Green Recovery: The Plant-Based Road to Healing from Disordered Eating

by Gena on March 29, 2011

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Hey all!

As I hinted yesterday, I’ve got a very special guest post for you today. This will be the first in a series of posts that I’ve been hoping to start for a long time, and to which I know you’ll all contribute wonderful commentary. The title of the series is Green Recovery, and its purpose is to explore the link between plant-based diets and recovery from disordered eating.

If you have spent any amount of time in the healthy living or vegan communities, you may have observed something: many men and women who are drawn to plant-based diets happen to be people who have recovered from disordered eating.

If you ask me, this isn’t really surprising: people who are rebuilding a relationship with food post-recovery tend to seek out diets that are healthy and wholesome. Plant based diets also offer a sense of ethical contribution through food choices. It’s hard for many people with intense ED histories to enjoy food without self-loathing or paranoia: if they can be assured that their food choices are actually serving a useful and beneficial purpose, it may motivate them to continue getting better.

The incidence of vegan eaters who are also former ED sufferers is remarkable, but it tends to be a taboo topic in vegan circles, with good reason. First of all, it’s important not to suggest that there is a strict uniformity among vegans. I’ve met vegans of every profession, religion, race, age, and sensibility. There hasn’t been an easy-to-identify common denominator, except that most of us care passionately about animal welfare, and most of us care about being healthy. Even those two generalizations are problematic, because I know plenty of vegans who are uninterested in healthy eating, and I know some who aren’t interested in animals. (I recently argued that veganism is most rewarding when animals are at least a part of the picture, but I also happen to believe that there’s no right or wrong reason to eat a plant-based diet, since any vegan diet saves animal lives.) So we have to avoid the implication that, because there happen to be many vegans who struggled with EDs once upon a time, there is a certain vegan “type,” and that type is prone to disordered eating. It’s much more reasonable to say that there are many vegans who have ED histories, and that the link is worth exploring, but that it’s only relevant to some vegans, not all.

We also have to tread carefully, because vegans spend enough time batting down unfair accusations that veganism is a “sublimated eating disorder,” “a starvation diet,” “rabbit food,” “nothing but carrots,” “only for weaklings,” and so on. If you eat a plant based diet, I’m sure you’ve encountered this assumption at least once before: the spoken or unspoken suggestion that vegans are by definition sickly and weak, either by choice or because of the diet. It’s an absurd accusation, but the unfortunate fact of the matter is that the high number of vegan eaters with ED histories might be twisted into evidence. So naturally we vegans cringe a little when we talk about the commonality of ED histories in our community: we don’t want to give detractors ammunition, and we know we might.

But does holding our tongue about this phenomenon—the appeal of veganism to people with ED pasts–get us very far? I don’t think so. Rather than keeping silent about the fact that there is a large portion of vegan eaters who, once upon a time, struggled with food, isn’t it more honest and productive to explore it? Mightn’t we discover patterns and themes that help to shed light not only on our own motives, but also on the value of vegan diets? Mightn’t it make it easier for vegans who have never experienced these struggles to identify and empathize with those who have? And, most importantly: mightn’t we actually identify certain lifestyle habits or ways of thinking about food that can be of value and use to the people who treat EDs? Let’s not forget that many treatment centers actively discourage plant based diets, and encourage foods that are heavily processed and rich in animal flesh. Shouldn’t we at least admit that a plant based alternative may be useful to some of the men and women who suffer?

I think so. And that’s what this new series is all about.

Starting today, I’ll have a monthly or bi-monthly guest post on CR from a plant-based eater with an ED past. My hope is that we’ll listen to his or her story, and then offer up our thoughts and reactions in a constructive fashion in the comments sectionjust as we always do.

It’s important for me to be very clear about what this series is not. This series is not prescriptive. I’m not arguing that veganism is a cure for disordered eating. That’s simply untrue, for many reasons. Just as there’s no real uniformity among vegans, there’s little uniformity among former ED sufferers. We can identify some commonly shared personality traits—perfectionism, for example—but the truth is that EDs descend on all sorts of people. They affect people of every race, socioeconomic background, gender, and age. Likewise, there are many sorts of eating disorders: anorexia, bulimia and binge eating are only the three most commonly known and understood. Disordered eating is a spectrum, and each individual case of is likely to encompass more than one behavior: many anorexics transition into bulimia, or alternate between the two; many binge eaters go through restrictive periods that mimic anorexia.

Just as disordered eating is best understood in the context of a single person’s experience, so too is recovery: we can only really talk about what works and why by talking about the person who is suffering, and how he or she is suffering. Veganism seems to offer a lot of men and women a way out: it offered that to me, and it changed my life. But many other former ED sufferers have told me that their history actually makes veganism untenable for them: they spent so long labeling certain foods as “off limits” that they can never again think about any food as forbidden. The selectivity that veganism imposes on one’s diet would in fact hinder their recovery—or at least that’s how they feel.

So you see, I realize that veganism is only a solution for certain people who have recovered from the worst part of their EDs. But the response of that group to veganism is compelling. Time and again, I’ve watched women and men who considered themselves beyond help respond positively to a vegan lifestyle. And for those who become interested in the ethics of veganism—as I have—the lifestyle may offer a final escape from the terrible, isolated egocentrism that many ED sufferers experience. It helps us to shift attention from our weights, our clothing sizes, and every morsel that passes through our lips, to the plight of animals. And since those with ED pasts have suffered, they may be better suited than most to summon up compassion others who suffer.

Before I introduce Freya’s story, I should point out one more important thing: I don’t want any of my vegan readers to think that I’m belittling veganism by suggesting that it’s a “recovery tool.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not arguing that veganism’s importance is limited to its usefulness in the recovery process; if anything, I might be arguing that our own struggles can seem less all-encompassing and urgent when they’re juxtaposed with the issues that are central to veganism: animal cruelty, lack of compassion for life, environmental destruction, and so on.

As I was considering who I might approach to write a green recovery story, one lady came to mind immediately. Freya is the charming and vivacious author of Brit Chick Runs, and she has one of the most harrowing and inspiring recovery stories I’ve heard. I met her at the HLS last summer, and I was instantly enchanted with her. When I later read about her road to recovery—and as I’ve read and processed her intelligent responses to my posts on veganism and EDs—I realized she’d be a perfect person to share a green recovery story with us all. I asked her to talk about why and how she believes veganism has helped her to find health and wellness. I also asked her to talk about the downsides: has veganism hindered her progress in any way? This series will not be meaningful unless it’s totally honest, so you can expect my guest posters to know that they’re absolutely entitled to share any misgivings they may have about veganism as a long term lifestyle choice.

Please read to the end of Freya’s story, and then share your responses in the comments. I’d also love to hear any of your thoughts on my intro. And, at the bottom of Freya’s narrative, you’ll find details on how to submit your own story to Green Recovery at CR.


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Firstly, I’d like to say a big thank you to the lovely Gena for asking me to write this post; I’m truly honoured she asked me because I’m a big fan of her blog. I think she has one of the best life balances in the blog world I’ve ever come across, and I don’t know how she does it! An inspiration, for sure.

I’ll start off with a tiny bit of background about my eating disorder – In my pre-ED days, I ate everything but red meat, although there was a heavy bias towards chocolate, crisps and very little else. I was pretty active however, so looked healthy – although looking back and comparing myself to how I feel now, I wasn’t healthy. Think: lacking in energy and sluggish.

When I was about 17, pressures from school, mild bullying and general teenage angst led me to develop pretty severe anorexia. I managed to avoid inpatient treatment (thanks to my mum’s determined belief that we could get through it without IP treatment) and instead went on my dietician’s plan for weight gain and recovery. Interestingly, the nutritionist actually tried to put me off eating vegetables due to their lack of calories, but that’s beside the point.

I did gain weight, but I didn’t gain health – mentally, I wasn’t at peace with myself or with food, and was struggling, which led to a few minor relapses in my recovery.

Veganism was something that had been in the back of my mind for a long time – I’m an animal lover and have always avoided red meat for that reason (cows were too close in stature to horses, and if you read my blog, you’ll know I’m a keen horse rider and lover!). However, after researching the farming industry for some time and reading some vegan books, I began to want to do more. I started to seriously consider the switch early last year, but my family and I felt that it would be too restrictive a diet given my past. However, by June 2010, I was more positive in myself, I’d done my research and felt so strongly about not only the ethics, but the health benefits of veganism too, that I decided to jump straight in. My family were against the idea to begin with, especially as I still had some weight to gain (and a marathon to run later in the year), but you know what?

I haven’t looked back.

Veganism has helped me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. A restricted diet? Quite the opposite! Before I went vegan, I was lacking in a lot of nutrients and avoided fats, sticking to a pretty limited diet. Once I became vegan however, I branched out in my recipes in a quest to tick all the nutritional boxes to prove to my family that I was better off and more healthy living this way. I discovered some wonderful new foods:

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And developed a newfound love of all peanut butter, hemp seeds, tofu, and even the odd raw soup!

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I also began to discover more about myself and my passions; the more I read about veganism, the more strongly I felt about the ethics the lifestyle is based on. Having anorexia makes one a very egocentric person, but becoming vegan has made me look at the broader picture – about the animals that are affected by small everyday choices I make, about how changing one thing can make a huge impact. I feel like I’m making a difference in the world, which has improved my self esteem no end. It’s like I’m discovering who I am and what I stand for, forging an identity for myself, which has had a significant impression on my mental health. Part of the reason why I developed an ED in the first place was because I felt overshadowed by friends and family, and subconsciously, I needed to try and define myself. Veganism has helped me do this, has helped me respect myself again.

On top of that, I’ve developed a firm love of cooking, discovering new foods and recipes (and blogs!), and I’m reaping the health benefits! I’ve never felt so energised, my skin has never been so clear and my hair so silky! On top of that, I still managed to gain 12 pounds and run my first marathon – two things which no-one thought possible originally.

