Thorndike Press, the leading large print publisher in the United States, releases Johnnie Come Lately in hardcover

February 21, 2018

Thorndike Press calls Johnnie Come Lately “contemporary, issues-driven women’s fiction featuring warm and spunky Johnnie Kitchen and her family.”

The hardcover large print edition releases today, February 21, 2018, and received top billing under the publisher’s “Clean Reads” line on page 22 in the February 2018 catalog

Many public libraries carry large print books. Check with your local library to see if they’ve ordered the large print edition of Johnnie Come Lately. Make sure you mention the book is available from Thorndike Press.

You can order the hardcover edition at the following booksellers:

Thorndike Press


Barnes & Noble




Indie Bound

Thanks to Camel Press, the original publisher, for believing in my work. The book is available in paperback, e-book, and audio.


Author & Journalist Deborah Kalb interviews Kathleen M. Rodgers about her latest novel, Johnnie Come Lately

February 2, 2015

Author and journalist Deborah Kalb grew up watching her famous father on CBS News, NBC News, and as the moderator of Meet the Press. In 2011, Deborah appeared with her father and co-author, Marvin Kalb, on C-SPAN2 BOOKTV where they discussed their book, Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama (Brookings Institution Press), with moderator and television journalist Ted Koppel.

Deborah Kalb with her father and coauthor, Marvin Kalb, discussing their book, Haunting Legacy, with Ted Koppel on C-SPAN2 BOOKTV in 2011.
Deborah Kalb with her father and coauthor, Marvin Kalb, discussing their book, Haunting Legacy, with Ted Koppel on C-SPAN2 BOOKTV in 2011.

 Johnnie Come Lately kathleenmrodgers, camel press 300On Monday, January 26, 2015, Deborah called me to discuss my latest novel, Johnnie Come Lately. The first thing Deborah said was, “I loved Johnnie Come Lately. Your characters are so well drawn.” She also told me how much she enjoyed the journal entries woven throughout the narrative. To read our full interview, please visit  Books Q & As with Deborah Kalb.

Marvin and Deborah June 27 2012




Deborah Kalb is a freelance writer and editor. She spent two decades working as a journalist in Washington, D.C., for news organizations including Gannett News Service, Congressional Quarterly, U.S. News & World Report, and The Hill, mostly covering Congress and politics. Besides co-authoring Haunting Legacy with her father, Marvin Kalb, she is also co-author or co-editor of two books published by CQ Press (The Presidents, First Ladies, and Vice Presidents; and State of the Union: Presidential Rhetoric from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush).

You can follow Deborah on Twitter ‪@deborahkalb‪  or

Johnnie Come Lately made the Sunday book section of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

February 1, 2015

Johnnie Come Lately made the book section of the  Fort Worth Star-Telegram on the same day the novel was released from Camel Press, a traditional publisher based in Seattle, WA. While the country was tuned into the Super Bowl, I was still celebrating the official launch of a book that took six years to complete.Johnnie Come Lately in Fort Worth Star-Telegram kathleenmrodgers


Book Launch for Johnnie Come Lately, Barnes & Noble, Southlake, TX
Date: Saturday, February 7, 2015
Time: 2-4 p.m.
Where: 1430 Plaza Place, Southlake, TX 76092 (Southlake Town Square)
I will also be signing copies of the 2nd edition of The Final Salute

Johnnie Come Lately in book section of 2:1:15 Fort Worth Star-Telegram kathleemrodgers

Kathleen M. Rodgers’ novel, Johnnie Come Lately, reviewed on Midwest Book Review

Katherine Boyer’s review of my second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, appears on Midwest Book Review for January 2015. Thank you, Katherine! Katherine Boyer's review of Johnnie Come Lately posted on Midwest Book Review Jan 2015





Johnnie Come Lately kathleenmrodgers, camel press 300Click here to read Katherine’s review

For ordering information, please visit my website:



Stars & Stripes columnist Terri Barnes interviews Kathleen M. Rodgers about her new book, overcoming struggles, and more…


Terri Barnes, columnist for Stars & Stripes
Terri Barnes, columnist for Stars & Stripes


What an honor to be featured in Terri Barnes‘ popular column in Stars & Stripes! After Terri read an advanced reader copy of my forthcoming novel, Johnnie Come Lately, she offered to endorse it and she also requested an interview. We talked for over an hour. Please click the red link to read the story she gleaned from our conversation.





