Half Price Books has been my happy place for over a decade. Every time I step through the doors, I feel a flicker of hope and excitement rise in my chest as my eyes scan all the possible reading materials available to me at discounted prices.
I had just finished my freshman year of college, and summertime meant almost four months of leisure reading between shifts as a dietary aide at an assisted living facility. Upon arrival, my legs automatically took me to the psychology/self-help section, a path they were so used to taking by this point. After browsing the shelves for nothing in particular, I froze when my eyes fell on a particular cover. Staring back at me was a young girl in a swimsuit on a book called It Was Me All Along.
Why did this knock the wind out of me? The little girl on the cover looked almost exactly like I did when I was that age. I too had pale, round, rosy cheeks, dark hair with bangs, and a smile with several teeth missing at any given moment. I was absolutely taken back with the resemblance, and I couldn’t look away. It felt like I was looking at a photo of my younger self hanging on a family member’s wall instead of at a random book in a bookstore. For your reference, I have provided a side-by-side picture of the book cover and a little kid pic of myself below. I hope you enjoy it.
Okay, so maybe younger me wasn’t an exact replica to this cover, but it sure was enough to grab my attention. I picked up the book and studied it carefully. The back cover summarized the story of a woman who grew up in a larger body, lost weight, and learned to love all parts of herself. It seemed like a feel-good story about someone who found a diet and exercise routine and lived happily ever after. I thought I could use a feel-good story, and maybe a little weight loss inspiration myself (screw fitspo anyway).
At this point, I was so steeped in diet culture that I was actually hoping for a shallow fitness journey instead of what this book actually delivered. It Was Me All Along is a beautiful, touching, hopeful memoir about a woman’s struggle to regulate emotions and process childhood traumas, with food being her main coping mechanism, only to find that weight loss didn’t fix everything. It’s a story that is relatable to almost anyone, regardless of their weight status as a child, and that’s probably why I have read this book once a year since I first picked it up five years ago.
I never experienced all the hardships of being in a larger body as a child like Andie did. Diet culture goes for the young, making kids like her, who didn’t fit into the mold diet culture creates, become outcasts. This book does an excellent job of helping those of us who didn’t experience these hardships understand what it was like for a kid on the playground to tell you that you need to get off the swings because everyone was afraid the swingset would break. Kids can be cruel for all kinds of reasons, but many of us that were not considered overweight as kids don’t even know the half of it.
It Was Me All Along can be divided into three parts: using food to cope, losing weight and panicking about maintaining it, and finally finding peace with food and exercise. Andie Mitchell’s writing is nothing short of striking, and her story is so thought-provoking that I think about it for weeks each time I read it.
Part one is where Andie paints us a detailed picture of her childhood and how food was a fixation for her even at five years old. Every time stress or loneliness was present, she found herself compulsively reaching for food like cereal or caramel candies. She describes using dessert to spackle the cracks that exist in her emotional foundation, and the shame and guilt that went along with it.
She begins her first diet when she is 15, and after years of losing and gaining weight over and over, she finally kept it off. One might think this it- this is the happy ending. She lost the weight, and now she will be happy forever. At least, this is the story we tell ourselves, isn’t it? All it would take for us to be happy is to be a size whatever again, right?Andie finds after weight loss, her emotional foundation remains just as cracked as it has always been. Despite being down over 100 pounds, she still has insecurities and guilt like we all do. Food anxiety grows and grows and becomes absolutely out of control, and this is the part that I related to most.
Andie eventually learns to genuinely love and respect herself and her body, but it’s a long, uphill battle. She finds ways to exercise that are more fun and less rigorous, she stops depriving herself of her favorite foods, and begins to accept the person she is and the body she has.
The old cliche states we should never judge a book by its cover, and I usually agree with that sentiment. In this case however, having a cover pique my interest truly paid off. It Was Me All Along is one of my favorite books of all time because it’s vulnerable, thought-provoking, honest, and hopeful. It’s the perfect example of a person who wanted to lose weight for many years, finally did it, and still wasn’t happy like she thought she would be. I’m not advising you to go out and start getting books based on their covers, but I am whole-heartedly advising you to give this book a read as soon as possible.
If you’d rather listen to it, you can also get this audiobook (or any other available audiobooks) for FREE if you sign up for a free 30-day trial of Audible! If you already have Amazon Prime, you get TWO FREE audiobooks with this offer.
If you don’t yet have Amazon Prime, here is a free 30-day trial of Amazon Prime that will allow you to get free 2-day shipping and the ability to borrow Kindle books! What’s not to love?
Also check out Andie Mitchell’s other book, Eating in the Middle:
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