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A journalist for the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph describes his own struggle with weight issues as well as his observations about today's size-obsessed culture, in an account that discusses society's unhealthy relationship with food, the dynamics of carbohydrate addiction as explained by Dr. Robert Atkins, and factors that have contributed to body image in today's world. 25,000 first printing.
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"Hunger is the loudest voice in my head. I'm hungry most of the time."
William Leith began the eighties slim; by the end of that decade he had packed on an uncomfortable amount of weight. In the early nineties, he was slim again, but his weight began to creep up once more. On January 20th, 2003, he woke up on the fattest day of his life. That same day he left London for New York to interview controversial diet guru Dr. Robert Atkins. But what was meant to be a routine journalistic assignment set Leith on an intensely personal and illuminating journey into the mysteries of hunger and addiction.
From his many years as a journalist, Leith knows that being fat is something people find more difficult to talk about than nearly anything else. But in The Hungry Years he does precisely that. Leith uses his own pathological relationship with food as a starting point and reveals himself, driven to the kitchen first thing in the morning to inhale slice after slice of buttered toast, wracked by a physical and emotional need that only food can satisfy. He travels through fast food-scented airports and coffee shops as he explores the all-encompassing power of advertising and the unattainable notions of physical perfection that feed the multibillion dollar diet industry.
Fat has been called a feminist issue: William Leith's unblinking look at the physical consequences and psychological pain of being an overweight man charts fascinating new territory for everyone who has ever had a craving or counted a calorie. The Hungry Years is a story of food, fat, and addiction that is both funny and heartwrenching.
I was sitting in a café on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 24th Street in Manhattan, holding a menu. I was overweight. In fact, I was fat. Like millions of other people, I had entered into a pathological relationship with food, and with my own body. For years I had desperately wanted to write about why this had happened — not just to me, but to all those other people as well. I knew it had a lot to do with food. But I also knew it was connected to all sorts of outside forces. If I could understand what had happened to me, I could tell people what had happened to them, too. Right there and then, I decided that I would do everything to discover why I had got fat. I would look at every angle. And then I would lose weight, and report back from the slim world.
—Excerpt from The Hungry Years
"The Hungry Years is a confessional, satirical, wise, tragic, truly original book about addiction, food and what's really inside a fat man that's trying to get out. The Hungry Years defies categorization - it's part memoir, part diet book, part comedy, and part sugar rush. It's the first real book about body image for men, and it breaks taboos, breaks new ground, and breaks your heart. William Leith has finally fulfilled his always huge potential. I loved it."
-Tim Lott, cultural critic and author of White City Blue
"This hilarious, self-lacerating memoir of a compulsive eater is a superb book. I feel about The Hungry Years the way William Leith feels about buttered toast: I couldn't get enough and I panicked when I was reaching the end. William Leith has always been one of our best nonfiction writers and this is his crowning achievement."
-Jon Ronson, author of Them: Adventures with Extremists and The Men Who Stare At Goats
"A personal journey of discovery, written as a feverish addict's memoir: waist size, sex life, repressed childhood bullying, it's all laid bare in painful details. It's wired, often desperate but, finally, hopeful. Its striking design and well-connected author will ensure plenty of exposure and unlike most books about diets, you don't have to feel guilty about devouring it."
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