Legally Thin
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Hi, Kelly,

I received your email today and read through it. Thank you so much. You are so brave. I admire your ability to talk openly about this. I still have trouble admitting to myself and others that I mistreated my body, destroyed my sense of self, and tortured my family.

Although I consider myself basically healed from my own experience, I still notice mild lingering behaviors that remind me of my struggle. Whenever I eat a big meal, I worry that my stomach is sticking out. I eat minimally during the day if I have a date that night because I want to be able to eat more in front of other people so that they won’t pester me about my small appetite. It’s like I have to prove that I don’t have a problem because then I can deny that I ever did.


During the toughest part of my experience with anorexia, I weighed about 90 pounds, and I am 5’8”. I have never been overweight, and I never wanted to be thinner. In fact, I was made fun of for the way I looked and lost many friends who were unwilling to be associated with someone who needed help. That just made everything worse.

I was just so depressed that I had no motivation to care for myself. I didn’t just stop eating; I stopped doing everything good for me. I would study in the library at lunchtime because I knew people were watching to see what I would eat or not eat. I put no effort into my appearance. I never wanted to hang out with my friends. I took multiple showers per day because I was always cold. Whenever I did eat something, the food felt like poison in my body. My stomach would feel sick, and my gut would rumble. Inside, I was screaming for help, but I denied my problem with fervor. I even denied it to myself.

Even now, when people ask me if I have ever had an eating disorder, I usually say no. And to this day, I HATE the feeling of being full. I avoid big meals and just graze all day. I don’t really know why I am compelled to tell you this. I guess maybe your honesty is inspiring. It does kind of feel good to tell someone, even if you don’t know me.

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It’s the kind of world that can make anyone feel stressed, helpless, and out of control. A lifestyle that can overwhelm the hardiest of souls and send even the most disciplined screaming into the night, seeking solace and comfort in a variety of temporary yet all too dangerous diversions. In the high-pressure world of legal studies and practice, a volatile mixture of skyrocketing stress levels and type-A personality traits produces good lawyers; however, it may also increase vulnerability to the traps of eating disorders and disordered eating.

Days after Kelly* completed law school in New York, she began to study for the bar, just as any hardworking and diligent attorney-to-be should. For about two months, she kept up her strict schedule of BAR/BRI training, studying, weightlifting, and cardio exercise, often studying with flashcards while she exercised. Kelly reflected that during this time, she felt like the only thing she could do was study and exercise. “I also found comfort in controlling my calories—since I couldn’t control the outcome of the bar exam, I think,” she said.

For Kelly, controlling calories often led to losing control. She restricted her daytime calories to 1,100 so that she could eat a big dinner but would be so hungry by dinnertime that she would eat too much and sometimes purge to compensate for her inability to stop when she was full. “I would also lie in bed at night,” Kelly said, “and feel how flat my stomach was and how much my hip bones stuck out, if at all. I was only happy when my stomach was flat between my hip bones.” During the summer she spent studying for the bar, Kelly lost about 10 pounds. The day after she took the bar exam, she injured her knee trying to run in a parking lot.


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