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Newtown Square’s Kaitlyn Bowman.When Newtown Square’s Kaitlyn Bowman was in middle school, she struggled with severe anorexia. Now 17 and healthy, she’s crusading for victims of eating disorders on the Main Line and beyond.

Bowman’s bout with anorexia began between seventh and eighth grades before quickly spiraling out of control. A week into her freshman year at the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur, she was admitted to Philadelphia’s Renfrew Center for a seven-week stay.

“I read that 99 percent of women experience some type of eating issue. But the difference is that those people are able to pull themselves out of it and get help,” says Bowman, who had a relapse and missed much of her freshman year to undergo additional treatment. “People who have an eating disorder don’t have that ability to just snap out of it—even after they’ve received treatment.”

After a close friend lost her life to an eating disorder, Bowman founded the support and awareness organization J.U.L.I.A. (Just Understand Life Is Amazing) in her memory. She has spoken about her experiences—addressing the misconceptions surrounding anorexia, bulimia and binge eating—at her school, Villanova University and the Renfrew Conference, the country’s largest eating-disorder symposium. She’s also begun work on a “part-self-help book, part-memoir” with her mother that is based on the journal she kept during treatment.

“It might sound corny, but I think this is my purpose after surviving all that I went through,” says Bowman. “Secrets keep you sick. As soon as I let everyone know mine, it became a much better life for me.”

To learn more, visit renfrewcenter.com or call (800) REN-FREW.

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