Hey my beautiful readers!
This post is really hard for me to write and has taken me several months to think about and formulate with the right awareness and intention. Although, I did write this post in a couple of hours, I feel like I am finally floating on this sea of emotions, rather than sinking. I want to be real and honest about my eating disorder journey with you, but that requires a lot of courage, strength and introspection on my part.
I feel compelled to share my story to fully identify and articulate what actually happened throughout my health journey, as well as give you a story that inspires, encourages and hopefully gives you the tools you need to heal yourself. I have had so many realizations along the way that have evolved me into the person I am today.
I am still in the healing process, although I feel I am very close to reaching my ultimate health. I didn’t know what health really meant until I became obsessed with it to the point of turning into an anxious and sick person and had to apply the knowledge I had to heal. Only did becoming mindful and using yoga was I able to completely heal my destructive habits and become grounded in self-love.
So … Here’s the whole story.
My Journey from Fit to Sick
It all began in Grade 11 when I discovered Jillian Michaels boot camps and how good greens made me feel. My mom had decided to start exercising at home as part of her 100-pound weight loss journey, and I decided to jump on that bus. I hated to exercise at this point, and was addicted to sugar-filled foods like Arizona green tea and peanut M&Ms.
The high-achiever in me got bored of her basic exercise videos and found the hard-ass workouts of Jillian Michaels challenging and satisfying. I did her videos about five times a week, and started to eat a healthy vegetarian diet, with more salads and less sugar.
At this time, I was having mild breakouts and went on birth control to help the cause. Little did I know what this meant for the future of my periods. As I started to educate myself more on health through documentaries, health podcasts and blogs, I realized I had found my passion. But the perfectionist and curious soul in me of course wanted to take my health to the next level … and so I took on the challenge of becoming a vegan.
I was hardcore vegan for about two years, and during that time, I tried many different types of vegan diets – the fruitarian, the high carb, no fat diet, the juice cleansing … and during this whole process I went off birth control as I learned all about the negative effects of it.
Well, I had no period for two years after that.
And during this whole time, I learned how to have incredible self-control and discipline. I had an exercise routine, I had a strict diet and I had a plan to feel good. But somehow, focusing on my physical health made every aspect of my health suffer.
My physical health didn’t really improve, in fact, it got worse. I developed an obsession with every meal I would have, and started to feel anxious when it came time to eat. I was nutrient deficient through the insane blood sugar spikes I had and started to eat huge amounts of food, in secret of course.
I loved to bake, and would bake a whole tray of vegan, gluten-free, refined-sugar free muffins, snap a pic for my blog, then eat the whole tray and think that I was fine and eating a healthy diet. But I felt guilty, bloated, ashamed and sick. However, my anxiety was gone when I finished my binge. And I could exercise it off to keep at a steady weight.
And so the pattern continued.
I became obsessed about my diet to the point where I isolated myself, and would keep myself so busy to the point where I lived in a chronic state of stress. I would have my extra-curriculars, my schoolwork, my harp lessons, and work to fill my time so I could stop thinking about food and my parent’s shaking relationship.
My first few years of university I decided to major in business because I wanted to start my own health business as I thought I had all the health information I needed. I worked at a smoothie bar and vegan restaurant. I was golden.
Until I started to hate my classes, hate the cutthroat vibe of my program and knew I wasn’t living out my truth.
I broke in my second semester of my first year, and was miserable, nutrient deficient and full of stress as I pushed away the people I loved. I remember sobbing in my harp lesson with a teacher that didn’t know how to help and thought that the circle of fifths was my biggest problem. But I knew.
I knew I needed to change my major and travel to re-discover who I was and where I belonged.
My mom also started to notice that my ‘healthy’ and restrictive vegan diet wasn’t working for me when I ate a whole pot of brown rice she had cooked for me for dinner. And so she asked how I felt about going back to my vegetarian ways. But at that point, I had been brainwashed by other fruitarians and vegans to think that eggs and dairy were bad and not healthful. But she said maybe my skin would improve, and as it was getting worse, I felt weak and tired and continued to not have a period.
