Hi there! This week, I really want to share a personal part of my life with you all and be incredibly honest/raw about it.
In the last couple of months, I have subscribed to a lot of Vegan YouTube Celebrities who have recovered from eating disorders. I’ve learnt a lot about anorexia, bulimia, body dysmorphia and obesity. I’ve watched beautiful, glowing women who were incredibly unhappy, unhealthy and even previously hospitalised, turn their whole lives around by adopting a whole foods, plant based diet. You may be wondering why I’ve been so fascinated by this topic. In answer to your question, no, I have never been officially diagnosed with an eating disorder but like most girls I’ve spoken to, I’ve restricted my calories in the past, had fear-foods and was obsessed with a number on the scales.
For the majority of my life, I’ve been tiny and petite but during my second year of University, I suffered terrible heartache from a break up and began to emotionally eat. I didn’t care how I looked anymore and I certainly didn’t make my health a priority. After months and months of eating this way, I decided to step on the scales for the first time (before then, I had never looked at the scales because I had always been the same size) and saw to my shock that I had hit 70 kilos. Now this may not seem like a lot of weight but I am also super short so 70kg rounded me out immensely! If I was tall, this probably wouldn’t have been as big of an issue but my height made me look a lot larger. I remember seeing that number and being incredibly sad. Not because of my physical appearance but rather that I didn’t love myself enough to notice the extreme changes along the way. I had been blind to the amount of crap I was putting into my body. I decided in that moment that I didn’t want to go any higher so I began to change my lifestyle…but not in a good way!
I did what so many girls do in this position. I restricted my calories and exercised excessively. This left me tired, sore, sick and unhappy. I was hungry all the time and while my weight dropped from 70 to 58 kilos, I wasn’t proud of myself because none of it was healthy nor did it feel right. What I did to my body (and what so many people unknowingly do to themselves) is called metabolic damage and can take years to repair depending on how long you live this way.
When it all became too much (along with other personal reasons), I experienced a severe nervous breakdown which saw me move back home, not leave my room for months and suffer strong panic attacks daily. I felt so sick, I couldn’t eat at all and my weight dropped all the way down to nearly 39kg. I was so scared I was going to be hospitalised because every time I thought about eating, I would feel nauseous.
Through a lot of meditation, soul-searching and time, I began to recover and reach a healthy weight. As awful as that time was, I’m actually really thankful now that I received the second chance to turn my life around and start again. I got a job at Melbourne Business School, which I still work at 3 years on and met my soulmate Francis who changed my life forever. He introduced me to a vegan lifestyle and my health and overall well-being began to increase dramatically. For the first time in a while, I felt full, happy and nourished every single day. My skin cleared up so much and I felt my life had a purpose again. Nearly 3 years being a vegan and I still feel wonderful, satisfied from every meal and not once have I needed to count or restrict my calories.
I watch these girls on YouTube because whilst I’ve never had a specific eating disorder (nor have I ever purged or skipped meals intentionally) I understood them mentally. In my early stages of recovery, I was scared that I would find myself unknowingly at an unhealthy weight again. I was scared that I would go back to treating my body like a nightclub. I was scared that I would lose the desire to eat at all because of anxiety. Nothing like that has occurred since I became a vegan and I know it never will again. I believe this is due to the fact that I am eating whole foods that are abundant in nutrients but also because I now love and trust myself enough never to go back there again.
A few years ago, I was running around a football oval every single night after a long day of barely eating anything and thinking: ‘Will I always have to work this hard and monitor everything I eat?’
The answer is no.
By cutting out high fat animal products & processed foods, you don’t have to monitor anything. I learnt from scientific studies and vegan nutritionists that our bodies run on glucose & carbohydrates so it’s incredibly important to fuel your body with fruits, veggies and high-carb meals like rice, pasta, potatoes, legumes and grains. Keep your sodium & fat intake low, cook with water not oil and stick to foods that are not highly processed or filled with ingredients you can’t pronounce. If you want more information and meal/recipe ideas, follow these amazing, inspiring healthy vegans on YouTube:
Dates With Love
FreeLee the Banana Girl
Lifestyle With Me
Loni Jane (Not on YouTube but her E-Book ‘Feel the Lean’ is amazing!)
