Stepping on the scale on her twentieth birthday and reading 268 was a wake-up call for Boston-born, New York transplant Andie Mitchell. She feared how far the scale would tip if she didn’t change her eating habits, and what it would mean for her life.
Mitchell set herself a goal of losing 128 pounds, which she not only did, but surpassed, while studying abroad in Italy, no less. But her new outward appearance only masked the new troubles she faced, which she gets candid about in her memoir, “It Was Me All Along.”
'I felt sad by the attention'
Being thin for the first time brought a lot of new attention, both from strangers and friends. “I was suddenly noticed by a lot more people and they seemed kinder in a way,” she tells us. “But I couldn’t help but feel a little bit sad by the attention, that my [thinness] determined my worth as a person.
Going out to eat was a lose-lose battle. “I remember getting a salad and someone said, ‘it must be boring eating salads all the time.’ So there was this feeling that people thought I was constantly dieting and I had to do it forever,” she says. “On the other side of it, if I got a piece of pizza, people made comments like, ‘you better be careful!’” Mealtime caused Mitchell so much anxiety that she often opted to eat alone, away from others’ constant monitoring.
'Italy changed my perspective about food'
Surprisingly, it was studying abroad in Italy that helped Mitchell learn what it meant to really think about what she was eating. “Growing up, I didn’t think much about what I ate. But in Italy, food is so revered that you get the feeling that mealtime is really special.” She focused on eating small portions of meaningful meals instead of mindlessly eating French fries.
'I mourned turning to food for comfort'
Still, her mindset didn’t change overnight. “I mourned turning to food for comfort and being able to eat whatever I wanted,” she says. Depressed, Mitchell got the help of a therapist, which she says was invaluable to helping her develop a healthy relationship with food. “It was a process of self discovery and understanding that I’m not going to be able to turn to food every time I feel discomfort.”
Now, Mitchell says she’s struck a happy balance, eating healthy most of the time, but going out to eat with her friends on the weekend and not thinking too much about it. “It took me years to get here, but I’m comfortable in my own skin. … [This journey] has taught me that thinness is never going to be the answer. Life is going to throw so much at you. But I feel stronger. I’m more accepting of myself, and more accepting of everyone else’s troubles, too.”