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The Hungry Years: Confessions of a Food Addict Paperback – 5 Jun 2006

4.3 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; New edition edition (5 Jun. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747572496
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747572497
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 181,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘Compulsively readable. I gulped it down in a couple of greedy bites … It is a powerful memoir’ -- Daily Telegraph

‘It’s part memoir, part diet book, part comedy, and part sugar rush. I loved it’ -- Tim Lott

‘This hilarious, self-lacerating memoir of a compulsive eater is a superb book ... this is his crowning achievement’ -- Jon Ronson

From the Publisher

Makes fat not just a feminist issue but relevant to everyone: William Leith’s unblinking investigation of the physical consequences and psychological pain of being an overweight man charts new territory.

Shortlisted for the Mind Awards 2006 Book of the Year

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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From the title of the book to the picture of a bitten glazed doughnut on the cover, it's clear that the publishers are shrewdly aiming this book squarely at the whole obesity/dieting sector of the market, but it is about so much more than just overeating. Sex and cocaine abuse feature heavily too, and really the subject matter is any compulsive behaviour we indulge in to unwittingly fill an emotional hole.
I love this book. I'm slightly bigger than Leith ever got, and became so by a different route, so his hilarious descriptions of junk food binges go over my head a bit. But I experienced enough moments of startling self-recognition reading this to make the whole thing ring horribly true, and make me think about myself in ways I've resisted before. Best of all is his writing, which is dry, funny and brutally confessional, all strung around a set of amazingly impressive, casually name-dropped contributions on the subject from important figures he has met as a journalist - everyone from Dr Atkins and the head of Starbucks to the chip guru at the McCain factory and a panoply of scientific and medical experts, celebrity fatties, feminists and philosophers. If you're worried that this is going to be all about the Atkins diet, don't be. I'd recommend this book unhesitatingly to anyone who enjoys a good read and has ever overindulged in anything.
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This is a personal memoir of what it means to be an addict. Leith starts off the book defining his issue as an unhealthy relationship with food, bread in particular. He then spends considerable amounts of time researching and eventually participating in the Atkins diet, with some success. When he finds that this does not lead to ultimate personal happiness, and that he has simply channelled his addictive personality traits into other, and equally harmful past times, his world starts to fall apart. The hunger he refers to in the title of the book has very little to do with food, and everything to do with the unquenchable need that he identifies within himself to be fixed in some way. This is moving and fascinating, although not a 'finished' work in any way. I recommend it highly as both a tremendous piece of journalism, and as an intimate insight into what it means to be addicted to just about anything you care to mention.
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Some parts of this book are confusing, some are boring, but overall I think it was very informative and, yes, entertaining. This isn't some po-faced diet book; it's intelligent journalism and a memoir by someone who is reassuringly human, like the reader. Leith fails and he fails spectacularly and then he tries again ... It reads as a sort of strange stream of consciousness with plenty of slang and ums and ahs to add realism. Usually I'm not a fan, but Leith makes it accessible.

Some other reviewers, I note, have said that this book isn't ONLY about overeating, but rather addictions in general, such as: drink, drugs, cosmetic surgery and shopping. But I think that's wrong. This book IS primarily about overeating, but it digresses into other addictions and compulsions to illustrate a wider point related to comfort eating. And apart from the therapy sessions, which take up many pages in the last quarter of the book, where the author regresses into his childhood and blames his parents for his unhealthy eating habits, I really enjoyed the book. The therapy felt a bit too self-indulgent. I notice someone else called this book nothing but self-pitying drivel (or words to that effect) and I thought: "Hang on a minute! What do you expect? This is a memoir." I prepared myself for such introspection and thought in so doing I had inoculated myself against it. Still, it turns out I wasn't immune to those thoughts.

But I like the style of his prose. It zips along, pings off the walls, fizzes through the pages. I rarely had to re-read passages, but I did occasionally.

One question I have after reading this book is: what happened to his Atkins diet?
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As a (reformed) binge eater and a PCOS sufferer, I had to read this book. The majority of the narrative is interesting and useful, although I can 't say as I was especially in to the breakdown of the guy's therapy sessions. I came to realise that the vast majority of us are addicted to carbs, and have been inspired to check out Atkins and Dr John Briffa's books. My skin has improved, my energy levels have increased, and my eating is under control. I would recommend this book to anyone who has similar issues!
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I have just finished reading this book for the second time; there is so much in it that it merits two readings. William Leith writes with startling honesty about his struggles with food, alcohol and cocaine. His anatomy of a binge - the feelings leading up to it, the experience of it and the aftermath - are the most accurate I have ever read. Most men who write about bingeing have clearly never experienced it first-hand; they tend to write in a dispassionate and slightly blaming way, in the same way that non-smokers urge you to give up smoking. Mr. Leith describes in agonising detail the hole, the space inside which arises from abandonment by one's parents - physically and/or emotionally - which one is destined to try to fill throughout life, with whatever substance is to hand. His childhood was bleak in the extreme - uprooted, moved around and abandoned - yet his profound insight and intelligence has enabled him to analyse his behaviour and, finally with the help of therapy, to get a handle on it. His insights have helped me enormously to understand my own problems with food and to look back at my childhood as an only child with two emotionally illiterate parents. Of all the writers I have read on the subject, male or female, Mr. Leith is by far the most intuitive and insightful. I am looking forward to reading more of his books.
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