It has been a while—far too long, I think—since I shared a Green Recovery post. But I’m happy to return to the series with a particularly wonderful submission. This one is from Angela, a graduate student working toward her Master’s in Public Health. Angela is an exceptionally thoughtful and articulate writer, and I think you’ll find that she has a very interesting perspective on the the connections between veganism and recovery. In particular, I think Angela illuminates some of the anxieties that arise with “coming out” as a vegan when you have an ED history, and she speaks to a lot of crucial issues of identity and self acceptance. It’s a long submission, so I won’t say more till the end. I hope you all enjoy it every bit as much as I did.
I told myself I was just going to get “healthy”, a term that means everything and nothing in our society. In response to gaining some weight after starting a new medication during high school, and consequently feeling very self-conscious in tightening jeans and clinging clothes, I started to reduce my portion sizes, eat less junk food, and exercise more. However, in the context of my perfectionist, obsessive tendencies, this mentality was quickly distorted into starvation, drastic weight loss, excessive exercise, and social isolation. These habits followed me on a trip to Italy during my junior year of high school, during which I fueled myself with art, music, architecture, and scenery rather than the culinary classics of Italian cuisine—gelato? Just one lick. Pizza? I’ll pass. Spaghetti? Snubbed.
It wasn’t until I returned from that trip, just short of skeletal and missing my periods, that my parents brought me to a therapist and nutritionist for a much needed wake up call and intervention. Though I gradually gained back weight to a healthy level, I still left those appointments feeling like I was just being told what to do, that I wasn’t really tapping into the core causes of my disorder. In the end it wasn’t a psychiatrist that helped me begin a genuine recovery process, it was a puppy. And it wasn’t a prescribed nutritional plan that helped improve my dietary behaviors, it was a yoga practice that fed my mind, body, and spirit.
During my years as an undergraduate I was understandably overwhelmed by tackling schoolwork, navigating new social spheres, exploring laboratory research, and pursuing internships, all while confronting my eating disorder. The president of the college was kind enough to let me walk his two Irish Setters and I quickly found our strolls around the quad to be quite therapeutic, helping me disconnect from the everyday stresses surrounding my school life and eating disorder. Recognizing this effect, and since I was still commuting to college from home, I convinced my parents to allow me to get a canine companion of my own. That’s when Nella, a standard poodle, was introduced into my life and recovery story.
Image of Nella © Ty Foster Photography
Nella reminded me to smile and laugh more often, to eat enough so I’d have the energy to run and play with her, and to accept myself for who I was as a person, not for my weight or size—things that meant nothing to her. As fate would have it, not long after bringing this puppy home, I started experiencing digestive issues and Nella did, too. During the time we were trying to figure out what was wrong I spent many hours commiserating with my puppy, and found myself asking, why love one animal and eat another? A question I couldn’t answer. We eventually figured out that Nella had a sensitive stomach and could only tolerate a certain kind of dog food and that I was lactose intolerant. On my 20th birthday I made the choice to stop eating animals and, by default, became vegan overnight.
At the college I attended I also had access to free weekly yoga classes. As I developed my practice and understood the unique healing effects of breathing, stretching, and mindful movement, I was able to begin reconnecting with my body, develop a new awareness of my feelings, and bridge the divide between my mental and physical self.
Both of these activities allowed me to decompress during the week and relieve the stress and anxiety that I was diverting to my eating disorder. After becoming vegan and continuing to research this lifestyle, it slowly became easier to talk about food, enjoy meals, and even feel proud of my diet. Instead of focusing on myself—how I looked, how much I weighed, how little I could eat in a day and get by—and hiding what I was, or wasn’t, consuming, I was able to appreciate what a vegan diet gives to others—life to animals, a better environment, food for the hungry rather than farmed animals, and optimal nutrition.
Despite these revelations I had plateaued in my recovery. Though I don’t think individuals ever completely recover from eating disorders, in the sense of being cured of an illness, and I had gained back the weight I had lost, I didn’t feel that I had totally reached a point of peace. I still assumed that there were two groups in society, those with eating disorder histories and those without, and that since I had succumbed to an eating disorder I had fundamentally changed and could never be like “normal” people.
At first I used to think to myself, I can’t be vegan because I’ve had an eating disorder and others will assume I made this choice to continue restricting my food. I can’t train to run races, because I’ve had an eating disorder and enjoying exercise will make others think I’m still obsessed with burning calories. Or, I have to eat junk food to prove I no longer have an eating disorder. And, how can I pursue a career in public health or nutrition, if I couldn’t even take care of myself.
