Is It Vegan, and Is It Delicious? Kailey on Finding Freedom Through Veganism
Posted Jan 10 2011 2:00pm
Happy Monday, CR readers!
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post on D.C. dining , today is my first day of orientation for my post-bacc program. With any luck, it’s going well; at the very least, I wont get lost on campus. Since I anticipate a busy day, I asked my friend Kailey to stop by and share a few words on a topic I’m very passionate about: the positive link between ED recovery and vegan or vegetarian diets.
I believe that veganism played a very crucial role in my own recovery from disordered eating. It—along with therapy—is what helped me to ultimately leave my disordered patterns of thought and behavior behind. These habits and ways of thinking infused every single meal for about ten years, and in retrospect it still shocks me that I now live without them.
There are plenty of reasons why I believe that veganism was the ultimate healing decision for me. For one thing, it helped me to feed myself better and more nourishing food, but also helped me to avoid foods that made me feel lousy (read: dairy, processed food, sugary convenience foods). This in turn helped me to avoid a lot of the actual food triggers that were prone to setting off restrictive eating. Relatedly, veganism gave me a sense of pride and confidence in the foods I did eat. It had been years since food gave me any feeling but guilt, and the sudden conviction that I was eating in such a way as to feel proud was a huge, huge change.
Most of all, veganism taught me that the act of eating was bigger and more important than me and my little obsessive habits, worries, and body fears. Entering the vegan community and coming into contact with men and women who cared about animal rights—as well as the environment, food politics, and labor practices in farming—taught me that my food choices had the power to either contribute to or combat suffering in the world. This was a major revelation, and I’ve never eaten in the same way since. Once upon a time, the dinner table was a battleground for my own fears about weight gain, hunger, and self-worth; today, when I sit down to a meal, I’m focused less on myself and far more on what my food choices mean for animals, for the planet, and for the people I’m sharing my meal with (more on that soon). Eating is no longer all about me.
I think that many women who have had anorexia or bulimia, or even women who have restricted food routinely, can never again bring themselves to make any food off limits. In that sense, I realize that veganism isn’t right for some ED veterans. My much stronger conviction, though, is that vegan or mostly vegan diets might actually be an unexplored and undervalued solution to eating disorders of all varieties, and that it’s worth dieticians, doctors, and therapists taken them seriously as a mode of healing.
I hope to write more about this, but for now, I’m going to let young Kailey take over. Kailey is one of the most hilarious and outgoing bloggers I know; she’s also an ED warrior and a former VegNews intern. Last summer, Kailey and I compared notes about our food journeys, and we realized that we’d both been set free from the crazy by veg*nism. So it’s with great happiness that I welcome Kailey here to talk about her recovery and the positive influence that working at VegNews had on her.
Hello, fabulous Choosing Raw readers! This is Kailey from SnackFace and I am honored to do a guest post for the extremely intelligent, wildly witty and, most importantly, highly passionate Gena. Can we all just pause for a second and give the woman mad props for her bold choice to go back to school to pursue her passions ? That is what life is all about.
Anyway, if you’ve read my blog for a hefty chunk of the time its been alive, you’ve seen me go through a plethora of food phases. When I started SnackFace in February of 2009, I hadn’t admitted to myself that I wasn’t over my food struggles. Only when I look back now do I think, “Oh honey, that wasn’t good.” From my senior year of high school through my junior year of college, I practiced a heavily-ruled game of “How Little Can I Eat”— like so many other women.
Every morning, I woke up, thought about everything I’d eaten the day before, and thought about how I could eat “better” (which really meant “less”) that day. I worked on a system of tens. I allowed myself to eat 10 things each day, with each item equal to or less than 200 calories. This was in addition to an elliptical addiction. In case you don’t know, I’m 5′10″. My body requires much more nourishment and loving. After admitting to myself I had a problem (I throw this out as though admittance happened overnight– it did not), I battled myself for three years, constantly in and out of denial. It wasn’t until the summer after my junior year of college that everything changed.
On June 1st of 2009, I set out for a summer-long adventure in San Francisco working for a vegan lifestyle magazine, VegNews . For a young, yogurt-loving, suburbanite woman from Ohio, this was a life overhaul. Knowing that the VegNews office was entirely vegan, I thought, “Why not!” and vowed that I, too, would be vegan for the summer.
This might give one who is aware of eating disorders’ controlling nature pause. A popular misconception is that a vegan diet is the gateway diet to, or a disguise for, an eating disorder. Like Gena, I am proof that it is anything but.
During my summer living the vegan lifestyle, I found more freedom than I had ever known within my diet. How could that be possible considering vegans don’t eat animal flesh, dairy, honey, anything that comes from an animal? I’ll tell you how it’s possible. I was surrounded by gracious, vivacious people who cared about only two things when eating:
1. Is it vegan?
2. Is it delicious?
The questions in their heads regarding food had nothing to do with numbers. Numbers had been ruling my life, and eating with vegans who paid no mind to the should-be innocuous numbers of calories, fat, fiber, sugar was challenging at first, but overwhelmingly freeing in the end. It took a month or so to adjust to freeing my mind to think of only, “Is it vegan and is it delicious,” but when it all fell into place, true change within me finally took hold. My eating went from scrupulous and calculating to excited and carefree. Within the vegan diet, I had given myself permission to eat anything my heart desired. This ranged from beautiful kale and avocado salads to Fritos. If it was vegan, I was eating it and loving it.
Being around people who were simply food lovers (and animal lovers, of course) wasn’t the only thing that carried me to a healed self, though. That summer in San Francisco pushed me to fill my time with whatever made me happy. I made friends that I will have for my whole life (Brooke, if you’re reading, I love you!). I stopped going to the gym and went on run/walks (yes, run/walks: run when I want, walk when I want) along the beach. I tried bikram, heavy brews, Earth Balance-filled baked goods. I spent my days writing, editing and brainstorm– the very things with which I am very much in love. I wore sweaters in July. (So maybe it was the coldest summer of my life…) Maybe I kissed an Irishman or two as well.
It was the summer that changed me and delivered me directly to the free Kailey I had been years before. (Um, minus the kissing-Irishmen thing.)
Veganism was the catalyst for the overhaul, but it was the people I worked with at VegNews who truly helped me. Unbeknownst to them, the VegNews crew didn’t talk about the very things that had been running my life: calories, fat, calories burned, thinness. That, beyond anything, is what helped me. A total removal of body and food negativity is and was the absolute cure. My coworkers ate and lived with gusto, something that had been severely missing in my life.
Though I didn’t take full veganism with me back to Ohio, I did take the freedom, the vigor for life. When I think of a vegan diet, I think of anything but restriction. I think of exploration, discovery and ultimately, deliciousness.
How could I not with food like this?
Avocado and Strawberry Breakfast
My First Quinoa Dish
Brown Rice Pasta
Thank you all for reading!
Editor’s note: Thank YOU, Kailey! What a fab post. And if you guys are curious, the VegNews staff post their delicious lunches each and every day on the Cafe VegNews blog. Go get inspired!