As this conversations series has developed, I’ve come to realise that a lot of the people that I truly connect with are people who have similar experiences to me and share a common story. As it goes, these stories tend to follow along the trend of body image, conscious living, the psychology of eating and eating disorders. I have found myself very drawn to stories like my own, and truly feel that there is a beautiful lesson and inspiration in finding your story in another’s. Even when I was younger and in the thick of my eating disorder, I remember reading books like “Hungry” and “Unbearable Lightness” and feeling so connected and suddenly so not-alone. It was in the author’s words that I felt comforted by the realisation that I was not the only one with my story. In fact, it was and is very much a global one.
When I started using social media- it quickly became apparent how connected we are, globally, and how amazing platforms like Instagram can be when it comes to support and love. Within months of starting, I had not only built a loyal following, I had also connected with some beautiful souls who shared my story, and were courageous in their own. It really humbles and delights me how authentic and open people are becoming in the online world (and the physical) and do think that a lot of it comes from tools like Instagram, Facebook and blogs.
Sometimes, it’s a little easier to tell the truth and share your story, when you aren’t observing the reactions of someone as you tell it, or standing in front of an audience as you write it.
One of the beautiful souls that I met through Instagram is the bright and vibrant lady behind the account @Steffejung and the blog WholesomeStef. We connected through our mutual relation to Dubai and quickly realised that we shared a lot of traumas, memories and anxieties with our past (and our present). It’s always interesting when you make friends online, because although you may not know each other or see each other- you tend to witness their growth and evolution from afar and it absolutely builds a special bond. I’ve always enjoyed witnessing Stef’s journey and am so happy to call her a friend and a supporter of the Chloe’s Countertop Community.
Stef’s passion for health and wellness is vibrant- and her beautiful intensity reminds me so much of myself. Also, it doesn’t hurt that she is a beauty and a total fitness rockstar! However, at the end of the day- what draws me to her and what I love the most about her and her account, is her consistency in telling the truth and being as open and as real as she can in the moment.
You can tell that the girl has a lot of love to give and is truly embracing the concept of allowing herself to receive it.
For the rest, I’ll leave to Stef to share with you. Don’t miss the amazing holistic Buckwheat Crepes recipe at the end of the article!
Chloe’s Conscious Conversations Featuring Wholesome Stef
Name, age, current location.
Stefanie Jung, 22 years old, German but currently living in Lausanne, Switzerland.
THE CORE 10:
Why do you do what you do? What’s your message and purpose?
I started out on this holistic living journey as a way of healing myself from an eating disorder. I slowly became aware of the powerful connection between what you eat and how you feel, and later on discovered the importance of primary foods (meaningful relationships, careers, regular physical exercise and a grounding spiritual practice) to truly live life to the fullest. I am now at a point of my life where I want to help other young girls and women with their struggles with emotional eating and eating disorders.
What do you do every day to keep yourself centered and grounded? Do you experience a lot of consistency in your daily life or does it fluctuate?
I love journaling. I take my journal with me everywhere and make sure to take a couple minutes out of my day to note down what I have experienced and what I am feeling. To me, it’s a type of meditation that allows me to connect to my inner thoughts on a deeper level. The last couple of months have been a whirlwind of changes (with graduating from university, starting my studies to become a certified health coach, moving and job hunting), so this practice was more important to me than ever before.
What are the greatest changes that you’ve observed since deciding to follow your truth?
In the beginning I was very hesitant to share my passion for nutrition and fitness with others. I was working out by myself, trying new restaurants by myself and not engaging in meaningful discussions about the topics that were closest to me. I felt a bit like I was being judged, especially considering that at that time I was at university and it was all about partying and drinking. But once I fully embraced my passion for holistic living, I started sharing it with others and received beautiful feedback from all sides. I started working out with friends, cooking together and trying out new yoga classes in town. I now feel like I am my true self whilst being able to share the journey with others along the way.
What sort of boundaries do you come across in your life, working in this business? How do you approach and manage them?
A personal challenge of mine is to live a healthy lifestyle without restricting myself too much. It’s a difficult balance to find, and one that takes constant nurturing. When I lean too much towards one extreme, I quickly feel the consequences psychologically and physically. I check in with myself regularly to make sure that I keep true to my values without falling into the “food guilt trap” that I used to. To me, checking in means doing yoga, journaling or going for a walk by myself in the forest.
