Growing up, food was Mitchell’s best friend and most consistent source of comfort. By twenty years old, she was up to 268 lbs, and went on a weight loss journey to lose 135 lbs. She was thin and physically healthy, but the journey had only just begun. She had yet to address the emotional impacts of eating and dieting, and her relationship with food and food-restriction. This memoir discusses Mitchell’s early relationship with food and weight gain, her initial journey to lose, and the ways in which she struggled to learn how to treat food and herself with balance and respect afterwards.
Amanda of Fig and Thistle mentioned this book to me back when I listened to Fat Girl Walking. I didn’t know much about It Was Me All Along going in, and got it into my head that this was more about body-positivity vs losing weight. I expected something more along the lines of Gibbon’s book, and that isn’t at all what this book is like. Don’t misunderstand – I’m not saying this book is worse, or better. Just that it’s different. Whereas Fat Girl Walking was a humorous look at the ways that fat stigma is rampant in our society, It Was Me All Along is a discussion of abuse, trauma, emotional eating, obsessive behavior, and psychological scars. It’s the sort of book that deserves a trigger warning in the beginning.
And I admit, at first, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to listen to the whole thing. Mitchell reads the audiobook herself, and listening to the sections about her father’s alcoholism and the verbal/emotional abuse inflicted on her family was stomach-clenching. Not graphic, but for someone who suffers from longterm trauma issues – even though they’re from an entirely different source – it was very difficult to listen to. I had to remember to breathe. I recognized similar patterns of behavior in my own past, even if my particular manifestations weren’t the same. The numbing of repetitive action, of using something outside me to deflect fear, pain, discomfort into a place that was solid and understandable, was familiar.
The earliest parts of the book were the most difficult for me, and once I passed them, I felt a little better. Much of the weight loss journey involved things I recognized from my own 105-lb loss. Similar struggles, similar fears, similar decisions and undertakings. The way a healthy behavior can deteriorate so fast into something obsessive and anxious. Interestingly, I don’t think that Mitchell and I are very much alike in terms of personality, but that only underscored just how much of the weight loss process remains consistent from person to person, regardless of what led us to the process in the first place.
My favorite part of the book was the short section toward the end when Mitchell discusses the surgery she underwent to remove the loose skin left on her belly and thighs. I had a similar surgery done nearly two years ago, though not as extensive, and what she wrote about her body afterwards mirrors my experience so exactly that I had to get a physical copy of this book from the library just so I could write down the quote:
Somehow, though, despite the visible scars, I felt more comfortable, more accepting of my body. There, in the mirror, was all that I’d worked for. I did it, I thought. Blemishes and all, it was earned, and it was mine. Removing the skin brought me closure. And I respected what remained.
The book was wonderful, definitely making it into my top reads of the year, and I can’t thank Amanda enough for recommending it. I really hope to get my hands on my own copy soon.
Performance: Normally, I’m not a fan of audiobooks read by the author, but this one was perfect. Loved it. Highly recommend the audio in addition to the book itself.