Terri’s endorsement for Johnnie Come Lately, forthcoming from Camel Press 2/1/15

“The Kitchen family could be any wholesome All-American family, and like any family, they have secrets. In Johnnie Come Lately, Kathleen Rodgers brings to life an extended family that could be yours or mine. Their secrets will draw you into this book, and Rodgers’ characters — from Johnnie Kitchen to her lovable chocolate lab, Brother Dog — will jump off the page, grab your heart, and won’t let it go until the very end.”

Terri Barnes, author of Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life and a columnist for Stars and Stripes 

Terri’s full bio:

Terri is the author of Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life and is the special projects editor at Elva Resa Publishing. A well-respected columnist, Terri is the writer and creator of the weekly Stars and Stripes column Spouse Calls, which first appeared in 2007. Now published in print editions worldwide and online, Spouse Calls serves as a voice for military spouses and families, through personal stories, incisive interviews, news analysis, and interaction with readers. Terri has been a member of the Washington, DC, press corps and has contributed to several other books about military life. Her work has appeared in Air Force/Army/Navy TimesThe Huffington Post, and Books Make a Difference, as well as newspapers, magazines, and base publications in many of her adopted hometowns around the world. Her other media appearances include CNN Newsroom, Positive Parenting with Armin Brott, and Semper Feisty Radio with USMC Life. 



Two Steps Forward: A Note of Encouragement to Someone Struggling With Bulimia

 As a recovered bulimic going on twenty-eight years, I have a responsibility to reach out to others and offer hope. I wrote the following note after receiving a message from someone who asked for my help.Family Circle , bulimia kathleenmrodgers

It’s okay if you’ve stumbled after going several days without binging. Remember, you’ve simply taken one step back. The situation is not hopeless and you are not helpless. You pick yourself up and take two steps forward.

Don’t beat yourself up. Clear your head and find the good in yourself and others and keep moving forward.

Another tool to getting better is to reach out to others in some way. Service to others is such a healing balm. Maybe check on someone you know who might be lonely. Or have you ever helped serve food at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen?

Serving food to the needy can help you redirect the way you see food. Again, food is nothing more than fuel for our bodies.

It’s when we turn it into a weapon to use against ourselves that our relationship with food gets all twisted.

Today at this moment, regardless of whether you binged two days ago or two minutes ago, pick yourself up and move two steps forward.

You will get there.

You are worth the journey,


In my award-winning novel, Johnnie Come Lately, Johnnie Kitchen is a recovered bulimic searching for answers to secrets from her past.
In Kathleen’s award-winning novel, Johnnie Come Lately, Johnnie Kitchen is a recovered bulimic searching for answers to secrets from her past.









Kathleen adapted her Family Circle story for Her War Her Voice:

Eating Disorder Resources:




Author Kathleen M. Rodgers named a Distinguished Alumni for Tarrant County College/NE Campus 2014

kathleenmrodgers:2014 Distinguished Alumni Tarrant County Community College

When I walked across the stage at Tarrant County Convention Center in Fort Worth, TX to receive my diploma in May 2007, I felt ten feet tall in my cap and gown. I was also one of the oldest graduates at 48. With my husband Tom, our two grown sons and my mother looking on, I graduated with highest honors, a total victory considering I feared I would flunk college biology my first day in lecture and lab. Most people complete an AA degree in about two years, but then I’m not most people. It took me 30 years to earn a college degree. In that time, I attended one university, two community colleges, recovered from a life-threating eating disorder, wrote numerous articles for national and local publications, completed one novel, followed my Air Force fighter pilot turned airline pilot husband from base to base, and raised our two sons. I also raised one puppy dog and served as a nanny to my three young boy cousins while their mom worked as an attorney in downtown Dallas.

