Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders” as Want to Read:
Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders

3.8  ·  Rating details ·  1,646 Ratings  ·  87 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
Paperback, 301 pages
Published January 2nd 2008 by Grand Central Publishing (first published 2007)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Gaining, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Gaining

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
I rarely find a book that is both insightful yet limited in it's perspective. But I suspect it's because the illness is diverse and complex in it's causes and origins. I also suspect that when a person is looking for particular answers that they'll find the answers that back up their question rather than finding more than what they bargained for. Had she been more curious I think she would have found that more people from diverse backgrounds rather than the framework she was working with develop ...more
Ava Sylvester
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 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, 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
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
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
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
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book taught me things about myself and my disorder I would've never known, because they aren't text book definitions and symptoms, but it makes me feel grounded to know my random symptoms and details of my history relate to developing an eating disorder. HIGHLY RECOMMEND to parents or friends of those suffering from an eating disorder, as it is not a literature book describing an eating disorder, but fact and survey based from both the outside and inside of an eating disorder without making ...more
Apr 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Very mixed feelings- one one hand, I appreciate her story, her honesty, and the possibility that others can find validation in her words. I was very displeased, from a professional standpoint, at her attempt to understand the etiology of EDs-- confirmation bias plays a strong role here. I personally would have preferred that she just tell her story, or even tell the story of trying to understand her own personal etiology, but not try to generalize to others.
Abby O'Laughlin
May 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this is a book to read when you are farther along in recovery. However, I found it very insightful and found myself marking tons of pages to copy the paragraphs. This is not a self-help book, but it isn't a memoir either. It's a bit dated, but can easily be related to for younger readers. This does not reflect everyone's experience with an ED, as everyone's experience is unique, but it opens many doors with thought provoking subjects. This was an enjoyable and fascinating read.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Biting Anorexia: A Firsthand Account of an Internal War
  • Goodbye Ed, Hello Me: Recover from Your Eating Disorder and Fall in Love with Life
  • Going Hungry: Writers on Desire, Self-Denial, and Overcoming Anorexia
  • Purge: Rehab Diaries
  • Thin
  • Perfect: Anorexia & Me
  • Slim to None: A Journey Through the Wasteland of Anorexia Treatment
  • Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa
  • Diary of an Exercise Addict
  • Appetites: Why Women Want
  • Life-Size
  • Hunger Point
  • The Golden Cage: The Enigma of Anorexia Nervosa
  • Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship with Food Through Myths, Metaphors, and Storytelling
  • The Secret Language of Eating Disorders: How You Can Understand and Work to Cure Anorexia and Bulimia
  • Thin
  • Unwell
  • Stick Figure
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 about Aimee Liu

Nonfiction Deals

  • A Guide to the Present Moment
    $7.99 $2.99
  • Hunting Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Breaks of the Game
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You
    $9.99 $1.99
  • How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Dry
    $9.99 $3.99
  • Animal Liberation: The Definitive Classic of the Animal Movement
    $17.99 $1.99
  • The Measure of a Man
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions
    $13.99 $2.99
  • 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love
    $8.99 $1.99
  • Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
    $13.99 $2.99
  • Best Friends: The True Story of the World's Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Let. It. Go.: How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis
    $9.24 $1.99
  • The Earth Shall Weep: A History of Native America
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey
    $17.48 $1.99
  • The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice
    $12.49 $1.99
  • The Noticer Returns: Sometimes You Find Perspective, and Sometimes Perspective Finds You
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Scar Tissue
    $11.99 $2.99
  • Running with Scissors
    $9.99 $3.99
  • The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Notes on a Banana: A Memoir of Food, Love and Manic Depression
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes
    $9.99 $2.99
  • And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Vegetable Butcher: How to Select, Prep, Slice, Dice, and Masterfully Cook Vegetables from Artichokes to Zucchini
    $22.95 $1.99
  • Facing Your Giants: The God Who Made a Miracle Out of David Stands Ready to Make One Out of You
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin...Every Inch of It
    $8.99 $1.99
  • The Egg and I
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More
    $12.74 $1.99
  • Just Another Kid
    $7.99 $1.99
  • The Second World War
    $12.99 $3.99
  • Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids
    $11.24 $1.99
  • I Am Not Myself These Days (P.S.)
    $13.24 $1.99
  • In the Beginning...Was the Command Line
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest
    $11.99 $2.99
  • The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Toltec Art of Life and Death
    $11.49 $1.99
  • Put Your Dream to the Test: 10 Questions to Help You See It and Seize It
    $9.49 $2.99
  • The Diva Rules: Ditch the Drama, Find Your Strength, and Sparkle Your Way to the Top
    $17.99 $2.99
  • A Brief History of Time
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves
    $9.99 $1.99
  • All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C. S. Lewis, 1922-1927
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Penguin Lessons
    $12.99 $1.99
  • What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School: Notes from a Street-smart Executive
    $12.99 $1.99
  • The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
    $10.99 $2.99
  • Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011
    $12.99 $2.99
  • What We Talk About When We Talk About God
    $11.49 $2.99
  • Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Seabiscuit: An American Legend
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local - and Helped Save an American Town
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business
    $12.99 $2.99
  • The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War
    $10.99 $1.99
  • The Apache Wars: The Hunt for Geronimo, the Apache Kid, and the Captive Boy Who Started theLongest War in American History
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention
    $10.49 $1.99
  • Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power
    $16.99 $3.99
  • Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World
    $11.99 $3.99
  • Settle for More
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Water is Wide
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Yes Please
    $12.49 $2.99
  • Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World
    $12.99 $3.99
  • The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath
    $15.99 $3.99
  • Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)
    $14.99 $2.99
  • Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
    $17.99 $1.99
  • French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters
    $12.49 $2.99
  • When the Game Was Ours
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Tomorrowland: Our Staggering Journey from Science Fiction to Science Fact
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Art of Power
    $13.99 $1.99
  • Through My Eyes
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley
    $13.99 $1.99
  • A Brief History of Everything
    $14.99 $2.99
  • The World's Religions, Revised and Updated (Plus)
    $8.74 $1.99
  • Leonardo's Notebooks
    $11.99 $2.99
  • An American Childhood
    $10.74 $1.99
  • Making Toast
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates
    $14.99 $1.99
  • Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN
    $11.99 $2.99
  • 2,000 to 10,000: How to Write Faster, Write Better, and Write More of What You Love
    $2.99 $1.49
  • Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
    $10.99 $1.99
  • Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Love, Ellen: A Mother/Daughter Journey
    $10.24 $1.99
  • Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade
    $9.99 $3.99
  • Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Saving Alex: When I Was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I Was Gay, and That's When My Nightmare Began
    $9.49 $1.99
  • Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom
    $5.99 $1.99
“Certain temperaments respond to anxiety by pulling inward. Their instincts tell them ' Don't go out to meet the world - you'll have a panic attack. Inside is where safety is.” 25 likes
“Error sometimes supplies the surprise that makes life interesting.” 3 likes
More quotes…