The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes Who Our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired

This is one of my favorite parenting books of all time. It clearly explains the core competencies of parenting and tells us what we can do to meet our kids' needs. It provides an excellent overview of Attachment Theory and helps parents build healthy attachment with their kids. In short, the authors say that based on the latest brain and attachment research, children need to feel the "Four S's":

Safe: We can’t always insulate a child from injury or avoid doing something that leads to hurt feelings. But when we give a child a sense of safe harbor, she will be able to take the needed risks for growth and change.
Seen: Truly seeing a child means we pay attention to his emotions—both positive and negative—and strive to attune to what’s happening in his mind beneath his behavior.
Soothed: Soothing isn’t about providing a life of ease; it’s about teaching your child how to cope when life gets hard, and showing him that you’ll be there with him along the way. A soothed child knows that he’ll never have to suffer alone.
Secure: When a child knows she can count on you, time and again, to show up—when you reliably provide safety, focus on seeing her, and soothe her in times of need, she will trust in a feeling of secure attachment. And thrive!


By Their Side: A Resource for Caretakers and Loved Ones Facing an Eating Disorder

This book provides an excellent overview of what loved ones need to know about caring for someone who has an eating disorder. Written by a collection of families, friends, and healed advocates, it includes stories of what it's like to love someone who has an eating disorder as well as helpful information about eating disorders and treatment options. My favorite thing about this book is that it doesn't avoid the fact that loving someone who has an eating disorder requires effort, not just to work on their recovery, but to also recognize the impact of family systems and to be introspective about how a parent's own behavior may impact a child's eating disorder and recovery.

Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents: 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous and Independent Children

This is a really helpful book for parents whose kids live with anxiety. Although it's not specifically about eating, food, and body anxiety, the concept remains steady regardless of the particular source of anxiety. In short, parents need to manage their own anxiety first before they can help their kids. This provides a step-by-step process for helping kids with anxiety based on the premise that everything we've been doing has been well-intentioned, but if it's not working, it's time to try something else. Beware of some diet culture talk, including several pages in a row discussing a story of weight loss. We completely skipped those pages and the book still had value.

The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America

This is a great book for parents who are wondering why food is such a complicated issue for parents. It includes stories from people who struggle with weight, food, and eating and is told within the concept of our societal food, eating, and body images. The author began her journey when her daughter came off a feeding tube and they had to learn to release all assumptions about food and get back to basics: food is good, and eating is good and healthy. Sounds so obvious, yet it's so hard for many parents today!

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

This book is a great choice for parents who want to understand child development and the science behind parenting from a place of emotional intelligence.  Even though it often seems like it, eating disorders don't come out of nowhere. Understanding our child's emotional system and structure can help us begin to understand the complexity of parenting a human being. It's helpful to lay the groundwork for understanding the importance of our emotional selves, which will be critical in helping your child heal. This book is written to help parents of younger children, but the concepts apply to older children who are struggling with mental and behavioral disorders.


You’re Fine. Body Image for Girls (free eBook)

ebook body image for girls

Teaching body image for girls is very difficult in a culture that is strongly oriented towards a thin ideal. Body hate is on the rise among all age groups. And since it’s always been a problem for girls and teens, it’s reached terrible proportions among our daughters. This book is written by 13-year-old Raina Rose and her mom, Ginny Jones. It covers issues of body diversity, body respect, and acceptance and is an easy, quick, and fun read for girls.


The F*ck It Diet: Eating Should Be Easy

This is a fun book that takes a fresh look at Intuitive Eating. It's designed to address the vast epidemic of disordered eating among women and help them find peace with food and their bodies. Caroline Dooner is funny and makes this book as easy to read as any diet book you've ever enjoyed. At the same time, she covers critical issues including body image, food behaviors, and healing from disordered eating. It is especially helpful for parents who recognize they are chronic dieters or have disordered eating patterns that they need to address to help their kids heal.