By the time I earned my associate degree, I’d already enrolled in Southern Methodist University’s noncredit novel writing course. With one completed novel The Final Salute under my belt, a second novel began to take shape. That novel grew up to become Johnnie Come Lately and will be published by Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, February 1, 2015.

Being named a 2014 Distinguished Alumni for Tarrant County College/Northeast Campus is one more affirmation that I’m on the right track with my new novel. My protagonist, Mrs. Johnnie Kitchen, goes back to college later in life. In my own little way, I’ve tried to shine the spotlight on community colleges. Tarrant County College inspired the fictional Portion Community College in the novel.

Although I didn’t need a college degree to become a writer, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. Regardless of my many successes in the writing profession, earning a college degree thirty years after I graduated from high school gave me a boost of confidence like nothing else.

No matter what level of education we all achieve, we are all students of the world. Every day we have a chance to learn something new and to apply it to our lives.

Here’s the announcement I received from the President of Tarrant County College/NE Campus:

Greetings Kathleen Rodgers,

As president of Tarrant County College Northeast Campus, I would like to congratulate you for being named as one of the Distinguished Alumni of the campus for recognition in 2014!

Recognition of graduates who have made a difference in the community is a relatively new endeavor for TCC Northeast.  Twelve years ago I established a committee of faculty members with the goal of developing guidelines for this project.  The committee decided to ask departments to name outstanding former students who had graduated from TCC Northeast at least five years ago with associate degrees or certificates.  In the last few years, we also wanted to include students who had attended TCC Northeast for a substantial portion of their college course work, but who may have transferred to another institution to finish a degree.  Each discipline chose one person to be recognized in a ceremony that will take place on campus in May during the Faculty Luncheon.  As a member of this group of Distinguished Alumni, you will receive a certificate that will be presented during that ceremony.

We have scheduled the recognition ceremony/luncheon to take place in the Center Corner (NSTU 1615A) in the Student Center Building.  You might remember that this is the building with the clock tower.  It will begin at approximately 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 6, 2014 and should be over by 1:00 p.m.

The photo and a short bio will eventually be transferred to our Distinguished Alumni Wall of Recognition housed in the J. Ardis Bell Library on the Northeast Campus.

Again, congratulations, and I look forward to seeing you next month.

Larry Darlage, PhD

President| Tarrant County College Northeast Campus



“Fatty Mattie” by Joyce Faulkner


A short story by Joyce Faulkner

(From her book “Losing Patience”)Losing Patience

“Two hundred and forty-eight pounds.” The nurse peered through the lower lenses of her bifocals. Mattie glanced over her shoulder. Perhaps no one heard the nurse’s pronouncement.

She stepped off the scale and slipped back into her sandals. “These are very heavy shoes.”

The nurse scowled.

“Guess you’ve heard that one before.” Mattie disguised her blush with a grin.

“Ten times a day.”

“I’m healthy though.” She followed the nurse down the hallway to a small room and crawled up on the examination table. “Healthy as a horse.”

The woman wrapped the blood pressure cuff around Mattie’s arm.

Mattie forced herself to relax. “I get nervous when you do that.”

“One ninety over one ten.”

Mattie cringed.

“Give me your finger.” The nurse unzipped a black case.

“What’s that?”

“Glucometer. The doctor wants to check your blood sugar.”

Mattie jumped as the nurse pricked her finger and milked a blood drop onto a test strip. The glucometer beeped. “One sixty-five,” she read. “Are you sure you didn’t eat anything this morning?”

“Nothing.” Mattie gave up trying to be merry and dangled her legs over the edge of the examination table, fighting back tears. It was all beginning again.

“The doctor will see you in a moment. By the way, Happy Birthday, Mattie.”

“Thanks, Lois.”Windshift


“Happy Birthday dear Mattie, Happy Birthday to you.” The kids gathered around the table as Mattie blew out ten candles.

