I fed my son formula. He didn’t die.
Feeding my son milk-based formula was the best thing I ever did for my mental health as a vegan.
Here’s the deal.
Honestly the formula isn’t the best, it’s some brand that we can get quick at a moments notice. I am in graduate school, the reason I switched was so that I could continue with my class load — I needed something EASY.
I truly felt like I had already lost by succumbing to my body’s urgent demands to use the one substance — “I would never use.”
Once in pregnancy, I said, “I’ll use formula over my dead body.”
And then I became a parent.
And yesterday the daycare fed him chicken and apples.
It was my biggest fear, someone else feeding him flesh. I had already “ruined” him with milk-based formula; he was suppose to be my vegan baby! Yet, when I found that for various reasons I could not supply him with the proper food supply — I instantly switched. His health was always far more important than any moral convictions I had. And at that moment, this is what he needed. And I did it.
But I still felt guilty.
Everything was falling apart, my entire image and I couldn’t control it. And it was so public! People saw me everyday, day in day out. I get so vulnerable.
My planned home-birth ended up in a hospital transfer where I ended up with an epidural.
My once perfect vegan diet prior to parenthood, now looked more like vegetarianism. Cheese was becoming more frequent, so I kept feeling the need for more control — so I stopped eating.
I always said I could think better when I didn’t eat. When my stomach was empty it put me in the best spot. I was alert, I could see better, I was sharper. Or at least that’s what I thought.
It had nothing to do with weight. I had always been a comfortable 100 or so lbs. My recent goal was to gain 20lbs. That would put me at one of my heaviest weights. Even fully pregnant I only weighed just over 135. I lost the weight fast, I had to.
I was skinny, that’s who I was.
Now I am going to the gym and having to challenge myself. Not only challenge myself, but I have to actually eat. And potentially eat in front of people — which you wouldn’t think I care. But it’s the worst thing in the world. And when people comment on how I chew or how others chew. Instant trigger that I don’t want to eat. Oh god, the fear.
So I just stopped showing up for my weekly schedule, or refused to push myself. Because I just didn’t want to gain weight.
I didn’t want to have to do anything else to function. Because I was functioning optimally on 500 calories. And if I was to push it anymore, ugh.
I would lose it all. (That’s what I thought about gaining weight and having to eat).
I wouldn’t be perfect. (Food is how I defined perfection).
I would always say I am not a perfectionist because I don’t act perfect. Or that people don’t perceive me as a perfectionist. I think I just express it in different ways.
Because I was already “skinny” or the figure I deemed acceptable; I didn’t really think much of it. Weight was never my driving factor, really? Anything higher is what I was preventing. I didn’t need to be the skinniest. I just had to be one of them. And I was, and it was easy.
How do I express perfectionism?
I am very dangerous. If I gave you a list of all the things I’ve done in my life — where the odds were sooooo high of me getting killed, in jail, or just in a bad situation; you’d cringe.
But you see — it’s those moments, when I walked on the edge of a cliff in an area not allowed for tourist — it creates an illusion of perfectionism and mindfulness that I CRAVE.
It’s in those wild moments that I seek to have done it perfect. To have walked the line, to have jumped the jump, to have felt the freedom.
When I heard the news of his first day of daycare I nearly cried; “chickens and apples?”
And this thought popped into my head, “he’s not perfect anymore!”
I caught myself, hand over mouth.
I linked not eating with just overall being a better person. When I didn’t eat, it helps me. It’s always best when you don’t eat a lot. It makes you better. Eating is bad. Food in your stomach feels bad.
This is my mindset on eating: once you’ve ate it; you’ve already lost and now must pay the consequences. Throwing up is bad; you must not let go. Holding on makes you stronger. Letting go makes you weak, you must hold on. You must hold on.
But all of a sudden things just started coming up. It first began in 2017. It kept happening. And I am at a point where I vomit everything up quite frequently. I don’t even mean too! And I just kept dismissing the notion that it was I doing it to myself.
I must have cancer — which pushed me to not eat even more. Food was dangerous, I only ate it when I could. Or ate what I shouldn’t. There were so many rules around food. It’s very hard to keep my mind wrapped around this concept.
But I didn’t have a problem with eating! I am skinny and I am happy; I’d say. I remember gaining all this weight in treatment, and I thought once I get out on my own — I’ll lose the weight.
I remember eating pasta noodles as a child to hold over my hunger. But I did it because I believed I liked them. I didn’t like to eat. My mom used to brag about how she could control herself. And we never had food in the house. Cereal for breakfast maybe. There were so many rules about food in my house too. Like how much I needed to eat. I must eat to leave the table — but I didn’t like it! So then they’d say; well, you’ll starve.
And the children in Africa quote when I’d order too much food and not eat it. People getting offended when I wouldn’t eat everything that was bought. How wasteful I was with food. It just reenforced these beliefs that starving was better. Like it’s just better to starve? I won’t waste food, and also won’t feel guilty for having food — when the children in Africa are starving.
So I’ll just starve myself.
Why did I subconsciously believe that CHICKEN WOULD MAKE MY CHILD IMPERFECT?
And it was at that moment I realised just how fucked up it was to think that a food could make you perfect or not.
I thought that about myself all the time, but ALWAYS until this moment thought of myself justified in thinking that way.
And I felt justified applying it to others. Because they didn’t have as much control as me over food. I was great at controlling myself, I could read labels, I knew what I was eating.
It wasn’t my fault that others weren’t as perfect as me.
And then I had a baby and I “lost control”.
I became so stressed that the little bit I did eat, I felt like I didn’t care where it came from. I had to eat anything, whenever provided. I was a starving trauma survivor and postpartum put me right back into the middle of the war.
