My journey to health and food positivity
When I was young, food didn’t play a big role in my life — until it did.
As I said, I grew up a very picky eater. It speaks volumes that I was considered “picky” in my house, where the palate was notoriously boring. My house was a very standard meat-and-potatoes home, and often the most colourful “salad” we had was some iceberg with tomatoes and cucumbers. I grew up in Northern Ontario in a very non-diverse community, so I never tried anything like Indian food, sushi, pad Thai or even Mexican food (besides Old El Paso kits) until my late teens.
Although I shook the “picky eater” stigma by mid-high school, I started to develop a bigger problem: I was obsessed with my weight. I’d never been a particularly chubby or thin kid, but when I started exercising and losing weight one summer, I definitely took it too far for too long. I noticed that people were nicer to me once I’d become thin, and I developed a serious fear of gaining weight. While I was never diagnosed formally with an eating disorder, a councillor I saw in university told me I met the criteria for ED-NOS, and what would likely be classified as Orthorexia (although Orthorexia nervosa is not currently recognized as an eating disorder in the DSM). For about three years, I exercised compulsively, over-restricted my food intake and occasionally had bouts of binge eating (followed by intense shame). This occurred on and off and was at times easier to control than others; it only became better once I addressed other problems with my mental health.
At 21, after the death of a friend, I started to become more serious about self-love, living my best life and living life with no regrets. Aside from seeing a councillor (which was mainly to deal with anxiety; I’ve had anxiety since I was a child), one way I vowed to treat myself better was by spending more time cooking for myself and having more fun with food. The more I cooked, the less food felt like a burden to undertake and the more it felt like a celebration. I also took some time away from the gym and actually spent nearly a year abstaining from working out until I learned to see it as fun and not a punishment.
I’m still not perfect and occasionally experience negative thoughts about my body, but they’ve become fewer and farther between. Transitioning to vegetarianism in 2012 and then veganism the following year was first born from a passion for creative cooking, but soon turned into a fiery passion for animal rights. I do not support animal industries in any way, beyond just food. While I don’t feel comfortable saying that veganism is absolutely safe to transition to if you have a history of disordered eating (always consult with your physician and any therapists you may be consulting), for me I can say the greater sense of purpose since adopting a vegan diet has helped me feel good about myself no matter what I eat!