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Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  1,734 ratings  ·  92 reviews
If you've ever suffered from an eating disorder-or cared for someone who is anorexic or bulimic-you may think you understand these illnesses. But do you really understand why they occur? Do you know what it takes to fully recover? Do you know how eating disorders affect life after recovery? Now, nearly three decades after she detailed her first battle with anorexia in Soli ...more
Paperback, 301 pages
Published January 2nd 2008 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 1979)
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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  1,734 ratings  ·  92 reviews

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Apr 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Jun 30, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 24, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 22, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Extremely unhelpful. I love that the cover features a chic who appears to weigh all of 80 lbs.
Oct 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 11, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 01, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Briar Ripley
This is a much more inspirational and self-helpy kind of book than I would generally touch with a ten-foot stick, but I picked it up because I'm at a point in my life where I genuinely want to Recover from my various mental health problems, including disordered eating and eating disordered thinking, not just keep the most destructive behaviors under control so that I'm not putting myself in physical danger. To do this, I've realized I have to do the hard, embarrassing, and often very trite/clich ...more
Mengran Xu
Jun 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ciorstaidh MacIver
Jan 15, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: recovery
Review in sum/TW: For anyone looking to understand eating disorders from the outside I implore you to do further reading to get a more rounded understanding. For those recovering: avoid. For now at least. This is the first ED book I've had a problem with. I have a whole shelve on here of far more helpful books, all of which I'd recommend.

As someone early on in recovery from anorexia (weight-restored but with a long way to go), this isn't a book I'd recommend in terms of understanding anorexia f
Nov 02, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book had a lot of great information- a lot of which seemed repetitive if you've read other books on the subject, but some of it was put in a new light that I appreciated.... However, I had a hard time with the fact that she just MAGICALLY got better one day... just decided to start eating. So tell that to girls who've been in and out of treatment centers and therapists for YEARS and YEARS... "You just DECIDE to start eating, or quit sticking your finger down your throat, or stop exercising ...more
Meg Bee
As important as this topic is, and how necessary it is to start talking about what life looks like for people with eating disorders (or histories of them) who aren't teens or young adults, I don't think this book is very representative of its intended audience. It was filled with elitism, name-dropping, and completely lacked any kind of awareness of different classes of people who have eating disorders or histories of them. The author focussed on her small social circle of mostly wealthy, mostly ...more
Feb 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Jul 09, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was eye opening. I liked the authors style, she really has a lot of interesting points.
Jan 14, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
does not provide any true sense of relief or hope for lifetime change.
Nathalie Chong
Well written and easy to read, I have mixed (though mainly positive) feelings on this book. I was disappointed there wasn’t more on how the people (and it’s mainly women) who’ve recovered, really recovered, reached that point. Many in this book are still in the grip of the thoughts, of not the habits. There is life - and a wonderful, purposeful, joyous and fulfilling one - to be had after ED, but I didn’t get much of that from this book. Instead, its positives are delving into the commonalities ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jamie Marfurt
As someone who has struggled with an eating disorder my entire life and is now 3 years into recovery, I’ve read several books on this subject and found this particular book hard to read. It jumps around and is kind of dry.

My biggest problem however is the number of potential triggers in it. If you are currently struggling with an ED, do NOT read this book. It’s full of numbers and weights and detailed stories that I think anyone who is not in a good place in their recovery could potentially be
Aug 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-of-friends
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
Aug 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Rarely are recovery narratives insightful, academic, and uplifting without feeling condescending all at the same time. Aimee Liu's book manages to do this, and illustrates an entire spectrum of recovery that doesn't rely on who is the sickest or spent the most time in hospital. It highlights that total recovery is absolutely possible, however it takes long term work and dedication to relearn how to live. Further, it illustrates there is no "one size fits all approach". People find their moment a ...more
May 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
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
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Courtney Sylvester
A Must Buy for Patients, Parents, Friends, and Families

Simply masterful. Liu skilfully weaves personal stories about eating disorders, both her own and those of her contemporaries, with threads of expert opinion and corroborated by research. Thoroughly engaging, entertaining, and enlightening, this book is a must for everyone affected by eating disorders, from the patient to parents, friends, and family.

I loved it so much I bought another copy for my parents to help explain anorexia nervosa to t
Kathryn Kuryn
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is very well-researched. As a practicing journalist, I look up to Liu's reporting abilities and admire her persistence through this entire process. This book speaks volumes for those who are in recovery from an eating disorder, from learning about their past and how it contributed to their illness, to learning about what possible futures they have if they commit to themselves and recovery. There are things in this book that frightened me as a long-time anorexic struggling through recov ...more
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
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Aimee Liu is a best-selling novelist, essayist, and nonfiction author based in Los Angeles.

Her forthcoming novel is GLORIOUS BOY, due out from Red Hen Press on May 12, 2020. This tale of family devotion, war, and survival is set on India's remote Andaman Islands before and during WWII and revolves around a mysteriously mute 4-year-old who vanishes on the eve of Japanese Occupation. Little Ty's par

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