Favourite words of wisdom and inspiration (quote, phrase, poem).
You are under no obligation to be the same person you were 5 minutes ago
The quote is a reminder that even if you had a crappy start to the day, it doesn’t have to ruin the rest of their day. Become aware of your feelings, work through them and pick yourself back up.
What book or piece of writing do you turn to when in need of grounding, guidance and/or inspiration?
I love my happiness book from Gretchen Rubin. It’s a book where, for 5 years every day, you write down one thing that has made you happy on that day. It’s beautiful to flip through the pages every now and then and be reminded of the little things that have brought joy to your life in the past. Each page also bears a quote, so every day you write into the book you receive a little piece of inspiration for the day.
What do you worry about? What keeps you up at night?
Lately it’s been the uncertainty of what to do after graduation. I studied hospitality management, but realized soon after starting that my true passion lies within nutrition and fitness. I know that I want to work in this field but now it’s a matter of trying to figure out how. My first big step towards this goal was to start my studies at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, with the hope of starting my own health coaching business soon.
What stresses you out on a regular basis?
I have to admit that I get stressed quite easily. It’s something I’ve been working on for a while, but sometimes it still gets to me. Be it a hectic exam period, a lot of organizational work or simply things not going as planned; it can all throw me off board. I think it’s a lot about self development, and the more I progress on this journey the more centered I become. I’ve learnt many tools in the past to deal with stressful and emotional situations, and I am getting better and better at applying them.
When did you know that you were an entrepreneur? Was it difficult for you to make the decision to work for yourself and pursue your own business?
I can’t really call myself an entrepreneur just yet. I have my own blog and am slowly starting to build my own brand, but I’m just at the beginning. A couple of years ago I would have never thought of putting myself out there like this, but through my journey I have discovered a whole new side to me: one that is confident, creative, passionate and has a burning desire to share her knowledge about the healing power of food and self care.
What is your all-time favorite song, movie and book?
- Song: One by Mary J. Blige & U2
- Movie: Honig im Kopf
- Nutrition & Lifestyle: Crazy Sexy Cancer by Kris Carr &
- Novel: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Catered 5:
There are so many health and nutrition bloggers and professionals out there now a days. What makes you unique? What is your passion and focus?
My passion is to spread the word about the beautiful healing power of food. I am especially focused on helping young girls and women to live their life free of self-hate and emotional eating issues.
Having experienced the whole range of self-destructive behavior, I hope that sharing my journey can help others with their own struggles.
I am also really excited to see more and more young people proactively taking charge of their health, and I hope to be part of and inspire this proactive health care movement. It’s never too early to start taking care of yourself!
What sort of emotions, thoughts, beliefs and experiences did you go through before choosing to reveal struggles with eating disorders and become more open about your anxiety?
It took about two years for me to admit to myself that I was not OK.
I then relatively quickly confided in my family and boyfriend, but it took a long time before I truly opened up about my issues to friends. While some can relate, others struggle to wrap their head around the psychological issues of an eating disorder. And that’s ok too. I learnt that they don’t have to understand; they just have to be there for you and support you. Nowadays I talk very openly about my past and love sharing my journey, as I view it a blessing in disguise that has shaped me into the strong person I am today.
Now that you are on the ‘other side’ of your eating disorder, what thoughts, experiences and patterns have you noticed were at the core?
There are so many small factors and personality traits that come together to create an eating disorder. The main things for me were a. being a perfectionist and never feeling like I was “enough” b. trying to fit in rather than allowing my true self to shine through and c. having a negative mindset towards most things in life. I was never good enough, would always see the glass half empty and did not allow myself to truly be myself. Oh, how the times have changed…
What is your dream scenario for Wholesome Stef and your life?
I want to keep growing the #wholesometribe and inspire people through the blog and my health coaching business to live their life to the fullest and to be healthy, happy and confident with themselves!
What would you say to someone who is experiencing resistance right now in relation to a fear attached to food (for example, sticking to labels). What is the one thing you would say to them to help them overcome their fear and anxiety?
This reminds me of a quote that I recently heard Joshua Rosenthal say: Food is food. Not religion.
I know it might seem otherwise for a person in that situation, but it doesn’t have to be. The habit of obsessively sticking to labels didn’t develop over night, so it will not disappear in a day either. Take it slow; integrate a new food into your diet every day that you otherwise wouldn’t eat and take the time to reflect on how you feel about it. A food journal and meditative practice can help to embrace those emotions. And take the time to really enjoy those foods. Decorate the table nicely, dim the lights, eat slowly and consciously without any distractions and thank yourself for nourishing your body.