But, I’ve realized that I can’t let my eating disorder continue to define how I see myself and assume others see me. I can’t let it keep me from expressing my enthusiasm for plant-based eating and embracing my interest in public health and nutrition. I’m not confined to the boundaries of one social box. As a unique, always-learning and ever-changing person I have a multifaceted identity that reflects my experiences and relationships with a spectrum of people. And, just because one aspect of my personality predisposed me to an eating disorder, doesn’t mean I have to abandon the rest of my traits or construe them as automatically part of my eating disorder past.
I’m not interested in nutrition so that I can analyze every calorie I consume, I’m fascinated by how macro and micro nutrients function within the body and how greatly food can influence our health and well being. I don’t decline some offers to go out to eat at restaurants with friends because veganism is impossibly restrictive or I’m afraid one meal will cause my waistline to expand, I’m an introvert at heart that prefers to spend some quiet time alone to decompress after a long week. I’m not interested in veganism so that I can restrict what foods I eat or appear elitist, I’m passionate about how this diet can reduce suffering and environmental harm, and I strive to be a good role model for other veg-curious acquaintances, friends, and relatives. Now, are there times I still make choices based on feelings of self-consciousness or anxiety? Yes, and I think many people do the same whether they’ve ever had an eating disorder or not. But now I can recognize these motives for what they are, learn from them, and move forward instead of letting a situation spiral into a harmful relapse episode.
What it comes down to is that I no longer feel compelled to have to defend or define myself. I just have to be true to myself, unapologetically Angela.
I’ve also made a concerted effort not to let my perfectionism continue to control me in other ways. I’ve come to accept that I’m not a vegan super heroine who can spout off nutritional facts on the fly, who unabashedly eats anything as long as it’s technically vegan, who has the boldness to approach any fur-wearing person I cross paths with, who has a social life involving weekly dinners out where I revolutionize omnivorous menus or the skills to whip up vegan goodies for every event on the calendar. The ideal of the all-accepting, ever-advocating, everything-in-moderation, guilt-free, social butterfly found at the intersection of mainstream and vegan social media, is not me. Of course, I try my best to do what I can when and where I am able, ascribing the Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s ethos of, “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something. Anything.” But I give myself permission to not try to be the perfect vegan, the extraordinary animal rights activist, or the quintessential healthy, active young adult. I’m focusing on developing the skills I do have to help make the world a better place for all beings.
Now, if I was an outgoing, daring, extrovert as a youth and adolescent before my eating disorder set in, then I might be concerned that some of my choices and behaviors were still truly restrictive, limiting, and disordered. On the contrary, I’ve always been reserved, quiet, and contemplative, and veganism has allowed me to celebrate and reveal the best side of these traits. In fact, introverts have personality traits that make them sympathetic to the plight of animals and veganism, and I believe these traits can converge with classic eating disorder symptoms. For some there is a fuzzy line between personality and paranoia that’s often hard to discern from both an internal and external perspective, especially considering research shows there is a genetic predisposition for developing an eating disorder. However, I think it’s possible to develop a healthy mind-body relationship without compromising your character, whether introvert or extrovert, and feeling like you’re trying to be someone you’re not. Granted, my personality traits may evolve over time, and I’m completely open to that, but they won’t change because I feel pressured to embody the antithesis of a woman with an eating disorder or a complacent vegan. I also recognize that it’s healthy to explore your edges and honor your ambitions, but I feel that this should be done in an organic, intuitive way.
Gandhi is quoted as saying, “My life is my message” –a poignant statement considering the truth of the adage “actions speak louder than words”, and the shortcomings of words to capture our deepest feelings. I hope that my life’s message resounds with compassion, joy, justice, nonviolence and honesty. You may walk to the same beat, but each of us plays a different instrument to create societal rhythms. It’s my hope that all of us can appreciate the tone, pitch, notes and sounds of the instruments that we play, so that we can ultimately harmonize to create a symphony of peace that reverberates throughout the world.
Angela is a graduate student expected to earn her Master in Public Health degree in May 2013, after which she plans to pursue a MS in Human Nutrition. Her Master’s thesis focuses on the association between self-efficacy and food security. She has also earned a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University. Angela is interested in the intersections between public health, nutrition, environmental health, and animal rights. She hopes to incorporate these interests into her work, by exploring careers in the research, practice, and policies of food systems. When not studying or working as a research assistant, Angela enjoys freelance writing, photography and spending time with her companion animals.
