Essential Books on Eating Disorders

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Eating disorders are types of mental illnesses that are characterized by insufficient or excessive food intake that negatively impacts an individual’s mental and physical health. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, eating disorders are classified into four subsections. These include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and eating disorder not otherwise specified. Eating disorder not otherwise specified includes a combination of eating disorder behaviors that do not meet the diagnostic criteria for anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder.

Self-help has been shown to increase the likelihood of recovery from eating disorders. Books on eating disorders are an effective source of self-help for individuals struggling with an eating disorder and their loved ones. This article presents the essential books on eating disorders the author recommends from both personal and professional experience as an adolescent and youth counselor.

Anorexia Nervosa

  • The Anorexia Workbook was written by Heffner, Eifert and Hayes and published by New Harbinger Publications in 2004. It is a self-help workbook specifically designed for individuals seeking treatment for anorexia. Coping strategies, exercises and techniques to deal with out of control thoughts and feelings are presented. Although designed for individuals with anorexia, it also includes a chapter on when individuals should seek treatment and what to look for in a therapist.
  • Goodbye Ed, Hello Me: Recover from Your Eating Disorder and Fall in Love with Life was written by Schaefer and published by McGraw-Hill in 2009. Schaefer is an ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association and appears regularly on television and national radio to advocate for recovery from eating disorders. This book describes her journey to recovery after having anorexia, broken up into small, easy to read chapters.

Bulimia Nervosa

  • Overcoming Bulimia: Your Comprehensive, Step-By-Step Guide to Recovery was written by McCabe, McFarlane and Olmstead. It was published by New Harbinger Publications in 2004. Filled with helpful information on the symptoms, causes and risks of bulimia, this workbook includes real-life examples and exercises to build personal strengths, improve self-esteem and prevent relapse.
  • Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Hornbacher was published by Harper Perennial in 2006. Hornbacher details her decade long struggle with anorexia and bulimia. She talks about the possible causes and treatment for eating disorders and the ambivalence she initially felt toward recovery. Although this book is an inspiring account of recovery, readers should exercise caution as it is graphic and may be triggering to individuals with eating disorders.

Binge Eating Disorder

  • Overcoming Binge Eating by Fairburn was published in 1995 by the Guilford Press. It presents the facts about binge eating disorder, including the symptoms, signs, possible causes and its relation to dieting. Concrete solutions are suggested with an easy to follow, step by step treatment plan. Although specifically written for individuals with binge eating disorder, it may also be helpful for their loved ones and mental health professionals.
  • Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works was written by Tribole and Resch and published by St. Martin’s Griffin in 2003. Intuitive eating involves becoming mindful about what and why you are eating. This book includes helpful advice on listening to your body and your hunger signals. It includes the ten principles of intuitive eating and a chapter on how this model can assist in recovery from an eating disorder.

Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified

  • Truly Fed: Finding Freedom from Disordered Eating was written by Meacham and published by Beacon Hill Press in 2009. Maecham addresses the symptoms of disordered eating, which include binge mentalities, diet obsessions and self-loathing behaviors. This book contains references to the bible and scriptures.
  • The Rules of “Normal” Eating: A Commonsense Approach for Dieters, Overeaters, Undereaters, Emotional Eaters, and Everyone in Between! was written by Koenig. It was published in Gurze Books in 2005. It outlines the four basic rules of normal eating, which include eating when hungry, choosing satisfying foods, eating with awareness and enjoyment and stopping when full or satisfied. Specific skills and techniques are described to promote change, along with advice on how to reprogram dysfunctional beliefs and create new eating habits.

Although books and other self-help resources are important for recovery from an eating disorders, eating disorders are serious and usually require professional help. If you think you or someone you know may have an eating disorder, consult a health care professional immediately. Eating disorders are life-threatening and dangerous, but recovery is possible. Early treatment is a vital component of successful recovery.