TUESDAY TALKS: CARLIE McKIBBEN
ED survivor, pro-recovery influencer known as @plantifullynourished
3 foods I can’t live without: Sweet potatoes, greens, and oats
Favorite activity: Running
Favorite way to relax: Writing in my journal and listening to music
What I love most about myself: My independence
Dear Carlie, thank you for being a part of my #TuesdayTalks series. I’m so glad to have you here as you are a huge inspiration of mine and I’ve been following you for so long! Could you please introduce yourself?
I’m Carlie! I’m 21 and currently going to university and studying marketing. I run a pro ED recovery blog and Instagram, I am vegan and love sharing the message and how we can thrive off of a whole foods plant-based diet. I love to write, run, and do all sorts of other physical activities for the fun of it.
Your blog posts are usually connected with an eating disorded which you struggled with as well. How did your ED started?
To make a long story short, my ED started at the end of my 11th year of high school. I was in competitive dance and had surrounded myself with “friends” who were judgmental and bullies. The strict and competitive atmosphere 24/7 took a toll on me and I felt like I needed to be perfect. I felt like I needed to change. If I could change my body, then people would start to like me. I would become beautiful and actually be happy with myself and would be a better dancer…or so I thought. So, from that point on I started restricting my food and exercising compulsively all of the time until I was forced to recover.
How serious your anorexia was and in which point did you decide that it’s enough? Where did you find the strength to recover?
My heart rate had become dangerously low as I was diagnosed with bradycardia and had to be hospitalized. From there I was transferred to another hospital that had an ED unit where I was forced to eat meals with a group and partake in group therapy sessions while being physically monitored and while gaining weight. My parents had forced me to recover once they realized something was wrong, but the moment I was hospitalized for my eating disorder I knew I had to get out. I knew I had to recover and did not want to live like that. I no longer wanted others to control what I ate and what I did and the only answer to that was to recover. I found the strength within myself along with from others on social media. I know social media can be really damaging but there are inspirational people and connections I made that motivated me to recover.
During your recovery, did you ever feel like giving up and falling back again? What helped you to find the motivation to continue? Were you visiting any specialist during this time?
I felt like giving up all the time in my recovery, however I did not. There was never a point where I really relapsed. Once I started eating, I just kept going. There were certain trigger moments where I would think about punishing myself with exercise and stop eating all together again, but I had learned how to look objectively at those thoughts and realize they are bad and are not going to help me. At this time, I was seeing a psychologist once a week for a couple months after hospitalization, but she was not much help to be honest. She mostly talked to my parents and taught them how to help me but did nothing for me. Most of my motivation came from within myself and from others I found online who were recovered.
How did you deal with weight gain and your body changing?
It was really hard dealing with weight gain at first. I hated it. But as time went on, I learned how to accept it. I learned to not focus on my body at all and how it was changing. I knew it was necessary. I always looked towards other girls who were recovered and loved their bodies. I figured if they can do it so can I. I had to remind myself every day that I am more than my body. My ED body was not healthy, and it was not thriving. I wanted to love myself and that came with loving my body no matter what it looked like. I tried to avoid looking at myself a lot at the beginning stages of recovery. I never wore tight clothing and avoided mirrors. I think that was helpful at first because it kept my focus away from my appearance and more on how I was physically feeling.
Do you think that it’s possible to recover from an ED on a vegetarian/vegan diet? What were you eating?
I think it’s possible but not recommended. Its more than possible to gain weight on a vegan or vegetarian diet but recovering from an eating disorder means getting over the fear of food. If any animal products are a fear food, then I would say you should definitely eat them in your recovery. You want to recovery from your illness before you make a clear decision on going vegan because people can easily mask their eating disorder behind the confines of veganism. I did not recover on a vegan diet. I ate all foods. Towards the end of my recovery was when I learned about veganism and made the decision to go vegan when my parents gave me back control of what I ate. At that point I knew I was no longer afraid of any food, but I did not support them ethically.
Were you doing any form of physical exercise?
I did no exercise during recovery for about 6 months, after that I was allowed to dance again and about a year later was when I was free and allowed to go to the gym again.
What’s your exercise routine at the moment? What and how often do you train?
My exercise routine changes from time to time and it will change again soon as I will be training for a half marathon. Currently I am just working out to stay strong and feel good mentally. Exercise endorphins are a real thing. I like to workout 5 days a week. Each day I do a bit of everything; some cardio and them some Pilates or other forms of strength training. I do not lift heavy weights. I'm not too strict about my exercise routine, I just like to move and break a sweat.
And how does your typical “day on a plate” looks like nowadays?
Nowadays I eat pretty much the same foods every day. It is easy and works with my schedule. I like to think about food as little as possible. I know the foods I enjoy the most and am always sure to be stocked up on them! It’s always oats for breakfast in some variation, a buddha bowl of sorts for lunch and then for dinner its usually the same. Foods like all kinds of greens, potatoes, rice, quinoa, beans, nuts and seeds, avocado, and other random veggies!
And lastly - if you could give just one piece of advice to someone going through an eating disorder. What would it be?
Advice: Do not compare your recovery to anyone else’s. Everyone is different and you need to focus on YOU. Yes, it is helpful to get inspired and motivated by others that are recovered but to compare yourself to others who are still struggling is a recipe for disaster. Detach yourself from others and what others are doing. Focus on you and what your goals are. Do not let others deter you from your recovery goal. Know that by recovering you are doing the best thing you can do for yourself. It will probably be the hardest yet best thing you will ever go through. It is always worth it no matter how dark the times may seem in recovery. Stay strong!!