I went to the center. I got to see Paula at the show, and told her what was going on and how I had taken her advice about getting in touch with Rebecca’s House. She looked at me, told me to get my sh$& together and that she believed in me.

That was a big deal, especially because she was my mentor. The very next day I checked into the treatment center thinking I would only be there for a week during the holidays. Instead I literally ended up living there full time from November 2011 to July 2012! I was in worse shape than I thought, and had to miss out on a year of school because I badly needed help.

So once you were in the treatment center what did you go through and what did you learn?

The first thing I learned was that I was NOT in control of my disorders. This was a breakthrough for me to learn I can only control my own reactions, and accept myself as I am and move forward. I felt so supported and loved in Rebecca’s House. I learned what my core issues were: People pleasing, anxiety, depression and perfectionism.

Because I want to be a singer and actress and work in entertainment, I was constantly comparing myself to other people I thought were the model of perfectionism: Nicole Scherzinger was one of them, and hearing recently that she herself suffered an eating disorder while she was in the Pussycat Dolls was a huge eye opener for me, made me realize we are all human. Paula Abdul too had an eating disorder earlier in her career and I think that’s why she likes to mentor young girls in the industry.

What were some practical tools you learned from Rebecca’s House that you use even today?

I went through a 12 Step Program where one of the things I learned was to start giving things up to God. Anyone who has been through this program knows one of the steps is to acknowledge a ‘higher power’ and I now know why this is so crucial.
Some quotes I started to live by were “Let go and Let God.” and “destroy what destroys you.”

I started to accept myself even though I didn’t necessarily like who I was right then. I began to be honest about my life in general and ask myself the big questions: Who am I? Why am I doing this to myself? What was the purpose of all of this?

I also learned practical ways to help me cope with my disorder that weren’t self harming such as journaling, yoga, and singing again. (During the time I had bulimia, I wasn’t able to physically sing because my vocal chords were so damaged from acid and overdosing on 20 diet pills a day.)

I finally learned not to believe all the false messages the media puts out about celebrities, beauty and the unrealistic goals of perfection.
Finding a higher power like God made me see that there is something greater than myself out there and I don’t have to fear myself anymore. That was very freeing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You finally left Rebecca’s House in 2012, what was the process of transitioning out of there like for you?

Before I left Rebecca’s House, I decided to audition for season 2 of The X Factor in March. It was a big deal for me because I was finally moving toward a place of healing, and this audition reignited my passion for music again. I only made it to the producers round but I was so proud that I was able to even do that at this stage in my life!

Leaving the treatment center in July was an eye opener. I knew that not everywhere I went was going to be as supportive of an environment, especially now that I’m living in Los Angeles. I started ‘cleaning house’ with all my unhealthy and negative friends & wrote a list of qualities I wanted in a true friend, e.g., honesty.

After being in Rebecca’s House I realized I needed to start taking care of myself, and that is what I have been doing the past 5 months.

cami-julaine

Tell us where you are at now in your life and what you hope to do going forward?

I am now back in school and repeating my junior year, but I’m ok with that. During my time at Rebecca’s House I had a chance to think about what I wanted to do with my life. I really want to change the way society thinks about women’s body image. I also really want to audition for the X Factor again next season! So my goal in life is to open my own treatment center one day for eating disorders and co-occurring addictions, using music therapy as a tool. I want to be able to give back to other young girls so many of the valuable experiences I learned myself.

Those are some amazing goals! What advice do you have for other young women going through the same situation as you have?

First, don’t hide it. There’s great saying I heard during treatment “you’re only as sick as you’re secrets.”

Second, find someone you trust to talk to, and as hard as it may be, try to do something positive for yourself each day. Eating disorders are rarely about the food. It’s about the core struggles of your past you can’t control. Once you find out where that comes from you can truly begin to heal.

Keeping your head held high is also very important. Don’t give up before the miracle happens! I remember during one very low point putting my hand on my chest, feeling my heartbeat and thinking to myself “I’m still alive, and there’s a reason why I’m here.” There is a reason you are alive today and you have a right and a duty to find out what that is and be the best person you can possible be. You never know what a source of strength and inspiration you could be to others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you or someone you know is going through a similar situation to what Cami went through, please speak up about it. You can even contact us at GirlTalkHQ and we will point you in the right direction. CLICK HERE to find out more information about Rebecca’s House Treatment Center in Laguna Hills, CA.

16 Comments

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  8. Paula Abdul is such a beautiful person! 🙂

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