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After recovering from eating disorders, Laura Dennison, 24, and Eve Simmons, 26, set up their blog Not Plant Based to help other sufferers learn to love food again. The blog offers straight-talking advice, support – and mouth-wateringly indulgent recipes.
Why did you set up the blog?
Laura: I had an eating disorder through my teens and I wanted an outlet to talk about it, but also to help others. I saw Eve on the BBC documentary Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets and asked her out for a coffee. We discovered that we had the same idea, so we teamed up. Eve: For me, it was setting something up that celebrated food and acted as an antidote to all the rubbish out there about nutrition. For instance, there is no need to buy sugar alternatives. Sugar is sugar, whether it’s from a date, honey or table sugar. By the time it’s in your body there’s not much difference between them. Also carbs. Carbs are good for us – we need carbs.
What do your followers tell you?
Laura: We get lovely messages every day. I posted a picture of my birthday cake on Instagram and we got a message back saying, ‘Happy birthday, thank you for beginning to change my life’.
Did you like food growing up?
Eve: We both did. I come from a big Jewish family where food is the pinnacle of every celebration.
Laura: I was always slim, so I could eat what I wanted. It was when I started to put on weight that my relationship with food changed. When I moved to college aged 16, everyone was on a diet; I thought it was normal. So I started, too.
Eve: It was a combination of triggers for me. I’d just started a job in fashion aged 22, and was in a world of models and high pressure. I was at an age where I was kind of an adult, but not quite ready for it.
How did it affect your families?
Laura: My mum’s great, but I don’t think she knew what to say. I remember telling her that I’d made myself sick, and she didn’t ask me about it for weeks. I thought that the door had been closed. Eve: It was awful and heartbreaking for my mum, too. She made sure that I got the help I needed; I had to go into hospital because I was so thin that my physical health was at risk.
How do you feel around food now?
Eve: I’m back to my natural relationship with food, so loving eating. I would never say I’m fully recovered, but in general, I’m good.
Laura: I’m completely comfortable around food, which I never thought would happen. I threw out my scales last year, but I went to the doctors recently and got weighed. I’ve put on over two stone, and I don’t care. These days I eat what I want.
What advice do you have for parents whose children might be suffering?
Eve: Get them help as quickly as you can. Statistics show the quicker you get into treatment, the more likely you are to succeed and make a full recovery. Be kind and talk to them. Often eating disorders are a way of coping with something else.
What message do you hope to give to your followers?
Eve: I want them to know you are fine the way you are. Enjoy food, don’t ruin the relationship with it. It’s not worth it.