Veganism and Eating Disorders

When I went vegan my therapist asked me whether it was my decision or that of the eating disorder.

In all honesty, I didn’t really know. I remember the day I decided to stop eating meat. I remember explaining to family that I no longer enjoyed meat and thus didn’t see the need to eat it.

I cut out meat. And then I removed all diary and other animal products from my diet. Before I knew it I was cutting out different types of fruits and vegetables. My reasoning: I didn’t like the texture. It was in that moment that I realised that going vegetarian, and later vegan, were all manifestations of my eating disorder.

The eating disorder mind is very manipulative because it’s really unwell, it’s not a healthy brain that thinks rationally, so it’s always looking for validation to maintain disordered thoughts and behaviours.

Renee McGregor, dietician

When you have an eating disorder, you have an unhealthy relationship with food. I think about food all the type: what I’m going to eat, when I have to eat, how to reduce the calories I consume, etc. My brain is constantly being bombarded with ways to control and restrict what I eat, something that veganism helps me achieve.

While I believed that I became vegan for ethical reasons, I soon realised that I became vegan to hide my constant need to restrict and control what I ate. I am not saying veganism causes eating disorders. Eating disorders are complex psychological conditions that are caused by a combination of psychological, social and biological factors. However, veganism made it easier because the eating disorder aimed to control what I ate and restrict without question.

In her article Veganism and Eating Disorders: Facts and Fiction, Taylor Wolfram states that one can tell if a vegan has an eating disorder when they “…refuse to eat the vegan versions of what I like to call “fun foods.” This may include pizza, burgers, cheese, ice cream and baked goods.” In this instance veganism can no longer be used as an excuse to restrict, exposing the fear of weight gain and desire to restrict.

I am no longer in denial about having an eating disorder. And although at times being vegan can aid my eating disorder, I cannot ignore the many ways in which it has helped me.

I’m in a constant state of recovery; reminding myself that food is not the enemy.