How Yoga, Transcendental Meditation and a Plant-Based Diet Healed This Lifestyle Photographer And Health Blogger's Disordered Eating
I met Falcon in a pretty unconventional way. I was looking for a photographer to work with, fell in love with her aesthetic and slid riiiight into her inbox. We clicked immediately and laughed over my extreme awkwardness in front of the camera (seriously, she guided me every step/click of the way). Like she shared in her recent Instagram post, I felt an instant kinship with her. It feels like we've known each other for ages when it reality I can count the number of times we've met on one hand. Sometimes friendships are born out of serendipity!
Hi Falcon! Talk to me about your relationship with food growing up.
I was raised vegetarian till I was 5. In my household, there was no fast food, sugar, candy. I was raised on soy milk not dairy. My mom was the one who kept everything healthy so when she passed away when I was 7, my dad was too busy working and we ate whatever we wanted. What changed things for me was when my grandmother passed away when I was 15. That really hit me hard because she had Type 2 diabetes. I later found out that it’s reversible through the right lifestyle. My grandmother was in her 70s and I felt like she could have lived a longer life if she had taken care of herself. It really inspired me to go, “I need to take my health seriously.” I became super obsessed with researching healthy food and exercise. I started eating clean, doing yoga and strength training at home. That was an inspirational point that was triggered out of fear, a fear that I didn’t want to die.
Things took a turn for the worse when my friend came back from boarding school. She lost 40 pounds in 3-4 months. I remember when I saw her she was a stick. I felt like she was dying before my eyes. It was really shocking for me and having experienced death at such a young age, I didn’t know how to emotionally deal with it. In a weird way, I just started eating a lot… psychologically I felt I was eating for her and I started this habit of binge eating. That’s what started my disordered eating: in the morning and leading up to the evening, I would restrict like crazy because I didn’t want to gain weight then I would binge at night. Looking back, that was me feeling out of control. I didn’t know how to cope with all those heavy feelings, I didn’t know how to control my emotions and I didn’t have a coping mechanism. I had that pattern of eating and being really strict with food for 10 years. It wasn’t until I switched to a vegan diet that I broke that pattern.
How did veganism come into your life?
I discovered a vegan diet because I was at my wits end. I tried every diet on this planet. It was all ways to control my body because I couldn’t control what was going on in my life. I was Paleo and had been doing a no-sugar cleanse. Part of the program was to cut out fruit for 6 weeks which was so stupid and crazy when I look back at it. I was craving fruit and came across an Instagram account called @lonijane. She was eating this really tropical, raw fruit diet. I saw her beautiful lifestyle and she looked super fit. I had been gaining weight and was really out of control. Being Paleo, I was always craving sugar and was bingeing and was a mess. I found Loni Jane and was like, “Whatever she’s doing, that’s the answer! That’s the next thing that’s going to save me.”
I decided to do a one week smoothie cleanse and I thought, “If I feel really good at the end of this and I don’t crave what I’m eating before, I’m going to continue on this vegan path and see where it leads me until I no longer feel good.” I did that cleanse and all the positive symptoms started occurring: my acne cleared up (I had gone off birth control recently), my brain fog was gone, my anxiety was almost non-existent, feelings of depression were low. I woke up every morning with tons of energy. It was so amazing.
I continued the exact diet. I followed it to a T. It was a very extreme way of eating. It was high fruit, 80% raw fruit I believe, high carb, low fat, low protein. Eventually what happened, and it happened quite fast, was the negative symptoms started coming up: I gained 17 pounds which was a good thing because I had been restricting for so long. I had to refeed myself you know? But I was bloated after every meal. I couldn’t fit into my clothes anymore. I started to feel blood sugar crashes. Every time I’d finish a massive liter of smoothie, about 10 minutes later I’d feel a giant crash. My appetite started to taper down. I would reach out to people in the vegan community and say, “I don’t know why I can’t eat as much as I used to,” and they would say, “Just force yourself to eat and you’ll be fine.” I could tell something wasn’t working. I went to my naturopath doctor and he said, “Your blood work is showing that whatever diet you’re on is a little extreme and it's throwing your numbers off.” I ignored him. I didn’t tell him the truth about what I was eating because it was such a weird diet.
What happened next?
I was feeling very faint. I was having symptoms of dizziness. I was having anxiety attacks. It was really scary. I had these symptoms for months. I was working as much as I could. I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I was on my phone too much. I didn’t have a balanced lifestyle. I saw my naturopath again and right away he said, “You have adrenal fatigue.” I got my bloodwork done right away and it supported everything he said: my potassium was through the roof, my sodium was low and there were some other markers that you have adrenal fatigue. I don’t want to blame the diet but I had been eating all tropical fruits that are full of potassium. On the diet you’re also told to have very low sodium intake so I wasn’t eating a lot of salt.
