I started to read Kelsey Miller’s “Big Girl” over a year ago, but I had to keep putting it down. It hurt too much.
Her story had way too many parallels to my own. And her writing style made her pain seem light and breezy, and funny, and I kept feeling angry and sad for myself and on her behalf.
She’s a musical theater nut (I am too, and I was in all the musicals at school growing up). Her mom “helped” her diet from a very young age. So did mine. She had her close friends at school, but she was also always saving up her emotional energy until she had lost enough weight to put herself out there. I tried to do that too. Most of all, her late-in-the-story realization that she was ALWAYS escaping – in music, TV, podcasts, food… and that her real journey was to get back into her own life. [Hand slap to my head. That’s me!!]
Thankfully toward the end of her book, and after her many years of self-damnation and recrimination, she gets angry. She uses the word fuck a handful of times in a small tirade when she finally snaps because a woman she admires at work tells her she needs to change her style to be an editor. Funny how something small (compared to the bigger cruelties we suffer) can break us and give us the big fat realization that we don’t actually have to blame ourselves for everything. Including, maybe especially, our body size.
I particularly loved her revelation that she doesn’t have to always move forward – toward particular fitness, body weight, or even intuitive eating/mindful eating goals. She had been working with a trainer for a long time, and after some difficult real life issues came up her trainer noticed she had stopped making ‘progress’. Her conclusion? She decided she is within her rights to eat emotionally for a spell. Prioritize important other life things. Pause on fitness efforts to deal with a friend’s cancer scare, for instance. She’s still healthy, she’s just letting herself be mindless for a bit and not working a program so she has the space to deal with her life. This isn’t failure, it’s a natural cycle. She seems to forgive herself, even if her trainer is disappointed. Score 1 for self-acceptance.
In the end, I loved the book. It inspired me. It told an unsparing tale of the hurt she experienced as an overweight girl in this world, and the crazy, repeated commitments to extreme weight loss measures. Looking back, the book was maybe more impactful and sad because of her breezy storytelling style. I could viscerally feel the pain underneath her jokes.
She doesn’t go down an alcoholic rabbit hole like I did when I dove into the Atkins diet at age 29, replacing my dinners with bottles of red wine. Lucky! But I truly believe that climbing out of diet mentality into self-acceptance – you know, changing everything you believe about food and your body while still having to eat food regularly – is way harder than stopping drinking.
So, bravo Kelsey Miller (@mskelseymiller on Instagram)! Thank you for telling your story, and for proving we can get out of this trap one itsy bitsy step at a time.