Please, before you comment, criticize, share, whatever you’re going to do with this, I just ask that you read the whole thing. I know the title may be controversial if you read it on its own, but it is the truth, and only for the reasons that you will read below. And please read this with caution. It may be triggering to some individuals due to the mention of certain numbers, time periods and weight loss regimes, and I would like to disclose a warning before continuing to those that may be negatively affected by this information.
This is probably one of the hardest and most personal things I will ever write up and publish on my blog, but what I want to [finally] share with you all is who I really am, and how I came to be the person that I am today. This is my story.
All that is experienced during our lives provides lessons that contribute to our journey ahead. As cliché as it may sound, ‘Everything happens for a reason’. Growing up, my understanding of this phrase extended no further than its contextual definition. It was not until I had reached the start of my adult life that I found the importance it; it was not until I battled an eating disorder that I learned that experiences I perceived to be negative had actually allowed for many other positives in my future.
A large part of what I struggled with was aided by constant inspiration by individuals that have shared their stories for the entire world to see. Inspiration from those that allowed themselves to be vulnerable and expose their raw and true identities. What I am here to do is hopefully the same as what they did for me. I want to share my story to help others that are or have previously struggled with what I struggle[d] with. I want to be able to tell others out there that YOU ARE NOT ALONE, and YOU WILL get through this, no matter how impossible that may seem. I want to be able to show that what you are going through does not define you. It is not who you are, and it is not who you are meant to be. Rather, it is something that you were meant to go through to allow you to grow STRONGER, allow you to now overcome anything that comes your way because you have been to hell and back, and to allow you to embrace that you are beautiful, unique, and special, just the way you are. Here is the premise of it all: A plant-based diet does not cause disordered eating. I was already struggling with an eating disorder when I decided to transition into a plant-based diet, and I did it for all of the wrong reasons. I thought that it was my golden ticket to get my body to look [sickly] skinny. I used it in order to restrict further, as my excuse to my family and friends why I was absent in their gatherings. Eventually, once I held the proper knowledge, read books, watched documentaries, and spoke with others that were living by a plant-based diet, I then properly understood and executed a plant-based diet, learned about the ethical treatment of animals, the effect of factory farming on the environment etc., and went vegan for all of the reasons I have stuck with it now. And most importantly, my understanding helped me HEAL my relationship with food.
September 2011-My first year of college
I kept telling myself I was excited, told others that I was okay with moving far away from home, but in reality, I was not. I was not comfortable with the idea of being on my own, having to make new friends, and just being in a completely unfamiliar environment.
The day I got dropped off, my parents kind of just threw me there and then left. It wasn’t intentional, they were in a rush to get from Davis to Berkeley to drop off my brother and make their flight. I remember just going to the restroom, crying my eyes out and hoping that I was going to be better and more comfortable. It didn’t hit me until that day that I wasn’t ready for all of this, but I just tried to keep calm and hide all of this from my floor mates.
I eventually made friends and did not feel as alone as I had prior, but then kind of started to go downhill.
The need for acceptance began to take over my mind. I wanted everyone to like me, I wanted to hang out with certain groups of people, and lastly, I wanted to be able to look in the mirror and love myself. I thought that self-love would only come from friends, makeup, fixed up hair, a skinny hourglass body and tons of friends. It kind of blows my mind how this didn’t happen to me until after high school, where I would have assumed most girls go through this, so I think that is why I didn’t really admit to it when in college.
My friends and I started to challenge ourselves to get fit and “skinny”, while also maintaining a very active social life, as it was 3-4 times a week that we would go out and drink alcohol. Unfortunately, I started to inflict major changes on my diet and lifestyle, and took it way too far.
I began restricting what I ate, counting calories, and working out like a mad woman. I was at the gym everyday running, doing abdominal workouts, and restricting my calories. I started the “Special K Diet”, the “Atkins Diet” and even an all salad diet. The confinement of this restriction started to catch up to me and I eventually came to a point where I was going crazy and started to binge. I would restrict all day, then binge on less nutritionally dense foods on nights or weekends. I thought it was okay since I wasn’t eating much, and running more than ever, but the pounds started to roll in.