Of course, there are negatives to every diet – it’s harder to dine out with family as the choices are so limited in my corner of the world, and I probably overdose on tofu when time is tight sometimes. Some of my family have had trouble accepting the vegan lifestyle too, assuming that it did mean I was relapsing, and it’s taken a long time for them to realise that the switch has actually been good for me. There has also been times when I’ve craved Greek yogurt – probably the one thing I miss as a vegan – but I believe the benefits outweigh the costs.

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But the main point stays the same; becoming vegan has made me begin to love and respect myself again – I’m not there yet, but I’m sure as heck close (and am getting closer with every day), and knowing I am making my own little contribution to the world helps no end. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been, and I’m finally becoming the person I want to be, free from anorexia.

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I loved all of the observations in this post, especially this one:

Part of the reason why I developed an ED in the first place was because I felt overshadowed by friends and family, and subconsciously, I needed to try and define myself. Veganism has helped me do this, has helped me respect myself again.

This makes me think back to our recent conversation during NEDA week. I wonder if part of veganism’s power for a post-ED person is that it offers a world view and way of defining one’s identity.

Freya, thank you for sharing your story with us so bravely and with so much exuberance. All of us—former ED sufferers and non-ED sufferers alike—very proud of you and your recovery story. Remember that recovery is a long process, and that there are many more high points and triumphs to come—more than you can imagine from where you are now.

Would you like to share your green recovery story? I want to hear from you! I’m welcoming all vegan (or mostly vegan) readers with ED histories to send me a guest post submission that describes the link between their diets and their recovery. I want posts that are honest and thoughtful: the rest is 100% up to you.

Note that while want to hear from former anorexics and bulimics, I’d also really love to hear from binge eaters, compulsive eaters, or those who suffered through binge/restrict cycles. In my experience, many women with highly disordered habits tend to assume that they don’t have an ED unless it’s a clinical case of anorexia or bulimia. Not so. EDs, as I’ve said, encompass a broad spectrum. I’d like Green Recovery to focus on the more extreme cases, but I’d also like it to address cases of disordered eating that may have fallen under the radar, but were nevertheless significant.

You can send all submissions to me at gena@choosingraw.com with the subject line “Green Recovery Submission.” If you’d like to publish anonymously, that’s fine.

Tomorrow, we’ll return to business as usual. Tonight, let’s all reflect on Freya’s strength and her lovely words.

xo

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{ 106 comments… read them below or add one }

chelsey @ clean eating chelsey March 29, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Such a great post by a beautiful lady! I love Freya. She is so strong and humble. I really applaud her for her recovery!

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rebecca lustig March 29, 2011 at 8:38 pm

I’m in tears right now. I can’t tel you how comforting it is to know that I’m not alone. That I’ve gone through very similar struggles with my eating disorder and recovery while trying to distinguish my genuine ethical values from “ED’s”. I am overwhelmed with gratitude– thank you for sharing this personal story.

Gena, I’ll be emailing you soon.

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Gena March 29, 2011 at 9:02 pm

So glad it moved you, Rebecca! Email me anytime.

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Freya March 30, 2011 at 2:41 am

Not a problem – I’m glad you don’t feel so alone now, and I’m touched you were so moved.
Definitely do email Gena, she’s a star!

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FoodFeud March 29, 2011 at 8:46 pm

This is a wonderful first in a series of posts. Honest and empowering. I wish health and happiness to all people and I strongly feel veganism is a key stepping stone in getting there. It is so mindful (we have to read labels and think about what comes from where) that we reset our defaults on everything we’ve learned about food and health and weight, so much of which is the SAD yet ironically thin-geared diet.
Thank you Freya and Gena for this. Can’t wait for the next installment.

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thehealthyapron March 29, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Wow. this is such a powerful post that hits REALLY close to home! Although never clinically diagnosed, i didn’t need to be. I HAD an eating disorder and it consumed my life. I constantly counted calories, over ate, under ate, over exercised, hated myself, and fell deeper and deeper in to a hopeless state. i had to learn to accept ALL foods. Once I learned THAT, only THEN was I able to tweak up my eating habits and be the healthiest I could be. While I am not completely vegan, I choose to be (as Oprah would call it) vegan-ish. I choose to eat only animal products that are humanely raised. I CARE about how they are treated. Making the switch to a more plant based diet, I realized that I didn’t only want to do good for myself, but for the Earth! Like Freya, I have never felt better! I gained a couple pounds but it is because I no longer subsist on low-fat, low-cal, artificially sweetened JUNK! I eat, healthy, whole, and semi-raw, semi-vegan fair. I’ve never felt better, I’ve never had more respect for my body or the Earth, and I’ve never loved myself more! SUCH A GREAT TOPIC!

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nevernotdreaming March 29, 2011 at 8:50 pm

I’m struggling now.
But I’m not vegan, and don’t think its for me really…but I adore that lifestyle…and wish wish wish I could feel “safe” incorporating it in more, u know?
Like, its hard, because I can’t exercise at all…so I feel…I won’t go into it, ha.
My story is different and involves other things…but still.
Regardless, personally for me, I don’t want to find an identity in being a certain type of foodie (vegan, primal, etc etc)…
I want to find an identity in being a confident, resilient, independent person…
But I applaud Freya for doing things the way shw wishes and persevering. Admiration to you bigtime.

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Annie@stronghealthyfit March 29, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Fabulous post Gena! So well-written and thoughtful.

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Angela March 29, 2011 at 8:58 pm

I am so glad someone has finally been bold enough to discuss this topic in such an intelligent way. Thank you for exposing this relationship between a vegan diet and eating disorders, as I think it is a touchy subject that has been avoided. It’s always been a challenge for me to explain to others how veganism has actually helped me recover from my eating disorder and I’m pleased that you have shed light on this issue in such a clear, objective way. You never cease to impress me, Gena :)

Thank you Freya for sharing your story. Stay strong through the rest of your recovery!

Do you have to have a blog to share your stories or can non-bloggers share their experience too?

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Gena March 29, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Absolutely not! I want anyone and everyone. This series will lose steam quickly if I limit it to bloggies. Please tell your friends.

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Daniel March 29, 2011 at 9:01 pm

I applaud your decision to go vegan and the fact that it helped you recover is something that I thank the good Lord for. I don’t believe anyone should ever have to suffer through an ED and I’m ecstatic that you found a way to overcome it – and such a positive way to do it too! Kudos to you and Gena for starting this series.

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Faith @ lovelyascharged March 29, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Gena, this touched me in such a deep way that it’s unbelievable. I am now a vegetarian – have been so for around a year – and have dabbled in veganism. I actually still eat a large number of vegan meals, but I do enjoy the occasional yogurt or omlette. At any rate, I found vegetarianism as I was pulling out of my eating disorder – and like you said, it was not clinically diagnosed. (I was one pound too heavy and purged frequently but not enough for classification) and that was also a huge factor in my recovery. I’d really like to explore this some more – I hope I’ll be able to pull a post together for this series because it really is something I can identify with hugely!

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Hannah March 29, 2011 at 9:09 pm

What a beautiful post, Freya! It takes a lot of courage to share one’s story.

I think this is a great post series, Gena. I love plant foods–even though I’m not a vegan–and I still have reservations about transitioning to veganism because I’ve been restrictive with it in the past. It’s also hard for me to see people in the blogworld recovered when they still spend so much of their time planning, cooking, and photographing their food. But it’s also great that women like Freya can show how it is possible to recover using veganism!

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michael mckee March 29, 2011 at 9:15 pm

This is a reaffirming story. I, too found that eating vegan helped me move away from unhealthy eating habits. Though, as a psychotherapist I believe we are too quick to throw the term “disorder” around.

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Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) March 29, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Gena this is such an awesome series you are doing. The courage you have to do it, and the courage the women have who plan to submit their stories, is remarkable, and wonderful. This series and you talking about it and women (and men) sharing their experiences will help others. As I have found with blogging, less than 5-10% of my readership ever comments. There are untold thousands and thousands of people reading every day…same with your blog. Even if they never speak up, just you writing about this will help people. Amen.

As for your intro…so profound. I don’t even know where to begin. You articulated things so incredibly well, there is nothing for me to add. Some things that jumped out at me:
“because vegans spend enough time batting down unfair accusations that veganism is a “sublimated eating disorder,” “a starvation diet,” “rabbit food,” “nothing but carrots,” “only for weaklings,” and so on”

and I loved how you took extra care and attention to say that veganism is not a cure all for everyone, not everyone who’s vegan had an ED, that some ppl would actually be hinderded in their recovery by eating a vegan diet b/c it limits them…just so thoughtful.

And Freya…I am so proud of you, happy for you, and thank you for sharing your story here with all of us!

And on top of it, your food photography is beautiful :)

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jamie hayworth-chin March 29, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you…Gena AND Freya for sharing and for opening this dialogue. I feel compared to share…but I need to take a bit to digest my thoughts and form them into something coherent. One thing I want to mention right now is the newer “disorder”, Orthorexia. I was just wondering your thoughts on the topic.

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Lauren March 29, 2011 at 9:28 pm

To be honest, I always feel very on-edge about this topic. As someone who has both suffered from (and am still suffering from lingering health problems as a result of) an eating disorder and worked closely with women who suffer from anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia and exercise addiction, I still have to maintain my belief that any kind of restrictive diet is not a good idea for someone who attaches so many meanings, motivations and emotions to the process of feeding their body. Allergies aside, I don’t really think that anyone who has restricted their eating in the past should be cutting out whole food groups; what an eating disorder does to you mentally occurs in such a sly way that the sufferer doesn’t even recognise the skewed perception that they have of themselves and the world around them. That kind of patterned thinking doesn’t vanish, even with reinforced healthier habits and a happier mind. I’m not saying that I don’t believe you can refrain from eating meat for moral reasons, “just” because you’ve also suffered from anorexia; indeed, I think that often the people who are prone to imposing the high standards and pressure on themselves and are therefore at high risk for disordered eating are also the sort of people who care deeply for others and for animals and might naturally become vegetarians. However, even if you don’t eat meat, I think that ruling out *so* many foodstuffs, including free range eggs etc, is not always a healthy step for someone who will always be in ED recovery/remission.

