Lake Villa teen writes children’s book to raise awareness of eating disorders

Teen Miss Avon Township shares her own anorexia struggles to help others

Bella Miller's book  is for sale at Vintage Mercantile, 896 Main St., Antioch.

LAKE VILLA – Inspired to prevent others from struggling with an eating disorder like she does, 15-year-old Bella Miller has become a children’s book author.

The Lakes Community High School freshman from Lake Villa wrote the children’s book “Food is Fuel: Eating = Energy!”

“It’s pretty much about my life,” said Miller, who won the Miss Avon Township Pageant in August 2023 and is the reigning Teen Miss Avon Township.

“The book is about anorexia and not eating and the character gets stronger and able to do all the things she loves again,” she said.

Miller chose an awareness of eating disorders as her platform for the pageant.

She also came up with the idea to write a children’s book.

“I was researching a lot about the topic and finding that there’s a ton of people that struggle with it,” she said. “I wanted to bring awareness to younger kids. I wanted to help them so that they don’t struggle early on in life.”

She worked with an illustrator in Palatine, self-published and has sold the book mainly to family and friends so far, bringing attention to it through her personal social media.

The book is for sale at Vintage Mercantile, 896 Main St., Antioch. It costs $12 and is available to ship at a cost of $15. Those interested are asked to Venmo@bellamiller.

Miller is donating $1 from every sale to a charity for eating disorders awareness, likely the National Alliance for Eating Disorders.

According to the alliance, more than 29 million Americans experience a clinically significant eating disorder during their lifetime. Eating disorders have the second-highest mortality rate of any mental illness with almost one person dying every 52 minutes as a direct result of their illness, according to the alliance.

Other statistics show eating disorders, especially anorexia, remain at an all-time high for teens.

Eating disorder-related health visits more than doubled among people younger than 17 in the past five years, according to a report from the data company Trilliant Health. Visits related to anorexia nervosa, which has the highest death rate of any mental illness, jumped 129.26%.

A high school cheerleader, Miller said it’s a continuous struggle.

“I have good days and bad days,” she said. “Of course, you’re still going to struggle, but you try to make the best of it and have a positive attitude.”

“I noticed, but wasn’t really aware,” her mother, Christina Bryson, said. “You just don’t think about it. She’s just so active. I didn’t notice she would start skipping meals and things like that.”

As a flyer for the cheerleading team, Miller felt pressure to be small even as she grew taller.

“Then it finally came out she was struggling a bit. We talked about it and addressed it and then she wanted to learn about it,” Bryson said. “She’s still learning. It’s a process.”

Social media plays a big role, both Bryson and Miller said, as teens compare themselves with unrealistic body images.

On social media, everyone seems like they’re perfect with perfect lifestyles, Bryson said.

“When you’re in day-to-day life you see a few people you may compare yourself to,” Miller said. “When you’re on social media, you see the whole world and it opens up a lot of new things, which can be dangerous.”

Miller was bullied a bit by classmates who discovered she suffered from an eating disorder, her mother said.

She took the adversity and turned it into something positive.

If the book only reaches and helps one person struggling, it’s worth it, Miller said.

“I think it’s really amazing,” Bryson said. “Obviously we’re so proud. She always surprises us and when she has an idea, she really goes after it immediately. She wrote the book super quickly. When she wants something, she goes and gets it. It’s pretty cool to have a child like that.

“She definitely does more than I could ever do and she pushes me to be right next to her and challenges all of us to go out and get the things we want. Everything she tries turns to gold.”