With so many eating trends and fad diets out there, it can be tough to remember how to just eat intuitively. Our #WCW this week is all about trusting your own body to lead a healthy lifestyle and steer clear of the crazy diets that consume our TV screens, Instagram feeds, and daily conversations. Meet Kelsey Miller. She’s the Senior Features Writer at Refinery29, creator of the Anti-Diet Project, and author of her own book, Big Girl. She’s hilarious, inspiring, and has an awesome story to tell. We’re so excited that we got the chance to sit down with Kelsey, and we think it’s important to for all #HBFITgirls to hear what she has to say!
Tell us a bit about yourself. What is The Anti-Diet Project?
I’m a writer of all sorts of things — humor essays, reported features, weird historical pieces. The Anti-Diet Project is a series I started in 2013 when I hit bottom. I’d been a lifelong dieter, like so many women. I’d also dealt with disordered eating and exercising, and, needless to say, crippling self-loathing. When I was 29, I just bottomed out, hard. I ran out of the ability to do it anymore, and I knew (somehow) that there had to be a way to eat like a normal person. I was determined to find it, and intuitive eating became the key. I re-learned how to eat, how to exercise like a not-crazy person, and how to embrace unconditional body positivity. From the start, I decided to chronicle my experience in a series, which is how The Anti-Diet Project was born. I knew, of course, that I wasn’t the only one out there dealing with these issues. I wanted to bring people along with me, hoping I could be of some support to them — and relying on their support for myself as well.
In your experience, what was the tipping point that made you give up dieting once and for all?
You know, we all find ourselves trapped in cycles, and the longer you loop around in them, the harder it is to see that this is crazy. For me, dieting was the cycle in which I lived my entire conscious life, and I didn’t realize how bonkers the whole thing was until I just ran out of that energy.
I’d also recently fallen in love for the first time, and it was really difficult to reconcile being loved by someone when I actively despised myself so much. It wasn’t sustainable. My boyfriend adored me, and he adored my body. He adored the thing I couldn’t stand. He wanted to touch and look at all the things I so desperately wanted to hide. As I said in the book, it turns out it is possible to love another before you love yourself. It’s just really uncomfortable for both of you. At a certain point, it became clear that there was a choice here: I could choose to keep my shame or I could accept love — and that meant accepting myself. It was no contest. I had to get my shit together.
Your book Big Girl is both hilarious and inspiring. What made you decide to write it? Did you have any doubts about how it would be received?
Well, thank you! When I got the chance to write a book, I knew there was another side of the story that hadn’t yet been told in the column: how I got into this mess in the first place — and what happened when I finally got out of it. Because, of course, my food and body stuff was never just about food and my body. It was tangled up with my whole personal history, family, growing up, etc. I wanted to tell that story, but yes, absolutely, I was scared out of my mind as well! I can’t imagine anyone who writes a memoir isn’t a little panicked. But it wasn’t as much about the audience as the other people in my life. It’s impossible to tell your story without dragging your close family and friends along for the ride. And that’s not totally fair. I just had to do my best to find the line between being telling my story honestly (as we all have a right to), and being mindful of how it could impact others.
What advice would you give to girls who obsess over counting calories or the number on the scale? What’s one thing you wish more girls knew about eating and diets?
Oh geez, this one is hard because when I was a young girl, I never would have listened had someone told me to stop obsessing over calories. If someone had told me, “You’re great. Your body is great. Carbs are just carbs. Just eat lunch and get on with your life,” I wouldn’t have heard them. Still, I think it’s important that we say those kind of things around young people — just to have health, neutral language about food floating around their atmosphere. You never know what might sink in. If I could, I would like to look those girls in the eye once a day, every day, and just tell them, “It’s just lunch. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter. You matter.”
What advice would you give to girls who get their health and fitness inspiration from social media?