I remember the day when I agreed to her caring suggestion and she bought some free-range organic eggs per my orthorexic request. I remember her handing me my veggie omelet she made with love, and a side of salsa and avo, just how I used to like it. I was terrified to eat it, but decided to make the decision to listen to my body.
In that first bite, it was like every cell in my body finally cried out with happiness and hollered and hooted ‘THANK YOU!’
And so my healing journey began.
I included eggs into my diet, which helped with the whole feeling satisfied after a meal thing. And I started to go to a naturopath to address my period and acne problems. But I was still a ball of stress. I started to relieve it with my newfound love for rock climbing.
My friend was also experiencing similar symptoms, as she was having an autoimmune reaction to everything she ate, but was eating primarily paleo. It was interesting to hear her perspective, especially on the subject of bone broth and how it can heal your gut inflammation.
My stomach was a disaster zone. I was bloated constantly as I ate primarily raw food and grains. I was so adamant about my vegan label that I had lost my curiosity and growth in my health journey.
I was a complete mental and physical mess.
But what about spiritually?
Well through these times of isolation, my parent’s separation and internal pressure I placed on myself to keep getting 90s, God knew what He was doing. He was giving me self-help books to read, started to create a support system of friends in the health field, and gave me plans of changing my major to Kinesiology, where I fell in love with research and understanding the mechanics of the human body.
I also went to Greece and experienced deep connections with those around the world, and discovered how much I loved talking to others about my health journey. I also had to eat some feta and greek pastries while I was there (because duh, I was in Greece), and ate in community, loosening the grips on my orthorexic and binge eating ways.
God kept me stable and grounded, even when I was depressed and anxious. I remember on a really bad day as I was driving home from school, I felt a surge of anxiety run up my spine paralyzing my body and causing me to hyperventilate. I then had the thought of swerving my car into the oncoming traffic.
That’s when I knew I needed help.
Then came the era of acupuncture, journaling and yoga – my saving graces.
By this time, I had tried everything to balance my hormones (I thought) and decided to give acupuncture a try. Well it zened me right out and eased my digestive pains. I also decided to keep an open mind with introducing new foods into my restricted plan, and eliminated inflammatory foods to speed up the healing process. I stuck to my qualitarian ways and started to drink bone broth that my friend was making with organic and grass-fed beef and chicken.
Well that shit was liquid gold.
I felt like I was getting closer and closer to healing myself and finding the right diet that worked for my body. But it wasn’t until I became truly mindful through the healing art of yoga did I release the negative emotions I had towards myself and towards my father.
I remember being in a yoga class with one of my favourite teachers, and the theme of the class was forgiveness. In shavasana, she encouraged us to hold our hearts and release any resentful thoughts we had towards ourselves and to forgive anyone in our lives that had hurt us. I left that class with tears feeling lighter and loved. My parents relationship was finally resolved in my mind as my dad left during this time. My mom and I could finally live in a less harsh and angry environment that could heal us both.
I felt deeply connected to my Spirit and loved by my Father, and knew that everything would be okay.
My addictive personality of course moved on to something else … and that was yoga. My daily yoga practice forced me to become reflective and aware of my obsessive thoughts about food. So my binge eating episodes didn’t make much sense after my yoga classes, when I wasn’t even that hungry and wanted to sit and enjoy each bite.
So I started to eat less by including sustaining meat in my diet for the first time in 13 years.
I started with some wild fish, as I thought I could stomach that. I learned that I loved salmon. And then I had some grass-fed buffalo and a little chicken. But I remembered to keep limits on things, and to have small portions of nuts, of seeds, and meat. I also made a habit of drinking tea after my meals, to signal to my body and mind that I was done eating and could move on with my day.
