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Veganism and/or RAW is an eating disorder...

I hear the "vegan diets are eating disorders" argument all the time, and I truly think it's a cheap shot and a sign of someone who clearly knows nothing about a vegan diet.  People focus too much on what a vegan CAN'T eat, and not enough on what they do.  Just think about all the fresh fruit, the crisp vegetables, the grains, the fiber and protein packed beans, etc, etc, etc.

But now there's more focus on this eating disorder "orthorexia".  Basically, wanting to eat too healthfully is an eating disorder.

    What is orthorexia? Identified in 1997 by Colorado physician Steven Bratman, MD, orthorexia is Latin for “correct eating.” Here, too, the focus isn’t on losing weight. Instead, sufferers increasingly restrict their diets to foods they consider pure, natural and healthful. Some researchers say that orthorexia may combine a touch of obsessive compulsive disorder with anxiety and warn that severely limited “healthy” diets may be a stepping stone to anorexia nervosa, the most severe - and potentially life-threatening - eating disorder.

    Orthorexics: Those affected may start by eliminating processed foods, anything with artificial colorings or flavorings as well as foods that have come into contact with pesticides. Beyond that, orthorexics may also shun caffeine, alcohol, sugar, salt, wheat and dairy foods. Some limit themselves to raw foods.

Health consequences: Limiting your diet to only a few foods - because you’re a picky eater or have a long list of foods you deem unhealthy - can lead to potentially dangerous nutritional deficiencies. At its most extreme, a diet limited to only a few foods perceived to be healthy is described as orthorexia nervosa and can lead to the same emaciation and health risks seen with anorexia nervosa.

Orthorexia: Cognitive behavior therapy designed to change obsessive thought patterns regarding food is usually recommended.

Found this on Yahoo's front page.

I nearly sh!t myself when I saw it.  I'm p!ssed about it.  I don't drink alcohol, I avoid artificial colorings, sweeteners, flavorings, etc.  I buy organic and minimally processed foods, I don't buy or eat frozen meals, etc.  But I don't believe I have an eating disorder.  Today I had Kashi cereal with strawberries, almond milk, I made bread and cooked a stew using tempeh, potatoes, carrots, etc.  I had tea and then made a salad loaded with beans and some ground walnuts. 

I also had a teacher once tell my class that "once vegetarians go vegan, they have an eating disorder.  Once you start cutting all these foods out of your diet it just means that you lack control over something in your life so you try to control what you eat to feel like you can be in control of your life.  It's like cutters who self-harm, they do it so they can have some sort of control over their pain."  I was ready to flip my sh!t.

Anyways, thoughts?  Are you immune to this criticism, does it drive you crazy, or do you... think they have a point?


PS:  This article doesn't speak specifically about vegans and RAW diets, but I still hear the connection enough for it to drive me up the wall.

I obviously don't think veganism is an eating disorder. HOWEVER, it's sad to see that several people who are vegan have had issues with eating disorders prior to becoming vegan. But that's an entirely different discussion altogether.


i think "ortho-rexia"  is an eating disorder... but just trying to eat healthy doesn't mean you have an eating disorder...


I am a raw foodist and I am immune to the criticism.  I let it roll right off.  Every time I turn around something else is being classified as a disorder or syndrome.  Eliminating caffeine, alcohol, and artificial and processed products from one's diet is healthy, not a disorder.  It is my understanding that some people who have eating disorders may turn to veganism or raw foodism under the guise of eating healthier when they are actually looking to justify why they don't eat very much, but as secondbase said, that is a different discussion. 

This guy is a raw foodist:

He doesn't look like he has a disorder to me.


I think society becomes so comfortable with its shitty behavior and choices that if anyone else makes a better decision, they label it as wrong. I eat healthy while everyone around me stuffs their faces with McDonalds--but it is I who is in the wrong. Or, I get this a lot with running. I run 5-6 days a week. People tell me it's an obsession, even unhealthy. Um, really? Because playing videogames for 6 hours a day is a much better life choice. OR, this one is rich, people tell me I'm too skinny...let's just say I'm not. I feel pretty average sized, but, at least in the Midwest, I am on the smaller scale of body sizes. It's just weird how skewed our thinking can become about these sorts of things. If you're making choices that make you happy, then don't worry about all the other stuff. Other people will always find a way to make themselves feel better about their shitty life choices. It really has nothing to do with you.


