Hello, lovelies! I loved your reaction to my blueberry oat bars! And I love the bars themselves, so rest assured I’ll offer you some fun spins on the original recipe. I can’t wait to try it with other fruit flavors, grains, and toppings.
Today, I’m here with a Green Recovery submission. Our past four have featured women who were prone to food restriction (or restrict and overeating cycles), and three of these women developed full-fledged anorexia nervosa. These stories hit close to home for me, and it’s urgent that they be shared, but a particular passion of mine is also to shed light on the many varieties of disordered eating that exist. These include anorexia and bulimia, but they also include binge eating, compulsive eating, and many others.
On that note, I’m happy to widen the scope of our series today with a submission from Wendy, the sassy and enthusiastic scribe behind Healthy Girl’s Kitchen. Wendy is here to share her story of recovery from compulsive eating. You’ll find that her honesty and her passion for a plant-strong diet is absolutely infectious, and I’ve included some of her recipe photos throughout to prove it. Thanks, Wendy, for sharing your story!
Hello. My name us Wendy. I am a compulsive eater. An emotional eater. An OVER eater. YES, I have an eating disorder. It’s not as commonly accepted as anorexia and bulimia, but in my life it has been equally as vicious. A plant-based diet saved my sanity and probably my life. Here is my story.
I cannot remember a time in my life when food was not a really big, bad deal. Many of my early memories revolve around my relationship with food and my poor body image. I was always sneaking downstairs in my house to eat more than my mother would allow me to. I had an almost insatiable appetite for sugar. To this day, I don’t know why or how my mother did not confront me about my sneak eating, but I’m glad that she didn’t. I would have been mortified.
My mom knew I had some sort of disorder and limited the amount of sugar in the house, but I could get pretty creative about getting it. In junior high I borrowed money from my best friend every day and bought ice cream at lunchtime. I never paid her back, she never asked for the money, and she never called me out. She was a nice friend. I was a little bit overweight, but not much. I thought I was fat. I never felt comfortable in my own skin.
My first “diet” was Weight Watchers. I was 15 at the time. I remember standing in line to pay and the woman next to me said, “How much weight have you lost?”
“None,” I replied, “this is my first time here.” I mention this because it’s important to note that I didn’t have much extra weight, but I knew on a very deep level that I had a big problem with food. I thought Weight Watchers and losing weight was a solution to my problem. I had no idea what was in store for me.
Wendy, before and after happily finding a plant based diet.
Dieting didn’t eliminate my food obsession: it fueled it. I would successfully diet, lose weight, feel starving and out of control, binge/sneak eat, gain all of the weight back and start all over again so many times that I lost count a long time ago. All through high school, college, grad school, getting married, and having three children, the cycle would repeat itself time and time again. The Cabbage Soup Diet, The Master Cleanse, The South Beach Diet, The Carbohydrate Addicts Diet, The Flat-Abs Diet, and Weight Watchers . . . over and over and over. I hated my body and I hated myself even more for failing to maintain a healthy weight.
I wanted to feel good and look good and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to do that. I do have perfectionist tendencies, and I couldn’t ignore this perceived failure in my life. Unlike some other eating disorder sufferers, I’ve always had a ton of self-confidence and a feeling of enormous power and potential in my life outside of food. (Gena’s note: I think this is actually true of a lot of ED sufferers, Wendy! Me included.) Not having my physical or emotional health drove me nuts. I wanted it all.
At 5’4″ tall, I peaked out in April of 2009 at 182.5 pounds. When an old friend asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding I knew I would have the motivation to begin yet another round of weight loss so that I would not be “the fat bridesmaid.”
I showed up yet again at Weight Watchers. Only this time, a miracle occurred. A woman at the meeting mentioned a website called PEER trainer, which in turn led me to read a book by Dr. Joel Fuhrman called Eat to Live. If you are not familiar with his methodology, he recommends a high volume, low calorie, plant-strong diet. I explored and read everything I could about plant-based food. Blogs, books, movies, plant-strong eating challenges-you name it, I was fascinated. I began losing weight in an enjoyable way–feeling satisfied, full and well nourished instead of hungry, angry and malnourished.
