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Gaining: The Truth about Life After Eating Disorders Paperback – 2 Jan 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Wellness Central; Reprint edition (2 Jan. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446694827
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446694827
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 703,234 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

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 diseases with the persuasive conclusion that anorexia is a result of personality. Key revelations include: the temperament required for eating disorders, the long-term effects of eating disorders on health, brain function, relationships and career, why some individuals recover while others relapse, and why many relapse in mid-life, Which treatment approaches are most successful long-term and how parents can tell if a child will be vulnerable to eating disorders. Using her own experience and the stories of many recovering anorexics she's interviewed, Liu weaves together a narrative that is both persuasive in argument and compelling in personal details.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By rgaret Thomson on 11 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very thoughtful and considered book about how to emerge from an eating disorder, and proves that it doesn't have to be forever.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 39 reviews
111 of 115 people found the following review helpful
Very good, but don't compare and despair 16 Mar. 2008
By Gina in Minnesota - Published on Amazon.com
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.

I noticed she also talked a lot about her own weight numbers throughout her various life stories, as though this says something on its own. It obviously does to the author, since she had an eating disorder and weight represents what was going on in her life at that point, but it doesn't mean a whole lot to the general audience. If she said, I was at X weight at that point I would think, so? I'm sorry, I forgot to memorize your height and I don't know what that means and how that adds to the story. All I needed to know was how healthy she was, really. And it was triggering to start thinking about my own height and how it compared, and I had to consciously tell myself to stop doing that.

It was disappointing that for all the self-awareness and sensitivity the author brings to the subject, this detail escaped her attention. I don't think she meant anything malicious about it, of course, just a sad side effect of how an ED mind operates, unfortunately, even after the harmful behaviors have ceased.

(if the author had any input in the ironic cover art--a photo of a bone-thin model in a joyous leap in a sheer dress on the beach--this would get two stars, especially because there is a whole chapter devoted to how media images equate thin women to success, health, and happiness)
54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Changes the Dialog on Eating Disorders 22 April 2007
By Stacey M Jones - Published on Amazon.com
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.

Liu's treatment of the research on the topic is interesting and turns a corner in what I think of as the popular understanding of eating disorders (starlets who opine that they could use an eating disorder for a couple of days, etc.). Liu rejects a traditionally feminist position that environment and media messaging against women are primarily responsible for the disorders experienced by many women and men, though she treats these ideas respectfully and addresses how she does think they play a part in the experience. She expands on the thinking that "genetics loads the gun and enrivonment pulls the trigger" in terms of biological predisposition and experiential triggers for those who suffer from eating disorders by writing about the position that genetics creates the gun, environment loads it and extreme emotional experiences fire the ED bullet.

Research is also used to demonstrate the commonalities of those who suffer from such disorders in terms of brain functioning and temperament. Recovered anorexics, for example, often have temperaments that also lead them to choose not to have children. Liu examines brain functioning in terms of how women with a history of eating disorders respond to a photo of cake vs. the brain activity charted in someone who has never suffered from such an illness (the anorexics accessed the parts of their brains of judgment and anxiety, the control group went to the pleasure part of their brains) and also the differences in how anorexics differ from others in how their brains respond to dopamine, the key to pleasure in the human brain, to list just a few examples.

Liu doesn't focus on treatment styles or programs, but on the implications that having suffered from an eating disorder can have for an individual regarding his or her personality, life choices and future. Perhaps the best way to summarize the book is from this interview with Sheila Reindl, who wrote Sensing the Self and is a clinical psychologist and researcher at Harvard. Reindl tells Liu, "Recovery is like a big old house. ... The anorexic or bulimic is always going to live there. ... I prefer to think of it this way. She used to rule the house in a kind of tyranny. ... Now she still gets to live there and she may still have some of those old fears and vulnerabilities, but she's got only one room in the house and has to make way for more and more occupants as time passes" (p. 125).

This book was an artistic, thoughtful and respectful mix of personal investigation, interview and research summary cogent to the subject matter. I thought it was well written and compelling, illustrating some fascinating aspects of personality and temperament that inform decisionmaking and life choices. I found it a moving and informative read.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
This book has been a revelation for me 27 Feb. 2007
By Madeline Vincent - Published on Amazon.com
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.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Best Book Ever For Eatings Disorders 30 Nov. 2007
By Beverly H. Tatum - Published on Amazon.com
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".
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Terrific look into the causes of eating disorders 12 Mar. 2007
By Christina Lockstein - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Gaining by Aimee Liu is the story of Liu's trying to understand what made her become anorexic as a young girl and how it still shapes the actions she takes today. She interviews psychologists, reads tons of research papers, and talks to people still suffering from and who have overcome eating disorders. It's not just rich white girls who have eating disorders. They stretch across income levels, race and gender. Liu finds that genetics play a large part, as does personality type. Anorexics tend to be introverted perfectionists while bulimics are often more spontaneous and outgoing. A variety of factors work together to create the disease. Lie doesn't fill her research with clinical data and dry statistics, she fills it with powerfully moving stories about women and men who are working every day to keep the monster at bay. While hearing her subjects' stories, Liu also learns more about what brought her into and out of anorexia and how she can stay free from it. I think that if you have a young daughter it is vital to read this book to see what kinds of girls are most likely to be affected by eating disorders and how parents can help. And God bless Liu, she makes sure that this book cannot become a how-to-manual for those wanting to learn more techniques to lose and control their weight the way many other books about the disorders do. This book is enlightening to anyone with preconceived notions about anorexia and bulimia, and it's written in an engaging style that is open to all readers.
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