When I came back home for Thanksgiving break, my cousin said to me, “Wow, freshman 15 or what?!” This really hurt me both mentally and emotionally, and really didn’t do a lot for my situation but worsen it. I told myself that I would eat whatever I wanted during Thanksgiving, then restrict from then all the way until Christmas break. And I did that, and it worked. I was able to lose about weight in less than a month, very unhealthily.
I came back from Christmas break, and started to binge a lot, go out and drink, and pretty much just treat my body like crap again. I had 4 weeks off from school, so I took this as a “cheat month”, telling myself I would be back on my diet and exercise regime when I returned from school. When returning to school, I had reached a weight much higher than ever before. I looked in the mirror in disgust and told myself enough was enough, that I had to stop. Not stop treating myself like crap, not stop worrying about my weight and appearance. …. I wish that were the case. I told myself that I had to stop this…it was time that I stopped EATING.
I went online and tried to find the best way to lose weight FAST. After looking on the internet for hours, watching videos, reading articles, etc. I eventually came to learn about a vegan diet. I came across a what I eat in a day type video from both Fully Raw Kristina and Freelee The Banana Girl. I wasn’t so thrilled about eating fully raw, but the only thing I cared about was whatever got me as skinny as they were.
Embarrassingly enough, I had no idea what veganism was. I thought it was the same as vegetarian, and was sort of ehh about it. I was vegetarian in high school, but that did not last too long. I had also seen the ‘vegan’ section in my cafeteria, but never really considered it to be a lifestyle. So, I googled ‘vegan’. The articles and videos that came up all said that contributors to weight gain were animal products: meat, dairy, etc. Could this be it, the diet I was searching for? Well, what I did not know was that it was the lifestyle that could have cured my unhealthy habits, but what I did with it initially actually fueled the harm before healing it.
I didn’t read much more into veganism after that, I just went right into what I had learned of it to be. I went vegan on and off, still eating cereal and milk here and there, as well as some protein bars, but I settled on it when Lent came in February, and challenged myself it do it for good. Since I believed that veganism would help me lose the extra pounds, I decided that on top of going vegan, and could also cut my calories EVEN MORE to lose the weight fast.
And, well, this is where I get into “how I used veganism to mask my eating disorder”.
I used vegan as an excuse to hide my poor eating habits in social situations. When offered food, or when asked to go eat in the cafeteria, I would simply say that I wouldn’t be able to find any vegan friendly options (which was a lie, since they had a whole vegan section) or that I couldn’t eat what they were offering since it wasn’t vegan. This was the easiest thing for me to do since all of my friends were not vegan or even vegetarian, so they saw it as a normal thing for me to do.
Another way I used it is by manipulating the system. I told myself that I could eat a high raw diet AND restrict all at once to speed up the process of weight loss.
I will mention here again that I did not read up on veganism, or learn about how beautiful living this way really was, and Veganism/vegetarianism does not CAUSE eating disorders, but they certainly can be used to mask an eating disorder. I based what I knew from the minimal information I had been exposed to.
No one knew what was going on behind closed doors. I was eating approximately ½ of the caloric recommendations I needed for the day at this point, AND on top of that working out, so I ended up at about an eighth of what I should have been fueling my body. I was exercising excessively, and made sure that I did each and every day, for multiple hours, then I would come back into my room and just be so depleted of energy, that I would not get up for a few hours after. There were even points where I whole weekends in my room in bed, tired, depressed, and feeling so alone. With all of the physical activity that I forces upon myself, I honestly don’t know how I was even conscious. In order to suppress my appetite, I started to drink excessive amounts of water and zero calorie drinks in order to stay full and avoid eating. I convinced myself that the reason I had to restrict even more was because I was vegan (right, wtf?). I saw veganism as a challenge that I wanted to take on to show my willpower (but again, it was my excuse to restrict).
