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I'm in BALI! 🏝 Life + Health Update

autism recovery

Intro:

Helloooo and welcome back to another UPDATE episode of the Liv Label Free podcast! It honestly just shocks me how fast time flies as I cannot believe it’s been almost 4 months since I shared an update! But you guys seem to love these episodes and after posting a question poll on my Instagram stories asking if you would be interested in another update episode, I’m pretty sure the results were a 100% YES so here we are!

If you DO follow me on Instagram you know I am in BALI right now, which is so weird to say as I’m recording this, because I’m recording this while still in the Netherlands. That’s always the funny thing about creating content ahead of time, is that love to anticipate the way I’m going to feel when the podcast releases and I get all excited about it while I’m recording…which means that in this case, I don’t even KNOW how I feel as you are listening to this, because I’m in Bali right now so WOOP WOOP!

Anyways, in this episode I’ll be sharing why I am in Bali, what I’ll be doing while I’m here, and of course I’ll be giving updates on the topics I shared about in my previous update episodes, including extreme hunger, weight gain, and of course, my books! I am truly SO excited to dive into all the juicy details so without further ado, let’s dive into today’s episode!

First thing's first: book updates!

If you are a loyal listener of the podcast and a faithful follower on Instagram, you know my cookbook Nourishing Neurodiversity is officially published and is available as an eBook, paperback, and a hardcover! That cookbook has honestly been years in the making so words do not even come CLOSE to describing how incredibly proud and thrilled I am to finally have it out in the world. If you haven’t yet grabbed your copy, click here to learn more about the cookbook including all the different recipes in the book, why I created the book, and how it’s helpful for neurodivergent individuals and their loved ones. And if you want to get a sneak peak of the inside of the book and hear me read the intro of Nourishing Neurodiversity, I actually posted a YouTube video in February which is also available as a podcast dedicated to that! So yeah, I’m just super excited about this cookbook because I feel we really need MORE resources for autistic and ADHD individuals when it comes to cooking and eating because I know first hand how overwhelming it can feel. So grab your copy of Nourishing Neurodiversity if you haven’t already and while we’re talking about books, it’s time for an update on my upcoming memoir!

So I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned the name of my memoir a few times before, but if not, here it is! My memoir Rainbow Girl: My Journey to Living Life in Full Color is soooo close to being published and there are just a few more, but very necessary steps to take before you can finally get your hands on that! I honestly had to look back at my January update episode when it comes to what you know about the book so far, and when I recorded that, the manuscript was actually still in the hands of my editor, and oh my gosh, I am so grateful for my editor. Her name is Barbie Halaby, and she truly truly truly made the book SO much better. I told her all about my audience and the neurodivergent preferences and she took it so to heart when it comes to chapter breaks, word choice, the flow and pacing of the book, and just everything! A little teaser already is that the chapters in my book are quite short – as in just a few pages each – and I did this on purpose because I personally feel overwhelmed when a book has SUPER long chapters, and I think especially for neurodivergent people who need that hit of dopamine more frequently than neurotypicals do, it’s very rewarding when you can feel accomplished by finishing a chapter, ammiright?

Fast forward to today, the edited manuscript has been formatted, sent to a few big names for endorsements, and my very talented ADHD younger sister is currently finishing up the cover design…I’m really hoping to publish within the next few months! I have to be honest in saying that I originally was planning on publishing the audiobook at the same time as the print and eBook versions, but I have decided to first release the print and eBook versions and then record and release the audiobook!

One thing I’m currently working on in all aspects of my life is focusing on doing one thing at a time and not overwhelming myself with massive expectations…because all that leads to is overwhelm, which defeats the whole purpose of enjoying the journey! And speaking of the journey, one very important aspect of this publishing journey of Rainbow Girl will involve a Liv Label Free launch team, which basically means I want to invite YOU to be one of the FIRST readers of Rainbow Girl and then share it with all your friends on the official publishing day! If you are interested in reading the book before it’s even out and then spreading the word as soon as it IS officially out, please send me an email [email protected] and I’ll make sure to put you on my list of people to send a copy to!

Now if you caught me sharing about THREE books in my January update episode, you have good ears and I am now responsible to give you an update on that third book which is all about how to bEAT extreme hunger! As I mentioned in previous updates, I actually wrote the majority of that book while I sat on my bed, nauseous and unable to move due to feeling soooo full after my extreme hunger episodes. And yes I do prefer the term “extreme hunger episodes” instead of “binges” because honoring extreme hunger is not the same thing as binge eating. 

Anyways, I always need to be working on a big project of some sorts, and that extreme hunger book was one of the big projects I was working on as I was waiting to receive Rainbow Girl back from my editor.