“Here, sweetheart. Let me cut the cake for you.” Her mother whisked the round pink confection into the kitchen.

“Are we having ice cream too?” Ronnie bounced in his seat.

“You bet,” Mattie’s dad patted her little brother on the back.

“Cherry Chunk?”

“You got it, buddy.”

The little boy clapped his hands. “With Chocolate sauce?”

“Here ya go, Mattie. Happy Birthday, darling.” Her mother sat a plate with a miniscule slice of the cherry cake in front of her.

“Can’t I have ice cream too?” Mattie eyed the syrupy dessert the other kids were eating.

“You’re getting a little hefty, kiddo.” Her father spooned chocolate drenched ice cream into his mouth. “Wouldn’t want anyone to call you Fatty Mattie, would you?”

“Fatty Mattie!” Ronnie laughed with his mouth full.

“Fatty Mattie, Fatty Mattie!” The other kids chanted.

Mattie scowled. “Stop it, Ronnie. Make them stop, Mama.”

“Shush! Stop it or I’ll take away YOUR ice cream.” Her mother called from the kitchen. “I swear, Paul. You act like a kid yourself.”

“Well, she IS a little tub of lard. Whose fault is that?” Her father belched and wandered into the den with a second dish of Mattie’s birthday cake and ice cream.

Mattie eyed the cake in front of her. It wasn’t much more than a bite. “Come on, Mattie. Don’t be like that.” Her mother sat down with a tiny slice of her own.

“I want what they got.” Mattie stuck out her lower lip.

“You know how he is.” Her mother whispered. “Don’t get him going.”In the Shadow


“Hello, Mattie. How have things been?” Doctor Reece shook her hand before sitting down at his desk with her file.

“I’m fine, sir.”

He shuffled through the papers in her file. “Things are getting out of hand with your blood pressure, Mattie.” He took off his glasses and turned to face her. “Did you ever consider losing weight?”


“You are beautiful.”

Mattie stood at the foot of the bed, caressing his foot. “Aw, you are sweet.”

He reached out for her. “So slim and trim.”

She crawled into bed beside him, covering them both with the sheets. “I love you, Eddie.”

“Promise me you’ll not get fat like your Mama. Promise me you’ll always be beautiful like you are today.”

She rolled away from him. “My mother is beautiful.”

“Your mother is FAT.” He snuggled up behind her.

“That doesn’t make her any less beautiful.”

He kissed the back of her neck. “No, I suppose it doesn’t. I’m sorry, baby. I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“Yes, you did.” She wiped her eyes with the corner of the sheet. It hadn’t been an easy transition from chubby little girl to tall, lithesome young woman.

“I was an insensitive clod, Mattie. I didn’t mean to criticize your mom. She’s a lovely lady. I was trying to make you feel good. I screwed up.”

She bit her knuckle and closed her eyes.


“What do you mean, consider?”

“I mean your numbers are lousy. You are fifty-eight years old and a hundred and twenty pounds overweight. Your blood pressure is out of sight and so is your sugar. When’s the last time you got any exercise?”

“Today. I climbed the escalator two steps at a time.”

“Mattie, this is no laughing matter.”

The smile faded from her face. “You think I’m heavy on purpose? Is that what you think?”

“All you have to do is push yourself back from the table.”

“Oh? Is that all I have to do?” Her eyes flashed. “You think it’s as simple as that?”

“Use more calories than you take in and you will lose weight.” The doctor’s sigh was long and wheezy. “You lose even a little bit of weight and your sugar will be easier to control. So will your blood pressure.”



She took the potato chips off of her plate and stashed them in her napkin as soon as the waitress walked away. “I’ll be right back,” she whispered.

“Are you feeling sick again?”

“You know how pregnant women are, Eddie. We have to pee all the time.” She squeezed out of the booth and waddled to the bathroom, holding her napkin against her chest.

Someone was in the handicapped stall. Mattie danced from one foot to the other. “Please, please, please.” The door swung open and an old woman shuffled to the sinks, using an aluminum walker. Mattie turned sideways to allow her to pass before hurrying into the stall.