The Raw Truth behind Stef’s ED Journey
How old were you when you started developing your eating disorder? Was there something going on in your life that triggered it for you?
I was around 17 and was just finishing high school in Dubai. Everything started off with an extremely restrictive diet and slaving away on the treadmill for hours on end after having gained some weight while taking Roacutane (which is a prescription medication against acne with intense side effects). I guess you could say that the medication and my desire to be and look perfect was the trigger, though there were many other aspects that played a role. Many people with an eating disorder describe themselves as perfectionists, competitive and self – disciplined, and I definitely fit that picture. Even though these characteristics are essentially great and can take you far, they are also a slippery slope that can lead to tremendous pressure and self – hate. I never felt good enough or thin enough and my inner mean girl was constantly telling me I wasn’t worthy.
After an initial anorexic phase, I soon couldn’t take the tension anymore and discovered the binge/purge cycle as a way of taking the edge off. Since I was slowly gaining weight again, I could live this self-destructive double life without anyone noticing a thing. But deep down I knew that something was off.
How long did you suffer from your ED before you realized it was time to get help?
It “only” took me 2 ½ years to admit to myself that something needed to change. By that point, the ED had full control over me: I was throwing up twice a day, the scale was my best friend and the mirror my worst nightmare. I knew that food and negative body image were controlling every aspect of my life, but I felt too powerless to fight it. I had so many moments where I was bawling my eyes out and thought things would never change, but fortunately I eventually summed up the courage to tell my family and boyfriend about my battles. That was the starting point of my recovery and when my self – healing truly started.
What did “getting help” look like for you?
I was never officially diagnosed with an eating disorder because I never sought professional help. In the beginning I didn’t believe that I was “sick enough” to justify asking for support. I also felt like I should be grateful for what I had been given in life; after all I had an amazing childhood, got to travel the world, was financially stable and had a loving and caring family, friends and boyfriend. I thought it wasn’t fair to others who truly had a troubled past and told myself to not be such a drama queen.
I did however sign up for an online workshop that is specifically designed for women struggling with an ED. It was created by another fellow “ED soldier” and it was her support that kick started my recovery. We had weekly talks on the phone and her mentoring made me see my disorder as just that, a disorder. She made me realize that I didn’t need an ED label to have a destructive and unhealthy relationship with food and that I deserved just as much help as anyone else.
Through her I learned to look inside and identify the true causes of my ED.
As much as my disorder is about weight and insecurity, it’s even more about control and food being a coping mechanism for stress or to numb my emotions.
Both her and my boyfriend’s support gave me the strength and courage to approach my body with love and acceptance and to learn to listen to my emotions. I wouldn’t call this my journey of recovery but rather it has been a continuous journey of self-discovery, self-empowerment and self-realization.
Tell us what a day in the life of meals looked like during your ED versus what it looks like now during your recovery process.
During the darkest times of my eating disorder, I would wake up and go to school without eating breakfast and not eat until lunchtime. There I would have a small salad, a soup or just some fruits. Evenings I didn’t eat anything really, as I would be so exhausted after working out that I’d pass out in bed rather quickly. I fainted on a regular basis, but didn’t think it was an issue. This time of my life is so far behind me now that I can’t even believe this is me who I am talking about.
Then there was the other extreme: After starting to throw up, I realized I could eat big amounts of food without the same guilt. I started having eating attacks whose content would all end up in the toilet a little later. With time the attacks grew bigger and bigger and eventually I would consume up to 2000 calories from pizza, ice-cream, doughnuts and co. in just one sitting.
Today I don’t count calories, I don’t weigh myself anymore and I don’t restrict my food intake. I tried eating fully vegan for a while, but realized that it just wasn’t right for me and that it was too triggering. I listen to my body and nurture it with whatever it asks for; that may be an organic and vegan salad with spinach and sweet potato or that may be a bar of chocolate. No problemo. But generally speaking, I tend to have a big smoothie or oatmeal for breakfast, a mixed salad with chickpeas, lentils or quinoa on the side for lunch, an afternoon snack such as some fruits or nuts and a warming homemade soup or fish with veggies on the side. And some dessert of course! I love making my own raw cheesecakes or bliss balls and always have something ready in the fridge/freezer.
