…to healing with vegan whole-foods and taking care of myself
My honest vegan journey: from orthorexia to junk food vegan is a story I really wanted to write today. With so many “I’m no longer vegan” and “I started feeling better when I began eating animal foods again” stories popping up, I just want to share how my vegan diet has actually been the one thing that has healed me. I fully acknowledge bio-individuality and I understand why a vegan diet is not for everyone. We are all different, our bodies need different food to thrive. My body and mind thrives on a vegan diet.
Healing my autoimmune hypothyroidism
Early 2014 I was diagnosed with autoimmune hypothyroidism. I had severe symptoms such as bad anxiety, tiredness, insomnia, depression, feeling like I couldn’t control anything. I felt completely lost and embarrassed to admit: I couldn’t even take care of my children properly as I was mostly bed (or couch) ridden. I started taking thyroid medication for my condition, but it took a long time for the meds to help. And even when they did, it was difficult to find the right balance.
A major difference in my well-being happened after I changed my diet in 2014. I had been dairy-free and egg-free due to my baby boy’s allergies, but I stopped eating meat, gluten and refined sugar too. I began incorporating more plant-based whole-foods to my diet. I started eating more nuts, seeds, legumes, quinoa, leafy greens, herbs, and a colorful variety of vegetables. A whole new world opened up as I began experimenting with vegan cooking. I made everything from scratch and I enjoyed cooking with whole food ingredients.
I was on maternity leave back then, and had all the time during the day to cook when my son was napping, and he also loved to watch me cook. I studied to become a IIN health coach and I studied at a Finnish nutrition school. I was yearning to learn more about nutrition and holistic health.
This new way of eating felt very natural, it made me feel more in tune with myself. I was finally healing. I wasn’t tired anymore, I was full of energy and LIFE. That’s when I started Myberryforest 🙂
Developing orthorexia: healthy food obsession
Being so excited and happy about this new way of living, I didn’t notice just how crazy obsessed I was with healthy food. I couldn’t eat out anymore because I was never 100% sure if the vegan meal I ordered contained unhealthy fats, refined sugar, gluten. If we went on a family trip I started developing anxiety and ended up taking my own vegan food for the trips.
Shopping was very stressful because there were no packaged / processed foods I accepted as part of my diet. I read through all ingredient lists and it took a lot of time. My husband and kids hated going to the store with me, and I can’t blame them.
I have suffered from anorexia when I was 17-20 (healed in my late 20s), and these harmful food related thoughts resurfaced when I started restricting my diet. Eating a vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar free, super food, whole food, only healthy food diet was overwhelmingly restrictive, and I am glad I got over my orthorexia before it got any worse.
How I got over my orthorexic thoughts and behaviors
- I realized these obsessive food related thought patterns were very harmful to me, they were limiting my life. I consciously started occupying my mind with other things such as the technical side of photography.
- I tried hard not to attach labels good, bad or guilty to the food I was eating.
- I got back to work after my maternity leave, and had no time to cook everything from scratch anymore. Most days I didn’t have time to make my own lunch, so I had to eat out. I was very lucky to be working near plant-friendly restaurants in Punavuori (Helsinki).
- More processed vegan food products came to the market in Finland, and not all of them were totally unhealthy. I started eating a bit of gluten too, because I tasted vegan pretzels in Munich and fell in love ♥
- I also began following a wide array of food pages on Instagram, not just the super food / super healthy / wellness influencers.
I was not 100% vegan
There are some things I don’t shout about on Instagram. I have not been completely vegan all these years. I have slipped several times and I haven’t felt guilty about it at all. I started eating a plant-based vegan diet due to health reasons, and it took me about three years to start thinking consciously about other reasons too.
I think if you start eating vegan solely for the animals and environment it is easier to be 100% vegan in every way (including lifestyle). It is not only about you then. My original choice to be vegan for my own health reasons have guided my way of eating and I’ve been listening to my body all these years.
When I was pregnant in 2016 I was feeling nauseous and had terrible cravings for cottage cheese and smoked salmon. I knew these were signs I had to listen to, so I ate cottage cheese many times and smoked salmon a few times. I didn’t check every food item when eating out and probably ate something containing dairy and eggs.
