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Is Veganism An Eating Disorder?

Updated: Mar 15, 2021

Eating disorders are linked to a person's emotions, but they are not a sign of weakness.

Eating a vegan diet is an eating disorder, eating a vegan diet makes it impossible to get all of the nutrients that you need; if you go vegan you'll waste away and be weak. There are some people that think that going vegan can be used to treat eating disorders.

What Are Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are conditions that cause a person to eat in an unhealthy way. People typically think of these conditions as involving not eating enough or forcing yourself to be sick after eating, but that is only one part of it.

chips, fries, potato, wedges
Eating only one type of food is an eating disorder too

Disordered eating can mean eating too little, eating too much or only eating certain foods and can involve other unhealthy behaviours such as over-exercising. Some people will develop a habit of only eat food that is orange, others won't touch anything that is green, it could involve certain textures, I knew one person that wouldn't eat anything that didn't have tomato ketchup on it. Disordered eating could be eating at a certain time of day and not eating at all if something happens that causes that to not happen, getting stuck at school, being in a meeting at work, a train being cancelled. In most cases eating disorders lead to a person not getting all of the nuritrients that they need, causing difficiencies, not too long ago there was a story of a teenager that went blind as he ate only chips for four years. The vitmain difficiencies that he suffered caused permenant damage to his eyes.

What Can Cause Eating Disorders?

There are different factors that can lead to an eating disorder. It is commonly known that the desire to be perfect can play a part, someone looks in the mirror and sees a body that is too fat or too thin and takes drastic action to change that, but it could be something else entirely that triggers these problems. Eating disorders can develop during an illness, when people become ill they feel a lose of control, one thing that they may be able to control is when, what and how much they eat. This control over food makes them feel mentally stronger even as they harm themselves. There are people that have suffered abuse and use control over food to punish themselves, or to make themselves less attractive, hoping that it will cause the abuse to stop. All eating disorders a tied into a person's emotions, they are not a sign of weakness. For example, binge eating disorder where a person will eat a huge amount of food until they feel painfully full. People that do this can be seen as weak as they appear out of control and they may feel themselves that they are out of control, it can be scary for them. What they are doing, though, is trying to comfort themselves, they are not weak, they need help.

How Can Veganism Be Involved

Many vegans consider their way of eating as simply normal, there's nothing extreme about it, it's good for their health, good for the planet, it's certainly good for the animals. However, veganism can be used to control a person's food intake. Charities and health authorities in the UK have found that a greater percentage of the people that they help follow a vegan diet compared to the general population. A vegan diet, even an unhealthy one, can be less calorie dense then a diet that includes animal products. For this reason it is easier to restrict calories on a vegan diet and this can make veganism attractive to those that have disordered eating, especially when tryingt o hide their condition. They can appear to be eating a healthy amount of food, but are actually severely restricting calories. A "meal" that consists of salad leaves can fill a large plate or bowl, but still contain less than 200 calories, this can make veganism appealing to someone with disordered eating.

Is Veganism An Eating Disorder?

One study in the USA found that individuals with a history of an eating disorder were more likely to have ever been vegetarian (52% of individuals with a history of an eating disorder, compared to 12% of those with no history of an eating disorder) or currently be vegetarian (24% of individuals with a history of an eating disorder, compared to 6% of those with none). However, none of the studies conducted show whther this type of result is evidence of correlation or causality; did the person with the eating disorder happen to be vegan, or was veganism the eating disorder? Experts in the field of eating disorders say that veganism isn't an eating disorder, but those with eating disorders can be attracted to this way of eating. When transitioning from a diet the includes animal products to one that doesn't foods that are being illiminated are swaped, chicken for tofu, dairy for plant based milk and cheeses, etc. Where this can become disordered is where people do the illimination but not the swapping, they just take foods out. Some people, though, have found that going vegan was the solution to their eating disorder. The idea of eating in a vegan way is positive is good for the planet and it prevents harm to animals. This feeling of goodness and positivity can be freeing for people, allowing them to relax and enjoy food more.

If you are vegan and have an eating disorder the first thing that you need to do is get help. You are precious and deserve to be healthy, food is a tool that should be used to promote health, not used to harm. But explore your relationship with food. Think about how veganism fits into your eating disorder, do you use it as a smoke screen, a reason to not eat, "I can't eat that, it might have milk in it." Or is it that the veganism came first and the eating disorder is a completely seperate problem? Eating disorders can be terrible illnesses that can affect your health, happiness and relationships with those around you. If you think you need help seek it straight away and give yourself a chance to be happy.


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