Then I went to Hawaii for my yoga internship and that solidified my healing process. The travel bug again came to the rescue in my pursuit of health and happiness.
This second opportunity in my life to live in community and let go of my perfectionistic ways allowed me to be human. I felt so alive and liberated to eat in community where I could slow down, have a calm and relaxed stomach, and engage in deep and meaningful conversation.
I hung out with people who ate everything and exposed me to new foods and ethnic cuisines, new adventures and new ideas and opinions. I was challenged in my faith, challenged in my diet, challenged in my flexibility and yoga knowledge, and was opened to a new and beautiful world. Did I mention my period had returned and was consistent during this time? No coincidence there.
When I came home, I became depressed for a little while as I left my tropical paradise. And that’s when I binged once more and knew it felt wrong. I knew my behaviour was due to my feelings of wanting to live in the past and caused me to revert to my old habits. I knew I had come this far in the healing journey and focused on what my beautiful future would hold and made the decision to stop. But how did I stop binge eating?
I made the decision to stop and be aware of my actions following that decision. And I wasn’t scared if I slipped up … I would just try again.
Be kind to yourself and intentional in the process.
My research also went along with my health journey, as I discovered Jordan Younger‘s journey with orthorexia and did a project on #orthorexia on instagram not only to better understand others’ battles with the eating disorder, but my own. It also isn’t a coincidence that my passion for yoga is now translated into my thesis on #yoga.
I came to the realization that this thing I did, this eating too much, wasn’t normal and it was confirmed in my brain in my abnormal psychology class when we were talking about the diagnostic criteria for binge eating disorder. How hard I had tried to become this label of vegan and healthy person to let go of it all … to now come back to a new label. But as I left class with tears of understanding, it was only fitting to be able to say it out loud and now to write it out for you to read.
I had orthorexia and binge eating disorder and I am a better person because of it.
So how am I doing now you ask?
Well … I’m still over labels but will stick to my qualitarian ways because I do love to eat a healthful diet. I do eat primarily grain free with intermittent fasting and some chicken and fish with bone broth to supplement my plant-based diet because that’s what my body needs right now. And I feel my best when I eat like this. But I won’t be scared or anxious to go out with friends and eat something outside of my criteria. Not only do I listen to my BODY … I also listen to my MIND.
I have learned health is so much more than physical health … and that your emotional health is just as important.
I release my negative emotions by journaling every morning and being with God in my meditation practices. I do yoga daily to keep me sane and flexible in all aspects of my life. I realized my love for nature and being connected to Mother Nature has helped me in the healing process and has given me a carving for living a nomadic and simple life.
I have taken some extra-curriculars off my plate so I’m not in a chronic state of stress, and have come to terms with the fact that I can’t control my life … and that my trust rests in Him alone. I am proud to call myself a calm person now that goes with the flow and lives in the present moment.
My past struggles have prepared me for my bright and beautiful future ahead.
I am so excited to continue my yoga and travelling journey as I train for my yoga teacher certification in Peru in August. I also plan on helping others with their eating disorders as a health coach by using my perfectionistic and obsessive personality as a way to relate and love those who suffer from disordered eating.
I believe God gives us suffering and let’s us struggle in order to better understand our purpose in this world.
Yes it’s hard and it sucks but in the end … we can share our stories in vulnerable and real ways to be a light and source of love to others.
So love yourself, be mindful and make a mental inventory of your physical, emotional and spiritual health. If you feel out of balance, attempt to determine the underlying cause behind it, and research some strategies that you think could work for you to release your stress and ground you.
By releasing fear, and being sensitive to your heart’s desires, you can free your soul and reach ultimate health, one moment at a time.
Peace & Love,
Jill – your vulnerable veggie villager xx
Thank you for letting me share my story with an open heart! Now, I’d love to hear from you! Have you experienced disordered eating? What strategies did you use to overcome it? Comment below!