YIKES! I probably wouldn’t have as calm and rational advice on that front. I’d just be like, “OMG, give me your phone right now.” There is so much garbage out there, masquerading as health. It’s a steady stream of false images and false advice and shame, shame, shame. I’m vulnerable to it and I’ve spent years of my life writing about what garbage it is! I cannot imagine how vast the damage is when it comes to younger folks who’ve grown up with a phone in front of them at all times.
But that’s the world we live in, for better and worse, so I’m going to say, “Don’t look at it.” Instead, I want to change the landscape and fill up social media with more diverse and rational images of what health and fitness looks like. People should be able to see bodies like mine — or their own — exercising or doing sports. They should be able to see neutralized messaging about food. I’ve carefully curated my own feeds so that I see the kind of representation I strive for. I see all sorts of bodies when I open Instagram. And when I go to Facebook or Twitter, I see messages from intuitive eating communities or ED recovery accounts. I follow fitness pros who don’t look like magazine-cover fitness pros. My social feeds are full of healthy, grounding reminders for myself, but that took time and effort (and the garbage still gets through, frequently). It shouldn’t be so hard. I want to amplify those images and messages in social media so that, eventually, the garbage posts are outnumbered but the healthy, grounding ones.
What does a normal day in the life look like for you?
My day starts with a bad-ass breakfast. I know some folks really need coffee first — no judgment. But I need protein, fat, and carbs, and I need it to be yummy. Typically, I make soft-boiled eggs with toast, or oatmeal with a bunch of seeds and stuff in it. Then, I take a cup of coffee into my little home office and work. I like to get started early and then break in the late afternoon so I can walk to the gym. They just opened an Equinox a mile from my apartment, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s been life-changing. It lets me get a little outdoor time, a little fresh air, and some human contact. Then I hop on a cardio machine and watch Grey’s Anatomy reruns while I work out. (I’m not ashamed! Whatever! Shut up!). I do some sort of resistance training too, but I don’t usually go crazy. Not going crazy at the gym is the reason I’ve been able to go consistently for the first time in my life. Before, I didn’t think a workout counted unless you hated every second of it. Now, I can honestly say I’m one of those people who enjoys exercise. It’s bananas.
How do you take care of yourself, mind and body?
I try to do all sorts of things to keep myself healthy, body and mind, but I’m not perfect. Life is busy and complicated. The main thing for me is feeding myself well, letting my body move the way it wants to, and striving for mindfulness whenever possible. Mindfulness is a pain in the ass, but it makes everything better.
What’s your overall healthy living philosophy?
Do what feels good, eat what truly satisfies you, and just try not to go too crazy about it. And, if you can’t love your body today, then decide to accept it. Don’t let it be the reason you put something off or hold back. Life is simply too short and too precious to wait.
What are three things you’d never leave the house without?
I want to say something cool and interesting here, but here’s the boring truth: phone, lip balm, and at least 35 pens floating around the bottom of my purse.
Who inspires you?
So many people. One person I’m constantly floored by is my pal Jessamyn Stanley. She’s known as a famous yogi, but I think she may secretly be an oracle. I first met her while we were speaking on a panel together and by the end, the rest of the panelists and I had essentially stopped talking and were just listening to Jessamyn with our chins in our hands. She’s got an incredible, no-BS take on the world. I consider myself a good writer and speaker, but Jessamyn has the ability to shift peoples’ perspectives. Everyone, just go find her, follow her, read her, listen to her. She gets it, and she makes you get it too.
Our theme for December here at HBFIT is Reflection. As 2016 comes to a close, what’s one thing you’re reflecting on from the past year? What’s one goal of yours for 2017?
There’s been a lot of change for me in 2016, and I suspect it’s only a glimmer of the change to come in 2017. And, to be honest, change is not my strong suit. Even when it’s good, exciting change, I struggle with it. So, this year, my goal is to get on better terms with change. We may not be besties, but we’ve got to learn to get along. I think getting chill with change opens doors, letting life get bigger and better. And, that’s the whole point, right?