Health, Healing and Wholeness

Friends, February is Eating Disorder Awareness Month and I’ve invited my friend Meghan to tell her story and share with us her journey of healing and growth. I was with Meghan earlier this month at her small apartment with her partner, Shelby. Their home was so cozy and warm– we shared a homemade vegan breakfast and it struck me how much they cared about each other, their bodies and food. And they did it so effortlessly. But, because we have been friends for so long, I knew there was more to this story of health and wholeness, so will you join me and welcome Meghan?

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Meghan’s History
I can’t remember the first time I really thought about food, but I do remember thinking fat was bad at an early age, probably 10 or 11 years old. I would check the cereal boxes and other snack foods to see which had the least amount of fat to decide what to eat. I didn’t know about calories until a later age, but when I did, I tried to eat “healthy” by limiting my calories. In middle school, I would often get these gross salads instead of the regular menu food (which was also gross) because I wanted to eat fewer calories.

I was very conscious of my body. I thought boys didn’t like me because I was fat, ugly, and weird. I tried purging once in eighth grade, but couldn’t do it. I continued this pattern of eating for a few years. My junior year of high school is when things really went downhill. I started seriously restricting – skipping meals altogether when I could get away with it, reading nutrition facts on everything, looking up nutrition facts online for things like fruits and vegetables. I would eat dinner because my parents were there, and I knew I couldn’t get away with not eating. That’s when I decided I needed to start purging when I couldn’t restrict. I would often go downstairs after dinner to “shower” or “do homework” but would really be purging my dinner. I would wake up early to exercise. All I wanted was to be thin, to force my body to be a different shape. I was in a scary downward spiral. I would get dizzy and see black spots when I stood up. I passed out when I tried to give blood at a blood drive. My nails were constantly peeling. My tongue and throat were always sore. I was miserable, but I was addicted. I felt strong for not “needing” food. I found a weird pleasure in feeling hungry. I felt like I was in control.

Obviously, I was not in control. I desperately needed help. Thankfully, my parents figured out what was going on after about six months of intense restricting and purging. I was 17 years old. They took me to the doctor who said I needed inpatient treatment. They found Remuda Ranch in Wickenburg, AZ, and I was admitted in June, 2008. I met some amazing people and made friends who I still talk to today.

I was definitely not cured of my eating disorder when I came home from treatment, but I learned a lot. I wanted to get better, but I still had a long road in front of me. I had quite a few ups and downs in college, but I am now recovered and have been for about three years. I do have negative thoughts still. Sometimes I have a hard time eating. But I’m much more open and honest when I’m feeling those things. I’m able to fight those thoughts, and they come less and less often. It helps to have such an amazing support team of my parents, friends, and partner, Shelby. So that’s my story. Now let’s get onto the good stuff!

Health and Healing
Can I just say, I love food. It is soo good. There’s so much you can do with it! I love reading cookbooks and trying new recipes. I love discovering new spices, new fruits, new vegetables…there’s so much out there! Shelby and I have been eating a plant-based diet for a little over a year now, and we love it. We started due to some health concerns of mine regarding pain and inflammation and both started feeling the difference within a few weeks of the switch. (Note: we took the switch very slowly. We cut out red meat for about six months, then other meats, and finally dairy and eggs after about a year of eating a vegetarian diet.) I love my diet, but I know it’s not for everyone.

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Meal Planning to the Rescue
Regardless, here’s a tip I think is for everyone: meal-planning is key. We have this awesome chalkboard we use to write up our weekly meal plans. We try to plan simple meals during the weekdays, maybe a crockpot meal for extra busy nights, and we try to make enough food so that we have leftovers for lunch the next day.

