But… What about ice cream?’ my grandma asked. ‘And mozzarella sticks! You love those!’ she exclaimed. My grandma’s questioning was a typical example of peoples’ reactions when I told them I had decided to go vegan. But making this decision taught me more than how to make a mean tofu scramble. Changing my diet for a cause, to help animals and the environment, helped me overcome an eating disorder. When I first started Googling health advice, my searches were not created from a healthy mindset. I started searching for ways to become ‘skinny’ and, therefore, ‘beautiful’ when I was 13 and nowhere near overweight.
My middle school years were plagued with insecurity, and I’m sure that many of my peers experienced similar emotions. As our eyes were opened to so much perfection on the internet and on social media, we began to close our eyes to the reflections staring back at us in the mirror. I saw myself as inadequate compared to the perfect images that flooded my screen morning and night.
I was unaware that these images were often edited and artificial. My eating disorder began when I became committed to attaining this idea of perfection. These days of my life were not pretty. I would only let myself eat every other day, and on days when I would eat, I would only eat 500 calories.
The foods that I chose were weight loss bars, sugar-free Jello, and canned chicken noodle soup. I picked these items to rely on because they were packaged and labeled with nutrition facts which allowed me to stay under my calorie limit. The perfect images continued to cloud my screen and consume my mind. At the time, I believed that dieting was something everyone did because I knew of so many available weight loss plans and people using them. Consequently, I did not see anything wrong with what I was doing, until I found the vegan community on YouTube. I found a group of young women only somewhat older than I was who were everything I was aspiring to be-fit and happy. But, they ate. I soon found out about the realities behind animal agriculture.
Hungry and intrigued by the massive amounts of fruits and vegetables they devoured in their recipe videos, I desperately made the decision to go vegan overnight. I slowly began to eat large quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables and felt energy and enthusiasm return to my body. Soon, I stopped worrying about how many calories I ate because I was eating healthy foods. I did not eat to look a particular way, I only ate to take care of my body.
However, getting past an eating disorder is never easy, and it seems that those who try to learn how to eat normally again are never completely finished recovering. It’s been three years since I first started trying to change my ways. There are still days when I see myself as fat and feel like I should start skipping meals again. There are times when I see other people starting low-calorie or low-carb diets and think I should do the same. I’ve also come to see the reality of how normalized restrictive diets are. It seems that every other ad shows someone with a perfect body or is an ad for a diet itself; and, proportionally, every other person you meet is on a diet.
I now know that what you eat affects more than what you look like, and have enough self love to act on this knowledge. We should never stop promoting a positive body image and showing people how important healthy eating can be for your overall happiness. When we develop a healthy mindset and healthy habits, life quickly becomes enjoyable.