As I was writing, I hit a point in the process where I felt I needed to do a LOT of scientific research so I actually took a break from the actual writing to get started on that. As I delved into the research, I discovered it was really a rabbit hole of science that would take me a lot longer than the anticipated few days or weeks to get through, so I decided to just go with the flow and read and research in my free time while I focus my creative energy on other projects, which was finishing and launching my cookbook, and in the meantime, receiving the Rainbow Girl manuscript back from my editor!

All that being said, I’m currently reading and researching when I feel excited and able to, but have temporarily put the extreme hunger book on the back burner for now to maintain my sanity and protect myself from going into overwhelmed and overstressed mode as I did last year. Which ties back to something I just mentioned, and that is my intention of focusing on one thing at a time.

Slowing down

As an autistic person, I have a really hard time shifting between tasks, which is definitely challenged because that’s all the ADHD part of my brain wants to do, LOL. But because I constantly feel distracted while feeling hyper focused which must sound like the biggest paradox ever because it is – welcome to the life of a neurodivergent person! – I can get really easily overwhelmed by just taking on too much.

I definitely think this is what contributed to a majority of my stress and anxiety last year. I mean, I moved all the way to the other side of the world with no plan and really not enough budget if we’re being honest, wrote two entire books, kept up my podcast, coaching, and everything else that I do in my business Liv Label Free, and just to make ends meet, I had to get three part-time jobs! This is why I sometimes ask to support me on Patreon, because I don’t get paid for the podcast! Paired with being so far away from my family and feeling SO lonely, I mean when I put it all into perspective, no wonder I was vomiting everyday. My body was trying to give me a sign that I needed to fucking slow down!

Even though last year was really hard, and I’m pretty sure I mentioned this in the last update episode, I’m incredibly grateful for what last year taught me. I learned where my boundaries are, and we can only learn that when we reach or even go past them. I learned that saying yes to everything causes me to feel stretched way too thin (no pun intended) and in order to feel at peace with myself and support my health, I need to accept that I cannot do everything at once! And the great thing is, we don’t need to. One of my favorite quotes ever is: nature never rushes, yet everything gets done.

Something that I frequently experience and often comes up with my clients during 1-1 coaching is this idea of time stress. Feeling a constant pressure to do everything as quickly as possible because there’s never enough time. But the fact of the matter is that everyone has the same 24 hours in a day and some people don’t feel rushed at all. I mean, I think it’s the most admirable, not to mention the cutest thing, when I go for a walk and am listening to my podcast or my audiobook and I just will see an older couple holding hands and walking and just taking their sweet time. And the irony is, that older couple has less time left than any of us! Yet still, they don’t feel rushed. They take the time to be intentional about their time and that’s what life is all about.

In the end, freedom is the freedom to choose how you spend your time. I think the reason an eating disorder or any type of illness feels like entrapment, is because it takes that choice away from you. When I was in the throes of anorexia, I didn’t get to make any of the decisions anymore. All my time was either spent exercising, eating, and planning what I would be eating. And sure I went to school and did other everyday tasks that everyone has to do, but even then, I was thinking about food and exercise. It absolutely consumed me.

How to Win the Mental Hunger Games!

If this is how YOU currently feel, get excited because in the past few months, I’ve been working on something HUGE and that is my free online training, How to Win the Mental Hunger Games! I know this must sound super ironic that I created this whole training while I just said I was focusing on doing one thing at a time and those things being my two books coming out this year, but my friend, I am too passionate about the topic of extreme (mental) hunger to just not be creating content around it. Especially because I was recently experiencing that, which I will definitely get to in a moment, but when I decided to put the active writing process of my extreme hunger book aside so I could give myself some time to really understand the science and the research of a certain section in that book, I felt like there was this empty void. Two years ago, I spent over six months creating my extreme hunger course, last year I started going through extreme hunger again a second time, which like I said, I’ll give more details on in just a moment, so when I put writing the book aside, I was like: wait, but I wanna talk about extreme hunger!!

It was one of the hardest parts of the recovery process for me and is also the most frequent topic I receive questions about when people reach out to me, that I’m just so incredibly passionate about making the process easier for anyone going through it. I mean, that’s exactly why I created an 8-week course guiding you through the exact steps to overcome it! That’s exactly why I’m writing a book about it! And…drumroll, please, that’s exactly why I created this free training that teaches you exactly how to WIN the Mental Hunger Games! 

When it comes to the topic of extreme hunger, especially within the context of neurodiversity, the subtopic of mental hunger is so important yet so undervalued because we’ve been conditioned to believe that mental hunger isn’t real hunger and that it can’t be trusted and that it’s actually just emotional eating! Am I right? Are these any beliefs that you hold? I know I definitely did.

