About Me

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『A girl who had disordered eating but saved by “food.”』

Hi, I’m Nora, the writer, photographer, and creator behind Barrel Leaf’s Toast Notebook.

I’ve been through many years of disordered eating when I was a teenager, but, a little surprisingly, saved by “food.” Writing and sharing food help me renegotiate with my eating disorder mind and walk away from it with more compassion and passion.

I hope I could help others who had similar experiences by sharing more delicious and nourishing recipes, food, and life philosophy.

Quick Info

  • Location: Taiwan
  • Education background: English Department, National Taipei University of Technology
  • Years of Blogging: 10+
  • Food Philosophy: Let go of all guilt and fear. Stay present and listen to your body.
  • Publication: Mellow with Plants, Feeling Chocolate (Chinese ebook)
Nora Hsu @barrelleaf

My Start

I actually started blogging on a platform called Wretch (It’s called “no name” in Chinese ) when I was in fifth grade, around 2005-2006. At the time, I just blogged about my life, my feelings, and some personal things.

My first “food-diary” was born in 2009 after I graduated from junior high school. I wanted to have a special name that’s one of a kind, so I just created a nickname call Barrel Leaf and called my blog “Barrel Leaf’s Toast Notebook” because I was eating toast bread almost every day. (literally)

Sadly the Wretch fell apart, so I moved my blog to another platform called Pixnet in 2012. At that time, I still writing food reviews but I also found myself drawn toward baking and cooking, so I also initiated my life in the kitchen.

By the time, May 2017, I felt the platform having set too many limitations, so I moved out and build my own website, here! (If you’re also interested in how I started, you can find some information in This Post.)

Nora Hsu @barrelleaf

“Barrel Leaf”?

I had a nickname called “Yeh-Tz” (Leaf in Chinese) when I was in elementary school, but I found that many people had the same nickname. Then I wanted a name that’s one of a kind, and I thought about the image of a barrel, which looks plentiful, so I just made things up: Barrel Leaf. Yet I’m still more comfortable when people call me Nora or “Yeh-Tz.”


Disordered Eating Almost Broke Me Down.

Let’s talk about disordered eating, anorexia to be exact, that almost took me down when I was 15 years old. Originally, I thought I just wanted to lose weight because some people called me “fat”. In hindsight, I realized that it’s not the case. I was, in fact, seeking control.

I was facing some life challenges, including the big school test and the divorce between my parents. Everything seemed to fell apart and I was under a lot of pressure. So I started to find things that I could control─school test, what I eat, and exercise.

As a perfectionist, I was doing well. I lost a lot of weight (almost 1/3 of my original weight) and graduate as No.1 from the English Department of my senior high school. I wasn’t like a person with an eating disorder, but I was. And I wasn’t happy. I was still in pain.

This kind of self-torture lasted for about 2 years until I started to read “food diary” on the internet where I found the beauty and values of food as well as my passion for cooking and baking. Then I told myself: You have to put it together. Then I started to see food differently. I also started to write a food blog and recipes, sharing them on my blog.

To those who are wondering why I didn’t go to the hospital, I will explain by saying that eating disorder is not a well-aware thing in Taiwan, and sadly it’s still not. I didn’t get the help I need, but I knew that I had to change. And I know that some of you might also have or are struggling with an eating disorder or disorder eating habits. I want to share my story so you will know that you are not alone.

“Food diary” indeed saves me from my anorexia and disordered eating. And with more resources from the internet, I found more peace with food as I grew up.

Another disordered eating started haunting me in 2015 when I was facing graduation. It’s binging eating. I started to notice that I often got reflux. This is another turning point in my life. I learned about the plant-based diet and adopted it to most of my meals. I also started to share plant-based recipes and created my YouTube channel in late 2015.

I was feeling better.

Just when I thought everything was fine….

another disordered eating kicked in.

I have to say that 2017 was the start of another shocking diet culture. I said that because I was under the influence of disordered eating again, but this time it was Orthorexia, an obsession with eating “clean”.

I was afraid of food that has oil or refined sugar. I shot myself down again with compulsive and compensating exercise. After a log of self-talk and reading, I know it’s not “healthy” at all. So I went on to my orthorexia recovery journey.

I’ve learned to make peace with food, with my body, and myself.

Right now I could say that I’m in a really good place. I appreciate every meal I eat, every chance I got to enjoy. Eating is not a thing that I’m afraid of anymore. On the contrary, it’s one of the blessings that I have and I should cherish it without a pang of slight guilt or fear.


Whole Food & Vegan

You probably have noticed that there are some articles on this site that are not “vegan.” That’s true because I was not a vegan until July 2018. The motivation for starting to write vegan recipes is that I’ve noticed there are a lot of vegans in Taiwan but not so many vegan recipes out there.

On the other hand, I always love veggies and fruits since I was a kid. If you ask me to choose between an apple and a steak, I would definitely go for the apple.

My diet was mainly vegetarian in 2017. The turning point of my becoming a vegan is in July 2018. The reason is simple, for the humane and ethical cause. I respect life and don’t want to cause harm to animals and the environment.

That’s a big decision and also the best decision I’ve made in my life. So I hope you could join me to thrive and mellow with plants together!

Now I’m devoting myself whole-time and wholeheartedly to this website. To maintain this site and my work, there will be ads and sometimes partnership with the companies I trust. I want to be as transparent with you so I will always mention partnership if there is one.

If you like my recipes and want to support me, you could become my Patreon. I also share some inclusive content there. No matter what, thank you for being here. 🙂

Love & Peace,
Nora


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