In the tradition of Roxane Gay’s Hunger, a searing, honest, and candid exploration of what it’s like to live as a fat man, from acclaimed journalist Tommy Tomlinson, who decided he had to change his life as he neared the age of fifty weighing in at 460 pounds.
When he was almost fifty years old, Tommy Tomlinson weighed an astonishing—and dangerous—460 pounds, at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, unable to climb a flight of stairs without having to catch his breath, or travel on an airplane without buying two seats. Raised in a family that loved food, he had been aware of the problem for years, seeing doctors and trying diets from the time he was a preteen. But nothing worked, and every time he tried to make a change, it didn’t go the way he planned—in fact, he wasn’t sure that he really wanted to change.
He was only one of millions of Americans struggling with weight, body image, and a relationship with food that puts them at major risk. Intimate and insightful, The Elephant in the Room is Tomlinson’s chronicle of meeting those people, taking the first steps towards health, and trying to understand how, as a nation, we got to this point. From buying a FitBit and setting an exercise goal to contemplating the Heart Attack Grill, America’s “capital of food porn,” and modifying his own diet, Tomlinson brings us along on an unforgettable journey of self-discovery that is a candid and sometimes brutal look at the everyday experience of being constantly aware of your size. Over the course of the book, he confronts these issues head on and chronicles the practical steps he has to take—big and small—to lose weight by the end.
Tommy Tomlinson has written for publications including Esquire, ESPN the Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Forbes, Garden & Gun, and many others. He spent twenty-three years as a reporter and local columnist for the Charlotte Observer, where he was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in commentary. His stories have been chosen twice for the Best American Sports Writing series (2012 and 2015) and he also appears in the anthology “America’s Best Newspaper Writing.” He is also the host of the podcast SouthBound in partnership with WFAE, Charlotte’s NPR station. He has taught at Wake Forest University, the University of Georgia, and at workshops and conferences across the country. He was a 2008-09 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Tommy and his wife, Alix Felsing, live in Charlotte.
“The Elephant in the Room is more than a memoir of an ever-supersizing America. It’s a love story. It’s also a whipsmart history of working-class America, where the fast-food line is long and a weary mother’s love is shown in third helpings of cornbread and butter beans. Tommy Tomlinson’s singular voice—of journalist, Southerner, son, and of a husband who knows how lucky he is—is at turns punchy and poetic, heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud, and full of language so authentically fresh it needs no sell-by date. I could not turn the pages fast enough.” —Beth Macy, author of Dopesick
“I just read a wonderful book: The Elephant in the Room by Tommy Tomlinson. It’s about his extreme weight struggles and also about family, marriage, class, journalism, the South, and food. It’s warm and funny and honest and painful and poignant. I found it genuinely unputdownable.” —Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Prep and American Wife, on Twitter
“What a gift Tomlinson has. To take a subject this difficult, this personal, this, well, enormous, and to somehow make it read like a summer cliffhanger, but with depth, feeling, and huge moments of catharsis, is an amazing achievement. It’s also a kindhearted book, generous, empathetic, and funny just when you need it to be.” —Brian Koppelman, co-writer of Rounders and co-creator and showrunner of Billions
“A revealing memoir . . . After topping out at 460 pounds and seeing a doctor’s diagnosis of ‘morbidly obese,’ Tomlinson knew he needed to change before the ‘morbid’ part became reality. He doesn’t hold back in his comments about his needs and wants and interjects enough humor to offset the more serious parts of the narrative and keep the pages turning. Readers who are overweight will find encouragement in Tomlinson’s story, which serves as proof that with determination and the right attitude, anyone can win the battle over food addiction and/or obesity. An authentic look at a struggle that millions of Americans face every day.” —Kirkus Reviews