I know it is totally possible to have a 100% healthy vegan pregnancy, but I didn’t want to. Pregnancy cravings can be really weird and also pretty hard to resist, so I was just going with the flow and not stressing about the food I choose to eat.
Not stressing about food became my new mantra
When my daughter was born in October 2016 I was back to eating a completely vegan diet, but something had changed. It might have been due to hormones, being tired, or just being a mom of three and not having any extra time. I stopped stressing and obsessing about food.
My orthorexia faded into the background and a new kind of enjoyment came into my life: I started enjoying ALL vegan food. I began eating gluten, a bit of refined sugar, processed foods, everything just as long as it’s vegan. And it was a good time to be doing so as there were even more vegan food items in grocery stores and more popping up each month. I was happy I didn’t have to spend all my time cooking for my family.
Becoming a junk food vegan
I didn’t stress about food but I had a lot of stress. In two years I wrote two books, started my own business and had to figure out how to earn a living while taking care of three little ones and spend time with my amazing husband too.
Holistic health is something I’m very interested in and I learned a lot when studying to become a holistic health coach. Although I knew a lot about the factors affecting health, taking care of my own well-being wasn’t on my priority list (or any list) during these stressful times.
I started eating more and more vegan sugary treats, more and more processed vegan food. I felt good about it at first, because food was the one thing I wasn’t stressing about. What I didn’t realize though is that all the stress and unhealthy eating was taking a toll on my body. I didn’t realize this because these health issues developed over time little by little and at first the symptoms were barely noticeable.
I started really feeling and seeing these symptoms earlier this year. I began having issues with my hypothyroidism again: feeling anxious, nervous, more tired and even depressed at times. I’ve also gained a lot of weight, I’ve felt bloated and heavy.
What you see on my Instagram or my blog is a true representation of what I eat or what my family eats, but it definitely is not ALL I eat. I’ve had terrible cravings, I’ve been snacking sugary treats all through the day, not eating enough healthy carbs, protein nor good fats.
I knew all this was bad for me, but I didn’t have the strength to start changing my way of eating.
Healing with plant-based vegan whole foods
My well-being journey began with a strict elimination diet: eating 100% plant-based vegan minimally processed food with no gluten or refined sugar (only dates and other fruits allowed). I’m not eating legumes either and only a few grains such as quinoa and millet is okay.
I’m following this strict diet for 4 + weeks to reset my gut health. I am eating crazy amounts of plants. Big bowls full of nourishing food. I am using a vegan protein powder every day, I eat lots of nuts and seeds and also some oils. Here’s an example of what I eat in a day.
It’s not all about food! I’m also taking care of myself now more than I have in years. I’m drinking more water, sleeping more, having regular meal times, exercising more…just little things which are easy to incorporate in my every day life.
UPDATE September 2019: I would never recommend a restrictive diet without help from a registered nutritionist. And I would definitely not recommend a restrictive diet longer than 4 weeks. All in all I’m not a fan of restrictive diets or diets in general, but I did this for health reasons and it worked. If you want to know what how I’ve progressed and what lessons I’ve learned about health, well-being and diets, read my post here.
It’s not only about me and my health anymore
What started out as a personal journey to health and healing with plant-based food has changed into something bigger.
It’s not just about me anymore.
I am concerned about the environment and animals, about the future of our planet, about the future of my children. I am very concerned about the state of the world, about the way we are destroying our planet, how we are mistreating living beings.
I want to do my best to save our planet. I feel so helpless at times, I feel like I can never do enough, but I’m doing the best I can at this moment in my life by eating vegan food, cooking vegan food for my family and teaching my kids about vegan food and environmental issues. I am creating recipes and posting on Instagram and my blog in the hopes of inspiring you to eat more plant-based food too.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I believe in bio-individuality. Being vegan might not be for everyone, but I believe we all would feel better when eating more plant-based whole foods.
Thank you so much for reading my honest vegan journey: from orthorexia to junk food vegan. If you have any questions or want to share about your wellness journey, I would love to hear about it!
Lots of love from the forest,