In today’s diet culture, it can be difficult to discern between a “healthy lifestyle” and disordered behavior. There’s a fine line between the two and it isn’t always easy to see when you’ve crossed the threshold of wanting to live healthier and being obsessed with healthy eating and weight loss.
We interviewed Lauren Spencer who has struggled with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, but she wasn’t the one who recognized the behaviours. Those close to her saw the signs and she decided then to seek help.
Lauren found her path to healing by adopting a plant-based diet; you can learn more about Lauren, veganism, and ED recovery here:
Tell me about your story.
Hi! My name is Lauren Spencer and I am a college student from Baltimore, Maryland. I began my journey with RecoveryVeganRx, my instagram and blog, after struggling with an eating disorder. I was amidst my recovery when I decided to go vegan (something I had wanted to do for a very long time due to environmental reasons), and I had reached out to medical professionals such as my nutritionist about doing this in a healthy way during recovery. After realizing going vegan was pretty much what healed my relationship with food, I was extremely inspired to share my journey with others.
I began my Instagram without even telling any family or friends about it and kept it almost as a personal diary for myself to track my progress. My Instagram then blossomed into something that I shared with everyone on my personal Instagram, my family, my friends, and began to even connect with strangers with similar values and experiences. I had realized that not only did I have a passion for my veganism, but also for environmentalism, mental health awareness, self-care, cooking, and media production.
I then created my blog to share more recipes, experiences, local businesses, and interviews that I had to further connect my community around me, in Baltimore, with each other. Creating my Instagram was one of the best things that have happened to me, and as I have moved from high school to college, I hope to keep this passion alive with my Instagram and translate it to a job in the future.
Can you elaborate more on your recovery journey?
Sure! For me, recovery was, and still is not linear, and I think that’s the most important thing to focus on. A lot of people will look at my Instagram and think that I’m completely recovered because of the fact that I have such a better relationship with food, but this is not the case and I think that’s really important. My eating disorder began during Covid and turned to anorexia and bulimia. Without getting into sharp details, it took a turn very quickly and I ended up being very unhealthy, very quickly.
I was lucky enough to have such a good support system in my life that they noticed a problem before I even noticed it myself, and after about 4 months, I began to receive help. For a while, the therapy was seeming to help, but in actuality wasn’t, and for another 5 months, I didn’t gain a single pound back. This was extremely discouraging for me and I decided that this was much more of a personal journey in my case, and I was going to have to shift my own perspective on health and food. I became increasingly interested in food science, particularly gut health, and its relation to mental health.
I became extremely passionate about the correlation of food, particularly healthy foods in surplus, to a healthy mind and a positive outlook on life. Reaching this realization was the crucial turning point in my recovery, and with my Instagram, my hope is to share this experience with others.
What were the biggest challenges you had to face during your healing journey?
I really think everything about my journey was a challenge, yet for me, the hardest part was battling myself. Throughout my recovery, I had always thought of my ED voice and myself, almost as two separate entities, constantly conflicting opinions in my mind. I knew what was good for me, and I knew what was healthy, yet I often was overridden by this ED voice in my head telling me otherwise. For me, the most important aspect of this was learning and disciplining myself to hear this voice, listen to what it has to say, then rationally disprove it.
Even nowadays, I still often have these thoughts, yet I have come to the point where I can hear them, use my rationality to disprove and refuse to act upon it. I think this is a really hard part for people is recognizing that their ED voice is separate from their own. You know yourself the best, and you are your biggest critic, so it is extremely easy to hear this and believe that you think that is the right thing to do when actually it’s not.
Did you reach out to anyone to aid you in your healing journey?
At first, I was completely in denial, as many are, I didn’t see any issues with my eating habits and exercise habits because I had the perspective that losing weight was a good thing. Having an ED is one of those things where you say, ‘oh I could never have an ED, I love food too much’ or ‘im smarter than that!’, and I was 100% one of those people. My identical twin sister recognized the issue almost immediately, and luckily my sister is extremely intelligent and well versed with issues regarding mental health and she sought help for me very quickly. At first, I was angry. I didn’t think that I needed help, yet once I accepted the fact, getting a therapist and a nutritionist saved my life.
What was the main source of your holistic healing?
The main source of my holistic healing was veganism, positivity practice, and practising intuitive eating. A lot of my struggle with my ED was feeling a lack of control, and veganism for me allowed me to not only feel ethically good and physically good, but it also allowed me to feel in control while intuitive eating. I almost played a trick on myself- you are vegan so you are completely in control, yet the kicker is you can eat whatever the heck you want! This allowed me so much freedom.
