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Brave Girl Eating: A Family's Struggle with Anorexia

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  2,488 ratings  ·  286 reviews
In Brave Girl Eating, the chronicle of a family’s struggle with anorexia nervosa, journalist, professor, and author Harriet Brown recounts in mesmerizing and horrifying detail her daughter Kitty’s journey from near-starvation to renewed health. Brave Girl Eating is an intimate, shocking, compelling, and ultimately uplifting look at the ravages of a mental illness that ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published August 24th 2010 by HarperCollins e-books (first published August 9th 2010)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  2,488 ratings  ·  286 reviews

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La Petite Américaine
****Update: 25/3/2012: The massive thread that follows just totally reaffirms every point I made in the review. All of this from a writer whose work appears in the New York Times? Nice. Enjoy.****

****Update: 21/3/2012: I need to give credit where credit is due. For an eloquent and informative review (NOT AUTHORED BY ME) of Brave Girl Eating that, unlike my review, places facts over rage, please see

For scathing snark and wrath, my review is below.****

Mar 06, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Extremely disappointed in this book...
While I am empathic with the writer and know how traumatic it is to experience this disease within a family, I am shocked by Ms Brown's denial and her rejection of all psychological theory. The way she labels her treatment team "Dr Newbie"??? She is disrespectful and uninformed. I have been treating eating disorders for 30 years. Family Oriented Treatment is something I applaud when it works but it still needs to be supervised by a therapist regularly and a
I just spent more than half an hour responding to La Petite Americaine's review of this book and somehow it got deleted. I will try to repost it in more detail the next day or so; for now, let me just say that her inexplicably vitriolic review is uninformed, ignorant, and just plain wrong. Her stereotype of anorexics coming from dysfunctional families with overbearing mothers has been discredited for years; family based therapy (of the kind that Harriet Brown recommends) is the ONLY ...more
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting book. My imagination doesn't come close to how this parent described dealing with her daughter's eating disorder. How it affected them as a family unit. How it affected their younger daughter. Everyone in this family is brave and strong. And I appreciate them sharing their story.
Dec 21, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Overall, I thought the book was very insightful about the suffering a family endures when a relative has an eating disorder. You rarely hear about eating disorders from this perspective, so I thought it was very unique. I also was ultimately glad I read it because I was very unfamiliar with the approach.

The points that bothered me were her stance with psychology and her writing style. Perhaps I'm defensive both because I'm a psychology major at school, and I go to therapy, but it really
Aug 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I always have a difficult time discussing my experience with anorexia. It's not that I'm ashamed of it. It's just that it was a very long time ago now (my second bout ended about 12 years ago). Do I say that I'm an anorexic? That implies an active, ongoing issue, which isn't true. But I can't say that I'm not one anymore, because I know for a fact that it never totally goes away. The thoughts are there - they come back at odd moments. I'm particularly susceptible during times of high stress, ...more
May 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star-books
Brave girl eating was not an easy book to read. The story is of a 14 year old girl Kitty who's life is transformed when she is diagnosed with anorexia. Written by her mother Harriet she details all the way from the warning signs leading up to the diagnosis to four years later when she goes to college. Along the way we read about the Brown family of Kitty, Harriet, her husband Jamie and there youngest daughter 10 year old Emma having there lives turned upside down and there loving fight to save ...more
May 23, 2012 rated it did not like it
Horrid. I got chills remembering my own childhood. I hope this child gets a good therapist in adulthood.
Oct 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I rarely read non-fiction, but I found this one to be excellent. The author is a science journalist who writes about her family's experience with a teenage daughter's anorexia. I liked how proactive the author was dealing with the disease. Her writing style was clean and there is a lot of reference to past research studies, which was very informative. As the mother of a teenager, (albeit a 14 yo boy, whom I can in no way ever visualize restricting food, but I could certainly relate to the ...more
Mar 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
*Brave mother writing*

Although this book is entitled _Brave Girl Eating_, the title of _Brave Mother Writing_ would be equally fitting. Courageously chronicling her family's struggle with her daughter's anorexia, Harriet puts into words the devastation, pain, raw emotions, obstacles, frustrations, confusion, and exhaustion that too often overwhelm families haunted by the demons of eating disorders. The book reads like a gripping novel, but it is packed with valuable information on family-based
Aug 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, mental-health
Harriet Brown's "Brave Girl Eating" is the story of her daughter Kitty's descent into anorexia and the long road of recovery for the entire family.

