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Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders

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3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  1,203 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Aimee Liu, who wrote Solitaire, the first-ever memoir of anorexia, in 1979, returns to the subject nearly three decades later and shares her story and those of the many women in her age group of life beyond this life-altering ailment. She has extensively researched the origins and effects of both anorexia and bulimia, and dispels many commonly held myths about these diseas ...more
Kindle Edition, 321 pages
Published (first published 2007)
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Alexis
Aug 26, 2007 Alexis rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone struggling with an eating disorder who feels hopeless
I think I found the one book I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone who is currently struggling with an eating disorder. I learned so much about myself in this book, and found a great deal of hope in the stories of women who have moved beyond their eating disorders. It's a great mix of memoir, interview, and research.
Katie O
This was recommended to me by so many people, and I now know why. Her "truth" about life after eating disorders, is multi-faceted, and for me was comforting, inspiring while admittedly disheartening. I guess it was her honesty in the lifelong instincts towards perfectionism, guilt, worthlessness and denial that were saddening, albeit somewhat expected. Still, the last 5 or 6 pages of the book, which speak to the battle in a recovery that is slowly in motion, made me feel positive and wish for a ...more
Erika
I applaud the book for really speaking to the fact that anorexia isn't about silly girls reading Teen Beat and trying to look skinny like the models in the ads, but is rather one expression of a deep psychic pain and a drive to annihilate the self. The anorexic's compulsion is not about looking pretty (as should be obvious from the appearance of those in the hardest grip of the disorder), but is rather about the desire literally to disappear. I'm grateful to Liu for giving voice to this, and for ...more
angie
Dozens and dozens of books over the past thirty some years have tried to explain what anorexia and bulimia really are, but nothing quite gets it the way Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders does.

Writer Aimee Liu sums it up best on page 125:

"Recovery is like a big old house…the anorexic or the bulimic is always going to live there. People sometimes think, I can evict her, I can get rid of that. But you don’t develop an eating disorder for no good reason. It’s a profound experience
...more
Katheter, all the world's a.
Apr 28, 2012 Katheter, all the world's a. rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: young adults in outpatient care, partners of those in recovery, perfectionist-type former sufferers
Shelves: feminist
A genteel tone makes me long for a louder, prouder, less correct and more explicitly feminist guide as I read along. Offerings of sunny wisdom and a strange belief that women's psyches *are* their bodies (gleaned from an interpretation of Sartre?) distract. Ultimately this book is comforting and hopeful but not as substantial or honest as it could be if freed from politeness and goodness.

In this book's introduction, Liu promises greater awareness of the variety of backgrounds and experiences tha
...more
Annice
I had mixed feelings about this book. It's easy to absorb and follow and she's writing about a topic that is addressed so little in the literature, that it's important. It's a start. I found myself struggling with personality categories that seemed too distinct, too limited, and too inflexible. Three to be exact. I wondered about diversity, in terms of class and race, and who exactly she was interviewing demographically. I also felt like there was too much emphasis on perfectionism, for it certa ...more
Indra
I found this book astonishingly good, the best I have ever read on eating issues. Informative, well-researched, well-written, the combination of facts and personal stories made it a far more engaging read than one would expect. Not only was every stage of life addressed, there were many insights into our culture. I may not agree with every single thing in this book, but I think anyone with eating and weight issues would find it illuminating, validating, and ultimately healing...I also think it c ...more
Kendall
Primarily based on research and interviews, this book was difficult to follow. The chronology of the author's life was lost and it was nearly impossible to keep track of the interviewees, their stories, and the lessons to be learned from their lives.