Related article: Talk to your child about disordered eating

My Body’s Superpower: The Girls’ Guide to Growing Up Healthy During Puberty

Book Cover: My Body's Superpower: The Girls' Guide to Growing Up Healthy During Puberty

Most puberty books skate around weight gain or can even be openly fatphobic or promote diet culture. This one talks about weight gain as being a natural and healthy part of puberty. It explicitly talks to girls about seeing food as something to nourish their bodies and lives rather than suggesting they should restrict it to maintain a "goal weight." It also does a great job of presenting Intuitive Eating in an age-appropriate manner.

It's for girls 9-14 years old.


Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works

This is a foundational guidebook for anyone who is interested in healing their relationship with food. We live in a food-phobic society that demonizes food groups and labels food (and the people who eat them) as either "good" or "bad." This approach is not improving our health and is, in fact, leading to higher weight, shame, and increased disordered eating and eating disorders. Intuitive Eating is based on the idea that we should stop dieting forever and instead allow our bodies to guide our food choices. When followed mindfully, it is an excellent book to guide advanced eating disorder recovery.

Related article: Treating and preventing eating disorders with Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size, an interview with Brandi Koch MA, RD

Related article: Intuitive eating is a great tool for people with eating disorders, but it should be carefully monitored for possible distortions – with Christy Harrison, RD


Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls

Teenage girls are under increasing pressure to perform in every aspect of life. The pressure to be thin, attractive, smart, ambitious, successful, creative, caregivers can overwhelm even the most balanced child. This book does a really good job of helping parents understand the challenges our girls face and how best to support a girl who is suffering from anxiety due to the pressure.

Related article: Scary things your child may say while having an anxiety attack and how to handle it

Good Enough: A Novel

This is a novel written in the first-person about a 12-year-old girl's experience in eating disorder treatment. It does a good job of avoiding eating disorder behavior modeling, which is often a problem with books about eating disorders. The protagonist struggles with recovery, and the book does a good job of portraying the experience through her eyes. It involves some struggles with family and parents, but not in a blaming way. In the end, the protagonist finds reasons to recover and feels strong enough to face the world in recovery.

This is a good book for parents who want to understand eating disorders from the inside and is also appropriate for young adults who are interested in the topic.

Body Positive Power: Because Life Is Already Happening …

This is a light, fun book about the path to body positivity and how it helped the author heal her relationship with food, her body, and herself. Megan Jayne Crabbe is known as @bodyposipanda on Instagram. Her approach in this book is almost like a diet book - she is positive and empowering and makes body positivity feel as good (and better!) than dieting. It's a great read for parents, teens, adults, and anyone who has struggled with body image.

Related article: How to raise a body-positive kid



Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

Many parents find their teenage girls to be difficult and unpleasant. The media and our culture support the idea that teenage girls are horrible and "crazy." But the truth is that the daughters we love in childhood and adulthood are still there in adolescence and still need us to love them and like them through the transition to adulthood. Parents can learn a lot about accepting their teenage girls from this book.

Related article: Thoughts on Adolescent Daughters Inspired by Reviving Ophelia


Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight

This book should be required reading for every parent, caregiver, teacher and healthcare provider. It provides the scientific foundation for the Health at Every Size movement and uncovers the truth about weight, health, and health behaviors. In short, nobody should ever diet - it's unhealthy. Instead, people should focus on health behaviors such as movement and self-care. These true health behaviors positively impact health, while weight loss negatively impacts health.

Related article: What diets do to children, and what to do instead of putting your child on a diet

Related article: Health at Every Size and eating disorders


A Bright Red Scream: Self-Mutilation and the Language of Pain

Self-harming behavior is frequently found alongside eating disorder behaviors. This book helps us understand the urge to self-harm as well as the pathway out of self-harm. In short, self-harm becomes a powerful soothing technique to help a person navigate extreme discomfort. As with an eating disorder, self-harm is something best approached with compassion and understanding.

Related article: New Study: 1 in 4 teenage girls engage in self-harming behavior, which frequently co-occurs with eating disorders