Let me just say now that after being [mostly] vegan for 3 years, there is absolutely NO ounce of restriction on this lifestyle. There are an infinite number of options that you could eat, and this lifestyle is about ABUNDANCE not restriction. Veganism is actually a lifestyle that embraces doing without animal products, for the reason that they destroy the environment, our health and the lives of the poor creatures. I want to emphasize here that I no longer live with a restrictive spirit, but I live embracing the beauty of life, enjoying foods that nourish my body and mind, and that love me back J I wish I had known this all back then, but just as those who don’t know much about the lifestyle or do not eat this way, it is often assumed that veganism could be restrictive. I just wanted to highlight that point to make it clear. Also, I say mostly vegan because I fell off of it since I did not fully learn of the benefits to myself, environment, and animals that veganism allows for, I did not pay attention to the reasons why veganism is the only way to live. I fell back into the belief that I needed protein, animal products, and basically crap. But thank the lord I learned otherwise. Back to my story —
I remember exactly what I would eat, unfortunately, since I was eating the same thing every single day. Along with the severe restriction, the monotonous meals were leaving me depleted of nutrients. And on top of that, whenever I spent the weekend with my family in Elk Grove, or went back home to Los Angeles, I would binge and purge. This was causing me to become severely dehydrated and lacking in nutrients. This is when I started to become very physically ill.
That was all going on at the start of February 2012 and lasted until I was on summer break from my University. So, let’s just fast forward to May 2012.
My brother was attending college in Berkeley, and he was out of school before I was, so my parents picked me up from Davis and we headed over there to help him pack up his things. When my parents saw me, they screamed in horror of my appearance. I, at this time, was proud of how I looked, and I thought that I worked hard to get where I was. My parents thought otherwise, and I’m glad they did. This is the point where I began to slowly open my eyes to reality. I kind of understood where they were coming from, but I still wasn’t fully accepting of it. I didn’t think I had a problem, just simple a drive to get “fit” (but I was actually just getting skinny), and I thought that they simply just did not understand this “lifestyle” I was living.
I returned to Davis for another month, and then returned home late June. When I got home, we had a gathering with my family, and they all freaked when they saw me. This was, I would say, [emotionally] the worst day of my life.
My aunties are blunt, and they really do just speak their minds. I do respect that, but to a certain degree. They were all over me saying “Min min (my nickname) what happened to you? You used to be pretty, you look bad now, and you need to eat.” My friends were also shocked with how I looked, where my best friend put me in check and criticized my choices (which I am grateful for). When my grandma saw me, she said to me that I used to be so beautiful, and that I was no longer that way.
All of these comments were hurting me, and I was so confused. I worked so hard to attain “beauty”, yet no one was recognizing that effort. Why? Initially, my mind was telling me that I needed to work harder. I isolated myself from my friends and family because I was so afraid of their comments, criticisms, and judgments while I still continued to live the way I was because I believed it was okay. I cried myself to sleep, I felt depressed, and constantly prayed that I would just be accepted, that my mind would be cleared of all of this stress, and that I would just look how I wanted to and be happy. I thought that my looks were the key to my happiness.
I still did not admit that I had an eating disorder, and I thought that I would be able to sleep it off one night and all would be better.
A few weeks passed, and it became even more physically apparent that I was sick. My hair was long and thick before I had left for college, but at this point, it was far from that. I was losing hair periodically up until this point, and my hair thinned out substantially, but in about late July, I started to lose large portions of it, and fast. I was not supplementing correctly (because as I said before, I did not educate myself on veganism), and I was also still restricting my diet, and depleting it of essential nutrients. After this began to happen, my mother was able to finally convince me to focus on getting myself back to the way I used to be.
There were a few things that I did at this point that all helped me out tremendously, and I want to talk about each below. This recovery stage was active, it began slowly into late 2012, and made up a large majority of 2013.
