“Something in Me Was Set Free”: Maike’s Green Recovery Story

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Happy Friday evening, CR readers. I always love sending you all off into the weekend with the inspiration of a Green Recovery story, and this one is particularly inspiring. It comes to you from my reader Maike, who is the author of the blog Elderflower Kitchen. Maike has channeled her difficult past into a truly beautiful relationship with food, embodied in the colorful recipes on her blog and in her gorgeous Instagram feed.

In spite of the fact that she’s only 19 years old, Maike has deeply insightful things to say about the rebuilding of self and identity that comes with recovery. I hope you’ll appreciate and enjoy her story, and (as always) that you’ll comment and engage with her brave words.

Hey dear Choosing Raw readers, my name is Maike and I’ve just started a food blog called Elderflower Kitchen, a place where I can share my passion for nourishing plant-based recipes that focus on whole, healthy ingredients that I have learned to love – and that my body seems to love as well.

Today, I take so much pleasure out of preparing food, eating, enjoying every bite, every different texture and every scent (well, as long as I didn’t let it burn, mind you 🙂 … I am no longer afraid of food or hate what it represents. I do not associate eating with being weak and needy anymore. I know that I am strong, and I know that to be strong I need nourishment.

But I didn’t always feel like that. Truth to be told, if you had looked at me merely 2 years ago, you would have found a young woman, desperately trying to find confidence in eating, on the brink of starvation, totally controlled by the mighty grip of a full-blown ED.

Yep, that was me. I had slowly build up a world that was dominated by thinking about my food choices, whether this or that was “good,” “clean“ or “bad” – the latter meaning it would make me gain weight. I always felt that I was not “needing” food, but was wanting food nonetheless and had to beat myself up for it. Exercising even when I was exhausted was normal and boy, I was so cold ALL THE TIME. I was lonely, stubborn, isolated.

I don’t really want to dive into the angsty world a person with an ED lives in and to keep it short: I was showing classical anorexic symptoms and experiencing by the book what it does to your life. I lost most of my friends for the time being, was miserable and food was something I needed to be in absolute control over at all times. Makes going for a family dinner party a pretty nightmare, that’s for sure! Looking back, I wouldn’t have want to have a single thing to do with me.

I once read in a therapy book about the self delusion of anorexic thoughts – that the disorder always tells you that this is your road to being special, unique, to being your true self. In truth, the more you let your ED develop, the more you become transparent, the more you act and think like the classical ED patient and the more you actually lose what’s beautiful to your personality and only you. Things that make you passionate, that make your eyes glow, that make you happy, make you laugh. Things that are being replaced with rigid programs, castles of thoughts and regrets, with calorie counting obsessions.

Living with an ED you are actually persuaded to think that all you care about is food, and sure, in some ways it is. But the true reason you are living with an ED is deep down always something non-food related and this is then redirected into a struggle to eat intuitively. For me, this deep-down problem was self-confidence.

Being outgoing and presenting myself to the world has never been easy for me but I seem to have been doing a pretty well job faking confidence whenever it was needed. I was told I was giving good speeches at school, I took over responsibilities in groups, lead the way. But this was mostly because I am a perfectionist and thought that somebody might as well do a good job and if that was me, well, than I would have to grit my teeth and go through with it. But nobody ever seemed to know what I felt inside.

I could never be pleased or proud of myself and was constantly thinking somebody would finally find out that I wasn’t doing the job right and tell me off. But everybody seemed to think I was doing fine and that I was showing great confidence. They wouldn’t believe I wasn’t enjoying anything even when I told them.

I didn’t feel the outer confidence by so much as one second of time. I was shaken by doubts, not trusting myself, my abilities or my choices. Heck, even expressing my opinion or sharing some of my favorite music, etc. was a strain, something I avoided if I didn’t think was absolutely necessary.

I always admired people who could just be themselves, and didn’t care about what other people thought. I sometimes deluded myself into thinking I could easily be one of them if only I tried hard enough, only to realize I’d recoil, hide and lie about myself and my personality again and again.

But the weirdest thing with all the lying was that I didn’t even truly know who I was at all. The truth behind it all. What defined me? What did I like/dislike? I always had trouble answering these basic personality questions to myself.

And this is where becoming vegan helped me so much.

At the beginning when I was trying to recover from my ED, it was still a nightmare for me to decide between certain foods. Was I actually allowed to eat that because it’s … healthy? Low-fat? Low carb? Tastes good? I didn’t know what I liked anymore and was getting obsessed with eating only “healthy” foods, only I didn’t even know what actually classified as one. This was the time where I knew I had to find a new way to deal with food and discovered food blogs.