My naturopath told me, “You have options but you’re not going to like it. I’ve worked with women just like you who are vegan and who have adrenal fatigue and I’m sorry to say this but in order to heal properly and quickly, I have to recommend that you go on a few supplements and one of them is animal-sourced.” I felt brainwashed. I believed that veganism was the best diet in the whole world for all human beings. I was clouded with this dogma of “No, vegan is the way. I don’t need to take your supplements. I’ll be fine without your help.”
Sure enough I had another anxiety attack and it really scared me. I was not in a good way. I was lethargic all the time. That’s when I realized, “Is it worth sacrificing my health and getting worse just to prove that I’m right about veganism? Should I just take the non-vegan supplement and at least see what happens?” I went back to my doctor, took the supplement and literally within a week was feeling 50% better.
That's so crazy. I really wanted you to share your journey because it's so important to highlight the potential dangers of randomly following a diet you find online. Instagram is a great place to draw inspiration from but not every influencer is qualified to dish out dietary advice. That said, what would you suggest to those who want to experiment with or transition to a plant-based diet?
Work with people who have the right credentials. Look for an integrative doctor or a company like Parsley Health. If you have a chronic health issue, find someone who has a track record of helping people with that issue. I went to an acupuncturist because it’s meant to be good for adrenal fatigue. I didn’t interview her properly, she didn’t have a track record specifically showing she’s healed women who suffered from adrenal fatigue. For 5 days after each session, I would have anxiety attacks every single day whenever I left the house. My system just wasn’t strong enough to handle that improper use of acupuncture. It’s also possible I just wasn’t meant to have acupuncture at that time period, regardless of who I went to.
Switching gears a little... You radiate happiness and come across so calm and centered whenever I see you. What practices do you credit for this?
I really chalk it up to certain tools that I use. One would be Transcendental Meditation (TM), which is also mantra-based meditation. On a good day, I’d do a full session in the morning or night. You feel so calm. Your mind is buzzing but by the end of it you’re still and you come out of it and feel like you just had a deep sleep.
The second thing is rest. Sometimes anxiety is heightened from being on my phone or social media too much. I try to find moments of stillness or rest. I got this tip from Arianna Huffington, anytime she has a moment to meditate, she’ll do it. When I’m on the subway, I’ll close my eyes for the duration of the trip and I’ll do my mantra. The mantra drops you into a deeper space. It’s a really simple but powerful technique. When I was doing it twice a day consistently, it really chilled me out in a good way. It made me more creative, more productive.
The other thing is sleep. When I go to bed consistently at the same time, it’s a game-changer.
Would you say TM and yoga give you different kinds of calm?
Yes. Totally. Meditation helps with your reaction time and your general feeling of stress. If you do it consistently, it’s almost impossible to feel stress after a while, which is amazing. Normally, if you’d be triggered by work, you have that moment, that space to consider before you react. Yoga opens me up and connects me to my truth. It aligns me. When I do yoga consistently, I literally make more money. I’ll get more bookings. I’ll get more emails with people saying they want to work with me. I’ve tested this. I’ve done yoga for a full week straight and stopped for a week or two and I’ve seen that it actually does something that’s beyond tangible. It aligns you with the truth of who you are. It’s crazy.
Has either practice affected your relationship with binge eating and anxiety?
When I practiced yoga consistently, about 5 days a week, I noticed that my binge eating had completely shifted where I no longer sought food to suppress my emotions. I feel that yoga helps you cope with emotions in a powerful way so you no longer have a desire to suppress them. Yoga has also helped tremendously with anxiety for the same reasons and TM meditation has helped with anxiety on a daily basis. It reduces my anxiety by at least 70-80% when I’m practicing on a daily basis.
What does living a balanced life mean to you today?
Previously, it was all about eating perfectly and exercising perfectly. Now my mantra is progress not perfection. It’s about doing what works for me and living life in a holistic way. My idea of health is not so reductionist anymore. I have to look at stress management, how are my relationships with my boyfriend, family and friends. Am I laughing enough? Am I getting fresh air? I have to look at all the categories in my life and see where am I fulfilled, where am I not? Where can I fill up the bucket so to speak and even everything out without going Type A about it? It's not, "I will be perfectly balanced as long as I eat perfectly."
ON TO THE FUN STUFF! 5 more questions before we wrap this up 😊
What is your fav book?
May Cause Miracles by Gabrielle Bernstein. It’s amazing if you want to transform certain areas of your life. For instance, if you're wondering why you can’t attract certain relationships, this book helps you discover it’s because you’re holding yourself back by limiting beliefs.
Weirdest beauty trend you’ve tried?
Float tank sessions. It was like an Epsom salt bath on steroids. You feel like you’re floating in outer space.
Go-to food spot in Brooklyn?
If you had to eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
One country you’re dying to visit?
see what falcon's up to over at @_falconcara_, check out her blog and her stunning photography here.
✨ 💖 ✨
knowing what to say to those who are struggling can be uncomfortable and awkward.
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