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Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders Hardcover – February 22, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Thirty years after Liu penned Solitaire documenting her teenage experience with anorexia nervosa, she recounts her midlife relapse and recovery. Liu exposes many myths surrounding eating disorders, with a combination of research and in-depth interviews with other former anorexics and bulimics. She interviews men and women of various cultural and economic backgrounds to refute the notion that anorexia and bulimia affect only "modern rich white girls." Liu's interviewees range from Rob, a 50-year-old physician, to Jessica, an Australian 25-year-old aspiring actress. Liu devotes many chapters to the impact of family on the anorexic or bulimic, contradicting the accepted belief that the victim is "the sick one"; rather, she locates the starting point of the disease in genetics, family life, shame and personality. Like other victims, Liu finds a history of mental disorders in her family, ranging from alcoholism to obsessive-compulsive disorder. According to Liu, a manifestation of an eating disorder is a call for help and should be treated as early as possible, and she fleshes out facts and statistics with her personal interviews, making this book poignant even for those who have not suffered from an eating disorder. (Feb. 22)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Three decades after Solitaire (1979), her memoir of struggling to overcome anorexia nervosa, Liu might be expected to discuss how it feels to be cured. Time, however, has given her a valuable perspective shared here in a careful deconstruction of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. From her own experience and interviews with many other women who have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, Liu now knows that anorexia and bulimia are lifelong companions. She and her informants have learned that, ebbing and flowing, sometimes moving to the fore but ever present in the background, an eating disorder responds to both good times and bad in a person's life. She quotes eating disorder experts (psychiatrists, physicians, research scientists, etc.) who explain how those who once succumbed to the urge to withhold or purge food are likely to be perched always atop a precipice, risking toppling into old habits when stress levels rise. Examining the disorder from the inside (the individual) out (to the family and society), Liu has created a solid resource. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (February 22, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446577669
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446577663
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #804,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Although I was born in Connecticut, my earliest memories are of India - the crisp feel of baked grass during the heat of summer, the primary colors of the tents that formed the classrooms of my nursery school, the taste of candied fennel seeds, and the faces of children peering, crying, playing, and begging from the fusty arcades of Connaught Circus to the alleys of Chandni Chowk. My father was born in Shanghai and my mother in Milwaukee, but India was the first home of my heart.

During my family's two years in New Delhi, my father traveled throughout Asia on business for the United Nations. My mother worked with the Indian Government, developing cottage industries, and adored South Asia. Expatriate life was full of everyday surprises, cultural challenges, and many Indian friends. My father, however, preferred China - at least until the Communist takeover in 1949.

Growing up with this quiet divide, I gave it little thought until, as an adult, I realized that it had contributed to my own overlapping loyalties. Though one quarter Chinese, I owed an allegiance to India, and although I was born and mostly raised in the U.S., my father's career with the United Nations gave mw a stamp of internationality that made me more inclusive than exclusive about my cultural identity. As a result, I have always been partial to stories and images of people with mixed heritage.
When I began to write fiction, these same stories and images informed my novels, from FACE, about a young quarter-Chinese photographer coming to terms with her childhood in New York's Chinatown, to CLOUD MOUNTAIN, based on the marriage of my white American grandmother and Chinese revolutionary grandfather. My third novel, FLASH HOUSE, centers on an American social worker whose quest to rescue her missing husband produces an unlikely bond with a native child of mysterious origins in India and western China in 1949. These novels have been published in more than a dozen languages.

Between India and fiction, of course, I did strike off in a few other directions. I spent my later childhood in suburban Connecticut, worked as a fashion model in New York, and graduated as a painting major from Yale University. My first book, SOLITAIRE, chronicled my passage through anorexia nervosa as a teenager. Released when I was just twenty-five, it was America's first anorexia memoir. Recently, I have returned to the subject of eating disorders in my forthcoming book GAINING: THE TRUTH ABOUT LIFE AFTER EATING DISORDERS, which explores the many ways that eating disorders are NOT about eating and do not end with recovery of a healthy weight.

I have also co-authored seven books on psychology and medical topics, edited business and trade publications, and worked as a flight attendant and as associate producer for NBC's TODAY show.

In 2002 I served as president of PEN USA, a national organization of professional writers defending free expression. In 2004 I returned to school (age 50!) to earn an MFA at Bennington College. After graduation in 2006, I hope to teach in an MFA program myself.

