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Chrissy Metz to Produce Kara Richardson Whitely's "Gorge"

For many years, Eating Recovery Center has had the pleasure of partnering with author, adventurer and inspirational speaker Kara Richardson Whitely. As ERC’s Binge Eating Disorder Recovery Advocate, Kara does more than contribute blogs and host Facebook Lives. She connects with those in eating disorder recovery on a level that only one can do after going through it themselves.

Kara is the author of "The Weight of Being: How I Satisfied My Hunger for Happiness" (2018) and "Gorge: My Journey Up Kilimanjaro at 300 Pounds" (2015), which has recently gained even more media attention when it was announced that "Gorge" would soon be made into a film, directed by and possibly starring "This Is Us" actor Chrissy Metz.

Chrissy Metz and Kara Richardson Whitely

We connected with Kara to learn more about Gorge, what she learned from climbing the highest free-standing mountain in the world, and what it’s like working with one of today’s most talented actors.

“Gorge” is about your journey up Kilimanjaro, which you’ve attempted multiple times. Why was the third trek the focus of the book?

Kara Richardson Whitely: This third was the most important because I learned to love where I was and go from there.

Did you always know you wanted to write about the experience?

KRW: Writing is how I connect the dots of my past and my present. It becomes a sort of map for my future. As I was taking on Kilimanjaro, I found myself processing so many things of my past that I was really compelled to write about it...not just to share it but to make sense of it.

What is one major thing you learned about yourself from Kilimanjaro?

KRW: One of the most important things I’ve learned is to love were I am and go from there. Before I was so focused on the before and after, as if I wasn’t going to be a success if I didn’t look a certain way or weigh a certain amount.

I realized that I needed to come back to the idea that I loved hiking and the joy it brought me. To hike, I needed to put one foot in front of the other starting with flatter trails. By doing that, no matter where I was on the scale, molehills led to mountains and ultimately the highest freestanding mountain in the world.

Do you ever think back on your Kilimanjaro experience when you’re having a rough day?

KRW: I am often reminded, not just of Kilimanjaro, but of being in nature is the opposite of my experience with bingeing. When I hike, I allow myself to be both strong and vulnerable. I feel everything from the fear of what will come on the trail, the frustration when things aren’t going my way, to the moment of success of completing it.

This practice of hiking has helped me look at the stress of life knowing that I can get through it. I may need some techniques or to loop in mental health professionals, but I can and will trudge forward.

It was recently announced that Chrissy Metz will not only be producing the film but might also be starring in it. Why did you envision Chrissy being a part of this incredible project?

KRW: I’m so grateful to Chrissy Metz for being such a champion for this project. I gave her the book, in gratitude for her incredible work as Kate on "This Is Us." Never have I seen such an wonderful portrayal of someone in a larger body – who wasn’t the punch line of a joke. Her role has never leaned on stereotypes. Instead it has mirrored so many of my life experiences. So much so that I knew that she would bring the same authenticity to my story.

What was it like to connect with Chrissy about your story? How did you feel when Chrissy reached out to you after reading the book?

KRW: I gave Chrissy Metz my book at her "This Is Me" book signing in March 2018…and then I didn’t hear from her for months. Then in August that year, right after I landed in Houston, I turned on my phone and I received the most beautiful email about "Gorge" from her.  Let’s just say, I cried like a baby. 

I was sitting across from a flight attendant and she had to ask if I was okay. I had to explain to her they were happy tears. I had to take a moment to compose myself on a bench in the airport. My fingers were shaking so much as I tried to call Chris [my husband] to tell him the big news.

What have you enjoyed most about working with Chrissy so far? What has surprised you?

KRW: I love her mix of being a professional in this field – not just her perspective as an actress but experience as an agent. She is just so wise and wonderful. Meanwhile, I love how she brings laughter to every interaction.

What can we expect from this project?

KRW: While there is a lot to do from finishing the screenplay adaptation and casting beyond Chrissy, I truly believe it is in good hands. The story will be told with authenticity and give people a feeling of hope and knowing that life is in the now. There is no need to wait until you’re the perfect size to start pursuing your dreams.

We are so proud of your story and resilience. What advice do you have for those who are trying to find the strength to step outside their comfort zone?

KRW: These days I’ve been thinking a lot about the consequence of inaction. This summer I took on a section of The Long Trail (a Vermont trail that runs along the ridgeline from the Massachusetts border to Canada). In these times of Covid-19, there was a lot of uncertainty and odds stacked against me. But I knew if there was an opening and if I followed safety and science guidelines (wearing a mask and social distancing) that I needed to at least set foot on that trail.

Since hiking was one of the most socially distant and safe things I could do, I realized that if I had remained stuck at home, I would have felt lost and tugged down by more anxiety and depression of these trying times. Taking those steps forward brought me closer peace than I’ve felt in a long time.  

Learn more about Kara Richardson Whitely

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