I used to do everything in my power to distract myself from mental hunger because I feared that giving in meant I was weak and lazy, and I was just using it as an excuse to procrastinate on much more important tasks. Plus, I feared that if I started eating, I would further condition my brain to think about food, which was obviously the opposite of what I wanted, because I wanted to be FREE from the 24/7 food thoughts! If you resonate with this at all, if you currently feel trapped in the mental hunger games, constantly thinking about food yet not knowing what to do about it, I created this training especially for you, my friend. It’s probably the most valuable all-in-one FREE resource I’ve ever shared, so seriously, you do not want to miss this training! Simply click here to register for the training at the next available time and I can't wait to see you there!

And now that we are talking about extreme mental hunger, this is the perfect segue into the part of the episode that I am going to share an update with regards to where I am now on my extreme hunger journey!

Extreme Hunger Update

When I released my first update episode in November 2022, my extreme hunger had been going on for about a month and I was quickly gaining necessary weight back. My insatiable desire for sweets and mostly processed foods went on for about 2 months until in mid December, I started craving more “whole foods'' such as vegetables. That’s when I also started craving more proper meals, as before that time, I was basically just eating cookies, cake, and any other sweet foods around the clock.

If you listened to my second update in January, I had pretty much overcome the extreme mental hunger and honestly thought it was over and done with. But because I didn’t want to restrict myself or feel frustrated if it wasn’t yet over and done with, I also remember saying in that episode that I would accept any further weight gain and potential overshoot weight. Now that I so deeply understand the science behind how this whole process works, I knew there was a chance that my body would want to gain more weight in order to feel safe.

And I was definitely right about that! I would say my eating was a lot more normalized during the month of January. I naturally have a very high metabolism so I was still eating a TON of food, but it was definitely not near as much as I was eating when my extreme hunger was at its peak. 

Then in the last week of January, it was like a switch went off because my extreme hunger came back with a BANG. I have to be honest in saying that I felt really mixed about this. I still had yet to get my period back so I was pretty sure my body was like “okay let’s go bring this back and demand extra energy!” But at the same time, I was already back at the weight I was prior to moving to San Francisco and losing all that weight, so the idea of gaining more weight just felt “wrong” to me. Not because I feared weight gain itself, but because it was new and different and unpredictable. This is an excellent example of an autistic trait that for years was labeled as an eating disorder behavior.

Autistic Traits and Eating Disorder Behaviors

During the course of my entire eating disorder, I never actually feared getting fat or anything like that. It was the unpredictability aspect, the not knowing how much weight I would gain, and not wanting to outgrow clothes that kept me trapped in wanting to stay small. Scratch that. In wanting to stay the same. I truly believe that desire for sameness and routine is at the core of why so many autistic people develop and eventually stay stuck in eating disorders.

Ever since I’ve really opened up about being autistic and creating more content that bridges the gap between autism and eating disorders, I’ve started working with so many more autistic people and it’s CRAZY how parallel their stories are to mine! In almost every coaching call or message exchange, either my client or I will share something and the other one will be like OMG I do that too! And it’s so fun, because it really creates a bond that other people without lived experience can never understand.

I’m pretty sure I’ve shared this before, but all of my clients become my best friends and THIS is the reason I love this work so much. It allows me to form connections and relationships I would have never otherwise, and gives both me and my clients insights that we can carry with us for a lifetime!! So if you're currently struggling in ED recovery and you want help from someone who’s been there and someone who truly understands, AND if you also want to make a new friend, sign up for 1-1 coaching with me!! Like I said, nothing I love more than helping others through my own lived experience and lessons learned from helping others.

 Speaking of learning and gaining insight through coaching, there’s actually one question that I came up with during a session that has become one of my mantras during difficult times, and that is: I choose to surrender and trust. After all, what’s the alternative?

Asking yourself that question “what’s the alternative” is SO powerful, because it makes you realize the alternative is even worse than facing the unpredictability! The alternative is the opposite of surrendering and trusting. It’s resisting and fighting the uncontrollable, which never works, because it’s of course uncontrollable! For years, I had resisted the possibility of change and weight gain by engaging in eating disorder behaviors, but I don’t think we need to elaborate on where that got me!

Surrendering to the process

So this time around, when I was faced by another unforeseen wave of extreme hunger at the end of January and I felt those mixed feelings, I reminded myself that trusting my body was really the only thing I could do, because the alternative was fighting it, and I spent enough of my life fighting my body.

So I honored the extreme hunger again and guess what? In the first week of February, I got my period back! And as I’m recording this, I’m on my third period since getting it back and at the highest weight I’ve ever been in my life. Throughout February and March, the extreme hunger kept coming back in waves. There were some days where I was just an insatiable monster, and then suddenly an entire week would go by where I had no extreme hunger. And currently, that’s kinda where I’m at. I’m surrendering to the process, going with the flow of my hunger, and trusting that my body has everything sorted out.

