I have EXTREME HUNGER again! Honest Life + Health Update
A lot has happened in the past year. I moved from Europe to California, to Boston, and am now preparing for another big move! In the midst of it all, my health took a turn for the worst…which really emphasized the importance of mental health and its direct correlation to physical health.
In today’s episode, I talk about EVERYTHING that’s been going on with me. I share the hard parts — anxiety, loneliness, health issues, weight loss, body comments — AND how I’ve turned this whole MESS into my MESSage!
I believe every hardship is simply an opportunity to LEARN, and that’s definitely what this past year has been. So, I also share what it’s like to go through extreme hunger again and how this experience further confirms my rock-solid belief of how FULL RECOVERY FROM AN EATING DISORDER is 100% POSSIBLE for anyone!!!
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Enroll in my course Extremely Hungry to Completely Satisfied! https://livlabelfree.com/extreme-hunger-course
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Phew, I’m going to cut right to the chase in saying that I’m incredibly nervous for this episode, and to be honest, I’ve mentally been scripting and re-scripting the right way to articulate everything I’m about to say about a thousand times by now. Because a lot has happened in the past year…which is crazy because now that I think about it, I’m recording this episode on October 23rd, 2022 – exactly one year after I moved into my new apartment in San Francisco. But if you follow me on Instagram over at @livlabelfree, you know I’m no longer in San Francisco. The moment I’m recording this I’m in Boston, and in fact, the moment this episode comes out, I’ll actually be packing my things to go somewhere else entirely again!
I dive deep into my entire journey – including what’s to come and the lessons I’ve learned along the way – in my upcoming book, which I am just BEYOND excited for you to read! So if you are not yet on my BOOK WAITLIST, head over to livlabelfree.com/book right now and get on the list! Plus, you’ll get first dibs on gifts, exclusive access to pre-launch bonuses, aaand as I’m currently learning all the ins-and-outs of how to self-publish a book, you’ll also get a say in how the book will come into the world! So think: feedback on cover design, font size, layout…this book would never have become a reality if it weren’t for you, my lovely listener, which is why I would also love to have you take part in the process of its launch into the world!
Even though I do share my entire story up until now in my book, I’ve been feeling a rising drive to open up about what’s been going on recently on this podcast too. Even though I’m nervous and can think of a million different ways to start this episode and everything I’ll be discussing in it, I can also just feel the words like they’re on the edge of a blocked waterfall, like once the block is removed, they’ll come pouring out with full force. And even though I may have spent the entire past week writing a script in my mind of the “best” way to tell you everything I’m about to tell you, I too, constantly remind myself that clarity comes from action, not thought.
So here we are, on October 23rd, 2022, recording a real, raw, and brutally honest life update. I’ll be opening up about all the hardships of the past year including my battle with anxiety, loneliness, worsening health issues, and the elephant in the room, which is my recent weight loss. But before you think this is going to be a sad and mopey episode, stick with me, because my intention is quite the opposite!
In fact, the words are coming pouring out right now, because I feel so much hope, passion, and am confident that my path is looking upwards again…so much so, that, as you probably noticed by the title of this episode, I’ve been experiencing EXTREME HUNGER again! I’m super excited to tell you about what it’s like to be experiencing this all over again as someone who is now fully recovered from an eating disorder, because let’s just say it’s been one of the best, most amazing and beautiful reflective experiences of my life. So with that said, it’s time for me to stop creating more story suspense and just dive in already!
Because I just promised you I’d dim down on the suspense – I mean, my book has enough of that and I hate small talk – I do want to start off with the elephant in the room, which is my recent weight loss. If you’ve been following me on Instagram for a while now, it’s no secret that I look different than I did a year ago. I see it, my family and friends see it, and my followers see it. Unfortunately, with the niche I am in and the manipulative, comparative nature of eating disorders, I’ve been receiving lots of negative body comments and messages regarding my appearance. Just to give some context, three recent messages I’ve received are:
- You’re relapsing
- You’re becoming anorexic again
- You are a trigger to the ED recovery community
I have been touching on this subject in my Instagram stories and I did do a post a while back about how body comments of any kind are never acceptable, because the truth is, you NEVER know the full story behind someone’s life, ESPECIALLY if it’s based off of your perception of them online!
But because health – in every sense of the word – is one of my biggest values and I do to a certain extent understand the confusion around my weight loss – especially as someone who does the kind of work I do – I am recording this episode today. To pull back the curtain and explain what has really been going on, and to illustrate how you can be fully recovered from an eating disorder, experience undiagnosed health issues that result in weight loss, and still stay fully recovered from an eating disorder. I’ll be elaborating on all of this in a moment, but I did just want to put that out there, because as we all know, eating disorders are not about weight.