Thank you, Angela, for an incredibly intelligent, honest, and eloquent Green Recovery post!
One thing that stands out to me from Angela’s story is the way her veganism and her embracing of her own identity seem to have developed concurrently. I also have found that my self-acceptance and sense of identity have benefitted from my veganism. For me, opening up about my veganism took a certain kind of courage and confidence; I was a little worried about how I’d be perceived, and concerned about some of the stereotypes that people attach to the word. Today, I could care less about those stereotypes or whether or not anyone wants to associate them with me. Veganism is a part of my identity, and it’s a part I’m proud of—misconceptions be damned. It’s no surprise to me that, since developing this kind of comfort with my vegan activism, I’ve become far more able to embrace other parts of my personality that I have historically tried to “tone down,” perhaps because I sensed they might be threatening to others: my assertiveness, my candor, my directness, my ambition.
I can also relate to Angela’s sense of discomfort with being a “model vegan.” I think we all have an editorialized, magazine-ready image of the “perfect” vegan role model in our minds: a brilliant and strong, yet gentle advocate; a graceful and talented cook; a person who is compassionate and kind at every turn; a person who oozes social responsibility. On any given day, I can think of tons of men and women who seem to me, for different reasons, to be vegan role models: Colleen Patrick Goudreau, Jasmin Singer, Angela Liddon, Kathy Patalsky, JL Fields, Ginny Messina (to name only a few). They seem to embody strength, class, and culinary genius, they make vegan food look incredible without breaking a sweat, and they model the lifestyle with grace. I often wish I had Angela or Kathy’s culinary genius, JL’s energy and dynamism, Jasmin’s conviction, Ginny’s analytical brilliance, or Colleen’s elegance and kindness. On many days, I feel far too harried and disorganized, far too uncreative, far too selfish or acerbic or prone to judgment to be a great vegan advocate.
But then I remember that there is no “perfect” vegan role model, nor single way to share the lifestyle. We all help to share veganism simply by being our best selves. And to me, “best” has nothing to do with that most dreadful of words, “perfect.” It means living bravely and honestly. When I live this way, I feel I’ve done justice to veganism as a movement, to the animals whose lives we are trying to fight for, and to me. Unapologetically Gena.
I’d love to know what you think of Angela’s story. Which parts of it ring true to you? Have you ever shared Angela’s anxieties about how your veganism would be interpreted, or whether people would unfairly conflate it with parts of your personal history? I’d love to know.
Happy weekend, all.
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Beyond thankful for this post. There are so many words here that jumped up at me, and I am glad to hear Angela’s experiences and openness about her past.
A beautiful post, and equally insightful comments. I see a lot of my journey in these, particularly the struggle in questioning if veganism is an extension of disordered eating. All of this is giving me a lot to think about, and it’s comforting to read the words of others who have found peace!
Thank you so much Angela, for you story. I recognize a lot of what you’re saying.
Wow! Beautifully stated. What a wonderful post and inspiring story. It’s amazing what another life (a puppy, a child, or another) can do to give us such perspective into our own health issues. I love that Angela has embraced her own personality and who she really is, which I think is one of the hardest things to do. I still have a hard time being who I truly am because I worry of what others are thinking, especially around eating and being a vegan.
Congratulations Angela on you’re recovery and being who you truly are, with no apologies. You are really a true inspiration. 🙂
Thanks Gena for another great Green Recovery Post. It’s so wonderful to see that others in the vegan community also feel as I do but that they push on that perfect isn’t the ideal. We are all perfect in our imperfections and that’s what makes us great. You both and everyone who is striving to better themselves no matter how much they fall are role models to aspire to. 🙂
First I apologize my comma button isn’t working right now – driving me nuts! but I make do without. Please interject one wherever you see fit.
Now… THANK YOU! Thank you Gena Thank you Angela Thank you everyone who has shared before Angela and will share after Angela Thank you to everyone who supported Angela enough to find the courage within herself to share this part of her history and her life. I connect to this particular Green Recovery on so many levels – sometimes it even felt like I was reading my own journal. I am comfortable happy and proud where I am in my recovery right now but it still so helps to know that I am not alone never was alone and never will be alone on my journey. So thank you – everyone – for coming together to share this story with the Universe. If nothing else it shined a bright light on me in my own little corner of the world.
