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A powerful interview with DON’T CALL ME KIT KAT author K. J. Farnham on Eating Disorders & Body Image
Jun 16th, 2015 by Liza Wiemer

DON’T CALL ME KIT KATUntitled3

by K.J. Farnham

Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository

From Goodreads:

Junior high is where things really start to happen. Cliques form and break apart. Couples are made and destroyed. And a reputation is solidified that you won’t ever be able to escape. Everything you do and say, and everyone you spend your time with, matters.

Katie Mills knows that. She gets it. That’s why she tried so hard to get in with the cool girls at school. And why she was so devastated when those efforts found her detained for shoplifting and laughed out of cheer squad tryouts.

But Katie has more to worry about than just fitting in. Her parents are divorced and always fighting. Her sister never has time for her. And her friends all seem to be drifting apart. Even worse? The boy she has a crush on is dating the mean girl at school.

Everything is a mess, and Katie doesn’t feel like she has control over any of it. Certainly not over her weight, which has always topped out at slightly pudgier than normal—at least, according to her mother.

So when she happens to catch one of the popular girls throwing up in the bathroom one day, it sparks an idea. A match that quickly engulfs her life in flames.

Is there any going back once she gets started down this path?

And would she even want to if she could?

INTERVIEW

  1. Why did you want to write a novel about eating disorders?

 

Someone very close to me struggled with bulimia from the age of 12 into her mid twenties, so I know exactly what the disease does to a person—both mentally and physically. I drew from my friend’s experiences as well as from some memories of how I felt in junior high to create Katie’s story.

 

Bulimia (as well as other eating disorders) is a complex disease with many different causes and no clear course of treatment. Every bulimic needs different things to heal and heals at her own pace.

 

Eating disorders are often not taken seriously as life-threatening mental illnesses, and those who suffer often feel too ashamed to seek help. To make matters worse, friends and loved ones of sufferers tend to have a hard time understanding that treatment is a lengthy process, so lingering symptoms often get swept under the rug. It breaks my heart.

 

  1. What advice do you have for teens who feel like they don’t fit in?

 

Please keep in mind that everyone feels like they don’t fit in at some point. I know I’ve felt that way many times, especially during my teen years. Still do once in a while. When I was younger, I usually coped by confiding in a few close friends—friends I still maintain contact with (nearly 30 years later). And guess what? Nowadays, when I’m feeling like I don’t belong, I still turn to the same friends. Sure, there are times when they might not understand exactly what I’m going through, but it is amazing how calming it can be to confide in someone when I’m feeling self-conscious or anxious.

 

Another way to combat the feeling of not being able to relate to others is by discovering your passions. Be honest with yourself about what you like and what you don’t like, and don’t be afraid to do what you enjoy, even if friends aren’t interested. If you do what you love, you will eventually connect with others who love the same things.

 

  1. How does one cope when it’s a parent who is battering your self-esteem?

 

Before I answer this question, I’d like to share a little bit about myself…Sadly, I know from experience what this feels like. I was held to extremely high standards as a child. As a result, I have struggled with low self-esteem, OCD-like tendencies and relationship issues. It has taken me a long time to realize that I am good enough just the way I am (flaws and all) and that it is IMPOSSIBLE to be perfect and unfair to expect others to strive for perfection.

 

Now for my answer…This is a tough question because there are different degrees of criticism that can affect a person’s self-esteem. Katie, the main character in Don’t Call Me Kit Kat is constantly subjected to comments about her appearance and her weight and is repeatedly compared to her “perfect” older sister. In my opinion, her mother’s relentless criticisms are a mild form of psychological abuse even though she is unaware of the damage she is doing to Katie’s self-esteem. However, some people might not consider criticism to be a form of abuse, especially since many teens go through much worse than what Katie goes through.

 

So, I think the coping mechanism depends on the severity of the issue. In a case like Katie’s, it’s important to speak up. If your parent repeatedly says things that make you feel self-conscious or critical of yourself, let that parent know. A lot of times, parents don’t even realize how harmful mild criticisms can be.

 

What if the verbal abuse is more extreme? Again, start by communicating to your parent how you feel. If this is not possible or if your parent won’t listen, talk to someone else. A friend. A sibling. A teacher. A guidance counselor. An aunt or an uncle. Do not hide it if you have a parent who constantly berates you or doles out harsh, unwarranted criticisms that attack you as a person.