Each of these were included for different reasons, but one of the main one was to get my mind off of food, and try to focus my energies elsewhere.
One– I got a job and focused my time and energy somewhere other than, well, myself. I worked at a macaron shop. Yes, these are filled with animal products, so again, not a very vegan action on my part, but working here was one of the best things I could have done for myself. Not only did I get to connect with beautiful, independent and inspiring women that helped me grow my self-esteem, but I also met an important person in my life, Michelle. Michelle was the one who most supported my choice of veganism, in the sense that she provided me with new ideas as well as information almost daily. She had no clue about my condition, but her positive remarks towards my diet and lifestyle choice (at that time, I was in recovery) helped provide me with the confidence I was lacking. She also was very encouraging in maintaining my plant-based lifestyle choice. She was a vegetarian herself, so our connection was almost instant. Another thing was that Michelle was always so confident in herself and her lifestyle. I looked up to her, and still do, and hope to instill in my life the sense of positivity and balance she has in hers.
Two- I began to understand that I am not alone. I started meeting with other women going through what I was, and although it was unfortunate that they were, I was grateful for their introduction into my life. I began attending eating disorder group sessions at my hospital. These helped when we were free to just talk about any topic of choice and socialize, but when the dietitians and psychologists came in and tried to hammer facts and step-by-step recovery processes into our minds, I really did not enjoy it. They spoke to us as if we could just drop our “mindset” and get on with our lives, and I felt like they did not understand how we were all struggling with something we felt was outside of our control. I was in the group for about a year, on and off, but eventually left because I felt that the program it was not beneficial to my recovery anymore. I still see the women periodically, and they will always be a memory in my life as additions to my recovery process.
Three- I educated myself. I began to read books, a few scientific journals, watch films, documentaries, testimonials, videos, etc. regarding veganism/plant-based living and how right it was for me to continue on the path that I was on. Even though I was at the moment eating a plant-based diet, I was not vegan, since I did not live a cruelty-free lifestyle, especially with in my wardrobe and job. I was also living the way I was for all of the wrong reasons. I started to grow a larger interest in not only the effect veganism would have on my body appearance, but that that it has on the lives of animals, on our environment, and overall health. I began to see how veganism could help me clear out all of the toxins in my body and mind, and hopefully help me heal myself mentally and emotionally, along with physical recovery in granting me back the nutrients I went too long without. Education provided me with the push I needed to not only sustain my vegan lifestyle, but to also instill in my mind that I, for once, was making a positive choice for my body. That I was living the way that I was meant to live in order to heal myself. Throughout my recovery, my passion for nutrition grew, and I am now proud to say that it is what aided me in deciding to pursue a degree in Nutritional Science.
Four- I connected with the online vegan community. I got involved with social media and created an Instagram account. Now that I was “Vegan, and since I always got comments and questions from curious family members and friends, I decided to create an account that would show my foods. This also helped keep me accountable. I was still eating less than I should, and it kind of brought that fact into view (for myself). I eventually began to pick up a following, and eventually, I was motivated to by others to create a blog for myself, and encourage others both interested in health or struggling with an eating disorder to change their lifestyles and hopefully consider living this way.
Five- I opened up to my close friends and family, and began to be more social. This was extremely difficult, and is why I now have so much courage to come out to strangers here online. I now look back at this with a completely different view, but I then believed that I would be judged, laughed at, or even ridiculed about my condition. Opening up to my loved ones brought me the support I needed to help pick myself back up again, and also helped me gain back the belief that I was strong, beautiful, and bigger than what I was going through. Being with them was the cushion I needed when trying to hold myself up and get everything back together. And being social with them, even if it was at a minimum, helped me keep my mind off of myself, and feel alive again. It is still difficult for me now to be, but I have made drastic improvements, and I now am a lot more comfortable in my own skin 🙂
Six- I was no longer following a diet, but rather, living an improved lifestyle. No longer was I compelled to count calories, no longer was I worried about whether or not a food would make me fat. I began to embrace the vegan lifestyle. Although it took a long while to gain this comfort in eating again, I soon felt freedom in the fact that I was able to what I desired, and enjoy foods I used to restrict from my plate. When I was at my worst, I never ate any fruit, and I ate mostly processed, low-calorie, fat-free junk. Going from that into eating whole, fresh, ripe, raw fruits and vegetables and plant-based foods, wow did I experience a change. My taste buds were thanking me for the goodness that they so long missed, my energy levels sky rocketed, my skin and natural ‘glow’ reappeared, and my body just always felt like it was thanking me for granting it what it needed to, well, survive. I began to embrace nutrients, rather than caloric values, and I felt better than ever before.
