In January 2009, a 22-year-old Dutch model named Kim Noorda came to my office to discuss her relationship with food.
Kim had been identified by her agent at DNA as a young woman on the precipice of an eating disorder, and therefore a worthy candidate for an intervention underwritten by the CFDA Health Initiative. (The CFDA Health Initiative was founded in 2007 to combat anorexia and bulimia in the industry, to provide information and resources to models in the throes of these diseases, and, more generally, to change the aesthetic on the New York runways from extreme skinniness to a more realistic, fit ideal.)
Although Kim was aware that she had issues with how and what she fed herself, she was at pains to tell me that she did not have an eating disorder. As a model, she said, she had learned to eat "a little less."
Although I had never met her before, I certainly knew of her. Since turning eighteen, Kim has been a consistent and lovely presence on the most important catwalks; she has a soulful grace to her, a certain introspective elegance that has endeared her to such houses as Balenciaga, Prada, and Chanel.
Had her weight fluctuated over the years? Perhaps, though not in any way that caused chatter in the industry. But what was apparent by fall of 2008 was that Kim was now very thin -- very thin for a statuesque Amsterdam beauty who should have been coming into her own as a woman instead of shrinking to the proportions of a naturally scrawny fourteen-year-old. (At five feet ten, she weighed 110 pounds.)
Our goal, I told her, was to help her see how she could diminish the centrality of food in her thinking to ultimately have a richer and more fulfilling adult life, in and out of fashion -- to, in a sense, learn to be "a little more."
Kim agreed. She is a very thoughtful, resourceful person, a young woman who reads novels by J. M. Coetzee and escapes to museums during Fashion Week. She knew the measure of her life was not synonymous with that of her hips.
So off she went to a four-week outpatient program at the Renfrew Center, a facility in New York (among other locales) that has for 25 years been treating patients with eating disorders through a multipronged therapeutic approach. This was the start of Kim Noorda's journey of self-discovery and wellness.
What follows are extracts from the journals she has kept -- honest, unflinching, sad, seeking, and, most of all, urgent.
Yesterday I went to see my doctor for medical clearance. I told him that I did not have an eating disorder, but that I also believe that I do not take care of myself well enough and that I will learn something through the treatment. I am actually afraid of telling people that I am about to do this. I do not want people to see me as someone with an eating disorder. I want them to see the underlying reasons why I do not take good enough care of myself. The tests proved that not a lot of things are wrong with me: completely healthy, only my BMI is too low. ...