You are all amazing & wonderful & I am forever grateful for your presence
This was beautifully and honestly written. Thank you both Angela and Gena. I thought Angela’s initial worries about embarking on a vegan diet, pursuing an interest in public health, etc. were spot on. Others’ impressions of the way I treated myself played an enormous role in my own disorder. In response to concerns over my shrinking frame, I would publicly gorge myself on junk food to prove how “healthy” I was… which resulted in a disorder all its own. Truly knowing and accepting yourself is the key to health and happiness, and it’s very clear, Angela, that you are primed for a very healthy, happy life 🙂
Ah, this is a beautiful story. I just love Green Recovery!
Love from Norway<3
I savoured every word of this piece, as I do with all GR posts. What a great story. Thank you!
Thank you, Angela, for sharing your “Green Recovery” story. What an amazing capacity for self-reflection you have! I think one sign of “cure” (from a psychoanalytic point of view) is a kind of mastery of one’s inter/intrasubjective world (so that one is able to identify and seek out appropriate internal objects). You have such a healthy internal diaglogue going on, I’m really impressed.
I wanted to touch on one thing that you said – that you don’t think individuals ever completely recover from eating disorders, in the sense of being cured of an illness. I am not sure I agree. I think it depends how we define *recovery.* I personally define in terms of my relationships with food, and seondarily with my body, both of which have been utterly transformed in years since I began my own recovery, to a point where I can say quite honestly that I have a healthier relationship with food, and a greater level of body acceptance, than most women who have never had an eating disorder. On the other hand, if someone were to define *recovery* in terms of BMI, or being able to eat whatever “food” is available, regardless of where it came from or how it was produced, they might try to slap an ed label on me. Because I do struggle to maintain my weight, and am a VERY picky eater. But I refuse those labels. I may not have gained much weight, I may offend people by not eating this or that, etc. I don’t think mindless eating equals recovery. I have a deep sense of what I hunger for – food yes, of course, but food that nourishes me in body, mind, and spirit. Food that fills my hunger for connection.
There’s another aspect to recovery though, and it is this capacity for a different kind of internal dialague that you have achieved. It’s so important, if we are going to stay the course, to learn which voices to heed, which to ignore.
Once a certain capacity for self-care is achieved, it’s easier to maintain a healthy weight. Of course there are cases – teenagers especially – where the weight gain has to come first. But the weight gain is only the first step in a long journey. (Even though – as Gena knows – I am not vegan myself, I can see just how helpful veganism would be in this process.) The true markers of recovery are more invisible. (Though there’s nothing invisible about my own passion for healthy, delicious food!)
So, no, we don’t recover from anorexia in the way we recover from the flu, or other acute illness. But many of us do recover, to a point where we eat with more pleasure and less guilt than we did before we lost weight. To deny the reality, or the completeness, of the recovery just becuase we can’t go back to a way of eating that makes others around us more comfortable is an injustice, to ourselves.
Thanks for such a great comment. If I may interject, I think that what Angela may have meant by “full recovery” is whether or not some of the impulses and tendencies to cope with life through restriction of the appetites remain. I know that, no matter how joyfully I’ve redefined my relationship with food, and no matter how healthy I am, I do still sometimes struggle with the impulses that encourage me to handle bad moods by denying myself sustenance and nourishment, or the temptation to deal with disappointment by trying to be thinner, lighter, more controlled. Those tendencies may abate with time, and they may not. I still consider myself (as you do) fully recovered, but I can see how a person might argue that, to some degree, an ED stays with us for the long haul, insofar as some of those mental habits remain.
As for your point about weight, I agree to some degree, but I think I feel that weight gain is slightly more important than you do. I certainly don’t think that having a “normal” BMI is the hallmark of recovery; if that had ever been true, I’d have never gone through 2 relapses, because lord knows I’d dutifully gained weight each time I “recovered.” Being a normal weight did nothing to heal my relationship with food or with myself. So, no, weight restoration should not be the exclusive focus of recovery.
That said, it did play a crucial role in my own journey. I was incapable, pre-recovery, of embracing and accepting myself without the badge of pride that was remarkable, noticeable thinness. Without a waif-like body, I felt that my identity and sense of self were destroyed. I personally had to go through the uncomfortable, yet ultimately liberating process of realizing that thinness was not the measure of my worth, and the only way for me to go through that process was to let go of my stick-like frame, inhabit a healthier shape, and realize that I still had value, was still loved, was still attractive, and was indeed happier than I had been when I was so intent on maintaining my thinness. To that degree, weight gain was really important to me.
