137. The Girl Who Was Told By Everyone She Wouldn’t Recover ft. Livia Sara; @livlabelfree

Written By:


Ryann Nicole

Connect with Livia

📲 Instagram: @livlabelfree

🖥 Website: livlabelfree.com

📚 Book: The Rainbow Girl

🎙 Podcast: The Liv Label Free Podcast

Episode Transcript


Hello, everybody. Welcome back to the Food Freedom Lab. I am so excited for today’s guest. I have Livia here, and she is going to be taking us through her full story of struggling with disordered eating and overcoming it. So, Livia, thank you so much for taking the time to be here with us and to share your story.


Yeah, I am so excited to be here. Thank you for having me on, Ryann. 


You’re welcome. So let’s just, I mean, get right into it. Dive into the beginning. When do you first remember either being hyper fixated on food or your body? 


Yeah, so I hear a lot of stories about the start of like disordered eating coming from you know parenting or like a mom or a dad that was very focused on what they were eating and like the kid picking up on it and that kind of being something that started very early on like within the household. But for me, it’s kind of a really opposite story in the sense that I feel like our house was the most non-diety place like when I compared it to my friends for example 

Like we always had everything in the house cookies, Froot Loops, you know, I was that kid That was like every day after school I was the only one who was allowed to go to the ice cream truck and buy an ice cream and I would definitely say that I think in part the reason why my parents were so lenient about it was because I would say I was the definition of a quote-unquote picky eater which later turned out to be a trait of autism which I’ll get into later. 

But I would only eat like Froot Loops cereal for breakfast or Cinnamon Toast Crunch which became my few foods later on in recovery. And like white bread, like peanut butter, like all the processed what people would say is quote-unquote unhealthy now, that was my life, that was my diet. And I even remember when my eating disorder did start and I got really into everything needs to be quote-unquote healthy, I can’t eat sugar, this kind of stuff.

 I remember at my birthday saying, I can’t eat the birthday cake because it’s unhealthy. And my parents saying to me, it’s not unhealthy, like everything in moderation kind of thing. Like it’s healthy for you to have cake on your birthday because that’s part of the celebration. So for me, I’d say where the kind of interest in just changing the way I ate really started was when I was around 11 years old in fifth grade and when we started learning about puberty and health and nutrition in school. 

And I don’t, I think it’s now a plate, but back then, you know, we had the food pyramid and it was like the grains and the dairy and the fruits and the veggies and then the very small section for fats and sugar and I just really remember you know learning like sugar is bad that is bad like these things cause quote-unquote obesity these things cause quote heart disease you need to exercise for at least 60 minutes a day and due to being autistic and always having taken things very literally I was like if I do not exactly follow these quote-unquote recommendations, I’m going to become unhealthy. 

So I embarked on what I believe to be this journey to perfect health and there you have the perfectionism coming in as well, the attachment to, you know, external achievements. I was a very, I want to say high-performing student, I was the teacher’s pet, always wanted everyone to like me, huge people pleasure. So I basically developed a special interest for clean eating, for healthy eating, and this quickly just spiraled into an eating disorder because I was already a very small child growing up in the sense that I was always like lowest on the growth curve and this kind of stuff and that’s also why my parents were very lenient in what they allowed me to eat because if I didn’t get to eat my macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets for dinner, like I’d be like, well then I’m not eating. So my parents were like oh she’s got to eat so here’s your mac and cheese kind of thing.

 But yeah after I lost just a few pounds I was diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 11 and I just remember being so like I do not have anorexia because I did not resonate with the stereotype of having body dysmorphia or believing I was fat or wanting to lose weight. My eating disorder was never about changing my body in any kind of way. It was purely a means of controlling the food, controlling something that I could as a young girl in a world that is utterly uncontrollable. Yeah, so I, you know, struggled with disordered eating and really was friction and over-exercised for many, many years. I was tossed in and out of clinics, eventually to be told, like, that I was too complex, I was never gonna get better due to the underlying autism that no one was seeing. 

And yeah, so a lot of the behavior stemmed from my autistic traits, but because no one saw that, and you know, the pure focus was on how do we get this kid to eat? We don’t care how she feels, we don’t care about like what’s going on in her mind, we’re only gonna focus on the food part. 

