Is There Such Thing as Too Skinny?

Lori Gottlieb. Stick Figure. Berkley Publishing Group, 2001.
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In the young adult novel Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self, Lori Gottlieb, the main character and author, retells the story of her earlier years and her struggle with anorexia nervosa. Lori uses entries from a diary she kept when she was 11 years old. She explained the impact that peer pressure and the obsession of being thin and attractive had on her life. Living with her parents in Beverly Hills didn’t help the situation very much either because she was always surrounded by the image of women needing to diet and be seen as beautiful in order to attract men and eventually get married. Lori did not agree with her parents’ shallow lifestyle, always trying to rebel against the way of life they planned for her. Unlike her mother, Lori was interested in less shallow things such as writing in her diary and reading.

Everyone knows “you can never be too rich or too thin,” especially when it comes to girls. Gottlieb does a great job of relating her story to other young girls who struggle with the image of being thin and the peer pressure they deal with on a daily basis. Not only is the idea of being skinny brought up but also the need to be popular in school and attractive so the boys notice you. Lori’s story is powerful and influential, especially for young girls going through the same struggles in their lives.

In the beginning of the book, it starts out in the winter of 1978 and as Lori goes through spring and summer, she notices her eating habits changing for the worse. The disorder turns into something she cannot handle anymore and the need to be thin has become an obsession. The peer pressure did not only come from her mother but from other things around her. Soon, her need to be skinny placed her in the hospital and the term “stick figure” had a whole new meaning to the young girl.

In the epilogue, Lori shares statistics about eating disorders and how she felt about sharing her diaries. Gottlieb tells us how girls today talk mostly about how they would like to lose weight and how unsatisfied they are with their appearance. The novel shows the struggle she goes through to learn the difference between an eating disorder and what is normal. The story of her great accomplishment of overcoming anorexia shows the impact that society has over young adolescents.

Recommendations for Teachers

This issue is so prominent and pertinent to the reality of young adolescent girls today. Teachers should be particularly aware of the impact this book could have. Class discussions should be stimulated about how the media views and portrays women and the effect it has on the adolensences personally. Writing assignments with topics addressing self-esteem such as “what I like about me” or warm fuzzies can be used to assess writing skills and boost self-confidence. This book can be paired with other classic works that address the issues of women in society and peer pressure such as Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. These stories compliment Stick Figure well because they address these issues from a different perspective. If young girls can relate to these stories then they will know they are not alone in the issues they face as well as become engaged readers.

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About the Author

Lori Gottlieb is a very accomplished author. In addition to her national best selling book, Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self, she has done numerous columns in magazines such as Glamour, Seventeen, and Elle to name a few. She has written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The New York Post as well as written essays that appear in anthologies. This author has also attended Stanford Medical School. She is currently working on her forth book, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.
Gottlieb’s second book, Inside the Cult of Kibu: And Other Tales of the Millennial Gold Rush, and third book, Love you, Nice to Meet You,are also available for purchase on Gottlieb’s real world experience as an 11 year old in Beverly Hills suffering from anorexia, gives her writing an honest, thought provoking, yet witty twist for her readers to enjoy. Her ability to tackle real world issues facing relationships and women in this unique manner has helped her gain the success she has today.

Multimedia (Video or Audio)

On YouTube you can find a mock interview with "Lori Gottlieb"

YouTube video:
You can listen to Gottlieb's radio show that address various issues on NPR
NPR-Food Loathing-
NPR-Gain Weight, Lose Perspective: When Sizes Grow

You can watch a video or hear audio of Gottlieb talking about her new book:
Why it’s OK to settle for Mr. Good Enough

Additional Resources:

Official site of Lori Gottlieb- Information about the author, other books, contact information, etc.
Additional Information- Want to know more? You can get more information, read reviews, and see what other people said about the book.

Other books by Lori Gottlieb- Take a look at some of the other books written by Lori Gottlieb and find out if she has written a future favorite of yours.
Get the book- Buy your very own copy of Stick Figure here.


Eating Disorder Information Center- Here is the site to find out additional facts on eating disorders.
Eating Disorders- Check out information on eating dissorders, other related articles and blog posts.National Association of Anorexia Nervosa- This is the official ANAD site which gives information about the eating dissorder anorexia nervosa.
Help Center- Know someone who might need help with an eating disorder? Here is the site to visit. Understand what an eating disorder is and the signs that can tip you off that they may need treatment.
Study of Anorexia Nervosa- Check out a study done on young girls with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa.
Healthy Place- America's Mental Health Channel. Articles on eating disorders.

--Kyra Harris and Megan Roberts