This week I discovered a wonderful little site on the internet called, NOT PLANT BASED.
I didn’t know exactly what I had stumbled upon, but it was like an internet ‘aha’ moment.
Like, THIS is what I have been looking for.
The slogan for NOT PLANT BASED (NPB) is, “Helping you love food again”. And, that sums it up so easily but beautifully.
Founded by Laura Dennison, and co-authored by Eve Simmons, the duo created the site to offer a source of honest, fresh and non-patronising advice for “troubled eaters”. That’s people who are vulnerable to unhealthy eating or fitness regimes.
NPB is about reclaiming our fear of food and thinking that anything but #cleaneating is something to be ashamed of. Instead, honouring your health – both mental and physical.
As much as I could write all day about how important NPB is in the current media landscape, with “wellness” and “health gurus” being paraded around like they are the Holy Masters of Health, why not hear it from Laura and Eve themselves?
This is our interview with the two women who are on a mission to bring back the food (with the facts).
Mamamia: For those who don’t know about NPB – who are you?
Eve: I am a journalist, writer, food-lover and bullshit detective. After suddenly developing an eating disorder (ED) and coming out the other side, I decided to dedicate a lot of my time to squashing the diet myths and health fads that had been detrimental to me during the run up to my ED.
Eve and Laura. Image: supplied.
Laura: I would describe myself as less of a journalist - although that’s how I was trained - more of a writer, illustrator, junk-food lover and troubled creative.
MM: Can you tell us a little bit more about your stories and how you found one another?
Eve: I was a year out of the hospital when Laura tracked me down on Twitter (some would call it stalking, I would call it true love). I appeared in a BBC documentary called, Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets in which I discussed my flirtation with the clean eating movement and how it’s contributed towards my ED. I was writing article after article in order to warn others of the issue but desperately wanted to do something more permanent… that’s when Laura came a’knockin’...
Laura: I knocked, and Eve answered (thankfully!). I battled with an ED since the age of 16 thinking it was always something that I’d “just have to deal with”. Can confirm now at age 24 that it is not. I’d always wanted to do something to help other people who struggle with their relationship with food, but because I’d kept my own battles a secret for so long, I didn’t really know how to - luckily Eve gave me the confidence to do that. “Wellness” just happened to be the stupid FAD that was popular at the time we got started, but these things are cyclical. If it wasn’t wellness it would have been something else designed to make money off people who believe they are fat and shouldn’t be fat getting in our way.
MM: Part of your difference at NPB is offering expert opinion - not just “guru” advice. Why do you think so many people have latched unto unqualified health opinions?
Eve: UGH IT IRKS ME, SO. Fundamentally, people are searching for answers to the questions that no one actually has the answer to. In a world which is so uncertain and ever-changing, everyone is trying to gain some sense of control and the easiest thing for them to latch onto (because it’s constantly thrust in our faces) is to do with the way we are aesthetically. Hence, if there’s a promise of looking thin/pretty/desirable, people will be all ears to your nonsense. Also, everyone eats, hence why everyone wants to have an opinion on what the ‘right’ way to do so is...The message of, “eat what you feel like but don’t worry about it too much and always reach out to a qualified dietitian if you have specific worries” isn’t very sexy, or specific.
Listen to our podcast on the 101 Day Detox, where you pay thousands of dollars, not to eat. (Post continues after audio.)
MM: Looking closely at how the media currently presents “wellness” and health advice, how do you think it impacts people, or who a history, with eating disorders?
Eve: God - I could be here all day! I think it is a real, damaging problem for the entire western world. Unfortunately, we have lost all respect or want of REAL experts which is really tragic. It means that these days, no one has to prove their credentials in anything to be successful or listened to. Fine, when it comes to things like fashion, beauty but when it comes to health it’s a very different issue. You’re playing with people’s lives. Traditionally, people with EDs are very stringent, anxious and are a sucker for any sort of rulebook. Hence, throwing diet rules or structure as something that is “trendy” or “the ultimate goal” is hugely damaging for these vulnerable people especially. What angers me even more is that it’s being packaged up as being about “health” when in actual fact it’s simply diet culture metamorphosed into something other than a fitness DVD.
