Monday, August 15, 2011

I'll Never Be Hungry Again

Some of you may recall that I scored a giant bag of cheap books at this year's VNSA book sale.  With all the upheaval this spring and summer, though, I just finished reading through the lot.  The last one was The Hungry Years by William Leith.  This is an autobiographical book by a British journalist who claims to have been addicted, at one time or another, to nicotine, alcohol, sex, and practically every drug known to man.  The Hungry Years is the story of his struggle with food addiction.

At the beginning of the book Leith is on his way to interview Dr. Robert Atkins, the low-carb diet guru.  He reviews his past misadventures with eating and dieting and hovers between skepticism and an intense desire to believe that The Atkins Diet is The One that will finally help him conquer his weight problem.  Part of the diet's attraction for him was the idea that nothing was wrong with him; the extra poundage was all the food's fault.  After finally meeting Atkins (shortly before his death), Leith did in fact go on the diet and lost a significant amount of weight.  He became such a convert to the low-carb way of life that he even proselytized his own parents.  At this point I was expecting Leith to end the book with a ringing endorsement of Atkins and a commitment to avoid the evils of carbohydrates for the rest of his life.

He surprised me, though.  Although The Atkins Diet allowed Leith to keep his eating in check, his other addictions started to spiral out of control.  He eventually had to admit that the problem was indeed in himself and sought professional health.  By the end of the book he was eating normal amounts of normal foods including carbohydrates.

Leith's writing style is sharp enough to draw blood.  (I winced at his description of the heavy person's decision to start wearing his or her shirts untucked as "Going Floaty.")  The good news: after reading some of the author's descriptions of his insatiable binges, you may never want to overeat again.  The bad news: after reading those passages, you may never want to eat again.  An interesting book, but one I will probably recycle to the VNSA next year.

"My hunger frightens me.  The fatter I get, the more I want to eat.  The fatter I get, the more comfort I need." ~William Leith, The Hungry Years: Confessions of a Food Addict


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