Standing over the toilet, Mattie crushed the potato chips inside her napkin. Her nostrils flared at the smell of stale oil. Holding the bundle over the bowl, she dusted the tiny pieces into the water. Relieved to be rid of them, she pressed the chrome handle and watched the water swirl around. “Thank God!” She murmured to herself as she ripped the paper into tiny shreds and flushed them as well.

“I was about to send in the Cavalry to see if you fell in.” Eddie bit into his half-eaten burger.

“I needed to get rid of some things.” She examined the tuna sandwich trying to decide how much she dared eat.

“You’ve been throwing up for weeks. You have to eat something.” He dunked a fry into a puddle of Heinz Catsup.

“The doctor says I’m gaining too much too fast.”

“That doctor is nuts. You can lose it after the baby is born. Besides, you aren’t eating enough to keep a Chihuahua alive.”

“I know, but look at me. I’m puffed up like a beached whale.”

“You worry too much. Eat. Eat!” He gestured toward her sandwich.

She picked up a butter knife. “Maybe half.”

The flavor exploded in her mouth. She gulped down the triangle of bread and tuna, in spite of her determination to savor it. Still hungry, she drank a glass of water with a slice of lemon in it. The other half of her sandwich beckoned. Before she lost control, she peeled off the bread and poured a small mound of salt on the tuna.

Eddie rolled his eyes. “How many calories, Mattie?”

It was hard to think. A boiled egg early in the day. Some celery around noon. A glass of milk mid-afternoon. The sandwich. She added up the calories. “Around five hundred.”

“You can’t live on that.”

“I have to. I’ve gained forty pounds and I’m only five months along.”

“Oh come on, no one gains that much weight on what you eat. You must be sneaking food.”

Sneaking food? The thought was riveting, but she didn’t dare. Once she started eating, it was like sliding down an endless mud bank. She couldn’t stop.


“I recommend you see our nutritionist. She’ll get you on the straight and narrow. The appropriate number of calories. The right mix of exercise. You stick to it and you’ll see a marked improvement in a short time.” The doctor busied himself writing something in her file.

“How many calories?”

“Two thousand.”

Mattie snorted. “You have to be kidding! I don’t eat that much now.”

The doctor raised one eyebrow. “Perhaps you are miscalculating your caloric intake.”

She shook her head. “I’m a pro at this, doctor. I’ve lost a thousand pounds in my lifetime.”

He backed down. “Fifteen hundred calories?”

Her laugh was sarcastic. “Get real.”


“How much do you normally weigh?” The secretary held a Bic over the form.

“Do you mean what am I supposed to weigh? Or what do I usually weigh?”

The woman didn’t smile.

Mattie gave up. “One twenty-five.”

“How long since you weighed one twenty-five?”


The woman wrote something on the paper. “How much weight do you want to lose?”

Mattie thought for a moment. “If I could get down to one hundred and fifty, I’d be happy.”

“Let’s see, that’s sixty pounds.”

Her shoulders sagged. “Yes.”

“Let’s see, with drugs and daily visits — four hundred dollars plus food.”

“What kind of drugs?”

“A stimulant to keep you going — and a vitamin shot once a week. You’ll need to be monitored every day while you’re eating less than one thousand calories.”

“How low will I go?”

“Six hundred calories.”

“Ha! No sweat.”


Doctor Reece leaned back in his chair. “How many times have you tried, Mattie?”

“I started out with Weight Watchers in the early seventies. Lost twenty-four pounds after our first baby and kept it off ten months. Then I got pregnant again.”

“Gained too much?”

“Lost too much. Ended up in the hospital. Gained too much while nursing. Then I went to a Bariatric Center and lost forty-two pounds.”Username


“You look GOOD!” The man kissed her lips so quickly that she stepped back in surprise.

“Don’t.” She looked around for Eddie who was filling his plate at the buffet table.

He crowded her into the corner. “Something’s different about you. I’m not sure what. New make-up? No, not that. New perfume?”

