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.
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.)
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.
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.