And I’m also very wary about the number of bloggers who write from the stance of “recovered ED sufferer” (and it seems to be about 90%+ of the “healthy living” community), yet quite unconsciously seem to portray small signs and habits in their daily blogs of someone who is still very much caught up in some behavioural and mental signs of a current ED sufferer. With all due to respect to Freya, who I think is a talented blogger and a lovely personality, even she still struggles with fear foods and a fear of weight gain in relation to exercise guilt.

To me, there is a huge difference between genuinely choosing to eat a certain way for your health and happiness, and actually *not being able to eat in any other way*. I don’t think anyone who has never suffered from an ED could understand actually being physically afraid to put a bite of cake, sugar or refined carb in your mouth – physically afraid, down to churning stomach and quickened heart beat. I do think there is a huge danger that a lot of the vegan bloggers, at least in part, use the excuse of “I can’t eat that anyway; it’s not vegan”, because even to themselves, it sounds better and healthier than “I can’t eat that because it’s not healthy, and I’ll get fat, and I’m afraid.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is that in my personal opinion, and it *is* just my personal opinion, I really don’t want to offend anyone, veganism is a dietary choice that should come *well* after a person has reached a healthier weight, no longer counts calories, obsesses over meals, in unable to eat out or in public, and doesn’t stick to stressful regimented routines. When you genuinely can eat at least a bite of anything, barring an actual allergy or genuine intolerance, without attaching unnecessary thought or emotion to it, *then* you can shape your diet to suit your lifestyle and ethics. Launching into veganism as *part* of a recovery, to me, is always going to be just another way of excusing eating restrictions.

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Gena March 29, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Thank you for such a very thoughtful comment!

I should have mentioned (maybe I will in the next post) that the WHEN is very significant. I agree that women in the very throes of an ED may need to avoid veganism (for a while), which explains my rhetorical emphasis on “post-ED” and “recovered” and “former.” That was an important thing for me to keep in mind, because while veganism did help me after the very worst part of of the ED, I’m not sure that it would have helped during.

With that said, I think it’s also hard to characterize before and after. I think my suggestion here is that veganism probably helps most after the actual weight gain battle (if anorexia was the disorder in question), or after purging has ceased, etc — in other words, when symptoms themselves are lessened and the person is no longer clinically definable as having an ED. But we all know that recovery takes a long, long time, and that the process continues in minute ways for a long time. I think one can stand to benefit from what veganism offers before that process is technically complete. So I wouldn’t agree that a person who still has lingering food fears is unfit to explore veganism. I’d say that he or she is simply post-ED but dealing with the long road that follows, and that, if veganism helps, it helps.

So we’re differing slightly on timing, or maybe we’re not! As I see it, it’s hard to put exact brackets on these various periods in the life of an ED sufferer. I basically agree that recovery proper is not the right time for veganism in most cases (though I wouldn’t say ALL cases), but disagree that one must be utterly clear of any old demons before veganism can be healing–in part because I believe that many people recover formally but encounter demons from time to time.

As for veganism as a health choice vs. veganism as an ethical choice: I think you make a good point. But my own experience would at least complicate that. I had remnants of my ED when I became vegan, and in some ways I do think that the “healthiness” of the diet appealed to me as a means of staving off guilt. In other words, it was not unrelated to the remnants of my ED. But I think that it actually helped me to evolve OUT of those remnants, and then everything got turned on its head when I read about vegan ethics. So my story would suggest that it can be a part of the post-formal-recovery process.

G :)

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Lauren March 29, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Thank you for taking the time to respond with so much thought! :) Yes, all good points, and honestly, I think the main differentiating factor is the one that’s *always* going to vary: the individual person in question, their own mind and their background. There is never going to be a “one size fits all” diet for a variety of reasons, nor is there one recovery and nutritional plan that will work for everybody. While trying not to impose my own personal opinions and experience on all ED sufferers in general, I still did do that in the comment above; it’s an impossible subject to view objectively, I think!

For me, my ED coincided with an entirely unexpected and awful bout of clinical depression and the period when I began reading healthy living blogs. It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario (sorry, what an appropriate metaphor for a vegan blog! :D) in that I’m not sure which condition led to the other; but the depression and the eating disorder certainly fed one another (while starving me, as it happened!). For *me personally*, the eating habits that I picked up from the healthy living blogs were highly detrimental and the only way in which I was able to recover, as much as I ever will, as the mental and physical trauma from an ED is something that changes a person irrevocably – I despise the dismissive and undermining comments from people with no personal experience of it, that it’s all just about wanting to look like airbrushed celebrities in magazines) was by returning to the attitude I had toward food prior to that experience and the way in which I ate when I truly was a happy, healthy person, even if that person ate a lot more carbs and sugar, and weighed more than the unhappy, “it has to be whole grain, no sugar, no oil, egg whites only, stick to the stated serving size at all costs” anorexic.

However, having said that, I fully recognise that it might be different for some people, and I can entirely see that for a bulimic/binge eater, for example, who has a very unhealthy relationship with junk food, then easing into a plant-based, healthier diet could be highly beneficial.

I guess, in summary, I do believe that individual circumstances are very important, and I shouldn’t have said that veganism is absolutely *never* a good idea for someone recovering from an ED – that was too dismissive and imposing my own circumstances on everyone else – but I do think it’s an area that is potentially fraught with danger and any dietary changes should be treated very carefully and, if possible and budget allows, should really be made under the supervision of a nutritionist or doctor.

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Lauren March 29, 2011 at 10:37 pm

* And extreme dietary changes should absolutely, definitely not be made solely because of the influence of other healthy living blogs. There is a very worrying trend of self-imposed peer pressure that goes on in the blogging community – the apparently unavoidable Comparison Syndrome. While veganism might well be a healthy choice for *some* ED sufferers at a certain point in their recovery, I actually think there are more dangers involved in the constant reading of the blogs, and that there are many blogs that just shouldn’t be read by ED sufferers, full stop. Not because they’re pro-ana or actively glorifying textbook ED symptoms, but because they are, by example, promoting many habits and behaviours that when taken to extreme are also symptomatic of an ED – and are almost more dangerous because in moderation, they would be perfectly healthy habits to adopt. Exercise – yes, important for health, good for you if you go for a walk, do some yoga, go for a run, etc. You do not need to feel guilty, however, if you don’t go to the gym every day. Or even once a week. Or even at all. There are hundreds of thousands of healthy, fit people who just live active lives and never experience “I didn’t go to the gym today” guilt. Feeling guilty because you only ran five miles and then you logged onto the internet and your favourite blogger ran twelve and signed up for another triathlon – also not healthy. Eating whole grain bread? Yes, it’s a bit healthier than white bread. However, white bread is really not *quite* as bad for your health as smoking or recreational drugs, despite the stigma attached to it – and if you eat a diet heavy in fibrous vegetables etc, you’ll probably function quite well without the wheat bran. Eating an entire bag of cookie is a sign of binge eating and will probably eventually lead to obesity and possibly diabetes – obviously not healthy. Eating a couple of cookies every day, even if they don’t contain oatmeal and are made with flour and sugar instead of mashed beans and stevia, is fine.

Erm, climbing off soap box now. :) I think my main point was that one of the main problems, I think, is not that ED sufferers are adopting vegan diets, but that they’re cutting out food groups because they see others doing the same thing. They start off by justifying the reasons that they still eat “small amounts” of dairy or that they eat fish, but “only if it’s organic and sustainable” (what consitutes an organic fish, anyway?) The blogging community is a double-edged sword, I think – for some people, the close-knit support helps a lot in recovering from an eating disorder, for others, I don’t think it’s going too far to say that it *causes*, in part, the onset of an ED. Veganism should always be a personal choice, one that’s right for you personally and your own body and mind, not because all of the blogs you read are going dairy or meat-free, and you imagine judgment coming from behind the computer screen.

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Gena March 29, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Another great point. I’m glad I became vegan pre-blog reading. Because by the time I did start to get into food blogs, I could use them to enrich my veganism — not drive me to a decision that was not my own.

I agree that these sorts of strictures are dangerous, especially when they aren’t our own idea. In fact, that’s literally what my presentation at the Healthy Living Summit last year was: it was about fighting off pressure to go vegan, primal, gluten or allergen free, or whatnot simply because other bloggers do, and having confidence to make one’s own choices. Yeah, sure, I’d like everyone to go vegan :) But I wouldn’t want them to if it didn’t come from their own convictions.

I think the HLS video may still be online, but my original presentation pitch is in my files if you’d ever like me to email it to you.

Gena March 29, 2011 at 10:40 pm

You’re amazing! I was actually about to comment and say that I made some subtle tweaks in language in response to your thoughtfulness about formal recovery vs. post-recovery.

Yes, it’s all individual. I’m going to go ahead and say that I think veganism might have helped me recover faster, even when I was still quite disordered. Knowing myself, and what I know now, I think it’s a solid guess. But who knows? Your points all ring true, too. No matter what, I love this conversation — my hope was mostly just to get people talking. I think that this is something that has been under-discussed, and I really think it’s about time for some honest sharing and exploration.

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Karen March 30, 2011 at 8:15 am

This is such a terrific dialogue Lauren and Gena.

No doubt, the issue of timing in introducing a whole foods/plant based diet is critical in outcome. Yet, as Gena describes in her own situation (as in mine) the point at which adequate “recovery” is achieved is rarely easy to pinpoint. My personal journey has been long and non-linear. And, as Gena emphasizes, there are so many individual variances that the concept of introducing this diet in a prescriptive manner could be dangerous. Yet, one cannot escape how remarkable it is that so many of us – including the wise and spirited Freya – find our way toward peace with food/body image through vegetarianism.

Gena – Thank you for your leadership in introducing such brilliant and creative initiative…you are just the sort of voice that will distinguish itself in the medical community. I know we will all learn and gain new insight and inspiration from those who share their stories.

