I recently read “Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting And Got A Life” by Kelsey Miller. She is a senior features writer at Refinery 29, and she also created “The Anti Diet Project”. When I first found Kelsey on social media, I instantly fell in love. She is hilarious and her outlook on food and exercise lines up perfectly with how I personally feel and the mission of Circles of Change.
So, as soon as I saw that she was writing a book, I could not wait to get my hands on it. I had high expectations and was thrilled leaving Barnes and Noble. However, when I woke up one morning and reached for this story, I was shocked! I knew it was going to be good, I knew I would feel at home reading it, but I had no idea that I would be glued to it for most of my day and unable to put it down.
Kelsey did an amazing job of exploring her journey, sharing her story and navigating the pieces of her life and how they impacted her relationship with food. I instantly feel connected to anyone who openly talks about their life. I think it is vital for our shame, for our healing, and for others to speak out about our life. When we get brave enough to start sharing, then other people get brave, or at the very least feel a little less alone.
One of my favorite parts was when Kelsey shared her childhood and some of the difficult pieces of it. She shared traumas and vulnerable pieces, and as she navigated through them she got to a place where she didn't apologize for how much they affected her, or consistently compared them as if she has to “suck it up” or minimize her pain because it could have been worse. She really honored those pieces of her, experienced and work through her pain of it, dealt with how that was manifesting in her life as well as her relationship with food and gave them a voice.
As I was reading about the things she did to lose weight, I found myself heartbroken over the harsh behavior and how she treated her body, knowing how easily I do that to myself and knowing so many people who do the same extreme behaviors to lose weight. So often we confuse weight loss with health. Reading it struck a different reality with me than when I speak about these harsh realities. I encourage you, if you try diet after diet, and you even think your behaviors are “normal” or almost necessary, please read this book. I guarantee you will find pieces of yourself in her story.
One of the most frustrating things for me was the responses Kelsey received from her critics. She writes about her journey out of dieting and into intuitive eating, a practice of eating with no distractions, and taking cues from your body about food choices. As she openly speaks about this, it speaks volumes to me about the state in which most of us live, because as people read this and see her taking boundaries off food, they assume that she will only choose the most unhealthy foods. Why do we think that if we aren't forced to eating chicken breast and spinach, or counting weight watcher points, or 2 meal replacement shakes, or following the Atkins diet that we will not choose what is necessary for our bodies to function?
As Kelsey shared about the responses she gets on social media or through email, my passion was only fueled. The way our society views food assumes that weight loss ads and diet products are more trustworthy than our own intuition about our bodies.
I will be honest, there was a time when my body could not be trusted. Living with an eating disorder robs you of that trust. Your body fights what is necessary to survive. So, I had a few trusted professionals to help me. A therapist, dietitian, and primary care doctor help me learn how to trust my hunger cues again. They were there, my body was telling me something, but my thoughts, emotional pain, and depression were telling me otherwise. Like Kelsey, and so many others out there, let’s start figuring out what is keeping us from trusting our own bodies.
In closing, I would just like to say, thank you Kelsey for bravely sharing your truth. For inviting us into your world and poetically capturing your pain and emotions but offering so much hope as well. You are hilarious, brilliant, courageous, and beautiful!
About the author: Holli Zehring shared her vision for what is now Ophelia’s Place many years ago, after her first round of treatment for an eating disorder. She has influenced and supports the groups that the non-profit now runs. She is currently working to grow an “Ophelia’s Place West.” Along with chasing her passion for changing the culture around health, beauty, and body image, as well as sharing her journey with mental illness, she is married to psychiatry resident and works hard to raise two kids. She further fills her cup with great books, friends, restaurants, and dabbles in fashion and thrifting.