“Stop it.” She stamped her foot and wriggled away giggling, embarrassed and flattered at the same time.

“Oh, I have it now.” He held up one finger. “You are the one who used to be so fat.”


“If you go to such trouble to lose it, why do you gain it back?”

“I have to focus on it all the time.”


“It takes all my energy to lose weight. One time, I lost seventy pounds eating little packets of designer foods and exercising three times a day. It took almost two years. It’s all I thought about. It took all of my attention not to gain — and so, when shit happened, I lost my focus and it crept back.”

“What kind of shit?”

“My mother died.”


The heart monitor danced, wide sweeping peaks crashing into deep troughs. The beeping increased. Mattie touched her mother’s hand. It felt like cold butter, the fingernails turning blue.

“Oh Mama,” Mattie sobbed.

Her mother relaxed into the hospital bed, her mouth dropping open and her eyes staring upwards. Mattie backed away as her father and brother crowded around the body. Not sure if it was terror or grief that impelled her, she ran down the hall and into the courtyard — taking deep breaths, not yet ready to cry.

She found her way through the gate and jogged down the street to the park. Finding the track, she ran — her ponytail swinging behind her, her tennis shoes making soft plopping sounds on the pavement. She breathed through her mouth, pumping her arms.

Then she heard it — her own heart beating — bubump, bubump. She visualized the jagged lines marching across her mother’s monitor. Bubump, bubump. Her pulse quickened. She rounded the corner and stopped, leaning over to put her hands on her knees.


“So you stopped exercising?”

“Not all at once. I worked out until I felt my heart beating. Then I’d get scared and stop. Sometimes I’d hear it beating while I was still in bed in the morning.”

The doctor assumed an authoritarian tone. “You treat it like a project. It’s a lifestyle change. Fruits, vegetables. Small portions. Not a diet.” He made check marks in her file. “If you gain a little one week, work on losing it the next.”

“My record is twelve pounds gained in one week — that would take six weeks to lose.” Mattie laughed. “Not even Doctor Atkins can lose it any faster.”

“You can’t give up.”

His arrogant naiveté amused her. “No? Why can’t I? Why can’t I be like everyone else and eat when I’m hungry?”


Her stomach rumbled. Eddie snorted and rolled onto his side. Slipping into an XX Large fleece robe, she crept down the stairs. She’d been fasting for a week. The first two days she drank pineapple juice — then just distilled water. Her head pounded. The roast she’d made Eddie and the boys for dinner sat in the fridge. The light came on when she opened the door.

She reached for it, her hands quivering in the air. She put them in her pockets and squatted. The meat was lovely — pink at the center. She imagined how it would feel in her mouth. She closed the refrigerator door. Her longing was intense. She took a loaf of Roman Meal out of the pantry, coated the heel with strawberry jelly and sprinkled brown sugar over it. She made the second one while she was cramming the first into her mouth.

The nausea was instantaneous. She threw up into the sink, running water to hide her retching.

“Don’t think you are hiding anything from me.” Eddie was sitting at the kitchen table when she turned around, wiping her mouth on her sleeve.

She sank into a chair and laid her head on the table. “You must be so disappointed in me.”

“Mattie, look at me.”

“I’m listening.” She was too ashamed to look up.

“This has to stop. You are driving me crazy.”

“I know.” She studied her hands. Her wedding rings no longer fit.

“One of these days, I’m going to find you stretched out across the floor with x’s on your eyes.”

“Maybe that would be the best thing.”


“I know I disgust you. I disgust myself. I’m not the slim woman you wanted.”

“Did I ever say that?”

“Sort of.” She pulled a tissue out of her robe pocket and blew her nose.

He reached across the table to take her hand. “Why do you think I’m still here?”

“I’ve always wondered that. All my life, wherever we went, I was with the sexiest man in the room. How awful it must be for you to have only me.”

“Look at me, Mattie. Really look at me. I’m middle aged with my own paunch. I’m balding and my jowls sag. Hell, I even got hair growing in my ears. I’m no Kevin Costner.”