Sarah October 4, 2013 at 1:44 pm

I’m responding two and a half years later, but better than never, I hope. Also a teen athlete, like Freya, I struggled with ED symptoms between 17-20 and full-fledged bulimia from 21-24. Close vegan friends inspired me to want to try veganism around the time I was 21, but sadly, combined with other factors in my life at the time and a lack of support, it didn’t work out at all. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to consider going vegan again until years later. I’m 30 now, and finally, recently made the transition to being vegan. I’m thrilled about it. All that said, I related so very much to the conversation here as well as to what Gena’s bio describes, regarding not feeling connected with the way of eating that presented itself in our upbringing, and with recovering over time but being left with extreme sensitivity. I admire your devotion and feel thankful that I found your site after all this time!

Freya March 30, 2011 at 9:11 am

I can agree with parts of what both of you said – I don’t see veganism as cutting out food groups, because – to me – food groups are protein, carbs, fats etc. Veganism incorporates all of those things, just not the traditional way through animal products.
I agree with Gena too, in that the point in time of recovery is important. I know I still feel a bit of worry about weight gain if I can’t exercise (and so do a heck of a lot of non-ED women), but one of the important things I kept in mind when becoming vegan, was that I would NOT use it as a tool to restrict. I was very active in my recovery, and if I felt a negative voice, I did the opposite – I did not want to be anorexic anymore. So becoming vegan came at a time when I was confident that I was doing it for the right reasons – not as a means of restriction.
In actual fact, animal products fueled restriction for me, when I was ill – chicken is low in fat and cals, but high in protein – when I was ill, it would be unthinkable not to have access to that food!

In regards to recovery, I think ED are very hard to truly overcome, 100%. I could never be how I was pre-ED, because I’m a changed person – so technically, the effects of my anorexia will always be with me. But that doesn’t mean to say I’m not healthy or able to deal with negative thoughts. The very few ED thoughts I do get (and we’re talking a very, very rare amount!), I have learnt how to deal with them and not let them effect me.

(I think I’m rambling..!!)

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Hoshigaki March 30, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Thank you for commenting Freya (and Lauren and Gena).
You have made me feel better about my conflicting feelings.

It seems that when you’re past being in the thick-of-it, but at the same time earnestly interested in health and feeding yourself with healthful foods, it’s difficult to differentiate the roots of your own motives.
I’m wondering if checking health blogs daily and reading about the benefits of fruits and vegetables (pastimes that I LOVE TO DO) aren’t a way to “feed” the need to avoid food-guilt by reaffirming that the foods I do put in my body are not to be feared.

(more rambling..!!)

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Kelsey @ Unmitigated Grub March 29, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Freya, thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m so happy for you that you’re healthy and confident and doing so well. You’ve overcome so much!

I look forward to reading more in the series!

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Hannah March 29, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Gena, I think it’s amazing how eloquent, considered, and balanced you are in your introduction here to this upcoming series. It feels like you’ve covered absolutely all bases possible, adn yet I’m sure there’ll be questions posed to you in the comments anyway ;) I’ll be interested to read people’s views on this topic, as I have a friend who came to veganism through her ED too. I wish she had a blog so I could ask her to write something for you!

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Gena March 29, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Hannah, it’s not just bloggers! I welcome any and all submissions, seriously. So do please tell her :)

Yes, there will be many people who do not like what I’m suggesting. But really, I just want a dialog going. My point is that this is an under-discussed topic that’s worth discussing :)

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Katie @ Nourishing Flourishing March 29, 2011 at 10:17 pm

This is fascinating. I have never heard/read anyone who has journeyed through an eating disorder so openly address the accusations/suspicions of veganism being a veiled type of ED. As I contemplate my own ethics of eating, this is something I continually face — there is a palpable stigma associated with any type of “restriction” (e.g., gluten, dairy, sugar, meat, animals products, etc.), and I often hear and feel the brunt of these sorts of judgments, due to my ED history. Certainly, such responses are largely just ignorance. Yet, even as I mull over my own frustrations with these attitudes, I do have worries that some (even if just a minority of) vegans are, in fact, using this as a socially accepted form of disordered eating… So, on both sides of the coin I find myself intrigued, and challenged, by this post. I need to process this a bit more, but I may just have to comment again once things are congealed better in my mind. Thanks so much to both of you for opening up this topic, and doing it so eloquently and thoughtfully.

<3

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Katie @ Nourishing Flourishing March 29, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Anal retentive self-correction: *animal — not animalS.

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Remy March 29, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Thank you so much Freya. You seem so vibrant and happy.

While I cannot speak to the United States, I would like to point out (particularly for those who have neither experienced an eating disorder nor a clinical recovery program) that not all clinicians or dieticians push a meat or dairy-based diet (not that this was implied in the post).

I was fortunate; however, as I was recovering from a very severe case of anorexia nervosa, restrictive type, the various dieticians and doctors whom I saw, did not push a ‘conventional’ meal plan. Rather they allowed and supported my essentially vegan diet, save for wild, sustainable fish which I craved.

I simply want to share that not all recovery programs threaten a saturated fat-laden diet that denies the volition of the patient. Perhaps some programs do, but not all.

Wonderful idea for a series Gena. I look forward to it!

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bitt March 29, 2011 at 11:48 pm

Thanks for taking on this topic, a tricky one fore sure. I have been frustrated with people who think all vegans have an eating disorder, and with the excuse of a former eating disorder making veganism impossible. Not that one should jump from anorexia to veganism, but it can happen in time and be a healthy choice. I come from a perspective of veganism being a diet that is about ethics not health, I’ve seen all varieties of a vegan diet, so I don’t think that it has to be restrictive at all.

I think there’s a rather large difference between vegans and “mostly vegans” as you’ve called them. Mostly means flexible, vegan means not. It’s a pretty big distinction and to me veganism is a hard and fast line, which is a different relationship with food than “mostly.”

As for people to contact, have you heard of Vegan Hope? Here’s her blog http://veganhope.com/

You may want to consider posting in vegan forums as well so you get some vegans who are not in the “healthy living” world, which can be more health oriented than vegan-ethics focused.

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Erika @ Health and Happiness in LA March 29, 2011 at 11:49 pm

I love the idea for this series, and this post by Freya. It’s scary to share such private experiences!

One big reason I think veganism can be good for someone recovering from disordered eating is that I noticed after I went vegan that eating had made me feel BAD for so long — eating was just stressful and I felt bad every time I ate — and then suddenly, I felt like I was doing something GOOD. I was making a difference and a statement, however small, with every vegan meal I ate. It really made me feel positive about eating.

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steph March 29, 2011 at 11:55 pm

As someone who has struggled for many years with an ED to various degrees of intensity, becoming vegan has freed me of many food ‘triggers’.

I didn’t become vegan because of my ED, but have noticed that since becoming vegan, I have not once felt my ED urges.

Veganism is a badge I wear proudly for many reasons and I completely agree that it can be helpful for those recovering from an ED.

I really enjoyed this post, thank you Freya and Gena.

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Christine (The Raw Project) March 30, 2011 at 12:07 am

I agree about plant-based diets and ED recovery, learning about and venturing into a high-raw vegan diet changed my relationship with food and that it’s so much more than just calories to burn, it can be nourishing and amazing for health. And nutrient dense plant foods helped me changed my view on how my body uses calories from fresh, whole foods.

Thank you for sharing your story, Freya! So true about veganism and discovering new foods, it has helped me become more open to what foods I’ll eat. And I’m addicted to hemp seeds and raw soups too. Such a wonderful post!

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Desi Domo March 30, 2011 at 12:50 am

Gena, I love your idea for this series, and truly look forward to watching it unfold! This particular subject is so, so interesting to me. Though I’m not vegan, I rarely do eat meat (when I do, it is cruelty/hormone/antibiotic-free) and I am also free of: gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, refined sugar (and often sugar in all forms). Plus, I strive to eat a purely organic diet – much of which is raw, in fact, as of late – while avoiding anything unnatural. I often feel as though others are judging me, questioning my choices, suggesting that something might be wrong with me psychologically, considering the way in which I’m “depriving” myself. What they fail to realize is that the choices I make concerning what I put into my body liberates me in a way that nothing else does! I NEVER feel deprived. In fact, I feel luckier than the next person. I take pride in eating the way I eat! I feel more balanced and whole than I’ve ever felt. I often feel like those who do judge a person for his/her unconventional diet choices are conveying more about their own relationships with food than those of the people on which they pass judgment.

Freya, thank you so much for sharing your story. There were so many things you said that resonated with me on such a core level. You are so brave, and I can’t adequately express how deeply I admire you!

Again – thanks all around – I devoured every word of this post. True food for the soul, no? :)

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Laura Neff April 2, 2011 at 7:24 am

Hi Desi! Just wanted to thank you for this comment. It sounds like you and I eat exactly the same way right now, and I thoroughly agree with your comments. In this world of so many food choices, it’s fun to come across someone who’s not only taken the same things out of their diet but who is reveling in the crazy abundance that is created from doing so! :)

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Liv March 30, 2011 at 1:30 am

Wow. Thank you for this! Your blog is so insightful and this story is amazing. I struggled with anorexia when I was in my teens and early 20s. I still struggle with the ED thoughts, ect. Which have gotten worse in the last few months because I’m pregnant and I having to put on weight (a good thing of course..but scary none the less).I’ve been a vegetarian for the longest time and recently have gone vegan. This topic is incredibly interesting to me..something I understood slightly, but I feel as though I have another avenue to discover. Thank you for this series and I can’t wait to read more!

Freya–you are amazing!

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Sonja March 30, 2011 at 1:34 am

Just wanted to say I find this a wonderfull and brave series.

I’m not vegan, but I do feel inspired by a lot of vegan and raw food blogs out there. Still there’s always a voice in my head pondering whether or not my intensely reading health food blogs could in part be some sort of a continuation of obsesive behaviour concerning food, with still an element of control in there: even if not counting calories, there’s still something of “my eats should be so and so, cause that’s healthy” and I find it very hard to alternate from that. If that make’s any sense? I feel like I am eating healthy and nutritious, and no longer suffer from an ED (I suffered from binge eating alternated with very restrictive periods), but maybe still a bit disordered. I don’t feel like this all the time, as I said, just a little voice in the back of my head.

