Welcome Kelsey Miller to You Ain't Your Weight!
Kelsey Miller is the author of the memoir Big Girl, creator of The Anti-Diet Project, and a features writer at Refinery29 and other publications. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as well as kelseymiller.com.
I was lucky enough to be able to chat with Kelsey about ditching the diet, intuitive eating and the fears that come with making and huge life change.
1. When was the first time you remember being uncomfortable in your body or wanting it to change?
I think I was aware of my body as a problem from the moment I was aware of having a body, period. I see pictures of myself as a toddler and I think, "Damn, that kid looks chill! She doesn't give a shit about her tummy!" I don't know when exactly that changed, but it was very early on.
2. What were your first reasons/motivations to start dieting?
As long as I can remember, I had a sense of "good foods" and "bad foods" and the fact that I shouldn't eat too much or ask for seconds — that sort of thing. But I think my first official diet was when I was 11. At least that was the first major one. I was a theater kid and a management company said they'd like to sign me, provided that I lose 10 pounds. There was no question I would do it. It was the easiest diet I ever did, because who cared about food when the promise of stardom was on the line?! I lost a lot more than 10 pounds, very fast, and then the deal fell through anyway. But losing weight had given me so much positive attention, so much praise. I felt like a whole new person. Of course, the weight came back on immediately, but dieting became the dragon I'd chase for almost the next 20 years.
3. What was your biggest struggle when dieting?
Oh man, it's all about struggle! That's how the system is built: false hope and failure. I think the most detrimental part was the shame the cycle built up in me. I just became more and more humiliated and disgusted with myself with each failure. I think, sadly, that shaped who I became as an adult in a lot of ways. It's hard to undo that wiring.
4. When you "hit bottom" what was your a-ha moment? Or was it more of a gradual realization that someone needed to change?
That moment is actually the whole first chapter of my book — it was very dramatic! The short version is that I was running through the woods in the middle of an insane "warrior workout" and I just couldn't keep going anymore. I couldn't keep running, in the moment, and I realized too that I just couldn't keep going on the way I had been. I was just done with dieting, with obsessive exercise, with disordered eating, with high-intensity self-loathing. I just ran out of the ability to do it anymore. It was a rock-bottom moment, no question.
5. How did working with an Intuitive Eating Coach make a difference in your journey out of dieting?
Just as I knew I was done with dieting, etc., I knew I would need help to find another way. Because I literally hadn't done it any other way since I was a child. Intuitive eating seemed like the most common-sense, diet-deprogramming approach out there, so I just started Googling. I wound up working with Theresa Kinsella, MS, RD, CDN. And just like the concept of intuitive eating, she too was totally common-sense and no nonsense. I really needed her, and I'm so, so grateful I got the chance to work with her. Not only did she guide me through the process of learning how to eat like a normal person again, she was someone I could trust. And I couldn't trust myself yet. But I could trust her.
6. What were your biggest fears when you decided to stop dieting and how did you overcome them?
It's such an embarrassingly obvious answer, but I'll say it anyway: I thought I would just never stop eating, gain hundreds of pounds, and possibly explode. I'm only kind-of kidding. I was certain I would binge myself into a balloon. It took a lot of practice and time to really, really absorb the message that, no, I wouldn't actually overdose on Dominoes. But I think that's also understandable. We're all taught that if we didn't have restriction of any kind that we'd just eat everything, everywhere, forever. It's pretty shocking, at first, to discover that's not true.
7. What would you say to someone who wants to start getting out of the dieting cycle? What should their first steps be?
This is a hard one, because if you'd asked me ten years ago if I wanted to stop dieting, I'd have been like, "Obviously. Where's your magic wand?" But it wouldn't have been true. In theory, the whole point was to stop dieting, once I was thin enough. But, A) that day would never come, and B) even if it had, I wouldn't have known how to stop dieting! It was my comfort zone. It was truly my lifestyle. Quitting dieting was the best thing I ever did for myself, no question, but it was also really hard to learn how to live outside that cycle.
So, I think that people really need to come to that place where they either hit rock bottom and have to find a way out, or they have to be willing to take a flying leap of faith and try another way. I would tell someone who wanted to quit dieting that there is a way to do it — and if they need something with structure, that exists. But they can't go into it with that all-or-nothing magical thinking that comes with a new diet. It's going to involve a lot of trust and discomfort. Just because it's not a diet doesn't mean it won't be hard. But, for once, it's hard work that's actually worth doing.
8. How has your life changed since you stopped dieting?
Everything kind of cracked wide open. I knew I was putting off some things when I was dieting ("I'll do that when I lose 30 pounds! Or 80 pounds!") but I didn't realize until I quit that I had basically been hitting the snooze button on my entire life. I'd been putting off career stuff, social stuff, traveling, and basically everything that involved putting myself out there in the world and growing. I still feel like I'm playing catch-up sometimes, but I do feel like I'm finally present in my life. I don't put off anything because of my body, consciously or unconsciously anymore. My life, my relationships, my career — all those things have grown so much larger and more dynamic. I really can't overstate it. I'm just living, for real, finally.
9. Where do you think you'd be if you hadn't made this change in your life?
Home, alone, watching reruns and Googling the next diet to try — totally sure that this one would really work.
10. Can you provide a little information for those women stuck in the diet cycle and trying to get out?
First and foremost, just pick up a copy of Intuitive Eating. It's a great, easy book, and it'll give you a clear sense of how this whole thing works. I'd also recommend checking out the intuitive eating communities online, because it helps to be aware of how many other people are doing this. In a diet-centric world, it's easy to feel like a crazy weirdo when you're actively "anti-dieting." But this is not some crazy, fringe concept, nor is it new. It's been around for ages and there are so many people whose lives have been changed by this. Finally, if there's any possible way for you to get some professional help, do it — even if it's just a few meetings with a coach, or a group coaching session. Not everyone can afford one-on-one coaching, but intuitive eating is a much more widespread concept than it was even a few years ago. Odds are there's a group — maybe even an online group — where you can find some guidance and support. No matter how you get it, that part is key. It's so easy to feel isolated and alone in this, but you really, really aren't. That much, I promise.
You can get Kelsey's book now!
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