When Kitty decides she needs to lose a little weight at age 14 after a nutrition class, she eventually slides into the body dysmorphism and deliberate eating restrictions that lead to so many cases of anorexia in teen girls today.

Brown talks not only about Kitty's anger about being made to eat again, but also about the effects of Kitty's recovery on
Eva Musby
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book for parents of kids with anorexia. It’s written by a journalist whose daughter spiralled into anorexia at age 14. It’s a flowing and gripping read, and a moving one too.

This family followed the route of Family Based Treatment, caring for their daughter at home and helping her to eat. They received advice from Daniel le Grange but had to make do without a certified Family Based Treatment therapist.

If your child is suffering from anorexia, this is what you’ll find in this book:

Amy L. Campbell
I received this as an Advanced Reader Copy at ALA Annual 2010.

There is a lot of good information in this book, particularly about Family Based Therapy and this family's experience with it.

Unfortunately, Brown is so wrapped up in her own issues and emotions involving anorexia that her work because repetitive. She is overly defensive and I would like to see this reduced by about 25-50 pages, because I think that's how much could be cut out and still make sense. I wanted to the moments she had with
Nov 18, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: own
I didn't mind this book in the beginning, but the more I read it the more I got irritated with the author. It's all poor me. boo hoo. I wanted to read more about the daughter and her struggles. REAL struggles and day to day life. Not the crap vomited about by a mother who wants attention. That is what it feels like while reading this.

I wish this book was written by Kitty's point of view. I think it would have been more interesting and much more real. But, I'm sure she is just as irritating as
Andrea Tome
May 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really, really wanted to like this book more than I did.
Some perspective: I was diagnosed with anorexia 5 years ago and currently relapsing, which makes my case similar to Kitty's. Although me and my medical team never followed Maudsley's approach (the one described in this book, in which the family wholly takes care of the refeeding process), I was offered the choice to have my mother very involved in my recovery and refeeding, something which my therapist thought important as I was raised
Dec 23, 2015 rated it did not like it
I'm going to begin with the one aspect of this book that was actually good: Harriet Brown's journalistic background. It was clear that she consulted a huge variety of sources, and particularly the information on the neurochemical and biochemical processes in an eating disordered individual made for very interesting and informative reading, something that I think most other eating disorder memoirs lack.
Unfortunately, that's pretty much the only good point.
Before even beginning this I felt a bit
My favorite genre is memoirs, and I understand that an author writes this type of story from his or her own perspective. In this case however, as the author recounted her daughter's illness with anorexia, I was put-off by her constant reiteration that her daughter was a "good girl" and not like those crazy, neurotic, mentally-ill anorexics out there. At one point, after she bemoans the fact that today's society still needs to change it's outlook with regards to mental illnesses, she then makes a ...more
Cait Poytress
Mar 26, 2012 marked it as not-to-read-ever
This excellent review (and the subsequent dog pile of comments made by the author's overzealous followers) are the reasons why.
Samantha Duncan
Jul 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
Meh....not great. While I'm completely empathetic for this woman and her family, her writing style and opinionated approach towards science and health care could be dangerous for readers who might look to this book for actual information and guidance. I think she needed to write this book on some level in order to heal, but the way she writes about different psychological theories that she doesn't agree with is both disrespectful and uninformed. I'm happy that refeeding worked in this case, but ...more
Leta Blake
Jan 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. I wish I could get my SIL to read it and stop living in denial about my niece. I really do to want my niece to die.
Jodie Gale
Over the last few years, many of my psychotherapy colleagues (like some of the reviewers on this page) have been bullied and harassed on several occasions by an online group of mothers who subscribe to the Family Based Therapy or Maudsley Approach for Eating Disorders.