I’m wandering about this quite some time now, so I’m very interested to see where this series will bring us and read some other experiences.

Freya, your very brave to share like this. Thank you!

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megan @ the oatmeal diaries March 30, 2011 at 1:38 am

I find all of this SO interesting. I can’t wait to read more posts about the link between veganism and ED recovery. I definitely think it has something to do with the wholesome foods but also this: “I wonder if part of veganism’s power for a post-ED person is that it offers a world view and way of defining one’s identity” is such a good point. Freya is awesome- loved this post!

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Carrie (Moves 'N Munchies) March 30, 2011 at 4:01 am

i LOVE YOU FREYA!! you are so honest and amazing- this post was so uplifting and just wonderful!!!
i can relate in MANY ways to this post having an ED past and veganism helping me even more

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Emma (Namaste Everyday) March 30, 2011 at 4:32 am

something that has concerned me about my curiosity into veganism are the issues of control and obsession. I fear I might slip into these dark areas if I try and commit to being vegan. Any advice?

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Gena March 30, 2011 at 6:47 am

Emma,

Thisi s a HUGE tension, and it’s absolutely one of the things I want this series to discuss. In fact, one of my interested posters has asked if he can talk about why veganism hindered his progress, ultimately, and perhaps you’ll be interested in hearing that.

There’s really no answer here. I think veganism can be an excuse to restrict or retain an obsession with control; I think it can also be freeing and offer an escape from control freak habits. I’ve seen both responses. You’re very smart and very self-aware, so I’d say you have to listen to yourself and try to be honest with yourself about your own motives. If I had tried to be vegan when I was 17, I think I’d have used it as an excuse to expand my list of “off limits” food. It was a very different game when I found it in my twenties. I think I was grown up enough to negotiate the difference. I think that listening to yourself carefully and examining motives that seem suspiciously control-oriented is a good place to start.

And do PLEASE remember that you don’t have to force veganism yet if you feel it’s at odds with recovery. You can come back to it at any point in your life. This from a vegan who cares about veganism: if you are not in it for the right reasons, don’t be afraid to take a step back and put it on the back burner.

Gena

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Little Bookworm March 30, 2011 at 5:15 am

Amazing guest post Freya! :D

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Hannah March 30, 2011 at 6:31 am

Amazing series and post! I have struggled with anorexia for over 14 years and while I have had short period of recovery I have always returned to the comfort of the ED. I never adopted vegetarianism or veganism since it isn’t what my treatment teams “told” me to do and I didn’t want to be viewed as being too restrictive in my food choices.

So many years of ED behaviors have led to many digestive and chronic health problems and I finally decided to really pay attention to what I was putting in my body and started an elimination type diet to discover food intolerances. The results have been incredible. I feel great, am off heartburn medication, haven’t had the normal stomachaches, and am starting to view food as healing and joyful. I’ve spent a lot of time in the kitchen cooking up wholesome meals loving it. Looking inside of me I’ve always wanted to eliminate animal products, for compassionate and ethical reasons, but was afraid to because of the judgements.

I would love to do a guest post for you. I have a newer blog I have started, but also an older one that I started last year during a period of ED treatment at http://www.balancingontwofeet.wordpress.com

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Maryea @ Happy Healthy Mama March 30, 2011 at 6:52 am

Those pictures are gorgeous! Plants are so beautiful. :-) Thanks for sharing your story.

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Sara @ Veggies For Real March 30, 2011 at 7:01 am

First of all, I can’t tell you how much I feel like I can relate to this series. I’ve thought long and hard about the symbiotic relationship between my ED recovery and my current dietary choices. I’ve rarely discussed this though, because I felt that somehow my mostly vegan diet would be delegitemized by the fact that I used to be an anorexic.
One the first steps in my recovery process was to eliminate all red meat (I still occasionally ate chicken and fish). I think this more prescriptive diet, as compared to that of an omnivore who doesn’t suffer from an ED, allowed me to continue restricting food in a way society deemed acceptable. It’s ok to refuse a steak because you “don’t eat mean” but not so ok to do so because you’re starving yourself.
I can see why some may say that restricting your eating when that’s precisely the kind of behavior you’re trying to recover from, in the case of anorexia, may not be a good idea. What I know from personal experience is that it can act as a sort of patch, a temporary aid until the mental healing can start to take place.
Part of me finds it hard to say that, in a way, my mostly vegetarian diet can be traced back to my ED, although I like to associate it with recovery, not with being deep in the darkness. However, I do feel that shifting my diet to plant-based, about 95% vegan diet has put me at peace with food again. My relationship with food has always been and probably will always be an intense one. Before it was defined by fear, guilt and dread but now it’s defined by love and happiness.

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Melomeals: Vegan for $3.33 a Day March 30, 2011 at 7:05 am

Wonderful post!

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tweal March 30, 2011 at 7:31 am

Great post Freya and Gena! Thanks for sharing your story.

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Ian March 30, 2011 at 7:32 am

Amazing story from such an inspirational person! The point about learning to focus on something other than yourself is a very powerful message, not only in the realm of EDs but also in generally being a conscious and compassionate person. It’s unfortunate that plant foods are restricted to patients who already restrict foods in in=patient care, and I feel as though feeling healthy and vibrant could, in fact, help some of them to recover. I think it’s also interesting to note than many of us take up running or some sort of other physical activity along with veganism. Like you said, Gena, people mistake veganism as “just another issue.” But to me the issues are totally separable! And the most important thing about vegan stereotyping is that people never seem to realize the calorie abundance of vegan diets. Gaining weight healthfully on a vegan diet really isn’t that hard for someone who really wants to learn to eat without guilt again!
And as we’ve talked about before on the blog, veganism does not need to be seen as restrictive. I know I have learned so much more about food since becoming a vegan foodie than not really sure how I felt about food as a restrictive omni!

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Lana March 30, 2011 at 7:59 am

I have been reading your blog, and Freya’s for a while…this was just amazing (: I am going to have to reread this to do it justice, I think.

I had to comment, because Your green recovery idea really resonates with me. I am healing from anorexia with a raw plant based diet. It is in no way about restricting myself – it’s about honouring my body, giving it the nourishment that it needs.

I can honestly say that raw food has changed my life, and continues to transform me every day. This way of life has liberated me, and I am so grateful.

Again, I am so excited about this series. I would also love to do a guest post!
I will email you when I have more time!

Lana x

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Katelyn @ Chef Katelyn March 30, 2011 at 8:18 am

Gena, I cannot thank you enough for deciding to do this series. It has been heartwrenching to decide when to talk about my eating disorder in the blog world, and I cannot wait to send you my guest post!

Freya’s story is beautiful, and eerily similar to mine. However, I went astray, but now am back living healthier than ever before. My body image will never be perfect, but it is getting better each day, and many days I love myself so much it brings me to tears to realize how far I have come.

Through a plant-based diet, I have come to find that I WANT to fuel my body with nutritious food. Brendan Brazier’s Thrive diet has especially helped, since I wanted to recover in order to fuel my body to run beautifully and powerfully. Without that, I never would have gotten to where I am today.

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Charlotte March 30, 2011 at 8:18 am

Like Lauren and Emma noted above, I do think it’s incredibly important to discuss how veganism can *potentially* mask disordered behaviors. When I first became a vegan, several years ago, it was an amazing avenue to find purpose through my eating. It was also the most personal and meaningful way I found to address so many of the injustices I saw in the world. In that respect, for several years veganism offered me respite from a lifetime of disordered eating.

As my interest with health, the environment, and animal rights intensified however, I crossed the blurry line into eating-disordered, which I actually find to be a different beast altogether, from disordered eating. I happened across the healthy-living blogosphere, and unwittingly completely destroyed my own health in the name of “healthy changes.” For longer than I care to acknowledge, I was too stubborn to even recognize the possibility that my diet was the culprit of my ailments and ironically, when I thought I was the healthiest I could possibly be, my body was at a breaking point. It’s been a rocky road to recovery since that time and I only very recently decided to shed the vegan label in an effort to eliminate any semblance of restrictive mentality around food.

Of course my story is not a typical one, and I commend anyone who well, didn’t go off the deep end with a vegan diet. There were definitely underlying emotional and psychological issues, completely separate from my diet, that led me to abuse it. I’ve been toying with the idea of cutting out blogs entirely for fear that they might prolong my food fixations, but with dialogues like the ones you’re having, I am actually very thankful that I am still a (bystanding) member of this community.

Sorry for the lengthy post :( I know you already said that you will address this topic, and I guess I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut!

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mrd March 30, 2011 at 8:38 am

Thank you Gena and Freya for beginning such an important discussion. I think veganism has so much potential to heal those who have disordered eating patterns, and I wish it were considered more often by doctors, nutritionists, and others who try to help. I’m looking forward to reading more!

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Carissa March 30, 2011 at 8:46 am

Freya’s story is excellent. I’ve never had an eating disorder but I completely agree with her that eating a plant based diet has caused me to discover a world of food that I never knew before. And her pictures made me hungry!

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Jess March 30, 2011 at 9:02 am

What a beautiful post. I’m excited to see more of this series. Being able to have a safe place to discuss eating disorders in the vegan (and blogging) community is so important. That a particular topic should be an open secret is simply not enough! Thank you so much for this.

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thefruitpursuit (Sabine) March 30, 2011 at 10:36 am

Such a beautiful post! I wrote my ‘green recovery’ story last week on my blog, for a vegan event, but I’d be happy to write another post on it. I find most ‘outsiders’ don’t get veganism nir eating disorders, let alone both in the same equation. I’ve had many worried family member asking whether I was ok when I announced I was going vegan! I’ll email you :)

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Mimi (Gingersnaps) March 30, 2011 at 11:07 am

I was really touched by Freya’s story and I am happy she has found a happy place. I think this series you’ve planned will be an amazing read.