How did friends and family react when they found out you had been suffering?
My boyfriend was in fact the one who made me realize I had a problem, and he’s been there for me since day one. I couldn’t be more grateful for his help and support and all the times he believed in me even when I didn’t.
With my parents it was a bit trickier, as it took them some time to grasp the severity of my eating disorder. Fair enough, I was struggling so much in the beginning to put my feelings into words that it must have been extremely difficult for them to understand where I was coming from. And although my friends knew I was struggling, I initially hesitated to fully open up and go beyond the “Today I am not feeling too good, I’d rather not come out with you guys”. Things have changed and today I can talk very openly about my feelings. Even though not everyone is able to fully relate, they have and always will be there for me. And that’s fine.
People don’t have to understand, but it’s their support and unconditional love that matters.
Can you share with us a few of your former “fear foods”, and tips for overcoming those?
One of the tasks in the workshop was to make a list of fear foods and acceptable food. You can guess which list was longer. Everything used to be a fear food. Bread, pasta, ice cream, alcohol and anything that I didn’t make myself or had a label on it. We are taught to label foods as “good” or “bad”. We talk about things such as “cheat meals” and “off days”, just so we can indulge in those things that are usually off limit. There’s something fundamentally wrong with that.
I’m grateful that I’m in a place now where everything in moderation is OK. I know I can have a slice of cake without wanting to inhale the whole thing. Unfortunately, I don’t have any concrete tips for overcoming fear foods. I think it is something that just comes with time, at least that was the case for me.
What would you say to a young girl in the middle of their ED who wants to get help but isn’t sure she is ready?
Oh, so many things! Most girls in that stage try to convince themselves that they are fine and that they don’t need help. But just because you aren’t close to hospitalization doesn’t mean your issue isn’t serious. In the end, the problem is the warped brain. The real measure is how distorted your thoughts are and not the external symptoms. That’s why it is a psychological disorder, after all.
Another thing that I would like to say is that no matter how hopeless the situation may seem, it will get better. Back then I would have never believed that I could look in the mirror and love myself instead of loathing over my body. Just never give up hope and keep fighting, ok?
Any tips for dealing with a particularly hard day in recovery?
Over the years I’ve assembled a whole list of tricks that help me deal with a bad day. From taking a walk by myself to dry body scrubbing, writing in my gratitude book or talking it out with the boyfriend before the feeling manifests itself, it’s all about self love and acceptance on those days. It’s when everything seems to go wrong that kindness is more important than ever. No matter how busy I am I will try to find some “me time”, as my health and happiness will always be number one priority.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I just wanted to thank you for your honesty and transparency with your journey. There are so many girls that are in that “grey area” of an ED and your posts surely help many girls to seek help. To anyone that is reading this and has been struggling with similar issues, you are not alone and deserve to be healthy and happy.
Thanks so much for having me, Chloe!
Last, but not least, Stef was kind enough to share one of her favourite recipes with the Chloe’s Countertop Community.
I must say, I can’t wait to try these out!
Wholesome Stef’s Savoury Buckwheat Crepes
- 2 cups buckwheat flour
- 3 cups flour
- 2 organic free range eggs
- sea salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
- coconut oil, for frying
- 200g baby spinach
- 1 broccoli head, florets
- 100g green beans
- 2 big tomatoes, sliced
- 2 handfuls of walnuts, chopped
- a handful of sprouts
- Whisk together the pancake batter ingredients in a jug
- Heat pan to medium heat and add a bit of coconut oil. Similar to pancakes, you only need a slight coating of fat, so use the brush to coat the pan or pour out excess
- Use a ladle to add a portion of the batter to the pan and swirl the batter around
- After 1-2 minutes or when the underside is lightly browned, the pancake is ready to be flipped
- Heat another pan to medium heat and add a bit of coconut oil. Sautee broccoli florets for 5-7 minutes or until tasty crunchy.
- Add peas and tomatoes and sauté until they are hot and ready to be eaten. At last, add spinach for another 1-2 minutes.
- Thoroughly mix , season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Finally, to assemble the pancakes, spread a little guacamole on each pancake, top with a tablespoon of filling then add some sprouts and walnut crumbles on top, roll up and enjoy!
Thanks again for sharing your love, your wisdom, your story and your beautiful recipe Stef!