Under the Banner of Veganism. Deprivation Diets, Eating Disorders and Orthorexia.

Veganism is on the horizon of exploding with popularity. It seems like hopping on the vegan bandwagon is the chic’ thing to do with celebrities like Beyonce and Jay Z doing a 22 day vegan kick start last year, J-Lo recently confessing her love for the lifestyle and even Jessica Simpson going on a 2 week vegan cleanse prior to her wedding. I’m all for any publicity in the media to promote a vegan lifestyle but I think many people are confused about what being a vegan means.

garden-pizza-2

So the question is, what exactly is a vegan?

veg·an
ˈvēgən,ˈvejən/
noun
 1. a person who does not eat or use animal products.

That’s it. Plain and simple.

cookie bars


The problem is that many people are twisting the definition of a vegan diet to encompass far more restrictive and obsessive dietary lifestyles like any combination of the following:

  • raw plant foods only
  • gluten-free
  • soy-free
  • nut-free
  • seed-free
  • oil-free
  • salt-free
  • sugar-free
  • fruit-free
  • legume-free
  • alkaline foods only
  • fruitarian
  • grain-free
  • carb-free
  • starches only
  • 80-10-10
  • living off of sea vegetables
  • a diet primarily made up of fruit and vegetable juices

and so on! This list may seem ridiculous, but there are vegans that fit in each of those groups who believe their diet is the “right vegan diet” and there are so many people touting their “brand of veganism” that newbies, the general public and even long term vegans can become confused out of their minds! Obviously if you followed all of the diet combinations above, there would be literally nothing left for you to consume. So which of the above is the right vegan diet?

salad

I’m telling you that unless you have a specific food allergy (celiac, etc.), are significantly overweight (or morbidly obese), or have a life threatening illness or disease, the answer is:

NONE OF THE ABOVE

If you are following several of the items on the list above, you may be on a DEPRIVATION DIET. I don’t believe that those diets are sustainable in the long term.

Tofu plate

For me and my body, my vegan diet is one made up of moderation and commonsense. My diet includes an abundance of raw and cooked plant foods with lots of colors. I eat plant foods in their whole forms as much as possible and I enjoy some more processed vegan treats on special occasions. I eat tofu, lots of beans and lentils, whole grains, potatoes and whole wheat bread. I love food and I don’t enjoy deprivation. I use salt on my food, because I like the way it tastes and it doesn’t have any negative effect on my blood pressure. When I use sugars, I try to use less of it then a recipe calls for. I also choose less refined versions because I believe they are better for my body. I use oil on occasion, but I use it judiciously. Sometimes, when I’ve indulged in too much good food, I’ll go on a short juice bender or limit my intake of heavier foods for a period of time. I exercise because I like the way it makes my body and mind feel. I’m okay with all of these choices. They are within my belief system and they make me feel at peace.

I’m here to tell you that

CHOOSING NOT TO EAT ANIMALS AND THEIR SECRETIONS DOES NOT CAUSE EATING DISORDERS. 

People who severely restrict their intake of multiple food groups within the boundaries of a vegan diet likely have a mental illness that is causing an eating disorder. People who blame their eating disorders on veganism have likely been using veganism as a scapegoat to fuel their restrictive eating disorder.

NON SUSTAINABLE PLANT-BASED DIETS FUELED BY AN EATING DISORDER CAN CAUSE PEOPLE TO BECOME EX-VEGANS

stir fry

At some point people following deprivation diets will make the person eating in this manner feel severely deprived and that person may start to question their veganism. Instead perhaps they should be questioning their deprivation diet. Animal foods are not necessarily the answer.

The problem is, veganism isn’t just some restrictive fad diet. It’s a lifestyle and a belief system. So, if you’re a vegan, I’m asking you to evaluate that belief system and be honest with yourself about your motivations and your goals. Are you in it for the animals or are you in it because you have self-destructive tendencies?

In my diet transition, I originally went plant-based for health reasons. It wasn’t until about 6 months into my journey that I really made the connection that the decision to stop eating animals and their secretions wasn’t only better for my health, but also that I didn’t want to eat them anymore because I love all creatures and I don’t want to contribute to their suffering when I can live a healthy and strong diet by consuming plants.

potatoes

That’s when I became a vegan. Being a vegan makes me feel a lot of joy! I love my diet. I eat a more varied, colorful and beautiful diet than I ever did before eschewing animal foods.

I realized that eating a vegan diet has a profound environmental impact for good. It teaches my children compassion and love. Something hopefully that they’ll carry on and teach their children.