In a period of my life where having to prepare actual meals for myself was actually quite daunting, I  discovered beautiful women that were so confident in their relationship with food, that embraced eating and celebrated a full plate. Somehow, most of these women whose blogs I had started to read turned out to be whole-food-loving, plant-based vegetarians or completely vegan. And somehow, a lot of these women had also experienced problems with EDs and had rearranged their lives and healed through a love of nourishing and wholesome food.

One of the blogs that inspired me the most was the beloved Choosing Raw, where Gena talks so openly and honestly about the subject of EDs, with such a caring, thoughtful and insightful tone you are drawn right into her writing and feel that her words truly touch and support you. Words cannot express how thankful I am for blogs like this to inspire and ignite a spark of love for (vegan) food.

I am not sure when and how I decided to give veganism a try myself. But I know with all my heart that it might have been the biggest step on my road to recovery to embrace a plantbased lifestyle.

The moment I decided for myself to become vegan, something in me was set free. I no longer felt that foods were “off-limit” or “forbidden” but that I had made a choice, and this choice was mine, nothing my ED dictated anymore. Within the range of vegan foods, I was free. I had found a piece of personality I could pinpoint and that gave me a lot of confidence.

What was so inspiring to me was how much delicous plant food is out there to explore. The sheer beauty of whole foods keeps on blowing my mind away and I got (and still get!) so exited to try out every ingredient that is new to me. In the beginning completely unknown foods and dishes opened up to me, ranging from quinoa to hummus, buckwheat, green smoothies, coconut oil, chia seeds, maca, almond milk …. Endless lists of delicious whole foods I began to cherish and love. Today, these foods make the foundation of my diet and I wouldn’t want to miss them!

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I soon began to love the vegan diet because of the health benefits that so many people talk about as well. I noticed improvements – that weren’t exclusively tied to simply getting towards a much healthier weight – for example that my allergies dissappeared. It is one of the reasons why I stand even firmer behind eating a plantbased diet now.

And sure, being vegan has also brought to me the subject of how we treat animals. The more I am living this lifestyle the more I am coming to grips about the truth of animal farming and how important it is to give a signal. I am starting to appreciate this beautiful side of being vegan – that supports cruelty-free products instead of a mass slavery of living beings that can feel, bond, suffer and love. I no longer understand how we, as a society, can treat animals as objects that are breeded to die for us when we are given the chance to lead a perfectly healthy lifestyle without any sacrifices of taste.

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Becoming vegan marks a start into a new life for me – a life where I feel confident in my food choices, where I know its what’s best for me, the environment and the animals. I am still progressing in my full recovery but I have gained so much joy along the road that I am positive that I will never, ever lose this sense of security in eating and taking pleasure in doing so anymore. Strong women are showing me the way and one day, I might be one of them and be a support to somebody else.

Recently I’ve started my own blog and can now finally record my adventures in a cuisine I dearly love and have become confident in – creating my own recipes, arranging my plate and being open about how much I love to eat. I would like to thank everybody that helped me getting to this point in my life, knowing that without the support from brave people that write about their passion, their problems and their experiences, I wouldn’t be where I am today – and I so love where that is.

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I love Maike’s resilient, humble, and positive spirit, which is so evident throughout her entire narrative. I was particularly struck by this passage:

I once read in a therapy book about the self delusion of anorexic thoughts – that the disorder always tells you that this is your road to being special, unique, to being your true self. In truth, the more you let your ED develop, the more you become transparent, the more you act and think like the classical ED patient and the more you actually lose what’s beautiful to your personality and only you. Things that make you passionate, that make your eyes glow, that make you happy, make you laugh. Things that are being replaced with rigid programs, castles of thoughts and regrets, with calorie counting obsessions.

Such wise words. One of the patterns I see most commonly with my nutrition clients is the struggle to give up the false sense of specialness that comes with disordered eating, the fear of “normalcy,” of one’s distinctiveness being eroded. In reality, these men and women are submerging their true distinctiveness–their passions, spirits, and voices–under the disorder.

There is nothing more boring than calorie counting, macronutrient charting, weigh ins, or soulless workouts, and those things come to comprise our identities when we’re sick. Recovery can make us feel at turns exposed, angry, sad, lonely, and empty, but ultimately, it helps to clear away all of the obsessiveness that has been shrouding our true personalities and gifts. (For more on this, you can read my post on rebuilding a sense of distinctiveness after recovery.)

