Stick Figure by Lori Gottlieb is a first person account of a young girl and her battle with anorexia nervosa. The book is composed of diary entries from when Lori was a young girl, at age eleven. By seeing her personal thoughts and stories from the time when she was battling this disorder gives us a very close look at what drove her obsession with being thin: mainly her mother and peers, who were also obsessed with looking “perfect”. In Stick Figure, we follow Lori all the way from the first time she begins to think she should diet through her eventual hospitalization for the eating disorder.
There are many tell-tale signs of the disorder viewed along the way, which are described in the textbook. Overall, Lori Gottlieb’s diary is a valuable primary source offering us insight into the mind of a young anorexic girl, and complements the information given in the textbook. The textbook characterizes anorexia nervosa as “a disorder characterized by an intense fear of being fat and severe restriction of food intake” (Schacter, Gilbert, and Wegner 288). Lori begins demonstrating this mindset of being fat while she is on vacation with her family in Washington, D. C.
Before the vacation, she often feels unpopular and not as pretty as the other girls in her school, however she never describes herself as fat. While visiting her cousin, Kate, Lori observes both her aunt and her cousin decline food and dessert, simply saying that they will “nibble” off of others’ plates. When Lori asks why they don’t eat their favorite desserts, they respond that real ladies don’t eat like that, and they must keep their figures in check (Gottlieb 58). As an eleven year old girl, Lori just wants to be like her role models, such as her older cousin Kate.
As the diary reads, “I asked Kate if she also lost weight from not eating very much, but Kate said she’s not on a diet. Which made no since since she hardly ate anything at dinner. Then Kate explained how that’s not a diet, it’s just how you have to eat when you grow up” (Gottlieb 59). Lori is surrounded by women, many of which who she looks up to, that are obsessed with being thin and beautiful. Lori’s mother is also a major offender of this, telling Lori she must wear make-up when going to “boy-girl” parties to look her best (Gottlieb, 32).
The first meal Lori tries to skip is while her family is on vacation in Washington, D. C. The family is getting lunch at a restaurant. Lori tries to not eat anything, especially when her mother doesn’t do more than pick at her own meal (Gottlieb 61). Although her parents force her to eat, this decision to not eat meals sticks in her mind. Throughout the rest of the trip, she avoids eating when she can, and makes self conscious statements about herself such as “my legs looked kind of fat when they were uncrossed” (Gottlieb, 62).
On the families return home, Lori’s parents call the local pediatrician to try and make Lori eat. This just fuels her obsession with wanting to be thinner, and eventually leads to the decision by her doctors to hospitalize her. While hospitalized, Lori still finds ways to skip meals, tricking the nurses who are supposed to make sure she finishes at least 75% of her food. “ … [the nurse] was too tired to think, so she asked me to tell her how much 75% was. ‘It’s half,’ I lied, so Elizabeth wrote in the chart that I ate a little under 75% of my breakfast” (Gottlieb 155). It is not until Lori is threatened to be given what she calls “The Tube”, that she begins to eat, and it is not until her mom finally shows some compassion that Lori believes that she is really too thin. As Lori’s mom says to her as Lori puts on her comforting, baggy dress, “You look like a stick figure in that dress” (Gottlieb 207). Wearing the dress her mother asked her to made her realize how tiny she had become, when she looked in the mirror.
She finally realized that she looked like the photos of the anorexic girls that the psychiatrist Dr. Katz had showed her. “The first thing I saw when I walked into the bathroom was a really skinny girl who looked just like the pictures in Dr. Katz’s book. Whoever decorated the ladies’ bathroom was madly in love with mirrors, so I kept seeing the skinny girl everywhere. She was a stick figure. … I couldn’t believe it! I looked disgusting. ” (Gottlieb, 208)” This realization of what Lori had become was the turning point in her disorder.
She was then allowed to return home to her family. Something that surprised me about Stick Figure was the age at which Lori became so body conscious, only eleven years old. The textbook says that 40% of anorexia cases are in females 15 to 19 years old (Schacter, Gilbert, and Wegner 288). Lori was not heavily influenced by media, as I believed was the major cause of eating disorders. However, the pressure on women around her that she looked up to (such as Kate and her mother) greatly contributed to her low self esteem. Individuals with anorexia tend to have a distorted body image that leads them to believe they are fat when they are actually emaciated” (Schacter, Gilbert, and Wegner 288). This distorted body image was present for Lori for almost the entire year when she was eleven, in which her diary supports this statement as we follow her through the stages of her eating disorder. Stick Figure by Lori Gottlieb is an amazing insight into the private thoughts of a young girl battling anorexia nervosa, and gives us examples of the reasons behind this disorder to accompany the facts from the textbook.
Gottlieb, Lori. Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self. New York: Simon and Schuster , 2000. Print. Schacter, Daniel, Daniel Gilbert, and Daniel Wegner.Introducing Psychology. New York: Worth Publishers, 2011. 288. Print.