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.

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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.

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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

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144 comments

  1. Somer, I love every single thing you have said here. I have recently been following some high-profile stories that relate to exactly what you are talking about in this post, and it’s so disheartening because it makes people think that that is what vegan means. Vegan is not a dysfunctional way of living. You have clarified beautifully. Thank you!

    1. Eve! I am very concerned about people getting the wrong message! It can be a very beautiful and healthy lifestyle as you and I know. Thanks for your thoughts!

      1. I bet. I see so much in gossip rags where it has become suddenly the cult choice of celebrities – and no wonder they don’t stick with it. You can’t take everything out of your diet and expect a miracle! It is just too restrictive.

  2. I like what you’re saying here, it is difficult because people are confusing what ‘vegan’ means. I do know someone who is a natural hygienist, osteopath & yoga teacher who eats a raw plant food diet and actually she is extremely healthy. Her & her husband heal with food. I understand the feeling that the vegan diet is being aligned with disordered eating, but I’m not sure I would say that a raw diet is unhealthy. It’s not for me, I eat about 70% raw usually & have never been persuaded that a fully raw diet is significantly better for me that I would cut out cooked foods altogether. But I don’t think there is anything unhealthy about a 100% raw diet, some thrive on it & through my studies I don’t see any danger in it. Nor do I see that in an oil-free diet. They’re a little restrictive, sure, but there is a lot of evidence they’re perfectly healthy. I think possibly you might mean to distinguish between vegan and vegan plus a bunch of other restrictions which make it hard for some. I am vegan, for ethical reasons, but I’m also: gluten-free due to intolerance, refined sugar-free & I limit refined oils. I just like real food 🙂 cool post & some interesting points. I hope it helps anyone struggling or thinking that bring vegan is complicated, it really isn’t! It’s so interesting 🙂

    1. April, there are certainly those who can do raw food and do it right. I’m certainly not shaming the raw food community, the issues I see is when people combine raw with a no fat diet. That is just a recipe for a calorie deprivation disaster. Those are the sorts of things I’m talking about. I know many gluten-free vegans, many soy-free vegans, many oil-free vegans. All of them in good health, it’s more when all those things start to be combined and demonized within the realms of vegan food that it creates problems and makes vegans look downright unhealthy and weird.

      As you can see from my food thoughts above, I eat a mostly whole foods plant based diet that is unrefined, BUT, I have been known to enjoy a vegan donut, or a slice of vegan cake now and again, and I have to admit it makes me feel an awful lot more normal than saying NEVER 😉

      1. Yes Somer, you’re right. My friend says she wouldn’t cope without nuts, seeds & avocados as they’d have a significant calorie deficit – not to mention a loss of the joy of eating!! Which is important. Food is more than fuel, it’s also about the pleasure of communal eating, connection with nature… all those things that make life enjoyable!! We’re not here merely to exist. You have the same diet as me I think, I eat a mostly whole, always vegan diet. But I make my own energy balls & bars, plus desserts now & again and they include coconut oil etc I think it’s fine too 🙂

        1. Exactly! Correct calorie consumption is very important!

          Also, food should bring joy just like you said. If you always feel like food is a punishment and that you have to restrict yourself and not enjoy it, there’s a real problem! I’m religious and I believe man is made to have joy! Xo

  3. Love this post! In the past week or so, I think I’ve seen several “anti-vegan” articles documenting the “return to eating meat”. In every example, the person was not just vegan but gluten-free, sugar-free, oil-free, something, something, something … They felt bad and were always hungry but instead of eating more food drank more green smoothies, added more kelp … Then they ate meat (always starting with “an egg”) and felt so much better … NOT because they ate animal products but because they also started eating wheat, soy, nuts, fruits, oils, etc. etc. again! In one of my very first blog posts I wrote about how no one knew what “vegan” meant anymore … Great job!!!

    1. Those are the very articles that finally gave me the courage to post these thoughts that have been brewing for forever! The restriction of foods comes down to not feeling satisfied and not having enough calories and nutrients to sustain a healthy lifestyle. We need to be talking about this! ❤

  4. Great post, Somer. I often wonder how a vegan can ever go back to consuming animal products after learning about the industries and cruelty. I am not 100% vegan but I have never claimed to be. I am, however, 100% vegetarian and the thought of every consuming animal flesh horrifies me. I often wonder about these ‘failed vegans’ who skip trying vegetarian all together and become full red meat eaters!

