“The Hungry Years” by William Leith

I picked up this book in Biblus, a local bookshop and bought it because on the cover there was a quote: “This hilarious, self-lacerating memoir of a compulsive eater is a superb book.” It was also reasonably priced at 6.95 lari (although lately I have found sometimes the price on the book at Biblus is different to the price at the cash till…).

I think I may have been expecting something like Bridget Jones’ Diary, it wasn’t that funny but it was interesting.

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The Hungry Years

The author William Leith has a history of being prone to various addictions: alcohol, cocaine and the focus of this book, food. It would seem the problem is carbohydrates, particularly in the form of toast, bagels, rice, pasta or fries in that they are very moreish and very addictive. Fat it is true has more calories, gramme for gramme than carbohydrate but carbs are easier to metabolise and leave you wanting more.

Fat: 1 gram = 9 calories
Protein: 1 gram = 4 calories
Carbohydrates: 1 gram = 4 calories
Alcohol: 1 gram = 7 calories

The author points out we are eating less fat these days but still obesity is on the rise and like his guru Dr Atkins, he lays the blame on carbs. The author hasn’t been fat all his life and often looks back to times when he was slim. There were periods in his life when he did a lot of exercise and others when he did a lot of drugs. The book is a personal look at the mysteries of hunger and addiction. Science is mixed with personal hunches.

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It all started with French Fries…

McDonalds wasn’t built on the burger but on the French Fry…

“The French fry” Ray Kroc (founder of the McDonalds Chain) once wrote, ” would become almost sacrosanct for me, its preparation a ritual to be followed religiously.”

Leith has lots of interesting anecdotes and insights into the food industry. He shows how McDonalds increased the size of the portions (like in the film Super Size me).

When you see more fries, you want more fries.And after you eat more fries, your blood sugar crashes and you really do feel more hungry. Then, of course, you want more fries.

There are medical details about hyperinsulinism and the workings of the pancreas, how our hunter gathering forebears evolved on a low carbohydrate diet and the hyper-abundance of starchy foods is a recent phenomenon. There is the claim that in 1955, a serving of fries at McDonald’s weighed 2.4 oz and had 210 calories and today (the book was published in 2005) a serving is 4.3oz and packing in 610 calories. I’m not quite sure about the maths, unless the fry of today is more fatty than the fry of the fifties, which is possible.

The author follows some of the teachings of Atkins but not always to the letter, in his anti-sugar, post-sandwich, post-bagel state, he will still drink coffee, which has a negative effect on insulin production, but he does state “you have to draw the line somewhere.

There are tangents, where the author looks at other addictions, alcohol, cocaine, shopping and pornography and the increasing addiction to electronic communication (which results in the paradox that “every day, we are more connected, every day, we are less connected.“)

William Leith is good at delving into the psychology of being fat, the stigma of being fat and explains why he, like many others, loathes being fat. He even undergoes therapy and blames to some extent his mother for his eating foibles (Freud would be proud).

As you can see from these pictures, I was cheekily reading the book in various carb heavy environments: Dunkin’ Donuts and Wendy’s. Luckily, weighing in at 70kg (the ideal weight for my height is somewhere between 65 and 70kg), I don’t see I have a weight problem, so as with many books this gives me an opportunity to look into another world. I may after reading this book watch what I eat in future. But I do rather like French fries…

My rating : 4 out of 5 (good, but I was expecting it to be funnier)

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About jimholroyd365

Hi, my name is Jim, I am an Englishman living in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. I started this blog to share my interests, my photos and to make sense of my world. I take a lot of photographs of various subjects, some of which I intend to share here. I collect diecast cars and get the same thrill at 50 as I did when I was 8, when I find a car I'm searching for, Don't worry, I have a separate blog for this hobby. Please feel free to comment and ask questions on what I blog. I am quite new to this blogging, I was inspired by reading a book, which began as a blog of a London Ambulance Driver: "Blood, Sweat and Tea". I hope my blog will be entertaining and amusing, I did try stand up comedy in the UK and had seven gigs before I left to teach English in Georgia. I love reading and so the blog will include book reviews of books as I finish them.I don't know about which direction this blog will go, I am a great believer in serendipity...let the journey begin...
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