3 Books That Helped Me on My Road to Anorexia Recovery

In the world of mental health, eating disorders are an issue that sometimes sees little focus or discussion. As someone who has battled anorexia since the age of 14, I am all too acquainted with the struggle that a lack of conversation brings. Since therapists and doctors have even proved not to be the most helpful, I found myself delving into the world of books for answers on overcoming this disease, as well as to find others just like me.

I have possibly read dozens of books, both fiction and non-fiction, dealing with eating disorders. The three listed below were the ones that helped inspire me to try to get better, as well as help me figure out all of the whys that I had about myself and about my mental health.

  1. 1. "Perfect," Natasha Friend

    Natasha Friend has written books about a few different struggles that teen girls may face, including stepfamilies and parental alcoholism, but her novel Perfect opened my eyes to the way an eating disorder affects different types of people and their families.


    The novel focuses on a girl named Isabelle. After her father passed away, Isabelle developed bulimia as a way to find control and to keep her mind off of his death. She is then sent to group therapy in order to battle this issue where she finds that the most popular girl in her class is dealing with the same problem.

    What stands out to me about Perfect is that it showed how family members react to such issues, specifically how it tore the already narrow bond that Isabelle had with her younger sister. While she may have thought her sister was just tattling on her to be a brat, it is shown how worried the younger sister is and how much she loves her.

    My own sister and I were never very close and we fought constantly. When she would tell my parents about my constant exercising and starvation. I thought she was trying to ruin my life. Reading this novel showed me she was doing the exact opposite. 

    Though Isabelle is not fully cured by the end of the book, Perfect stills shows important lessons on how an eating disorder is not easy to see and how sometimes the things others do that might seem harsh are actually their way of trying to save the people they care about.

  2. 2. "Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self," Lori Gottlieb

    This was the first book I read on eating disorders while in my early stages of anorexia. It opened my eyes to how very real this problem actually was. Yet it also showed me that getting better and having a good life was possible.

    An autobiography, the book describes Gottlieb’s struggle starting in the 1970s, a time when anorexia was barely a term. Due to the time’s pressure to be thin and sexist views, Gottlieb refused to eat so that she could be a prime example of what was liked. The continuation of this dangerous diet led her to be hospitalized where she almost died.

    What made this book refreshing, aside from it being written as a diary, was the fact that it began before the problem surfaced. It shows how quickly a person can fall into an eating disorder, even if life beforehand was not something traumatic. Even with the problems in her life, Gottlieb managed to keep a sense of humor, which helps show that people can keep a relatively normal appearance in personality despite the demons they struggle with.

    Though the first time that I read this I could not finish it, when I read it again near the time I began to try and recover, I was hooked and very relieved. Reading it showed me that I was not my eating disorder and that without it, I could still be the person that others recognized. I look up to Gottlieb because she is a good example of finding inner peace.

  3. 3. "Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter," Randy Schmidt

    Though this story is tragic, I felt compelled to include it because it is about one of the people I love most, Karen Carpenter. Carpenter and her brother Richard were a popular music act in the 1970s who had hits with songs such as “Top of the World” and “Yesterday Once More.” Karen Carpenter battled anorexia from 1975 until her death in 1983, but her story still helps educate and impact those who may need help.

    Written after heavy research and interviews with those closest to the singer, Schmidt explains how Carpenter’s life took a downward spiral from both the public and from her struggles with her family.  Schmidt writes about her need to be perfect and to make her family love her the way they should.

    Even though the book showcases a lot of the sadness and cruelty that she saw, Carpenter’s story shows how much unhealthy relationships really do harm one’s self worth. It shows that while you can love people in your life, they may not always be good for you and your mental health. This book made me think about the toxic people in my life. When I cut them out, I felt as though it helped me recover more.

    Karen Carpenter may not have won her battle, but it’s not too extreme to think that she was able to help others win theirs.

While eating disorders are still not fully understood and the reasons they develop are not always clear, there are many sources that can help give some explanation and inspiration for those suffering to battle and come through them healthy and happy. Everyone is different and will have their own way of fixing the problem, but these books may be helpful to those who are lost.