Susie Orbach

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Susie Orbach
Susie Orbach Crop (5).jpg

Born (1946-11-06) 6 November 1946 (age 69)
Occupation psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, writer, and social critic

Susie Orbach (born 6 November 1946) is a British psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, writer and social critic. Her first book, Fat is a Feminist Issue, analysed the psychology of dieting and over-eating in women, and she has campaigned against media pressure on girls to feel dissatisfied with their physical appearance. She is married to the author Jeanette Winterson.

Early life[edit]

Orbach was born in London in 1946, and was brought up in Chalk Farm, north London, the child of Jewish parents,[1][2] British MP (Labour) Maurice Orbach and an American mother (who was a teacher). She won a scholarship to North London Collegiate School, and attended until she was 15.[1][3]


With Luise Eichenbaum, Orbach created the Women's Therapy Centre in 1976 and the Women's Therapy Centre Institute, a training institute in New York, in 1981. She has been a consultant for The World Bank, the NHS and Unilever and was co-originator of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.

Through her work with Anybody, and in collaboration with The Women's Therapy Centre Institute in New York, Orbach and colleagues have launched a comprehensive, worldwide campaign Endangered Bodies which aims to challenge the pernicious culture that is teaching women and girls to hate their own bodies. In March 2011 Endangered Species held a series of International Summits in London, New York, Buenos Aires, São Paulo and Melbourne to engage government officials, educational institutions, multi-national corporations, the fashion industry, and the mainstream media, to join in creating a new visual culture – one where the diverse, real beauty of women and girls is valued and magnified so that girls can grow up with body confidence. Further summits are planned and the campaign continues under the new name of Endangered Bodies: A Local Global Initiative (

Susie is also a member of the steering group for the Campaign for Body Confidence, co-founded by Lynne Featherstone and Jo Swinson in March 2010. The Campaign for Body Confidence seeks to ensure honesty and transparency in advertising, promote diversity of body shapes and sizes used in magazines, advertising, broadcast and on the catwalk, introduce media literacy and body confidence education in school and give children positive examples of using their bodies by promoting active lifestyles and less sexualised imagery.


Orbach has been a Visiting Scholar at the New School for Social Research in New York and was Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics for ten years. She was chair of the Relational School in the UK. Orbach is a convener of Anybody, an organisation that campaigns for body diversity ( She is a co-founder[4] and board member[5] of Antidote, which works for emotional literacy. Orbach is also a co-founder of Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility.[6] She lectures and broadcasts extensively world-wide and has been profiled in numerous newspapers, such as The Guardian.[7]


Orbach has a clinical practice and sees both individuals and couples in London.


Orbach's relationship with Joseph Schwartz, the father of her two children, ended after more than 30 years. According to writer Jeanette Winterson, now her wife, Orbach "calls herself post-heterosexual".[8]


Orbach's first book, Fat is a Feminist Issue, brought the problems of women's relationships to their bodies and their eating to public consciousness. In this book she looked at the unconscious meanings of fat and thin and why people eat when they aren't physically hungry. She also developed ways to overcome compulsive eating. Her other books addressing food and the body are Fat is a Feminist Issue II, Hunger Strike, On Eating and her latest book Bodies. In Bodies, she proposed new theory on how we acquire a bodily sense of self. The book includes case studies of amputees and children who have been fostered or adopted and offers a critique of the beauty, diet, style and pharmaceutical industries as well as current thinking on the 'obesity' crisis.

Another important area of her work relates to the dynamics in relationships. What do Women Want (written with Luise Eichenbaum), discusses the dynamics in couples, especially heterosexual ones, and explores issues of dependency and the impact of the mother/daughter, mother/son relationship on an adult's sense of self. In this book Orbach & Eichenbaum lay the foundations for more emotionally democratic intimate relationships, Bittersweet, now re-titled Between Women, (also written with Luise Eichenbaum) focuses on friendships, relationships at work and love affairs, between women. The book describes the merged attachments that can occur between women & the struggle to achieve separated attachments. In Understanding Women, Orbach and Eichenbaum theorise women's psychology from the perspective of their work at the Women's Therapy Centre and introduce the concept of 'the little girl inside'.

The Impossibility of Sex, was a new departure. It is a collection of imagined stories from therapy, written from the perspective of the therapist. The stories are interwoven with theory and a discussion of the key psychological concepts, as well as a frank discussion of the therapist's experience. Although these are imagined cases, they tell a truth about the daily struggles, ruminations and experience of being a therapist.


For 10 years Orbach had a column in The Guardian on emotions in public and private life. These have been compiled into two volumes: What's Really Going on Here and Towards Emotional Literacy. She still writes for newspapers and magazines and campaigns vigorously on many fronts.


  • Orbach, Susie (1978). Fat is a feminist issue: the anti-diet guide to permanent weight loss. New York: Paddington Press. ISBN 9780448227856. 
  • Orbach, Susie (1982). Fat is a feminist issue II: a program to conquer compulsive eating. New York: Berkley Books. ISBN 9780425093870. 
  • Orbach, Susie; Eichenbaum, Luise (1983). Understanding women: a feminist psychoanalytic approach. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 9780465088645. 
  • Orbach, Susie; Eichenbaum, Luise (1983). What do women want: exploding the myth of dependency. New York: Coward-McCann. ISBN 9780698112100. 
  • Orbach, Susie (1986). Hunger strike: the anorectic's struggle as a metaphor for our age. New York: Norton. ISBN 9780393022780. 
  • Orbach, Susie; Eichenbaum, Luise (1987). Bittersweet: facing up to feelings of love, envy, and competition in women's friendships. London: Century. ISBN 9780712614764. 
Published in the US as: Orbach, Susie; Eichenbaum, Luise (1988). Between women: love, envy, and competition in women's friendships. New York, N.Y.: Viking. ISBN 9780670811410. 
  • Orbach, Susie (1994). What's really going on here. London: Virago. ISBN 9781853817984. 
  • Orbach, Susie (1999). Towards emotional literacy. London: Virago. ISBN 9781860496547. 
  • Orbach, Susie (2005). The impossibility of sex. London: Karnac. ISBN 9781780495842. 
  • Orbach, Susie (2002). On eating. London: Penguin. ISBN 9780141007519. 
  • Orbach, Susie (2009). Bodies. New York: Picador. ISBN 9780312427207. 
  • Orbach, Susie; Appignanesi, Lisa; Holmes, Rachel (2013). Fifty shades of feminism. London: Virago. ISBN 9781844089451. 

Chapters in books[edit]

  • Orbach, Susie (2013), "The commercialisation of girls' bodies", in Wild, Jim, Exploiting childhood: how fast food, material obsession and porn culture are creating new forms of child abuse, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, pp. 110–115, ISBN 9780857007421. 


  1. ^ a b "Susie Orbach: Why fat is still a feminist issue". Independent Newspaper. 10 January 2002. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  2. ^ "Susie Orbach". December 2014.  External link in |website= (help)
  3. ^ "Profile: Susie Orbach – The psychotherapist made famous by Fat Is a Feminist Issue is now analysing the obsession of both sexes with their looks". The Times and Sunday Times Archives. Times Newspapers. 1 February 2009. Retrieved 31 January 2011. 
  4. ^ "Our Team". Antidote. n.d. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  5. ^ "Our Board". Antidote. n.d. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  6. ^ "Home". Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility. n.d. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  7. ^ Aitkenhead, Decca (11 May 2009). "The G2 Interview: Susie Orbach". Guardian Newspaper. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  8. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (22 February 2010). "Jeanette Winterson: 'I thought of suicide'". Guardian Newspaper. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 

External links[edit]