Why I call myself a ‘label free vegan’?

I have posted a little sneak peek of my history with food in one of my last Instagram pictures and the feedback was overwhelming. So many of you seem to be struggling or have been struggling in the past with some kind of a diet or eating disorder.

So I wanted to share my whole story with you to hopefully help some of you who are still struggling.

Childhood & Youth

Let’s start with my childhood and teenage years because that is usually where disordered eating behaviors start for most people. Not for me though. Thinking back to my childhood and also my teenage years I have never spent a second thought on what I had put into my body. I had no connection to calories, let alone macro nutrients. I just ate whatever my mom cooked (which unfortunately was mostly packaged crap with lots of chemicals and little nutrients). I was never the most skinny girl but I was also never really overweight. I enjoyed the fried foods, chocolates and ice creams as often as I was craving them but also did quite a lot of sports and was outdoors a lot. So I guess I was never one of those lucky people with a super fast metabolism but my movement made up for my mostly bad eating habits.

Au Pair Year

Then came my au pair year in the US when I was 19. Well, what can I say I enjoyed all the fast foods, movie dates with Ben & Jerrys, Doritos, Ginger Ale, vanilla lattes at Starbuck (every day), snacked my way through stressful days with the kids and rewarded myself with some candy at night. And even though we had our own little home gym and tennis court I barely ever did any sports. I was still quite active chasing after the kids all day and going on trips whenever possible but I just ate way too much. So when I got home I had gained about 10 kilos. But I still didn’t worry about that too much because every au pair kept telling me how they have automatically lost all the weight they had gained once they got back home just by eating their regular foods again.

Me as an au pair

Start of my desk job

After a few month of being back home and eating my moms’ semi-healthy food again, I had lost a few kilos but definitely not all the weight I had gained in the US. Then I moved to Munich and started an apprenticeship in an office where I spent 8 hours sitting at a desk each day. For breakfast, I always got myself something from a bakery and for lunch, I had whatever the cafeteria had to offer. For dinner, I usually ate bread or pre-made salads because I hated spending time in the kitchen since I lived in a shared flat and my roommate smoked in the kitchen and I just couldn’t stand the smell. Since I was quite exhausted after those 8 hour work days I wasn’t really used to I didn’t do any sports at all. Some weekends I went on hiking trips in the mountains and maybe once I month I went to a fitness class. I was quite unhappy back then because I hated my living situation and I started being unhappy with my body too for the first time in my life. Of course, I had some days before when I didn’t feel too comfortable in my body after having gained all those kilos but those feelings never lasted for more than a few days. But this was the point when I really started hating what I saw in the mirror. So I began with just canceling dinner which was quite convenient because I didn’t have to go into the kitchen at all anymore. I lost some kilos but after a few weeks, midnight bingeing attacks started to happen on a regular basis. I would get ravenous and binge on all the chocolate, chips, sweets and stuff I could find. This went on for a while when I constantly lost a few kilos and gained back some more. When I was done with my apprenticeship I moved into my very own apartment and started to really enjoy cooking. However, I wasn’t cooking all too healthy back then even though I was mostly eating vegetarian because I just didn’t like buying meat in supermarkets all that much and have always hated sausages and other packaged meat products. So I was basically eating a vegetarian diet at home and eating meat very occasionally for special events when I went out to eat. And again a few month later I started eating a low carb mostly vegetarian diet (so basically cheese and oil).

Turning point

One Sunday night in December 2013 I went to bed and somehow couldn’t fall asleep. After tossing and turning a bit I started to get very strange feeling. My heart was racing and I was actually scared of dying in that moment. I started feeling very sick and went to my bathroom because I thought I would have to throw up. But I couldn’t so I wanted to go back to bed and the next thing I remember was my head hitting the ground. Since I was living alone I was very lucky that I gained my consciousness back right after hitting the ground but I had bitten my lip and dislocated one of my fingers so I called 112 (which would be 911 in the US) and the first thing the woman was telling me was “Well then go to the ER.”. I had just seriously bumped my head, bitten my lip with blood all over me and dislocated my finger, it was in the middle of the night, I didn’t have a car and this woman seriously told me to ‘just go to the ER’. Like seriously?! Well after telling her that I cannot just go to the ER she sent an ambulance and they took me to the ER and several stitches and a very painful relocation of my finger later they ran some blood tests in the hospital and found out that I had a severely low potassium level. And that was when I knew that I had to change something.

