Note: This article contains novels and topics that may be triggering for those suffering with eating disorders. If you or anyone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please know that you are not alone. Call or text the Crisis Call Center 24/7 at 800-273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863.
Books have a wonderful way of connecting us with the rest of humanity, regardless of space and time constraints. The creative outlet is often used as an escape from life’s struggles, but conversely, it can also provide multiple perspectives on every issue you’ve ever faced. In this case, turning to books when struggling with an isolating disorder can be incredibly helpful for recovery.
Eating disorders are no exception. Last week marked National Eating Disorder (ED) Awareness Week, a week in which people who struggle with EDs and their supporters found solace around the world through open and public discourse. Awareness, however, doesn’t have to stop after the week comes to a close. People of all backgrounds struggle with eating disorders every day of the year, and thus, awareness must continue.
In the meantime, these novels can bring extra strength to each respective journey:
1. Wasted, Mayra Hornbacher
There’s immense power in learning through others’ stories. Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, offers a no-holds-barred look at the illnesses through the life of a woman in-and-out of hospitals, therapy, and family struggle. The 2009 book chronicles Hornbacher’s journey to the “dark” side and her way back — on her own terms.
2. Wintergirls, Laurie Halse Anderson
Laurie Halse Anderson masterfully covers some of the darkest, hushed events of life, such as rape, mental illness, eating disorders, and self harm, in an way that educates and informs young readers. Wintergirls, a fictitious novel following the life of a young girl suffering from anorexia and self harm, is no exception. Anderson weaves a truly dark and twisted tale, sure, but that tale is real to life and sheds a serious light on the obstacles faced.
Note: Content in Wintergirls may be especially triggering to sufferers still in recovery. However, Wintergirls also provides a deeper understanding of the illness for parents and loved ones.
3. Sensing the Self: Women’s Recovery from Bulimia, Sheila M. Reindl
One of the most prevalent reasons for a young woman to develop an eating disorder is having a weakened sense of self. Psychologist Sheila Reindl looks at this cause in her book Sensing of Self, a book that looks into the disconnect between one who suffers from bulimia nervosa — and the cycle of bingeing, vomiting, laxative abuse, and shame — and their inner needs, desires, and feelings. Reindl consults young women on their own experiences, and does it in a way that strays from your typical, afterschool special cheesy content.
4. A Trick of Light, Lois Metzger
A Trick of Light covers eating disorders faced by young men, a less spoken about epidemic, through the story of Miles Welles. Dealing with a disintegrating home life, Miles finds a friend in Amber, a young girl who vows to help him get into shape. Amber, as it turns out, is anorexic, soon Miles finds himself falling down a rabbit hole of over-exercising and restricted eating. A page turner.
5. Skinny, Ibi Kaslik
Skinny strikes a chord with anyone struggling with eating disorders within a family. Author Ibi Kaslik peers into the destruction anorexia causes through the close relationship of two sisters. Told from the perspective of both sisters, Skinny remains gritty and “wryly funny” throughout the entirety of its 256-page story.
6. Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain, Portia de Rossi
Celebrities are people, too. Unbearable Lightness reminds us of how the intersection between fame and overwhelming pressure to maintain often-impossible beauty standards can be destructive. Regardless of one’s position in society. De Rossi, known largely for her role in Arrested Development, pens this memoir about her own experiences in the industry.
7. Big Fat Disaster, Beth Fehlbaum
Fiction novels revolving around binge eating disorders seem to be few and far between. Big Fat Disaster, however, overtly discusses the illness through the protagonist, the young Colby. Colby grapples with her weight and overeating in the face of continual family struggles, overwhelming shame, and feelings of inadequacy. Poignant read.
Featured image courtesy of Women’s Health.