BonnyRebecca (check out her awesome EBook Carbolicious!)
*Yes I do religiously watch all of these people on YouTube – I have no life!
It amazes me now how brainwashed I was by the meat & dairy industry telling me that carbs were the enemy & that fruit is full of unhealthy sugar. It’s actually the exact opposite. If you watch any of the people I listed above, you will see that every single day they eat nothing but fruit, veggies & unprocessed carbs and they are the healthiest, leanest people on the planet. Initially, I was scared to eat so many carbs thinking they would make me fat but all they’ve done is given me energy, a healthy figure and a positive mindset because I’m constantly full and not starving myself. But if you need more convincing, you can also watch Forks Over Knives that shows exactly how a plant-based diet is the most optimal way living or read The China Study which provides more in-depth statistics of the same thing.
So what do I wish to get across?
- My wish is for everybody on the planet to put away the scales, stop focusing on a number and be proud of a happy, healthy body. I put my scales away a while ago and honestly it was the best thing I ever did. I also want girls worldwide to ban the word ‘skinny’ and use ‘healthy’ in place of it. There are many ‘skinny’ girls that are unhealthy. We should focus on looking & feeling healthy not thin. I may have been petite most of my life but after reaching 70kg, I certainly didn’t become skinny again through healthy means. I am proud to admit however, that I’ve maintained my weight in the last 3 years by healthy eating and regular exercise.
- Find out what works for your body – whether it’s eating Fully Raw, Raw Till 4, Fruit After 4, Starch Solution or just a mix of everything which is how I live depending on the day. As long as you are eating whole, unprocessed foods (meaning foods you would find in nature whether they grow on trees or come from the earth), you can get all of the nutrients you need and maintain a healthy weight. I am living proof! Every year my blood work comes back perfect. I get everything I need from plants and you can too. You just need to get your mind right and the body will follow.
- There is such a big focus on having a perfectly flat stomach, a thigh gap and toned arms and legs. You can have all of those things if you eat well and exercise regularly but don’t make the aesthetics your main goal. Being a vegan is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle and one you can maintain long term. Your happiness will come from being constantly full of energy, reversing any metabolic damage incurred along the way, connecting with the earth and glowing from natural, organic food.
- Love the skin you are in! It took me a long time to make peace with my body and form a healthy relationship with it. We need to stop comparing our bodies with everybody else’s. We are all different! If everybody did Raw Till 4 for a year and exercised the exact same way, I can guarantee you, we would still have incredibly different results! This is why I don’t subscribe to one particular plant based diet, I just focus on eating as much of a variety of whole foods as possible. I’m never going to be tall just like somebody else is never going to have my blue eyes. We need to start accepting and loving what we see in the mirror because it is 100% beautiful! As my girl Jess from ‘DatesWithLove’ says: ‘you need to love your body now, as it is, or you’re not going to love it when you reach your goal.’
- You don’t have to eat less, you just have to eat right! Restricting your calories teaches your body to be a fat storer (because it enters starvation mode) rather than a fat burner. It also sets you up for a future binge later on and this cycle of restrict/binge, restrict/binge is incredibly damaging long term – trust me!
- And finally, I can’t stress enough how important it is to listen to your body. Unless you are recovering from an eating disorder, eat intuitively! This means when you are hungry – eat! When you’re full – stop! Recognise if you are eating out of boredom or actual necessity. Learn what fills you up best and keeps you satisfied. For me, dates are perfect. They are high in fibre, iron and calorie dense so just a handful keeps me happy until my next big meal!
I hope you enjoyed my story. It was important for me to share it so I could hopefully help many other girls struggling with their weight or body image. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. I don’t claim to be a professional nutritionist but I am more than happy to help as best I can on your own journey to wellness.
Peace & Love xxoo