Maria Koutsogiannis is the founder, recipe creator, photographer and writer of the popular website FoodByMaria. Maria will be publishing her debut cookbook this month, Mindful Vegan Meals, in which she discusses her battle with bulimia, and her journey to wellness through healthy plant-based eating. Here Maria shares her story and her realization that there are many paths to a healthy life. For Maria, following her instinct and taking the less traditional path led to her new way of eating, which she tries to share with everyone she meets.
At age 21 I was a professional mistake maker, an over drinker and someone who felt very sorry for herself. I thought life would just happen if I blinked my eyes and went through the motions. It was around this time that I suffered with bulimia for six years. And while it’s a struggle that’s mostly behind me, those six years continue to shape my future and helped me become the person I am today.
My path of self-destruction started when I moved to Calgary. I was 18, rather innocent and new to the big city, and the trends, diets and judgments. During my time in university, I became depressed. I missed my family, my friends and my old routines from home. To this day, I don’t know why my eating disorder started, but I remember the first time it did. I was wearing a burgundy top, blue jeans and a little sweater. I must have eaten a bit too much and I was upset about the way I felt. I must have stared at myself in the mirror for a good five minutes before I decided to get down onto my knees and make myself throw up. I experienced my first act of self-hate, pity and feeling of worthlessness. I wanted to be and look like someone different, and I couldn’t accept myself.
This became a bad pattern that affected all areas of my life for years. I was my own worst critic, constantly punishing myself for the things I could not control and for things that shouldn’t have mattered. Most importantly I punished myself because of things I should have been able to control and for way too long. For one too many years.
Eventually, I realized that part of what led to my eating disorder and my unhappiness was pursuing a path that wasn’t right for me. I hadn’t focused on who I really was and what was right for me. Instead, I jumped into a University degree that I really wanted nothing to do with. Accounting was not my thing but I tried to make it my thing. Eventually, when I graduated and tried the whole 9-5 job thing, I was able to quickly come to terms with my mistaken career path, and I quit my accounting job.
As soon as I quit, a part of me came back to life! After some time, I was able to gain the strength to deal with my eating disorder. I ended up completely changing my outlook on life and my way of eating. I believe now that my eating disorder was my way of expressing unhappiness with my life; I was in a place where I didn’t want to be, pursuing a career that I wasn’t passionate about. I wanted a different path toward happiness. It seemed that the path I believed I was meant to take was making me sick.
Trying to inspire others with my outlook on food and eating
Through changing the way I eat, I am in a happier place in my mind and body. For me, the plant based lifestyle helped me become the healthiest and strongest person I am today. My new lifestyle and way of eating inspired me to help people like myself, and that is when FoodByMaria was born. FoodByMaria started as an Instagram account (@foodbymaria) where I took photos of and documented the recipes I was using to help myself stay healthy, positive and on track. I never expected a new career to come from it but as the days went on, a raging passion continued to spark and to grow in my soul. Before I knew it, I was spending every waking moment of my life on FoodByMaria.
I am now living a dream, and my eating disorder and struggle with bulimia actually helped me get to where I am now. ! I have created products, been considered for my own television show, spoken at events, held workshops and I even won the title of Canada’s Mindful Millennial. Next month my debut cookbook, Mindful Vegan Meals, will be released and I am so excited to share my incredible stories—the journey and many amazing and healthy recipes.
I am now on a mission to help people overcome their fear of food, and to get a healthy relationship with their bodies and the food they eat. I hope I can inspire you to pursue the path that feels right for you, and to listen to your heart. Remember, you were put on this earth for a reason, and while you may not know that reason right now, listening to your heart will help you figure it out. LOVE YOURSELF. Do what makes you happy and do it well. Everything in this life works itself out, you just have to trust the process.
Learn more about Maria and her work at www.foodbymaria.com.
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