Laura: My advice to people who have had an ED or who currently do, would be to stay away from health media. It’s toxic. Come to our lovely website instead… Unfortunately, straight-forward, basic nutritional advice doesn’t sell papers and magazines - trends and fear-mongering articles do.
MM: More to yourselves, how have you changed since starting NPB? What have you learnt about yourselves?
Eve: I’ve learnt that the world is totally f*cked and the patriarchy has a hell of a lot to answer for! I’ve also learnt that I have - for some reason - always had an entrenched fear of being ‘fat’, which has informed a lot of my dietary choices over the years and fuelled anxieties - without me even being aware of it. I’ve gobbled up the diet bullsh*t that’s been fed to me and consequently, I spend a lot of my time stopping myself and being curious about the beliefs I grew up with. I’ve also learnt that, despite what I’ve trained myself to think, there really isn’t anything to be afraid of. And that applies to life in general, not just food.
Laura: I’m the person now that I hoped I could become when I was a sad 16-year-old, and I totally have Not Plant Based to thank for that (pats self on the back). I’ve learned that my happiness is not dependent on my skinniness. I’ve learned that there is a huge business out there literally built on making women feel bad about themselves. I’ve learned that I’d rather die having eaten that cupcake rather than go to my grave not remembering what buttercream tastes like.
I just want to shake everyone who feels bad about what they’ve just eaten and tell them that everything is going to be okay.
Scroll through NOT PLANT BASED's Instagram to see our fave photos. (Post continues after gallery.)
MM: How difficult have you found it from having a destructive relationship with food to not fearing it anymore?
Eve: It’s tough and it will always be a bit more difficult for me than it is for the next person who hasn’t gone through an ED. My descent into anorexia was very, very quick and sudden, however I now know that my disordered thoughts about food and my body had existed long before I was made aware of them. It’s been hard to smash all the things you ever thought you knew about health, food and life to smithereens and begin to re-build your self worth again. However, with every battle won (however small), the sense of absolute euphoria and true content is a feeling I never could have experienced without my eating disorder. Plus, I would have never met Laura, discovered the NOT PLANT BASED community, or indeed realised what I was supposed to do with my life… so, in a weird way, I’m kind of grateful.
Laura: It’s been close to a decade-long battle for me to abolish any anxieties in relation to food. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m still a wreck, but a wreck who doesn’t worry about what she weighs, now. My ED feels really distant to the person I am today.
MM: What feedback have you heard about NPB, since its inception? What impact have you had?
Eve: We could list hundreds and hundreds of messages that we’ve received from readers! Everyday we get another telling us how much we’ve answered people’s long-standing questions or changed the process of their recovery. Or even dispelled a myth they’ve spent years and years believing. It’s an absolute blessing to have people who actually give a sh*t about what you’re saying and writing about and more importantly, every piece you write/film/present is having a positive impact on someone’s life and as a journalist, that’s the only thing you can ever hope to achieve. We’ve literally had people say that we have changed their lives. That’s something you can’t buy.
MM: If you could leave a mark or change one thing within the industry - what would it be?
Eve: For readers to be curious about what they read and ask themselves the question “Who has written this piece of information and where is it coming from? Do they understand my body better than I do?” Most of the time, even when it comes to doctors, the answer is NO.
Laura: I would like to dispel the myth that poor people can’t be healthy, or that poor people are fat because they are lazy. Elitism in the food industry is a complex issue and it starts with very wealthy, beautiful people getting “healthy eating” book deals….
MM: And - what are your non-negotiables?
Eve: Haribo handbags and my mummy.
Laura: Carbs, Ru Paul’s Drag Race and nine hours sleep a night...
MM: For someone reading this who has an eating disorder - or knows someone who does - what’s the most important lesson they could learn from NPB?
Eve: That you are worth so, so much more than you realise and that you ALL have something so special and valuable to contribute to the world. And your life is far too precious to spend counting calories and worrying about the way you look/what you eat. Oh, and to value your mental health.
Laura: That there’s life after ED, and that to have one isn’t embarrassing. Look at us! We’ve told the whole wide internet every detail about our mental illnesses and have lived to tell the tale.
If you absolutely adored reading this, then we have so much for you: