Abstract: An Analysis of Eating Disorders Portrayed in Memoirs

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

According to the National Institute of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, up to 24 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder – these afflictions, ranging from anorexia to bulimia to binge eating disorder, have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Carolyn Costin, an experienced therapist specializing in eating disorders, as well as the founder of Monte Nido Treatment Center, published a book in 2011 titled 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder. Costin includes ideas such as separating one’s healthy self from his or her eating disordered self and reevaluating the underlying emotional problems beneath an unhealthy relationship with food. She incorporates writing exercises into her guide to recovery, and she shares details concerning her own battle against anorexia nervosa so that readers might relate to her struggle. Through this project I will examine how three other individuals who have suffered from eating disorders write about their experiences and their recoveries in memoir form.

I will use Carolyn Costin’s 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder as a foundation to investigate several questions related to eating disorders and the intersection between eating disorders and writing.  I will read and analyze three memoirs written by women who have faced eating disorders: Unbearable Lightness by Portia De Rossi, Appetites: Why Women Want by Caroline Knapp, and Life Without Ed by Jenni Schaefer. My analysis will combine elements of close reading and an observation of themes found within the memoirs, such as examining biographical information pertaining to the authors and how those details affect their writing. After reading secondary sources and compiling my findings, I will write at least one short story based on one or more of the keys to recovery from an eating disorder. This creative writing will allow me to transform the knowledge I acquire into a tangible project, which could potentially expand into a pamphlet concerning the use of writing as therapy depending on the extent of my research.