Just as you cannot determine someone’s relationship with food who’s in a larger body, you cannot determine someone’s relationship with food who’s in a smaller body. Of course a huge part of eating disorder recovery is allowing your physical body to settle in a place at which it naturally settles, but the core of full recovery comes down to mental state. I mean, we wouldn’t call a dying cancer patient who lost weight during chemo a disordered eater solely based on their body weight, right?
Like I said, I believe the accusatory comments about me “relapsing” and being a “recovery coach fraud” are simply rooted in the illness, because let’s be honest, when you have anorexia, it is absolutely maddening to see other people be thinner than you! And seeing an eating disorder recovery coach be thinner than you can be even more maddening, because the anorexia tries to convince you that “if they can be fully recovered at that weight, then I can be fully recovered at a low weight too”. But this is exactly how the manipulation of the eating disorder works: it will make you believe anything to convince you you’re “not sick enough” by justifying your behaviors based on external circumstances!
Plus, like I said before, you simply cannot assess someone’s health situation based on the way they look. People may currently be comparing themselves to me and envisioning their “ideal recovered body” based on the way I currently look (or at least appear to look on social media, because seeing someone in person is always totally different from seeing them online!), but due to my health issues and weight loss, my body is not at its ideal weight right now! Anyways, if you are currently struggling with comparison and want to learn how to get out of this comparison trap, I highly recommend you listen to my recent podcast episode on how to stop comparing in eating disorder recovery. I really explain the science behind comparison, and so many people have already reached out to me about how helpful that content is!
Now that we have all that out of the way, let’s get back to my story. So I’ve shared on Instagram how I'm currently getting answers for undiagnosed health issues, but now it’s time to take a step back. When did all of this start and how does my anxiety and moving from San Francisco to Boston and now to the new place I’ll reveal soon enough tie into this story, and as I’m sure you’re just on the edge of your seat wanting to learn more, what’s the deal with me experiencing Extreme Hunger again?!
Let’s take it from the top. So last year – in September 2021 – I moved from my home country the Netherlands to California all by myself with absolutely zero plan. It was a huge leap into unknown territory – literally! – but at that moment in time, moving to California and trusting I would make things work was my soul’s calling. Now before you ask “why the heck California?” I actually did record an entire podcast episode explaining how that whole story went last year! It’s called “How I’m Trusting the Process during Uncertain Times'' (fitting title right?) and was published on September 6th, so in case you want to scroll back and listen to that, it’s filled with tons of valuable life lessons and is honestly still super relevant today! My book dives even deeper into why I ended up choosing the path I did around this time last year, so again, get on that waitlist if you aren’t already my friend!
Anyways, living in San Francisco was amazing in the beginning. I loved the weather, I loved being back in the US, and I was just beyond excited for this new chapter in my life. But like any novelty, the excitement that came with living in California soon wore off. San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the US up there with New York and Boston, and the prices are especially steep compared to those in The Netherlands. When I would call my parents and tell them that a tub of Greek yogurt literally cost $8, they almost got a heart attack! For reference, you can buy an entire kg of Greek yogurt in Holland for less than €2.
Anyways, earning enough to cover my monthly costs – from just the basics including rent and groceries and utilities – proved to be a lot harder than I thought. I had only taken Liv Label Free full-time during the summer of that same year, and was simply not making enough from clients or brand partnerships to sustain my life. So I drowned myself in work, trying to provide the most possible value I could in an effort to reach more people and get the opportunity to really make a living by doing the thing I love most.
But unfortunately, as much as I wish it did, free content doesn’t pay the bills, so I got part-time jobs. I babysat, dog walked, and applied for freelance work.
And, side note, after several of my friends recommended I create a donation page, I’ve finally decided to set up a Patreon Page for Liv Label Free at the time of this recording. For as low as $5 a month, you can support me and my work so I can continue doing what I love most, which is providing you with immense value! You can access my Patreon Page by visiting the link livlabelfree.com/patreon. Thank you so much for being generous and now, back to the story.