Factory farmed meats give you disorders while veganism/ raw foodism is a disorder...
chicken or the egg eh?
cant win.

Roses are dead, violets are too.
We are all going to die, and so are you.


I'm seething. This makes me so angry. When I got sick before, or when i had problems, people were super sympathetic, and would advise me to get plenty of rest, etc. I was sick ALOT. Now, I can't even share that I'm tired, or not feeling well (due to stress) without being told that I have some sort of deficiency with my diet, that the only reason I'm tired is because I'm not eating animal carcasses. Most people are supportive, but there are a few that don't know what the hell they are talking about, and need to go do some unbiased research before they judge me. Seriously. What the hell? ARGGGHHHH
This is just what we need. More biased judgement, an easy way for people to judge us for living a compassionate, healthy life. SCREW them!
urgh, maybe I'm just upset because I'm a baby vegan. I want to continue to be vegan, and I will, I'm positive about that. But, I want to be able to share how great it feels, psychologically and physically, to be living a vegan life. People are so offended by it, and there is really no reason, other than that they don't want to think about who they eat every day. Others act like I'm a crazy idiot who doesn't know basic things like... the Food Pyramid... ummmm, for one, I know very few omnis who follow it, or even eat a diet remotely resembling it. I know I'm eating better now than I ever did on an omni diet, but they just can't accept it. It makes me so angry and frustrated that their minds are so closed, that they are so blind, and so self-serving. They're so wrong, but convinced that they are right. It's sick.
Rant over. Wow. that felt good to get off my chest.


I sort of find it darkly hilarious... I work rehab; 99.5% of the desperately debilitated people that end up on my caseload are suffering from animal-based-diet diseases: stroke; heart disease; cancer; diabetic neuropathy; alzheimers... I cannot even begin to describe the suffering I witness on a daily basis, from largely preventable diet-mediated conditions... but *we* all have eating disorders because we don't eat the stuff that causes all these... hahahahaha! funny stuff!

I think there's good data that a certain percentage of the folks (mostly young, mostly gals) who do HAVE an eating disorder may use veg*nism as a 'beard', as a socially acceptable reason not to eat x food... but that's not the same thing as veg*nism BEING an eating disorder! that's just unsupportable, and sloppy reasoning... 'A causes B' does NOT equal 'B causes A'. A high percentage of people with ALS (Lou Gherig's disease) report muscle spasms in their legs, very early in the disease process; that does NOT mean that a high percentage of people who ever experience muscle spasms in their legs will be diagnosed with ALS! Same thing: it may be the case that a high number of individuals with eating disorders have at some point identified as vegan; that is NOT the same as saying 'a high number of vegan individuals have eating disorders'... Statistics 101: that's just not how it works... sloppy logic, there, and sloppy data interpretation.

I really really really don't appreciate this kind of thing on behalf of those folks who HAVE gotten on the safe side of an eating disorder, for whom veg*nism has been a means of cultivating a healthier way of relating to food... What bullshit to feed their ears!

The history of psychiatry is rich with examples of 'sickness'-izing nonmainstream behavior... consider the diagnosis 'drapetomania', which was evidently a mental health epidemic among non-whites in the south, there for a while... it was this dangerous mental illness that caused slaves to want to escape, and live in freedom!... so, um, yeah. Please excuse me if I don't rush myself to the doctor for some psychotropics to treat my broccoli addiction just yet. (eye roll!)


