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Coming in February, 2007 (National Eating Disorders Awareness Month)!

NEWSLETTER

GAINING... ON IMITATION

March 3, 2007

Dear Friends,
The response to my new book, GAINING: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders, has been stunning. I've just touched down for a brief spell at home before heading out on the road again, but I wanted to thank you for your support and comments about the book, and for sharing your stories. Perhaps you caught me on TODAY last Wednesday, or NPR's Weekend Edition last Sunday, or perhaps you made it to one of my talks. However you found your way to this newsletter, I'm grateful to hear from you.

I want to let you know I'm now blogging at both the Huffington Post and www.eatingdisordersblog.com

Below is my latest blog. I hope it's of interest.

Be well,
Aimee
* * *

THE LIMITS OF IMITATION

We all do it. We imitate the way our mothers exclaim when they answer the phone. We take fashion cues from Vogue Magazine. We raise our voices to meet our mates’ and assume the poses of bosses and admired colleagues at work. We copy recipes from our friends.

Imitation is hard-wired into us from birth. Neuroscientists now understand that we are born to mirror those around us. This is how we learn to speak, to act, to feel. After we suffer from a trauma or disorder that pushes us into isolation, imitation plays a crucial role in the brain’s fight back to normalcy.
I was keenly aware of this process during the years when I was first recovering from the anorexia that spanned my adolescence. After pushing away from friends and family for some seven years, I made a conscious decision to reach out to those who seemed to me most “normal.” I watched the way my ebullient roommate ate and laughed. I studied the way classmates casually inhaled sandwiches and pizza while engrossed in talk about their futures. I imitated the way ambitious friends seemed to seize opportunities and embrace adventures. I became a waitress because I admired my fellow waitresses. When one of them applied to United to become a flight attendant, I interviewed, too. When I fell in love, I let my husband-to-be retrain my brain to try foods like sausage, calzones, margaritas, and mudpies – indulgences I once automatically would have denied myself.

I imitated my way back to a strong semblance of normalcy. My body looked hale. My eating habits seemed healthy. My spirits appeared secure. But imitation has its limits. When I became anxious I couldn’t copy my way out of distress. No matter how cool and poised I might look to others, tension gnawed at my nerves. I could never be the people I admired. I could not create what I emulated. Sooner or later someone was bound to find me out. Imitation precludes authenticity. How much of my life was I faking? I didn’t dare ask. Imitation begets anxiety.

I tried to copy the ways other people dealt with stress. I ran away from conflicts at work and in my marriage – ran marathon distances that led to injury. I adopted “healthy” food restrictions and practices that turned meals into endurance contests – ever subject yourself to a brew of baker’s yeast, molasses, and protein powder? I equated virtue with suffering, confused stoicism with power; I bought into the false ideals that our culture waves like perfume beneath our noses – ideals of feminine restraint, silence, sacrifice. Contain yourself, and you’ll feel fine.
It doesn’t work. Contain yourself, and sooner or later you’ll feel caged. Imitation becomes that cage.

Sooner or later we must risk becoming ourselves, warts and blemishes, fears and all. We have to dare to look in the mirror and trust the person who looks back. We have to learn to make choices fueled by desire rather than dread, find solutions that make us feel more alive than dead, more fulfilled than empty, more human than “perfect.” That person in the mirror has a heart, a mind, a body that breathes with life. That person is a miracle of humanity who deserves our full honor and appreciation, for she has no equal.

* * *

CLICK ON THE TITLES
below for more about Aimee's books & work.

Anthology
Anthologies of fiction and nonfiction that Aimee has edited or contributed to.
Novels
a suspenseful novel of rescue and redemption set in Central Asia at the start of the Cold War, featuring two unforgettable heroines whose fates are irrevocably intertwined.
The unforgettable tale of star-crossed love that spans four decades and two continents.
A young photographer wrestles with her repressed past and identity as an Amerasian in New York's Chinatown. Now back in print after more than a decade, FACE is Aimee's first novel.
Work on Eating Disorders
While there are numerous memoirs available chronicling individual women’s struggles with anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders, this is the first book to bring together many people’s stories to create a complete and candid picture of the recovery process. Aimee Liu has skillfully brought together firsthand accounts of recovery to create a realistic roadmap for the journey. This book also includes informational sidebars, written by professionals in the field, on topics including treatment options, choosing the right therapist, the pros and cons of medication, how parents and spouses can help, and much more.
How do anorexia and bulimia impact life AFTER recovery? GAINING is one of the first books about eating disorders to connect the latest scientific insights to the personal truth of life before, during, and especially after anorexia and bulimia.
America's first memoir of anorexia, and one of the earliest books about eating disorders, originally published in 1979
Craft & Criticism
Resources and suggestions for students and fellow writers
Aimee's latest book reviews