Now I have to be honest with you that even more so than the weight gain, the hormonal shifts that have come with getting my period back have been really challenging. I do explain a lot of the science of hormones in my course Extremely Hungry to Completely Satisfied, so that’s definitely helped me accept the acne and mood swings and other shifts going on, but for a few days every time I get my period, I just don’t feel like myself. 

Autism and PMDD

I know that sounds quite vague, because “everyone doesn’t feel like themselves sometimes, right?”. But this is like a different type of not feeling like myself. It’s a way I’ve never felt before. The best way to describe it would almost be like some level of dissociation in a way. Like I’ll feel my body and know that I’m here on Earth, but my brain will feel like a cloud that is incapable of thinking creatively, if that even makes any sense at all. This dissociative state can literally happen from one day to the next and the impact on me is so intense that I remember telling my mom it almost felt like I had bipolar disorder because I just felt like a completely different person!

As you can imagine, this has been really tough, but I was honestly super comforted when I saw a post on Instagram by wildflower.autie on Instagram called Autism & PMDD. I had never heard of PMDD before, so I swiped on the post to learn more and was like OMG this is so me. PMDD stands for Premenstrual dysphoric disorder and is a very severe form of premenstrual syndrome (or PMS), causing a range of emotional and physical symptoms before your period. What I learned from wildflower.autie’s post is that PMDD has been reported to affect up to 92% of autistic women and 46% of women with ADHD, in contrast to occurring in only a mere 6-9% of neurotypical women. This is probably due to hypersensitivity, both sensory-wise and hormonally. I mean my mind was absolutely blown and I immediately commented on the post saying, and I quote: “Ever since getting my period back, I feel like I have bipolar disorder when I’m on my period,” and she replied: “That’s what it always felt like for me! I thought I actually was bipolar for a long time before getting my Autism Diagnosis and PMDD was a huge factor.”

THIS is the power of community, my friend! Although I really have a love-hate relationship with Instagram, it’s these deeper, more meaningful conversations that make me keep coming back. So now I’m curious, if you’re listening to this and you’re autistic and/or ADHD, do you experience PMDD? I’m so fascinated right now that I definitely want to learn more about it and maybe do some future content around it, so if this is something you are interested in, please let me know so I know to actually make it happen!

Why am I in Bali?

Okay, so far I’ve shared some book updates, I’ve talked about my free training How to Win the Mental Hunger Games, I’ve talked about slowing down and being more intentional with my time, that I’m trusting my body and its process including the hormonal shifts going on, so what next? Ah yes, why I am in Bali!!!!

Well as I’ve mentioned before and in all of my update episodes, last year was really tough for me and not only taught me what my boundaries are, but it also really put into perspective for me that my work is not my life. Yes of course I live for Liv Label Free - it’s my greatest passion - but overworking myself to create more and more free content literally almost took my life last year.

That surpassing of my health boundary was the clearest illustration that my work isn’t my identity and reminded me that I’m a human being, not a human doing. It made me realize I too, need rest. I want rest, even though I may not always know what that even means.

My whole life, I’ve been an anxious person who’s found it difficult to just be and sit with my thoughts. The irony of being autistic and ADHD is that I’m so easily overstimulated, yet at the same time, I’m constantly seeking stimulation. This combination of course is almost a recipe for mental health problems, but I truly believe that the more you become aware of yourself and your tendencies, the better you’re able to work with them in a way that they become strengths rather than weaknesses.

In the past year, I’ve gotten so much better at being still and sitting with my own thoughts, so much so that I’ve unlocked a creativity I never even knew I had! What’s also been growing in the past year is my need for a break. I started LLF over 3 years ago and have honestly been working on growing that 24/7 ever since I started. And this nonstop work followed a decade of struggling with an eating disorder and recovering from it. 

That being said, the last time I really properly took time for myself to relax and recharge and go on vacation…was over 13 years ago. And ohmygosh this is really making me emotional now. The fact that I haven’t given myself a break to just be for more than half of my life is a huge truth bomb!

But the best part about life and the fact that we can’t go back in time, is that we have to learn from our past which helps us choose how to move forward. And right now, I’m choosing to go to Bali for several weeks and give myself the well deserved rest I’ve been working so hard for.

That means I’ll also be taking a break from the podcast, I’ll be slowing down on my other channels, and I’ll be practicing slowing down in life. In the end, this one life is all you’ve got - so why rush through it?

And that just about wraps up this life update episode! As always, I would absolutely LOVE to hear your thoughts and any insights you gained from listening to this. The best way to get in touch would be by sending me an email [email protected] or submitting a message via the contact form. I hope to hear from you soon and otherwise, you’ll hear hear from me again when I’m recharged and ready to come back. Until next time, bye bye for now!

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