Seven- I decided that I would not return to UC Davis, and complete my schooling in Los Angeles. It was tough for me to leave UC Davis, as it was a great accomplishment for to have been accepted into their Animal Biology program, en route to becoming a veterinarian. But it’s funny how these things happen. Because I had moved home from Davis, I took into the interest of nutrition, cooking and photography. Low and behold, Sweet Simple Vegan was eventually born, and I learned of my now passion. If I stayed in Davis, I really do believe I would not be on the same path today. Everything happens for a reason <3
There could be an infinite number of reasons or things that had an affect on my recovery, and there are things that I may have believed that I could have done better, or situations that I could have wished away, but every single moment up to where I am today was worth it. Everything that I went through up to where I am today has made me the woman that I am today, and I am beyond grateful for what god has allowed for me to experience.
My recovery was definitely not as easy of a process, even if it may appear to be from what I am saying above. I went into cycles of binging and I also fell into a high-fat raw vegan diet for a while, which left me feeling heavy and at times lethargic, so I attributed these feelings to eating in general. Healing took time, and I reached many ups and downs, but once I shifted into a whole foods plant based vegan diet that I found to suit me best, I felt that most of my internal enemies, negativity, and self-hate subsided.
Somehow, someway, I am growing to have peace with food, and I truly believe that living this way is
“How Veganism Healed My Eating Disorder”.
I really do have to say that my choice of living a vegan lifestyle is what I believe to have had the largest impact on my healing. I started to look at food not as a fear, but as a desire to nourish my body, and to help me take the steps I needed towards health. Food was no longer my enemy, it was my friend. Once I was vegan for all of the right reasons, and once I started to read more on health in general, I realized that health does not merely stem off of nutrition. Health is all encompassing of my body AND mind. My newfound self-love brought me into a mode of health I had never attained before. Being at peace with myself mentally and physically allowed me to live life in a way where I accepted who I was, and was able to set onto the path I was meant to follow, and finally enjoy life. I began to finally respect my body and appreciate who I was. I shifted my perspectives, and eventually, I grew to realize a new passion. I am now set on a path to help others, not only those who are struggling with what I was, but also those who need guidance in attaining optimal health. I created my blog not knowing how much of an impact it would have on myself and others, and the feelings of gratitude I feel when I inflict a positive change is indescribable. I am also taking it one step further, studying nutritional science at my university to be able work more in depth with others as a registered dietician, and hopefully work with individuals who share similar struggles. I want to be able to be a positive resource and help inflict a change in this world on a whole different level, one person at a time.
Although my struggles and negative thoughts sometimes reappear in my mind, I accept them because I am human, but I do not let them run my life or define me. The fact that I am able to recognize these thoughts, and understand that I must overcome them, I am proud. I am now aware of all that used to bring me down, and I use my awareness to recognize my strength, and grow each day as a survivor. I did not let this take my life, but I allowed it to help me become who I am today, and grow stronger than ever before.
Thank you for reading this. I hope that this could be of aid to some of you, or help you better understand who I am, and why I do what I do.
Please contact me on my contact page (on the menu bar) if you have any questions, comments or concerns, or just wish to engage in further discussion on this topic, I am here to help! 🙂