Discovering Disordered Eating

I’ve recently come to terms that I may’ve had an eating disorder for the past decade. Not anorexia or bulimia, but disordered eating. It really wasn’t until an anti-vegan video showed up in my feed on YouTube that the thought ever crossed my mind. I only clicked on it to see how non-vegans view vegans and expected to find the usual humor (where do you get your protein, etc), but no. It was pretty serious, showing a decline in mental and physical health through pictures and videos, for those who choose this diet, or way of eating…like myself. It was eye-opening to say the least. And I was shocked to see vegetarianism/veganism as a symptom of an eating disorder on the National Eating Disorders Association’s website.

My vegetarian journey began 10 years ago. I didn’t give it much thought. It seemed like when I had meals with meat ( I’ve never been one to have to have meat with every meal), my energy dipped to the point I wanted to nap, but if I didn’t have meat, I didn’t get sleepy. Just a minor observation, yet it led to my experimenting with how easy it would be to eat as a vegetarian. I love to dine out, so I began by getting my usual eats, but without meat. In most cases, I was ordering sides only. By that time, I’d already stopped eating red meat — first pork in 2005, then beef the following year.  It was pretty easy to skip the meat, and well, I hardly cooked meat at home, so I found being vegetarian a breeze. It was also much cheaper to eat that way.

Then I got into raw vegan. For a good five years, I bounced between vegetarian and raw vegan. I documented part of that journey on my other site, The Fruit Experiment.  I stopped the raw vegan thing more than a couple of times because it required too much effort, and cooked cravings were too intense after a relatively short while. I would get pulled back in to trying it for one reason or another though — some uncurable condition cured or some miracle happened via raw veganism. So I would think maybe I need to change my approach. I would look for some clue as to something I could do better or differently to make the raw vegan thing stick. I heard of someone easing into it after a juice cleanse, so I thought “Yes! That makes sense…clear out the stuff that’s causing the cravings.” I’d try it, and whadya know, it was a little easier. And maybe I stayed raw a little longer than the last time. My thinking gradually shifted to, “Well, if I could live amongst other raw vegans to really get the hang of it and to be in a supportive environment around the clock…that’s what I need.” So I did that, too! I moved and lived in two different raw vegan communities for that very reason. Not only did that not help, it just increased my stress and anxiety over the financial implications of said moves. 🤯 And what do I do when I get stressed? Eat.

The biggest stressor I’ve ever had in my entire life happened a few months ago. I can’t even get into it right now. But, in hindsight, I think whatever nutrients, B-vitamins, and whatever else I may need to handle tough situations got 100% depleted during that time. I was a zombie and didn’t care what I ate. I just knew I needed to eat something. I can’t eat wheat…or gluten…or dairy, which is why I went vegan four years ago. But I ate them anyway. Unfortunately, these foods cause extremely painful elimination and other consequences. Especially the wheat. Recovering from ingesting gluten can take a good three weeks, along with daily NSAIDs, for my joints to stop aching from the inflammation. It was so frustrating to keep eating foods I knew were hurting me, but I didn’t want to stop. I wanted my body to get over being sensitive to them.

From what I’ve discovered over the past four years in going to regular doctors, internists, a naturopathic MD, a gastro doctor, an Ayurvedic specialist…and most recently, a hematologist, I’m increasingly becoming sensitive to foods because my gut is compromised. No one has been able to tell me why though. I was instructed to do things like increase my fiber, take HCL (acid), or drink more water. In watching some ex-vegans on YouTube describe their vegan trials and tribulations, I see myself. They’ve described many of the same symptoms and attempts to fix those symptoms as I have. By my own estimation, I believe the why was the long-term juice fasting and more specifically the breaking of the fasts incorrectly a few times. I messed up my GI tract. My usual foods of rice and steamed or sauteed veggies started irritating my stomach a few weeks ago. I would eat this twice a day.  Evidently there is a thing as too much fiber. Ironically, I picked this “standard meal” so I could be both consistent and cost-efficient. A 10-lb bag of rice costs $10, and fresh veggies are easy to come by, too.

It’s interesting because Guruji teaches to not focus solely on diet and that was one of the instructions mentioned in Lesson 1 (received it last week!) of the new Lessons. I’ve read and heard this teaching before, but let it go in one ear and out the other, because I didn’t feel I was obsessed with my diet. If anything I feel I don’t think about it enough because I tend to not keep enough food in the house and end up going to the grocery store 2 or 3 times or more a week. It’s like I shop only for the day’s or next day’s meals for some reason.

And so, I’m at a lost. I have no idea what to eat…and it’s not an unfamiliar feeling. When I went vegetarian, I had to learn what else to eat or make besides sides. Raw vegan, that was a quite a learning curve. Vegan, too, was a challenge because dairy is quite pervasive! Then I got sensitive to wheat, so I had to start working around that. Now, I’m back at the beginning. Maybe I just need to go to a cooking class! I was all set for an appointment with a dietician until I found out that it wouldn’t be covered under my insurance. *Sigh* Maybe I should revisit, and pay out-of-pocket, because I’ve finally realized it’s deeper than learning what to eat.

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