Arnold Andersen, MD is Professor Emeritus, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and adjunct lecturer at Johns Hopkins Medical School. Dr. Andersen is an international authority on eating disorders, has appeared on national television, and has been quoted in numerous publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and the New York Times.

Leigh Cohn, MAT, CEDS is Editor-in-Chief of Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention and coauthor of more than a dozen books. He has received awards from the International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals, the Eating Disorders Coalition, and the National Eating Disorders Association, of which he is a member of the Founders Council.

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Stories I Tell My Patients

101 Myths, Metaphors, Fables & Tall Tales for Eating Disorders Recovery

Authors: Arnold Andersen, MD, Leigh Cohn, M.A.T.


Stories I Tell My Patients by Arnold Andersen, M.D., has been a highly regarded feature in Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention for nearly 25 years. The complete set of 101 stories is collected here for the first time. Combining myth, metaphor, fable, tall tale, and inventive fantasy, they were originally intended for professionals treating eating disorders to share with their clients, but they are also accessible and inspiring for individuals in recovery and their loved ones.


1   Watering the Roses When the House is on Fire
2   The Catsup Bottle: Go All the Way
3   The Indian and the Chessboard
4   The Emperor Has No Clothes--Do You?
5   The Stockholm Syndrome
6   Let’s Go to a County Fair
7   The Long Bike Trip
8   Pulling Weeds and Planting Flowers
9   A Knight in Shining Armor
10  The Door and the Carpenter’s Plane


"A delightful collection that gets to the heart of the matter for those struggling with eating disorders. A wonderful resource!"
— Anita Johnston, PhD, author, Eating in the Light of the Moon

"One of the preeminent researchers in the field of eating disorders.…Witty, humorous, practical vignettes that help patients grasp complicated concepts. Art from a scientist…a true renaissance man."
— Craig Johnson, PhD., Chief Science Officer & Director of the Family Institute, Eating Recovery Center

"I read all of Arnold’s stories when they were published in Eating Disorders, but having them all readily available in one place is a much appreciated and valuable resource."
— Carolyn Costin, Founder, Monte Nido & Affiliates

"All good psychotherapy depends on helping patients find and speak their emotional truth. Andersen proposes that storytelling is one important means of getting to the issues, and offers a number of thought provoking and evocative stories intended to do just that."
— Tom Wooldridge, PsyD, Assistant Professor, Golden Gate University


Leigh Cohn, MAT, CEDS
Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention

“Stories I Tell My Patients” by Arnold Andersen, MD has been an intermittent feature in Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment and Prevention since our first issue in 1993. The complete set of 101 stories is collected here in one volume for the first time. Read More >>

Watering the Roses when the House is on Fire
anorexia nervosa, perfectionism, anxiety

What would you say if I told you the story of a young girl who was very good at watering the roses? One day, the house caught on fire and she was very afraid, not knowing how to put it out. She had been taught in school to leave the house promptly and call the fire department. Read More >>

The Three Tailors
recovery tool, body image, thinness

Once upon a time there was a very proud lady in the kingdom of Antilipidemia. She received a coveted invitation to the king’s ball and decided to command the most flattering dress in the kingdom for the grand event. There were three exceedingly talented tailors in the kingdom, who knew of the king‘s ball and the proud lady’s desire to have the most flattering dress. Read More >>

Sadism and Masochism: The Scale and the Mirror
weight obsession, body image, scales & mirrors

One day scale and mirror decided to wreak havoc on the earth. Scale decided that it would terrorize people from the moment they got up during the day ‘til the moment they went to bed. Scale gradually infiltrated all the media until soon it became the thing to do to weigh yourself and to talk about how fat you were. Read More >>

Fire Those Servants
recovery tool, all ED, weight prejudice

Queen Betty ruled over her kingdom with great skill and was much loved. She lived in Buckinglamb Palace with many servants. One day, a servant named Armeenie looked at the Queen and said to her, “My, you are getting fat.” Queen Betty didn’t know what to say, but decided to overlook this insult because of the servant’s past loyalty. Read More >>

Jeanette’s Feast
all eating disorders, recovery tool, family dynamics, quality of life

Jeanette thought her anorexia was the secret to a happy life. It gave her a sense of security, identity, and control. Having moved to the Midwest from France as a small child, she dreaded the major holidays, when her family celebrated with an abundance of the kinds of tasty foods she resisted. Read More >>