That is not to say that this book is a waste of a read. In fact, there is much insight to the disordered eater's thought processes and actions. Though I would not necessarily recommend this book I would not dissuade one from reading it either.
Danielle
This book was seriously disappointing. Liu basically implied that anyone who has struggled with an eating disorder is bound struggle with being a neurotic perfectionist for the rest of her life. The majority of the book consisted interviews with said neurotic perfectionists to prove the point that eating disorders have less to do with weight and body image and more to do with how one processes the tough parts of life. Yes, we know already. What would have been useful was some more hope. There is ...more
Mengran Xu
What a young adult needs the most are modesty, humility, and patience. A question that my supervisor asked the other day really made me ponder: why did you choose eating disorders given you have no prior experience with this population?

I was not able to give an answer that would satisfy both sides, but now I have one. Eating disorder is unique: it isn’t purely psychological, it is physical as well; it isn’t based on individual traits, but also societal values and cultures; it doesn’t just invo
...more
Rachel Jones
Whose truth? Not mine. This book annoyed me. Yeah, she got some things right, but really this is about the author's life post-anorexia. Not the life of every woman recovering from an eating disorder out there.
Sjunebug
I think her title and cover are not ideal, as they may scare off many women struggling with eating disorders or in various stages if recovery who might really benefit from this insightful book. The author has years of experience, therapy, education, and relationships and interviews with others who struggle with EDs... it's a lot to offer in a market dominated by teen-and-twenties girls sharing their stories (some of which are great but lack the perspective of time, and the life you live after an ...more
Laura
This was eye opening. I liked the authors style, she really has a lot of interesting points.
Rachel
What I learned? So much. I read this book to prepare for a panel I'm moderating at the 9/28/08 West Hollywood Book Fair on memoirs about Addiction, Recovery, and Everything In Between. I was stunned by how comprehensive, accessible, meditative, thought-provoking, personal, insightful and well-researched it was. I particularly enjoyed the personal encounters Aimee had with women who'd suffered or still suffered from these eating disorders. All her training as a novelist stood her in excellent ste ...more
Kat
What made this book stand out to me among the still-limited selection of quality first hand accounts of eating disorders was the point in the timeline of an eating disorder on which the author chose to focus. While much of what is out there to read tends to center around what it was like to be in the throes of an eating disorder, as well as what it was like during the time leading up to said disorder, Aimee Liu chooses, as the title suggests, to keep the subject matter mostly pertaining to the s ...more
Rachel
given, well everything, I tend to avoid reading eating disorder books because my mind becomes obsessive, they draw up 'bad' feelings/thoughts, etc.

I am so obscenely grateful that I took a chance on this one though. Liu writes effortlessly (and while I know that that is not true in all likelihood, it reads as if she does) and handles the subject matter with such grace. If I am ever to write 'my story' it will most likely come off as bitter and angry and defiant even when I am writing about the ti
...more
Zeo
An analysis of all the factors currently being discussed as playing a part in the development of anorexia and bulimia (with some amount touching on other eating disorders as well), written as a follow-up to Liu's late-70s book on her own recovery from anorexia (Solitaire), in the form of a question: can you actually get over an eating disorder? It challenges myths, including that the eating disorder is the illness (rather than a symptom of another problem) and is the direct result of skewed body ...more
Liralen
When I read, I make note of passages to copy down. This was definitely a book for which I folded down a lot of corners.

