Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self

Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self

by Lori Gottlieb


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Lori Gottlieb—psychotherapist, national advice columnist, and New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk To Someone—shares her “gripping” (The Boston Globe) chronicle of adolescent anorexia that “stands out as a fresh, edgy take...on that perilous time in a girl’s life when she’s no longer a child but not quite an adult (Entertainment Weekly).

For a girl growing up in Beverly Hills in 1978, the motto “You can never be too rich or too thin” is writ large. Precocious Lori learns her lessons well, so when she’s told that “real women don’t eat dessert” and “no one could ever like a girl who has thunder thighs,” she decides to become a paragon of dieting. Soon Lori has become the “stick figure” she’s longed to resemble. But then what? Stick Figure takes the reader on a gripping journey, as Lori struggles to reclaim both her body and her spirit.

By turns painful and wry, Lori’s efforts to reconcile the conflicting messages society sends women ring as true today as when she first recorded these impressions. “One diet book says that if you drink three full glasses of water one hour before every meal to fill yourself up, you’ll lose a pound a day. Another book says that once you start losing weight, everyone will ask, ‘How did you do it?’ but you shouldn’t tell them because it’s ‘your little secret.’ Then right above that part it says, ‘New York Times bestseller.’ Some secret.”

Based on the author’s childhood journals, Stick Figure is “a smart, funny, compassionate” (Entertainment Weekly) tale that delivers an engrossing glimpse into the mind of a girl in transition to adulthood and a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of living up to society’s expectations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439148907
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 11/17/2009
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 731,966
Product dimensions: 5.48(w) x 8.58(h) x 0.55(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Lori Gottlieb is a psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author who writes The Atlantic's weekly “Dear Therapist” advice column. A contributing editor at The Atlantic, she also writes regularly for The New York Times, and has appeared on the TODAY show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, CNN, and NPR. Learn more at or by following her @LoriGottlieb1 on Twitter.

Read an Excerpt

First of all, I should probably tell you about me and school and stuff, so you’ll get what I’m talking about when I write in you. I mean, I know you’re not a real person, but I still feel like you’ll get me. More than people maybe. That’s because people think I’m different. They usually call me “unique,” which, depending on how you say it, could mean that I’m interesting or special or something. Like I stand out in a good way. But with me it never does. The truth is, everyone who calls me unique thinks I’m a complete weirdo. Especially adults.

I have to talk to adults a lot because Mom and Dad always have their boring friends over for cocktails before they go out to dinner, which means that me and David—that’s my older brother—have to brush our hair and come downstairs and smile and act polite. David’s pretty good at talking to adults mostly because he can keep smiling the whole time he’s telling them how great school and skateboarding are. I tried, I really did, but I just can’t smile and talk at the same. Especially if I’m talking about something sad—like how the sun’s gonna burn us all to death because ladies use too much hair spray. It’s true. It said so in a magazine.

So whenever I’m trying to talk to adults, they start nodding their heads up and down like they aren’t even listening. Then right when I get to the important part—like how it’ll only take a few seconds for our entire bodies to fry—their nods switch from up and down to side to side. That’s when their eyes get really wide and they turn to my parents and say, “She’s such a unique little girl.” I always feel like saying, “Or maybe you’re just incredibly boring,” but I never do. Adults hate it when you have opinions about things.

Anyway, the whole reason you’re here in the first place is because I was reading The Diary of Anne Frank last week over Christmas vacation. It took me two days, and I cried my head off. Anne thought about a lot of the same things I think about, but no one went around calling her unique. Not once. I couldn’t stop thinking about Anne the whole week, even when I went shopping with Mom today. We were at this store in Beverly Hills where they have all kinds of expensive but tacky stuff that Mom gets a big kick out of. That’s where I saw these fancy diaries with fake gold trim that you could give as gifts. You’re one of them. No offense or anything.

