Kelsey Miller is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York, and the mastermind behind Refinery29’s “The Anti-Diet Project” – one of the site’s most popular initiatives. Kelsey is also the author of “Big Girl: How I Gave Up Dieting & Got A Life”, a memoir about her relationship with food and how she freed herself from the dieting cycle. We’re more than honored to share Kelsey’s wisdom and work with you all!
Tell us about yourself!
I’m a writer, theater geek, light sleeper, semi-capable French-speaker, intuitive eater, public speaker, body positivity advocate, and total history nerd. That’s me in a nutshell (a pretty big nutshell).
What has your relationship with your body been like throughout your life?
As soon as I was aware of having a body, I was aware of it as a problem. Growing up and well into adulthood, I really believed on some level that my body was the cause of every problem in my life. Or else, it was the hurdle I had to overcome (by getting thin) before I could even start my life.
It wasn’t until pretty recently that the idea of self-acceptance even seemed like an option. It turned out, it was the real solution to so many things.
What was the inspiration behind writing your book ‘Big Girl’?
My history with food, fitness and body image is by no means unique. I think everyone engages with this struggle to a degree, yet we all feel so isolated and alone, like we’re the worst of the bunch – the only unfixable one.
I wanted to share my own story of going through that struggle and what happened when I finally escaped it. It was an utter revelation to me and – as ever – things didn’t go the way I expected they would. So I wanted to write this story for me as much as I did for everyone else. All of us need to be reminded that we’re not alone.
What motivated you to stop dieting and discover intuitive eating?
I really just hit bottom with the whole cycle of dieting and self-loathing. Sometimes it just takes beating your head against the same wall for long enough before the message finally sinks in: this isn’t working. This is only making things worse. Intuitive eating had been there all along, and I’d even heard of it before. But it never occurred to me to consider it when I had my diet blinders on. When I hit bottom, I knew I’d need help finding my way out of the woods. Intuitive eating was what guided me out.
What was one of the hardest shifts to make when you were getting away from the dieting mindset?
Oh man, can I just say that it is all so hard. It’s hard not to think of food as Good or Evil. It’s hard to pay attention to your hunger and fullness, rather than count calories. It’s all hard as hell. But it’s the good kind of hard.
I think the hardest part was (and is) body acceptance. If you don’t decide to respect and accept your body every single day, then the food and fitness parts just won’t work. I have to make that decision a lot and it’s hard. But that’s the best kind of hard.
How can women stop framing food in terms of “good” or “bad”, and internalizing those messages?
Unfortunately, it’s not a one-step process. I wish I could have just looked at a potato and decided to think of it as a potato, in entirely neutral terms. But, no dice. You really have to first pay attention to your judgments about the potato, your fears, your internal dialogue, etc. Then you have to engage with those thoughts and engage with the potato, eating with mindfulness. Mindfulness really is the key. It takes practice but that’s the route to food neutrality. If it sounds hard, well, see my previous answer.
Tell us about your initiative “The Anti-Diet Project” with Refinery29!
When I created The Anti-Diet Project, things like intuitive eating and body positivity were still incredibly niche. Most women’s publications still pushed flat-belly tricks and ways to cut calories from your holiday cocktail (and truthfully, most of them still do).
I wanted to create the column I wanted to read. I wanted to create a space where I could push back against that, sharing all the fantastic lessons I’d learned when I escaped the diet cycle. It was and remains a place where women (and men) will never be told to change their bodies, to dress for their body type, to count net carbs, or to burn more calories on the treadmill by jogging with ankle weights. It’s about respecting, feeding, fueling, and moving your body at every size and shape.
What annoys you most about diet culture?
Its pervasiveness is bad but I think the worst part is its deceptiveness. Right now, we’re seeing all the major diet companies re-brand in order to match our cultural values and trends. They don’t say “diet” or even “weight” anymore.
Seriously, go watch a Weight Watchers ad. Go look at the website. No use of those words. It’s all about “empowerment” and “self-worth” – but, really, it’s not. Really it’s still a weight loss plan. They’re just co-opting feminist and body positive buzzwords and applying them to their program. They’re saying, “It’s all about self-esteem and living Beyond The Scale!” but they’re still saying you get there by losing weight. It’s sincerely despicable.
What’s one piece of advice you’d like to give to women and young girls regarding body image or self-love?
You’re doing just fine. I know everyone around you seems like they’re doing better, but I promise, you are all doing great.
You might not believe that, but you can decide to believe it. And the sooner you do, the better things will get. But don’t sweat it, okay? Just know you’re allowed to be okay with yourself, and you’re allowed to have days when you don’t. Either way, you’re not alone. You are incredibly not alone.