December usually brings end of year celebrations, cold weather, and many tempting beverage and food opportunities. But for some, the cookies, candies, and cakes that materialize in December present a serious challenge. The mental health and wellness umbrella extends beyond physical fitness, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideations, and dependency issues. While disordered eating and eating disorders are absolutely included within the mental health and wellness umbrella, the topic is frequently left out of larger mental health conversations. Eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, orthorexia, and selective eating disorder, among other diagnoses.
A study by the Journal of Legal Education found that as many as 27 percent of law students (18 percent of male respondents and 34 percent of female respondents) screened positive for eating disorders, while only 3 percent had actual diagnoses. The association between attorneys being at greater risk for experiencing higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression than other disciplines extends—not surprisingly—to both disordered eating and eating disorders.
Brian Cuban, author of The Addicted Lawyer: Tales of the Bar, Booze, Blow, and Redemption, publicly acknowledged his eating disorders about 15 years ago, describing his struggle with traditional and exercise bulimia for over 20 years. Referring to his two-decade struggle with eating disorders as being the hardest to talk about of all his struggles, Cuban stated in a 2020 video on his blog that he felt the most stigma surrounding eating disorders, which he partially attributed to being a male lawyer. Read about Mr. Cuban’s candid discussion on eating disorders on his blog and in an article by Jason Langendorf “The Search for a Sense of Self,” Treatment Magazine (Feb. 8, 2022) (subscription required).
How can law schools and employers support law students and lawyers who may be struggling with disordered eating? The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) provides the guide Eating Disorders in the Workplace. This guide identifies warning signs of eating disorders and strategies for helping professionals and employees with eating disorders. Cuban points out the need to understand that eating disorders are defined by various behavior types, not just appearance. He suggests that law schools have an eating disorder point of contact and incorporate lessons on healthy relationships with food into wellness discussions.
National Eating Disorder Week takes place February 26 to March 2, 2024. Consider promoting awareness among your colleagues, firms, and workplaces and provide resources for anyone who may be seeking help with eating disorders, both locally and nationally. NEDA’s website, for example, provides information on free and low-cost support as well as an interactive map to get help from professionals. NEDA also publishes brochures that can be made available for lawyers and employees seeking help with eating disorders.