She raised her eyes. “That’s not true, Eddie. You are the most beautiful man I’ve ever known.”

“And you are still that beautiful girl I married so long ago.” He squeezed her hand. “Enough of this, Mattie. Relax. Enjoy your life.”


She wrung her hands. “I finally made peace with myself, doctor. I accepted my lot — learned to appreciate who I am. Now you are making it all matter again.”

The doctor cleared his throat. “This isn’t about how you look. It’s about your health. I can treat your blood pressure and the diabetes with medications, but I can’t help you lose weight. You have to do that yourself.”

The fear she’d known all her life knotted her muscles once again.

He wrote several prescriptions. “I don’t know why you were burdened with this condition, Mattie. You may have fought the good battle, but the war goes ever on.”

Her nails cut into her palm. “What if I don’t lose weight?”

“It makes it that much harder to control other things — more serious things. I urge you to consider it.” He handed her several prescriptions. “You’ll feel better.”

Her sandals popped against her heels as she walked down the hall. Maybe she’d try one more time. The thought of being hungry depressed her. Maybe she’d start next week after Eddie’s birthday.

He stood up as she came into the waiting room. “What did he say?”

She stuffed the prescriptions into her purse. “He says I’m fine.”

“Good.” He took her hand.

She took a deep breath. “Let’s go get a pizza.”

He kissed her fingers. “Pepperoni?”

She smiled. “That would be nice.”Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 11.38.42 AM






Social media’s “thigh gap” trend not to blame for eating disorders

Social media’s “thigh gap” trend not to blame for eating disorders

Originally published Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, Journal Inquirer, Manchester, CT

by Kristen J. Tsetsi

Photo property of
Photo property of


The website wikiHow, which offers step-by-step instructions on how to build a door, drive a car with manual transmission, and accept not having children, also explains how to achieve thigh gap.

Thigh gap, an aesthetic desired by a segment of young people (primarily females), is a space that exists between the thighs even when standing with the feet together. It’s a look somewhat common among very skinny runway models that might occur naturally in people with wide-set hips, but which is otherwise difficult to achieve without extreme and unhealthy weight loss.

It might seem because the thigh gap is currently trending online that this is some newfangled danger threatening America’s children, but what is more likely is that it’s simply another way for people with eating disorders to measure their weight loss, one eating disorder expert said.

“I think checking thighs is one of many what we call ‘body checking’ behaviors,” said Rebekah Bardwell Daweyko, licensed professional counselor and programming director of the Walden Behavioral Care Center in South Windsor, Conn. “People of all ages who struggle with eating disorders, body dysmorphia, or pathological body image stressors do behaviors we call body checking. Often we see people who measure their wrist with their fingers, or they check themselves in the mirror multiple times a day, or they utilize other methods. Thigh gap is just another body checking behavior.”

Much of the media focus on the thigh gap trend blames social networking sites like Twitter and Instagram for fueling the thigh gap obsession among teens because they provide platforms for sharing pictures of emaciated thighs, which could help lead to eating disorders. But according to Daweyko, the emergence of eating disorders in individuals is a bit more complicated than that. Social media makes it easier to share ideas and learn new tricks, she said, but people who have an eating disorder will find a way to act out the disorder with or without social media.

While much of what a “thigh gap” search returns on Twitter is criticism of the trend, there are some Twitter users whose posts about thigh gap are expressions of longing for the elusive look. One Twitter user, whose Twitter name is “Sigh” flanked on either side by a heart and whose handle is a letters-and-numbers variation of the words “broken soul,” wrote in her feed, “You know what I would love? My thigh gap to still be visible when I sit down.”

When contacted through Twitter and asked why she wanted that gap, her reply was, “I just would rather have skinny legs rather than big thighs. They just seem nicer to me. I just feel like I need one to be skinny.”

