using veganism to hide or facilitate an eating disorder
All right, I think I have written a book here. And maybe no one gives a shit…but here goes…
I feel strongly compelled to bring up and discuss an issue that I would never touch normally...but I'm concerned enough about it to speak up. Now, anyone that has read posts by the Bunny (that’s me) knows that I just come right out and say what is on my mind. So I’ll just say it…
I think there are many girls/women on this forum who are using veganism as a way to justify, facilitate, or hide an existing eating disorder.
What makes me think this? Well for one, I can tell just by looking at the photos…there are a number of you who look like I could easily snap your arm in half between my thumb and forefinger. Secondly, I’m reading about what you eat in your posts. A fruit for breakfast, a couple of veggies for lunch or dinner, etc. Thirdly, I’m not saying that you do not care about animals, but the truth of it is, if you are eating like this…saving animals is not the first thing on your mind, and neither is your health. Losing weight is your first and foremost goal.
Now everyone is saying, “Well who the hell are you to say anything about what we eat, a**hole?” And maybe you are right. But I do, unfortunately, have experience with eating disorders. I was anorexic/bulimic in my early teens for about four years. I DO know a thing or two about hiding an eating disorder. Making excuses. Not eating a single thing all day. Coming home from school binging on raw cookie dough and ice cream when no one is home, and then locking myself in the bathroom to vomit everything up…promising myself I would never do it again…then starting the whole cycle again the next frickin’ day. And the day after that…and on and on. So I understand eating disorders. And I successfully recovered from my eating disorders by the time I was seventeen.
Deep down, anyone who has an eating disorder knows it. When I started the cycle when I was a kid I had never heard of bulimia…but, I definitely knew there was something not right (physically and mentally) about my habits. I am not a psychiatrist or a doctor, so I am not qualified to give advice. But, I have always maintained that the biggest root cause of an eating disorder is family history (interactions with family members, particularly with parents, etc.). Of course, society does have some influence…the fact that the media portrays skinny women as having the best, most fulfilling lives (it’s a crock, I assure you). The point is, there are many factors involved…I would never presume to pinpoint the exact reason why a girl/woman has an eating disorder. I’d have to get into the family and personal history of the individual, and that I leave up to the professionals.
On the other hand, what I feel I can do, is bring it out in the open that there is an obvious prevalent problem here with girls on vegweb. Some of you are saying, “Yeah, of course, we see that there are many threads on eating disorders…duh, Bunny…everybody knows that.”
But, what nobody is willing to expose or bright to light is the connection between eating disorders and veganism. I think some of you need to reexamine your reasons for being vegan. Is it at all possible that being vegan is just a way for you to hide your UNWILLINGNESS TO EAT? Because veganism (and vegetarianism) offers a reason/excuse to restrict yourself from ALL KINDS OF FOOD. When your friend offers you a cheese sandwich, it’s pretty easy to say, “Well no thanks, I don’t eat dairy.” And when they ask why…it is very convenient to say, “Well I’m a vegan” or better yet “I’m a vegan and I don’t eat animals (or animal products) because I care about them” (or some other convenient vegan answer). So, now, not only have you found a legitimate way to get out of eating, but you are able to provide a positive, compassionate, and (more to the point) reasonably acceptable answer as to why.
Is it possible that maybe some of you don’t even realize you are doing this? Especially those of you who think that you are on the road to recovery through veganism?
I know some of you may just be naturally skinny. My mother was. She was that way all her life. She ate like a bird, and always really wanted to gain weight. But I think there are just way too many of you that are dangerously thin…that some of you are forcing this way of life on yourself.
All I ask is that you ask yourself this question and be honest with yourself….why are you vegan? Is it to lose weight? If so, I hate to say it…you should not be vegan…at least not at this crucial point in your life. Not if your health (or life!) is at stake. Veganism (and vegetarianism) is NOT A DIET. And should definitely not be used as such for someone with an eating disorder. No way! NO WAY! I plead with you to realize this.
I also plead with you to look into why you have an eating disorder. Eating disorders are not just about eating or not eating. You need to find out the reasons why you have an eating disorder. That’s the beginning of the cure. Are you afraid of displeasing your parents? Do you feel it is your only way of receiving attention? Are you dissatisfied/depressed with some other area of your life? I suggest working with a professional to figure this out…though I did not. I had things I really wanted to do in life when I graduated high school and realized that I could never survive out in the real world if I continued the vicious cycle that I was living. I read many books on bulimia/anorexia, figured out the reasons why I was starving/purging myself, and then made the effort TO EAT. Yeah, I overate at first, but then my eating habits balanced out eventually, and I maintained a healthy weight. I also focused on other areas of my life…things that engaged my mind. Going to college and submerging myself in my studies helped a lot. I began to value myself in ways that I never did before.
For those of you who find that maybe you fall into the category of “using veganism to hide or perpetuate an eating disorder,” I really urge you to eat something more than what you do. At this point, some of you just need to EAT. It doesn’t even matter what…just get some meat on your bones. Trust me, you are still going to look beautiful with some weight on. I know all sides of the court—being super thin to being chubby to maintaining an average weight (which is what I’ve been for most of my adult life). Please don’t be fooled--happiness has nothing to do with weight. I want to see you guys glowing from the inside out…radiating health…not bones.
It doesn’t mean you never need to be vegan. I’m just saying that you might want to sort yourself out first…not worry about restrictions so much (cutting out meat, dairy, etc.). Once you get yourself sorted out mentally and physically, eventually you could always go back to being vegan one day, if you truly care about animals. But right now, that probably shouldn’t be your main concern. From a health standpoint, eating ANYTHING is preferable to eating barely anything at all. Please don’t put your life in danger---it’s not worth it.
Okay, (whew!) I’m done. Hopefully I won’t get railed on for mentioning all this. I really mean well. Maybe you guys can start a dialog about this…and expose this issue even more. Being honest with yourself is a beautiful thing and can only be GOOD.
wow...that was quite the post! i have had similar thoughts, wondering if the necessities in veganism (requiring strict attention to and control of diet) were correlated with eating disorders. however, i think that eating disorders are prevalent among all types of eaters, s.a.d. types included. i can see your point that veganism is a potentially convenient excuse for one with an e.d. to deny food, but the truth is hardcore e.d. types will find any excuse they can and will self-justify. i don't think it's statistically higher for e.d. folks to proclaim vegetarianism or veganism, although i could be way wrong as i've never actually researched this. i just think that "secret" illnesses like e.d.s can find safe spots anywhere, including outside of veg-lifestyles.
i'm curious what others think, but i will reiterate your points: peeps with e.d.s can, should, and, with the best hopes, will find a way to love themselves without microscopically destroying themselves bit by bit by bit.
Thank you SO much for posting this SB!
You said so much of what I think when I read certain posts here. Without naming names....there's been a few recent posts where I read what people were eating throughout a day and was like Holy Shit!!! I know ED's are very complicated, and very hard to cure. My heart truly truly goes out to those that suffer from them and deal with the constant pain (both emotionally and physically) everyday. I do agree that being vegan (or vegetarian) should NEVER be used as a weight loss program. In fact, when I first became a veggie, I gained weight...quickly. It took me a while to learn how to eat a balanced meal and in fact to eat correctly. Since becoming strictly vegan (3 years or so now)....I have not gained, nor lost any weight. I pretty much have stayed the same exact weight for this period of my life (turning vegan). I don't count calories...I don't care to. I eat more some days, eat less on others. I don't think about food in that way. I know that those with ED's look at food in a very different way. Not vegan for health reasons. To me being vegan is a lifestyle, not a diet. It just means that I refrain from using animal products in my daily life as much as possible. One should never ever become vegan to limit the amount of calories going into their body. Being vegan does not mean eating like a bunny. You can certainly BE vegan for health reasons only.....but it seems that many are NOT eating healthy. Though I never want to see an animal suffer for our own well being when there are alternatives to what we have to eat.....I'd gladly take someone out for a steak if it helped them recover...though I know it would not. So I say that with wishful thinking and no true intent.
