“A New Chapter in My Life Is On the Horizon”: Suzanne’s Green Recovery Story


Suzanne is a frequent commenter on Choosing Raw. You may also know her through her own delightful blog, Hello, Veggy!, where she shares vegan recipes, offers DIY tips for wholesome living, and chronicles her own life.

Long before we ever corresponded, I was struck by Suzanne’s thoughtful and precocious comments. Some time ago, she confided to me personally that she herself had an eating disorder history. She said that she wanted to talk about her struggles publicly, but that she was struggling to find the right approach (and she was, understandably, nervous about how her story would be received). When she submitted the following Green Recovery post–which is thoughtful, self-aware, and full of bravery–I knew she’d found her voice, and then some. I hope you’ll join me in hearing, and responding to, Suzanne’s story.


I’m Suzanne; currently I am an undergraduate nursing student in my final year of school, getting ready to embark on a whole new chapter in my life. I converted to a vegan diet almost a year ago, and have never looked back! This past June, I began writing hello, veggy! as a way to share my love of vegan food, and to document my life as it unfolds. These months have been extremely healing, and have helped immensely in the continuation of my recovery from Anorexia Nervosa. Here is my Green Recovery Story:

For any young person, the late teenage years and early twenties are a time of transition that inevitably brings upon struggles, be that with identity, purpose, or what-have-you. I was not immune to this, but unfortunately this time was further complicated by a serious eating disorder.

I’m unsure how or why it started exactly, but it is likely that many factors contributed to my shifting relationship with food and exercise. Growing up I was quite active, my wonderful parents keeping me busy with dance class, soccer, cross country, and martial arts, among many other activities. I was also largely involved in the performing arts, which guided my decision to attend an arts-focused high school. By the time I was 13, my interests shifted away from more intensive sports and with my pubertal age, my body changed too. Middle school kids can be cruel, and my first stabbing pains of body shame were felt at this time.

Graduating to high school only brought upon more change. As it turns out, my high school (where I majored in musical theatre) was extremely competitive. Either you learned to swim, or you sunk like a heavy stone. Similarly to many freshmen, I exuded an air of confidence, although I certainly didn’t feel that way in the inside. My attempts at poise and confidence in my talents were rarely met with much positive feedback, and I quickly learned that I had to compensate in other ways.

It was at this time where I seriously began to question whether the way I looked was the problem. Unfortunately, my eating habits weren’t the best, as vending machines in the cafeteria were a novelty I had welcomed with open arms. This combined with a relatively sedentary lifestyle only added to my body discomfort.

I set out to gain control over my confidence, and at first it was innocent. I reduced my consumption of junk foods and joined a small fitness club with my Mom. After a few months I began to see favourable results, and was genuinely happy with the progress I had made. By the end of grade 10 I was feeling significantly better about myself overall, and had a great summer studying in Italy where I also gained quite a bit of independence. The beginning of the school year as a junior was met with many compliments about my new looks. It felt good to receive these compliments, but it only fed the incubating monster in my head.

Despite the changes I made, I had yet to see any difference in the response from my performing arts teachers. Being rejected for ensembles and roles time after time crushed my confidence, and fed the monster even more. It was around Christmas time that year where my attitudes and behaviours surrounding food started becoming troublesome; I denied dessert and Christmas cookies for the sake of my figure, and hid in another room doing crunches while my family and friends rang in the New Year.

The next five months were the climax of these disordered patterns. I would sleep much longer than usual in attempt to escape my thoughts, wake up unable to feel my legs, drag myself downstairs to eat a miniscule breakfast alone, and pack my tiny lunch to bring to school. I would walk a long 30 minutes to school (rain, shine, or snowstorm) where I would try to muster through the day with the little energy I had. I couldn’t focus on my classes; I would usually hide my nose in a book trying to be invisible. I was also constantly freezing, despite wearing several baggy layers of clothes. Somehow, I always made it through each day, but they were not without stares from peers and words of concern from my friends. I remember feeling very isolated and helpless, even though I thought I was in control.

Come the end of the school year, things had become much worse. It was evident, even to myself that I wasn’t eating enough and was exercising far too much. I would insist on attending soccer practice, having only eaten a quarter of my dinner. Everyone was concerned about me, yet I couldn’t and wouldn’t relinquish the behaviours I had been perfecting. I still hadn’t gained any ground in my performing arts courses, but I was satisfied enough with my eating disorder; at least I had control of something.

