Eating in the Middle: A Mostly Wholesome Cookbook
In my memoir, It Was Me All Along, I chronicled my lifelong struggles with food, weight, losing 135 pounds, and the journey to find balance. Now, in my first cookbook, I’m giving you the dishes that helped me reach my goals and maintain that balance. “Eating in the Middle” is about finding the middle ground between being healthy and feeling happy, between eating wholesomely and indulging in some of what you crave. In 80 recipes, I show how I eat: mostly healthy meals that are packed with flavor, like Lemon Roasted Chicken with Moroccan Couscous and Butternut Squash Salad with Kale and Pomegranate, and then the “sometimes” foods, the rich stuff, like Peanut Butter Mousse Pie with Marshmallow Whipped Cream, because I don’t want to live a life without dessert.
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Order It Was Me All Along in paperback!
My memoir, It Was Me All Along, shares my journey to lose 135 pounds and ultimately find balance with food, weight, and body image. It was recently chosen as one of Amazon’s Top 100 Books of 2015, picked as People Magazine’s Book of the Week (Jan 9, 2015), one of Amazon’s Best New Books of January 2015, and a finalist in the 2015 GoodReads Choice Awards.
It is both heartbreaking and hopeful — a book I wish I had found in 2005, when I was nearly 300 pounds, alone, ashamed, and terrified, or in 2006, after I lost all the weight, with no idea how I’d learn to maintain this new, foreign body (or ever make peace with it).
I wrote this book for those of us who have fought with bodies we wish were different, for the emotional eaters among us, for anyone who wishes to end the yo-yo dieting cycle, for the ones who’ve battled eating disorders and compulsive exercising, for those who have reached their goal, anyone whose fear of gaining has made them turn down invitations to go out with family or friends because of the calories that could be there, for anyone who wishes they could just start…
I have been all of these people. Maybe you have, too.
But you can find a way to live your life where you’re not constantly battling food and your body. You can learn to practice balance every day.
This book is about courage and changing your life, but it’s also about recognizing that all of our flaws and failures, all of the hindrances we perceive ourselves to have—these things shape us. They make us strong, brave, and wise. They give us empathy and compassion. I hope you read this book and begin to believe that big, lasting change is possible—whatever that change may be—and that you know you have a friend, somewhere in New Jersey, rooting for you.
Full Book Description:
A heartbreakingly honest, endearing memoir of incredible weight loss by a young food blogger who battles body image issues and overcomes food addiction to find self-acceptance.
All her life, Andie Mitchell had eaten lustily and mindlessly. Food was her babysitter, her best friend, her confidant, and it provided a refuge from her fractured family. But when she stepped on the scale on her twentieth birthday and it registered a shocking 268 pounds, she knew she had to change the way she thought about food and herself; that her life was at stake.
It Was Me All Along takes Andie from working class Boston to the romantic streets of Rome, from morbidly obese to half her size, from seeking comfort in anything that came cream-filled and two-to-a-pack to finding balance in exquisite (but modest) bowls of handmade pasta. This story is about much more than a woman who loves food and abhors her body. It is about someone who made changes when her situation seemed too far gone and how she discovered balance in an off-kilter world. More than anything, though, it is the story of her finding beauty in acceptance and learning to love all parts of herself. Click here to read the Amazon description of the book.
Read the introduction of the book:
If you were not able to attend my twentieth birthday party, you missed a fabulous cake. And if, by chance, you were able to attend my twentieth birthday party, you, too, missed a fabulous cake. In fact, everyone did, save for me. I can remember carving the first slice, taking the first forkful. The rush of whipped sugar speeding through my bloodstream. It felt like teetering on the ledge on the roof of a skyscraper, exhilarating and terrifying.
The split-second decision between balance and oblivion. What I cannot remember, however, is the exact moment I made the decision to eat the whole thing. Scraping the sides of the mixing bowl, I began to notice just how satiny the fudge batter was. I made swirls and figure eights with my spatula. In transferring heaping spoonfuls of espresso-hued chocolate cream to the cake tins, I reveled in the lightness of texture, the airiness of what I was working with.
A scoop in the pan, a scoop in the mouth. I then watched through the oven door as the cakes materialized, rising to fill their nine-inch pans. Ten minutes into the baking, the air in my apartment was so saturated with the aroma of chocolate that I lost the ability to focus on anything but that cake. Though I had already eaten lunch and cake batter, a new hunger appeared, unexpected and urgent, the kind that forced me to stop whatever I was doing and tend to it. It was the kind I couldn’t ignore, the one that wrestled away my power, every hidden weapon of will, and thrust me into the kitchen, where it always seemed I’d run out of milk and self-control.
