268 to 133 pounds in over a year. It Was Me All Along: A Memoir, is Andie Mitchell’s weight loss journey and the inner struggles she faced as she sought ways to cultivate a healthy relationship with food and her body. I was completely drawn to her story as she narrates her life from childhood growing up with an alcoholic father, whom she lost at a young age to the addiction and an overworked, yet supportive and loving mother, whose fondness of food showed in the kitchen where she can effortlessly whip up an assortment of rich dishes; her body image issues surfaced during her teenage years and although she was surrounded by friends who loved her for who she is, her body was a source of insecurity and heartache, a burden she carried even after she lost the weight; the realization at age 20 when her weight topped off at 268 lbs how she needed to take action otherwise she would head towards a downward spiral; To finally finding the balance and peace within to accept her body and no longer view food as her enemy.
I truly found this book to be inspirational and want to share Five Quotes that spoke to me and we can all contemplate. Most do not pertain to weight loss rather it allows us think over our own relationship with food and exercise.
Children and Eating Habits
“In an ideal world, a child learns eating as intuitive practice. She seeks out and savors what she wants when she feels hungry. She stops when her stomach sends signals to her brain…Gentle bodily sensations are the sole system she needs to rely on.”
As a parent, I understand I am the greatest influence on my child’s behavior. Therefore, when it comes to developing healthy eating habits at an early age, I try to do my best in guiding my daughters in the positive direction. Unfortunately, in Andie’s case, her parents were not good role models of healthy eating. Her father was an alcoholic who loved to gorge on food while drinking at night. While he ate, Andie viewed this as an opportunity to bond with her Dad, she eating with him while watching late night shows. Furthermore, her mother who worked three jobs to support the family used food as a way to comfort Andie. Whenever Andie felt upset, her Mom would offer her a treat as distraction. This lead Andie to learn that if she was ever bored, angry, or anxious, food was her savior. At the age of 5, Andie weighed 60lbs.
“Having always struggled with consistency in dieting, I began journaling what and how much I ate. This single act changed the way I viewed and valued eating, teaching me accountability and an awareness of my own hunger and fullness.”
A food journal isn’t just for weight loss. In my case, I started one a few months ago after being disheartened by the results of my lipid profile from my annual check-up. I knew I had to change my dietary habits and determine the type of food that elevated my blood sugar. It definitely helped me see where I needed to make adjustments. And as a runner, it also helps me identify the type of food that provides me enough energy without gastrointestinal distress during a long run and hard workouts.
I also heard from Dishing up Nutrition podcast the importance of a food journal to determine what affected their client’s joint pain. It was about identifying and eliminating specific foods in their diet which caused inflammation and therefore worsened the pain.
Savor the Flavor
“The change I’d undergone—from someone who ate to capacity to distract her mind, into someone who purposely tasted every morsel—was not unconscious…I put my fork down between bites instead of making like a shovel and digging in. I let a forkful of food sit on my tongue in order to observe its flavor, to savor it. I paused often during the meal to check in with my hunger and fullness.”
In the midst of her weight loss journey, Andie spent a semester abroad in Italy. While on a weekend getaway with her girlfriends to Bologna, she had the most memorable meal at a side street café. Every dish served, the bread, antipasti and Bolognese, she ate with heightened awareness and total presence allowing her to fully appreciate the food.
We are in an era of multi-tasking and always on the go, never truly present when we sit down for a meal. It becomes even more challenging to slow down with young children (as in my case). I usually devour my food at mealtimes to tend to their needs. This created a habit of snacking late-night after the kids were already tucked in bed – a time for me to enjoy what I’m eating without interruption. Unfortunately, I didn’t always choose a healthy snack. I’ve successfully dropped this habit and no longer snack at night. It helped that my children are a little older now and can play on their own after they’re done eating. Finally, I can be more mindful of the food I’ve taken time to prepare.
”Running or not, I wouldn’t give up on moving; I understood the importance of exercise as part of a healthy life. What I wanted was to find an activity that was gentler on my body and less daunting on my mind.”
When Andie lost 135 lbs, she became addicted to exercise for fear she might gain it back. She ran everyday on the treadmill until she got injured (sciatica), but started running again after her body healed. To Andie, running became a form of punishment – a dreadful activity she no longer enjoyed. Again she felt as though she couldn’t stop as this meant she would gain back the weight. Eventually she realized she needed to break free and find a way to remain active. She discovered the joy of walking.
Running is my preferred mode of exercise, but like Andie, some people find it dreadful. To make exercise a part of our lifestyle, we have to seek pleasurable activities whether it’s walking, biking, swimming, weight training etc. Anything to keep our bodies moving.
“What I’d learned is that enjoyment and satisfaction can’t always be quantified as energy input and output. Treating myself to food and meals that might have put me in a caloric surplus did not make me fat, as I’d once feared they would. Intellectually, I always knew that all food was fine in moderation…”
In the end, Andie finally developed a healthy relationship with food, a balance she can sustain in her life. No longer did she obsess over every calorie she ate nor did she fear if the type of food she ate will set her off on a binge.
This quote reminded me of the first seminar held after one of our long runs with the SDTC Rockin n Runnin marathon training program. It covered the topic of nutrition presented by Justin Robinson of Venn Performance, a registered sports dietitian who discussed three points that constitutes healthy eating habits. One was about moderation and the 80/20 rule. Basically 80% of the time, eat a clean diet and the rest is whatever your heart desires (I’m thinking something with chocolate). The key, however, is not to overestimate the 20%.
As inspirational the memoir is, what I found even more captivating was Andie Mitchell’s style of writing — Expressive and stimulating particularly when the subject is food. She opened the first chapter with the description of a fudge cake she baked for 8 years since her weight loss. As I read it, I could taste the flavor and feel the texture of the cake in my mouth. Surprisingly, Andie provided the recipe of the Sour Cream Fudge Cake following the final chapter of the book. This was a perfect ending to her journey, sweet and delightful.
Do you multi-task when you eat? Would you consider keeping a food journal?
I want to thank Wendy from Taking the Long Way Home for introducing me to this book as part of her book club.
Disclosure: The links provided (both text and image) are affiliate links through the Amazon associates program. It simply means if you click on it to purchase the book, I will earn a small credit for the referral.