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The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man's Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  2,506 ratings  ·  498 reviews
The government definition of obesity is a body mass index of 30 or more. My BMI is 60.7. My shirts are size XXXXXXL, which the big-and-tall stores shorten to 6X. I’m 6-foot-1, or 73 inches tall. My waist is 60 inches around. I’m nearly a sphere.

Those are the numbers. This is how it feels…

So begins The Elephant in the Room, Tommy Tomlinson’s remarkably intimate and
...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 15th 2019 by Simon Schuster
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Average rating 4.18  · 
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 ·  2,506 ratings  ·  498 reviews


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Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader by: Dita
The Elephant in the Room was recommended by my Goodreads friend, Dita. I knew once I read her thoughts I had to read this book, too.

Tommy Tomlinson is candid and authentic in his memoir about his weight loss challenges. He shares his weight of 460 pounds and the health difficulties that go along with that.

Tommy grows up in a family where love for food is number one, and he’s had many doctors talk to him about his weight over the years. He has tried every gimmick and diet, and nothing seemed to
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Brandice
Jun 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to get Smaller in a Growing America is an honest account of Tommy Tomlinson’s pursuit to lose weight - and keep it off.

Tomlinson weighed 460 pounds at the time he wrote this deeply personal memoir. He shares details about his childhood and the way he grew up (in a Southern family with constant comfort food), his general relationship with food - then and now, his struggles with both dieting and exercise, his regrets, and how his weight has impacted s
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Theresa Alan
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Elephant in the Room is journalist Tommy Tomlinson’s memoir of growing up fat and how, as an adult, he got to 460 pounds. He had a wife who loved him and a successful career, but the allure of fast food and vending machine or gas station junk food was a siren song so strong, he had to give up doing the sports he loved and many other things in favor of eating a spectacular amount of crap.

At times funny, at times repetitive, anyone who has ever struggled with his/her weight or another addiction w
...more
JanB
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, 2019-reads
Well-done Mr. Tomlinson. I know you struggle with feelings of being “less-than” due to your weight, but after reading your book I can tell that you are a fine human being, and if I knew you in real life, you’re someone I would like to call a friend.

Recommended by Meredith on the ‘Currently Reading’ podcast as well as by Annie on ‘From the Front Porch’ podcast, I picked this up on audio and listened to it in one day. I absolutely loved it. The author is smart, articulate, and can tell a heck of
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Donna
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tommy Tomlinson is a writer. Wow, is he ever. His background as a reporter for over 20 years and as a writer for ESPN, Esquire, Garden and Gun and other publications has fine-tuned the writing skills that I believe he was probably born with. He knew how to grab me and keep me interested in his story from the first page all the way throughout the book.

His story? Living as a morbidly obese person for almost his entire life. As someone who has struggled with weight issues myself, I ate up this book
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Dita
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Utterly relatable, Tommy Tomlinson is a guy you can't resist pulling for every step of the way. Weighing in a little over the 450 pound mark, Tommy experiences life differently than most of us do. He knows his lifestyle is killing him, he's already lost a beloved sister, but Wendy's is calling and he's at her mercy.

Anyone who has ever struggled with weight loss, addiction, self-flagellation or a self imposed prison will cheer for, feel exasperated by, and ultimately root for Tommy as he does the
...more
Mara
Jan 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebook-owned, arc
I appreciate greatly that these kinds of stories are being told. With rates of overweight and obesity on the rise, it is well past time that voices of fat people given a microphone to reflect on their own experiences (rather than narratives imposed on them) and taken seriously beyond the usual hand wringing and moralizing that has characterized the discourse for the last 30 years. The author's candor and vulnerability are admirable and I enjoyed the specificity of his anecdotes. That said, I'm n ...more
Negin
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who have struggled with weight or know someone who has
I couldn’t put this one down. This is a memoir that’s partly about Tommy Tomlinson’s life as a journalist, but mostly about his struggle with food. He was over 400 pounds when he started on a path over the course of a year to work on his weight. This man can write!

There are so many things that I love about this author – his love for his wife and his incredible heart. He’s ever so open and genuine without being whiny or indulging in self-pity. He’s amiable and now that I’ve finished the book, I m
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Truman32
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Tommy Tomlinson’s The Elephant in the Room is the true-life love story between a man and his cheeseburger. And his biscuits and gravy. And his banana pudding. And something glorious called peanut butter logs. It’s the classic boy meets delicious greasy high-calorie snack story. Ultimately this passion becomes more toxic than dating Charlie Sheen. And like dating Sheen, Tomlinson’s unhealthy food relationship yields nothing but disgust and pity from friends, a myriad of embarrassing health ailmen ...more
Dianne
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tommy Tomlinson is no stranger to body image, health issues and the realization that HE is ultimately, as an adult, responsible for his obesity . Not once did he blame his family for equating love with rich foods, or his friends or his wife or the rest of the world for his weight.