Mom had the store lady put bright pink decorations on your cover, which looks kind of like lipstick. One thing you should know right away about Mom is that she’s madly in love with lipstick. Everywhere she goes, Mom carries around this big purse full of makeup, just in case she suddenly feels like putting more on. I’m not too into makeup because you always have to be careful that you don’t blink too much, or laugh too hard, or scratch your cheeks if they itch, or eat anything that might smudge your gloss. It’s a pain in the butt, if you want my opinion. But all of my friends are starting to get curious about makeup, so now even Mom thinks I’m unique because I couldn’t care less about the whole thing.

I don’t know, sometimes I wonder if maybe I am unique. I mean, I used to be pretty normal, but things are different now that I’m eleven. I know it sounds conceited to say, but when I was in first grade I was really popular. I was best friends with Leslie and Lana, and everyone called us “the three L’s” because we always played together at recess. Except then in second grade, Leslie and Lana ended up in the same homeroom class with all my other friends, and I ended up in Mrs. Collin’s class with no one I knew. Someone said that Mrs. Collin’s class had all the smart kids in it, but the school said they couldn’t “confirm or deny” that. A lot of kids’ dads are lawyers, so my school’s always afraid of getting sued. At least that’s what Uncle Bob said, and he’s a lawyer.

So that’s when all the trouble started. First of all, my long blond hair kept getting darker until it finally turned brown. I know it doesn’t sound that terrible, but one of Mom’s magazines said if you have “dishwater brown” hair, you should take that “boring” hair and make it more “exciting” by dyeing it red or platinum blond. Then next to the article there were these pictures of three different ladies with brown, red, and blond hair. The redhead and the blond lady were smiling like those people on game shows who win trips to Hawaii, but the lady with the brown hair looked like she was about to cry. So now I’m stuck with hair that makes you cry. But that’s just part of what happened to me since second grade. Believe me, it gets a hundred times worse.

--Reprinted from Stick Figure by Lori Gottlieb by permission of Berkley, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2001 by Lori Gottlieb. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.


Excerpted from "Stick Figure"
by .
Copyright © 2001 Lori Gottlieb.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Part One: Winter 1978

"Who Do You Think You Are, Young Lady?"

Captain of Justice

Power Paragraph

Real Women Don't Eat Dessert

Thunder Thighs

Sex Education


Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

"That's My Girl"

The Lori Monument

Sorry About the Milk Shake, Mr. President

Day of Atonement

Part Two: Spring 1978

Please Help the Hungry

Lactose Intolerant

If You Can Pinch an Inch

Level F, Section Pink

Facts and Figure

Shrink Me

Absolute Delight

Don't Talk with Your Mouth Full

Chewing on Air

"Hello, Angels....It's Charlie"

E Is for Electrolyte

Part Three: Summer 1978

Breck Girl



Camp Cedars


Hey, Taxi

Shereen's Jeans

Life without Andy Gibb

Cutting the Fat

Secretary School

North Star

Do Not Resuscitate

Stick Figure


You Can Never Be Too Rich or Too Thin



What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“A smart, funny, compassionate journal of the author’s bout with anorexia at age 11.” —Entertainment Weekly

“It reads like a novel…absolutely gripping.” —Boston Globe

“Compelling…Hopefully, young Gottlieb will stand as a patron saint for girls vulnerable to eating disorders and the adults who should be caring for them.” —Booklist

“Poignant…Gottlieb is dead-on about society’s irrational attitudes towards women’s bodies.” —Washington Post Book World

“Lori Gottlieb’s approach is compassionate, and very, very funny. More than just a book about anorexia, Stick Figure is an entertaining and thoughtful coming-of-age story that deals with an almost universal theme—negotiating the minefields of early adolescence and living to tell the tale.” —Martha Manning, author of Undercurrents

“What happens when a young girl from Beverly Hills trips on the fallacies of family and friends, then gets saturated by society’s worship of the too thin? She almost dies…Gottlieb tells all this with an earnest narration that is funny at times but always tragic. And although Lori steps deeper and deeper into her illness, there is no self-pity. The mood is simply: This is what happened to me.” —Seattle Times