Screen Shot 2013-10-15 at 8.27.17 PM

She said she wasn’t emulating a famous person or a model, and that she hadn’t seen anyone in real life who had a thigh gap. “I just feel the need to have one,” she said. She added that she had seen typical “thinspo” images, or images of skinny women that are also called “thinspiration,” but a scroll through the 13-year-old’s Twitter feed suggests there is more to her desire for the skinny thighs than a need to conform to whatever images are circulating on the internet. For instance, she had a strong reaction — “That made me cry. Thank you so much” — to a YouTube video of a man speaking to the camera about the effects suicide can have on friends and family. It was sent to her by a Twitter follower in response to one of her tweets, which read, “I want these scars to fade on my wrist. if I need to cut that will be on my stomach. I dont have the confidence to wear crop tops so why not.”

Several anti-thigh gap posts on Twitter attempt to reassure girls that they’re attractive when their thighs touch, and that famous beauties like Beyoncé don’t need thigh gaps to be desirable, but those reassurances are likely to be ignored. Daweyko said it’s a misconception of people with eating disorders that they’re motivated by vanity.

“Things can start out that way, but there’s a nature vs. nurture component to it,” she said. “Nature loads the gun, but nurture pulls the trigger. People don’t have eating disorders because of the media.”

Another Twitter user who said she wanted a thigh gap has the Twitter name “Fading and Broken.” Asked her age via Twitter, she said she was 15. Her profile picture is a photograph of a young woman, not herself, with an emaciated shoulder, and her photo gallery is filled with thinspo images and text graphics communicating feelings of loneliness and hopelessness. She tracked her fasting periods — “I’ve fasted for a day, eighteen hours, and fifty-six minutes” — and wrote that she wanted to weigh 100 pounds, to have a thigh gap and hip bones, and to be “beautiful” and “thin.” In an earlier tweet she wrote, “Death seems more inviting than life will ever be.”

Eating disorders often go hand in hand with psychological disorders, and some people are simply susceptible to forming eating disorders in much the same way some people are susceptible to forming drug or alcohol addictions, Daweyko explained. There may be someone in the family with a history of depression and anxiety, perhaps a toxic relationship with parents, or some other family disturbance. Maybe they weren’t taught healthy coping skills, Daweyko said, or maybe they were abused at some point and no one believed them.

“Maybe they had the perfect storm happening, they decided to go on a diet, and it started out as, ‘I’m going to lose five pounds.’ Then, before you know it, that turned into an addiction,” she said.

According to statistics compiled by the South Carolina Department of Health, 95 percent of those with eating disorders, which include bulimia, bingeing, excessive exercising, and the rarer anorexia, are between the ages of 12 and 25. What makes teenage eating disorders so dangerous, Daweyko said, is that bodies that haven’t yet stopped growing are at risk of being stunted from malnourishment. Worse still is that anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents, the department of health statistics say, and 20 percent of those suffering from it will die prematurely of disorder-related complications. Suicide is one of those complications.

The National Institutes of Mental Health classify eating disorders as treatable medical illnesses, but the South Carolina Department of Health statistics said 80 percent of females who access treatment don’t receive enough, and only one in 10 people suffering from an eating disorder receive treatment at all. Whether a person seeks treatment and then recovers is dependent on several factors, Daweyko said.

“It depends where they are in their willingness to change. We have different stages. If someone doesn’t see a need to change, it’s not likely they will just because someone wrote a comment on a website. People change because something happens,” she said. “Maybe a medical scare, or parents become aware of it and push them to. People don’t change because they see the light. They change because they feel the heat.”

When asked what will happen once she achieves her thigh gap, whether she’ll be happy with how she looks, the Twitter user named “Sigh” said she already has a gap. She just wants it to be wider. “Same with normal weight,” she said. “Like once I hit my goal weight, I’ll want lower.”

Author’s bio:

May 2012 pmt coverKristen J. Tsetsi is the author of the semi-autobiographical novel ‘Pretty Much True...,’ the story of waiting for a loved one at war that has been called ‘shimmeringly powerful’ by NYT best selling novelist Caroline Leavitt and ‘a story suffused with a brightness that shines truer than the truth’ by journalist and television news commentator James C. Moore.