Recovery Series #4 // Emily von Euw
Hi loves! Last week’s Recovery Series post was more introspective than usual, and I really enjoyed writing it. It felt like such a release to put my words and thoughts on recovery/life/being alive out there into the universe. Thank you for your positive responses. I appreciate every single one of them!
Today the lovely miss Emily von Euw from This Rawsome Vegan Life is stopping by to tell us her recovery story. She suffered from disordered eating at the beginning of her raw vegan journey when she was around the age of 17. Now it’s been a few years, and she has figured out how to eat a healthy plant-based diet AND be good to her body. She inspires me so very much, and I have had a blast following her blog for the past several years. You rock, Emily!
PS, before we get to it, prepare yourselves to do some voting (cough cough…for me! Hehe, JK, kinda) from September 15th – 29th on Katsuya’s Facebook page. It’s part of their #RollOutTheResearch campaign for breast cancer awareness, and the winner of the contest gets their roll featured on Katsuya’s menu for the month of October. (For all of you non-Californian readers, which is many of you, Katsuya is a super trendy and delicious sushi place in LA!). Would so appreciate your support! Had a blast getting a sushi lesson from the chef yesterday. 😉
Doing a whole post on the contest next week– but today is about EMILY!
Recovery Series #3 // Emily von Euw ▶ ▷ ▸ ▹ ►
Q: Name, age, current location.
A: Emily von Euw, 20, Vancouver
Q: You’re very open on your blog about developing disordered eating habits around the age of 17 when you transitioned from vegan to raw vegan. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience?
A: I became vegan because it made sense to me; if you care about others, yourself and the environment, you should eat a plant-based diet. Soon after becoming vegan I learned about the raw food diet and lifestyle, and the logic behind it also resonated with me. That is, the idea that raw foods are the healthiest foods on the planet because they are the least processed, their enzymes are still intact, and all other animal species eat only raw food… so it must be the most natural, and therefore healthy, diet! That was my thinking at the time anyways. In turning to the raw food diet, I made several mistakes. Firstly, after researching the lifestyle online and in books, I convinced myself that I should strive to eat 100% raw if I want to be truly healthy. Of course, I have learned this is not true. Humans have been eating cooked food since approximately 250,000 years ago and our bodies have evolved to handle it. The strongest civilizations throughout history have based their diets on cooked grains and vegetables. Secondly, I learned to see all cooked food as poisonous and bad for me and I felt guilty whenever I wanted to eat – and did eat – cooked food, even if it was just steamed broccoli or brown rice. This was not healthy because guilt and self-loathing are never healthy, but it was also unhealthy because I have since discovered I do best with cooked food in my diet, and if I eat all raw for too long I begin to feel weak. And finally, I did not eat enough. I think some folks can probably live on an all raw diet long term, but the amounts of food you need to eat are enormous (2,000-4,000 calories a day). I only ate a few pieces of fruit a day, and I was always craving other food I felt guilty about eating. It was a nasty cycle.
Q: When did you realize you had gone too far with your raw vegan diet? Losing your period for 8 months was certainly one wake up call, but were there others?
A: After trying to eat all raw for several months I began to feel weak, light-headed, and tired all the time. I was exercising a lot, but after an hour of cardio I’d only have a plate of fruit and thought that should be enough. I dropped to about 100 pounds, and technically I was underweight. My parents were concerned and told me I should gain weight, but in my head I was proud of my unusually low BMI and wanted to lose even more pounds.
Q: You mention that your family was stressed and worried when you were getting thin and obsessing over being 100% raw. Did you simply feel misunderstood (“You guys don’t even understand the benefits of raw veganism!!!” kinda thing) or did you know deep down that their concerns were valid?
A: I definitely felt like they – and everyone else – didn’t get it. My parents and school teachers warned me I should be eating more and that I should have cooked food in my diet. My parents sometimes told me I should eat animal products again. I was always fairy dismissive about their concerns and comments. I thought: “This IS the best diet in the world! They don’t understand. I must be doing something wrong!” Looking back, I think I was deeply in denial, because I really believed what I thought, although I certainly had moments where I noticed someone very healthy who ate cooked food – duh – and I thought “How can they be healthy and fit if they eat salmon and eggs and bread?” I tried to convince myself they must feel sick all the time or that they’d develop some illness because they ate cooked food. Wow… typing that out seriously makes me realize how totally nuts my reasoning was. Yikes!
Q: Your post from 2012 titled “bad girl” about eating a sandwich about trying to reason with yourself that it wasn’t “that bad”… How does it make you feel re-reading that now?
