Book Review: Just a Little Too Thin | Books & Authors | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
Is Katie’s diet a brief experiment at weight loss, or is it part of an emotional struggle to improve her life, win a boyfriend, and raise her self-esteem? Just a Little Too Thin is a guide for parents unsure about whether their daughters’ dieting behaviors are a normal quest for health or the beginnings of a serious struggle with body image and disordered eating.

Just a Little Too Thin was written by Meg Schneider, an adolescent and family therapist based in Rhinebeck, and UCLA’s eating disorder program director, Michael Strober. Though Schneider has authored several parenting books, this is her first to deal with eating disorders.

Somewhere between a self-help workbook and a well-rounded read about the prevalent cultural obsession with weight and dieting, Just a Little Too Thin targets the parents of female teens who diet or have a strong focus on their weight. It is not intended, though it may be helpful, for parents of adolescents already diagnosed with serious eating disorders.

This book tracks the phases of adolescents traveling on the “slippery slope” between a healthy desire to “lose a few pounds” and a dieting compulsion. The authors provide benchmarks for parents to assess their children’s behavior. Does your daughter meticulously study food labels or avoid social gatherings that involve food? Is the dinner table filled with tension as she cuts her food into tiny pieces and moves it around on her plate, almost unconsciously? Although every teen will progress differently, this book highlights important markers and red flags of eating-disordered behaviors that parents should heed.

Just a Little Too Thin also gives parents practical exit strategies for children heading into a downward slide, including concrete advice on what to say to support self-esteem. When listening to your daughter’s exhilarated exclamations about her recent weight loss and how much she likes looking thin, the authors suggest reminding her about other positive traits as well. From how to question a teen about her diet to sample conversations about advertisements promoting thinness or the pressure teens feel from not seeing their body type reflected in the media, parents will find these dialogues useful as a model for constructive conversation—though they may need to reread the phrases a few times to remember language that’s outside one’s daily vernacular.

When up to 60 percent of all teens diet regularly and 50 percent of normal-weight teens see themselves as heavy, there is clearly a gigantic cultural pressure to be thin. The authors pointedly acknowledge this: “We can’t stress enough that dissatisfaction with appearance is tied closely to our social world. The pressure on young people to achieve thinness and to see the success of doing so as equal to other accomplishments has intensified. The message is conveyed through the media, peer pressure, parental encouragement, and more, making it virtually impossible to avoid as it permeates every aspect of our daily routine.” A teen’s perceived pressure to be thin is now the greatest predictor of body dissatisfaction. This is critical for adults and teens to understand so they can see—and avoid—the enormous power of this cultural obsession.

Schneider and Strober are astute in pointing out that parents need to look at the messages they learned while growing up about dieting and body image. The authors have captured a crucial concept of parents, “need to deal with their own personal stuff first,” incorporating it throughout this guide. Along with stories from families who have been on this slope, the book functions as a script, teaching parents to change their language to help prevent dieting obsessions. It is a road map essential for anyone with a teen on the dieting trip.

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