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Life After Emotional & Binge Eating

Too Thin Cartoon People?; Secret Life of Pets

Too Thin Cartoon Character

Can a cartoon character be too thin? A friend who loves her cat as much as I love my dog went with me to see “The Secret Life of Pets”. Just a few seconds into the movie, she gasped, turned to me and said, “Would you like to leave now?”

She and I both had an immediate reaction to the stick thin, TOO THIN body of “Katie”, owner of “Max”, the dog.  Those red sticks you see in this picture are her legs. For the full effect, to see why we gasped, play the video below. Then freeze it 12 seconds in.


Katie appears to be a totally cool young working woman with her own apartment in Manhattan and a great dog; a real role model for millions of impressionable young girls and young boys who will see this movie (not to mention the middle-aged pet enthusiasts like my friend and me). During the story-boarding, animation, and market-testing phases of this movie project didn’t anyone stop and say, “Is there a reason why we’re making this character so thin some people might think she has anorexia? Is this a good idea for a kids movie?” It’s not like there was a subplot coming where the dogs help Katie overcome an eating disorder.

In the past couple of years France, Israel, Spain, and Italy have passed laws cracking down on the use of too thin, unhealthy looking models. Some of the laws require that very skinny models have a doctor’s notes before they are allowed to work.

Lawmakers in California proposed similar legislation earlier this year but I haven’t been able to find news about whether it did or did not pass. I read this quote on The Today Show website, “California Assemblyman Marc Levine, the Marin County Democrat who introduced the bill, says studies show that up to 40 percent of fashion models have eating disorders and as many as 50 percent of girls in 5th to 12th grade think that they’re not thin enough because of the images that they see in magazines.”

Can’t common sense rule? Or do we have to pass legislation banning too thin cartoon characters in movies for kids?

The weekend the movie was released, I read several reviews. Not a single one I read made a reference to Katie’s extreme thinness.

Check out the movie trailer above, 12 seconds in. See what you think. (At least the dogs and cats are shown in all shapes and sizes, as is acceptable for cats and dogs in real life!)


I’m Ellen Shuman and I believe we all feel impact from what we see on TV and in the movies, whether we acknowledge it or not. I’m a Coach who specialize in helping people achieve recovery from binge eating, binge eating disorder, and emotional eating. I am the founder of A Weigh Out Life Coaching & Acoria Binge Eating Disorder Treatment (1993-present), Past President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (2011/2012), and Co-Founder of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”. Interested in working with me on your recovery? Please get in touch, ellen@aweighout.com, 513-321-4242.


  1. I thought the exact thing when I was watching the movie. I just thought I was being “too sensitive”. I know I am not alone in my irritation. I listened to your podcast with Julie Duffy Dillon and just went to your website.
    Thanks for the advice in that podcast. It was my “letter” that she was responding to. I work in a school and can’t just “take a bath” when I supposed to attend meetings or work under a stressful overloaded schedule. Thanks for your pointers.

  2. Ellen Shuman, Emotional Eating Recovery Coach; A Weigh Out says

    You’re very welcome, Julie. It was a great letter! I so identified with what you wrote!

  3. Christina Grijalva says

    That was also the first thing I thought. I still think it every time I see it. I suffer from BED and have always been obese. Looking at her makes me think “wow I wish I could be that thin..”. But I am an adult. I can’t imagine the impact on children.

  4. Ellen Shuman, Emotional Eating Recovery Coach; A Weigh Out says

    My 1st thought was “this is so wrong!” because it perpetuates the obsession with thinness…in this case, the young woman depicted is stick thin!

  5. I never thought anout how thin the cartoon was but you wwere right. This changed my perspective on how easily eating disorders can start. it is important to stop the obession with thinness.

  6. Ellen Shuman, Emotional Eating Recovery Coach; A Weigh Out says

    I so agree!

  7. Isabella Zimmer says

    I watched the movie before my husband did and I thought “wow, she is really stick thin”, then my husband watched it and he was shocked and told me ” did you see how then Katie is, not so good for a kids movie”. I loved the movie but really think that they should have thought out Katie a bit better.

  8. Ellen Shuman, Emotional Eating Recovery Coach; A Weigh Out says

    I agree!

  9. I’m not normally too concerned about cartoon images; they are cartoons after all and not meant to represent reality. I don’t have a weight problem, I don’t have an eating disorder, and I don’t really care that Barbie has enormous breasts. But the stick figure people in this movie are so ridiculous I stopped the movie within seconds and did a Google search for “Secret Lives of Pets skinny people”. What were they thinking??

  10. Ellen Shuman, Emotional Eating Recovery Coach; A Weigh Out says

    I can’t imagine!

  11. I’m watching The Incredibles as I type this, the character Mirage is soooo skinny that she’s barely there like a mirage.
    I found this article behind the reason animators give characters such unrealistic bodies. https://www.google.com/amp/s/lauratheanimator.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/disney-princesses-why-theyre-so-dang-skinny/amp/

  12. Ellen Shuman, Emotional Eating Recovery Coach; A Weigh Out says

    I just read that article about why animators draw characters in the extreme and, to be frank, I don’t think animators have to buy into that old belief, hook, line, and sinker. Times change. Audiences become more aware. We understand that portraying princesses as anorexic has impact!

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