Well, as you always talk about, Ryann, like the eating, the food, it’s a symptom of something underlying of something deeper and if you’re not willing to go deeper if you’re not willing to look like why is this person eating or not eating or what’s going on here like you’re never going to solve the problem it’s like you can never fix a leaking sink if you are not willing to admit that there’s a hole in the pipe right yeah so long story short there was a point in where i had been struggling for I think six years at this point, and I was having panic attacks every single day. I was having mental hunger all the time, just constantly thinking about food, constantly planning everything I was going to eat, how it was going to fit my macros and my calories, making sure I don’t go over, you know, avoiding any kind of events where there was food or basically just not having a life. 

And I remember one night just having a panic attack. My sisters were trembling in fear in the corner, they were terrified of me, and I said like, I can’t do this anymore. And I would want to say that that was my lightbulb moment, and from that moment on everything was beautiful and perfect, and I recovered, and life was amazing, but I think that was only the start of a much more difficult journey to discovering who I really was. Because when I started eating more and gaining weight and saying, you know, I want to live life, that’s kind of when my mental hunger turned into physical hunger and what they call, I guess, extreme hunger. I was hit by the extreme hunger bomb. 

And I believed after, you know, controlling my food for so many years, now that I was, you know, swinging to the other side and I would never be able to stop eating, I feel that I would never be satisfied, I feel that I couldn’t be trusted around food. So I feel like that’s almost when my eating disorder took like a different turn and the mental struggles became so much more complex than you know, oh I’m just not gonna eat. Like that had felt so easy before, but now I just felt incapable of the restriction. 

So I think that’s also when my exercise addiction got a lot worse too, because I was like, well, if I can’t control the food, I’ll control the exercise. But that led to just me constantly being tired and in pain. When I was really struggling going back and forth, restricting, binging, having extreme hunger, trying to distract myself from the mental hunger, just really figuring the whole messy situation out. I started just documenting my story on Instagram and on my blog and I started sharing everything and I started reading you know all the self-help books and about how like pain is inevitable but suffering is like resisting the pain and all this stuff and after you know going back and forth extreme hunger like binging then like feeling sick and nauseous and I don’t want this just realizing like I’m controlling something that cannot be controlled that was kind of a realization at some point and I was like I need to accept this otherwise nothing is going to change, because clearly, after 8, 9 years of trying to control my food, all it’s led to is everything outside of me controlling me. 

And I would say that that realization of like, I cannot control what cannot be controlled kind of thing, was a huge, again, like, turning point for me in my story. And yeah, to kind of fast forward, because I wrote an entire book that goes on for 85,000 words. So to kind of fast forward, when I was doing a lot better in my recovery, really didn’t have extreme hunger anymore, I was still thinking about food a lot, but it was no longer very obsessive, I no longer had very strict rules for myself. And I would say that I believed that that was as good as life was going to get for me. I believed like, I’m recovered, and I’m always gonna have this food thing in the back of my mind, but I guess that’s just my fate, right? 

Because that’s what you’re often told when you’ve been struggling for a really long time, is you were so young when this started and it was so complex and it was so deep rooted that you’re just gonna have to, you know, accept that you can be healthy but you’re always gonna have to deal with food thoughts like as a background thing. It’s always gonna be something you’re gonna have to manage. So me being like, okay, well, if that’s what the professionals say, I guess there must be some truth to that. I don’t even know when this happened, but at one point I was like, I want to help other people struggling with this whole eating disorder thing. So I started coaching people and looking back now, I’m like, I do not even know how I had the guts to say, I’m going to coach you because I had no certifications, I had no, you know, training or experience, which is super, super frowned upon. 

But I was like, well, the people, you know, that have all this experience, of course, not everyone, because I know you are trained and you are wonderful, but everyone who I had worked with, like, at this point, probably over 20 professionals had all told me things that were so discouraging. And I was like, I am just going to help people for my own lived experience. And I remember my very first client had, I asked her like, why do you reach out to me? Like, why do you trust me as a coach basically? And she had said, I read your story on your website, and I really resonated with this idea of being labeled as too complex and being told like, you’re just going to have to manage this illness forever. And she started telling me about how she was autistic. 

And just as she was explaining her traits to me and herself and her life and the manifestation of being autistic into an eating disorder, I was like, okay, you just basically explained my whole life. So I started looking into autism and I read this one book called Ask a Girl, which is about autism in females, but I really like that because it, you know, discounts the LGBTQ community and males and all that kind of stuff, which eventually led to Live Label Free. But I just remember reading that book and I have never read a book that fast in my entire life. And I think for me, I would say if like my recovery all these years is like baking a cake, discovering I’m autistic was like the cherry on top of the cake in the sense that it allowed me to go from in recovery and you know, dealing with these food thoughts to finally say I’m actually recovered and all these kind of traits I have around food that I thought were the eating disorder that I was trying so hard to fight but therefore only giving them more power over me, I was able to accept those and embrace those as just parts of me. 

