Healthy Eating, Veganism, & Eating Disorders

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A typical healthy meal prep spread that I’ve shared on social media

I recently read an article claiming that meal prep, veganism, and healthy eating on Instagram can trigger eating disorders. At first when I read the article, I felt a little conflicted because I post photos of vegan food, I love to meal prep, I’ve recovered from disordered eating, and I also happen to be a Registered Dietitian who understands the multiple causes and treatments of eating disorders.

What this article failed to mention is that eating disorders are not about food (seems counterintuitive, right?). Many people develop eating disorders as a result of trauma and/or underlying depression and anxiety. To blame social media or pretty pictures of salad in mason jars takes the focus away from the complex causes and treatment of addictive behavior and maladaptive coping mechanisms.

That being said, some of my meal prep photos do feature recipes low in calories, protein, and fat, so the article made me think “do I really want to present plant-based eating/vegansim in a restrictive way”? (the answer is NO because that’s not what veganism is about).

A huge part of my own recovery from disordered eating was intense therapy. Another aspect of my recovery was learning about nutrition and how to adequately fuel my body (from an RD). I learned how to prepare food and enjoy it without anxiety, which led to my love of cooking and meal prep. I learned that a balanced diet includes all types of food- including veggies AND ice cream. I learned that messages about dieting, weight control, and health will always be there and that’s ok because through therapy I gained the skills to acknowledge what does and doesn’t serve me, without placing blame on things that could possibly be triggering.

In treatment, I also reflected on my reasons for being vegan. I became a vegan when I was 15 due to many reasons, some of them more selfish (like wanting to lose weight). I then learned about the impact of factory farming on our environment. But because of the association between veganism, weight, and food restriction, letting go of labels during recovery was important. I was able to return to return to eating a vegan diet when I was stable in mind and body. I’ve also admittedly had some bumps in the road where I haven’t been a strict vegan (alert the vegan police!), but ultimately, I believe that if you feel a certain way, you’ll always go back to what is important to you.

I try to use my nutrition knowledge (as a dietitian) and my passion for plant-based eating to share how easy, nourishing, healthy, and satisfying it can be, with the right intentions. Being aware of my own history, I would never want to promote veganism strictly for weight loss. I think adopting a more plant-based diet can be a useful tool for overall health–but diet is completely individual.

If you feel like you might be using veganism/vegetarianism to mask an eating disorder, I encourage you to please let go of labels. If something is causing you to feel anxious around food and/or engage in disordered eating, it’s ok to to re-assess your intentions & figure out what works for you.

I have a lot more to say on this topic and I’ll probably share those thoughts in a separate post. But for now, I hope you take time for yourself and do things that bring you health and healing in mind, body, and soul.

-Jess

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Feed Your Soul!

I’m finally done with another semester of being a nutrition student, yay! This semester was probably my toughest one yet because of the amount of courses I decided to take, along with yoga teacher training, balancing a job, and trying to fit in time for my own yoga practice. One thing that definitely helped me this semester was fitting in time to de-stress. Yoga helped, as did some other activities, such as baking, spending time outdoors, and curling up with a good book. If you find yourself overwhelmed, I recommend doing some activities that take your mind off whatever is stressing you out. During my finals week, I realized how important it is to do things that feed your soul instead of focusing either exclusively on work/obligations or doing things that provide a sense of fleeting fun.

Although technically the following recipe isn’t a “baked good”, it still kept me occupied in the kitchen and turned out to be a really healthy, filling little treat. Coming up with cheaper alternatives to my favorite packaged snack foods is now an official hobby, so I present to you, my raw balls. Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. These delicious balls are made of (mostly) all raw ingredients and are chock full of healthy, plant-based fats and fiber. They also make a great present if you haven’t bought your holiday gifts yet.

 

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Chocolate Chip Variation

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups medjool dates (make sure you take the pit out of them!)
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (Trader Joe’s sells a vegan version)

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine pitted dates, nuts, and vanilla extract. Transfer to a food processor and process/pulse for a minute or two. The mixture should be easily moldable with your hands. If the mixture is too sticky, add a few more nuts by the tablespoon, and continue to use the food processor. If the mixture has too many nuts and won’t mold together with your hands, try adding a few more pitted dates. Transfer back into the large bowl and add chocolate chips. Mold into ball shapes with your hands and refrigerate. Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Cherry Variation

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pitted medjool dates
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of cocoa powder

Directions:

Combine pitted dates, nuts, dried cherries, and cocoa powder together and transfer to a food processor. Process until blended for about a minute of two. If the consistency is too dry and the mixture won’t mold with your hands, try adding a few more dates. If it’s too sticky, add a few more nuts by the tablespoon. Transfer to a bowl and then using your hands, mold the mixture into ball shapes and refrigerate. Enjoy!

-Jess