Book Review: It Was Me All Along

Jessica Jobes is an old soul; she loves words, books, antique shops, and the open road.

I've been following Andie Mitchell’s story longer than I can remember. Her blog, Can You Stay for Dinner?, is a beautiful masterpiece. She pairs authentic, heartfelt words about her life, with stunning photos of her personally-crafted recipes.
 
From the very first page, It Was Me All Along held me captive. Andie writes in such a beautifully descriptive way. And it's not as if she opened a thesaurus and haphazardly collected words. She molds words together perfectly just like she would choose the ingredients to build a decadent chocolate cake.

She opens her story describing her fifth birthday party. Her mother spoke the love language of food; to Andie, even at a young age, food equaled loved. Her mother was a great cook and phenomenal baker, making up for the time she was gone (working two and sometimes three jobs), with delicious desserts.

Like many of us with food disorders, to her, food was a healer, a friend, and something she could always count on for solace.

She describes choosing an extra-large, very exceptional cupcake, with an especially large dollop of frosting, then savoring the sweet richness melting in her mouth. She describes the rest of the birthday food weighing heavy across the birthday party table.

Andie was always heavier than everyone else she knew. She had resigned herself to her predicament. She thought to herself, I’m always going to be the fat girl.

One day, she went to a local YMCA with a friend. She describes stepping on the scale and seeing the number 268 staring back at her. It was the heaviest she had ever been. Her future flashed in front of her, and she imagined the number slowly creeping higher and higher, with her life ending sooner than normal.

Andie eventually, slowly, lost 135 pounds. She lost some over a summer break. When she returned to college, everyone had something to say about her weight loss. She mentions how it’s always taboo to talk about someone’s weight if they are overweight; but, when they lose it, suddenly, it’s okay to say things like, “You’ve lost weight! You look fantastic!”

After losing such a drastic amount of weight, she became extremely self-conscious about eating in front of other people. She felt extreme pressure not to gain any of her weight back. She felt as if, and in some cases was correct, that people judged everything she put in her mouth. She ultimately reached the other end of the weight disorder spectrum, and was eating too few calories for her body, maxing out her workouts, meticulously calculating every calorie.

She spent a semester in Italy, where she learned to truly enjoy food. She learned to eat delicious, real food and that by managing portions, and exercising, she could still lose weight and stay healthy.

While this is a beautifully written tale, it is also sometimes excruciatingly heartbreaking. If you’ve ever struggled with weight loss and fought daily with thoughts of self-hate and self-loathing, this will speak directly to you. The struggles and the thought processes that Andie goes through hit so painfully close to home. Her story reminds me of something that my dad says: “Wherever you go, there you are.” We tend to think to ourselves, “When I just lose this weight, I’ll be happy.” Or, “As soon as this or that happens, then I’ll be happy.” But what Andie’s story reminds us, is that, in the end, even if we transform into the most svelte man or woman on the planet, we still have the same insides. We are still stuck with our potentially harmful thought processes and our self-hate. Sometimes, the emotional aspect of our lives is what needs the most care and repair.

I loved this book. I would recommend it to everyone. It’s well written and enthralling. Andie is a kind, compassionate woman who wants to help people who are struggling: to learn to love themselves, and to learn to have a healthy relationship with food.