And I’d say ever since that kind of moment, that’s when I really started to heal my relationship with food. And I always joke that every year I say, well, I’ve never had such a healthy relationship with food before. And then another year goes by and I’m like, I’ve never had such a healthy relationship with food before. And kind of to wrap up this whole intro to me is to say that I’m a lifelong learner. I am constantly learning about myself and my hunger cues and you had done one post on Instagram one time that I just loved because it was so raw and just so true and you said I’m not immune to using food as a coping mechanism because it’s something so easy, you know, like when it’s such an easy way to numb, like whatever way you put it.

 So yeah, I do want to say like I definitely am fully recovered from an eating disorder and I definitely have my version of food freedom, but I’m learning more about myself every day and I think when we can accept and embrace that we’re constantly changing and there’s no such thing as sailing or doing bad or getting on the wagon, falling off the wagon, and we’re just coasting and learning on our own unique path of life. I think that’s what it means to, you know, live a life of meaning is constantly growing. So yeah, that’s kind of a very long-winded story. 


I just so appreciate your vulnerability, but what I love so much about your story is there are a lot of elements that I feel like aren’t talked about enough, like the fact that you came from a home that had a really healthy relationship with food and it didn’t start with body stuff. It started with control. And I want to dive into that in a second. But first, I just want to clarify. So is it that you didn’t know about your autism until that first client? Like, is that when you discovered that?




Wow. Okay, so for anybody who isn’t familiar with autism, can you just give us like a brief overview of what autism is and like how that manifests in you? 


Yeah, so autism is considered a neurodevelopmental disability. So, I mean just like with disordered eating just the lack of research is pretty extreme but basically people who are autistic struggle with being in social situations often. We can be sensitive in very different ways so we can be very hypersensitive to stimuli or very hyposensitive. I have a hard time generalizing just because it is a spectrum for a reason but I guess I’ll kind of show how for me it manifested into food and exercise.

 Like for me, a few of my autistic traits are like being very teen-oriented eating structure. Mix that with food and exercise, you’ve got a recipe for an eating disorder. I mentioned this earlier, but taking things very literally, we are placed in, you know, a society of diet culture. What you should and shouldn’t eat, what’s good and bad, what’s healthy and unhealthy. Yeah, mix that with food and eating, recipe for an eating disorder. I do have a few podcast episodes of my own that I believe are titled Eating Disorder Behaviors That Are Actually Autistic Traits in which I dive even deeper into those and in my memoir Rainbow Girl which is basically all about how my autism manifested as an eating disorder and how I recovered. 

But yeah, so I kind of mentioned like the structure and the routine, needing things to make sense, also very focused on tangible, like, achievements. So a lot of autistic people are very focused on, you know, being good in school and having people like them, like, the people-pleasing tendencies, being perfectionistic. And I think that this almost compensation, wanting to prove ourselves to others, is almost a form of proving that we’re worthy in a world that wasn’t necessarily built for us. Because although the world needs our gifts, I mean, if you think of Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Isaac Newton, like basically all these founders of many of the scientific breakthroughs we have today. Darwin, like founder of evolution. 

These were all autistic people, but the shame about society is that it defines us by what we lack, our weaknesses. So I hope that kind of gives a brief overview of autism. Obviously, we don’t have enough time to dive into everything about autism, but yeah, I hope that gives kind of your listeners an idea who are not yet familiar.


Yeah, that was really helpful. Thank you. I want to go back to the control piece, because I think that you just put that so beautifully. And I think that especially, and I’m sure you’ve seen this just in the work that you do, but with your clients, but also just living in the world that we live in today, right, where there is major denial around the fact that this is actually control. And I know you kind of mentioned this started as a health thing. 

And I think that it so innocently does for a lot of people. And then there’s this major denial where it’s like, wait a minute, it’s not control. Like this isn’t disorder. Like this isn’t a problem. Like I’m just trying to be healthy. Like I’m just trying to do what’s best for me. Like I’m just trying to make sure that I’m doing XYZ. So for you, like, when did you start to see, wait a minute, maybe this is really about something else? And just talk to me more about this control piece. 