 

I don’t pretend to be a perfect parent. Like I said, perfection is NOT possible. I have had to bite my tongue at times when my children have misbehaved or even when they’ve neglected to do something they way I taught them to do it. I’m only human. However, parents who have trouble biting their tongues or who think it’s perfectly fine to berate a child need help. Verbal abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse, yet without marks to prove it, it often goes unnoticed, especially if the abused child doesn’t speak up.

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  1. Society focuses on body image. What do you want young teens to know about their bodies? Is your advice different for boys?

 

First of all, according to the National Institutes of Health, the human body is made up of more than 100 trillion cells. Here’s what that looks like in numeric form: 100,000,000,000,000. Do you know how unique that makes you? With that many cells, it’s absurd for society to push an “ideal” body image on anyone. The extent to which each individual person is unique is absolutely mind-boggling. 100 TRILLION cells! Embrace your uniqueness and take care of yourself by making healthy choices because your body is a miracle. J

 

Secondly, have you ever heard this quote by Maya Angelou?

 

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

 

In my experience, people will also forget what your body looked like and what you were wearing. Honestly, the way you look right now won’t matter 20, 10, five or even two years from now. But the way you behave today—the way you treat people—will matter for the rest of your life. So love the miracle that is your body, but remember that it’s just a vessel. It truly is what’s on the inside that counts.

 

My advice is no different for boys.

 

  1. You mentioned taking control and losing control. What lessons can readers learn about control?

 

Eating disorder patients often share a common thread; they feel the need to control something. As a result, they have taken control over the one thing that no one can stop them from controlling: the food they do or don’t put into their mouths. But the harsh reality is that the controlling habits of eating disorder patients become addictions, and addicts have no control over their addictions. So that’s why developing an eating disorder can be seen as both taking control and losing control.

 

Facts About Eating Disorders From the National Eating Disorders Association

 

Bulimia nervosa affects 1-2% of adolescent and young adult women.

  • Approximately 80% of bulimia nervosa patients are female.
  • People struggling with bulimia nervosa usually appear to be of average body weight.
  • Many people struggling with bulimia nervosa recognize that their behaviors are unusual and perhaps dangerous to their health.
  • Bulimia nervosa is frequently associated with symptoms of depression and changes in social adjustment.
  • Risk of death from suicide or medical complications is markedly increased for eating disorders

Despite the prevalence of eating disorders, they continue to receive inadequate research funding.

Illness                                            Prevalence                    NIH Research Funds (2011)
Alzheimer’s Disease                     5.1 million                     $450,000,000
Autism                                           3.6 million                     $160,000,000
Schizophrenia                               3.4 million                     $276,000,000
Eating disorders                           30 million                      $28,000,000

Research dollars spent on Alzheimer’s Disease averaged $88 per affected individual in 2011. For Schizophrenia the amount was $81. For Autism $44. For eating disorders the average amount of research dollars per affected individual was just $0.93. (National Institutes of Health, 2011)

To learn more or to make a donation that will go toward prevention programs, rehabilitation and support for those who struggle with eating disorders, please visit http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/.

 

Share five fun facts about yourself.

 

  • I am 50 percent Taiwanese.
  • Despite the fact that I’m a terrible swimmer, I’ve completed five triathlons.
  • In my early twenties, I loved the Red Hot Chili Peppers. As a result, I have a RHCP-inspired tattoo on my inner right ankle.
  • I can say the 50 United States in alphabetical order in less than 30 seconds.
  • In 1994, I started college as a pre-med student. After changing my major from pre-med to clinical laboratory sciences to accounting, I finally graduated in 1999 with a degree in elementary education. And now I’m an author. You never know what life has in store for you!

 

ABOUT K.J

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K. J. Farnham is a former educator turned author and freelance writer. She was born and raised in a suburb of Milwaukee and now lives in western Wisconsin with her husband, three children and three cats.

In addition to reading and writing, Farnham loves road trips, beach outings, Body Pump, running, hiking and acoustic music. She hopes to convince her husband to drive across the United States in an RV someday.

During her tween, teen and young adult years, she devoured books by V.C. Andrews, Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Nowadays, Farnham will read just about anything but still leans toward fiction. Her preferred genres include contemporary romance, humor, thriller/suspense, horror and YA.

Website: www.kjfarnham.com

Email: author.kjfarnham@yahoo.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorKJFarnham

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