I think Stars summed it up pretty well in a recent ED related thread. Don't take advice from this nor any other blog/internet site if you have or think you even might have an ED. Seek professional help with the guidance of a specialist that deals with ED's on a daily basis.
My heart does go out to all of those that suffer with an ED. I'll never know the turmoil and daily pain you live with. Wish I could do more to help.
(Insert 25 standing ovation smilies)
Please, take care of your own health (physical, mental, and emotional). You can do so much more good when you're healthy.
I've noticed this as well, but have been biting my tongue. I'm glad it has been brought into the light, however I don't think many of the ones with the eating disorders will say much in this thread.
part of me thinks though that they want to be noticed and maybe for someone to address them specifically. thats the only reason i can think of why theyd list off such an obviousely lacking diet. to me it almost seems like a cry for help maybe.
that's not news, shaolin. of course being vegan is a way to hide an eating disorder. I've heard it, I've read about it, and I've lived it.
choosing to be vegan is a good excuse not to eat; it's a good excuse for a lot of things. but I don't need to make excuses now or try to justify my decision to be vegan. that's my choice and I'm not going back on it. how ironic - that I feel like I need to justify being vegan on vegweb...
I agree with discussing this, and I'm glad this thread exists now. but shaolinbunny, I think you went about it a little wrong. you're pretty confrontational in your post. my first reaction, well, I felt like I was being accused of something and I felt like I needed to defend myself. that's probably what you're going to get from those who've dealt with eds. you might get some angry replies.
but this is good. I know it is. I'm concerned about myself, and I'm concerned about others. and I'm glad that concern is shared all around. and yes, there needs to be dialogue. we can't keep hiding behind our choices. we can't keep looking at recipes, talking about food, sharing our vegan experiences, and well, pretending.
thanks shaolin, but let's see what other reactions come from this thread.
Wow, good post. Long, but good! lol
I am sure some people do use veganism for that reason, but becoming vegan can make people with super fast metabolism who don't eat that much in the first place even skinnier without even trying. The "skinny gene" runs in my dad's side of the family, which most all of my dad's brothers and sister's, my cousins, and my brother and me have gotten. My brother, who weighs probably about 120 - 130 lbs and is 5'11, was vegan for probably not even half of last year and he lost so much weight to the point where he had to go to the doctor. He also, at that time, was taking Adderall for ADHD, which he had to be taken off of because he lost even more weight. The reason he lost weight was mainly because he didn't cook anything! But when my parents and grandparents started noticing more weight loss, they pitched in and bought him donuts and cookies and all that junk food, but still he remained underweight(until he gave it up on Christmas morning).
I have struggled with being happy with the way I look for awhile though. I love junk food(like cookies, cake, brownies, etc.) but have to keep myself from eating them too much or I will start freaking out about all the fat I'm eating. I personally think becoming vegan made me eat a lot more aha, especially this lovely website with yummy recipes! I do try to atleast find semi-heathly recipes. Plus, a lot of store-bought vegan alternatives aren't the best in nutritional value. And more than ever I hate turning down food people offer me, some of it I really want! Just like next week my French class is having crepes and I can't have any :/ (I am going to ask my teacher if she will let me bring some of my own though.) Also, a lot of the time when people ask me why I can't eat their food, I have to explain all about veganism to get them to understand, which is a bit annoying when all a lot of them have to say about it is, "Oh, that sucks," or "ARE YOU CRAZY! I love meat! I could never live without it," or "Yum meat, I love eating animals." Rude, disrespectful comments like that just make me mad.
I have noticed some stick-thin girls on here though, I guess I just never really thought about people using veganism for an excuse with an eating disorder. Kind of makes people aware, or atleast me anyways.
ok - I was just reading through some threads, and I think I know where this one came from.
I'm glad you brought this up. Some of us (like laurabs, myself, and others I'm sure) know all about this phenomenon, but I'm sure that many people on here wouldn't have thought about it if it wasn't brought to light. I did see this post as somewhat confrontational, but in a necessary way.
