"I thought slender was sexy, but I learned the hard way'
BEAUTIFUL KELLY RIPA, Regis' new replacement for Kathy Lee on "Live" - survived a devastating anorexia nightmare just before her pregnancy.
Little more than a year ago, the curvaceous 5-foot-4 blonde dieted herself down to a frightening 85 pounds - alarming friends, fans and even a fellow performer.
And a chillling photo taken at the time reveals just how skeletal she had become.
"I always thought slender was sexy," Kelly, 30, told a pal. "But I learned the hard way that I can be too slender."
The perky beauty - who'se now five months pregnant with her second child - has long battled wild weight gyrations and has subjected her body to extreme diets.
When the talented talk star hit 85 pounds, the pal disclosed. "Her closest friends begged her to eat more and urged her to seek help."
Even her "All My Children" co-star Susan Lucci was concerned about how emaciated Kelly looked.
"Kelly was extremely frustrated," divulged the pal.
"She says she definetly wasn't anorexic."
"She explained the weightloss was caused by her heavy workload and the energy she spent running after her toddler.
"But the truth is Kelly did lose a tremendous amount of weight and did look emaciated. She's battled her weight problem for years. Since she was a pudgy teenager she's been on one fad diet after another.
"Generally she's kept her weight at about 105 pounds. But when she got pregnant with her son Michael in the fall of 1996 she stopped dieting for the first time in years and ate exactly what she wanted. She ballooned.
"She gained over 65 pounds during the pregnancy and wound up weighing 170 pounds."
"All My Children" producers didn't want her pregnancy written into the soap, so her bulging figure was hidden on the show through a series of ruses that bordered on the ridiculous.
"Initially I would carry luggage with me everywhere," said Kelly. "The I started to carry guitar cases. The I carried trees. Trees!"
But viewers were merciless and wrote insulting "fat pig" letters about her weight gain.
The assault hurt deeply. "So after the birth in June 1997, she dieted with a vegeance." said the pal.
Over the next two years, she continued to lose weight steadily. "Finally, but the end of 1999 she was down to 85 pounds," said the pal.
Now the tide turned dramatically - fans whispered that she was anorexic.
Although she vehementally denied that, Kelly did admit her own doctor had asked her to put on weight - and she soon began gaining.
In September 2000, she became pregnant again, and now - well into her pregnancy - she has reached a healthy 125 pounds.
But it's been a long, hard road for Kelly, who used to experiment with wacky diets - including bizarre "no chew" diet.
"I had this theory that if it doesn't need to be chewed, you can eat it." she told a reporter. "I love baby applesauce - but I missed chewing so much."
Growing up, Kelly thought Barbie dolls had the ideal look. "She wanted to look like Barbie," revealed a source close to the star.
"So she took dieting to an extreme.
"She was horrified a couple years ago to be mentioned in some 'anorexia chic' stories about Hollywood."
Now radiant Kelly vows not to repeat the mistakes of the past, says her pal.
"This time around I think she'll go easy on the dieting after she delivers."
"She doesn't want a repeat of all the vicious rumors. She's learned her lesson the hard way."
By Reginald Fitz