One aspect I would be interested to see addressed is the “opening up” veganism could influence in people with EDs. In my experience, EDs can lead to a lot of self-absorption, or at least exacerbate the preexisting trait in people. While some may embrace veganism just for its healthfulness at first, I think it’s hard to ignore the environmental and compassion messages in it. That sense of “something larger than you, that you positively contribute to,” I think could be a very helpful tool in shedding past disordered habits or mindsets.

However, I was curious about your thoughts on this: last summer when I was working for a newspaper, I interviewed Ani Phyo for her new cookbook. During the interview our conversation wandered into the vegan community in general. Ani did say she had met people who she suspected were justifying their eating disorders with veganism or raw foods. Have you encountered people like this? If so, do you have any plans to address it?

As always, keep up the lovely writing and even lovelier ideas Gena. I’m looking forward to this series.

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Gena April 1, 2011 at 10:25 am

Mimi,

Yes, I’ve encountered many! Some realize that the vegan or raw diet is in fact allowing the, to restrict, some don’t at all.

But I think you have to remember that disordered eaters will use any way of eating as an excuse to restrict: vegan, raw, omni, macro, whatever. If you’re not ready to eat normally, you won’t. Oftentimes I think that veganism is blamed unfairly for the obsessive habits of the eater.

(Miss ya)

G

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Jessica March 30, 2011 at 11:40 am

You are both amazing and wonderful for opening up this topic and sharing your stories. There are so many stigmas against a vegan / vegetarian diet – more so a raw oriented one, and I think it’s great that you’re trying to be so honest about the subject of ED’s and their relation to veg’n diets. Opening up this discussion and the comments that have has given me much food (ack!) for thougth.

I personally think that often, the accusations that veg’ism is too limiting or is not healthy often come from people who live at the other extreme: willing to eat anything with no limits. Those who eat primarily processed or higly animal based diets often spend far too little time thinking about what they are eating – from a physical / psycological perspective as well as from the ethical / environmental ones. From someone who used to come from that camp(growing up I ate what was given to me or was available with little to no further thought), and now is a very happy member of the near-vegan & more raw camp, I think those from both sides of the fence would benefit from considering some of these ‘accusations’ not as judgement but perhaps instead as curiosity, or at least a dare to prove the accuser wrong. Health and happiness come differently for everyone, and I believe that the more we all share, the more others who haven’t been exposed to well spoken or written discussions of the other possibilites will have the oportunity to at least consider other perspectives. In our modern world where food is being marketed by big corporations as so many different things – from so called ‘health foods’ to treats and deserved indulgences, I thank every individual who shares their personal experiences and thoughts on the evolution of their own diet and beliefs.

*thank you Gena and Freya for sharing*

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Missy March 30, 2011 at 11:53 am

Gena,
This is such a wonderful idea to touch on and I am excited for your weekly series. You couldn’t have picked a better blogger to “kick it off” with. Freya is amazing.
You covered all your bases in explaining your rationale for this series and what it is and is not. Well said — I mean, written (0:

I have been embracing veganism lately, though initially in my recovery it was not possible. Eating mostly vegan, for me, is actually shoving a sock in the mouth of my eating disordered- which would have me eating egg whites, low-cal and carb veggie burgers, veggies, low-cal cheese and non-fat yogurt. Eating more vegan meals (I’ve eliminated dairy) means more carbs, more fat, more..calories.

When I go days as a vegan I find myself eating more nut butters, nuts, beans and grains.

If you feel a calling toward veganism, whether from an ethical or health standpoint, and choose to follow it you must adopt a more open mind toward food. This new mind can negate the ED voice in your head.

Becoming vegan, for me at least, is the opposite of my eating disorder and has helped me in my recovery and building my respect for food. I have a ways to go still, but I have come so very far.

~Missy

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Emma (Sweet Tooth Runner) March 30, 2011 at 1:02 pm

LOVE this!! I think this is an AMAZING idea Gena!! And so brave since this is such a taboo topic!

I believe 100% that veganism helped me overcome my own disordered eating and depression, and as Freya said, it has given me back my self-respect! Freya, you are AMAZING, and I love you and your inspirationalness :)

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Missy March 30, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Thank you so much Gena for developing this series. I am so excited to continue reading. Your perspective is very valid and you made it crystal clear what this series IS and what it IS NOT as well as covering all your bases in explaining the link betweem the vegan population and recovered disordered eaters without insinuating a cause-effect relationship.

For myself, eating more vegan meals (I still eat eggs and fish) has been a kick in the face to my disordered eating habits — which would have me eating low fat and cal sources of protein mainly. I find it more an more necessary now to include more grains, nuts, seeds, nut butters and other higher calorie options.

Veganism is a way to build respect for food and a healthy relationship with it because it involves you in nutrition and cooking and most important it makes you feel like a milliuon (green) bucks.

Thanks so much Freya for sharing. I am so glad Gena thought of you to set the stage.

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~Jessica~ March 30, 2011 at 3:43 pm

This is an inspirational and original idea for a series of posts.

I suffer from binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating, and I have to say that while veganism has not ‘healed’ me, it has helped me to separate the disordered thoughts and behaviours I engage in from the healthy ones, and even though I can’t always implement them, to develop sets of morals that eclipse my inherently selfish personality.

When I binge, I am punishing myself. I hate myself so much, and fear becoming fat so badly, that I end up through some perverse impulse doing the one thing that I fear the most, and will lead to my sense of self-loathing and destruction because, deep down, I think I WANT to hate myself.

When I eat vegan foods, I at least feel some sense of self-worth, that I am not harming anyone or damaging the world by being in it. I adore animals, and always have. The only times I break with veganism are through disordered efforts to lose weight, or because my COE and BED have taken over the rational part of my mind. When I am vegan (predominantly for six years but with around ten ‘episodes’ of dairy eating due to binges) I am sane, whole, even when the rest of my life seems to be falling apart around me.

Freya’s story is truly inspiring. One day I hope to be half as good an exponent of veganism as she is.

xxx

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Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine March 30, 2011 at 5:33 pm

I love Freya’s blog, just as I love Choosing Raw, and wholeheartedly believe in the benefits of a plant-based diet; obviously, I love this post as well!! And the discussion in the comments is amazing too, I’ve just spent fifteen minutes reading them all. I’m glad people are being so articulate!!

I definitely think transitioning to near-veganism helped me recover a lot. In my ED days, I ate whatever was high in protein and low in fat and carbs: sliced deli meat, Greek yogurt by the gallon, soy protein cereal, plain chicken breasts, and fat-free dressings. I remember seeing Food, Inc. and reading Fast Food Nation over the same summer, and suddenly…I couldn’t eat meat anymore. I just couldn’t. It became really stressful for me, because things like carby whole grains and beans and nut butters were just so dense and such fear foods. Adapting first to a pescatarian diet, then to nearly-vegan, forced me to conquer a lot of my fears about caloric whole foods. I would never call myself vegan, as I still eat the occasional dairy and seafood in social settings, but I’ve found a balance that works for me. It seems a lot of people are expressing concern about the restriction of total veganism, and while I don’t think that’s true for everyone, I DO think that it’s true for me, which is why I don’t label my diet. By striving to eat as vegan as possible, but not worrying about the occasional egg, milk or seafood, I’ve grown to love real foods with tons of nutritional value, while never feeling like I CAN’T have something. It works well for me! I can’t wait to see what else comes of this series, thank you to Freya for sharing!!

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Missy April 1, 2011 at 8:41 am

This is a more eloquent way of saying what I wanted to say.
I think Gabriela’s and my experience is very common!

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Hoshigaki March 30, 2011 at 5:58 pm

What commenter Lauren brought up really resonated with me.

I wish I could say this post inspired me but as someone in denile about how much my previous troubles with eating effect me today, I felt instead competitive and then ashamed.

I remember one time you responded to a comment that you never overeat Gena.
That’s pretty awesome. Even though I have been at the very edge of underweight for a long time now, I overeat several times a week and beat myself up about it. Success stories for some can bring mixed feelings for others.

I’m sure these stories will inspire me but I also gravitate toward them because they fuel the (obsessive) fire.

We can’t hide these stories nor should we. I’m conflicted.

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Gena March 30, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Hi Hoshigaki!

As usual, I like your comments. I can’t remember saying in precisely those strict terms “I never overeat” — I would probably consider that triggering! I think I may have said that overeating does not tend to be my own emotional/unhealthy response to food and diet; typically, undereating was/is. However, of course I, too, have days where I overdo it without needing to, or eat things that are less nourishing than what I need. Rest assured that emotional eating or eating that’s imbalanced strikes us all sometimes, even those of us who consider ourselves recovered! So I’m sorry if you found any statement upsetting, but there’s the truth, for the record :)

I do think it’s important to share honest stories. So, I welcome you to skip the posts if you like! It’s important to avoid dialogs that don’t help or enrich our lives, so really, edit as you wish as one of my readers :)

Gena

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Hoshigaki March 30, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Gena,

You are right, I shouldn’t have simplified that recollection regarding your relationship to emotional eating. I think at the time that’s probably what it sounded like to me! The black-and-white attitude I harbor. We all have our days, this is true.

After further meditation on the costs and benefits of personally reading the stories, I’ve concluded that it’s still important to listen. Especially the vegan in me thinks so. Veganism has been a healing tool in my life, and who wouldn’t want to share a healing tool?

*By deciding to make healthful choices concerning the planet, helpless animals and innocent workers, we are applying value to the grossly undervalued.*
As someone who struggles with applying the same care and value to myself that I apply to the above groups, I think reading about those who’ve stopped fighting against themselves and found some semblance of synergy in their relationship with food, body and diet a helpful practice.

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Ela March 30, 2011 at 6:00 pm

I echo the delight shared already by so many others that you have crafted this series, Gena–and have presented and framed it so exquisitely–and I echo the congratulations both to you and to Freya. These are remarkable achievements that you speak of, in the most important arenas of life!