My wonderful friends attempted to intervene several times, but to no avail. My parents tried desperately to get help, first with a horrible social worker, then with a doctor who brushed off my eating disorder as ‘normal teenage coping’. Bullshit, pardon my French. At that point, even I knew deep down that I had disordered eating patterns. It wasn’t until I was introduced to the most wonderful and caring nurse that recovery was initiated. She was somebody who I felt I could trust, and I essentially put my life in her hands and gave up my control to her. That May, I was admitted to an adolescent inpatient eating disorders program. It was probably the scariest, but also the best thing I have even done for myself.

Two months later, I was discharged from the program quite a bit heavier but also a lot happier. I still had quite a ways to go in my recovery, and I followed up with a doctor on a very frequent basis. There were many guidelines I had to follow, for example meal plans, and very restricted exercise. I was absolutely itching to get moving, but my activity was limited to walking and yoga, much to my chagrin. Yoga classes were nothing intensive, but it felt great to move my body even just a bit. I’ll admit that I didn’t love it at first (in fact, I sort of hated it), but I persisted for the sake of having a little bit of control over my very constrained life as an individual in recovery.

Grade 12 was a breeze compared to the previous school year. I felt miles better and although I still was denied many performance opportunities I found joy and purpose in other things, namely my studies. Having been in the hospital nearly all summer, I gained a great deal of respect for the nursing profession and had made it my goal to be accepted to nursing school in a city two hours away from home. This new purpose was my beacon and significantly drove my recovery efforts in an upward direction. After months of hard work, I was finally rewarded with entrance to my school of choice.

I would be lying if I said that transitioning to university with an eating disorder was not met with challenges. I most definitely experienced setbacks, except this time I was the one accountable. Being responsible for my actions brought me back to reality, and pushed me to foster recovery behaviours on a daily basis. In the past three and a half years, I have learned and gained many things that bolstered my recovery, although two stand out. The first, discovering yoga, and second a vegan diet.

I credit my recovery largely to yoga. There is an amazing studio here in Kingston, Ontario that is donation based; it made yoga extremely accessible for me as a student and allowed me to practice more frequently. The teachers are outstanding, and shone a new light on the meaning of yoga practice. The idea of tuning out the noise and focusing on the breath was pivotal in helping me to ignore the disordered voices in my head, both on and off the mat. As I became more and more enamoured with my yoga practice, I joined the studio’s energy exchange program, which gave me free classes in exchange for some light duties. This helped to deepen my practice, which is when I noticed my disordered thoughts were beginning to fade into the background.

There are many spiritual teachings associated with yoga, which I began to familiarize myself with. One in particular that resonated with me was ahimsa; not doing harm. I took this teaching on as my mantra, and made a conscious effort to not say, do, or think harm about anyone or anything. I was finally beginning to feel good again. Not every day was perfect, but I was surely having fewer ‘bad’ days; a promising trend for my recovery.

Despite my overall positive mentality, something was still not right. Not only was I dealing with a ton of digestion issues, but also meat had lost its appeal in my life. Growing up, my family followed a pretty typical diet with meat a staple at each meal. Since I was living on my own at this time, I began experimenting with vegetarianism. Cutting back on meat significantly and adding plant-based sources of protein not only made me feel more energetic but like I was doing less harm; ahimsa began to find a bigger place in my life.

Returning home for summer break was difficult that year. Those around me immediately correlated my vegetarianism with disordered eating, and despite my best efforts to convince them otherwise could not be dissuaded. That summer I persisted in eating mostly vegetarian, save for fish, and made bounds and strides in recovery. I think everyone noticed that I was beginning to feel like the old me after spending three years in what felt like an alternate universe. As I prepared to return to school for the third year of my degree, I was becoming more interested in vegan and plant-based food. I experimented with this way of cooking on a daily basis and found that I was enjoying eating again. Food had been the enemy for so long, and as much as my eating disorder did not want it to be so, I loved eating plant-based foods. By Christmas that year, I was ready to commit to a full-vegan diet. Again, my decision was met with some resistance from my parents, especially since I still had a few pounds to gain in order to achieve a healthy weight. I was able to convince them that I could carry out eating this way in a healthy manner by consulting my dietician on nutritional matters and checking in with my doctor regularly.

