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Hungry: A Mother and Daughter Fight Anorexia Paperback – August 4, 2009
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"As the family stumbles towards recovery, the book winds down with mother and daughter (Lisa is now in her early 20s) expressing hope for the future. There may still be a bumpy road ahead, but the mere fact of Lisa's survival, and the revelation that healing is possible, will provide comfort for many families on the same path."
"HUNGRY illustrates that, whether the problem concerns food, drug abuse, or alcoholism, even amid the depths of pain and despair healing becomes possible when the desire for it is real and strong."
-San Jose Mercury News
A courageous account of what it is like to exist with a life-threatening eating disorder from two quite different standpoints-Lisa, the daughter who stops eating, and her mother Sheila, a restaurant critic. The irony of this situation is lost on neither, and both are unsentimental and deeply honest about their experience. I especially admire their separate advice for how best to support recovery. This book should comfort anyone confronted with this illness as well as provide much practical help for dealing with it. "
-Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics and What to Eat
"Sheila and Lisa Himmel put on paper-with rare vulnerability, wit, and courage- what millions of American mothers and daughters face privately, but fear speaking about in public. Their capacity to mine the depths of Lisa's struggle with eating disorders and Sheila's struggle with Lisa will undoubtedly bring an overwhelming sense of relief and recognition to so many mother-daughter pairs trying to make sense of so much pain. Perhaps most admirable, blame is never a weapon in this extremely personal memoir. Instead, these brave women acknowledge the complex sources of illness and point a way toward real, messy, tentative, hopeful recovery."
-Courtney Martin, author of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters
"An engrossing look at the power of food and eating. Mother and daughter have given us a deeply personal story about what happens when that power overwhelms."
-David A. Kessler, MD, author of The End of Overeating and former Commissioner, FDA
"Hungry covers a deadly and serious topic in a poignant story that addresses the irony of our culture's obsession with food. Sheila Himmel brings her talent as a journalist and food critic to show intimately how this disorder took over her family's life for the eight years that daughter Lisa suffered from a spectrum of disordered eating-from anorexia to bulimia to anorexia. As Sheila notes, 'eating disorders function like addictions, but no you can't 'just say no' to food, especially in our culture where...America is a 24-hour buffet.' [The] Himmels bravely share their ups and downs, with honesty and sometimes even humor. Mother and daughter both learned a lot during the recovery process and report on helpful resources they found along the way. I love that the book ends with an optimistic tone and their two lists on '10 Things we learned about eating disorders.' I highly recommend this first-hand and easy-to-ready mother/daughter account of a complex illness that will provide comfort, insight, and support for anyone struggling with or affected by an eating disorder."
-Janice Bremis, executive director Eating Disorders Resource Center
"Through their honest and compelling story, the Himmels reveal the human impact of eating disorders from multiple perspectives: Sheila as a mother and professional reporter and Lisa as a daughter and eating disorder sufferer and survivor. This book is a gift to anyone who wants a deeper understanding of this often misunderstood disease."
-Ellie Krieger, registered dietitian and author of The Food You Crave
About the Author
Sheila Himmel is an award-winning food critic, writer, and editor. She served as the food writer for the San Jose Mercury News. Her prize-winning articles have been featured in publications such as the Washington Post and USA Today. Sheila currently lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband, Ned, and their two children, Jake and Lisa.
Lisa Himmel is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in American studies. She plans to work in early childhood education. She is the coauthor, with her mother, Sheila Himmel, of Hungry: A Mother and Daugher Fight Anorexia.
Top customer reviews
If you happen to live with someone with eating disorders, you will take away a tremendous amount of insight and useful information. If you don't, you will be enlightened on the topic and also be moved by this inter-generational story of child-rearing, professional ambition, and the love and hate of food.
Secondly, it's all about Sheila - sometimes you forget Lisa is the 'heroine' of the story. The constant 'aren't I great/patient/forgivi ng/wonderful' etc quickly becomes grating. I reckon an earlier reviewer's right... there are more pages about Sheila than Lisa.
Elena vanishing is a better read and if you want to read a story with a real ear voice (although not.ana/mia related) go for Skinny, a story about Ever a wonderful teen who opts for.gastric bypass.
This book is different from most eating disorder memoirs (and trust me, there are a LOT out there, some better and more interesting than others) in the fact that it's mostly the story of the anorexic's mother, Sheila. Lisa, the girl who suffers from anorexia, did co-write the book, but the memoir is much more Sheila's than her daughter's. And I have to say that it was quite interesting to read about anorexia from a mother's point of view. No parent wants to see their child hurt or suffering in any way, and this feeling must be compounded by about a billion when it's your child who is actually doing the harm to him/herself. Hungry perfectly illuminated this feeling - Sheila had to watch while her daughter starved herself for years, and she was completely unable to do anything that would help Lisa get better.
I definitely appreciated that Lisa had a voice in this memoir, too, because it was very interesting to read about certain periods of her life from Sheila's point of view, then read right away how Lisa experienced those same situations. At the time of the book's publishing, it was said that Lisa was in recovery from her eating disorder, and it was made clear that she is not "recovered" fully - she stated that she absolutely still has food issues, and has to make a conscious effort to not go back to disordered eating. I liked that she was so candid about her disorder; I think it is a help for women and girls who struggle with food issues to know that even someone who is "recovered" has to really work at being healthy. The disorder doesn't just go away, it's something that it is always a part of life if you have it, and I am glad that Lisa Himmel made this very clear in the book.
Hungry has a lot going for it. It is a super honest portrayal of one family's experience with an eating disorder, and because of its truth there is are a lot of heartwarming and funny moments in this book. It's not all doom and gloom, the Himmels seem like an extremely close and loving family and that really shows through in the book. I enjoyed this memoir and I finished it feeling close to Lisa and Sheila, and hoping for Lisa to get better and stay better - from what she wrote, it sounds like that is finally happening for her.
The daring of this prolific writer and budding literary daughter (from what the text promises) is a breath of fresh air for the mother and/or daughter confronted with such suffering. Beyond that - and outside of the scope of the starving, purging, and all of the outward manifestations of the illness that one will likely gain new insights into - the book stands out in its own right as a loving exploration of mind and spirit for both mother and daughter who are willing to expose the painful stages of growing up... together.
Inspiration for my own website created in order to help mothers dealing with teenage anorexia, the wisdom of Sheila and the insights of her daughter insure that my own assessments of the disease and possibilities for recovery and life after starvation remain true to life. The book is triumphant - a must read for mothers, daughters, clinicians and anyone who believes that pain can be the touchstone for growth, new relationships and new beginnings.
Written by Kim Bistrong, host [...]
Visit my site to hear Sheila in her own words.