I’d also say that, if you can eating freely and indulge your appetites fully while also remaining very thin, great. I am still thin by any definition, but I personally could not be a waif while also eating in a way that is natural and adequate for my body. So this is the other reason why gaining was crucial to me: I couldn’t be as thin as I liked and also avoid restriction at the same time. It was one or the other.
All of this said, I could not possibly agree more that BMI is not the definition of recovery. And I share your contempt for the idea that eating in a way that is conventional or totally inclusive–i.e., scarfing down anything and everything–is essential for recovery. For me, bringing discernment to my food choices in the form of a vegan perspective has been the most powerful part of my recovery. And learning to indulge my picky likes and dislikes has allowed me to focus on the foods that truly feed my soul–and what could be more recovered than that?
Great conversation re. the mean of “full recovery,” Elizabeth and Gena. My experience pretty much corroborates with your description/definition, Gena, though, given a lifetime of these relatively mini relapses, I’m beginning to question whether that term will ever really fit my own life. (I do think there’s a distinction to be made re. to a recovery prognosis between folks who develop a persistent, ongoing ED in her formative pre-teen or teenage years, and those (luckier) folks who succumb in her twenties, thirties or beyond and receive immediate and effective psychiatric treatment.)
Re. the topic of weight gain – I’d like to add a critical point re. physical health. Your bone health will likely suffer (perhaps greatly and irreversibly) if your remain thinner than your natural weight for an extended period of time. The greatest damage is usually done in one’s formative years – teens and twenties – when one’s bone’s are in their building mass stage; you rely on that structure in your later years, which unfortunately is also when (bone-strengthening) estrogen levels drop. Staying uber thin into your thirties and in middle age will just further expedite the natural bone loss process. A diagnosis of osteoporosis in your forties (or earlier) is not fun, and the main class of drugs that claim to reverse bone loss to come with their own very serious risks.
Thank you Elizabeth (and everyone else) for your kind, thoughtful comment.
I think it’s important to discuss what recovery means, or doesn’t mean, and I think you and Gena have done a great job considering many perspectives, and I agree with both of you on many accounts. What I was trying to get at when I said you can’t fully recover from an ED is that you can never totally erase it from your past or forget it ever happened. All of the experiences and trials in our lives, health related or not, shape who we are. How we cope with the effects of these experiences -physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, socially etc.- defines our personal recovery. I think recovery is very complex and different for every person.
Maybe a better analogy for recovery would be a scar? A scar is a reminder of a wound, or pain, that we once experienced. Once it heals we know it’s there and we may adjust our behaviors so that we don’t injure ourselves in a similar way again. But some may have the tendency to ignore that scar and slip into behaviors that might lead to future relapses, wounds, and more scars. A healed wound may be a physical marker that we have “recovered”, kind of like a certain BMI may indicate to a doctor that we no longer have an eating disorder, based on some textbook definition. And, some of us may desire to go back to when we didn’t have any scars, but in the end we have to learn to accept ourselves, as long as we are doing our best to embrace wellness and compassion. This again is an imperfect analogy and perhaps recovery was not the best word to use here, but as I said at the end of my submission, words have limitations, so I’m glad it sparked this conversation and exploration of the phrase.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Angela. I can relate in so many ways. I too have avoided telling people that I am vegan and am pursuing my Public Health degree and other nutrition related degrees but have been hesitant to share what I am doing with others because of my ED history. And as an introvert as well, its hard to know when I am making decisions based on my true desires or ones that are being fueled by my ED. Your perspective and insights on this have helped me a great deal and I truly appreciate your willingness to share you story!
This Green Recovery story spoke volumes to me. I can definitely identify with the self-consciousness experienced when engaging in certain activities or acting in certain ways when you have a history of disordered eating. For example, I’ve been home from college for winter break for the past month and have felt rather judged by my parents whenever I go out for a yoga class or take a run on our home elliptical machine. I don’t do these things to lose weight anymore–I do them because they make me feel good inside and out. I realize that my parents probably aren’t judging me as much as I think and that I’m being paranoid to an extent, but I do also believe that the little voice inside my parents’ heads that says, “shouldn’t you say something about this exercising? She had an eating disorder, for goodness sake!” However, I appreciate my parents immensely for not doing so and for not ever forcing me to eat food that I didn’t want to–they allowed me to recover on my own so that I could truly feel comfortable with what I ate, and they saw that eating vegan helped me find comfort.