So when I started overworking myself even more by all getting three part jobs, I had been living in my studio for a little over three months. I knew I had to build a social life; but there was simply no time. To distract myself from the loneliness, I worked even harder – the numbing justified by my belief that I was serving my audience. Parallel to the increasing stress, my body became unable to keep food down. I would be sitting behind my laptop after a meal, only to be startled by a sudden urge to run to the bathroom and throw-up. At first, I thought I may just have eaten something bad and this was my body’s way of getting rid of it. But as the months progressed, the throwing up got worse – to the point where I had to keep a large tub next to me at the kitchen table.
Not surprisingly, I lost weight. With my history, I knew this was dangerous. My health is my biggest asset, and if I’m not healthy, my business can’t be either! So, I did everything I could to counteract the vomiting: I added extra nut butter to my smoothies, cooked my food in more oil, and I even bought nutritional shakes. As you’ll read in my book, I had an incredible aversion to nutritional shakes as a kid, so to say it felt odd to actually have them be my own choice would be an understatement! But at the same time, it was a testament to how far I’d come. I no longer feared weight gain, and this realization was the proof in the pudding that neural rewiring really does work.
Unfortunately, my efforts to gain back the weight gave little results. As I ate more, I also threw up more – it was as if my body was trying to tell me something was wrong, something that couldn’t be healed from the outside in.
During our long-distance calls, which were also very infrequent considering the 9 hour time difference between The Netherlands and California, my mom suggested that the vomiting was caused by stress and anxiety, and urged me to calm down and relax. My mom knows my hypersensitive nature like no one else, as she’s the one who’s seen first-hand how my stress and anxiety often manifests physically. In fact, when writing my book, I looked through all my old medical records and actually discovered that I was dealing with a lot of GI issues in third grade, which was also the first year a school teacher suggested I go to therapy because she saw how stressed out I was. Coincidence? I think not!
Even though I am now aware of the mind-gut connection like never before, I was absolutely convinced that the vomiting had nothing to do with my anxiety. But in lieu of the expression “sometimes you have to get out of the jar to read the label”, I was in the anxiety jar and thus, completely unaware of how it was affecting my physical body. At the time I couldn’t see it, but now looking back, I realize why I was so unconscious of my situation: if I admitted to the vomiting being caused by my constantly being turned “on”, I would have to do something about the stress and anxiety – which I obviously didn’t have time for.
In the spring of 2022, however, I started experiencing other symptoms as a result of the continued weight loss: heart palpitations, insomnia, all while the vomiting kept getting worse. I completely stopped exercising as I knew my body needed to conserve all the energy it was keeping in, and continued eating calorie-dense foods. But nothing seemed to help.
Around this time is also when the negative body comments on social media started becoming more frequent. I gave some examples earlier in this episode, but they were all along the lines of me being a “fake” and often accused me of “lying that I am truly recovered”. Even though my journey has led me to develop thick skin and I’ve become so strong when it comes to owning my truth, I would be lying if I said these comments didn’t hurt. Having assumptions made about you – especially when you have a certain history – can feel like a stab in the heart. I worked so hard to fully recover from my eating disorder and truly mean it when I say it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. So to have people discredit that, especially the very population of people I am trying to help, does feel really hurtful! There’s honestly no sugarcoating it.
Anyways, I knew I had to keep fighting on, despite what anyone was going to think or say. The reality is that people are always going to have opinions, especially on social media. I feel like that is one of the biggest dangers of social media, is that people feel like they somehow have all the rights in the world to be cruel.
There was actually a podcast once that I was listening to about setting boundaries, and the host gave a really good example of this. In the episode, they asked “Would you allow someone to enter your home without knocking on your door, squat on your rug, take a big shit, and then leave as if nothing ever happened?” No, of course not! But this is basically what you are allowing to happen when you engage with negative users on Instagram.
They’re fueled by your engaging with their cruelty, so the best thing to do in such situations is to just ignore it. Yes it’s hard – trust me, I know! – but where your attention goes, energy flows. I could choose to direct my attention to defending myself, explaining that I’ve been unintentionally vomiting and that this is the real reason behind my weight loss, or I could choose to let it go and focus my attention where it really needs to be: on healing myself!
So in July of 2022, I finally gathered the courage to begin my true healing journey and admitted myself to Urgent Care. Considering the fact that I was vomiting every single day, multiple times a day, and was just barely able to keep anything down anymore, my mom was super worried about my electrolytes and urged me to get blood drawn to ensure I wouldn’t get a heart attack at any moment. It was a super scary situation and I knew I really had to start putting myself first.