While the cake cooled, I bided time by making the frosting, following the same rigorous taste-testing protocol as I had with the cake. Once my mixing bowl was full of glossy stiff peaks, I iced both layers. I carved one perfect slice, dragging my index finger along the flat side of the knife to collect any wayward fudgy crumbs, and brought it to my mouth for a thorough licking. I ate the slice of cake with fervor, as if intently pursuing something. I devoured a second slice, and then a third, trailed hastily by another three. I carved one more, reasoning that would just about do it, but, oh—look at the crooked edge I’d produced with my shoddy knife skills. A sliver more would straighten it. I whittled away at the frosting, and, finally sure that enough was enough, I walked away from the cake and laid my fork and knife in the sink. I turned back to the cake stand and, in one painful glance, saw all that remained. A single slice.
Guilt has a way of resisting digestion. There’s nothing natural about its aggressive spread. It stretches out inside me, doubles its size by uncurling its chubby arms and legs. It kicks and groans every slip of the way down. It reminds me, shames me, at every twist, every turn. And when it plops down at last upon the base of my stomach, it stays for days, unwelcome.
When it finally begins to dissolve in a halfhearted effort to leave me, particles of self-hatred remain. And hatred, like acid, erodes the whole of its environment.
What begins as hating the cake for all its multiple layers of luscious temptation spirals quickly into hating myself and all my fat cells. I let myself down. I lament not having more control. I crave comfort and reassurance, but the shame pushes me to choose punishment instead; it’s all I deserve. And though crying seems a valid option, tears elude me. Instead, I stay stuck internally, bottled and sealed inside my own skin with the acidity of hatred and guilt and shame.
Today, eight years later, I’m standing again at my kitchen counter, tending to the same fudge cake. I’m gently lowering the top layer onto its frosting pillow. I’ve baked this cake enough times that I don’t even have to take a bite to know the rich velvet of its texture. It has always been decadent, always as intense as a square of high quality dark chocolate. A forkful makes me know that, were I able to suspend hot fudge in air just long enough to hold it and bite into it, just to taste it during the moments before it oozed, thick on my tongue, it’d be the same as this cake.
And then there’s the frosting: a whipped confection with a texture that lies somewhere between the airiness in a cloud of cotton candy and the fluffy marshmallow filling in a 3 Musketeers candy bar.
Swiping a finger through that frosting, I stop. I consider how wildly my feelings about eating this one cake have swung in the last seven years. Since that time, I have lost 135 pounds. The weight has left my body and, with it, the guilt, the shame, and the hatred, too. I think briefly of the days when the very sight of a confection induced a seductive fantasy of eating it all in secret. Maybe it’s knowing that I could get away with it, the acknowledgment that I could eat it all without anyone ever seeing me do it, that gives me pause today.
I am a lifetime practitioner of secretive eating, after all. As a kid who entered an empty house after school each day, I felt a desperation to eat. I knew no way other than eating to alleviate the loneliness, to fill in the spaces where comfort and security could have been. Food poured over the millions of cracks in the foundation of my family; it seeped into the fissures; it narrowed the chasms. But even then I knew that the amount of food I was consuming was something to be ashamed of. So I learned to hide it well. I stuffed twin packs of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls deep inside my stomach, tightly tucking them away. I plunged their cellophane wrappers even deeper inside the trash can, where they couldn’t be seen without digging.
Until the year of my twentieth birthday, I lugged around the heavy shame of my eating. I’d devour a steak-and-cheese sandwich on the way home to eat dinner with my family. I’d find myself two days into a new diet, alone in my car, pulling through the drive through window of the Burger King two towns over—the one where I was certain no one would recognize me. I’d griddle three stacks of pancakes in the mornings after Mom had left for work, stab my fork into the thick, cakey center of each one, and then slosh the bite through puddles of maple syrup and melted butter.
But today, eating ceaselessly in private doesn’t lure me the way it once did. It doesn’t seduce me in the same sexy way. In fact, there were years after having lost one-hundred-plus pounds when the sight of this fudge cake didn’t conjure up fantasy, but fear—a few birthdays when I spent the hours and days leading up to the cake searching my mind desperately for ways to escape eating it. I thought of excuses. I thought of ways to chew the cake in front of friends and family and spit it out in my napkin in the privacy of the next room. Three birthdays came and went without my so much as licking the frosting that touched my fingers while icing the layers.
The thinness I’d achieved came with its own brand of indignity. It was the fear of gaining back each pound, of proving myself a failure, that plagued me. It was the fatness of my shadow that followed me into the dark alley of an eating disorder. And just as I always had, I stuffed the shame so far down that no one could see it but me. For the first time, I appeared healthy on the outside. I wanted badly to conceal the fact that, despite a radical transformation, I remained as screwed up as I had ever been.
I lied about just having eaten to eschew offers of food at the dinner table with my family. I drove in circles in my neighborhood, unsure of how to fill the hours on an empty stomach. I bought snacks I had no intention of eating when I went to the movie theater with friends. I doggie-bagged the leftovers at restaurants, only to plunge them into the trash can the moment I arrived home. Even after rekindling my passion for baking, I restricted myself to the smallest of portions and gave the rest away.