Calorie restriction

After I got out of the hospital I instantly started following Instagram profiles and blogs dedicated to healthy eating and exercising. And started my own ‘getting fit’ journey. Unfortunately, most of the big accounts are those who tell you that counting calories and eating a low carb diet is a healthy way of eating. I went completely vegan at home and vegetarian when I went out to eat, counted calories, got a gym membership and felt better every day. I lost about 15 kilos in just 6 months and had absolutely no problems sticking to my new way of living. I didn’t even need those cheat days because I was just so eager and determined. But then at some point, I reached a plateau with my weight (which I now know was because that was my perfect weight) so I was looking for a solution.

High carb vegan diet

We’re now in September 2014 and that was when I decided that I’d go vegan 100% and started to follow a high carb vegan diet. I read the Starch Solution and followed it and at first, I felt better than I ever had before. I was so strong, so full of energy, never needed more than 5 hours of sleep and had so much fun going running and doing classes at the gym. And I was eating huge amounts of foods without counting calories and still losing some more weight. And when the next summer came I tried to eat more raw so I was adapting a rawtill4 kind of diet and that’s when it all went downhill. I started getting really bad skin, my hair started falling out and I just didn’t get a period anymore. Apparently, all of these were quite common ‘detox symptoms’ of the body so I just stuck with it and was happy about my body being so brave and healing itself (thanks Freelee). Spoiler alert: It was not healing itself I was just damaging it. When winter came back in Germany and I was feeling pretty shitty I turned back to Starch Solution more or less just that at this point it was called a Whole Starch Low Fat diet that some other Youtube gurus had started. With this change of diet I also started obsessing over micro nutrients. I didn’t care about calories at all anymore but I still typed in all my foods into a page to make sure I hit all my nutrient targets. It didn’t make me feel any better but I started getting cravings at night again and that was when my binge eating started. I did still stick to a high carb low fat diet but some nights I ate 1 – 2 packages of dates or other dried fruit and went to bed feeling sick but still not satisfied. At that point around summer 2016, I realized that I might need more fat because my hair had gotten really thin and I haven’t had a period in over a year. So I started eating a little more fat from nuts and avocados and it made me feel so much better. My symptoms, of course, didn’t vanish just there but I just felt more satisfied and didn’t lose chunks of hair anymore. But I was still scared of eating too much fat and I was still kind of believing in all those studies showing that you’d get health problems when you ate too much fat. At some point, I even got insulted by the founder of one of those super diets for telling another girl that had the exact same problems I had that she should maybe eat a little more fat. He kept throwing studies at me that showed that I would die of all kinds of horrible diseases if I kept on eating ‘so much fat’ (maybe 15% of my macros were fat back than because I was still scared to eat more but that was already considered being way too much).

Label free vegan

In December last year, I decided that I had to ditch this high carb label once and for all. I didn’t want to label my diet anymore because I finally wanted to be able to just eat without feeling bad about myself. During Christmas seasons I started just eating everything I wanted which ended up being tons of cookies and vegan junk food. This went on until about March when I started craving healthier foods again but therefore lots and lots of avocados, nuts, seeds, tofu, nut butters and all the other healthy fats and I just gave it to my body. And ever since then I finally started to get a somewhat existing period again and my hair started to get thicker. And it took me until recently that I have regained a healthy balance in my diet again. I finally feel satiated with ‘normal’ amounts of food and I am not scared of any food group anymore. I can eat without thinking about calories, macro or micro nutrients. I just listen to my body and give it what it wants and I believe that this way it gets everything it needs to be healthy. And I know that people will be asking, so yes I did gain back some weight and I’m now back at where I was when I started the high carb low fat diet and I’m just happy about that because this is the weight my body feels comfortable with so this is the weight I want to have.

If you have any more questions feel free to ask me in the comments, send me an e-mail or a message on Instagram and I will try to help you. But keep in mind that I am in no way a professional and all of this is just based on my personal experiences.

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