Today is my first BRING YOUR OWN COFFEE (#BYOC) and I’m featuring a talented, graceful writer named Kelsey Miller who epitomizes gumption and self-love. She is a Senior Features Writer for Refinery29.com, a fashion and lifestyle website that makes my very short list of dream places to work. Kelsey writes a weekly column called The Anti-Diet Project that chronicles her journey of self-acceptance, intuitive eating, and rational fitness. So yea, we’re going to jump right into the deep end of the Fashion-Related Issues pool and talk about body shaming. A few months ago, while perusing the website, I stumbled across this article and, in particular, this quote:
” Just because it doesn’t feel like success doesn’t make it a failure.”
My world was rocked. As someone who has struggled with disordered eating, some severe body-shaming, and a relentless pursuit of perfection, (which, for the record, is a TOTAL racket) I felt a wave of relief wash over me. I had to talk to this lady. So I sent an email. And I got a reply. A few weeks later I was sitting in the ping-pong table-laden staff lunch area with Kelsey at Refinery29 HQ, geeking out a little, (alot) and discussing this revolutionary little idea called The Anti-Diet Project.
Hihaleyannie: This series, and more specifically your piece about shame-based language, really resonated with me. What has the response been at-large to The Anti Diet Project?
KM: When I put a post up, it always resonates with somebody. Even if it’s just a few people, then that’s really rewarding. The whole point of (this) is to put myself out there in an exposed, raw way. I try to put this through the lens of my own experience.
HHA: Talking about struggles with food or your body is incredibly vulnerable; it’s one of the things I admire most about The Anti-Diet Project. When you began this journey, did you start it just for yourself?
KM: Yes, absolutely. It was two-part decision though. A – I really wanted to do this for myself, I had really hit a bottom. I also knew I couldn’t be the only one. B – I also needed structure. That’s something that people love about diets; there’s structure and somebody to report to. Maybe it’s not the healthiest impulse, but I still felt like I needed that. I didn’t feel capable of standing on my own two feet alone. I really wanted to create a feeling of community and kinship. I’m just so thankful that people responded!
HHA: Right, because it totally could have gone the other way..
KM: I totally could have gotten, “You’re an idiot.” I get plenty of that, believe me.
HHA: Why would anyone say that to such a healthy idea?
KM: The culture is still very much in the other direction. You’re supposed to weigh a certain weight and you’re supposed to get there through a certain, specific method. They imply that if you’re not eating on a diet, you’re going to be eating junk. I was never a junk-food person.
HHA: Sometimes it’s hard to balance a hectic work schedule and a healthy lifestyle. You end up feeling like you can’t win.
KM: You can’t. I still really struggle with eating mindfully. It’s really a constant battle. Doing anything mindfully, especially while doing five other things at one time, feels almost impossible. When I’m more stressed, I definitely gravitate toward comfort food. It’s a little antithetical because I don’t restrict myself from that, but I do try and recognize what’s going on when I crave something really powerfully. Sometimes it’s PMS, but other times I could be going through a stressful period. That’s when I recognize, “Okay, something’s going on here.” It doesn’t make me bad for emotionally eating, but it’s a signal that something’s going on that needs to be addressed….The point of it is is NOT to feel like I MESSED UP. Beating yourself up is what perpetuates the cycle.
HHA: How big of a part does The Anti-Diet Project play in your life?
KM: It is my lifestyle. In the last two years, it’s been one of the biggest focuses of my life. What’s most interesting is that while I was going through this lifestyle change, I was also writing about it and then while I started writing about it, I started writing my book. It’s not always easy to balance the doing with the reflecting though. I don’t think anything is finished here. I had to change my mind about that; when you’re on a diet, you get to finish. This really is the journey.
HHA: Have you seen a change in your world upon taking on this mentality? Has this affected your friends and family?
KM: Oh yea, but everyone does their own thing, which is why I try to not be too preachy. While I think everyone should just learn to eat what’s right for their body, many people just want to try something else. I was judgmental about that for a long time because I was burned by dieting and it led me down a really dangerous path.
HHA: We are surrounded by skinny-culture in the fashion industry. Does working in an editorial (fashion) environment create a struggle for you?
KM: People here know my deal. They get it. I’m kind of the go-to person when it comes to body-positive fashion. Sometimes people come by my desk and tell me, “I wanted a burger, and I got one and I wanted to let you know.” And I think that’s awesome. R29 covers fashion in a really innovative way; I’ve really admired the way we’ve covered fashion in that we don’t just defend everything that fashion does. We talk about the ups and downs of the industry.
HHA: This last year, curves were a big deal in pop culture. It almost seems that the mentality swung the other way, like that everyone should have curves and a booty. What’s your take on this?
KM: Just another thing that we’re supposed to have, but we don’t. It just makes it harder for women! It’s a little counter corrective, but we need more average sized bodies. Skinny-shaming still isn’t okay. I don’t subscribe to the idea that there’s a “Real Woman”, like that “real woman” have this or that. I struggle with that too. Early on, I wrote about super-skinny models. But I shouldn’t have been judging them saying that so and so has an eating disorder. You can’t see health in a picture and wagging a finger like that, doesn’t help anyone.
HHA: Every time I meet someone who truly LOVES themselves, I’m totally blown away. It’s so hard to openly, genuinely love yourself. KM: And this is where the trollers and the haters come in. People don’t like to see somebody who is confident in their body and open about it. People want to see our shame and our self-deprecation. When you put yourself out there in a loving way, it’s always going to get under someone’s skin. That’s because of their own insecurities.
HHA: How do you deal with that?
KM: I’m an open door. I read everything. I went through a phase where I also responded to everything and that was my fighting instinct. But then I had to really think about the person that I want to be; I don’t want to be the kind of person who engages with that. I don’t need those messages in my mind and I don’t need to validate that. When it comes to the jerks, I try and recognize that a lot of times there’s big pain behind the mean words. It’s a goal, I don’t always achieve it. But really, that talk also gets boring. That’s compassion, you guys. And wish you could have seen the look in her eyes as she told this to me. True grace and true love of people in this girl. She takes “being mindful” to a whole new level. Thanks again, Kelsey. Keep following Kelsey & The Anti-Diet Project; be sure to pick up her book Big Girl when it drops in January. Do books drop? Not sure.
I’m not sure that I’ll know what to do with this blog after this post goes live
today because for as long as I’ve been building this site, I’ve been thinking and praying about writing this piece. Typically food/weight/body issues can be filed under the VANITY category, but hear me when I say that rarely are these issues stemming solely from a need to be the prettiest. Often times, self-hate and body issues deal with not feeling like ENOUGH; emotions are tightly woven into a tricky web of confidence and performance issues. If you’re truly struggling with a problem, reach out to a friend or click here for more direction and guidance.
LOVE YOU GUYS, REMEMBER TO LOVE YOURSELF – C H E E R S
All photos courtesy of Kelsey Miller, taken by Harry Tanielyan.