The first thought that pops into my mind is this one moment when I was just sitting in my room and I had been on my phone at this point for I think two and a half hours in the MyFitnessPal app. I’m sure you’re familiar with the app and you listeners are too, but there’s this option in the MyFitnessPal app to, you know, save as meal. And I just remember, I always did the same thing for breakfast because it was safe. Like I knew that if I ate this thing, I would feel this full, that predictability aspect, which is another autistic trait. 

I would feel this full, like it would have this much volume, like I’d have this much energy after. I knew exactly what was gonna happen. But I remember also like at that time, because I mean, I was so, you know, malnourished and not just a sense of like not eating enough, but also just so restrictive in the way I thought, because I feel like malnourishment just in thinking is like a whole nother thing that I was like, I wanna, you know, eat other things. I also wanna eat pancakes because I ate oatmeal every day for breakfast. I also wanna eat pancakes and I also wanna be able to eat toast. But in order for it to fit into my routine, like all of the macronutrients for each breakfast had to be the exact same. 

So like the carbs had to add up, the protein had to add up, the fats had to add up, it all had to be the same. So I would go in my fitness pal and I would document like how many grams of oatmeal would equal like two slices of toast and I would do, looking back, the most ridiculous things. I would weigh my bread and like cut off tiny pieces of it so it would be exactly that many grams so it would match my oatmeal breakfast and I just spent like hours and hours you know logging I think four different meal options and it was at that moment where my head was just I felt like I was going to go insane and I was like this is absolutely ridiculous I have spent like my entire afternoon trying to plan out four different breakfast options. Like, what am I even doing here?

 And I think that moment was for me really like, I’m not in control here, like, these numbers are controlling the life out of me. So yeah, I mean, I’m sure there’s so many more stories. Also, like, with regard to exercise and just forcing myself to go running, even though my knees hurt, I was so tired. All I just wanted to do was like sit on the couch. And I was like, no, you have to go running. I was like, if this isn’t even my choice anymore, clearly I’m not in control. So I definitely say those are like two moments for me. That was those really, I guess, wake up moments.


And I think the thing that is so tough about this whole just disorder and the mental aspect of it is you have those moments, right? Where it’s like, what am I doing? I can’t keep doing this, but I mean, you can’t just stop, right? It’s like, I can’t keep doing this, but like there’s a part of me that like doesn’t know what to do. And so when you started going into treatment and then were regularly told like, you’re too complex, like we can’t help you. I mean, how did that not just like knock you down? Like, how do you even keep going after that?


Well, it almost did. Like many times. I remember my last treatment facility that I went to, that was like the first time that I was like, I actually want to get better. I remember them saying like, you know, you can’t even be here. Like you need to be in the hospital right now. And I just remember saying like, no, I promise I’m gonna eat. Please, please, please. 

I think there was always something in me that, I know this sounds crazy, but like even though I knew what I was doing was killing me, like not even physically but just also mentally, was this idea of like I know this is going to end one day. Like not in the sense that I’m gonna die but like I know that I’m gonna get over this eating problem one day. And like that was in me for years, like I engaged with my eating disorder for years but that was almost what allowed me to continue engaging with it was this thing of like, no but one day I am gonna get better.

 Yeah so I mean that question about like how did it not knock you down, I honestly don’t know, but at the same time like I do believe that the people who develop eating disorders are, I’m sure you’ve noticed this and with my clients and everyone I’ve spoken to are some of the most strong-willed people I know. So it’s interesting that we’re called to complex in all these things because when we are provided with compassion and love and trust, I think that’s the most important key to any kind of relationship with trust. Like, you know, you can get better, you will get better. I think that’s super, super important. And for me, at some point when I was like, I just can’t keep doing this anymore. And yeah, like, life can get a whole lot worse.

 And maybe I will become, you know, super unhealthy or whatever that meant in my head, like, almost this idea of like, I could always go back to my eating disorder, that almost was like a back door for me, like, okay, I can try this whole recovery thing, and if it’s so much worse, I can always go back to my eating disorder, but if I stay in my eating disorder, which is guaranteed to make me continue to feel miserable, and in 10 years, I’m still in this miserable place, well, then I can never buy back those 10 years. So I think that for me, like the possibility of life being better with the back door that I could always go back, I think that’s what really drove me to actually fully commit. 

And of course, when you are fully recovered, like, I’m never gonna go back. But I definitely say like having that back door open, especially for an autistic person who always needs some kind of safety net, I think that was critical for me.


