Review: “It Was Me All Along” by Andie Mitchell

What I love about the popularity of young women’s memoirs in recent years is that there’s no end-all be-all. These aren’t reflections on 40-year careers or childhoods of a former era. Andie Mitchell’s story is about now, and needs to be read with equal punctuality.

It Was Me All Along spans two decades, beginning with a decadent sour cream fudge cake on Mitchell’s 21st birthday and flashing back to selecting the coconut cupcake with a perfect frosting cloud the day she turned five. Her weight loss story is a mix of the predicted self-loathing, coming-of-age, transformation, and self-acceptance that diet info-mericials leave out. After twenty years of struggle, Mitchell is over 100 pounds lighter. But as she reveals, the work doesn’t end with scale-satisfaction. Obese or not, body size doesn’t determine self-worth.

 

Mitchell’s story reaches far wider than unhealthy foods or tendencies to binge-eat. Disastrous relationships with food can be more complicated than a bystander would suspect, and far more abusive than any passer-by could imagine.

In just over 200 pages, Mitchell hides nothing of a girlhood sprinkled with extra helpings. Family conflict-resolution, high school friendships, prom dates, fast food routines, college parties, and post-graduate job-search stress form the timeline of this Gen X-Gen Y coming-of-age. We don’t just follow her into the kitchen or sit beside her on the couch with a slice of pizza; no. Mitchell walks us into plus-size store dressing rooms, invites us to Valentine’s Day movie nights, takes us past frat houses, across the pond to Europe, through McDonalds drive-through lines, and onto Hollywood film sets. Her story is never just about food; a thousand other life components overlap with eating, in real time. In healthy memoir fashion, It Was Me All Along is equal measures contemplative, revealing, and self-deprecating. I devoured the book.

Also a child of a working mother in the 90’s, I’m well acquainted with frozen dinners and a pantry stocked with the Poptarts, cereals that turn milk pink, pre-packaged doughnuts, and cheese-covered everything that a young Andie Mitchell grew to know. When we’re young, we eat what’s available to us. And unless we re-learn how to cook and prepare food, we choose to buy the limited profile of groceries that feel familiar.

Mitchell remade her recipe repertoire with one constant key ingredient: moderation. Nearly 10 years before the book, she began writing recipes and sharing personal weight loss posts on her site, Can You Stay for Dinner. More than a blog, Mitchell has formed a community. Calories may be cut, but nutrients and flavor are never compromised.

In It Was Me All Along, Mitchell shares so many mind-bending meditations on why one eats how she eats. I find one post-weight loss realization particularly satisfying:

The only way to get through food addiction is by making peace with the food and uncovering the reasons we use food for anything other than hunger…. Chocolate cake wasn’t ‘bad,’ carrots weren’t ‘good,’ and Bavarian cream doughnuts alone didn’t make me morbidly obese. I was the one who abused the food and gave it character. I was the one who combined them all in massive quantities, eating well beyond fullness. I learned to view food as a neutral entity, not positive or negative.

First step, read the book. Then follow as Mitchell’s story continues, and join her for a dish.

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