I spent five long hours at Urgent Care, my anxiety just going through the roof about the guilt I felt for not working. I mean, isn’t that insane? Now that I reflect back on it, I’m like wow – the fact that I felt guilty for taking myself to the hospital because I was sick, truly is sick! I guess hindsight is always 20/20, eh? Surprisingly, all my labs came back normal, so they’re seemed to be nothing *physically* wrong. Whereas this should have been a relief, it was actually really frustrating. I had wanted there to be something tangibly wrong so that I could know what had to be fixed! But the only “fixing” the doctor did, was send me home with a pamphlet on anxiety and a prescription for an antihistamine.
Realizing yet again that the traditional healthcare system wasn’t going to fix me, I decided my digging myself into a ditch stopped now. My constant search for external stimulation that I fulfilled through overworking myself, had caused my body to draw the line. If I wasn’t going to rest, my body was going to force me to. I concluded that the involuntary vomiting (and weight loss as a result) was a physical manifestation of my stress and loneliness, one that could only be healed from the inside out. So in a way, my laying in that hospital bed, seeing my dangerously low heartrate, and my being sent home with no explanation, was the very thing I needed to implement change myself. Because the truth is, in the end, no external thing can save you. You can have the best therapist in the world, the best nutritionist, the most supportive family and all the best friends in the world, but only you can do the work that’s required to achieve the life you truly want to live.
As I tell all my clients and this is also what the entire first module of my Extreme Hunger Course is about: awareness is the first step. I mean, we can’t fix a problem if we don’t know there’s even a problem, ammiright?
The start of my awareness, and therefore the start to my true journey to healing, was admitting to myself that I had been overworking. That I hadn’t been putting myself first. The next step, was giving myself permission to start taking steps that would give me my health back. One of these permission slips was regarding social connection. I told myself I “didn’t have time” to be social because I had to work-work-work to serve my audience, but again, how well was I really serving my audience if I wasn’t at my best?
After an east coast trip with my family, which I talked all about in my episode “Traveling as an Autistic Person in ED Recovery” a few months back, I decided that I wanted to move back to my hometown of Boston. Yes my whole family still lives in The Netherlands and I thought about going back, but I really did want to stay in the US. Plus, several of my friends still lived in the Boston area, so I had lots of trust in regards to building my social life back up. And of course, it would be much easier to keep in touch with my family because the time difference with Europe is only 6 hours as opposed to 9.
So in August of this year, I flew to Boston with my three suitcases to start yet another new chapter. As soon as I arrived, I felt similar to the way in which I had when first discovering I am autistic; as if a part of me had clicked into place. Within the first two weeks of roaming the streets of my hometown, I saw some of my best friends and smiled bigger than I had in months. The vomiting immediately ceased, and I felt confident in my ability to regain much more than just my physical health.
But then, when I moved into my apartment and had to start paying rent again in September after staying with friends for the first month, the vomiting immediately started up again. The financial stress of my autistic living accommodations proved to be a trigger, and despite now “only” being 4,000 miles from my family as opposed to 6,000, the loneliness proved to subsist.
I had thought Boston was going to be the answer, but clearly, it wasn’t. So what was I to do now? That’s when my mom suggested yet again, that I come back home to The Netherlands for a little while. At first, I told her she was absolutely CRAZY. I told her I “couldn’t” come back because I “needed” to be in the U.S. for my business. I was still relying on brand partnerships for a majority of my income, and as I know from trying to get them in Holland, they’re pretty impossible to seal. Europe is just a lot more traditional when it comes to work, so I truly believed I could only successfully build Liv Label Free if I was in the US.
But somehow, my mom’s suggestion had struck a chord. What if I did go back? What if my mom’s suggestion wasn’t so crazy after all? What if a break from the financial stress and a reunion with my family could aid in healing my anxiety? I retraced my initial answer and evaluated it from the same perspective in which I evaluate conversations with my clients during 1:1 Coaching.
Everything I had said, everything I had been so certain of, were all limiting beliefs. Was it that I couldn’t move back, or was it that I wouldn’t move back? Did I really rely on brand partnerships for a majority of my income, or was I just afraid of trusting myself and my capabilities as a business owner? In the same way I hold up a mirror for my clients and help them become aware of their limiting beliefs, I held up a mirror for myself.
That’s when I asked myself what I would tell one of my clients in the same situation, and the answer came immediately: I’d ask them to shift the limiting belief to an empowering belief, and help them come up with action steps to internalize that new belief.