It’s funny you say that because I did the exact same thing. When I finally got there and I was finally ready, I was like, I have committed to these three months. I am going to like fully give myself to these three months. And then if I want to go back after, I can go back after. But I can’t get mad at myself for doing the same thing if I don’t actually give this a shot. And that’s what I tell a lot of my clients too that are like very skeptical. I’m like, you’ve invested in yourself, like you’ve committed to this program. 

If you want to go back after, like you are more than welcome, but like you owe it to yourself to at least be like, let me just try and then I can decide later. And I always say, and you know, I’m sure you’ve heard the same thing. It’s like, I have never met one person that has gone through full recovery that has said, Nope, this is a worse way to live. I want to go back. And that’s something that I wish that somebody told me in the beginning, because, you know, it is really scary. And there are so many different elements, which leads me into the extreme hunger piece that you talked about, because that is a mental battle in and of itself. 

So how did that manifest for you? And then mentally, how did you deal with that? Not even deal with the amount that you were consuming, but the fear of weight gain that came along with that.


I love that. You know, you said that you did the exact same thing with the committing for three months. I feel like it’s such an underrated technique that I never-


No, it is. It really is. 


Cause I remember later, like talking to like my old treatment professionals and telling them like, yeah, I tell my clients they can all go back and they’re like, why would you do that? That’s so dangerous! I’m like, well, it works much better than anything you ever told me.

 But yes, the extreme hunger, I definitely would say that was one of the most difficult parts of the recovery process for me because, like you just touched on, it isn’t just having extreme hunger, it’s the mental guilt and shame, the unpredictability, not knowing when the quote-unquote binge is gonna end, what exactly it’s going to include, yeah, and then what it’s gonna do to your body. 

And I think especially from the autistic perspective of being very sensitive to the way clothes fit and having, you know, fat on my body, that played a huge role in not wanting to gain weight, even though my eating disorder wasn’t about looking a certain way, it was just the way my body felt. Like, also the feeling of fullness was super scary for me, which of course when you have extreme hunger and you literally cannot stop until the only thing you are left to do is to lie in the fetal position in pain, I was like, I have messed everything up. 

So yeah, for me extreme hunger, I think the first time I would say I ever binged, and this is like super duper descriptively described in my book Rainbow Girl, is that morning I had overslept because I was exhausted, I was, you know, the perfectionist straight-A student and I would do whatever it took to get good grades, even if that meant sleeping like two hours a night. So I just remember going to school that morning and I didn’t have breakfast because I was like, there’s no time for breakfast. 

And so during school, like I had eaten just snacks here and there, but I thought it was normal because I didn’t see any of my classmates eating a lot either. Like, and this is also kind of where the diet culture piece comes in is like, I just remember some of them saying like, I only ate a banana today. And that means, whoa, how do you do that? And I’m like, now thinking back, I’m like, that is so disordered and unhelpful. But anyways, I was just thinking about food that entire day and I was like, I need to eat, I need to eat. 

So I just remember when school was finally over, I went home as fast as I could and just was like mentally planning in my head, I’m just gonna pick up on my usual routine, I’m gonna eat my afternoon snack, plus a little extra for what I had missed at breakfast and everything would be all balanced out again. It was like in my mind and I just remember coming home and eating my usual snack, it was like mug cake and yogurt with fruit or something. And I was like, you know, I’m actually still really hungry so I had like a piece of toast with peanut butter, but there was just this sense of urgency in me like I could not wait for the toast to like come out of the toaster. 

So I was like, you know, I’m just gonna eat like this bread right out of the bag and like grab a spoon with peanut butter and I was like okay this is like crossing the line now we’re gonna wait for the toast but it was like as if the toast was taking centuries cuz I was like I need to eat right now so I got another spoon and had some peanut butter and another piece of bread and I was like oh my god like I can’t eat this toast now like I’ve already had two slices of bread then finally the toast pops up I smeared a super thin measly layer of peanut butter on it because I’m like I already went over my peanut butter allotment today like this is my punishment right for being impatient but then as I was eating this toast with this like ridiculous amount of peanut butter on it I was like okay well now I’m even more unsatisfied so just before I knew it I had eaten like the entire loaf of bread just like with my hand like so fast the entire jar of peanut butter and then it was as if this black and white thinking kicked in of like, well now I’ve already screwed everything up and I basically just like ravaged the entire kitchen, just in this state of like dissociation almost, like turning off my brain.

 And I think that was somewhere an adaptation to my body’s need for the food, because I feel like if I had allowed my brain to think in a way, I would have never been able to succeed in completing my body’s mission to have extreme hunger or whatever. And then I just remember just eating everything. The Nutella, the peanut butter, the cookies, everything I could find. Even things that I didn’t even enjoy or like. 