Today I live in Los Angeles with my husband. I have two grown sons.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When I started reading this book, just a quarter of the way into it, I was very excited and hopeful that this could be one of the best books out there on EDs because it focused a lot on recovery, and using real life examples. Reading about solutions instead of just epidemics and hopeless stats was refreshing.

The insight into people's personality traits was especially helpful. I bookmarked many passages with little post-it flags because so many things were right on.

I had to knock off two stars for one reason only--the height and weight stats of most the women she interviewed. At first I didn't notice but the more into the book I read, it became very distracting. First of all, height and weight does NOT paint an instant mental picture of what someone looks like to me, anyway. I am not one of those carnival game workers who is trained to know what that looks like. I didn't understand why she couldn't have just described them as "underweight" or used adjectives instead of stats, or whatever.

I couldn't believe it when she ACTUALLY listed the height and weight of the DAUGHTER of a woman with ED and inserted the following commentary--"far from excessive". You could almost hear the subtext after that, "but, could still stand to lose a few pounds." Instead, she lets the quote of the mother's opinion to speak what the author is thinking. And I'm thinking, how many girls who happen to weigh MORE than that and are SHORTER are going to feel when they read that? Never mind that she goes on to say how our bodies are functional and don't define who we are and how fathers can help daughters feel good about themselves--the seed of self-doubt could be planted somewhere.
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Format: Hardcover
GAINING: THE TRUTH ABOUT LIFE AFTER EATING DISORDERS is a well-written interesting hybrid of a book that is part memoir, part individual interview/reportage, part summary of existing research, all about the experience of having recovered from an eating disorder. I found it interesting particularly in how it addressed personality and temperament, how they relate to genetics and environmental factors. Liu's book, because it is both personal and researched, paints a vivid and rich portrait of individuals who have suffered and recovered from this particular illness.

Liu's memoir of her own anorexia takes up the story of her life after her last memoir ends. Liu wrote Solitaire in her 20s after she recoverd from a serious period of restricting anorexia as a high school and college student. She writes of a moment when she decided she wanted a happier life and turned toward health. But GAINING isn't focused on her eating disorder, but on the life she lived afterwards that still bore features of someone with her particular former illness.

The individual interviews Liu conducts to enrich her investigation of what her own experience as a recovered anorexic might mean support her thesis that while the eating disorder might stop, many of the concerns and fears continue and are "treated" in other ways. Liu interviews women who became workaholics, engaged in punishing exercise, kept their lives emotionally "clean." Commonalities and connections are made among recovered anorexics and among recovered bulimics that illustrate with personal narratives the findings that Liu focuses on from current research.
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Format: Hardcover
As someone who is currently recovering from my fourth round of anorexia (I am now mid-thirties), reading this book is the first time I have been able to "connect the dots" and really understand why I do this. I have had some of the pieces before, but this book has given me a depth of understanding of myself that I've never had, as well as the comfort of knowing I'm not alone. Thank you to Ms. Liu for writing it.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been anorexic and still think like one. This book captures my past experiences, feelings, and how I am still very attached to a series of the same thought patterns. I found myself practically highlighting whole pages to share with my therapist. It is the first time I found someone who truly understood the whole process of anorexia, repeated almost my exact thoughts then and now. So few people understand anorexia. It has nothing to do with food, vanity, or age. I was 40 before I first became anorexic. Anorexia is about needing control of something in your life. Becoming thin is a side benefit. I was the happiest, had the highest self-esteem, and felt in total control than I ever had before. It was a long process to be convinced I was actually sick and in health danger. The truth is I would love to be physically anorexic right now. I felt empowered and proud of my self-discipline. Just knowing that when I put my jeans on they would be loose and comfortable or that I could wear any bathing suit I wanted was a huge high. This author acknowledges what anorexia is really like, how the afflicted really feel and think, and how it still follows you even when you return to a "safe" weight. Reading this book was the first time I felt totally understood and had someone who could express my exact feelings and thoughts and my reasoning behind them. It is the absolute best book I have ever read on an eating disorder. It made me cry to finally have my battle validated with such truth and accuracy. Aimee Liu has given the words to what we with eating disorders have so desperately needed to speak both our elation and our pain. OUTSTANDING AND RE-READABLE WHEN YOU NEED IT. GIVE A COPY TO EVERYONE WHO HAS TOLD YOU TO "JUST EAT".
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