It is always good to question your beliefs, and to evaluate how your choices affect your life and others'.
We should all be honest with ourselves in trying to fully understand our beliefs and actions--Ask yourself, "Why do I believe X?" and when you answer, "because of Y," keep going, and ask, "What does Y mean to me? Why do I believe in Y??"
If you are uncomfortable in questioning (and possibly re-evaluating, and *gasp* changing) your belief system, there could be a fundamental problem in why you hold these beliefs. this certainly applies to veg*nism.
there's so much more I want to say on this topic, but I'm pooped.
I'll be checking in sometime, because I really want to see what others have to say.
i do agree that veganism can be a convienent guise to an eating disorder and a way to deprive yourself.
i think alot of the ED posts have less to do w/ veganism than the actual desire for support. i have a hard time reading posts where actual foods in a day are posted, it causes me to feel like i shouldnt be eating so much.
i also feel like often the posts and replies dont get anywhere, so often i dont say anything. its frustrating, because we here can only do so much. we all know what needs to be done, we can offer advice, but we cant actually DO the work for others.
i agree that there defiinately needs alot of self reflection. i think until you find your reasons and motivations, you cannot heal. and part of that means being brutally honest w/ yourself and others in your life. i only hope that the postings on here might allow someone delve into their motivations, where it might seem safer then the "real world".
thank u so much for posting this!!!! i have noticed this quite a bit on this web site as well as in my own community. it always makes me a bit crazy when every vegan recipe that has any amount of oil is considered unhealthy and replaced with applesauce. why are so many people afraid of a bit of oil??? also i have seen some really rude remarks to peoples post about how what they are eating if fattening and therefore not healthy. this is just not true. fat in and of itself is not bad for us. as vegans we need healthy fats in our diets! so yea, i like to eat healthy, but that to me doesn't mean fat free. eat lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, good protien sources, and yes good fats!
This is interesting. I went to a dietitian yesterday and told her I was vegan and have been vegetarian since I was 10. She asked me if I went vegetarian to aid in an eating disorder! I was pretty offended for a second, but I realize that I'm sure this is extremely prevalent.
I completely agree with everyone's kind and compassionate words, but due to my experience yesterday, I am going to take it a step further. Is it possible that these people are giving vegans a bad name? It doesn't take much to fuel the argument that veganism is unhealthy, and a few malnourished girls would be great posterchildren for the pro SADers. That sounds pretty callous, but I'm just throwing it out there.
I definitely recommend that everyone go see a dietitian or nutritionist if you haven't already. Make sure beforehand that they are willing to work with vegans. I also have an eating disorder and my dietitian also helped me work around what I need to do to stay healthy and out of my disorder/disease. But a professional can help you figure out a healthy way to eat that will work for you. It's very helpful.
Nice sentiment and well said. I haven't been veg long, but I spend a lot of time in different forums and have already seen this a LOT. Maybe a support thread here would be helpful? There are obviously people here dealing with eating disorders, and others who are recovering/recovered would could lend them support.
Thank you ShaolinBunny!!
I've dealt with a tiny fraction of this issue. But this is a veg*n forum. I know support is needed for someone with an ED, but I was getting pretty sick of all the self-pity, attention seeking, and 'this is only what I eat each day' posts. There are specific forums for ED's. Based on what I've read from a lot of the topics that get posted on this board about them though, I would avoid them. I see more of individuals trying to justify their ED in a roundabout way via others. Seek the assistance of a professional.
This might be confrontational, but sometimes that is the only thing that gets through to the person needing help.
I currently have an eating disorder (anorexia), and I have voiced my struggle with it in the past. Though I can see where you all are comming from--this thread is nothing but BAITING and I'm slightly offended at the amount of praise it has seen, where other baiting threads would be instantly dismissed and the author shunned.
haven't heard from you in a while.
i used to be overweight and used veganism as a diet to loose weight, not an ED.
i just ate less. (1500 calories) and exerised a whole lot.
i never hurt myself though, but i got to a point where i was too thin.
i am 5'7" and weigh about 120-123 lbs.
i would like to be a little more than 125, so i'm not that underweight.
i eat sooooooo much though, but i never seem to gain any weight.
me and my mom argue a lot about "my problem" but i don't have one at all.
i do want to gain weight. really. just to cover up some of my bones.
i don't look sick or anything, i'd just like to have a little bit more padding.
anyway.. i'm soryr for using veganism as a way to loose weight back in the day, but now it is my lifestyle.