It took some time for me to transition away from eating everything with a mother or a face (including cheese and milk), and just about all processed food of any kind. I know this way of eating seems extreme and restrictive to some people, but it “cured” me from my eating disorder (as much as a person can be cured of it). I have joyously maintained a 40 pound weight loss for well over a year, which is astonishing for me.
I’m on a magic carpet ride, and I am still discovering which foods are not the best for me. For example, I recently decided that agave syrup did not belong in my diet, so I eliminated it. It’s just sugar after all, and sugar is my personal drug of choice. Once I accepted that, I was able to eliminate it.
Now, I do realize that as a compulsive over eater I am in the minority of readers here on Choosing Raw. I know that what is best for me is not best for someone suffering with anorexia or bulimia. But through adapting a no-added fat, plant based diet, I have found what is best for me. I need to feel full (not stuffed!) after I eat, so that I don’t binge later. I need to consume a high volume of vegetables and beans to give me the energy that I need to make it through my busy life. I NEED to feel good and confident about the food that I am eating and how it effects my weight and energy levels.
Food and sugar are no longer the scary enemy that they once were. They do not control my every waking thought and I no longer worry about how my food choices are going to affect my weight. Why? Because it seems to me that eating primarily plant-based, unprocessed food lands a person, ultimately, at their healthy weight.
That does not mean that I never eat anything with meat or dairy or sugar or oil. I’m evolving, at least right now, at my own pace, toward an evermore exclusively plant-based diet. And as for the sugar and oils, I’m carefully not to get into an orthorexic frame of mind, although there was a point where I was getting close and ironically, it was my mom who pointed it out to me. It also doesn’t mean that I never overeat or compulsively eat or binge. I do. Occasionally. And I no longer beat myself up about it. I just move on and go back to eating on my healthy plan immediately. I don’t use my slip-ups as an excuse to binge again.
Am I recovered if I still spend so much time planning, cooking, and photographing food? That is a fascinating question! I began blogging in January of 2010, after I had lost all of my excess weight. Prior to that, I was not reading others’ food blogs. I had this idea that if I blogged about healthy weight loss maintenance (talk the talk) than I would have to keep up my new healthy habits (walk the walk). I was so right. Putting myself out there publicly as a “healthy food blogger” has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself. It has forced me to continue to learn and grow and not revert to old unhealthy habits. Regardless of my blog, I have 5 mouths to feed, so planning and cooking meals are part of my job description as wife and mother. The photography is a complete joy for me (I’m a hard core crafter and food photography is my craft du jour).
But more important than any of that is my burning desire to help other over eaters find peace with food, because I know it is possible with a plant-based diet free of processed food. I don’t have to remind anyone of what an epidemic obesity is in America. The health of our nation, physically, financially and emotionally, are in severe jeopardy. I enjoy being a leader in the fight to overcome this disease. Just like there is a tight knit community of bloggers recovering from anorexia and bulimia, I am hoping to find or create a community of bloggers recovering from compulsive overeating.
Becoming a no-added-fat Vegan has given me back my sanity. Today, I feel comfortable in my own skin. For the most part, I like what I see in the mirror–not because it’s any kind of perfect, but because something about the nutritional quality of the food that I am eating just puts me at ease with myself. I am long down the road to recovery.
Thanks, Wendy! I’m so happy that you shared a slightly different perspective with the CR audience today.
I also love Wendy’s provocative question: is being a food blogger at odds with recovery? This is a question that I ask myself, obviously, all the time. Of course it’s hard not to wonder whether the documentation of meals and food photography do seem a lot like food fixation, or obsession, or whatever you want to call it. My ultimate feeling, though, is that being a true lover of food—being obsessed with food, if that’s how you want to describe it—isn’t at odds with my own recovery. In fact, given how fearful and squeamish I was about food for so long, my full throttle obsession feels like a triumph, a celebration, and an important tribute to the fact that I have dramatically transformed the way I think about food. For more thoughts on this, ready my post on eating with emotion and loving to eat.
What did you all think of Wendy’s story? Can you relate to her struggles and triumph?
I’ll see you back here tomorrow with a scrumptious recipe for vegan enchiladas!