I have struggled with an eating disorder for five years, primarily anorexia nervosa.  Though not fully recovered, I have come a very very long way from where I was a few years ago.  Becoming vegan several months ago has actually helped me to have a better relationship with food (although that is not why I chose to become vegan; my reasons are ethical, concern for the environment, sickened by the violent culture of factory farming and blatent disregard for animal life that so many have; concern for the state of the world and how we are going to continue to feed everyone).  Not only have I embraced a diet that I feel is healthier, more peaceful and cruelty free, and allows me to eat the way I have always wanted to ((I have always favored and enjoyed foods that are naturally vegan long before I was vegan but I have felt pressured to eat foods like high protein meats and cheese because I was told it was good for me)), but I have taken steps in every area of my life to reduce the harm that I have contributed to animal suffering and therefore world suffering. I have become more consciously aware of my daily choices, actions, and decisions and just how much I have become dependant on the horrific killing of animals for my own convenience.  I have switched to and made my own environmentally friendly animal free simple soaps, shampoos, cleaning products, etc.  I ride my bike to work and to run errands, I have stopped wearing animal products and have researched and found vegan friendly shoes.  I have gone out in the community and volunteered.  I have read countless books, articles, reference materials, etc. in order to educate myself about the vegan movement, the abolitionist approach, the ways in which animal abuse and murder has hurt not only their species but ours and the environment.  Would I take the time to do all this AND to make sure I am getting the optimal nutrition that I need if being vegan simply meant I had an eating disorder? 
As someone else said, I actually feel like I have to be vigilant about my heatlh and what I eat so as not to have people lecture and hound me about my vegan diet or any reason to find to say "see, I told you your vegan diet would make you sick!"  It is maddening, and the fact that I DO have a history of an eating disorder makes it so that my veganism is not taken seriously as a statement of living a more compassionate way of life.  While others are skipping meals and doing low fat low carb low everything diets I am eating whole foods, snacking on nuts and seeds, eating three meals a day, taking the time to prepare and cook and appreciate and enjoy the food I have and where it comes from.  I have also actually learned about and eaten more varieties of foods than I ever did before.  I never ate an avocado in my life until a few months ago.  I am trying new foods I didnt know existed not too long ago.

I can tell you that orthorexia is much much more than simply cutting out foods and eating heatlhy.  As with any eating disorder, it involves such a complete obsession, compulsion and focus on food and body and control that there is room for nothing else in ones life.  All day every day every second one is planning what to eat, when, how, or spending hours preparing it and analyzing it.  Orthorexics become so disabled by their illness that NOTHING is safe and they are not able to function normally to do every day activities.  Most orthorexics wouldn't touch a box of cereal or a cooked vegetable or anything they didnt grow and spout themselves that came from an organic source.  Their world becomes narrower and narrower until they might be eating two or three foods and isolating and obsessing about their health.  Logic and reason are distorted and the rules and rituals they create subconciously make no sense at all to normal healthy people. 
I do believe that it has gone too far with labeling every pattern of eating that doesnt fit the standard american diet as an eating disorder.  And I also know that veganism is not well understood.  I have been in several treatment centers for my ED and most do not take kindly to vegan diets.  They will accomodate for vegetarians but most often not for vegans.  It IS sometimes used by anorexics as a way to hide behind their disorder, but in some cases one can have an eating disorder and be vegan and the two have litte to do with each other.  Most vegans, and there are many many more than people would like to think, are normal people like everyone else but who choose for various reasons not to consume animal ingredients.  As people like Donald Watson have proven, one can live a lifetime as a vegan and be perfectly heathly without developing an eating disorder or nutritional deciciency.  Eating disorders really have little if anything to do with food.  Food is merely the tool, the weapon that helps drive the disorder.  The disorder runs much deeper than a diet.  it isnt about food, despite the title eating disorder.  Eating disorders arent well understood either.  Often they are narrowed down to ridiculously simplistic terms in order to try to make sense of them.  They are actually quite complex, involve biological, hormonal, and genetic components as well as mental and emotional, and can take years to untangle.  and while eating disorders among people share common symptoms, each individual has unique symptoms and ways of coping with their disorder.  It isnt black and white like strep throat or a broken bone.  So yes, labeling vegan as an eating disorder is insane. 


god i love reading what you 2 above ladies wrote... you are both so amazing! i wish my brain could articulate such amazing things to say!


i love reading what you 2 above ladies wrote...

I'm just glad there's a place where I can make up words like 'sickness-izing', and be appreciated rather than asked to stop.  :)


I think the key here, as naturebound has mentioned, is that a disorder goes beyond out-of-the-ordinary behaviour and causes serious disruption in one's daily functioning.
But that's the big problem with eating disorders and other mental illnesses--Too many people are not educated about their true nature and they confuse normal mood fluctuations or oddities/quirks with actual disorders.