I was just like, everything that can fit into my body, I’m just gonna eat it. So anyways, that was the first time that I’d say I binged, and I remember after that laying on my bed and being like, excuse my language, but like, what the fuck just happened? And I was just like, I don’t know who I am anymore. I did not recognize myself. And that opened the doors to like a whole new kind of pattern of restriction, binging, restriction, binging. Cause the next morning I was like, okay, well today I’m just not gonna eat anything because like yesterday I ate like double my calories. So today I’m not gonna eat anything. But then come afternoon, the exact same thing happened over and over again. And this went on for months. 

Restricting during the day, eating very little, eating very clean, healthy, maybe an apple, some carrots, and then the afternoon just like eating everything. And this all happened in secret too, like I could not let anyone see that I was doing this, like I would go to the store and buy all these binge foods and like hide them in my room because I was like, I don’t want them to think that I have like lost my discipline and lost my willpower. 

And yeah, as I kind of touched on all the way back in the beginning, there was a point where I realized like, again, like I’m not in control here, like, restricting during the day, again, like that whole quote of like, nothing changes if nothing changes, like, if I keep living this way, like, the binging is gonna happen, like, I was overtaken by like a bodily urge that I couldn’t stop. Oh, and I completely forgot to say this too, but then there was a point in this whole story where I decided to become vegan because I somehow thought that if that restriction of like socially- I was like, same thing. A socially acceptable way of restriction would like make the restriction easier. Now looking back, I’m like, okay, I don’t even know what was going on there, but that’s a side tangent. 

But yeah, I think what helped me to stop the binging was, and this is why the veganism came up, was like, I need to stop being vegan and I need to allow all foods because all the restriction I’ve been doing has just led to binging over and over and over again, and I don’t want to live this way. 

So one morning I was like, today I’m on this mission, and I went to the store and bought like every dairy product that I could find and like all the things that I wouldn’t have allowed myself to eat. And I like bought all my binge foods like intentionally like in the morning and just like allowed myself to eat them unconditionally at any time of day I wanted. And I just remember after a few months like food became boring to me at some point. I was like I really don’t want to eat an entire pack of Oreos right now. 

Like there was no more sense of like urgency, I need this, like the last supper mentality just wasn’t there anymore. Because I said, I can have supper in the morning, I can have supper at lunch, I can have supper at dinner. There is no such thing as last supper. And I think when the brain learns that, because as I’m sure you know, you talk about with your clients, like binging and eating disorders, it’s not higher brain thinking, it’s like a very primal activity. That’s why you feel so out of control. So I think, you know, when it comes to incorporating the tools and saying, I’m going to try this, you need to almost plan that when you are able to think logically in a way. 

Yeah, so I basically like planned that I was going to allow myself to eat unconditionally. And what came with this was, of course, like, yeah, I’m probably going to gain weight. And that’s going to feel super uncomfortable. But again, like I was saying before, I can always go back. Like I can always go on a diet or do some weird stuff and come up with new creative weird ideas because I’m sure there’s always more. But like right now thinking about food all the time basically like waking up only to almost look forward to this binge like later on in the day. This is literally the definition of having life pass you by. 

When it came to the weight gain, I did gain a lot of weight very quickly and I reached like the highest weight I’d ever been in my life which triggered this whole identity crisis in me because growing up I was always a small little girl who could eat anything and she wouldn’t gain weight kind of thing but now I was eating thousands upon thousands upon thousands of calories every single day and like also not exercising at all because I was like I need to cut the compensation too, I can’t be in this cycle anymore. 

Yeah so when I reached like the highest weight I had ever been that was really really really difficult for me. I felt like I wasn’t myself anymore. That’s kind of also when I started reading online like stories about like overshoot and although I really don’t like that term because it implies you’re going over something and you need to come back down similar to the whole pregnancy thing, oh what you’re gonna lose your pregnancy weight? It’s like you don’t need to if this is like your new body set point kind of thing. 

But eventually, like, to me, it meant more that I had brain space, that I could finally think about life and what I wanted to do without it being occupied by like, okay, when am I gonna have the next binge? Like, when is this gonna happen? When is that gonna happen? That was much more valuable to me than the way my body felt. And at the same time, it was kind of a thing like I came way too far, I have done way too much work to right now be like oh I’ve gained all this weight now I’m gonna go on a diet again like I was like we’re not doing that and yeah slowly I mean some of the weight did come off naturally without me needing to change anything and eventually you know my body settled at a place where it was like I’m happy here like I can eat food in the way that I want without gaining or losing a lot of weight. 

