This is the story of Betty, a 250-pound, 5-foot-2-inch woman who comes to the psychiatrist-narrator's office to be treated for her eating disorder. What makes the story more than the sad tale of a depressed, obese woman is the immediate disclosure of the narrator that he is "repelled" and "disgusted" by fat women, that his "contempt surpasses all cultural norms."

Nevertheless, he decides to treat Betty, who successfully manages to shed huge amounts of weight and come to terms with many of the problems leading to her obesity. The narrator, too, confronts his own excessive biases so that readers are left with a sense that Betty "helped" him too.


This is an essay that begs for multiple readings. The first time I read it, I focused more on the psychiatrist-narrator than I did on the patient Betty, so in awe was I that he "overcame" his bias because of his engagement with Betty. Subsequent readings, informed greatly by my students, helped me to become more skeptical of the narrator and the self-congratulatory subtext weaving its way throughout the essay; to examine more extensively the cultural construction of the female body; to question if indeed the narrator's biases were altered significantly; to examine the ethical position of a psychiatrist with such a venomous bias who would take on care of an obese patient ostensibly to "unlearn" his bias and thus help future patients.

Primary Source

Love's Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy



Place Published

New York



Page Count