A: Haha, it’s awful. I cringe and laugh at the same time. I remember writing that post – and making that sandwich – like it was last week. The whole reason I posted that was because I thought I’d feel less guilty if I didn’t hide it. It kind of helped because it was out there in the open and I got a lot of comments saying they understood and I shouldn’t feel bad, but that was just a dark time so it didn’t definitively solve anything. Reflecting on it now, it’s utterly ridiculous. I let my convictions – that weren’t based on anything but opinion and ideology – get in the way of logic, scientific evidence and my health.
Q: From what I gather from your blog & Instagram, you pretty much follow the 80/10/10 diet (correct me if I’m wrong!!). Has that lifestyle been triggering at all for you, and if so, how do you work through those triggers to avoid getting too obsessive?
A: Honestly I have never really followed one diet very precisely, I don’t think that’s a good idea for most people (more on this below). Once I let myself stop feeling bad about eating cooked foods – this took a long time and was not easy – I naturally came to a diet that was similar to 80/10/10. I ate as much fruit and veggies as I wanted, I drank huge smoothies all day and then had a dinner of rice and veggies, most days. But because I make so many raw vegan dessert recipes for my blog, I was also eating a lot of fat in the form of nuts and coconut oil. For the first two years of being vegan, I always felt great eating that much fat, but gradually I noticed if I had too many nuts in a day I’d feel bloated and groggy. I started cutting down a bit, and then I discovered 80/10/10! Well, actually I had read the book “80/10/10” when I first got into raw food, but I mostly just took away from it the fact that you should eat all fruit, and that played a role in my disordered eating for awhile. But now when I think of the term 80/10/10 I think of Raw Til 4. So I discovered Raw Til 4 and thought “Hey! This is pretty much what I am doing, but these people basically eat no fat and they eat more fruit and veg than I currently am. Let’s try this out!” It worked for a few months and I felt really good, but it was exhausting eating so MUCH all the time. I still eat a diet that is close to 80/10/10 or Raw Til 4, but on my own terms: fruit smoothies all day, then rice and veg for dinner. But I am not afraid to use coconut oil in stir-frys, or nuts in my raw vegan recipes! I love avocado, coconut, and all nuts and seeds! I feel great when I have small amounts of them in my diet. I think the only issues I might have with 80/10/10 or Raw Til 4 is that they could possibly create a fear of fat for some people, and in a broader way: it is a diet that tells you that there is something you shouldn’t eat. The problem with that is it can make you feel guilty for craving or eating that food, it doesn’t matter what it is. My motto is: do what works for you. Eat what makes you feel your best, and be conscious of the effects that your food has on everyone involved. I felt this way before I tried doing Raw Til 4, but I guess I kinda forgot it, and now I am back on track. Just do what works for you! Every body is different, just like every personality.
Q: I LOVE your philosophy that food is fuel and our bodies are beautiful and that we should treat them with kindness. Say I was asking you for a quote to put above my bed that embodied this sentiment… know of any great ones?!
A: Any of these:
“Your body is as beautiful and unique as yourself. Love your body. Love yourself.”
“Every body is different, just like every personality. Celebrate you.”
“It doesn’t matter what you look like; it’s about how you FEEL and what you can DO with your body.”
“Ability is beauty.”
“You are special. No one has a body quite like yours, so cherish it.”
Q: Top 3 tips for people in recovery from eating disorders?
A: 1) Delete or ignore all the ads, websites, blogs, tumblrs, instagrams, and any other sources that promote only one body type. Some people are skinny, some people are are not. Some people have red hair, some people have blonde hair. Some people like brussel sprouts, some people don’t. We need to stop idolizing one body type and start celebrating the amazing diversity our biology provides. Think of your body as a functional tool, it doesn’t matter what you look like. It’s about how you FEEL and what you can DO with your body.
2) The society we live in is controlled by companies that benefit from you being unhappy. Give them the finger and give yourself a hug, because you’re gorgeous the way you are. Check out paintings, magazines, art, movies and photographs that celebrate curvy women and men that aren’t ridiculously ripped. These can be found from pretty much any time period until after the 60’s. If you are a girl and think you aren’t thin enough, consider the fact that Marilyn Monroe – the epitome of sexiness and beauty in the 50’s – would be a plus size model now. If you are a guy and think you aren’t muscular enough, check out mens bodies in films from decades past, and notice their natural lack of bulging biceps.
3) Go to nude beaches and look at all the glorious cellulite, curves, muscles, bulges, shapes, skin colours and facial features around you. Then look at yourself. You are beautiful. You are special. No one has a body quite like yours, so cherish it.