Gena, I particularly enjoyed the conversation in the comments between you and Lauren, and I agree with the importance of the points raised. I also really appreciated the emphasis that both you and Freya–and many commenters–put on Veganism as being a _positive_ choice that enables people to feel good about eating. I have sometimes veered to skepticism/defensiveness about a connection between my plant-based eating and serious ED history, partly because I have personally witnessed people _develop_ eating disorders through obsessive raw-foodism, and it’s great to get a balance to that.

Freya: it’s wonderful that you’ve taken back your life and are learning to care about and love yourself again, and have discovered the joy of food preparation. I would love to hear more about how things feel for you body-image-wise. For me, it’s been about seven or eight years since I hit my lowest weight, but I was at a very low weight for a few years after that, but healthier and believed myself recovered. When I came to a ‘more normal’ weight, the body image demons kicked in like I would never have been able to guess, and I had to confront the issue at a whole new level (and face a bunch of physical health challenges that I’d been avoiding acknowledging). I send you love and fellow-feeling.

Gena: I would love to share my story with you. I can’t promise to send it today, or even tomorrow, but maybe by Sunday. Again, I so appreciate the way you distinguish veganism as a positive choice: anyone reading this should consider if that is how it resonates for them. If it’s restriction under another guise, it may not be so healthful a choice.

love and much respect,
Ela

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Gena March 30, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Ela,

The series will be every 3-4 weeks, so there is no rush! Thrilled that you are interested.

G

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Ela March 30, 2011 at 8:34 pm

I’m thrilled even to contemplate being part of something you’re creating. You are truly inspirational.

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Hannah March 30, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Gena and Freya you are both so brave and inspirational and beautiful. Thank you for sharing.
May I ask other readers, did anyone else turn in part to partly because of the self hate? For me I guess the self obsessed componet of anorexia is still present when I say that I don’t want an animal to suffer for my dinner – I very much see myself as insignificant and hopeless and want to intrude on the world as little as possible. Does anyone understand this feeling?

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Ela March 30, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Hannah–yes, absolutely. I think of it as going along with my tendency to eat only leftovers/overripe fruit/stuff that looks less than perfect. It’s an important part of recovery (mine at least) to recognize that I am worth it and do deserve it–and I can see how that could include even deserving animal products: I still sometimes test myself on that.

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Anna Crouch March 30, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Wow. Absolutely brilliant topic! First off, kudos to you for approaching such a taboo topic. Not only that, but you nailed it on the head, covered all the bases and took an all encompassing approach. That is important, because then people can’t make any assumptions or question what your motives/theories are on this topic. If this were a paper for an English class, your thesis would have been clearly detected!

Secondly, I can completely relate. I’ve struggled with borderline (well, I would consider it disordered eating, but I was never “diagnosed”) and in the midst o my recovery I have felt, at times, that people get worried about me because of my healthy lifestyle. They worry that I’m struggling, not eating enough, running too much, and have lost too much weight…when in fact I’ve actually gained 7 pounds!!! It’s funny how when people notice your healthy habits, then they start to examine the way you look. But in reality, I’m not struggling AT ALL in comparison to the way I have in the past. I wouldn’t say I’ve fully recovered, but I’ve come a long way. I am happier now, than when I was at my lowest weight ever. I love my body now more than I did when I weighed 7-10lbs less. And you know why? Because I’m taking care of myself, I’m enjoying health, I’m finally fueling myself properly. Although I’m not full vegan, I can relate to how the increase in health, and howdy healthy lifestyle has helped me in recovery. I’ve considered going to a vegan diet. I don’t see it as restrictive. It wouldn’t be a trigger for me. But I’m apprehensive because people already watch my every bite and examine my healthy eating. I get comments all the time. And maybe they’re not judging me. Maybe I’m just still a little self conscious. But if I were to become vegan, I feel like everyone would say “why, you’re thin enough.” or they would think Its just a way to restrict certain foods. But it has nothing to do with that!! It’s all in the name of health….. I suppose I just need to get over my insecurities and makethe decision to do it for myself. Not Make a decision to not do it because of other peoples’ opinions.

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E. March 30, 2011 at 7:54 pm

I appreciate the sentiment and desire to share these stories, but I am conflicted. Judging by the appearance of Freya (which may be inappropriate), she looks underweight. But yet she talks about how healthy and full of energy she feels. Is this holding up something disordered as healthy? I apologize – I haven’t had time to read through all the comments so this may have been addressed already – but just wanted to share my gut reaction.

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Anonymous March 30, 2011 at 11:17 pm

I disagree that Freya looks underweight; to me, she looks immensely healthy, especially considering that she’s only 20! I also feel a need to say that recovery is not all about weight gain, and the emphasis on it can be really, really off putting to an ED sufferer. Yes, there are dangerously low weights, but then there’s “skinny” and there’s really nothing wrong with remaining “skinny” as long as it’s mostly effortless, isn’t consuming inordinate or inappropriate energy, and food no longer tantalizes or torments. My own recovery was not marked by weight gain. I gained enough weight to avoid a hospitalization, but I was by no means “recovered.” Recovery came a decade later and it wasn’t about weight gain; it was about a transformed relationship with food. Something I wonder if “veganism”, had it been presented to me way back when, might not have facilitated.

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Freya March 31, 2011 at 3:02 am

I agree with your point, Anonymous. I have plenty of ‘skinny’ friend who are perfectly healthy – skinny doesn’t = unhealthy/an ED.
As a side note, I would like to mention to E – saying someone looks underweight can be just as hurtful as saying someone looks overweight, and looking skinny does not mean recovery was unsuccessful, just as being slightly overweight would not equate disordered thinking masking a problem.But thank you for your comments anyway :)

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Freya March 31, 2011 at 2:53 am

All of the pictures shown were taking last year, not long after I went vegan and during marathon training. In my blog posts from that time (and in this post) I explicitly stated that I wanted to gain weight. As Anoymous said, recovery is not 100% about weight gain. When I gained weight ‘the traditional way’ during recovery, I was in no way mentally healthy. When I became vegan, not only did I continue to gain weight, but I was feeling good about myself doing it.
I’m never going to be a curvy girl, simply because that’s my natural body shop – pre-ED, post-ED – I’ve never had boobs or hips. I’m also a very active person, running and riding, and I eat a good diet. I’ve also seen a nutritionist and a doctor, and they all say I am fit and healthy.
The important point for me is that I have a healthy bmi, and a healthy mind. That’s what matters!

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E. March 31, 2011 at 8:17 am

Wow thanks everyone for the intelligent discussion. Gena, that’s why I love your site. I do agree that judging recovery based on photos, appearances, etc isn’t totally appropriate. And Freya, I didn’t mean to personally attack you. The fact that a post on ED recovery started off with a big picture of a very thin looking person hit the wrong chord with me.

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Gena March 31, 2011 at 6:33 am

Just want to add my own two cents here:

I think it’s very important that we never judge health based on photos. I know that all food bloggers have bumped up against this at least once! In my work and in my life, I’ve encountered many women who were very thin and very healthy and very free from disordered habits; I’ve also encountered many women who look “normal” by body weight standards and are really struggling.

I’d also like to note that full weight gain post-recovery can actually take quite a long time. You can reach a healthy BMI but still be very thin for quite a while before you actually gain a little more. This obviously is no general rule, but I think other post-EDers will verify that this is often how it works. So let’s put Freya aside — I think she’s spoken for herself beautifully — but I wouldn’t personally cast doubt on any person post-recovery for still being thin. I’d assume there was a good chance he or she was eating well, but that full restoration of weight might come slowly. I say this specifically because it’s how it worked in my case.

G

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Elizabeth March 31, 2011 at 8:01 am

Whoops! I did not mean to comment anonymously! I hate anonymous comments!

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Hannah March 31, 2011 at 8:56 am

This is a really great discussion. Honestly, I too had the same reaction as E. when I saw these photos. A full restoration of weight does come slowly, however, for all the women and men in recovery or still dealing with an ED, this post may have been triggering because some people may think, “Oh, I’m in recovery and why don’t I look like that? Why do I weigh so much more?” I know that is really simplified, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that thought went through the minds of many reading this post. Perhaps for future posts, there should be a stronger emphasis that every one has a different pace in recovery. Perhaps the word “recovery” means different things to different people. However, nutritionists that I have talked to have repeatedly said that recovery involves “widening the sidewalk” of our lives–that we aren’t just limited ourselves to the small, safe world of working out, recipes, and healthy foods. There are so many other facets of our personalities to acknowledge.

Anyway, those were my somewhat disorganized thoughts, excuse me for that! But again, great discussion, and I look forward to seeing where these series of posts go.

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Christiane Abella August 24, 2012 at 5:04 am

I thought of myself when I saw the first picture but as I went on I saw the recovery. I saw the happiness shine in her face and her health become restored. I mean I have always been “thin” since I was little, always on the low end of BMI charts but being too thin, thinner and skinnier with bones showing I realized was/is not healthy. Runners, marathoners and other athletes do have lower fat contents and usually lower BMIs (although that may not be the case for weight lifters). Just because someone looks skinny or fat or “fit” does not mean that they are mentally struggling with an ED is definitely a great point here. I may still be skinny but I am not nearly struggling with ED thoughts 24/7 even when I had a higher BMI. I am not fully recovered but I agree that appearances (besides being medically underweight and at risk for injury or death) do not equate to health, vitality or mental stability or normality. First the ED thoughts need to go away before full weight restoration and more importantly full recovery and a full sense of “normality” can be achieved. I still have “stickly” arms and legs but I am happier and healthier than I have been in years. :)

Sarah March 30, 2011 at 9:49 pm

This is going to be an excellent series. I, too, really liked Freya’s point about veganism and identity. Food for thought for sure. And this comment thread has been fantastic.

I may write a post as well – we shall see. Is it best just in an email or in a document, Gena?

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Gena March 31, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Oh, good! You are an ideal person to contribute, Sarah!

Any format is fine. I’m thrilled you want to be a part of this.

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Katie (quick cook rice) March 30, 2011 at 10:23 pm

I’m really loving this dialogue, and I can’t wait to see what will come of it.

