Why I’m Not a Vegan, Part 7: Veganism and Eating Disorders

My Disclaimer

 My decision to stop being a vegan was based on a gut feeling–literally and figuratively: the blog post(s) that I’m about to provide you with are simply based on all of the research I’ve done since making the decision to stop being a vegan. 

I’m writing it all here not to promote any kind of orthorexia or nutritionism or restrictive eating or dogma–I’m writing it here because there are people who want to understand the potential health implications of a low-fat plant-based diet.  

I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist–just a girl who is sick and tired of being sick and tired–and sick and tired of watching so many people make decisions based on half-truths, emotional appeals, and ingrained biases that ultimately leave them sick and tired too.

Read:

Part 1: What is Veganism? 

Part 2: What Happened When I Was a Vegan

Part 3: But I Supplement!

Part 4: Tofu is a health food. Right?

Part 5: Macronutrients and Why They Matter

Part 6: What Veganism Gets Right

Veganism is Not an Eating Disorder…

…But that doesn’t mean that people with eating disorders don’t turn to veganism because they’re too scared to consume the excess calories in fat and meat.

Before you get upset, remember that I’m speaking from experience here, as well as from observation. When I was looking for a way to justify eating a low calorie, low fat, “detoxifying” (read: weight loss) diet, I turned to veganism because it seemed like the best of all possible worlds. I could eat–real food, not too much, mostly plants–and still get away with living in my ED. I could be a “skinny bitch” and justify it because I was also saving the world. And somewhere in my calorie-starved, fat-deprived mind, I was honestly convinced that highly processed vegan foods made of chemicals were healthier than meat because they came in a package that had countable calories on the back and a health claim on the front. (Natural, low calorie, low fat, gluten free, vegan, organic, etc.)

veganism-and-weight-loss
[source]

Let me make this very clear: I am NOT saying that veganism is an eating disorder, or that everyone who choses to be a vegan is a disordered eater. However, in conversation with many women who are still struggling to recover from ED and have turned to a plant-based diet, I’ve heard too many echoes of my own justifications.

Here’s the thing: you can have an eating disorder while following any type of diet, vegan, ancestral, standard American, or cabbage soup. But because veganism is currently being glorified in the media as a star-studded weight loss solution that’s low in calories and in guilt, it’s naturally attractive for women (and men) who want to be able to follow their same patterns of restrictive eating while being able to say, “But Bill Clinton and Alicia Silverstone are doing it!”

I just listened to a lecture by Neil Barnard on why veganism is the ideal diet, and he kept coming back to the same point: veganism is low calorie and low fat, because you eat more veggies and more fiber–so you feel fuller longer for less caloric intake. Supposedly.

get-healthy-go-vegan-neil-barnard

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But this was the nail-in-the-coffin selling point, couched in the health-halo of curing obesity, heart disease, and cancer. At the end of the day, veganism is sold on: eat less, lose more weight, feel fuller without having to actually eat.

And again, I’m not calling all vegans EDs. But you asked why I’m not a vegan, and my eating disorder is one glaring, huge, no-way-would-I-ever-turn-back sort of reason. I don’t want to have my brain chemicals unbalanced. I don’t want to only eat sprouts and kale smoothies until my digestive system breaks. I don’t want to count the calories in my tempeh, and I don’t want to live with acne or amenorrhea for one more minute.

I still struggle with my sugar dragon, with my emotional eating, with calorie math–all of this even though I’m not a vegan any more. But I’m lightyears better than I was. I don’t need depression meds and I’m not a slave to my scale. I eat a lot of really delicious, nutrient and calorie-dense foods that make me happy to be alive. And I do my best to eat the highest quality animal products, because, frankly, I think there’s a lot to the ethical argument. Treat your food the way you want to be treated–which means you should be treating yourself well too.

So there you have it. I’m not a scientist, a nutritionist, or a diet guru. I’m just a girl who has enough curiosity and enough respect for her health to go out and ask the questions and seek to make better choices for herself. You can feel free to disagree, as I’m sure there will be plenty of room for debate, distrust, and discord, but this is my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Besides…if I had a dollar for every time I heard a vegetarian say “I miss the taste of bacon,” I’d be able to buy a lot of bacon.

vegan-and-anorexic
[source]

Stay hungry,

@MissSkinnyGenes

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8 thoughts on “Why I’m Not a Vegan, Part 7: Veganism and Eating Disorders

  1. I have been a vegetarian (and sometimes vegan) since I was 12. I have NEVER once missed bacon in all my life. Yes, I am ED without a doubt. My vegetarianism is healthy for me….anytime I hit vegan mode, I am usually revving up ED mode along side it. I can see this pattern after almost 20 years now. I will never again eat animals as long as I live but perhaps one day, I might recover from ED. I do agree with you that often ED/Vegan go hand in hand. I totally understand why you can’t live that way anymore.

    • I’m glad that you’re able to differentiate when you’re being healthy and when you’re hurting yourself. As long as you’re able to catch yourself before it goes from nourishment to punishment, then it’s healthy! (And you are one of the lucky ones to not fall under bacon’s spell…I know that I was all about turkey bacon for years and then later, when I was vegan, I made my own bacon-flavored TVP to put in my vegan peanut butter bacon cookies…)

      • Oh my…that is extreme bacon love! I have been veg so long that the smell of bacon (actually most meat or fish) makes me want to barf. Whenever I am vegan I avoid processed soy products and processed vegan snacks which I feel are just as evil as any other processed foods. I think people do make the mistake of thinking they are being healthy just because they are on a vegan diet, but it can still be very bad for you if it is highly processed. I only have soy infrequently now in the form of tofu, tempeh or soy milk as it reduces thyroid function and I already have hypothyroidism so it is really a rare treat now.

      • I love that you’re aware enough about the health risks of soy on a vegan diet–too many people think that being a vegan is carte blanche for soy milk smoothies, and it ends up being a big thyroid disrupter.I used to be a huge tempeh fan…at least the fermented stuff is a better option!

  2. Hi there.
    This is so well put. While veganism isn’t an ED, it’s so true that often times it accompanies one, or may even lead to one. I recently wrote a blog post on Orthorexia for our users, to try to explain how eating ‘healthily’ can become an obsession that has more negative health implications than positive. Appreciated reading from a former Vegan-perspective too.
    Thanks! Alanna, Change Panda Assistant Psychologist.

  3. Pingback: Is The Paleo Diet too Restrictive? • Paleo Movement Magazine

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