“Lori Gottlieb’s eleven-year-old self is a singular storyteller of unblinking candor and precocious insight. As rife with wry humor as it is lacking in self-pity, this fast-paced chronicle of late-1970s adolescent anorexia is narrated with a light touch, and yet is chilling and poignant in its straightforward simplicity.” —Sarah Saffian, author of Ithaka: A Daughter’s Memoir of Being Found

Stick Figure stands out as a fresh, edgy take—not just on anorexia but on that perilous time in a girl’s life when she’s no longer a child but not quite an adult.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Undeniably effective.” —Booklist

“[An] authentic voice.” — Francisco Chronicle

“Her descriptions of preteen vulnerability and self-consciousness ring true…her diary offers haunting evidence of what little progress we have made.” —Publishers Weekly

“By turns earnest and funny, hopeful and tragic, eleven-year-old Lori is a latter-day Alice: She takes us through the distorted looking glass that’s held up to young girls and into the harrowing land of eating disorders. There is no other word for it: You will devour this book—and hopefully, keep right on eating.” —Peggy Orenstein, author of School Girls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap

Customer Reviews

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Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 54 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the book Stick Figure by Lori Gottlieb, it was great to see how her family cared about her when she struggled with anorexia. Lori wanted to fit by being the skinniest girl in the world. She decided to go on a  diet and would not eat anything. Lori’s parents thought there was something wrong with her. They brought her to the doctor, and she only weighed less than fifty pounds. The doctor sent her to a  psychiatrist; he told her if you don’t gain weight you will go to a hospital. She didn't gain weight so she  stayed at a hospital for a couple days. She did not like staying there because the nurses that helped her  would always be in there to watch her eat. She did not eat anything, so she would throw it away when  they leave. I really enjoyed this book because it helped me out with my problems, and I thought it was great how everybody was helping her out. I think teenage girls would love to read this book to understand  what she went through and how to control yourself if you feel that way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
'Reasons why I should kill myself:..No one makes you eat when you're's the only way to get out of the hospital without weighing 60 lbs," Lori Gottlieb writes in her in her stunning memoir based off of diaries from  when she was a teen (SickFigure 189). The book Stick figure:A Diary of My Former Self by Lori Gottlieb is an elevn year old girl still learning how a young lady must act, and how quickly  a girl needs to become a woman. However, that soon turns around when she takes her parents words to an extreme and starts not talking or eating. She then becomes obsessed with the idea of being  extremely thin and in her opinion beautiful. As her obsession grows her parents take her to many doctors and tell Lori to eat and drink many different things, but she never listen. Instead she threatens self-harm and to run away. Finally, she sees her self for what she has become a self medicated stick figure. I recommend this book for parents of anorexic children and young teen girls. I enjoyed reading this book because it gives you a special look inside an anorexic's mind. With a sarcastic, yet admiring tone Lori gives readers a veiwpoint no other can, while teaching them to not give up because anyone can overcome something no matter how hard.
etznab on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the early chapters the main characters laments that her mother and other women are too obsessed about their weight. She makes several observations about how the constant focus on body image is unhealthy. And them almost overnight she starts believing that stuff herself and becomes anorexic. That transition happened almost instantaneously and didn't make any sense to me. Then again, teenage diaries don't always make sense.
Brookie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great writer. True story. Hilarious book but sad to think that an 11 year old girl can become anorexic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The memoir Stick Figure by Lori Gottlieb is about a girl named Lori who writes a diary about her life as an eleven year old, facing life threatening anorexia. She starts out perfectly fine with no eating disorder, but as the book continues on, she becomes very sick. Lori really explains how she’s feeling and what she’s going through. She also lets the reader understand how it is to have no one understand how she feels. There are certain parts that Lori explains with great detail. One example is when she is in the hospital and tries to cut the fat out of her stomach with a pair of scissors. This is a part that explains the gruesome event very well. Stick Figure is highly recommended to any reader looking for an inside look at a girl’s life with anorexia.