So, as I lay in bed and stared at the ceiling that night, at the mercy of my insomnia per usual, I told myself I could build my life to be whatever I wanted it to be. I told myself what I always tell my clients: the first step to achieving is believing. I told myself that the only way to learn – the only way to make peace with “what could be” – was to fully immerse myself in the experience of it. And just like that, I decided I’d give Holland a chance and fell asleep at the drop of a hat.
So I’m not actually sure when this episode will come out as I have sooo many incredible episodes lined up at the moment and I honestly wasn’t even planning on sharing all this with you, but in any case, I fly back to the Netherlands November 29th and will be spending at least the entire month of December and beginning of January there. So by the time this airs, I may or may not already be there.
I think especially for the holidays, it will be so good to be back home, as I now know what it’s like to be all alone during the holiday months, and it’s awful. I’m not even joking when I say I literally cried myself to sleep on both Christmas and New Year’s Eve last year. Plus, I’m also super excited to be back in The Netherlands for “Sinterklaas”, which is a Dutch holiday comparable to Christmas that I also explain further in my book!
Anyways, before I tell you about the thing you’re probably thinking “when is she going to talk about that?!” being how I have extreme hunger again I want to read you a snippet of my book, as I believe there’s no better way to say it than I already have there. Here goes:
My decision to move back home for an undetermined amount of time acted as an incredible testimony to how my mindset has grown. I’ve said it in this book before and I’ll say it again: external circumstances only have as much power as you give them the permission to have. Full recovery from my eating disorder was the result of giving myself permission to fully recover. Embracing my autistic brain was the result of giving myself permission to be autistic. Moving from Holland to San Francisco to Boston, and now back to the place where I was born, will be the result of giving myself permission to trust myself and my ever-evolving story.
Uncoincidentally, it was that day, the day I gave myself permission to trust myself and my entire process, that I was hit by a wave of extreme hunger. It was confusing and scary to say the least, because along with the vomiting, I also had been experiencing a lack of appetite for several months at this point.
But as I always say, everything starts with mindset. I believe giving myself permission mentally to rest and heal, unconsciously sent a message to my physical body that it was allowed to rest and heal. Ever since that day, I have been eating and resting soooo much. I’ve been going through extreme hunger all over again in every physical sense of the word, but something that’s truly been remarkable about this experience all these years later, is realizing how much my mindset has changed about weight gain, satisfaction, and the very common fear during extreme hunger that you’ll never stop eating.
Even though people may have called me “fake recovered” because I’m currently at a weight that isn’t healthy for my body, I stand firm in my belief that I am fully recovered from my eating disorder. That’s because an eating disorder is a mental illness, not a physical one. My recent weight loss wasn’t the result of trying to control my food or exercise like it was ten years ago, and my actions of taking responsibility over my life and health align with the life I want to live. And I believe that if you are living in alignment with the life you want to live, that is being fully recovered.
I now give into my extreme hunger fully, embracing it without second thought. I don’t feel guilty for eating because I’ve done the work to rewire those pathways in my brain. I don’t label the amount of food I consume during extreme hunger episodes as “too much” and I don’t label the types of food I’ve been craving most – mostly chocolate and bread at the time of this recording! – as “bad” or “unhealthy” because I’ve done the work to release labels and become, well, Liv Label Free! And lastly, I don’t fear that I’ll never stop eating, or that I’ll never feel satisfied, or that I’ll have mental hunger forever, because I’ve proven to my body and brain before that I can achieve a place of full satisfaction.
All of this work and all of the exact steps I took to achieve this mindset are given to you in my course, Extremely Hungry to Completely Satisfied. So if YOU are currently going through extreme hunger too and are ready to give yourself permission to heal without the fear, guilt, and anxiety – because let’s be honest, extreme hunger is energetically draining enough and we don’t need our brain to be expending extra energy on feeling bad for eating! – you can enroll completely risk free today by heading over to livlabelfree.com/extreme-hunger-course. I am SO confident that my course will give you the tools you need to bEAT extreme hunger and find true satisfaction, that I offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee! This means that if you go through the course, put in the work, and don’t get anything out of it? I’ll give you a full refund, no questions asked. So seriously, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain! As do I. It’s onwards and upwards from here on out my friend; for you and me both.
Thank you SO much for listening to this longer episode, and if you have any specific questions for me about what it’s like going through extreme hunger again as a fully recovered person who’s also autistic, you can shoot me a message on Instagram @livlabelfree or you can write me a message through the contact form on my website over at livlabelfree.com/contact. I look forward to seeing you in my course or hearing from you in whatever way you choose to contact me, and as always, I look forward to chatting with you in the next episode! Bye bye for now :)
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