*tw* I’m going to talk a little about my experience with eating disorders in this post. I am not a professional in nutrition or mental health, and I am not giving advice to anyone struggling with an eating disorder. I’m only referencing my experience.
I’ve been vegan for a little over seven years now. Kind of weird, because it was very off-brand for the version of myself I was before quarantine, and annoyingly on-brand for the version of myself I’m becoming. I guess a part of my brain was just seven years ahead of the curve.
My disclaimer about veganism is extensive, because it’s a really complicated issue. I don’t support a lot of things that I hear a lot of vegans say, both in regards to reasons for being vegan and their beliefs about food in general and humanity and a whole slew of other things that vegans often claims to be the experts on. I am not formally educated in nutrition, I only know what I’ve learned from personal research. I believe in empathy for all living things, and I think it’s a lovely thing to do to avoid eating animal products if you’re able to. I don’t believe in shaming people for what they choose to eat. I think it’s hard enough to have a functional relationship with food and our bodies these days without adding that extra layer of shaming to the mix. I understand that the mainstream vegan and plant-based movements are incredibly racist and classist, and just largely exclusionary in general toward anyone whose not white, thin, and able-bodied. I have seen a good deal of change in this aspect, as veganism has been made more accessible and inclusive, but I am painfully aware of how far it still has to go. I am vegan because of the way it makes me feel, and how it helps me connect to what I eat and to my body, and how it helped heal my relationship with food.
I’ve been anorexic since I was eleven years old. That always hits me in a new way every time I say it. Eleven years old. And that’s not even how young I was when my relationship with my body fell apart, age eleven is just when that brokenness started manifesting in how I actually ate. When I was fifteen, I tried to recover for the first time. At the time, tumblr was a big deal, and I was following a lot of vegan bloggers. The lifestyles they were portraying seemed so dreamy, so carefree, that I decided to give veganism a try in the hope that it would transform me into something that resembled them a little more closely. Of course, that’s not what happened, because that’s not how recovery works, but being vegan did change my relationship with food. I truly do not recommend becoming vegan straight out of an eating disorder—in a lot of ways, it’s just another way to control your food. And that was probably a big part of why it stuck so well for me. But it also made me look at what I ate differently. It sparked an interest in food and environmentalism, and the relationship between the two. For the first time in a long time, probably ever, I found joy in finding new recipes to try. That, at the very least, was reason enough for me to keep being vegan. I was not cured at age fifteen. There is no cure. But even at my lowest points, my worst relapses, I’ve always had this idea to come back to about my relationship in food: that it was based in compassion. I chose a way of living and eating in which I did my very best not to harm any animals or people. I was protecting as much life as I could, and for that reason alone, my relationship with food was compassionate. For the past seven years, that’s a big part of what’s made me keep working hard at recovery. The association between food and compassion made me feel like eating was a powerful act. I was enacting my power every time I ate. And I still feel that way. I feel that each day when I choose to listen to my body, eat delicious meals, find new recipes, I am powerful, and I am compassionate, and I am doing good.
I also think it’s worth noting that every day, veganism gets easier. Not for me personally, it’s been second nature for years now, but for people looking to give it a try. There’s basically no food that doesn’t have at least a halfway decent vegan alternative, and things are getting cheaper all the time. I’ll also say that I don’t talk about veganism much because, again, I don’t like shaming people for what they choose to eat and even if it’s not intentional or for whatever the reason, people often feel guilty about their food when they hear someone else talking about veganism. But over the years, almost every single person I’ve ever had as a roommate has become interested in veganism just by seeing what I eat. My freshman & sophomore year roommates became vegetarian and dairy free, respectively, while living with me. My last roommate experimented with veganism and is now vegetarian. Several of my friends are now dairy free or eat mostly plant based, but my biggest and most unexpected victory, I think, is my current roommate. She never considered veganism or even vegetarianism and last month, she bought a vegan cookbook that she found completely on her own, and we cook vegan dinners almost every night. Let me re-emphasize the fact that I do not talk about being vegan to the people in my life. Like, at all. I honestly just think that for a lot of people, the more exposed to the idea of eating plant-based you are, the easier it is to incorporate it more into your life because you’ve seen firsthand what the benefits can be. I’m not saying everyone needs to try being vegan right now, I’m just saying it can have a lot of benefits, environmental and personal. All i can really say is that it’s been tremendously helpful in the process of healing my relationship with food and with my body. And that seems like a pretty impossible feat, so you can’t blame me if I speak highly of it.
Sidenote: the photo is of a vegan breakfast burrito I had at the Beachwood Cafe in LA. Probably the most delicious breakfast I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. Just a reminder that veganism isn’t about eating salads and bananas all day or whatever it is that people think we eat. It’s about really good food that’s good for your soul and for the world.