You may have noticed that this week on metro.co.uk, we’ve been talking a lot about what it means to be vegan in 2017.
We’ve been looking at the fact that there are still no mainstream vegan or vegetarian cookery shows.img src="https://metrouk2.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/sec_17564818.jpg?quality=80&strip=all&crop=180px%2C0px%2C842px%2C630px&resize=150%2C113&w=100&h=75" data-aspect="1.3274336283186" data-rewritten="false"">>Finally, someone's made vegan beans and burgers in a tin
And we’ve been hammering home the fact that being vegan does not mean the same as ‘clean eating’.
The fact is, there are many misconceptions around veganism and what it entails from both a moral and practical point of view.
But it would be irresponsible for us not to discuss the very real link between eating disorders and plant-based living.
I hasten to point out here: veganism does not cause eating disorders. Poor mental health causes disordered eating, not an ethical stance on animal products.
As we’ve said before, many vegans are just as unhealthy – or more unhealthy – than omnivores. You wouldn’t get round all the plant-based junk food businesses in London without vomming first.
But that isn’t to say that those who have suffered, or are suffering, from disorders don’t turn to veganism for their recovery.
I use the term ‘vegan’ because they do; perhaps it would it more accurate to call them ‘plant-based eaters’, because it’s hard to judge people’s moral standings in these cases.
The moral crusade of veganism allows people to add a moral value to their eating choices. Eating disorders require the same kind of quasi-religious following; it’s ‘wrong’ to eat carbs/fat/sugar…and in recovery, it’s morally unjustified to eat meat or dairy.
While various anti-plant based bloggers have claimed that veganism is a clean-eating trend, it seems to be much more obvious that those who are intent on following a restrictive diet for weight purposes abuse the movement as a way to justify their habits – not the other way round.
Does the process of getting better really have such a big link with awakening to animal rights? Are recovering anorexics and bulimics more ethical than the rest of us?
It seems highly unlikely.
Head onto Instagram and you’ll come across a number of vegan influencers who have battled with eating disorders.
Serena Lee is a yoga teacher with over 15,000 followers, who preach health and balance, having suffered from anorexia and hypergymnasia as a teen.
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Left: This is what muscle wastage looks like. I've never really shared this part of my journey on here before. I dealt with anorexia + hypergymnasia as a teenager and IT. SUCKED. As in sucked all the life out of me. I have barely any photos (pretty much maybe 3 photos from this one party and that's it) because 1️⃣ I avoided photos and 2️⃣ I barely socialised. 🕣 Right: An abundance of healthy food, some junk food, a good amount of exercise and a good amount of rest. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Still not really sure which details are helpful/empowering to share and which are harmful – sharing things like "lowest weight", I know if I was in that mindset I'd see it as a target and that's not okay. Just know if you are reading this from a dark place, there is a way out and there are people who can help you. @neda, BEAT, Seed & MGEDT are a few organisations there for you, and if you know someone with an ED you can get support on how to help them as best you can. ♥️ Love and light and more love to you 🌈
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As part of her commitment to her community, amid the smoothie bowls and vegan salads, she sporadically posts photos of her during her illness and compares them to now – the very picture of health.
For Serena, veganism has clearly brought her happiness and a cracking set of abs.
But with so many former orthorexics and anorexics calling themselves vegans, it seems naive not to think there’s something about the idea of cutting out food groups that appeal to the disordered eater.
Henya Perez is another vegan blogger who has previously been incredibly ill.
She became orthorexic after trying to cure a yeast infection by going a ‘Raw till 4’ diet where she only ate raw fruit and veg until 4pm.
That led to chronic IBS, diarrhoea, fatigue and nausea and eventually ended with her in hospital.
‘‘I felt very dehydrated although I was drinking 4L a day and I would get very hungry and angry quite quickly,’ she says.
‘I felt tired most of the time from digesting so much food. I wasn’t able to digest foods that weren’t part of the diet like salt, oil and even cooked food was a huge struggle.’
So, she returned to a ‘non-restrictive vegan’ diet – finally allowing herself to eat salt and sugar.
‘Being vegan is not about a diet. It is a lifestyle I follow because animals are being exploited, tortured, raped and murdered in factory farms, and I will never take part in that,’ she says.
‘I think it is important to share my story to warn others and also to show that veganism has nothing to do with diets and eating disorders, and has everything to do with choosing an ethical lifestyle and saving animals.’
She’s right – being vegan isn’t a diet, it’s an ethical choice.
But isn’t there a possibility that an ethical label like ‘veganism’ legitimises restrictive eating habits? Rather than saying you don’t eat cheese because it’s got way too many calories, you can say that you don’t eat it because it’s made from baby cow juice.
When you are vegan this is how happy meals really looks like! 🐔😰💔 . #vegan #veganism #veganshare #vegansofig #vegans #veganlife #veganlove #animallover #veganfortheanimals #veganstrong #vegangains #crueltyfree #vegangirl #vegan #veganmom #animals #noanimalsharmed #animalrescue #veganfortheanimals #vegainz #savetheanimals #govegan #friendsnotfood #veganaf #animalportrait #animalrights #peta #pet #adoptdontshop . Art by @danaellyn
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No one is going to tell you to eat something you fundamentally disagree with. No one is going to pressure you to break your moral stance.
‘As a psychologist, I get very worried if a client reports thinking about becoming vegan during their recovery,’ Dr Julia Coakes, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Insight Therapy Centre tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Veganism requires restrictive controlled eating. Anorexia nervosa is characterised by restrictive eating, and these behaviours are too similar to enable veganism to be part of a psychologically healthy recovery.
‘It is also very hard to gain weight eating in this way (but not impossible) and this means inpatient units often do not allow veganism during inpatient stays. Restrictive eating practices are strongly discouraged during recovery from eating disorders hence veganism is strongly discouraged.’