Two things about Gaining that really struck me: First, how much of it rang true to me. Time after time I felt myself thinking What!? I thought that was just me! Second, I think it takes a certain amount of distance from an eating disorder to be able to fully appreciate this book. It's very real, and very realistic, but it's not for somebody who doesn't want recovery (nor, perhap
...more
Theresa Behnke
I confronted many of my own experiences through others' stories. I was able to make sense of them through the concise blend of research and narration. If you have struggled with an eating disorder, this is a comprehensive look at the intricacies of your disease.
Aly Stratton
After dealing with anorexia in our private and professional lives, I found this a book I wish I could have read a long time ago. It put all I know, much of what we do under a different lens.
Kendra
I loved this book! I love how the author goes into all the other aspects that go into eating disorders other than Hollywood super-thin models. While I agree that tiny celebrities and fashion magazines have something to do with the preponderance of eating disorders in our society, there is so much more to it than that alone. I also love how although this book is part-memoir, the author speaks to and tells the stories of many other women who have struggled with eating disorders in their lives. I d ...more
Emily
It took me a couple months to work through this one, just because I wanted to digest it (ha ha, no pun intended)... in the end it was a worthwhile read, but I wouldn't say it offered any easy answers or explanations... not that it promises to... I think anyone affected by this subject matter can find something to relate and/or respond to. A lot of it is written from an older woman's viewpoint, even dare I say a mother's viewpoint, which is very difficult for me to relate to... but the source mat ...more
Sarah
Part memior, part sociological study, this book really covers mad ground about eating disorders. The title might mislead you into thinking this was all about recovery but a fair amount is devoted to family dynamics and genetic causes. It is a fascinating read for anyone who wants to know more about the topic but I feel like the ending was a bit lacking. I wanted to finish the story of Liu's rebuilding marriage but she never revisits it. As a result the ending feels a bit unsatisfying, tho the bo ...more
Kat
A brilliant combination of both facts and personal stories collected in so many interviews, Liu has written a book that everyone who has ever experienced an eating disorder in some way should read. Rather than the traditional memoir style, Liu wrote "Gaining" as what felt like both analysis and guide of what factors into eating disorders, how different people cope with eating disorders, and what life can genuinely be like after recovery from an eating disorder - without painting too rosy of a pi ...more
Meg
One of the best books I have read on eating disorders. Liu is actually a good writer and writes this book in an intelligent, insightful, sensitive, almost poetic way. The book seemed a little too rushed at the end. I wish there had been more of a "wrap up" or some kind of philosophical something or other, but overall a great book that should be at the top of the list for those interested in books not just about eating disorders, but about mental illnesses in general.
Sally
Aug 20, 2007 Sally rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Keddie, Steve
A thoughtful analysis, done from a largely first person perspective, about how eating disorders are a combination of inborn personality traits and cultural/familial influences. Also nice stories about women who have overcome eating disorders that I think would be valuable to anyone who feels conflicted about food, eating if they don't have a "full" eating disorder, or anyone who wants to understand what it is like to have one.
Louise
I thought this was an interesting read in that it chronicles the "what happens after you get better", that rarely gets addressed. However, and this is something I would say about almost all books on the subject, I don't think its effective to lump bulimia and anorexia together and try to generalize about two very distinct disorders that while may have some overlap, manifest themselves in completely different ways.
Ashley
I loved this book because it really gave me insight about my Eating Disorder. She wrote mainly about women struggling with all types of Eating Disorders. There was a lot of individual stories; how individuals coped with their eating disorders and ultimately did they recover or not from their eating struggles.
Emily
I read an earlier book by this author, a memoir of her teen years and struggle with anorexia. This is a follow-up on her life, but more a commentary on eating disorders. Interesting mix of first-person interviews and current research data. But overall not particularly profound or necessarily useful.
Carrie
Jul 02, 2007 Carrie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in or recovering from disordered eating
What this author does that is often missing from recovery memoirs is examine what recovery really means, what happens when people gain weight but don't gain a sense of what it means to live without their disorders, how the disordered thinking of these diseases often persists long after you've been "cured."
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Aimee Liu is a best-selling novelist, essayist, and nonfiction author based in Los Angeles.

Her most recent book is GAINING: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders, published by Warner Books, February, 2007. Drawing on her own history of anorexia as well as interviews with more than forty other former anorexics and bulimics, Liu picks up her exploration of recovery where she ended her acclaime
...more
More about Aimee Liu...
Cloud Mountain Flash House Solitaire: The Compelling Story of a Young Woman Growing up in America and Her Triumph over Anorexia Face Restoring Our Bodies, Reclaiming Our Lives: Guidance and Reflections on Recovery from Eating Disorders

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