4) I know you just said 3 but this one is the most important: GET EDUCATED about body image and idolization in history, culture and society. If you are in high school, ask your teacher to cover the subject. If you are in university, take courses on sexuality, gender, and history. You will learn that the reasons for idolizing one body type have always been associated with the culture of the time. In the past when food was usually scarce, we admired curvy, pasty, light-skinned bodies because it meant those people were rich and had access too fine foods like sugar and white bread, and they didn’t have to work outside. Now we have been brainwashed into thinking ultra skinny girls and ultra muscular men are the only really beautiful bodies. This is because in “developed countries”, we have too MUCH access to rich foods (fast food and all processed food) so the majority of the population is overweight. Obesity is correlated with low-income. So again, we idolize thin and fit people because it implies they are wealthy. My point is: there is nothing intrinsically beautiful about any one body type. We only idolize certain body types throughout history and in culture because whatever body you have implies your social level. It’s not about JUST the body type, it’s really about affluence.
Q: I don’t know how familiar you are with my story, but I had to transition away from veganism because the restriction and idealism of the lifestyle (the way I was living it, at least) triggered my eating disorder. I have found mental clarity through introducing more foods into my diet… but of course I still have my original values in tact & eat as many plants as possible! Have you ever felt tied to veganism because of your blog? (I ask because I very much did.)
A: Yes, I have been hearing and seeing a lot about your decision and how you are doing now. I am very happy you have found a happy balance for yourself. I do feel tied to staying vegan because my blog depends on it, in a way. Having said that, although the pressure is there, it makes no practical difference since I have never thought about re-introducing animal products in my diet. I don’t want to die in order for someone to eat me for lunch, so it would be unfair for me to expect that of someone else.
Q: Tell us what a day in the life (and the eats!!) of Emily looks like versus what it did in the midst of your eating disorder.
A: In the worst period of my disordered eating, I would wake up, drink water, then go to school and not eat until lunch. I would have a sliced mango and some berries, or something similar. I’d come home, exercise for an hour, then have a plate of fruit. I don’t really remember what I did for dinner, but I often was so hungry that I’d eat whatever cooked vegan meal my mom made – she has always been very accommodating and now my parents eat mostly vegan all week – but then end up feeling guilty about it. I recall trying to throw up sometimes, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Now I wake up, dance, workout, make a huge smoothie (often 5+ bananas with berries, nut milk and other yummy stuff), work on my blog (I spend many hours every day responding to emails, comments, questions, etc. – as a fellow blogger, you know what I mean!), then 4 days a week I go to school, although right now I am enjoying the last days of summer. 2-3 days per week days I will create, photograph and publish a recipe for my blog. I continue with my giant fruit smoothies all day, until dinner. Dinner is regularly a large bowl of grains and veggies. Often I eat raw or dark chocolate afterwards, or a raw dessert I have made. In general: I eat whatever I want. I don’t restrict anything, although I do moderate my fat intake because I honestly do feel best with just a little, most days. I listen to my body. On my last period, coconut butter tasted SO good one day, so I ate quite a lot. The next day, it wasn’t very appealing. I also sometimes get cravings for meat or eggs and in those cases I just eat extra iron, protein or B vitamins. No problem. Sometimes I want bread, so sometimes I eat bread, and so on and so on. I got my blood checked a few months ago and all was good. When I am not working on my blog, at university, exercising or making food; you can find me listening to records, dancing all night with my ladies, hugging my cat, hiking in the woods and mountains, writing in my journal, reading the classics, watching documentaries, enjoying bubble baths, trying to remember to live in the moment, and generally feeling wonderfully overwhelmed at the elegance of life. (But sometimes that wonderfulness backfires I need to be alone for awhile.) Oh, and I spend a lot of time with this amazing human being called Jack. We love each other a lot.
Q: Does blogging about food / exercise ever become triggering for you? If so, how do you maintain your balance and keep at it?
A: Not really, if anything, it keeps me even more honest and healthy. I strive to be transparent on my blog because it is a therapeutic and reflective tool for myself and I know it can help a lot of people out there who may be going through the same experiences as a vegan, female, or human in this crazy 21st century world. If I have issues, I talk about them. I love myself for what and who I am, and that person as well as that reasoning are reflected in my blog. People seem to really appreciate that so it becomes this positive cycle of me sharing myself, my readers supporting that, and then everyone just gets more enthused, excited and productive!
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
A: Thanks for this interview; it is helping me grow and learn about myself when I write this all out.
Thanks so much for stopping by TBB, Emily. I am honored to add your story to the Recovery series. Thoughts on Emily’s story? She rocks, right?! What is everyone up to this weekend?