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM is a sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking story of the author’s attempts to change his lifestyle and lose the weight he KNEW was robbing him of many of life’s joys and adventures. Tommy T
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Juli
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tommy Tomlinson is an acclaimed journalist, a happily married man, middle aged, intelligent, witty....and overweight. The Elephant in the Room is a book about his struggle with weight, heartfelt discussion on how his weight effects his life, thoughts on his writing career, family, and life in general.

This book is a bit like sitting across the dinner table with Tommy Tomlinson and just listening to him talk. He's funny, witty, emotional and serious. He started out at 460 pounds....he faced enter
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Katie
Jan 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Raw and honest, Tommy Tomlinson’s memoir about how his journey through life as a fat man and his quest to get smaller is a must-read. His searing honesty about what it is like to be morbidly obese is refreshing and hits so close to home. I found myself putting off reading this book because I felt like a fraud. I too used to be morbidly obese but had lost over 200 pounds over a few year period. However, after some health issues, I let myself use that as an excuse and have now gained back 110 poun ...more
Terry ~ Huntress of Erudition
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Fastfood...I’m so drawn to it that I’m not sure how far the junk-food giants would have to go to make me quit:
We’re now making Cheez-Its from cat hair and sawdust. Deal with it.
All right, dammit. Gimme the party-sized box..."

This guy is a really good writer! He is so personable and his narrative is so poignant, it made me want to cry.
At first, I thought this was a self help book about someone who lost 200 lbs and changed their life, but it is really a memoir, a snapshot of the author's life in
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Beth
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Tomlinson's career as a journalist and features' writer makes this one of the most readable memoirs about struggling with weight loss I have read. And I've read quite a few of them.

His courage in sharing intimate thoughts and experiences are moving and inspiring. Often this jandre becomes tiresome, but the family, friends and coworkers become real quickly and are portrayed with more depth and care than I often find in memoirs.

While the format of a calendar year is somewhat formulaic (a year-in-
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Ginger
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
I read Tomlinson's article in The Atlantic (basically an excerpt from the book), which was very good. I decided to check out the book thinking it would be a similarly interesting, but much more in depth, look at weight and body image from a male perspective.

It ended up being very disappointing. So, so many boring anecdotes about his childhood, college experience, career, and married life - some related to his weight, but many not (and it's the author's responsibility to make things relevant and
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Mark O'brien
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good look at how a rational man gets super fat and his constant battles and lies when dealing with it. Lying is a big part of chronic overeating, just as it is with alcoholism, drug addiction etc.

Tomlinson gives a great, unflinching look at his 460-pound self, how he got there and what he's doing about it. He delves too much into mundane trips and his journalistic career, but he waxes on and on about food. His love for it is obvious, underscoring his battle and ways his life has been constrict
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Lou
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An honest truth work of empathically laid out words on his life, his career, his loves, and his struggles with and living through largeness.

He writes with good craft in writing clearly, with a great rhythm to his telling something very personal, these complexities and stark realities that many individuals live through.
He gives no quick fix but some looking in the mirror and hard deep questions on one self and behaviors, and how to move forward.
This could be a lifeline to many alone living throug
...more
Karen R
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Writer and podcaster Tomlinson topped out at an unhealthy 460 pounds. After numerous attempts to lose weight, Tommy commits to change his approach to a slow and steady one. He expertly weaves together his personal story, confronting issues and exposing vulnerability. His determination and accomplishment along this arduous journey are inspiring for any reader, not just one looking for the motivation to lose weight. A from-the-heart, first-hand account of what it is like to be a fat person. Thanks ...more
Sandie
The best book I have read about obesity and the struggles between the rational mind and emotions/addiction. It is about so much more than weight- a coming of age story for a grown man.
Brittany | thebookishfiiasco
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
i used to always reference the girl that lives inside me. sometimes she’s silly. a little demonic. quiet. loud. angry. ecstatic. hungry. sometimes she’s just me. in my favorite chapter of this book, @tommyltomlinson talks about the boy that lives inside him (which if you read it, let’s talk because of all my feelings), and i couldn’t relate to the feeling more. having had my own struggles with food, weight, body perception, i found tommy’s story to be engaging, authentic, raw, and relatable, reg ...more
Irene
Dec 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Tommy Tomlinson comes to terms with being both a good person, and a liar. He's been lying to his friends, his family, his wife, and most of all himself, about his food addiction, and his weight. For the first time, in this book, he admits to the actual number on the scale, how he reached it and why he thinks he landed there. This is not a woe is me it's everyone else's fault kind of story. Nor is it a follow me and I'll teach you to drop 50 pounds a month manual. It's an honest and heart felt me ...more
Mike
Feb 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, nonfiction
First of all this is NOT a "How to" guide, a "self-help" book, or an instruction manual on getting fit. This is author Tommy Tomlinson coming to terms with his own obesity, the repercussions of a lifetime of living as a fat guy, and his decision to make another attempt to turn it around.

