The Hungry Years

Confessions of a Food Addict

Publisher: Anchor Canada
“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

From the Hardcover edition.


The Fattest Day of My Life
I wake up on the fattest day of my life, 20 January 2003. I am just over 6 feet tall, and weigh ... how much? I step on the scale and off it very quickly, to limit the damage. 236 lbs. At best! My bathroom floor slopes slightly, and I have positioned the scale carefully to ensure the...
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“[Leith’s] clear, analytically precise, yet emotive prose, at times almost shockingly so, gives us some insight into what it is that makes us so dysfunctional: his honesty, which is by no means shameless, is his salvation. . . . You will want to read bits of The Hungry Years aloud, and relish the expressions of your audience. But it has a purpose. It could become a classic.”
The Guardian (UK)

The Hungry Years [is] an engaging and truly funny book… It is a rare author who can turn a diet into a comic epic.”–The Globe and Mail

“Hilarious, self-lacerating…a superb book”
—Jon Ronson, author of The Men Who Stare at Goats

“Brilliant. . . . Darkly funny, at times disturbing, often sad, brutally honest. . . . [Leith] takes us on a first-
person rollercoaster ride of bingeing, diets and failed relationships. . . . Touching, evocative and deep.”
The Toronto Star

“We like William Leith. We like him when he licks clean a plate of congealed gravy. We like him with crusty mashed-potato stains on his lapels. We like him when he chugs coffee creamer and spoons down an entire jar of peanut butter, and when his T-shirts are so tight on his hot, swollen torso, it feels like rolling on a condom. He’s a flinchingly frank and funny feeding-frenzied master of the kamikaze confessional.”
The Georgia Straight

“Frank and often embarrassing, The Hungry Years is a near addictive read that will have you chuckling, shuddering and screaming in frustration, sometimes all at the same time.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

“Leith dissects his cravings with exquisite precision. It’s the kind of book you read at one gulp.”
Edmonton Journal

“Leith brings a cool wit to his discussion of a super-hot topic. . . . [He] writes about food addiction the way Hunter Thompson wrote about drugs and politics, with a hallucinatory desperation, a feverish imagining.”
San Francisco Chronicle