Things have been almost nothing but up since then. I am now in my final year of my nursing degree, and a new chapter in my life is on the horizon. Disordered thoughts are no longer a daily occurrence, and when they do return, are much quieter and easier to silence. I still have my bad days, but they are mental molehills in comparison to the mountains I used to face. Fostering my love for plant-based cuisine has also been stimulated through writing my blog, hello,veggy!; I now have a love for eating and a true passion for sharing food that I can truly say I never thought could have existed again.

My green recovery has opened my mind to so many amazing experiences and opportunities. I hope post-grad that I am able to incorporate some of my newfound passions into my professional and adult life. The possibilities are endless, but I envision myself getting involved in the health promotion field, and hopefully earning a certificate in teaching yoga. I have no idea where my life is headed, but I am now confident that I am on the right track.


Thank you so much, Suzanne.

I had two main thoughts as I read Suzanne’s story. The first was a deep pang of empathy when I read her line, “I remember feeling very isolated and helpless, even though I thought I was in control.” During all three of my disordered phases, I remember being aware of the fact that I had grown isolated, anti-social, secretive, and even a little prone to lying (to myself, and to others). Yet I also remember feeling quite in control of my life, quite certain that if I wanted to be more social, it would be perfectly easy to let people in. It was really only with hindsight that I could see how much I was hiding from the world.

And of course, I love the fact that yoga has played a significant role in Suzanne’s recovery. A huge number of things contributed to my recovery: therapy, the support of family and friends, a desire to prioritize lived experience over self-denial, and the realization that I couldn’t maintain my disorder and embrace a boundless future at the same time. But on a practical level, veganism and yoga were extraordinarily helpful, too. While veganism figured in my recovery more prominently at first, yoga has taken center stage in recent years as the avenue by which I continue to keep myself accountable and well. (For more on some of the connections between my yoga practice and my recovery, you can check out this article.) I can certainly relate to Suzanne’s thoughts on ahimsa, as well as the solace she has taken in “tuning out the noise.”

Of course, I want to hear what resonated with my readers, too.

Big thanks for sharing, Suzanne. And as always, I welcome any and all CR readers to share their stories, too. Email me at gena@thefullhelping.com for more details, to ask me questions, or just to bounce ideas off of me.


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Categories: Food and Healing

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  1. What an inspiring story. It’s good to know that you were able to overcome the struggles you had with your eating disorder.

  2. Just found this blog via Kris Carr then onto Hello Veggy! Thanks for sharing your story Suzanne. Love your blog!
    If you’re ever back in BC…shout out!
    Stay Soulful!

  3. I love hello, veggy! and I loved reading your story, Suzanne. Your words are powerful and your self-awareness is aspirational. I know it’s a very tough chapter to close and then re-open again by sharing. I hope I can find the courage one day to write about my eating disorder. Until then, I will continue to refer to your story and of course, your awesome blog. You go, girl!

  4. That’s a beautiful story with a great happy ending – thank you for sharing it Suzanne. I love how you found someone to help you through your disordered eating as it is near impossible unless you have someone you can trust rooting for you and helping you along. I also like how yoga has helped you heal and I have never heard of ahimsa, but it sounds like a lovely practice that I would love to learn =)
    Gena – I feel like I can empathize with much of what was said as I too have felt the same way about a lot of this. I think the thing that strikes me the most right now is she wanted to publicly speak about her recovery, but was nervous about how it would be received. For the past few weeks now, I have considered submitting a Green Recovery Story to you… but I feel anxious about it. I know on one level it will be incredibly cathartic for me, like a form of release, but on another, I feel like a spotlight will be shone on me and I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing Suzanne! I’m so glad that you got to the point where you felt like it was time to share your story; as someone who hid her ED as much as possible, sharing my story was definitely a huge step, and a positive one. I hope it was for you as well!

  6. Thank you so much for your kind, heartfelt words. I have two brothers who were inevitably affected by the echoes of my eating disorder, and I am so lucky to still have them as strong pillars of support. As someone with an eating disorder, I thank siblings like you for remaining strong and supporting your loved one.


  7. Hi Suzanne,

    Thank you for this heartfelt piece and to you, Gena, for posting it. To see the courage and vulnerability it takes to be so open, its a true testament to the community of this blog and also a step in recovery. I have had a long past with ED’s and also yoga and was compelled to comment.

