PHOTOGRAPHED FOR REFINERY29 BY RUBY YEH
Editor’s Note: We are thrilled to introduce Kelsey Miller, writer at Refinery29 and creator of The Anti-Diet Project. In a world where chronic cleansing, caveman diets, and extreme workout fads seem to have become the norm, we are loving her realistic and sane approach to getting healthy. Follow The Anti-Diet Project on Refinery29.com and check out our interview with her below.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. What made you decide to start the Anti-Diet Project – was there one moment that really made you decide it was time for a change? What’s your ultimate goal?
I started The Anti-Diet Project last fall after bottoming out with both dieting and with the current state of my body. I was out of shape and tortured about food. I finally realized that the answer was not another diet. Dieting was part of what got me here in the first place. I needed to try something new.
I have a lot of goals in this project (maintaining fitness in my everyday life, letting go of emotional eating, releasing my lousy history with disordered eating), but first and foremost is to neutralize my relationship with food. I want to be able to eat in an instinctively healthy, satisfying way. I want to learn to listen to my body’s needs and obey them — not a list of diet rules.
2. You’re using Intuitive Eating to help change your serial dieting ways. What does Intuitive Eating really entail? I fear “listening to my body and eating what I want” would mean all pizza, all the time.
Intuitive Eating is a truly revolutionary movement that grew out of the culture’s diet backlash (think Geneen Roth, etc.). It’s about diet-deprogramming and learning how to eat based on your body’s internal cues. Basically, it’s teaching yourself how to eat the same way you learned as a baby. You learn how to eat what you want, what fuels you, and what is satisfying.
Oh, and about the pizza! A lot of people say that when they first hear about Intuitive Eating. But, in fact, if you really gave yourself permission to eat pizza whenever you wanted, and as much as you wanted, it wouldn’t be such a special, tempting thing. If you ate tons of pizza two days in a row, you’d probably be sick of it for a while. It might take a few times, but your body would get that message eventually, and the next time you ate pizza, you’d probably think “Ooh, last time I ate a lot of pizza I felt really bloated and unsatisfied at the end of the day. I’ll have some pizza now, but will remember to get some greens and protein in today too.” It happens a lot faster than you think.
3. What has been the hardest life-long dieter habit to break?
Forgetting about calories, points, carb and fat grams. All that mental calculation we’re so used to hanging onto is really hard to let go of. I remember doing Weight Watchers and my entire day would hinge on the amount of points I would eat, and how many activity points I would earn. Now, I’m very much on the path toward eating intuitively, but I still have moments where I think, “Slice of American cheese = 3 points! Aah!”
4. Seeing your tomato face in our Instagram is awesome gym motivation. What has been your proudest fitness moment?
Thank you! I realized there was no hiding that post-gym “glow” so I might as well embrace it. Plus, it always makes me feel good to see other people who aren’t pretty at the gym. My proudest fitness moment is probably the fact that I actually have managed to integrate exercise into my everyday life. I work out five days a week now, and it’s not a burden! I actually like it! I can’t believe I’m “one of those people” who like working out, but, for the most part, I really do. That’s very new for me.
5. Let’s talk pre-Anti-Diet Project days. What’s the craziest diet or fitness trend you’ve ever tried?
Jeez, well, my first diet when I was 11-years-old was pretty nuts. I lived on fat-free lemon yogurt, raw green beans and cucumbers for two weeks and lost 30 pounds. It was insane. That’s the dragon I chased for the next 18 years. I was all about extremes.
6. There are so many myths when it comes to weight loss, working out, and healthy living in general. What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned along the way so far?
That I actually can do this. I can feed my body correctly. I can trust myself. My body is not a Pizza Monster that will eat to the point of combustion if I don’t reign it in. I’m still in the phase of rediscovering food and enjoying things that were once forbidden. But, for the most part, once all that diet nonsense started to fade away, I actually began to crave healthy, fueling food. I crave cookies and coffee and a martini sometimes too. But, it’s not only possible to eat better without a diet — it’s easier.
7. We applaud you for sharing your story with the world – it’s so inspiring! Is it ever scary sharing this journey with all of your readers (and everyone watching GMA!)?
Oh, definitely. My body and food issues are so sensitive. I feel quite vulnerable sometimes, putting myself out there and truly sharing this journey in an honest, no-bullshit way. Also, this is not the norm, and many people think I’m doing something crazy or self-indulgent. But, the response has been almost 100% positive and people really resonate with my own struggles and successes. That gives me enormous confidence. I have so much support from readers and friends. And, above all, I know in my bones that I’m finally on the right path. It might not make me super-skinny super-fast, and I won’t be on the cover of People, standing in one leg of my giant jeans. But, if I can make peace with food and my body, that would be the greatest gift. That’s all anyone who struggles with weight really wants. They just think the only way to get it is a diet.
8. What’s the one piece of advice you’d offer to other quarterlettes out there looking to jumpstart a new, healthier routine?
If diet-failure is your issue, then check out Intuitive Eating Vol. 3. Another thing I do is food-journaling — but not the kind you’re thinking of. When I eat now, I take note of any feelings that arise during the meal; anything I feel about the food; how hungry I am before I eat it and how full I feel when I’m done. It quickly helped me realize my thought process around eating. For example, “I ate a sandwich off a platter because it was left over from a meeting, even though it’s not really what I wanted, and now I feel like I need to eat something else to satisfy me, even though I’m full of this gross meeting sandwich.” I learn a lot about my eating habits and hangups this way.
If you’re in a fitness rut, I also recommend trying to work with a trainer, even if it’s just briefly. I don’t plan to work with my trainer forever, but she’s been invaluable to getting this process going, by helping me figure out what I like and what I don’t like, what works for my body, and what I need the most work on. For instance, I love the StairMaster now. I LOVE IT. Six months ago if you told me to try it, I probably would have slapped you. It’s just as important to let go of your fitness judgements as it is to let go of your food judgements.
And also the community that’s cropped up around The Anti-Diet Project! It’s not just me anymore — so many tomato faces out there! Community is very helpful when it comes to food issues.