By, Dr. Mark Warren and Sarah Emerman
There are many helpful and informative books in the eating disorder world. They range from autobiographical narratives, to fictional tales, all the way to medical complications and scientific studies. For many patients and families, books on eating disorders can provide a useful source of support and a sense of understanding of the illness, which can ultimately be helpful throughout the therapeutic process. That being said, not all books are created equal. The following will not be a complete review of the books on eating disorders in any way, but are only some of the books we have found to be helpful to our clients. Exclusion of a book from this list does not mean it’s unhelpful, but may mean we think it is helpful to some and not others, or may be a book that we are unaware of. If you are aware of books about eating disorders that you have found helpful, please feel free email email@example.com.
For the parents of an adolescent with an eating disorder, the books we most commonly recommend are: Eating with your Anorexic, by Laura Collins and Brave Girl Eating, by Harriet Brown. Both of these books highlight Family Based Treatment and provide a real life introduction to both the experience of having a child with an eating disorder and of getting treatment while surviving the process. In addition, The Treatment Manual for Anorexia Nervosa by Drs James Lock and Daniel LeGrange, although written for professionals, is sometimes read by families and found to be helpful. Help Your Teenager Beat an Eating Disorder, also by Drs Lock and LeGrange, has also proven to be very helpful. The advantage of all of these books is that they focus on evidence-based care and we consider them to be useful to virtually all parents.
For adults, finding books that are helpful may be somewhat more difficult. Many of our patients have found Life Without ED by Jenni Schaefer to be of great support. It has generally received some of the best reviews from our clients. We also recommended Amiee Liu’s book, Gaining, particularly for clients looking for a discussion of the broader topic of recovery. Several patients have been impressed by the honesty of Portia de Rossi’s book, Unbearable Lightness, although we have also received feedback that the book may be more triggering than others. For all autobiographies, it’s important to remember that it is only one person’s story. This means there will be parts of the book that feel supportive, and some may not. No one person’s experience should be seen as a formula for someone else’s path to recovery.
In terms of eating disorder books for males, there are far fewer available than for females. Making Weight, by Dr. Arnold Anderson, Leigh Cohn, and Dr. Tom Holbrook, has been the most helpful book we have found to date.
For binge eating disorder, the Eating Disorder Obesity textbook by Christopher Fairburn and Kelly Brownell is one of the most highly respected books in the field. From a more personal and less evidence-based perspective, many of our staff have recommended Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth.
When seeking out a book, whether is be for motivation, advice, support, or psycho-education, keep in mind that all books should be discussed in the context of a therapeutic relationship. No book will help you get better by itself. It’s important to discuss the information with members of your treatment team to help integrate the information best into your life.