People are DEFINITELY misinformed about what constitutes as an eating disorder, or what is considered truly healthy. I've been accused of being anorexic by family members just after eating a dinner filled with fresh vegetables, grains and beans, told that I'm not minding my health by eating fresh fruit because it's so sugary, and encouraged to gain weight by methods such as increasing my intake of soft drinks, brownies, etc. (and of course MEAT). My parents once even briefly put me in counseling to solve an apparent obsession with being thin (because that's the only reason I'd want to be a vegan, of course)... my therapist heard their justifications and burst into laughter.

The more I learn about nutrition and TRUE disorders of eating (such as, hmm, lemme think, gorging yourself on cookies, candy, soft drinks and animal products on a DAILY BASIS! I'm pretty sure this is way more of a disorder than taking care to eliminate pesticides, simple sugars, animal products or trans fats from one's diet) the more frustrated I become with my "well-intentioned" peers.

People don't like difference. It challenges their views. It's WAY easier to justify one's own lifestyle by saying every veg*n is protein/B12 deficient or they're ~dangerously obsessed~ with their health than it is to actually do some research (almost none of these people will have, aside from reading the Wikipedia article on orthorexia and spazzing out) on how to eat healthily. And the sad thing is, it's understandable. The media has made knowing anything about nutrition so CONFUSING that some people are still worried about eating certain foods due to their blood type, etc. Combine unreliable, self-justifying sources with individuals who don't honestly want to change their eating habits, and there you have it.


This guy is a raw foodist:

He doesn't look like he has a disorder to me.

Looooooooooooove it,  ;)b


I love this thread, it is good to read what everyone wrote. It is also invigorating to see that I am not alone, although I am fully prepared to stand alone, if I have to. The behavior of the zealous meat eater is enough to show me something is wrong with him/her and my non-threatening, well-reasoned responses shows me I must be doing something right. I have had so many heated discussions with "religious" people (any and all faiths) and political people, etc. And the most confrontational people seem to get are about this vegan diet thing and....wait for (sports) teams. It is a sad state of affairs in society when this is the case.

I do not see this as an individual's issue, though, so I have no ill-will toward anyone over their diet. It is systemic, it is a societal issues, largely based on tradition, explotation, a form of social slavery. Just like me, fairly recently too, they see no alternative, there does not seem to be another way. The reason they react so viscously (other than perhaps that eating meat inhibits sensitivity and enhances violence) is because they know, deep inside, they are not living rightly and they HATE someone who has bobbed and weaved through the established excuses, structure and status quo and done something about it. Most people like to think there are no Earthly solutions to things (which explains why "savior" beliefs are so popular) and they resent others who take action. And I do think that meat eater protests and/or attacks on my diet (which is soooo stange, like why do you give a F what I eat or don't eat?!?) is an open door to discuss the kinds of lies we were told by government, teachers and parents about what healthy living is.

Let's face it folks. We don't have to say a thing. The fact that we are alive and healthy and not depriving ourselves is the greatest testimony. This is what they react to more than anything. They see something in us that tells them they are wrong and no one likes to feel wrong. I think their indignation is a cry for help, personally. So, I unload a whole lot of evangelism in the face of the confrontation. Also, a whole lot of questions to them, like: is it possible that something we were taught  as fact our whole lives could be untrue?? Pluto is a planet

At the end of the day, I just look around at the typical body type and weight and general health of the typical American and think that if eating vegan is a disorder, I am sooooo glad to be disorderly.

"It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to profoundly sick society." - Jiddu Krishnamurti


GOD I honestly cannot get over how frustrating this is, I get this all the time from my friends, family, even STRANGERS. people are always commenting on how skinny I am (when I ate meat and shitty food I was still 5'7 110 pounds and people would judge me then as well, you can't win), how I've taken my diet to the extreme, etc, etc. The only way I know how to cope with this level of ignorance is to remind my self that americans in general see any sort of deviation from the "norm" as a threat and especially when it has to do with something that perhaps deep down they know is INHERENTLY WRONG. (like condemning millions of animals to a life of needless suffering in factory farms for cheap milk and meat)

I also like to through a snide comment in how I eat just as much if not more than before, while still remaining thin. :)


I think that the general idea of veganism or a raw diet is appealing in an ED sort of way - many (if not mostl) conventional foods are forbidden, and on the surface both diets seem like they'd be pretty low calorie.

