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’”Shelli says she told her now-husband when they were dating, and, though surprised, he was very supportive.

For years after their marriage, though, she did not disclose her long bout with bulimia to his family.“Being Orthodox and struggling with this or any kind of mental illness in general is a very scary thing, because you think you're going to be excluded from the community and that people are going to judge you—and sometimes, people do.”Shelli has started sharing her experiences not only with her family, but as a volunteer speaker for various eating disorder groups.

Even though she’s a professional fitness trainer, because she is not textbook thin (she described herself as “a plus-sized woman” to one matchmaker), she is regularly told she should lose weight to increase her marriage prospects.“I have definitely gotten, ‘You know, if you lose weight, it will be easier to find guys who will go out with you,’ ” she says. The system of [matchmaking] has remained pretty much the same throughout—but what has shifted now is the vision of beauty.”Levinson argues that the unhealthy focus on thinness is a testament to the power of mainstream media images.

She points to how “ubiquitous the thin ideal is that even in this insular community these messages have come across—even with people who don't have television and don't have access to the internet, this message of [the] thin ideal has seeped in so deeply.”In the Orthodox community, not only can size hinder one’s marriage prospects, but so can the stigma of having received treatment for an eating disorder.

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, tastes changed and families grew, the Executive Mansion evolved from a simple two-story house into the picturesque Queen Anne style building it is today.That fear ran through Shelli's* mind when she began formal treatment for her bulimia.Now 29, Shelli tells SELF that after struggling with the disorder on and off since she was 17, it hit her again in her early twenties when she was going through a divorce. “I was thinking, ' No one is ever going to want me because I don't even know how to eat food. How is anyone going to want me if I'm like this?Sara* can't remember a time in her life when she wasn’t on a diet.In fact, growing up in her Orthodox Jewish community, trying to lose weight was as routine as any other ritual.

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