S Bunny, great post. I for one look at the pictures of posters and have had many concerns about how thin, painfully thin some posters (fellow veg webbers) are.
I have never had an eating disorder but I have talked to many teenagers who said they planned on going vegetarian because it was a great way to be thin (skinny). My niece being one of them.
Your post mimicked many of the things I have been thinking. Take you to have the 'balls' to post it.
That is a good thing!
I truly believe that finding good professional help and a vegetarian or totally knowledgable nutritionist is the only way to go.
I am ovo lacto and need to lose 25 pounds. I don't want to be skinny. I want to be fit and healthy. I make bad food choices and have to learn how to make healthier ones and to incorporate exercise into the big scheme of things. I did not go veggie to lose weight. Never even crossed my mind. I just didn't want to eat animals anymore.
As well, I am sure many that have eating disorders did not go veg to get thin. That they did it for all the right reasons. To tread lightly on this earth and not promote cruelty.
I have just found lately, in my own experience that many young people are turning to vegetarianism for all of the wrong reasons....and it scares me.
I read the thread on self worth. I am sure most of us would like to look better somehow on the outside. I know I would (slimmer, more attractive). However, if that is how people judge me, they aren't my friends. My friends like me for who I am. Someone who is always there for them, make them laugh and care for animals with undying devotion.
I do know if I ate healthier, the weight would come off. I also know if I would start exercising, I would get fit. Wouldn't make a difference if I was veg or not. Eating healthier and exercise are a healthy and winning combination.
I hate to think there are people, mainly young people choosing vegetarianism or veganism to get skinny.
That could be a reason so many parents are totally concerned about their children's food choices.
Once again S Bunny, thank you for a very important, thoughtful and much needed post.
How is this baiting? I think this thread was started as an attempt to help some people see that they need to get professional help and do something kind for themselves. Nothing about the original post should be dismissed or shunned.
Veganism is about not hurting/ exploiting others, and identifying and stopping all abuse. Even if it's a vegan abusing his or her own body. I, too, am disturbed by the many "this is how little I eat" and "I feel so disgusting" posts. THE INTERNET WILL NOT HELP YOU (and I'm not singling you out, AK, I'm using "you" in the general sense), STRANGERS ON A FORUM CANNOT HELP YOU. YOU HAVE TO DO IT YOURSELF, WITH PROFESSIONAL HELP. This post was just trying to get some people to see that.
I think this can be said about almost any diet. If one has an eating disorder, then anything is game in terms of a cover up. I've thought the same things myself, as in your post Shaolin. But, on the other hand, if it's not veganism ... it would be another excuse. That's the nature of the disorder. It seems to me that (and maybe I am naive or just not around here long enough) most or everyone here chose veganism for (at least in part) the right reasons.
A bit off topic - my partner's friend has a 16 year old daughter who is a fruititarian(sp?) and she's so obviously hiding an eating disorder. She's pale, listless, low energy, bordering on emaciated, and last time she was over, her hair was falling out at a rather frightening pace. I didn't even know there was such a diet as a fruititarian until I met her. I think her dad is either in denial, or just doesn't know what to do. We've tried to point out that his daughter needs some help ... it's tragic to see, and unfortunately we can't do anything about it.
How is this baiting? I think this thread was started as an attempt to help some people see that they need to get professional help and do something kind for themselves. Nothing about the original post should be dismissed or shunned.
you know, it is baiting. I agree with AK there. it's like saying "come out, come out, wherever you are, skinny girls... I know what you're doing, and you can't hide... " just tempting us to get riled up and defensive.
but I also think the original post shouldn't be shunned. the message of self-help and self-understanding, as well as seeking outside help, is absolutely necessary.