Obviously like my weight is always fluctuating and like I said before about like the not being immune to like certain behaviors like when I’m really stressed I lose my appetite and I kind of have to turn on like my I need to eat now even though I don’t feel physically hungry I still need to eat but again I think that’s for that awareness around yourself and what your body does in times of you know threat or safety or whatever that helps you to navigate difficult times. Because we all have difficult times in life and I think the more self-awareness you have, the better you’re able to take action and live in alignment with your values and the life that you want to lead.


100%. So, Livia, when did you go from, or I should say, how did you go from the thought of this is just as good as life is going to get to wait a minute, there has to be something greater? And then what’d you do? Like, how did you get to where you are? 


Oh my gosh, that’s a very loaded question. Yeah, I think that whole idea of like, this is how good life is gonna get, I just didn’t, although I believed that, there was something in me that was like, I don’t believe that. And like, I think it was an unconscious part of me. I was like, there’s no way I’m gonna live the next 80 years like with these food thoughts, like there’s no point in living if I’m gonna have to do it that way. 

Yeah, it all like kind of meshes together but that’s kind of also with the extreme hunger when I gave myself unconditional permission to eat kind of thing and unconditional permission to rest was again that theme that keeps coming back was like I can always go back if this sucks, if it really is true, if I fully commit to this and give myself unconditional permission and I still have the same food thoughts, like, well, then I can always go back to, you know, restricting and whatever. But as I was, you know, slowly making peace with different steps of the journey, like first it was the not exercising, then it was like the unrestricted eating, then it was the weight gain, then it was like, I can’t always be buying clothes in the children’s department anymore. 

Like, it wasn’t all at once, like oh now, like again, like that whole idea that people think of like, what flipped the switch for you? It’s like there is no switch, like it’s a journey, it’s a path with obstacles, and every obstacle you become a little stronger. That’s that quote I love about life doesn’t happen to you, life happens for you kind of thing, because I truly believe that every obstacle I faced in life, including every professional that basically wrote me off. That was a part of my journey that made me who I am today and that made me stronger. So yeah, I forget your original question. Could you repeat that?


That was perfect. No, after you got there, then what did you do? Like, obviously I know that there’s so many other elements of everything that you did to get to where you are, but if anyone is listening and is like, I am just like so overwhelmed, like I don’t even know where to start. Like there’s so much conflicting information out there and I just am experiencing like option overwhelm. Like what were the things that you did to get you to this place of freedom? Like if you were to give like a little cliff notes version.


Yes, okay, I love that. Yeah, because what you just described, like the whole analysis paralysis, very recognizable, especially among the autistic population. I would say is, because I think there’s a lot of focus on recovery, and I think taking that is actually almost, I don’t want to say the wrong approach, but not the approach that’s going to get you to where you want to go. And I think that’s almost what gets people stuck in this state of like quasi-recovery, is saying like, I’m going to do eating disorder recovery. 

But the thing about recovery is that the purpose of recovery is not recovery. Recovery is simply a means to an end or should I say rather start of your life. So I think if I were to give like Cliff Notes advice would be to say like to almost write down for yourself like what does your ideal life look like without an eating disorder, without you know all these habits that you wish you didn’t have, what does that life look like for you? 

And sometimes it can be really hard to do that, like, in the moment, like, oh, tomorrow if you woke up, like, what would you be doing? It’s like, it’s almost too close. Imagine yourself in 10 years living the life of your dreams, being completely free, having no thoughts about food, what would you be doing, how would you be living? And then, when you get really clear on that, like, I think that that almost gives you motivation in and of itself, because the thing about writing things down and making things tangible is that we cannot imagine something to be true if deep down in our hearts we didn’t already believe that that was possible for us. 

So I think almost by doing that, you’re almost manifesting in a way like, I can be that person in 10 years. And then kind of working backwards, like, what action steps do I need to take to be that person? So for example, because I, I don’t know why this is coming up, but you eating your scone for breakfast the other day, if you wanted to wake up one morning and be like, I want to be the kind of person who, you know, can wake up feeling calm and does not need to immediately go on a run or doesn’t need to always eat my boring instant oatmeal breakfast with egg whites kind of thing, I want to be the kind of person that can wake up and eat a scone for breakfast with scrambled eggs and coffee and just have a really slow morning. 

