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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.

binge eating disorder, orthorexia
Bearing my soul.

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.

Dipping my toes into the vegan world.

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.

cookies, health, eating disorder

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.

community, eating disorder, health, greece

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.

greece, eating disorder, orthorexia

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.

eating disorder, balance

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.

community, eating disorder, health

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. 

health, eating disorder, happy, binge eating disorder

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.

chicken, eating disorder, health
I’ve learned to love chicken.

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.

eating disorder, health, algonquin park

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.

health, hawaii, eating disorder

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.

yoga, health, eating disorder

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hey villagers!!

Ever thought about attending a yoga class but the idea of trying to get your head to your knee seemed too overwhelming and scary? Especially in front of a bunch of yogis who can stand on their heads?

I know because I’ve been there. But I hope I can convince you that yoga is so much more than trying to relax, hold a pose with screaming legs and burning arms, and attempting to not hold your breath all at the same time.

So …. What is yoga?

Yoga means union, a focus on the interconnectedness of your mind, body and spirit to improve aspects of health. Yoga is more than just poses, which is the most basic form. It is called asana, and is just one limb of the eight limbs or components of yoga. Yoga consists of ethical principles for living a purposeful life, while acknowledging the health, mindfulness, wellbeing and spiritual aspects of oneself.

Sometimes, in order to truly understand the major themes of yoga’s teachings, we need to practice asana with the intention of drawing inward and looking at what our minds and bodies are telling us about our souls.

But we aren’t given this yoga information when we attend a yoga class, and maybe we have different intentions to start practicing. For most, it’s to relieve stress, or to get some exercise in, but as you continue to practice and engage in an everyday yoga routine, you begin to focus on the spiritual side of yoga.

So …. How do you do yoga?

Yoga begins by showing up. Engaging your whole self and slowing down to the speed of our rapid and quickly changing, crazy lives. Yoga is for all bodies, shapes and sizes, and no comparisons need to be made as it is a practice of going within, not looking outward at others.

Yoga is for you, your development, and your growth so that ultimately, you can better serve others. The asana or poses, is just a vehicle for you to reach your greatest potential, and love with a humble and grateful heart.

So … Feeling inspired yet?

What if I told you about my yoga journey?

I was exposed to yoga since I was a child, as my aunt was a yoga teacher. I would watch the yoga for kids video and hang out in my cat and cow poses, while actually making the animal noises … it was a fun way for me to move and let my energy out.

I would attend hot yoga classes with her, and she would lead me through yoga flows at her house. But as I went into high school, my poor diet, sedentary lifestyle and academic focus shifted away from my health and my yoga practice.

As my mom was getting into health and fitness, I started to eat better and be conscious of movement and changing my negative mindset. I began doing home workout videos, and jumping on my rebounder (mini trampoline .. plan on doing bootcamps with it one day!).

Fast forward to university, when I decided that business was not my calling and that Kinesiology was much more in line with my values and lifestyle. I began having a regular yoga practice at different local studios, mostly vinyasa and hot yoga. I enjoyed moving, and started to see how yoga was being translated into my life and improving my health – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

I was also always drawn to spirituality. I’ve always been a big church go-er, and served at my local church in all capacities. I felt God has always lead me down the right path, and has instilled healthy habits in me. But yoga allows me to go deeper, everyday.

 

As I decided to go to Hawaii for 2 months on a yoga internship this past summer, I was immersed into the true yoga world – one that isn’t commercialized and advertises yoga as exercise in one quick hour. I was doing vinyasa, yin and kundalini yoga for 1.5-5 hours a day and loving every minute of it.

I felt like I was on a yoga high … and I still feel that way coming out of classes and even doing my own yoga routine and stretches back at home.

Now as I teach at Strong Body Fitness as a bootcamp instructor, I have access to yoga on a daily basis and have been attending hot yoga 1-2 times a week at a studio closer to home. I do my own daily flow if I can’t make a class, and always incorporate breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation into my morning routine.

yoga

Yoga has given me clarity, healed my relationship with food, is slowly healing my hormonal and digestive health, improved my relationships with others as I am more present, engaged and sensitive in conversations and has helped me connect with God that is within me (I call it the Holy Spirit … some call it your higher Self).

So …. Feeling ready to reap the benefits of yoga but don’t know where to start?

Here are my top 10 yoga tips on how to get started on your yoga and inner journey to reaching your highest Self!