As an eating disorder specialist with nearly 20 years of ‘practice based evidence’ and ‘evidence based practice’, as well as my own recovery from bulimia via 1-1 depth-psychotherapy, I am always looking to expand my knowledge and
Sep 30, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2012
Always on the search for another book on eating disorders I jumped at the chance to read Brave Girl Eating when a colleague recommended it. It particularly interested me because it presents a mother’s viewpoint on what it’s like to live with an ED.

I think the book has value; most books on eating disorders offer some type of consolation and information to the reader. We’re often desperate for it. But I warn you that the author is fully embedded in the Maudsley Approach to eating disorders and at
For some reason, I have an odd fascination with eating disorders. I love reading both fiction and nonfiction about them. This read, however, I discovered at random when I saw it in a bookstore with my friend. I didn't buy it then though. It was a couple months later when I picked this up. Reading it was such a huge eye-opener for me. I read about Kitty's anorexia and saw that there were people around me that needed help.

My heart goes out to Ms. Brown and her husband Jamie. Their will and
Nov 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
How I wish we had this resource 25 years ago when our family began our journey with the monster that is anorexia. Instead we had years of mediocre advice, bad advice and so-called experts who had no idea what to do or what approach to take. The Family Based Thereapy method Harriet Brown advocates seems (at this point in time at least) one that offers a more genuine hope of recovery for families dealing with an adolescent in the early stages of an eating disorder. In addition, the exhaustive ...more
Robin Stansel
Oct 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing book -- a very different perspective on causes and treatment of eating disorders. As someone with two siblings with eating disorders and a child in therapy for mental health issues, I was awed and inspired by this mother's dedication to family-based therapy.
Leah Struhsaker
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As someone who works in the field of eating disorder treatment, I feel I have a much better idea of what families/other loved ones experience after reading this book, especially because my workplace uses FBT/the Maudsley approach. In reading others reviews of this book, it seems that many of the strong critiques directed at Brown seem to be unfairly directed at her and are really critiques of the specifics of Maudsley. But of course, this is my opinion and to each this own interpretation.

I work
Dec 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book

It was nice to read that other families feel the same things my family does but the treatment part of the book wasn’t helpful for me as my daughter is 21 and is more independent of her family than a 14 year old. Good book!
May 14, 2016 rated it liked it
I loved this book the first time I read it. I think I've read it three times now. Brown's prose is witty as well as raw and her situation hit home with me and I deeply sympathize. This is one of the least triggering eating disorder books one could read and I do reccomend it. She is not a monster, as some people seem to think. She is just a compassionate, if biased mother. I once worshipped the idea of FBT wholeheartedly. I wondered why my parents hadn't tried this innovative approach when I was ...more
Lisa  Keegan
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Liked this because it was from a Mom's perspective with some data. I also took away the crisis the whole family is under when one member is "sick."
Charlotte Phillips
Oct 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This was a very personal and helpful book for myself and it is one that I am glad to have picked up and read. Being anorexic you tend to get so stuck in how the diesease is affecting you, that you forget about the other people around you that have to live with it as well. But its not as if there are many books out there written by those living with the disease, most of them are written by the sufferers who are representing there discovery and there recovery, which whilst helpful, still doesnt ...more
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“I’ve never had anorexia, but I know it well. I see it on the street, in the gaunt and sunken face, the boney chest, the spindly arms of an emaciated woman. I’ve come to recognize the flat look of despair, the hopelessness that follows, inevitably, from years of starvation. I think: That could have been [me]. It wasn’t. It’s not.” 32 likes
“It's so easy to focus on the anguish and the misery; it's harder, somehow, to acknowledge the positive, maybe for fear of jinxing it, bringing the nightmare back down on our heads.” 12 likes
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