What are the ‘Fat Girl Rules’ in ‘Starfish’ Defined by Ellie?

In the novel Starfish by Lisa Fipps, the main character Ellie Montgomery-Hofstein has to cope with societal fatphobia that has led her to develop her own set of “Fat Girl Rules”. These are guidelines she tries to observe in her daily life to escape the scrutiny and judgement related to her weight.

Understanding Ellie’s Fat Girl Rules

Ellie’s “Fat Girl Rules” are born out of her experiences with being body shamed and bullied for her weight. Her rules include:

  • Avoid making waves – This can be seen as Ellie’s figurative and literal way of navigating her life. She tries not to attract attention to herself, avoiding anything that would make her stand out or draw negative attention towards her.
  • Avoid eating in public – Ellie is always conscious of others watching her eat and making assumptions about her eating habits based on her appearance. Thus, she prefers to avoid eating in public.
  • Don’t move so fast that your body jiggles – Ellie is painfully aware of her body and is conscious about not showcasing any physical action that would highlight her size.
  • You don’t deserve to be seen or heard, to take up room, to be noticed – A particularly painful reflection of Ellie’s self-esteem, demonstrating how deeply internalized her fatphobia is.
  • When someone is laughing, they’re laughing at you – Here, Ellie constantly anticipates ridicule at her expense which is an unfortunate result of her repeated exposure to bullying.

Ellie’s Journey Beyond the Fat Girl Rules

In the face of constant bias and bullying, Ellie discovers allies who help her understand that she is more than just her weight. With the support of her therapist, her dad, and her new friend Catalina, Ellie gradually learns to challenge her own “Fat Girl Rules”. She experiences the difficult process of unlearning her internalized fatphobia.

As she develops her self-confidence, she starts taking steps towards living her life unapologetically and being her own fabulous self.


Starfish provides a striking portrayal of the impact of societal and internalized fatphobia on young individuals like Ellie. However, it is also a story of resilience and a journey towards self-love and acceptance. Most importantly, it’s about a girl coming to understand that her worth is not dependent on her size, and that she doesn’t need to minimize herself to fit into the expectations of a fatphobic society.

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