(I’ve been putting off writing all of this down because, as always, I am afraid of judgement)
I’m vegan now. I have been for a little over 3 months, so I’m still adjusting and learning (just the other day I realised that the cereal I bought had honey in it, oops) but I think I’m confident in “announcing” it.
This decision is one that I’ve been on the fence about for years. I went vegetarian during my first year of college and I did it with the intention of transitioning to veganism soon after, but here we are almost 3 years later and I’ve just finally done it. This is where the whole eating disorder backstory comes into play.
I can’t honestly remember how it all started, to be honest. I do know that it was 12th grade and everything all went to shit at once so the eating disorder was simply one thing on the list at the time. I guess I felt like I needed control. It was easy enough to hide, probably because of my age and my independence. My first class wasn’t until 10am, so I was always the last one awake in the morning, which was perfect. I ate lunch alone at school, so there was nobody to question me, and then I’d go to my co-op placement and when they took their break I’d tell them I already ate. I made my own dinner a lot, or was expected to, so who was to know what or how much I ate? If we were eating together I’d say I wasn’t hungry, that I ate lunch really late, that I was going out. I lied a lot. I relied on “I already ate” and “I’m not hungry” a lot. I used to survive on black tea most days. So much black tea. It didn’t matter what I ate, I felt guilty regardless. There was a point in which I would binge eat, when I was alone, and then swear to myself that I wouldn’t eat at all the next day. For a long time afterward, I couldn’t eat ice cream, it sickened me.
Once I got to college, my independence grew and along with that, the eating disorder pressed on. I spent a lot of time alone, again not ever having to explain myself. There was a period where I’d eat half a piece of toast for breakfast and feed the other half to my dogs. I’d eat half of a packet of instant oatmeal (I had excuses ready if anyone ever saw the half empty packet in the cupboard, I’d poured too much water for 1, but not enough for 2, so I ate 1 and a half. Nobody ever asked). Looking back, I can’t believe some of the stuff I survived on. I even had one of those fitness apps where you log your food intake and exercise. PRO TIP: don’t download those apps. They are not going to do you any good. I’d be doing sit ups on my bedroom floor in the middle of the night, walking through the suburbs for ages, running up and down staircases, all to get below my “goal” for the day. It was a damn mess.
Long story short, it was absolutely awful and I don’t wish any of it upon anyone ever. It really messes you up. It messed me up for the better part of 2 years and it still affects me daily.
So back to this vegan crap. Originally, I went vegetarian because of my eating disorder. I thought that if I cut out meat that I would lose more weight. And once I got used to it, I could cut out dairy and eggs, too. I told everyone that it was because of the ethics – which wasn’t completely untrue – but really it was because I’d convinced myself that I’d get away with eating less if I “couldn’t” eat certain things.
Over time, I recovered from the worst of the eating disorder, but I still wanted to be vegan. The reason that I waited so long is because I was afraid that it was just my way of relapsing, I didn’t want to wind up back in that place I’d been in for so so long. It’s hard, because I knew that this time I was doing it for the right reasons, but the toxic thoughts hadn’t fully gone away. I mean, once you know how many calories are in everything in your fridge, and exactly how little you can get by on, it takes time to just “forget” all of it. I’ve spoken to a few people close to me that have gone through similar disorders, and they can back me on this. Even once you’re out of the thick of it, and you no longer act on your thoughts, they’re still there. It’s a process to go from calculating every bite to simply eating like a “normal person” again.
I know it’s hypocritical of me to say, because I never got help, but seek help. It’s scary to go through that kind of stuff alone especially when there are so many people out there who will understand and want to support you as you try to recover. Not just me, not just on the internet, but in your real life. I have a handful of people close to me that were going through the same thing at the same time and we were oblivious of each other until we’d gotten past it and felt a little more comfortable speaking about it. We could have been there for each other!
At the end of the day, I believe in a compassionate and earth-friendly lifestyle. I really do. I think I should be treating myself and the world with kindness, and I’m trying to get there. By feeling good about what I’m putting into my body, and knowing that it’s doing good for the Earth, I feel better about myself. Positive vibes, and all that stuff. I’m not gonna get preachy but of course in stating that I’m vegan I’m also saying that I think it’s the right thing to do and that everyone should try and get there someday. Do your own research and have your own opinions, I don’t care if you’re vegan or not. I am, and I’m the only person that I can control.
The road to self-love and acceptance is a freaking bumpy one that doesn’t come with a map but it exists and it’s not impossible to drive down. You might just have to drive a little slower than you want to.
Take care of yourselves and each other, xo, Rachel