I also love how generously Maike thanks the other women and men who have spoken out in the Green Recovery series. There is such power that comes with sharing one’s story, putting words to the struggle. It can be profoundly liberating for us, and it helps to incite others to speak freely about their own journeys.

Thank you, Maike, for your inspiring words. CR readers are lucky to have heard them. Happy weekend, all.


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Categories: Food and Healing

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  1. Gena,
    As always, I truly appreciate and find deep meaning in the recovery stories that you share with us. The individuals that you feature have such a profound depth of wisdom about themselves and their disorder and it makes my heart happy to see these people striving for a healthier life.
    I identify so much with your recovery story, especially with the passage about fearing the loss of the thing that makes us “special, or different” by having an eating disorder. In my own recovery I’ve found that I have the most setbacks when I feel lost and not anything special enough to stand out. Like I’m too ordinary. Like you and many others, I also struggle with self-confidence issues and it is such a challenge to overcome that and embrace our strength. You are very strong, Maike, and I wish you the very best for the future. I just followed you on IG and can’t wait to see the delicious things you create.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story Maikes! Best wishes for health and happiness in your future!

    And as always, Gena, thanks for being you. Your honesty and transparency are inspiring and clearly help many people!

  3. What a beautifully expressed story of amazing changes. The Internet has created the possibilities of finding people who can help and inspire, as is so evident here. Congratulations to all! Maike’s words about veganism are very thought-provoking–sentiments expressed elsewhere but somehow very impactful here. Thank you.

    • I thank you, Kim Anne, for your kind words. I am always so amazed when you are given the possibility to connect with so many interesting people on the web.
      And I do want to say that my thoughts on veganism are always very subjective and deeply personal. I always want to respect other people’s choices and never judge what someone else is eating the same way I don’t want to judge myself anymore. Take care! xx

  4. I love this post! The part that Gena mentioned really resonated with me, too, especially about losing the things that make you passionate and that make you laugh. During my own disorder, I felt like I had lost sight of what made me unique, and I was out of touch with many of my old interests. Also, I don’t think I laughed often; I was very sad. Now, though, I’m happy to say that I’m much more confident, I laugh more freely, and I care less about what others think of me. I look forward to reading your blog!

    • This is a great comment. I look back on my own disorder and am amazed to remember how humorless I often was, how much heavier hearted and less playful. Thanks for this observation, Elisabeth!

      • Yes, thank you so much Elizabeth! It’s truly sad to look back on all the things I’ve missed and lost during this time. But I don’t want to dwell on the past and I am so ready to move on. I am so happy for you and that you’ve found ease and laughter again! I know now that when you’re happy, you’re making people around you happy as well and it gives you so much more joy than any restriction could ever give. Take care!

  5. Wow! This is such a motivational and inspiring post complete with such pretty photography! I also love the way in which this isn’t a sad post – in fact, it is extremely uplifting.

    Thank you for sharing your story and I wish you all the best.

    • Dear Eleanor, I am so glad that you liked my story and that you’ve found it uplifting – in essence, that is what I wanted to achieve – not showing how much unhappiness an ED brings but how there CAN be light and joy at the end of it all. Thank you so much for your wishes. Take care xx

  6. Wow, amazing post! Really inspiring. I like how you focus on the recovery part; that’s the part I find most interesting. And the insights into how a vegan diet in particular helped with recovery, by making you feel that within the vegan range, you were now free. That’s really beautiful. Thanks for sharing this with us!

    • Thank you Dee! It also felt so liberating talking about my experience here on Choosing Raw. Sending you lots of good wishes!

  7. All the luck, Maike. There’s so much to respond to here, from beginning to end, including:

    “I didn’t know what I liked anymore and was getting obsessed with eating only “healthy” foods, only I didn’t even know what actually classified as one.”

    Regaining that sense of self, letting yourself be, it’s a struggle. Worrying about “right,” clinging to constriction. And it can stretch on (and on). That ties in with the larger idea of perspective and learning how to gain that, which allows us to evolve our ideas about ourselves in the world, what we can and should do. These are hugely abstract, but these ideas have such heavy concrete manifestations. I feel like you articulated well a few key things that lined up with my experience, I really appreciate you sharing. Viva Green Recovery!

    • Dear Amanda,
      thank you so much for your kind words and appreciation. I feel like you are telling so much truth when you say that the road to gaining a broader perspective on ourselves, the world and our choices is crucial in recovery and finding inner confidence. Lots of love xx