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GAINING: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders

Available from Warner Books
February, 2007

New Review!
AED Forum
Published by the Academy for Eating Disorders


"Gaining" is an engaging and incredibly insightful book. Those who have suffered from an eating disorder will see themselves on every page. Liu's brutally honest approach in retelling her story will hopefully encourage readers to examine their own lives and consider making changes that will contribute to their long-term health. The book is also extremely thought-provoking, and will encourage researchers and clinicians to continue to question what is meant by "recovery" and how it can best be achieved.


- Renee Rienecke Hoste, PhD
The University of Chicago Hospitals

Advance Praise for GAINING

“Aimee Liu has made the invisible, visible and the private, public. She has given the suffering of women with eating disorders a voice within the context of our current scientific understanding of eating disorders. This book helps to destigmatize eating disorders by providing professionals, policy makers and the public with the knowledge to understand the nature of these devastating disorders.“
-- Eric F. van Furth, Ph.D.
President, Academy for Eating Disorders (AED)

“Liu exposes many myths surrounding eating disorders, with a combination of research and in-depth interviews with other former anorexics and bulimics…making this book poignant even for those who have not suffered from an eating disorder.”
--Publishers Weekly

“The beauty of Aimee's Liu's brilliantly researched book, GAINING: THE TRUTH ABOUT LIFE AFTER EATING DISORDERS, is right there in the title. There is life after eating disorders, and Liu writes about that life with unflinching candor, exceptional insight, and remarkable bravery. While much has been written on the devastating effects of the illness itself, Liu gives us a unique and provocative look at recovery, taking away the shame and helping us to "gain" hope and understanding. This is a ground-breaking work that's a must-read for anyone who has struggled with food or weight but didn't quite understand why.”
--Lori Gottlieb,

“This book is the most sensitive, insightful, and beautifully crafted connection I have seen of personal experience with what scientists know about eating disorders. It is rich in emotion, understanding of human interaction, and lessons on culture, weight, and eating.”
-- Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair of Psychology
Director, Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders
Yale University

“At last, a book that focuses on the issue of recovery from eating disorders. Aimee Liu has clearly explained the science of eating disorder diagnosis and treatment while chronicling the experiences of those who have moved to recovery. This book makes it clear that there is hope and direction for achieving long term health. My practice has been profoundly enhanced by this work.”
-- Mark Warren, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Cleveland Center for Eating Disorders
Assistant Clinical Professor, Case School of Medicine

“A beautiful, rich, informative, and necessary book. I trust that many women will find that it offers them the realities and nuances people crave in real stories. And real stories are at the heart of what people find healing."
-- Sheila Reindl, Ph.D.
Psychologist at Harvard University’s Bureau of Study Counsel
Author, SENSING THE SELF: Women’s Recovery from Bulimia

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As anyone who has ever recovered from an eating disorder knows, anorexia and bulimia are not really "about" eating, weight, or food. Good nutrition is just the first of many gains that lead back to health. Too often, however, the other crucial gains are ignored, leaving anorexia and bulimia to show up in relationships, parenting styles, compulsive exercise and work habits.

Just published by Warner Books,GAINING examines these anorexic and bulimic "shadows" through a combination of memoir, interview, and cutting-edge research. Readers will discover why gaining weight is not "enough," and what therapies, strategies, and practices are most effective in combatting these self-defeating syndromes. The path to a rich and satisfying life is challenging, but it is also more interesting than anyone imagined thirty years ago!

Just as SOLITAIRE was America's first memoir of anorexia, GAINING will be the first mid-life retrospective of recovery from eating disorders.


To read a Q&A with Aimee about GAINING go to the "Events Etc" page of this site

Aimee at her low point, 1973. (Read the story behind this painting in GAINING)


This book is a plea. Back in the 1960s and 70s, when I was suffering from anorexia nervosa, it was assumed that recovery could be measured in pounds. To the extent it existed at all, treatment for eating disorders was in its infancy. I did not receive treatment, and, as I recognize now, my psychological recovery took decades. Today, fortunately, the landscape has changed. Skilled and gifted therapists who specialize in these disorders now practice throughout the world. New scientific advances in treatment are occurring every day. Most important, these disorders are no longer treated as problems of eating and weight alone; they are recognized as signals of deeper distress. And while healthy nutrition is a vital step, it is no longer mistaken for the ultimate cure. My plea – to parents, doctors, teachers, coaches, and especially to those with a history of eating disorders – is to take the warning signal seriously. Get the professional help you need to decode it and resolve, or at least learn to manage, the true causes of distress, not merely the symptoms.

