It Was Me All Along: A Memoir by Andie Mitchell

meallalongIt was me all along: a memoir is inspiring, beautifully written and addresses disordered eating with truth, grace, and wit.

Andie Mitchell is a blogger (canyoustayfordinner.com), recipe developer and free-lance writer. Her memoir begins with an early childhood fraught with instability due to her father’s alcoholism. Using food for comfort, stability, and to quell anxiety, Mitchell’s disordered eating led to obesity, self-esteem issues and an obsession with food. Through a combination of Weight Watchers-like portion control and exercise she began to slowly lose weight. Mitchell truly began to heal from binge eating while spending a college semester abroad in Italy. In addition to a healthy amount of exercise, Mitchell gave herself permission to enjoy food and appreciate herself. Gone were the days of frantically filling an emotional void with Kit-Kats and burgers. Instead she ate what she wanted, listened to hunger cues, and enjoyed the food she ate. Mitchell returned to the United States slimmer and healthier, but began to experience anxiety again. Her disordered eating swung in the other direction and Mitchell began to exercise obsessively and restrict her food in an unhealthy way. She was diagnosed with EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified). With the support of friends, family, a nutritionist, and mental health professionals Mitchell was finally able tame her disordered eating, gain self-confidence and enjoy food.

Writing this review is really difficult. I’m really trying to write a review of It was me all along and keep my own struggle with Binge Eating Disorder out of this review. It is difficult because as I was reading I would find myself shaking my head vigorously in agreement, pausing to journal my own food memories and struggles, and then noting how her tactic for beating binge eating echoed everything I learned during my hospitalization in college (eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, go for a walk). This memoir resonated with me on so many levels and this is the only memoir about binge eating that didn’t come off as a weight-loss victory account, but rather an emotional healing.

There is a weight-loss victory account in this memoir, but that is only half of the book. After losing weight Mitchell was still sad, scared, self-conscious and worried that she would fail and gain the weight back. Hence swinging towards a restrictive eating disorder and an obsession with exercise. Several reviewers on GoodReads lamented that there wasn’t a weight loss plan in the book, or that it was super impractical to expect everyone to go to Italy to lose weight, or that there was too much “other stuff” besides the weight loss in the book. I’m wondering if those readers even read the book all the way through. Hey folks, this is not a weight loss book. This is a book about shaking off food as a way to deal with emotional issues and learning to love and appreciate food as something enjoyable, not an all-consuming emotional crutch.

My one criticism of the book feels unfair. I’m pretty sure that Andie Mitchell (and most authors) have very little control of a book once it hits the printing press. Marketing and cover designs are usually left to an editorial team at the publishers. If I had read the back of this memoir first I probably would not have checked it out of the library. The back cover copy talks about chronic dieting, size dissatisfaction, and doesn’t make any mention of emotional or binge eating. What’s truly troubling are blurbs on the back. Alison Sweeney, the host of The Biggest Loser, recommends the book and The Biggest Loser is one of the more horrifically fat-shaming, extreme weight-loss encouraging shows ever. The other is from the author to The Skinnytaste Cookbook and praises the memoir as being inspiring “to anyone who struggles with the challenges of dieting and weight loss.” FAIL. This book is not about weight loss. The weight loss is only half the journey. I can see where the GoodReads reviewers were disappointed; they thought they were getting a book length Weight-Watchers success story and didn’t know what to make of the latter part of the book. I think it would have served Mitchell’s memoir better to have blurbs from nutritionists and specialists dealing with eating disorders and to have the back cover discuss disordered eating as opposed to dieting. Once again, this is not a criticism of Mitchell’s memoir as the author does not have much control over this part of the book-publishing process.

I recommend this book to anyone who has turned to food or another substance to find comfort and stability. This book spoke to me as a recovering addict as much as it spoke to me as a binge eater. My favorite passage reflects that eating healthy, overcoming addiction, and learning to love yourself happens a little bit at a time;  “[c]an you do it today? The notion of just trying to take each day as it came. The commitment to the present moment, and only the present moment, without worrying about the big and daunting picture of all the days that followed.” On a personal note, I read this memoir after admitting that my binge eating disorder was back in full swing. It really made me feel like I wasn’t alone and that there is hope that doesn’t stop at weight loss. It gave me hope that one day I wouldn’t be so plagued with anxiety and obsession around food and that I would learn to love myself and not have that love be dependent on my size.

~~~ Stats ~~~

Started: 23 March 2015

Finished: 24 March 2015

Pages: 240

Challenges:

Owned/Borrowed/Library: Borrowed from interlibrary loan

Stars: 5 out of 5 stars

~~~~~~~~~~~~

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3 comments

  1. I can definitely relate. I got the book on Saturday and finished it in 3 hours. I am also a recovering addict and so many of the things resonated with me. After drugs and alcohol were out of the picture for me, I jumped on the exercise and food restriction bandwagon. It takes a lot of guts to put your story out there and I definitely commend her for that. Thanks for sharing your review!

  2. I didn’t know the book, but by reading your review I’m realizing that the book I have just finished (What are you hungry for? by Deepak Chopra) talks exactly about this: about eating to find the fulfillment you don’t have in another areas of your life. So I’ll check this one out too, I’m interested.
    Thanks for the review!

  3. I love that this was a positive read for you and that its ending left you with hope. Taking one day at a time is so critical no matter what you are struggling with, and let’s face it, EVERYbody struggles with something – maybe it’s not food, but we all have something. Thanks for the review.

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