Finally, most of the people I know are not vegan. I respect their food choices and I hope they respect mine. This post isn’t intended as a bashing session. (and comments to that end will be moderated or deleted). I understand that many who have moved away from a vegan diet have done so due to health complications. Not having a support network of vegan friends and or the advice of a doctor that understands a plant-based diet can make it difficult to continue a cruelty-free lifestyle. I respect their decisions and wish them well on their journey to health and inner peace.

What I’m hoping to do here is to reach out to those who are struggling with vegan food because of restrictive eating habits. Come back and enjoy food again. Get some help from from a professional if you need it. Here is a link to help you find a vegan doctor in your area. Eat all the plants, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds in all their colors and varieties. Make friends with other vegans that eat a wide variety of plant foods! Either online or in a local vegan group. Search out a medical doctor that respects your food decisions. Reconsider your deprivation diet before you consider eating animals again.

Love,

Somer

top-view1

About these ads

122 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

122 responses to “Under the Banner of Veganism. Deprivation Diets, Eating Disorders and Orthorexia.

  1. cel

    i can feel the passion for veganism through your post, but it also read as being a bit standoffish. ive been vegan for 6 yrs and 801010 for one. ‘deprivation’ and sustainable’ in regards to diets and lifestyles are different for everyone. i have found a new balance to my health on 801010 that i find abundant and not restrictive at all. its all relative to the person and their goals (animals, health, vibrancy etc). We should not exclude or discredit any one way of going about being/eating vegan. inclusivity, not exclusivity. while some may become vegan for their health, it can evolve into more compassion for the animals and planet. accept everyones journey to veganism. and those that “fall off the wagon” and go back to eating meat, should be responsible and admit that they simply want to eat animals again (not bash veganism). there are unhealthy meat eaters and unhealthy vegans. its all about how dedicated you are in finding what works for you. but dont blame one lifestyle or another for your ‘illness,’ but rather your lack of getting to the root of the problem

  2. While I completely agree with you that restrictive diets, whether plant plant based or paleo, do not cause eating disorders, I completely disagree with you that a health promoting plant based diet that excludes processed food and eliminates or greatly minimizes sugar, oil and salt.is restrictive and not sustainable, having met an worked with over 10,000 people following this “restrictive diet” who are mentally sound, physically healthy, happy and thriving, free of the common diseases of lifestyle like heart disease, type two diabetes, autoimmune disease and obesity that plaque over 57% of Americans. I have even met children and entire families who eat this way all over the United States, Mexico and Asia.

    These bloggers du jour who “failed” on a vegan diet were not following a health promoting diet in the first place, which is why they failed, not because of the absence of animal products. And by their own admission, they all had eating disorders and an obsession with thinness before adopting their less than stellar version of the vegan diet.

    All one needs to do is look at the food porn on their blog to know this.

    Love & Kale,
    Chef AJ
    http://www.EatUnprocessed.com

  3. Pingback: Embracing the “V” Word | Whole Food-Whole Life

  4. Such a great post! I recently posted on another blog that I went vegan back in 2009 but for health reasons but didn’t last longer than 9 months because I felt unwell. Looking back I realise it was because I was restricting my diet and dealing with some residual orthorexic tendencies. I’ve returned to veganism this year, for ethical/environmental reasons, after having dealt with my issues and am not restricting at all. This time I know I can make it last because I enjoy an abundance and variety of vegan foods, including soy (which I do not believe is as controversial as everyone makes out) and processed vegan products. There are worse things I could be eating. It makes me sad that veganism suffers because of deprivation diets.

  5. Pingback: Vegan BBQ "Pulled Pork" Pizza | The Sweet Life

  6. Pingback: Feelgood Style | Sustainable fashion reporting, organic beauty tips, DIY projects + tutorials, + natural product reviews.

  7. lauren

    This is great!! I really needed to hear this. You nailed everything on the head. I just started MY vegan journey and reading so many things had me soooo confused. I love how u make it known its okay to be YOUR OWN kind of vegan/belief. Very very well said. Appreciated :)

  8. Christa

    Great post, I agree 100%!! Thanks for putting it all into words.

  9. Pingback: Eat Drink Better | Healthy recipes, good food: sustainable eats for a healthy lifestyle!

  10. Eating disorders are not mental illness. They are one’s inability to consume healthfully. I do, however, agree with your commentary that abiding by a vegan diet is not conducive to development of unhealthy eating (or lack thereof) habits. I say this with a background of Bulimia for 11.5 years, “healthy” for the past 3, whilst abiding by a system of Independent Eating for the past 15. Good post.

  11. Pingback: Plant-Based Pause No 29: Find Your Motivation « Sasieology

  12. Pingback: A Vegan Diet is Not an Eating Disorder

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s