If you or someone you care about is signaling an alarm by starving herself or bingeing and purging, this book can help you understand what is happening beneath the surface. I hope it will also help you gain new insight into the process of recovery. But no book is a replacement for treatment. Please heed the warning, and seek help now.

[See sidebar to the right for sources of clinical information, support, and referrals.]



Books about Eating Disorders in General

Fairburn, Christopher, and Kelly Brownell, eds. Eating Disorders and Obesity. New York: Guilford Press, 2002.

Lock, James and Daniel LaGrange. Help Your Teenager Beat an Eating Disorder. New York: Guilford Press, 2005.
-----, and Christopher Dare, W. Agras. Treatment Manual for Anorexia Nervosa: A Family-Based Approach. New York: Guilford Press, 2002.

Books about Anorexia Nervosa

Bruch, Hilde. The Golden Cage. Cambridge: Harvard U. Press, 2001. [Originally published: 1978]

Levenkron, Steven. Anatomy of Anorexia. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001.

Books about Bulimia

Reindl, Sheila. Sensing the Self: Women’s Recovery from Bulimia. Cambridge: Harvard U. Press, 2001.

Books about the History of Eating Disorders

Bell, Rudolph, Holy Anorexia. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1985.

Brumberg, Joan Jacobs. Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa. New York: Vintage, 2000.

Books about Identity, Mood, and Mindful Awareness

Cloninger, Robert. Feeling Good: The Science of Well-Being. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004

Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper & Row, 1990.

Erikson, Erik. Identity: Youth and Crisis. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1968.

Fairbairn, WRD. Psychoanalytic Studies of the Personality. New York: Routledge, 1994.

Fromm, Erich. To Have or To Be? New York: Continuum, 2004.

Kramer, Peter D. Listening to Prozac. New York: Penguin Books, 1997.

Linehan, Marsha. Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: Guilford Press, 1993.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Being and Nothingness. New York: Washington Square Press, 1992. [Originally published: 1943]

Solomon, Andrew. The Noonday Demon. New York: Scribner, 2001.

Viorst, Judith. Imperfect Control. New York: Free Press, 1998.

Winnicott, D.W. Home is Where We Start From. New York: W.W. Norton, 1986.

Books about Body Image and Food Policy

Bordo, Susan. Unbearable Weight. 10th Ed. Berkeley: U. California Press, 2003.

Brownell, Kelly, and Katherine Horgen. Food Fight. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004.

Chernin, Kim. The Hungry Self . New York: HarperPerennial, 1994. [Originally published: 1985]
-----. The Obsession. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994. [Originally published: 1981]

Orbach, Susie. Hunger Strike. New York: W.W. Norton, 1986.

Orenstein, Peggy, Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. [Originally published: 1994]

Pipher, Mary. Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. New York: Ballantine, 1994.

Biographies & Memoirs of Eating Disorders & More

Armstrong, Karen. The Spiral Staircase. New York: Anchor Books, 2005.

Fonda, Jane. My Life So Far. New York: Random House, 2005

Gray, Francine du Plessix. Simone Weil. New York: Viking Penguin, 2001.

Gottlieb, Lori. Stick Figure. New York: Berkley Books, 2001.

Knapp, Caroline. Appetites: Why Women Want. New York: Counterpoint, 2003.
------ . Drinking: A Love Story. New York: Delta, 1996.
----- . The Merry Recluse: a Life in Essays. New York: Counterpoint, 2004.
------ . Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs. New York: Delta, 1998.

Harrison, Kathryn. The Kiss. New York: Random House, 1997.
------ . The Mother Knot. New York: Random House, 2004.

Hornbacher, Marya. Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia New York: HarperCollins, 1998.

Leaska, Mitchell. Granite and Rainbow: The Hidden Life of Virginia Woolf. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. 1998.

Maychick, Diana. Audrey Hepburn: An Intimate Portrait. New York: Birch Lane Press, 1993.

Maynard, Joyce. At Home in the World. New York: Picador, 1998.

Reiland, Rachel. Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder. Center City, MN: Hazelden, 2004.

Weiner, Jessica. A Very Hungry Girl. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2003.

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