It's more "memoirs of an overweight American" than "road to healthy living". Tomlinson shares some embarrassing realities, a brave thing for which I commend him; some inspiring things - again, very commendable -
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Clinton Hutchings
This book reminded me a lot of Roxane Gay's book Hunger, which I absolutely loved. I came away here not as guilt-ridden and laughed a ton more! While I've definitely had my fun with roller-coasting weight gain and loss - the practical considerations a very large person goes through on a daily basis is eye opening. I really appreciate books that are able to help me empathize a bit more with other people - and this book does that well. Thankful Tomlinson was willing to share so many intimate detai ...more
Kristin Ogburn
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate to hear this local author speak last week and get a signed copy of his memoir hot off the press! He is such a good writer and his story about his food addiction and weight struggles is very open and honest. I highly recommend it. I hope the author continues on his road to better health (he weighed 460 on December 31, 2014 and slowly and steadily lost 85 lbs over 3 years). And, I hope his book is a bestseller!!
Jena Henry
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In January, 2015, nearing 50 years old, Tommy Tomlinson started his weight loss journey. He bought a Fitbit and vowed to track his calories- eaten and expended each day. His goal was to burn more calories than he ate. He weighed 460 pounds.

His diet plan was simple. But he added something more complex to it- he decided to look within and examine his own life to see if he could learn why he weighed 460 pounds. This memoir covers his first year of his plan.

His reports of his weight each month are
...more
Chaz
Feb 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Really 3.5 stars... Almost four but I wonder if my bias for this hometown writer is skewing things in my mind.

This was really a very bare naked (literally) introspection on what it is to be overweight in America. Tommy does not pull any punches. It is starkly honest, at times brutal, but also very insightful, loving, warm, and funny.

Very well written and enjoyable.
Ensiform
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
[Another Random Read. I drew 4: Autobiography/memoir.]

The author, a sportswriter, weighs 460 pounds. Finally moved to action by his sister's death due to her weight, he decides to make a change, based on the premise that all diets work short-term and almost no diets work long-term. With raw, unflinching honesty, he looks back at his life, from the Southern diet and sedentary lifestyle of his working-class youth to his use of food as a comfort for pain. Nothing is off limits, and he bares all the
...more
D'Linda
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am in awe of the simplicity and honesty of this book. I think we will look back on it and see it as a turning point in a new way of thinking in America. Mr. Tomlinson just shouted that, "the emperor has no clothes" and the truth of his message cannot be ignored!

I laughed, I cried, I couldn't stop turning the page. Every word rang with a brutal honesty, not just Tommy's honesty, but mine. We have been lying to ourselves America. This food thing is not complicated, it is amazingly simple. Once w
...more
Caroline (readtotheend on IG)
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Honest and candid memoir about Tomlinson's struggle with his weight and how it has affected him throughout his life. It is so well written and engaging. If you've ever struggled with weight or have tried to make some life changes and have had setbacks, you will be able to relate wholeheartedly with this book. Tomlinson writes with no excuses - he's on a journey and does not let himself off the hook for where he's at or why he is where he is. I love that he's not trying to just fix his weight, he ...more
Brittani Lenz
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written, kind, honest, empathetic, funny; wasn't sure what I was getting into but I'm glad I read it.
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“Here are the two things I have come to believe about diets:
1. Almost any diet works in the short term.
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“I always hoped I would find someone and we would fall in love. But I didn’t think I had much to offer, especially in those first few moments where you make an impression or you slink back across the room. I came to believe I was just a fat guy with bad teeth, and I pretty much quit trying. The only reason my heart didn’t get broken is because I rarely took it out of the box.” 3 likes
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