Thursday, January 14, 2016

Review: Big Girl by Kelsey Miller

I have spent much of my adult life watching my weight, gaining weight, trying to lose weight, and starting the cycle all over again. I use food for comfort and consolation. I use food to ameliorate boredom and I eat mindlessly. I do not have the healthiest relationship to food and this dysfunction is of very long standing. So I was incredibly interested to read Kelsey Miller's memoir based on her web series at Refinery 29 called Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting and Got a Life.

In this memoir, Miller chronicles her diet filled past and the short term successes and long term failures of these diets. She discusses what likely led her to eat the way she did. She talks about the emotional toll of being a "big girl" and her overwhelming desire to be thin and how that would surely transform her life for the better. Anyone who has tipped the scale in the overweight or obese range can likely relate to much of what Miller has felt. But just what does she mean by giving up dieting? Is she agreeing that she'll never be a healthy weight and so who cares? No. In fact, with the help of a therapist who specializes in Intuitive Eating, Miller taught herself how to eat again. And her conclusions are rather fascinating.

When we are born and when we are small, we all know how to eat. We eat to fuel our bodies, eating only until we are full and then going about our other business. But somewhere along the way, some of us, for any number of reasons, unlearn this innate knowledge, eating beyond satiety. And that's when things start going wrong food-wise. Rather than diet and restrict foods or keep track of calories or deny her cravings, Miller committed to the surprisingly difficult idea of learning to listen to her body again and letting that drive her eating, trusting that the scale (which she doesn't ever consult) would show the results of a more mindful approach to eating.  And at the same time, she took a look at her life and recognized how much of a holding pattern she was in, waiting to lose weight, instead of going out and living her life without regard to her size.

I am fascinated by her embrace of this very different mindset. I've not looked for any pictures of her so I have no idea how it's ultimately worked, but I can see a lot of value in being so in touch with your body and its desires. Miller is very open and honest about the challenges she faces along the way, some fairly universal and some incredibly specific to her, and about the fact that this is going to be a lifelong journey for her. She doesn't shy away from the times she cannot follow her own plan but she slows down and looks at the underlying cause and faces it, instead of smothering it in ketchup and eating to avoid it. But this is not all serious life advice. Miller is funny and self-deprecating. This memoir is very definitely centered on her own life and as such is a very personal account of her past and its impact on her, as well as a no holds barred look into her life as it stands currently, socially, sexually, emotionally, and in terms of eating; it's not a manual for following what she herself is doing (she gives a shout out to the book that inspired her and the therapist who is helping her confront all the feelings mindfulness about literally everything in life are bringing to the fore and which need to be acknowledged). The writing tone is very casual and remarkably candid, as if she's simply connecting with a friend who wouldn't even think of judging her. In a world obsessed with size 0 models and actresses, it's refreshing to have a Kelsey Miller out there talking about the heavier end of the weight spectrum and how to develop a healthy attitude around food and eating, two things that are so incredibly fraught in our world. I suspect I'll be thinking about some of her insights for quite a while.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

Popular Posts