But I have to say: there is something that has really been bothering me about food blogging in general. Now that I’m actually writing a blog and not just reading them, I definitely feel a strange pressure to have my meals or my recipes fit a certain mold. I try not to give in because obviously that’s not what a food blog should be about. So many food bloggers document their every meal, and I wonder how much of an effect (whether positive or negative) that would have on recovery.

A lot to think about. Thanks for giving us a such a supportive forum!

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Karen March 31, 2011 at 1:30 am

Gena..I have been thinking about this and am unsure completely what to say but want to start. What advice can you give about how to become vegan/vegetarian and not gain weight? Perhaps I’ve been over indulging in raw pies, hummus, and juice. This is a new experiment for me ( I like the word because it feels unrestrictive. I love your suggestion to add, not subtract and I have been reading your blog a lot and trying new recipes. So far, the cooked ones , other than juice, have been my favorite. So I made the sweet potato hummus again and the raw cauliflower which I am eating but my husband won’t touch. It’s not my favorite ( neither is cauliflower which he adores) but I’ve been thinking maybe I should just go back to steaming vegetables. Combining cauliflower like that with cashews adds a lot of calories. How do you balance this? Do you think ok I’m going to have beans today for protein or lots of greens as a filler? It’s late and I hope I’m making sense. Thank you for your blog.

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Meghan @ StruggleMuffins March 31, 2011 at 5:46 am

Wow, what a poignant post, both on your behalf and Freya’s. As someone who suffered from an eating disorder years ago and has since navigated an interesting dietary road as I try to achieve the most healthy balance for me, I found this particularly insightful and moving. I’ve also done a vegan diet but it didn’t stick because I did it for nutritional reasons only. I’ve recently been researching a vegan lifestyle because I’m motivated by the its humanitarian and environmental implications – not just the healthfulness of it – and I believe that when I eventually make the switch I’ll have greater success with and feel better about my transition. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here; very relatable and inspiring!

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Anita March 31, 2011 at 8:32 am

Incredible post. Excellent comments. I can not wait for the rest of the series. Would love to read a whole book about this! (Hint-hint.)

Regarding the whole restricted diet issue, I think it all boils down to the paragraph where Freya begins “A restricted diet? Quite the opposite.”

it is evident from her pictures that she has a lot of delicious variety in her meals, possibly more than ever before. I can identify.

I greatly admire both Gena and Freya for this post. A very important and relevant topic that I have yet to see explored.

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Valerie @ City|Life|Eats March 31, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Gena and Freya – thank you for your eloquent and candid writing – as someone who has struggled with food since age 7 and found balance with food, only to lose touch with such balance again, all multiple times, dialogues like this are so important.

When I was in college, I used being a vegetarian as an excuse to eat just salad in the dining hall at for long stretches of time. Obviously, being vegetarian had nothing to do with animal welfare or health and everything to do with finding yet another way to restrict my eating. Such behavior is completely different than the marked improvement in my relationship with food now which is vegan-leaning, though, I should add, not 100% vegan. Some of it is that lots of plants work well for me, though the added complexity to all of this is that I suspect part of the reason food no longer feels like the enemy is that I have discovered that some foods just don’t agree with me on account of food intolerances and therefore avoid those foods. Thank you again for this series.

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tanyasadvegture.blogspot March 31, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Freya~thank you for sharing your story.What a wonderful and beautiful young woman you are.I have just recently began my veagn journey and I love to read these beautiful sories.thank you for sharing.Tanya

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Stephanie April 1, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Hello! Whoa, I almost missed the post and glad that I got a chance to read it. I had times of restriction in my diet, and although now I count (calories) just to make sure I eat enough for my physical activities, I am tired of number crunching. I have read Kailey’s post before and I really want to take this approach for at least a while – until I get a healthy & more natural relationship with my food and my self. On the other hand, I’m really concerned about what others may think. For instance, my parents don’t even support vegetarianism. I’m also very scared that veganism will make me to just restrict myself more…Do you have any tips or advices for people like me who wants to just give a try?

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Freya April 2, 2011 at 11:38 am

My family were worried when I went vegan too – that it would lead to more restriction. But I found that because I educated myself on all the nutrients needed to be a healthy vegan, there was LESS restriction. I knew I need omega 3′s, 6′s etc etc and that things like flaxseed would be great ways of getting them, so in the end, my diet branched out. Plus a vegan in general needs to eat more varieties of protein foods (for example) to get the full benefit, so again – if you want to be healthy, it just isn’t possible to restrict much.

I’m not sure if that makes any sense (I just wrote an essay and my brain is fuzz!) but my point is – going vegan does not mean restriction, if you’re willing to put some research in and are keen to stay healthy. Maybe try it for a little while, but if ANY restrictive thoughts come in, assume you’re not ready just yet? :) good luck, whatever you decide!

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Kayla April 8, 2011 at 1:16 am

This was such a great post. I went through similar things on my road to becoming a vegan and feel healthier and better than ever, and I don’t feel bad about eating anymore, which I feel is the biggest step for anyone overcoming an eating disorder, no matter how small or extreme.

Thanks so much, I’ll definitely write something up and send it to you!

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beachmama July 10, 2011 at 12:16 am

This is an important topic on so many levels. Thank you for developing this series Gena and for the brave ladies and gentlemen who contribute their stories. You are angels who are helping more people than you will ever know . . .

AND, thank you, thank you for addressing the “veganism is a “sublimated eating disorder” rant! I’d like to see vegan bloggers address this issue more often as it confuses and frightens people away from experimenting with a healthier way to wellness. Sadly, this scare tactic is used more often than I care to recall in non-vegan food blogs.

So happy I found you through ‘Healthy, Happy Life!’ I’m now a regular reader!

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Gena July 10, 2011 at 9:48 am

Thanks so much, Beachmama! I realized early on that EDs were sort of a forbidden topic in certain vegan circles, and thought it was an inversion of how it ought to be: since many women in my community did find wellness through vegan diet, why not address that head on and talk about the whys and hows?

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beachmama July 10, 2011 at 12:14 pm

So true Gena! Thanks to blogs like yours we have abundant opportunities to educate ourselves and others about the health benefits and compassionate path of a vegan diet.

And to Freya . . . I am 56 years-old and people still comment on how ‘thin’ I am. I’ve heard these comments my entire life and assumed that when I got to a ‘certain age’ it would stop. I’ve weighed nearly 25 pounds more than my current weight and have still heard the same comments. I’m 5′ 5″ and weigh about 110 (I don’t have a scale so guessing from the last time I weighed myself a year or so ago). I was veg for 20 years, now vegan for nearly 6 years. Our view of a healthy weight is skewed by our chronically overweight and unhealthy population.

I know unhealthy vegans and I know fat vegans. It’s all about balance and nutrition and educating ourselves by reading blogs like Gena’s and using our common sense. I’ve never given much consideration to what people say about my weight but it does get tiresome hearing a judgmental tone in peoples comments.

Trust yourself. Surround yourself with positive uplifting people who love and support you. You’re a beautiful, courageous young woman who has so much more life ahead . . . thanks for sharing your story.

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Sun August 12, 2011 at 11:43 am

anorexia —-> orthorexia.

Look it up, people. This is too easy to psychoanalyze.

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Nikki August 17, 2012 at 11:42 am

So glad this is here.
I, too, have used my veganism as a recovery tool as well as many other things. That said, I’ve encountered a lot of criticism for being both vegan and a recover(ing/ed) anorexic. It’s hard for people to realize that we are more than just our eating disorder. The things we do don’t have to revolve around that when we are in recovery. Perhaps we are just kind, thoughtful people who happen to know that veganism is the way to go regardless of our former eating habits.

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Christiane Abella August 24, 2012 at 4:46 am

Wow! Such an amazing post Gena! I was way too moved and felt way too strong a connection to pass up my opportunity to send you an email with my story. Even though it was past 5 AM, I could not go to sleep after reading that without contributing. Thank you for being such a strong person, being so open minded and helping others. Don’t ever give up and let’s fight the good one. Viva la vegan! I hope to someday promote raw veganism to others, especially in South Korea, and especially educate females about this. I might decide to become a nutritionist someday as I felt my nutritionist did not help me with my eating disorder by just forcing me to eat animal products that were high in calories but low in nutrition. I love your blog and will definitely continue to read it and support you and all that you do for others. Thanks again. :)

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WendyS March 3, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Freya – thank you so much for sharing your story – you are so brave! I hope you continue to get stronger and healthier!

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Ellie July 30, 2013 at 5:34 pm

I have been re reading all the green recovery posts, as I have recently just started eating more plant based, no more meat, I still eat fish occasionally, and I still drink cows milk and eat my farm fresh eggs. I want to one day be free from restriction and ‘diet’ ANYTHING, and using food/exercise (or not) as a coping mechanism. Coming from a large ‘meat and vege’ family, on a farm, my parents have had a hard time accepting my dietary changes, but I think the more health and wellness I gain, and easier it will become for both myself and my family.
I one day want to become fully vegetarian or vegan when my body and mind is ready, because I know it is what is right for me. I can already see the change in my habits, being aware of my meals and food, rather than just eating it because I ‘have to!’

Thank you for Green Recovery Stories :)

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Anonymous January 9, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Thank you Freya, I always felt so alone. I myself struggled and am trying to recover from anorexia. It is so hard when people don’t understand my passion for veganism because they just come to a conclusion that it will set me back or stems from the eating disorder. I have seen the documentary earthlings and it really hit me hard emotionally. I to enjoy horses and came to the realization that we are all interconnected. Hearing your story, knowing that I am not alone makes me feel more confident even if it isn’t increased by that much. I fell like I am still struggling to rebuild my self but I just would like to thank you for sharing.

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For more information on my Workshops, Writing Mastermind Groups and private coaching, please go
to my website listed below and feel free to call me any time.
He hosted Comedy Central’s’The Man Show’ as well as the ubiquitous pseudo-porn for the sexually crippled,
‘Girls Gone Wild’, both solely and shamelessly for financial
gain.

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