1. Get a mat.

If you are planning on taking a yoga class, the first step you can do is buy yourself a yoga mat that suits your needs and your style! There are some for as low as $20 will cool designs, and even grabbing a block and strap package for your home practice is helpful, especially if you need an extra stretch from injuries or chronic pain. I finally upgraded to a heavy-duty Jade yoga mat that is extra long for my extra long limbs and will hold up to my daily practice.

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2. Get some inspiration.

See how others are moving and get inspired! Maybe check out some Instagram accounts of yoga teachers and their favourite flows and poses, and read about the eight limbs of yoga through resources like the Yoga Sutras.

 

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Dancing by the sea.

3. Figure out which type of yoga works for you.

Maybe you hate being hot when you are moving, so hot yoga would probably not be the best choice for you. Listen to your body and try out some different yoga classes. Different types of hatha yoga are the most common types of yoga that we practice in North America.

When you want to be mellow and stretch it out in static poses, go for some yin yoga. If you have lots of energy and like to not hold poses for a long time, try some vinyasa power yoga. If you want to challenge your mind and engage in more repetitious breathing and meditation practices, try some kundalini yoga. And if you like routine and want to progress through set sequences, try some Ashtanga yoga.

Vinyasa yoga is my go to, usually a yoga class that holds poses and where I can push myself and hang in a headstand for a while, but I do switch it up depending on my needs of the week.

4. Do your research and shop around (local is better).

Find a studio that has a variety of different classes that you think you would enjoy, as well as one that is near to your house or work. Check class schedules weekly and fit them into your schedule (set reminders, put it on your calendar or write it in your planner!!). Make time for you and your personal growth a top priority! I love my power flow and slow burn vinyasa yoga classes at Strong Body, my vinyasa hot yoga at Moksha, and my inversion practice at my own yoga sanctuary.

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5. Try different classes that involve water, sun or animals.

There are some special exceptions to traditional yoga classes that you might want to try out if you’re feeling adventurous. SUP yoga is always a fun way to challenge your balance and connect to the sea (or lake…).

When the seasons change, there are usually 108 sun salutation events that salute to the new season and connect with other yogis in your community … I went to one of these for the fall and it was so much fun!

Also, there are some classes that are by donation to animal rescue charities, and include goats, cats and dogs wandering around and chilling on your mats as you move through your downward dogs with them. This is the usual at my house … minus the goats.

yoga
Definitely harder than it looks.

6. Bring a friend or go with someone who is all Zened out.

It always helps when you know someone who is into yoga and that already goes to a yoga studio. You can hold each other accountable as well as share ideas and thoughts about classes and how yoga is influencing your lives together. Also, your friend might give you the encouragement as well as inspiration you need to get to your first class.

yoga
Find your tribe.

7. Be consistent.

To have a daily practice would be ideal, but when starting out, try to go to yoga at least 2-3 times a week to really experience the benefits – mind, body and soul! You will feel yourself becoming more mindful and slowing down and you will realize that what you learn on the mat is projecting into your daily life – but this only happens when you are committed and consistent!

8. Listen to your body (know your limits).

Don’t ever compare yourself to the yogis in the room. Focus on your breath and listen to your body as you flow through different poses. Stay in the ones that are uncomfortable, but not the ones that hurt. Know your limits but also know when to push yourself to your edge. Get adventurous and try out new poses without fear or judgment of yourself or what others will think.

yoga
108 sun salutations … and go.

9. Find a yoga instructor (mentor) that gets you.

Trying different studios and going to different yoga events in the local community can help you find a teacher that speaks to your soul and your growth. Once you find a yoga teacher that you can relate to, that understands you and knows your limits can make your yoga experience even that much better. Having a mentor can teach you new things about yourself, about the practice itself, and can create the support and guidance you need to reach your highest Self.

yoga
My yoga mentor … she got me.

10. Be patient.

Being kind to your body also means that getting to more advanced yoga poses takes time, effort, focus and patience. Be patient with your progress, and know that there is a lot of hard work on all accounts – mentally, emotionally, physically and spirituality. Contemplation, reflection, listening, and letting go are all parts of the journey. Trust in the development of your yoga spirit.

yoga
Surrender.

Please comment below about how you have used these tips to start your yoga practice! I would love to hear about your yoga journey and how you incorporate the eight limbs of yoga into your daily life!

So I encourage you to get your Zen on in order to improve your health and your interactions with yourself, others and the world off the mat.

Namaste,

Jill – your veggie villager xx

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