And all of a sudden I gave myself permission to do ANYTHING in order to pass my classes. And wow, I unlocked so much with that permission. I could do anything, eat mostly anything, say anything, do anything in order to pass and not die.
And I began eating creamed cheese to feel happy; it was delicious. And I ate several eggs. They too were incredible.
And all these small behaviours started to surface, and I was now able to recognise them. As I was put in a normal peer group for one of the first times in my life. So I could emulate some of the most successful people that our country has to offer — Sherman College future Doctors of Chiropractic.
I thought maybe this pattern of eating isn’t like — healthy? I mean I was always surrounded by people with SEVERE eating disorders, so that fact I starved myself of a normal calorie quota per day was harmless. I didn’t throw up.
I only ate 500 calories — who cares? I was still, eating! And once in awhile I’d have a huge binge which would prove how healthy I was with food. Even though that was my first and only meal of the day.
And when I saw my baby in the high chair eating bananas; I picked him up and said, you are perfect regardless of what you eat.
And I thought maybe I am perfect, regardless of what I eat too?
See my body mass index is only 19.2 — even medicine says I am healthy just eating 500 calories per day. I mean, I’d argue that I am the healthiest.
My college professor stressed the health of a woman was heavier than stated. And he kept pointing out a chunkier girl named Dani and referred to her as healthy and beautiful.
I was stunned. People actual thought that THAT was healthy. And I was was studying exercise at the time, so out of curiosity I challenged myself. As I kept researching, I LOGICALLY learned that this was factual.
In graduate school I had a few friends comment on their favorite body type in a woman — these women looked like Dani. He would say to me — see, how good looking. And logically I knew it was true, but emotionally? I felt pulled. Emotionally? I too thought these women were beautiful. I just you know, couldn’t loose control like they could.
And then I saw this YouTube video.
How BEAUTIFUL is this woman? How stunning is this video. I saw part of my story in hers and it awoke a sleeping side of me.
Over the months I’d been asking myself “do I have an eating disorder?” And I will never answer that.
Ripping myself apart and asking these deep, convoluted questions has always been this obsession of mine. Ripping myself apart became a game; I called it diagnosing. And it became fun. I did it all the time, and because of that.
I could tell you a thousand things under the sun I have because of one thing or another.
And, I am going doctor — right? Like this is what I am learning to do?
All these reasons became okay because of this. So, I’ve decided to stop.
I can “be educated on the diagnosis criteria for the purpose of referral” to ONLY patients. I will ONLY preform my obligations of referral due to specific objective reasons I find on my clinical findings exams. As a chiropractor I do not diagnose.
That is something a medical doctor does. Another member of the health care profession.
I also refuse to be diagnosed or critiqued by others that I do not pay for the service. I don’t like my life to be ripped apart, by me — or by others.
I have a team behind me that is perfect for my needs, I am getter better. I wouldn’t be sharing if not.
This is my experience that I am sharing in hopes that someone could recognise themselves in me — and seek the help they need.
Disordered eating is not uncommon, and it is hard to navigate. Do a lot of research, learn, educate yourself — seek the help from the healthcare professional you choose.
And at the end of the day, you need to do your own deep work. You need to dig deep into your soul and find out what’s right and wrong. And understand why these patterns are showing up? Why do you have this mindset about food? And how can we change the mindset and deal with the the triggers?
What do I believe about the vegan diet now that I feel like I’ve lost my ability to truly call myself vegan? I am truly at the core a vegetarian with vegan tendencies.
And I believe the vegan diet, when done correctly is truly the healthiest thing ever. Incredible for you, amazing. Why not? At the same time, mentally — I will not expect perfection out of myself. I will be okay being mostly vegan. And I’ll raise my family in the same way.
Again, I will keep the same premise. But without any rules. I’ll do it because I like it and it’s fun. I love being vegetarian, I love veganism. There doesn’t always have to be an objective. I also like being healthy.
But I wasn’t the healthiest, even though I was vegan. Veganism and healthy aren’t synonymous.
It’s true, I love the animals. And I my friend am an animal as well. I believe that 100% commitment is important and easier than 99% — and I also know this world sucks. And goddammit I wish it was perfect.
I wish there was something I could do about the children starving. Maybe one day I will!
But I can’t right now. I must focus on being and growing into my best self.
I must begin focusing on my goals and dreams. It’s a shame that ANY life would go unlived. Even MINE, even though I have privilege.
And I must live, and if I must live — I must live for myself. And in order to do that I must be authentic. I have to do what I want. I have to honor my goals and dreams that live in a far off land. I must chase them.
Or what’s the point?
I truly feel sorry for that person in the far off lands starving, but I must have the faith that they have a God — and a universe that loves them.
And I am not it.
I am not your God.
I cannot control certain events in my life.
I cannot control what others think.
I signed up to run a marathon.
I remembered a client of mine running a marathon and saying how she loved how strong her body was. She loved her hearty strength. I loved that she loved her body. I felt the love she had for her strength.
When I was pregnant I fell in love with being heavier. I loved my curves, I loved the way I looked. And I wasn’t a stick. It felt good. I also was able to keep going and pass biochem II. I was able. It’s like through pregnancy I found a strength I never knew I had.
And I want to know how much more I could go if I push myself.
But in order to push myself physically, I would have to eat and gain weight. I would have to show up. And love my body — not because I was a rail and had the tiniest waist (a trait I was very fond of) — but rather love my body because I was STRONG.
I want to gain muscle, but I also want to gain fat. Objectively I knew that was great! And I would say it as such — yay! But emotionally, ugh. I battled, subconsciously.
It really was all brought to the surface through chickens and apple Gerber baby food at daycare.
So yeah, food doesn’t define you. Food doesn’t make you perfect or imperfect.
Food is fuel, food is for strength.
And maybe I should flip the script: I am perfect when I am true to myself.