One reason someone might give for not going vegan is that they have/have had/are susceptible to an eating disorder. When going vegan and being successful at it, you end up doing a lot of research into all the reasons for veganism, like doing it for your health, the environment and helping animals. After a while, you know an answer to everyone’s excuse to not go vegan. No matter what it may be, veganism can cure it. This post is a healthy reminder that not everyone can go vegan, and to push people who want to go vegan but truly cannot is not good for the movement and is not who the focus should be on when educating people about a vegan lifestyle. This post will be addressed to two people: the first is aimed at vegans and the second is aimed at people with EDs/in ED recovery/who are susceptible to EDs.
To all vegans: for someone who has an ED, veganism can be seen as way to hide the disorder in a socially acceptable manner. Common ED behaviours such as constantly checking food labels, thinking about food all the time, carefully planning meals, bringing your own food to people’s houses/parties, saying no to foods offered to you can all be masked behind being vegan. You can say no to foods because they are not vegan, you can bring your own food to other people’s homes so you are not questioning how it has been made or what it contains, you can check the packaging on every food you want to buy to check if it’s vegan, you can think about food a lot and plan exactly what you’re going to eat because it’s socially acceptable to plan your meals ahead, especially if you follow a vegan lifestyle.
These reasons are why it is wrong to suggest veganism to someone who can easily be triggered back into an ED, someone who has an ED or someone who is susceptible to having an ED. If someone does have an eating disorder, you should not advertise veganism to them because it can be dangerous to their recovery. For someone who is underweight and wants to go into recovery, a plant based diet is not the best diet to get back to a healthy weight in the shortest amount of time.
With this being said, I know people who have found veganism has helped with their recovery and has helped them to maintain a healthy view on eating and food. It may help people because, although it excuses some ED behaviours, people who have EDs may eat more food because it is vegan and “allowed” as it is seen as healthier. Personally, I know many people who thrive on vegan diets after previously suffering with an ED, and I know people who used veganism to help get rid of unhealthy eating behaviours. But this doesn’t excuse the fact that it can be a trigger for a lot of people.
This second part of my post is addressed to people who want to go vegan but have an ED, have recovered from an ED, or are scared it’ll trigger an ED. I strongly suggest not going vegan until you feel like you are fully recovered and have a healthy mindset when it comes to eating habits and food. When going vegan, you will have to first think about things that may be triggers for you. Behaviours like checking food labels are unavoidable and, at least at the beginning of being vegan, you will have to check the labels of almost everything you buy to check if it’s vegan. You also will often have to eat bigger portions of food if your meals are mainly made up of vegetables as they are lower in calories. You might also find it restrictive at first, depending on your diet prior to being vegan, so it may feel as if you are going back into ED habits by not allowing yourself to have so many foods. These are all things you need to consider before going into a vegan diet.
If you feel like veganism will be a trigger for you, it can be disheartening if you do want to make the change, but there is no use trying to save the planet and the animals if you are damaging your own health in the process. There are other things you can do to help animals, which is why veganism as a whole is seen as a lifestyle and not a diet. By buying cruelty free and vegan cosmetics and products, not buying leather, fur, silk and other animal products, donating to animal sanctuaries, maybe participating in meatless Monday’s or just trying to cut down on animal foods as much as you can will help in so many ways.
One thing to remember about veganism is that no one can be 100% vegan, it is about doing your best as a person to not participate in harming another being or the planet. For someone who has an ED or can be triggered into one, doing your best may not be going vegan, but there are many options you can do to not participate in cruelty, so please don’t feel bad in yourself or be made to feel bad if you personally cannot go vegan. There are still changes you can make, but your own health is the foremost important thing to think about.