This episode of Holland & Barrett's podcast series, The Wellness Edit, is bought to you by Tiana Fairtrade Organics, the multi-award-winning producer of premium quality coconut oil. Shop Tiana here.
What we're talking about in this episode
Evanna is best known for playing Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter films.
However, she is also a passionate vegan with her own podcast, The ChickPeeps, and the author of an inspiring memoir, The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting.
Here she opens up about her journey recovering from an eating disorder and becoming a vegan activist (and why you need to try ‘crowding out’)
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‘I found growing up really hard’
‘In some ways, I was really happy as a child. I felt small and safe and there was no one bothering me.
But I found growing up tragic: leaving behind the safety of being a little girl and having to turn into a woman. I found a way to try to stop what was happening to me and my body, and that was an eating disorder, which I developed at a young age.’
‘My book is a commentary on how we treat mental illness’
‘We’ve been conditioned by the media to only recognise eating disorders by the physical symptoms. That sets people back from recovery and seeking help.
I wanted to show my disorder was there before people started to see it, and for years after, when I wasn’t getting treatment but still dealing with the root issues.
‘By 16, I was already dealing with fame, and noticed people projecting this idea, “Oh, you’ve got a perfect life.” I started to get frustrated, thinking you have no idea how I struggle.
I knew that for healing I needed to start to talk about [my eating disorder], but immediately, the media turned it into a fairy tale: “You had this horrible problem, then you got a part in Harry Potter and your problems melted away.”
That wasn’t how it felt. I wrote the book to be a voice for my younger self, who didn’t have the words to express what was going on inside her, and to be a source of comfort to anyone else going through it.’
‘You need to be brave to be positive’
‘It keeps you in a little dark place where nobody can get to you. Self-loathing is a protective mechanism because you’re never going to be as hurt from the outside as from the inside.
My therapist said the coping mechanisms we find, such as an eating disorder, can feel like the rock amidst a huge storm. You climb on, get relief, a bit of shelter and feel OK. But if you stay, it becomes the rock on which you perish.
You need the guts to go back into that storm to weather life, and let go of what felt like a safe place because it will actually destroy you.’
‘The “crowding out” method was key to my veganism journey’
‘I’d given up on veganism many times before. Then a friend [Erik Marcus of the vegan.com blog] said, “Before you cut anything out of your diet, introduce new vegan alternatives.”
So, keep drinking your dairy milk but also add rice milk or oat milk and find the ones you like. Your tastebuds will adjust, and eventually, the animal-based products will fall out of your diet one by one.'
‘Then this deeper healing happened. I felt veganism was a connection to nature, and taking care of the planet. For the first time in my life, I was nourishing my body with what I ate, was excited about it and didn’t feel shame.
I think as somebody who can be a perfectionist and obsessive, that was helpful. I never said, “I’m going to stop this destructive relationship with food.”
I didn’t have to because I found something else that took my focus off it.'
‘Veganism can be really healing and liberating. But it has to be done in a way that doesn’t feel restrictive, where eating still feels joyful and abundant.’
‘I’m vegan because I want to be, not because I have to’
‘When you first become vegan, you’re learning to cook in a new way. It’s almost like a new language. It’s overwhelming at first, but day by day it sinks in.
My advice would be, add new foods and learn what you like and dislike: I still can’t stand coconut milk!
Do practical things like committing to trying two new recipes a week. I have 10 meals that I rotate, and for me that’s enough, but some people need to experiment. And educate yourself, and root your reason for being vegan.
Why are you doing this? For me, it was animal rights. People often say to you when you’re vegan: “You can’t eat this, can you?” And I say: “No, it’s not that I <can’t>. It’s that I don’t <want> to.”’
‘Circus helped me find friendship with my body’
‘I’ve always loved circus: it’s dance but also storytelling. Then, two years ago, I did Dancing with the Stars in America, after I hadn’t danced for 10 years.
That gave me this sense of, what else am I missing? So I found a hoop class in London. The first class was awful, so painful. I thought, “This is just for superhumans.” But I knew that if I kept at it with positive thoughts, I’d get through it.
Now, I’ve never had anything that helps me feel so at one with my body. Having been my body’s hater for so many years, it’s hard to reconcile myself as her lover.
That is quite a leap. But when I care for my body, give it enough sleep, food and compassion, it can accomplish amazing things.’
‘Beauty lifts your spirits’
‘It annoys and upsets me that make-up is denigrated as frivolous or silly. I think that’s all about the patriarchal dismissal of the feminine.
Whenever I am feeling low, it’s important to go through the ritual of putting on my make-up. It’s an act of self-love; I’m literally touching my face, putting love through my fingertips into my body.
Something happens that just makes me feel, “Wow, I love being alive.” Some people think using make-up is obscuring or hiding, but it can be used to just appreciate your beauty.
It should be used for playfulness, for self-expression, and when I do that, it gives me joy.’
Evanna’s book, The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting: The Tragedy and Glory of Growing Up, A Memoir (Headline, £20), is out now. Find out more about Evanna on Instagram instagram.com/evannalynch
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