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One of our favorite cookbooks is “Everyday Happy Herbivore” by Lindsey Nixon – she has a bunch of simple recipes  that use everyday ingredients and take less than 30 minutes to put together. As we put together our meal plan, we go through each recipe to see what ingredients we need to add to our shopping list. There are definitely times when we pick recipes that don’t require us to buy much extra when money is tight. Usually we have a good stock of dry goods – dry and canned beans, lentils, nuts, pasta noodles…we stock up on these things about once a month. We buy what we can in the bulk section of our local Fred Meyer. When we do our weekly shopping, we mainly have to buy things like produce, nut milk, chocolate…the necessities. We keep a good supply of apples, oranges, and bananas to throw in our lunch boxes for snacks and to supplement breakfast or dinner.

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And we LOVE jars. We have a collection of Mason jars as well as a random assortment of other glass jars we’ve cleaned out and re-used from previous use (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!). We store our nuts, beans, rice, coconut flakes, and much more in our jars. They are handy to grab off the shelf, and they look nice on the counter or in the cabinet!

So here’s what we might eat in a day.

Breakfast: Often oatmeal with fruit, maybe a smoothie (Shelby especially loves green smoothies loaded with spinach). On the weekends, PANCAKES! Usually with chocolate chips, maybe a side of oven potatoes or some of Shelby’s homemade vegan sausages from Isa Moskowitz.

Lunch: Shelby’s motto for packing lunches during the week is one main dish, two snacks, and two sides. This is great because I am almost always hungry and need to snack frequently throughout the day. Our main dish is typically leftovers from the previous night, sides could be an apple and/or an orange, possibly a salad. Snacks might be a granola bar (we like to make our own – our favorite is the Glo Bar from Angela Liddon), pretzels, or a nut mix (whatever nuts we have on hand, often cashews, almonds, peanuts, pecans, and walnuts, mixed with raisins, and chocolate chips).

Dinner: This week some of my dinners were Crockpot baked potatoes loaded with steamed veggies, black bean tacos, Dijon Pea Pasta, and a stir fry using up some veggies on the brink of going bad. We might add a salad, bread (I love my bread machine!), or fruit if we need a little extra.

Have A Plan for Dinner
As I write this, it’s Saturday evening. I’m going to make one of my favorite dinners tonight. It’s called Soul-Soothing African Peanut Stew from the cookbook “Oh She Glows” by Angela Liddon. She is fantastic – Angela Liddon also suffered from an eating disorder when she was younger but later went vegan, started a blog, and is currently working on her second cookbook!

Here’s the recipe:
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded, if desired, and diced (optional)
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped into ½ inch pieces
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, with their juices
Fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup natural peanut butter
4 cups vegetable broth (I personally half this because I want it to be more stew-like)
1 ½ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I like to soak dry chickpeas and cook them myself)
2 handfuls baby spinach or destemmed, torn kale leaves
Fresh cilantro or parsley leaves, for serving

Roasted peanuts, for serving
1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
2. Add the bell pepper, jalapeño (if using), sweet potato, and tomatoes with their juices. Raise the heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes more. Season the vegetables with salt and black pepper.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the peanut butter and 1 cup of the vegetable broth until no clumps remain. Stir the mixture into the vegetables along with the remaining 3 cups broth, chili powder, and the cayenne (if using).
4. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10-20 minutes, or until the sweet potato is fork-tender.
5. Stir in the chickpeas and spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
6. Ladle the stew into bowls and garnish with cilantro and roasted peanuts.

 

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I struggled with food for several years. I fought with it. I considered it my enemy. After a lot of hard work and support, I have found freedom from that bondage! I now enjoy food. Cooking dinner and getting to enjoy the fruits of my labor is so fun! And planning ahead takes away a lot of the stress that people feel. Though we definitely have our nights when we order Chinese takeout and turn on Netflix, and THAT is called balance!

 

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Meghan lives near Seattle, WA with her partner, Shelby and their dog, Ella. She teaches music and enjoys cooking, eating, crocheting, yoga, playing clarinet, getting outdoors, and advocating for a healthy relationship with food.

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