On Eating Disorders and Veganism: Is it A Road to Further Restrictions or Road to Recovery?

Dina May 18, 2012 5
On Eating Disorders and Veganism: Is it A Road to Further Restrictions or Road to Recovery?

If you have been on Tumblr lately, you probably would have seen the trend: thinspiration, or the inspiration to be thin, is on rise. It has been on the rise for years. This is way “old,” but remember the infamous Lady Gaga’s “pop stars do not eat” fiasco on Twitter? Now the trouble is when these blogs or stars masquerade as vegan-supporters, when, in reality, they appear to be promoting an illness.

I feel torn whenever someone would show up on a vegan forum and ask about the rules of veganism. They would say that they are in recovery and that they are trying veganism as a way to get better. Often, there would be this backlash from vegans, which is valid. The last thing we’d want is for omnivores is to assume that all vegans have eating disorders.

Here’s the thing though: veganism can totally change a life. If you are not eating anything and then start slowly eating veggies and fruits, would that not be a good thing? Right? Hm. That’s not necessarily true. There are two problems here: 1) you cannot get all the nutrients you need if you just eat fruits and veggies. Veganism is about eating a variety of foods, not just fruits and veggies. 2) Eating disorders are not so much about what you are eating; they are about how you are eating. They are about how you approach food, mentally and emotionally. Anorexia and bulimia are both mental illnesses; changing the diet is not problem, dealing with the mental illness is. Veganism may help redirect the need to restrict all food to restricting food that is bad for the environment, bad for animals, bad for a person’s own health.

So, here are some pieces of advice, from a girl who once had ED’s, recovered, and has been a vegan for a while now (five years!):

  1. Start treatment for your ED. Therapy, psychotherapy, or group therapy can help you deal with this illness. You can be vegan; you are vegan, but you are still a sickly boo. You have to address these addictions and the way your brain is hurting you sometimes.
  2. Talk to a nutritionist who is knowledgeable about veganism and how to approach it in a healthy way. Please, please, please do not rely on the internet alone. Thinspo, pro-mia, and pro-ana blogs are a dime a dozen and they will not be helping you learn about veganism. You’re too amazing to let Ana or Mia kick your butt. Remember: veganism is all about kicking some major bootay!
  3. Get informed first and then commit. You can be vegan and be in recovery, but be careful not to venture into veganism all by yourself. Veganism is a way of life; some fashion magazines make it sound like a diet. Us sassy Chic Vegans know better. You live like a veganista or veganisto. But, you can be your own version of a veganista or veganisto.
  4. Read up on books and websites. We have a directory section on Chic Vegan and it’s awesome. I’ll post some of my favorites books, too, in a different post. (Psst: Over on that post, share some of your favorites in comments, too! Nothing beats creating a fun reading list!)
  5. Find some vegan ninjas who inspire you—I want to make a whole post just on this, too. It’s lonely being vegan, especially if you are a small town gal like I am.
  6. Remember that we all started it out somewhere. Be forgiving. We all make oopsies along the way. There is no need for cheating and there is no need to feel judged. I don’t know how many of your friends dragged you to see Scott Pilgrim just so you see one of the characters get de-veganized by the vegan police. There is no such thing here. You are safe to make oopsies.
Image courtesy of Flicker‘s The Commons

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  1. Lex May 18, 2012 at 11:58 am -

    I had to comment on this post! As a former professional dancer brought up during the “ballerinas must be uber-thin” era, I’ve struggled with body image/eating disorders since childhood. Going vegan (2.5 years now) has been wonderful for me! For the first time in my life, I don’t worry about what I eat. I am eating more than ever (and a huge variety, including healthy fats), exercising less (at a healthy rate), and maintaining a healthy, happy weight without stress. It’s incredible and I feel amazing! I agree that it could become an excuse to eat next to nothing, but for me it really has meant freedom! 

  2. VeggieGrettie May 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm -

    Lex…I am so glad to hear that you are doing so well!  I used to be a huge calorie counter and since being vegan I have been freed of that and now just focus on “health.”  I literally have NO IDEA how many calories I eat in a day which is very liberating!

  3. Debbie May 20, 2012 at 3:27 pm -

    Like you said VeggieGrettie, after struggling with food/EDs and counting calories RELIGIOUSLY (I even bookmarked a calorie counting website on my browser, while other foods were memorized) I became LIBERATED when I went vegan because I no longer had anxiety with any of my food choices. If I had a vegan junk food kinda day I don’t even feel bad because I’m so much more educated about food choices and know how to balance that instead of continuing the cycle!

  4. Kelly Ann June 3, 2012 at 4:11 pm -

    Great article, thank you for addressing that E.D.s are mental illnesses and changing the diet will not address the mental health aspect. 

  5. Breeoxd June 8, 2012 at 9:44 am -

    wow, this is one of the sweetest and inspiring articles I have read regarding this issue of ED “vegan” restrictors. I am not a vegan. I’m not even vegetarian- tho I adore a good set of veggies with my chicken. But as a former ED chica, I am inspired by your positive attitude and suggestions!

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