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Reading + Signing: Tommy Tomlinson

Tommy Tomlinson is a household name in the Charlotte area due to his profoundly enjoyable podcast “Southbound,” which he records in partnership with WFAE, Charlotte’s NPR station.

Between recording sessions, Tomlinson has written for publications including Esquire, ESPN the Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Forbes, Garden & Gun, and many others. He spent 23 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.”

In the tradition of Roxane Gay’s Hunger and written with the same insight and mesmerizing tone that have catapulted “Southbound” to the top of many Southerners’ podcast playlists, Tommy Tomlinson’s memoir The Elephant in the Room is Tommy Tomlinson’s searing, honest, and candid exploration of what it’s like to live as an overweigh man in a growing America.

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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.