    While I have not had an ED myself, my dear sister and someone I look up to dearly did/had. I am not 100% sure if she is better but it is one of those subjects that finally, after ~10 years, we can openly chat about as something that brought us sisters closer (there’s 3 of us). Everytime I ask, she tells me she’s 0.5 – 1% better, every few months. I trust in her own time she’ll let me know. Having lived my 20’s seeing her go through numerous hospitalizations, a locked fridge / cupboard / pantry, and just days where I wanted to drag her out of bed out with me, I know it hasn’t been easy for anyone with ED. I used to blame her but in actuality, she probably had it the hardest.

    Out of the 3 of us sisters, she was the middle. Maybe that was a reason in combination with the high expectations of a traditional Asian family – piano, violin, math, swimming, top of class, extracurriculars, cooking, etc etc. She was also the most caring out of us all and I feel that is a common trait amongst people that have had or recovered from ED. They are the most caring. Is this because they give so much of themselves to others without getting it back in return? Is it the lack of control one has over the love they receive that we try to control what we can (i.e. eating, drinking, exercising, time to ourselves, etc)?

    In 2012 I turned to yoga. I lived in Africa for a year and left jaded with some of the experiences had. Leaving everything behind I flew to Bali and became an instructor. Your comment on “ahimsa” was extremely touching. I have a similar sense of connectedness with a niyama called “santosa” which I wrote a bit about here: http://www.thescientificmind.tumblr.com/post/33076639738/from-the-rice-terrace. I felt a common calling or “medicine” during my training and also watching my sister was the ability to be open — vulnerable, authentic, and just throwing it all out there. You’ll attract what you need and I do believe that.

    Suzanne, Gena, and to everyone else on this blog. I really respect you for your honesty and openness to share your experiences. As someone in the health business and specifically a company selling products in what is currently a “hot” market, it only makes me realize how important it is to be authentic and true to oneself. I am also finding my own self practice with yoga again and hope to teach more regularly to those that need it the most.

    Thank you,

  8. Beautiful story, and, even more beautiful, it’s a real story. Our society puts too much pressure on the young regarding the physical appearance, and that’s not healthy. It’s good you found ways to treat yourself better and solve the problem, one day at a time. I hope other young people learn from your experience.

  9. Suzanne, Gena,
    Thank you both so much for what you have shared here today. I resonated so deeply with it and that connection is invaluable.
    My heart, love & respect goes out to both of you for sharing such precious pieces of yourself. You are incredibly courageous.
    Thank you!

  10. Thanks for sharing your story, Suzanne! I definitely identify with many of the experiences you related here, especially about how isolating eating disorders can be. I unconsciously went to extremes for attention, yet I continually found myself shrinking away from friends and family and further into my own disordered brain. However, veganism and yoga both helped me look outside myself and into the plight of the millions of people and animals suffering across the world.

  11. Thanks so much for sharing Suzanne! I’m already a hello, veggy! reader so it’s nice to know a little more about where you’re coming from. This is probably the green recovery story I relate to most so far and almost everything you said and went through resonated with me- control, isolation, competitive atmosphere, an ed starting as a harmless “self-improvement” plan…
    I’d love to share my own “Green Recovery” story at some stage.

    • Sharing this story has honestly been the most liberating thing, Emma. I urge you to share your story whenever you feel comfortable doing so; it was the next big step for me and something I also thought about for long a while. You can do it!


      • Thanks Suzanne! I’m so pleased it’s been so positive for you. I will definitely start thinking about mine and try and write it up when I find some time 🙂

  12. Thank you for sharing this story! This was powerful. I could connect with it in many ways too. I use to have an eating disorder and becoming vegan and learning more about yoga are what have helped me heal in my recovery too. It’s wonderful to hear of other success stories and I know they will inspire and instill confidence in other women and men who are looking to reclaim their life again after their disorder.

  13. I love this series so much. It’s amazing to see such courage! I love the idea of ahimsa too, and I think ahimsa includes doing no harm to ourselves. That’s where I had to start my recovery, because we can only truly love and care for others when we love and care for ourselves.

  14. Beautiful story Suzanne. Thank you so much for sharing.

    I, like many others, take “do no harm” so seriously as it relates to people and animals around me, but I know I neglect giving it the same priority when it comes to applying the principle to how I treat myself. I neglect my own health and body at the expense of focusing on others and what I consider to be “more important” aspects of my life, like my career and relationships, for example.