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stick Figure by Lori Gottlieb was a fast, easy read that I would recommend. It went through her life, start to finish, of her eating disorder developing and turning into full-on anorexia. I didn’t like how much it focused on her mother; however, that fed into Lori’s disorder forming. I would recommend this for girls in their early teens as a fast read, for it has a good message, but it would be good for anyone. I would especially recommend it for a girl who was considering an eating disorder herself because it focuses on the negatives of eating disorders.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stick Figure, by Lori Gottlieb, is a book I recommend for most teenage girls to read. It’s an emotional story that takes the reader on  a journey through an eleven year old girl’s fight against anorexia. Though it was an amazing story, Lori takes a long time to get  into the plot of the story and the climax. It seemed like I had to wait till the last couple chapters before getting to an intense part of the story. I recommend this book to girls around the age of thirteen or fourteen. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the diary Stick Figure: A Diary Of My Former Self by Lori Gottlieb, 11 year old Lori is diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. I loved the way that she incorporates humor into a depressing diary. Even though it was an exceptional read, I would not necessarily recommend it if you were struggling with your appearance/weight. At some points, she even made me feel self conscious of myself. However instead of wanting to agree with her, it made me disagree! Overall, the book was definitely interesting and a page turner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stick Figure was an interesting book to read. Things I liked about this book is that it was realistic such as this really happened and can occurs in people’s life. The author had a good  tone and her writing made the story more page turning and suspenseful. However things I did not like about this book was that it dragged on and some time included things that were not necessarily important. This book was not my favorite but it made me want to keep reading and i would recommend this entertaining book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the novel Stick Figure by Lori Gottel goes through a very severe case of anorexia at only the age of eleven. Throughout the book the  author talks a lot about how she was very self-conscious about her appearance to the point where she ended up in a children’s  hospital for not eating enough. While she was at the hospital, she was still too stubborn to eat and weighed less than 60 ponds.  She didn't really realize how bad it was while she was doing it. This caused her to be upset with her parents, doctors and anyone who  told her that she shouldn't be starving herself, especially at such a young age.  During the book I was actually upset at Lori for doing that to herself and thought that it was a very dumb decision and just the way she  handled it made me just want to yell at her and show her what she was doing to herself. I recommend this book to mostly teenager’s  boys or girls. Lori wrote this memoir to spread the word about how serious anorexia really is.  In Lori’s memoir she also supports the  statement of anti-bullying and how bullying can cause many disorders such as anorexia.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
No one understands me that am what Lori says in her book. By her seeing a commercial which said “If you can pinch an inch” and seeing how other people look. She thought of herself fat. The book Stick Figure by Lori Gottieb is about an eleven year old girl. The girl’s name was Lori and she is a smart girl, but she felt like nobody can understand her. She thought of herself fat, so she went on a diet. Her diet was barely eating. Her parent thinks that something is wrong with her, but nothing was wrong she would say. she is just on a diet. They would take her to a psychiatrists and she ended up in a hospital. The psychiatrists made the family vote on if she should go to the hospital. I enjoyed the book because I knew how Lori felt. I would not eat when I’m not hungry and my parent thinks that there is something wrong. I’m not anorexic at all. I would try to imagine how she is feeling and I wonder what I would do if I was in her shoes. I recommend this book for mostly for teenagers and adults: for adults to see how some children feel about their selves, for teens because of how other children feel to how much different they are or similar they are.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Imagine being 11 and weighing less that 50 pounds. The story Stick Figure is about a girl, Lori Gottlieb, with anorexia nervosa. She is sent to the hospital so that the doctors could help her gain weight. At age 11 Lori weighed under 50 pounds. The doctors wanted her to weigh at least 60 pounds before she went home.  She wanted to cut herself so she would bleed to death, After meeting a girl in the hospital who died she decides that she really does not want to die. I loved this book. Every time I had to stop reading it, all I wanted to do was pick it back up. I think this book would be a great read for teenage girls and some teenage boys who are going through this phase in life. They will learn that being skinny isn’t the most important thing in life. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the book Stick Figure, by Lori Gottlieb a girl struggles with the 4 battle of anorexia Lori the main character, she expresses her troubles and thoughts about being a women in modern times, and dealing with the pressure of being thin to fit in. I really enjoyed this book because it gave me more perspective on how insecure people are. It's very emotional, and it keeps you wondering what she will do next. While Lori was going in to the hospital, she always thinks that she could afford to lose a few more pounds. Eventually she puts her own life on the line, just so she can feel like she was what the media wanted. She wanted to like just like your friends, but what she didn't see was that she wad doing devastating damage to her self and her body. What seems to be Loris mantra is you, "can never too rich or too thin." While Lori is a very honest person she hides the truth from herself by telling herself that she's too fat or that she has thunder thighs. Loir's parents eventually made her go to see doctors, but eventually Lori draws a picture of what she look like and how she wants to look like she drew a stick figure. Sticking to her mantra. In the end Lori learns that it is good to be different.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
chocochipcrayon More than 1 year ago
I absolutely could not put this book down! The insight into Lori Gottlieb's thoughts and feelings about herself were enticing. It amazed me that this "situation", as it's called throughout the novel, happened when she was only eleven. It made me realize how poisonous the media truly is when eleven year-old children believe that they need to diet. An eating disorder is an extremely obsessive thing, and Gottlieb made that obvious. Her story was not only thought provoking, but was provoking emotionally as well. This collection of diary entries was a quick but intense read, and I strongly recommend it to any reader or book club.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Buffheart More than 1 year ago
Although some of the characteristics of Eating Disorders are there, this story is not accurate. One with an Eating Disorder cannot simply think themselves "better", and that's what the book seems to convey (in my opinion, at least).
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿This isn¿t a game anymore,¿ Dr. Katz said when he came in this morning. The reason he came early is that the treatment team is worried about my lab tests. Dr. Katz said he doesn¿t care what the chart says because I¿m obviously not eating as much as the nurses are writing down, which is why he just had a talk with them about how they should never listen to me, no matter what. Like anyone ever listens to me anyway.¿ Stick Figure is a mesmerizing book about an 11-year old girl who is living in Beverly Hills she becomes anorexic because of a bad relationship with her parents and hardly any support from her friends and family. She is absorbed with her schoolwork and is not concerned with her looks until she realizes she wants to do something with her life, and she gets the impression that doing that, requires being thin. She rapidly becomes obsessed with her weight and how many calories she consumes. And quickly starts to worry her family, friends and the doctors start getting involved with her ¿situation¿. Soon she sees herself as fat, and everyone else can clearly see that she needs to get help¿and fast. She goes to a clinic where people go when they are very sick. She then tries the unthinkable and her situation becomes more and more serious. Stick Figure is Lori Gottlieb¿s diary that she kept while was battling anorexia. Stick Figure is a national best seller and is loved by all of its readers. Lori Gottlieb still lives in California and is a journalist for many well-known magazines and NPR. This book is filled with emotions that just seep through the pages. You will come to adore Lori as much as I have and understand what she went through. This book will be adored by boys, girls, and adults due to its many inner themes that most people can relate to. I loved this memoir and I know that every other person who picks it up will too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
you very clearly do not have any knoweledge of eating disorders, how they develop, or what healthy eating habits are. Sorry, an emaciated and sickly body is NOT a result of healthy eating, sorry an obsession about your body and food is NOT a healthy lifestyle. as someone who has suffered and recovered from anorexia and bulimia, i take offense to your ignorance on the matter and suggest you educate yourself better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to dissagree a little with the review titled confusing. An ed can develop from her just wanting to not eat for attention, having an ed is a way of coping with something just not a healthy way and the girl wanted to be noticed. I know it's rare but you can become so obsessed with food that it turns into a dissorder. And food is used to replace what your feeling so you wont have to. Like her family and pressure from her mother to basically be perfect all the time. And the kids at school the popular ones she wanted to be like, that was her way of coping. I do agree that most ed's as I said don't just start out from wanting attention but there is a need for attention. I read this book once and a teacher of mine in HS suggested I read it since I was and am anorexic/bulimic. I enjoyed the book very much and would love to read it again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was amazing wen my english teacher recommended it for me i read it in 2 days. It was such a great book but its just upset me alittle about how she was so young n wanted to be the thinest girl in the world.