I began to eat my favourite food like french fries, cookies, cake and so much more again. Secondly, positivity practice was of the utmost importance to me. Having an ED led me to not only develop anorexia and bulimia, but also panic disorder and generalized anxiety. People often recognize how strongly having an eating disorder affects your mental health, but it’s so strong. After being at the point in recovery where my mental health was much better I began to practice positivity every day.
I write 3 things I’m grateful for every day, try to practice gratitude as often as possible, and try my hardest to catch myself when I’m talking negatively about myself and things around me in my head. Having an ED truly taught me that every aspect of your perspective in life is in your control because it’s all about how you talk to yourself and how you frame everything that happens to you.
What is your favorite modality for healing, and why?
My favourite mode for healing has been cooking. While needing to repair my relationship with food, I found that cooking food myself, learning about the food and its properties, and connecting with what I’m cooking has helped me so much. It not only helps me eat every bit of what I make without having to experience qualms with portion control, but I also find the practice itself very therapeutic. Something about cooking is extremely relaxing and healing for me. Whenever I get home after a bad day, cooking is the first thing I want to do.
What would you say to someone who is skeptical of veganism as a form of healing and its effectiveness? How do you approach that?
I would say to someone that is skeptical, that I once was very skeptical too. Something that I have learned though, is that you never know something effective until you make a habit out of it. So kind of going along with my positivity practice I would say try it! There’s never harm in trying something new. I have experienced SO much skepticism and hate with veganism and at many times incessant questioning of my values and their effectiveness.
For me, I’m lucky enough to be confident and strong enough to know my values and stick to them, but for others, this is extremely hard. I still continue, every time someone questions my veganism to say that they do not have to believe me about the effects on my body, but their beliefs are flawed if they do not find out for themselves. I try to urge people to try it even for a couple of days to see how it goes when pertaining to healing mind and body connection and overall physical health.
Do you face any challenges now, and if so, how do you handle them?
Inevitably, I face challenges pertaining to my recovery, and I honestly don’t think that these challenges will dissipate any time soon. This really goes back to my belief about recovery not being linear. I truly believe that many of the struggles of an ED will never go away, yet what matters is how you address these struggles. I battle these struggles with rational thinking, positive practice and gratitude, For example, I still have days where I’ll wake up in the morning and think, ‘ I want to try to eat as little ‘ or ‘I feel gross about the way I look today, yet these are the moments where I take a minute and reflect on how far I’ve come, and think about how my first priority in life is my health.
What have you found to be the most beneficial in your healing journey?
I think the most beneficial thing in a healing journey is having a strong support system and knowing who you can confide in. For me, I have been really lucky because I have always had a very strong support system in my life with my family and friends, yet I know for many this isn’t always the case. I think knowing resources to have a support system helps a lot, even if it’s just following Instagrams and social platforms that you can relate to. Also seeking help and admitting my weaknesses has been extremely beneficial. For me, it was really difficult to admit I had a problem because I thought it would show weakness, but after beginning my recovery, I realized that showing weakness is a sign of strength. Knowing that I am strong enough to battle my weaknesses and seek help to help battle them is extremely admirable.
Why have you chosen a more holistic path in healing?
I chose a more holistic path because of the fact that I have always been a strong believer in the power of food. If I wanted to begin my health journey, I wanted to begin with something that was completely natural and extremely affected, and for me, this was what I put into my body. I was always aware of the power of food yet I began to understand the extent of it when I depended my health on it. As I began to delve into it more and more it became even more interesting to me and the many facets of it continue to intrigue me more and more each day.
After doing research I also began to realize that health and what’s best for your body is completely subjective, so in order to form my own opinion, I knew I needed to test some things out. For me, testing out depending on food for my mental and physical health has completely changed my life.
What resources would you recommend? (books, podcasts, websites that you’ve found helpful)
There have been so many books and podcasts that have helped me so much. Some of the best ones have been Calm the Chaos, Food Pharmacy, We Eat the F*cking Food podcast, Resources Radio podcast, Emily Mariko on YouTube, Sarah’s Day on youtube, quotes by Christie on Instagram and Sami Clarke on Instagram and YouTube.
When food and exercise becomes an obsession, you’ve stepped beyond the idea of a healthy lifestyle. Lauren found her passion and repaired her relationship with food by exploring a vegan diet and has since shared her journey.
Learn more about Lauren, veganism, and ED recovery here:
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