Thank you, Angela and Gena, for this inspiring story.
P.S. Nella is adorable!
Thank you so much for sharing Angela. As another young vegan who feels like they really found their identity and made peace with themselves at the same time as discovering veganism I can really relate. I think it’s fantastic that you’re not letting anyone else’s presumptions get in the way of you pursuing your passions either. Like you say “Your life is your message”. Definitely trying to follow that principle myself.
Thanks to Gena also for keeping up with this series, it’s so enlightening and encouraging.
My heart aches so much after reading this! First of all, what a beautiful story. I am the biggest dog lover possibly to ever grace this planet (I’m sure plenty of your readers will challenge me, but it feels that way sometimes) but this is such a heartwarming story. My heart only aches because I am dying to get a dog! City living has strict limitations on pets – I’m hoping to overcome that soon enough. Aside from the pet part of your story, I just think life is so fascinating, and I love how this story can relate to everyone reading – more specifically, year after year we really do grow into ourselves. I love how your life path has pulled you with such force into a direction where you can really be an activist for everything that you believe in. Something about the way you told your story just really made think of this, and how grateful I am that I’m naturally drawn toward things that make me a better human being and help me grow. Thanks for being an inspiration.
That was a great story that needed to be told. Thanks Angela and Gena. I really love and understand how getting a pet brought about healing. That wasn’t the case for me, but it makes so much sense. I wonder if professionals would consider advocating for that in helping people recover. That would be an interesting and beautiful approach to healing. I had a brief period of time where people gave me a hard time about going into the vegan lifestyle while I was dealing with disordered eating, but I admitted that it may be the case, so I looked into it, and realized it wasn’t and that was that. I’ve always been somewhat confrontational, so having people question or challenge me never caused me stress or anxiety. I completely understand how it would though. Thanks again for sharing this. It got me thinking more deeply about the whole subject. Veganism and transitioning into it from a restrictive background.
This is beautiful! Thank you, Angela, and thank you Gena as always for the platform to be ourselves. What a testimony to animal love, and what a testimony to listening to your body and not allowing others to define you. I’ve had similar difficulties “coming out” as mostly vegan, coming out with my ED history in the context of a research/health environment, and evaluating whether my academic interest in EDs is “legitimate” and healthy. I’m at a wonderful point where I recently came out to a colleague about my former ED and she still embraced my ideas and contribution to research, and it was incredibly validating. People who feel that people who have had EDs shouldn’t be part of the recovery conversation are throwing out the richest source of insight and strength in the field. Of course it’s important to be at the point you’re at- with values and interests and habits that are much beyond the confines of an ED.
I too am an introvert and need real “me-time” to be whole. Loud fancy social events aren’t always enjoyable for me. But I love intimate dinner parties with friends. I’ve been in the “mostly-vegan” category for some years now, and felt partly tied down by my friends’ views of veganism, their knowledge of my history, and my own ambivalence about what is healthiest for myself and the planet. Now that I’m moving cities this summer I’m wondering if the time has come to allow myself another shift in identity.
All I can say is wow, to both of you, Angela and Gena. Thank you so much for sharing your stories and insights. This is the first Green Recovery post that I have truly been able to relate to my own life. I can relate to the words “I still left those appointments feeling like I was just being told what to do, that I wasn’t really tapping into the core causes of my disorder.” I never felt that all the appointments and therapy sessions I went to really did anything, but when I got a dog (amongst other things), that changed. Although I didn’t fully realize it until I read Angela’s thoughtful, articulate words, getting a dog was an integral part of my recovery. My dog has helped me learn how to love again, and he has given me a reason to embrace life outside of an eating disorder. Also, like Angela, I did not struggle with becoming a vegan (it’s just the way I like to eat), but it was definitely a challenge getting others around me to realize that it was not just an extension of my eating disorder history. I had to understand that some of my best assets are also ones that perpetuated my eating disorder, so I have learned to channel these traits into something positive and meaningful, like taking relaxing walks with my dog, cooking up a nutritious, hearty bowl of soup, or being compassionate to myself and others. Even though you two don’t think of yourselves as role models, I think you are in the truest sense of the words, and I sincerely appreciate that.