I want to be that kind of person. Well then the action step would be like, I’m going to, you know, wake up tomorrow and I’m going to take 10 minutes for myself and I’m just going to read a book to get into this calm state or something. And I’m going to buy the scones so that they’re there tomorrow morning. So I don’t get, you know, into analysis paralysis like, oh well now it’s the morning and I can’t go out and buy the scone. 

Obviously I’m really simplifying this here, and that’s the reason there are such things as coaches and therapists, because, like, doing this alone is a lot harder than when you have that accountability. But to summarize, begin with the end in mind, and then kind of work your way backwards, like, what action steps do you need to take to get to that place?


No, I love that you simplified it, because it’s so easy for us as, you know, Type A, perfectionistic personalities, like overcomplicators to just be like, at the end of the day, what we’re looking at, what is it that you want? And what are the action steps that you can take there? And if that is something that feels so incredibly overwhelming, because you don’t even know what that looks like, we can totally flip that script and do the same exercise that Livia just presented, where it’s like, if you imagine your life 10 years from now, what don’t you want?

 Like, what don’t you want to be like? Like, what don’t you want to experience? And sometimes that is a lot easier of a question if you’re not in that headspace yet. And then like Livia just said, you know, it’s like, okay, when we break that down, and we look at our actions, it’s like, but what I’m doing today is putting me on track to that 10 years of what I don’t want. So if I don’t want that, then what do I need to change today? 

And I mean, when we’re like, okay, now this resistance is coming in and I’m struggling with that, like that’s when you go to like coach therapist. But at the end of the day, I mean, if we’re just going to simplify it, I mean, I would agree that’s really what it’s about.


Yeah. There’s that quote, I think, I don’t know who it’s from, but one of those old philosophers, it’s like, life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. 


Oh my gosh, yes!




So complicated, absolutely. Thank you so much for all of that, Livia. That was just, I mean, incredible, I think, the way that you just put it, but also the hope that you instill of all the different elements and all the different obstacles that were thrown at you, and you were like, nope, we’re still going, we’re still going, but just really giving this perfect picture of it’s a journey. And it’s not perfect. And it’s not linear. 

But that doesn’t mean that you’re hopeless, or that you’re the only person that this isn’t going to work for. It just means that we got to take a different route, or we got to go a different way. So I really just appreciate you being here and sharing your story. And I’m definitely going to link your book in the show notes for anybody who is interested in reading that and doing a deeper dive on Livia’s story. But other than that, Livia, if people want to connect with you, find you where all your places.


My main place where all my connections are basically is my website, LiveLabelFree.com. And yeah, if you want to connect with me on Instagram, I’m at live label free. And then I have my own podcast, which is the live label free podcast. And the live is all L-I-V, because obviously my name is Livia. Like I’m a sucker for semantics. So whenever I can create a play on words, I will. So yeah, live label free everywhere. And then my book is called Rainbow Girl, my journey to living life in full color, which is all about growing up undiagnosed autistic, how this led to the development of an eating disorder, and really a deep dive into all the steps I took to fully recover and be label-free. 


Yay, okay, that’s on my TBR. I’m so excited. Livia, in honor of the Food Freedom Lab, what does food freedom mean to you?


I believe it’s very unique to each individual. To me, I believe food freedom, and I think more generally, freedom means living a life that’s in alignment with my values. So that means eating in a way that’s aligned with my values as well. So, for example, one of my values is integrity, is being honest and being truthful. 

And I think, you know, how food can play into that is being honest with myself in what I want, what my needs are, both physically and mentally. And, you know, allowing food to be more than just nourishment, allowing it to be a joyful experience. Because I know this is so cliche, but you know, we all have to eat every single day for the rest of our lives, so we might as well enjoy it.


I always say, like, obviously there’s a time and a place where you gotta, you know, eat and it’s just like, get in what you can, but I’m always like, if I’m not loving it, why am I having it? Like, especially when all foods are allowed, and I’ve been trying to take that same mentality in all other elements of my life, where it’s like, if I’m not loving this, why am I doing it? Or if I’m not loving how I feel with this person, why am I hanging out with them? And I just, yeah, really, really appreciate that point of view. Well, Olivia, thank you so much again for taking the time. It was just so great to have you.


Yeah, I was gonna say you too. Yeah, you too. Thank you so much for having me, Ryann.


You too when I get on your podcast.


Yes, yes.

Ryann Nicole

Licensed Therapist, Certified Nutritionist, and Virtual Wellness Coach

Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.

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Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.