But I think seeing it as an ED really hinges on the motivation for the diet and the way you see eating. People who are not familiar with veganism often assume it's another calorie-restrictive weight-loss diet, and while it can be done like that (and healthy!) I think most people make a commitment to veganism for at least partly ethical reasons. Even if a person's sole reasons are health, the reason is health, not an obsession with food in general.

In that way I'm kind of glad I'm not on the thin side, so this isn't really a topic I have to address all that much with others. On the contrary, when people have asked me "isn't it hard to find food you can eat? I mean, what can you eat?" I can be all "Yeah, it's been 10 years and look at how emaciated I am. I'm wasting away!" :D

It's not an argument I'm entirely unfamiliar with. While I lived with my mom it was something she occasionally commented on – she thought it was a bit of a food obsession that I would cook for myself so much. She kind of lives off cookies and salad and "fat free" everything, but still, I could see what she meant in a way.


i absolutely hate it when my loved ones and friends tease and ridicule me for my healthy habits! I really don't understand how they get off about me simply eating healthfully. It's definitely unfair how in our society people view healthy choices as a bad thing and shudder at the words "vegetarian" etc. My vegetarianism is like my religion. It means a lot to me for so many different reasons and i swear, anytime i try to explain my choice for being veg, all i get back is ignorant comments and disapproval. It surprises me so much that in an age where ppl are finally becoming aware of ecological consequences as well as dietary ones, ppl are still so quick to judge. It's sheer ignorance...and i am pretty fed up but i guess i'll just have to deal.


Others act like I'm a crazy idiot who doesn't know basic things like... the Food Pyramid... ummmm, for one, I know very few omnis who follow it, or even eat a diet remotely resembling it. I know I'm eating better now than I ever did on an omni diet, but they just can't accept it. It makes me so angry and frustrated that their minds are so closed, that they are so blind, and so self-serving. They're so wrong, but convinced that they are right. It's sick.
Rant over. Wow. that felt good to get off my chest.

We have our OWN pyramid!!
Oh, hey.  I just link the pic...but I think they sell posters of it and stuff.  If that's not cool to link let me know.

ETA: its a free-to-download and distribute non-commercially poster too!!



I think the key here, as naturebound has mentioned, is that a disorder goes beyond out-of-the-ordinary behaviour and causes serious disruption in one's daily functioning

Yeah that.  Most of us have healthy diets and lifestyles and function quite well in the world, in fact better than most because we're not overrun with medical problems and doctors appointments and drug bills. 

One time I was accused of being obsessive about what I ate and like Storm says I have grown an immunity to such criticism.  I love to cook and love to eat.  Cooking is therapy.  Would someone say the great chef's of the world or Rachel Ray, or Bobby Flay or any meat eating cook was "obsessive about their food"? 


I actually developed orthorexia myself about two years ago. I lost around 40 pounds and my period because of it.
I worked out super hard and though I was super healthy. I felt so proud when I had a cucumber for dinner, thinking "This is so great for me!"
I realized how screwed up my perspective was thanks to my mom (although, I think here criticism of my vegetarian diet was what caused it in the first place).
It took me a year to realize that, and sind then I've been working to get over all my eating issues. (I've now switched not eating enough and now I tend to eat too much. I guess my body is afraid of going into another 'famine')

I used veganism as a way to help me get better. I told myself that I would not allow myself to go vegan unless I stopped obsessing over food. I think it helped me... Now I'm not only vegan, but a raw enthusiast (only around 70%, but I'm increasing). I am most definitely not orhtorexic anymore!
Orhorexia is not the obsession of being in perfect health, but it's a perverted view of what health is. Yes, many orhtorexics become raw vegan, but it's not for the right reasons, and they do not do things right. It's a way to cut out more food. I used to not eat high fat foods because I read somehwere that fat makes the digestion of iron hard to do. At the time, I was very anemic (I could never imagine why...), so I thought cutting down on fats would help that.

So all in all, orhtorexia is a very distorted vision of eating and food. Veganism and raw foodism are healthy lifestyles, so it's only natural for them to be desired by somebody with such a mental complex.



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