    In the past few months I have made some massive life changes which, although I believe to be largely positive, have resulted in a situation where I’m under more stress than I’ve ever dealt with before. At times I feel suffocated by the amount of stress in my life. Aside from being acutely aware of how important physical activity is for my body and my health, now and in years to come, I can’t remember the last time I did anything physical besides walking (and even walking I’ve only been doing to get me from point A to point B- not for the enjoyment of moving or the physical benefits). I also love to cook and eat well and for the first time in a long time I am not taking the time to make healthy food for myself. All of this is because I have this ever-present and mounting anxiety that I “should” be working on something else- and so I do just that, and work on something else. It is almost ironic that also in the past few months I finally found the motivation to commit fully to a vegan diet solely for the purpose of doing as little harm as possible. Meanwhile, I am not treating myself with the same care and respect that I treat everyone else around me with.

    I’m very aware that I need to find a balance (I feel almost desperate at times due to this mounting imbalance) but having a hard time getting there under so much stress. Recently this has culminated in a longing to start doing yoga again and I think this story might be the motivation I need to somehow squeeze it in, amidst all the other numerous and heavy demands on my time. It’s so hard to prioritize something that I know only benefits me and my body that takes away from the time I spend on everything else, but it is so, so important. Your story has reminded me of this, so thank you very much.

    • I’m so glad you were able to take something away from my story, Amy. Remember that you come first; it’s so hard to listen to your own needs sometimes but so important to do so. I hope you can find the strength you need 🙂

    • Hi Amy,

      This comment really brings me back to my orgo year of the post-bacc. As someone who was accustomed to having adequate time to prepare fun meals and do a ton of yoga, it was very hard to adjust to barely any time at all for those things. Keeping up with orgo, bio, labs, and hospital volunteering (plus writing CR) didn’t lend itself to creative dinners or leisurely workouts.

      I found that YogaGlo or YogaDownload videos were immensely helpful. Even if I couldn’t get to a class, I could do a 20-minute yoga routine upon waking. And as for food, the simpler the better, but it was ultimately helpful to continue doing some cooking, even when it wasn’t very exciting cooking. I hope that helps a little.

      Good luck, and be good to yourself.


  15. Thank you for sharing your story – you are amazing and strong! I look forward to following your journey.

  16. Suzanne! You are so incredibly brave for sharing your story. You are such a beautiful person inside and out and I am so happy that you have learned to love yourself and are treating yourself with the respect you so clearly deserve. I am so excited for what the future has to hold for you and no it will be filled with brightness and inspiration. Lots of love!

  17. I needed to read this. I am so proud of her achievements, what an inspiring story, powerful, resonates well with me. I kind of needed this “kick in the butt” i am finding it hard to eat vegan and Gain weight, having a very high metabolism. I have always been small, and my main goal is i want to be Healthy, its not the number on the scale. And i am finding it a bit hard, as most vegan blogs i see are yes, healthy, but help keep the weight down.

    Either way this was so wonderful to read, i cried, it really did hit home with me, even if not 100% same circumstances. Its about time i get back into doing yoga as well.

    Much Gratitude <3

    • Christina,

      This is a brave and wonderful comment. I do hope that you find vegan recipes that help you to gain the weight you need, as well as the community and support that can make recovery less daunting. So much love to you.


  18. This was such a lovely GR story. Thanks for sharing this:) I’m always inspired to find how someone else finds healing in this disease I refer to as my own personal “tornado” I escaped from. It can feel as if you’re running and caught in circles, and getting nowhere, all closed in within yourself. Your thoughts run with you a million miles an hour, and control every single thing you do and believe. No matter how you want to escape the storm, it feels impossible, until the day you do. Then, the wind settles, the air is peaceful, and you realize what life is again. What a beautiful story, and I especially enjoyed reading this after my nighttime yoga session<3 Blessings to you Gena and Suzanne<3

  19. Thank you Suzanne! Beautiful story. I love how you illustrate how powerful a single mentor or role model (your nurse) can be, and the power of really caring about someone. I also love your description of how yoga helps filter out the noise. I also love that you call out the other health professionals on their failures. Progress is happening, but there is still a real lack of education and sometimes compassion from health professionals.

    • Good point, Laura. There can be such coldness from health practitioners when it comes to recovery, and of course when you’re in that vulnerable place of just being able to admit that there’s a problem, nothing could be more discouraging.

  20. Suzanne’s figuring out how to cope with and grow beyond those difficulties established a solid foundation for the understanding and empathetic care she will offer patients as their nurse.