As I've mentioned before when reviewing other memoirs or personal accounts, I really feel uncomfortable assigning stars and critiquing the books. No mAs I've mentioned before when reviewing other memoirs or personal accounts, I really feel uncomfortable assigning stars and critiquing the books. No matter my feelings of a book, it takes a lot of vulnerability and bravery to expose oneself through mass publication. I don't want to come across as judgmental or appear to minimize the experiences of another person... But in this case, I feel like I need to use this reviewing process to unpack some of my feelings of this book; I'm still digesting (no pun intended).
I listened to the audio version of this book. I find myself often getting bored with biographies and memoirs, having started and not completed many books in the past (and I'm fairly certain I wouldn't have made it through this book if I had been reading it). But with audiobooks, I find I am more captivated or maybe more willing to invest myself in the story while washing dishes or driving. As I first started listening to It Was Me All Along, I thought perhaps it would be a solid 4 stars (though maybe I came into it with high expectations after hearing rave reviews by a friend). As I kept listening, I found myself liking it less and less (even now as I write this, I am torn between 1 and 2 stars).
At times, Mitchell's beautifully descriptive writing really adds to the book. At other times, it is overwritten and just too much. Her introduction, with the description of the richness of the cake and icing, is an example of her ability to appeal to all of the readers' senses. But other times Mitchell goes a little overboard with a flowery writing or overdoing it on the details (the part about meeting Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo ("Leo") DiCaprio was just way. too. much.). I am often skeptical when memoirs or biographies include an abundance of details; detailed dialogues from years past, quantifying things too much, etc. The credibility of the story (whether the details are supposed to be taken literally or not) dwindles for me... An example of this in It Was Me All Along: at the end of the book, Mitchell describes the times that her mother goes into her bedroom and "cries for two hours" after Mitchell pierces her nose, loses weight, etc. Though perhaps not meant to be taken literally - the exact amount of time her mother cried each time - I got hung up on this detail and it just frustrated me). In other sections, Mitchell goes into elaborate details about what she ate in comparison to others, often referring to childhood meals of hers and her friends. These sections bothered me, not only because of the level of detail I just mentioned (over emphasizing calories, contents of each meal, etc.), but because this constant comparison of eating habits was incredibly triggering for me. For a book that was supposed to emphasize her transition to acceptance of her body, I found the parts that dwelled on who ate what, how many calories each meal was and the frequent comparison to others to be unhelpful. I would find these sections more justified if Mitchell then focused more attention on how it was that she was finally able to come to terms with her eating disorder and obsessive compulsive tendencies. By the time she got to this, I found it fairly shallow and rushed.
I was also disappointed with the instances that warranted more critique of our society's way of approaching food. She had mentioned that her father's side of the family tended to be on the larger boned and heavier weight side of things, so I expected her to elaborate more on the fact that genetics play a crucial role in our bodies' various shapes and sizes. She mentioned that the culture of eating was vastly different for her in Italy than in the U.S., so I expected her to elaborate more on the way fast food (not just restaurants, but in the way we shop for food in stores too) plays a role in obesity rates in North America. She mentioned that when she returned to college she found it more difficult to eat healthily on campus, so I expected her to elaborate on how the university years impact young adults' health and habits. There were so many opportunities for Mitchell to reflect beyond the personal and dive into a larger critique of how other systemic factors play a role in health and obesity, and I was left disappointed with her lack of depth on the issues.
Lastly, I felt really uncomfortable with (what I saw as) fat shaming through the book. Despite supposedly being a book about acceptance and positive body image, Mitchell only seemed to dwell on the need to accept her new body, to come to terms with the fact that she was still the same person skinny as she was fat. But the way that Mitchell talked about this transition was alarming: she talked about feeling like she was finally "beginning her life" and finally being able to move with "grace." I don't feel like this left a positive message for those who are overweight anyone. Regardless of your size, your weight, your shape: your life is yours to live in abundance, with grace and in fullness.
Admittedly, as one who has struggled with low body image and compulsive eating behaviours, I found this book to be really quite triggering. Which was really disappointing for me because I was really looking for something that I would find more empowering and motivating. Despite my critiques of the book, I found myself identifying with Mitchell many times, and I empathized with her struggles and desire for healthy change.
Other reviewers who have also given this book lower ratings have mentioned that her blog is quite different than her book, so I would like to follow that and give it a chance. I bet Mitchell is a wonderful person, and I wish her all the best....more