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Brave Girl Eating: A Family's Struggle with Anorexia Hardcover – August 24, 2010
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Brown tells the story of her family’s battle with anorexia, the “demon” that suddenly possesses her bright, pretty daughter, Kitty. Brown is alternately an introspective and anguished parent and a fierce advocate for the Maudsley approach, a family-based therapy that focuses on restoring the patient to physical health before fully dealing with the psychological challenges he or she faces. Brown carefully amasses facts about anorexia and the effects of starvation in between bouts at the dinner table as Kitty refuses to eat and, occasionally, hides her food. The standoffs are emotionally draining for the entire family, including Kitty’s younger sister, Emma, whom Brown worries is also at risk for the disease. At the crux of Brown’s affecting and informative memoir is the idea that anorexia can happen to any family and that it can be defeated through determination and love, even though Brown recognizes that permanent success can be elusive. In the end, she knows that all any family can do is try, and that her eldest daughter will not be left to fight her demon alone. --Katherine Boyle
“As a woman who once knew the grip of a life-controlling eating disorder, I held my breath reading Harriet Brown’s story. As a mother of daughters, I wept for her. Then cheered.” (Joyce Maynard)
“What sets this book apart is the author’s incorporation of clinical research findings from the field of eating disorders into the story of one family’s struggle . . . [A] compelling story of family strength and an inspiring story for all of us committed to treating individuals with eating disorders.” (Evelyn Attia, MD, Director, Center for Eating Disorders, Columbia University Medical Center, Weill Cornell Medical College)
“One of the most up to date, relevant and honest accounts of one family’s battle with the life threatening challenges of anorexia. Brown has masterfully woven science, history and heart throughout this compelling and tender story. Brave Girl Eating was fortunate to have one brave family.” (Lynn S. Grefe, Chief Executive Officer, National Eating Disorders Association)
“Harriet Brown is an intelligent, elegant writer and this book offers both solace and useful information for families struggling with eating disorders.” (Audrey Niffenegger)
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My husband and I read Brave Girl Eating when we began our recovery process with our daughter in 2014. I enjoyed the book, but was in denial that my then 15 year old daughter would ever get as bad as Kitty. Two and-a-half years later, I re-read the book, because my daughter’s life spiraled downward and was equally as challenging and heartbreaking.
Harriet Brown does an exceptional job of articulating how difficult this journey is for both the patient and the family. No one chooses an eating disorder. It chooses you. Harriet’s assessment is quite accurate.
As for the comments here that overbearing and controlling mothers/parents are responsible for causing their children’s eating disorders, shame on you for promoting erroneous information. The Academy of Eating Disorders (AED) recently released a position paper that clarifies the role of the family in the acquisition of eating disorders. The paper points out that there is no data to support the idea that anorexia or bulimia are caused by a certain type of family dynamic or parenting style. Alternatively, there is strong evidence that family-based treatment for younger patients, implemented early on in their illness, leads to positive results and improvements in conjunction with professionally guided family intervention. While parents and families are not to blame for eating disorders, they can play a role in helping kids establish a positive body image, one of the most important protective factors against eating disorders.
Brave Girl Eating is a primer of what you can expect. Read the book, take the advice. Eating disorders can place a heavy burden on the family dynamics. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO TRAVEL THIS JOURNEY ALONE. Aside from the professionals your child sees, make sure that you connect with other parents for moral support. And above all be your child’s advocate. Read. Study. Learn. Educate yourself to the point that you can ask educated questions and feel comfortable with the answers. No one will love and support your child like you do. The most successful restoration cases are the ones where the patient and family are strongly connected and dedicated to recovery. Good luck.
I appreciate her family for letting her share a glimpse of how their lives were affected by this disease and how they came together to heal their daughter. As a mother of a 15 year old daugher with anorexia, I have read MANY of the books out there on this subject - and this one tops the list, hands down! I am taking Harriet Brown's story to heart, and now have my very own "Brave Girl Eating". A must read for any family facing an eating disorder!