Making this cake now, a few years later, I see how starkly black and white my beliefs had been. I see the tragedy in living an all-or-nothing existence, in teetering on top of that skyscraper and feeling forced to choose between standing paralyzed in fear or hurling myself over the edge in ecstasy. I recognize the pain of white-knuckling my way through life. I recognize the internal chaos of barreling through life in bouts of mania and depression. The alternative, the middle ground, is balance. It’s not wishing to stay or to fall; it’s remaining upright, respecting the boundary of the rooftop and admiring the exhilaration, the strength, of standing so high.
By now I’ve changed dramatically. I can, I want to, I choose to eat a full slice of this cake and love deeply all the many bites I take. I linger on the cocoa flavor, the suede texture, and, when one piece has reached its clean-plate end, I don’t look for another to replace it. I share this cake. I eat it out in the open, in a loud and proud manner. I take pride in having baked something so rich, so true and divine. I won’t eat until I can no longer feel anything but the stretching of my stomach, the growing of my guilt.
Every year since losing all the weight, I’ve baked this sour cream fudge cake. And every year, I’ve felt different about the finished product. How has one innocent cake transformed from abusive lover to healthy companion, while I’ve continued to bake it just the same? Has the taste changed, or, perhaps, have I?
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Praise for It Was Me All Along…
“Andie Mitchell is irresistible. And by that I mean she’s irresistible no matter whether she weighs 268 (at the start of this delightful memoir) or 133 (by its end.) She’s so funny, so bouncy, so full of wit and energy and kindness (even or especially to the parents who contributed, in various ways, to her obsession with food) that even readers who would never think they’d read a “weight loss memoir” would be charmed by this one. How’s this for an opening line: “If you were not able to attend my twentieth birthday party, you missed a fabulous cake. . . . And if, by chance, you were able to attend my twentieth birthday party, you, too, missed a fabulous cake.” See? Somebody else might have begun her mournful story of bingeing and dieting and other eating disorders with an admonition or a complaint: Mitchell starts it with a joke. (Some things, as a friend of mine once said, are too serious NOT to joke about.) She then goes on to tell us the whole sad-and-funny story: of a father who loved her but not, ultimately, as much as his alcohol, about a caterer-mother who taught, perhaps too well, the young Andie to bake, about the friends who stuck by her as she careened from mood to mood and weight to weight, of the boys who did, too (and a few who did not). There are a lot of anecdotes here, many of them poignant, but also, usually leavened with sly self-knowledge: “I wish I remembered his face as precisely as I remember eating the muffins,” Mitchell writes about the eating binge she embarked upon learning that her father had died. Now a health and food blogger at canyoustayfordinner.com, Mitchell has become an inspiring thin person – but to readers of this delightful memoir, she’s also always going to be the girl with the big, fat heart.” —Sara Nelson, An Amazon Best Book of the Month, January 2015
“Andie Mitchell draws you in from the first cupcake—you taste the creamy frosting, feel every hunger pang, and your heart aches right along with hers. She beautifully exposes the dark and painful struggles of weight loss, food addiction, and self-hate that so many in this country face. Her journey to mental and physical health—the long road to overcoming her obsessive behavior—is so relatable you can’t help but love and cheer for her. Read this book because it offers wonderful lessons for healthy living, being kind to yourself, and finding balance. Read it because it’s heartbreakingly honest and endearingly educational. Just READ IT!” —Alison Sweeney, host of NBC’s The Biggest Loser
“Loving yourself is the bravest thing, and I’m so glad Andie found her bravery and was willing to share it. Cheers to chocolate cake in moderation and happiness in abundance!” —Giada De Laurentiis, author of Giada’s Feel Good Food
“Andie’s story, in which she takes us along for her 135-pound weight loss journey and makes peace with food, is remarkable. She chooses to see the positives from her past, and she realizes that who she was when she was bigger molded her into the person she is today. Andie is an inspiration to anyone who struggles with the challenges of dieting and weight loss.” —Gina Homolka, author of The Skinnytaste Cookbook
“A charming memoir about weight loss and self-discovery.” —People magazine
“The book’s biggest surprise is how relatable it is: Beneath the extreme eating scenarios Mitchell describes some universal truths about how women connect and clash with food. …It Was Me All Along is the perfect book to read in January, because Mitchell’s total bluntness will inspire you to have a more honest year.” —Glamour.com
“Anyone embarking on New Year’s resolutions of eating healthier and losing weight will be humbled by reading Andie Mitchell’s memoir, a poetically written, honest account of her struggles with binging, obesity and the traumatic childhood that led her to seek solace in food.” —StyleBistro.com
“In a moving new memoir, It Was Me All Along, Andie Mitchell describes how her life became a prison of calorie-counting, cravings and self-consciousness until she found a comfortable weight.” —Daily Mail
“Mitchell’s journey towards acceptance, chronicled in her new memoir, It Was Me All Along, has struck a chord with women everywhere.” —Yahoo! News
“It Was Me All Along is the strikingly honest story of one woman’s long journey to self-acceptance. It’s a must-read memoir for anyone who has used food to numb the pain rather than nourish the body.” —BookPage
“A candid and inspiring memoir.” —Kirkus Reviews