    It can be disheartening seeing one or two of my vegan food idols recently return to omnivore eating. But thanks to a fantastic blog like yours, I realise I can eat as a healthy vegan without feeling deprived. Cracker post x

    1. I can see how it happens, when a person get so desperate they don’t know what else to do. I’m certainly not judging those that have the issues, just hoping to clarify some things for them so that they can continue a plant-based diet that is cruelty free.

      The truth is about 75% of vegetarians go back to eating meat. Some never learned to cook properly without it. Others may have peer pressure, and others still may have been too restrictive. I’m just hoping my words will help solve some small pieces of the puzzle for those who are struggling. XO

  5. Well said Somer, I struggled for a while restricting some foods, buying expensive ingredients etc and then I took stock, started eating all the (vegan) foods I enjoyed and food became a joy again rather than a chore x

    1. Fran, life is too short! Food shouldn’t be a chore. It’s meant to be enjoyed! That means smoothies, beans, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, avocado, etc etc!

  6. THANK YOU FOR THIS. I’ve been writing something very similar to this for the past few days. It’s frustrating to see so many people discouraged from making compassionate choices because they’re told it’s unhealthy and restrictive. I was actually eating a (vegan) brownie while reading an article about how “famous” vegans are no longer vegan because they were developing eating disorders from “all the restriction”. It was so ironic.
    This trend of regression is (I think) in part due to the fact that a lot of these bloggers who got internet famous for being vegan, already had issues with disordered eating prior to becoming vegan. That should create the general feeling that eating disorders are bad, negative self image is bad and restriction is bad. Not that eating plants is bad. The confusion would be laughable if it wasn’t so damaging to everyone involved.

    1. This is exactly why I wrote this. It’s so damaging to the vegan community and obviously to the animals as people believe what they see on the news and then think that vegan diets are something dangerous and they continue to go about their way eating animals and dairy :/

  7. Thanks for saying this; we all need to keep repeating what vegan is and what it isn’t. For now, I’ll just share your post far and wide! While I can’t say that I “respect” non-vegan food choices, I’d rather talk to people about why they avoid veganism than have them tell me they’re “90%” vegan or some such. Vegan is for the animals. If it’s not working, you’re doing it wrong; animals shouldn’t suffer as a result.

    1. Thanks for those thoughts Abby. When I say I respect others for their food choices it’s because I believe we are all on a journey. I was 34 when I became a vegan. I wish I had done it sooner, but I simply just didn’t make the connection.

      Clearly those that go back to animal foods still are not making the right connections.

      And you’re right, if it’s not working, you’re doing it wrong. Most people I’ve seen leave the diet have been highly restrictive. It’s really quite sad.

  8. The best definition of Vegan I have ever encountered. Extremely well written and informative. Thought provoking.

    1. Dad, you are just the best! Thanks for being a veg head whenever you are around me.and for the choices that you make when you are eating meat. That you don’t support factory farming, etc. Love your guts.

  9. AMEN, Sista!!!! Down in Mexico right now, scuba diving with amazing creatures and creations and I am so happy that the way I eat does not harm them. Brings me so much joy! And YES, I love grains, legumes, and all of the plant foods we have available to sustain us and help us THRIVE!!! Somer, you rock! Thank you for this perfect post!! 🙂

    1. Laurie! I hope you enjoy your vacation! My parents are currently in Mexico too!

      There is so much joy to be found in food. It’s really a shame when deprivation goes too far and causes issues. We need all of the good stuff to thrive!

      XO!

  10. You go girl! Thanks for writing this and pointing out the obvious. I thank you, the animals thank you and the planet thanks you! Yeehaw!

  11. Hi Somer, Thanks you for this great post and I completely agree with you. There needs to be balance in our vegan diets and if one is too restrictive (without good medical reasons, e.g. allergies), than it’s unlikely to be a lasting change. As a vegan, I enjoy an abundance of food options, so it makes me sad and frustrated to see that others feeling deprived because…. guess what? They are depriving themselves. Maybe they aren’t eating salt or oil or sugar or gluten or whatever.

    I enjoy a balance in my eating. Sometimes very healthy and other times indulgent. I make a lot from scratch, but I do eat and enjoy some vegan processed, convenience foods as well. Yes, occasionally I eat french fries and it wouldn’t be a good life without desserts. I’ve been a vegan for 17 years (and a vegetarian for 15 years prior) and I will never return to animal products.

    1. Jenn, that’s wonderful that you’ve been vegan/veggie for so many years. Balance it what it’s all about! I try to be on the healthy end of the spectrum, but if I push it too far, all I want to eat is sugar and fat. So it’s not helpful for me to deny myself a treat now and again. I love good food too much to miss out! ❤

  12. Great post Somer! I appreciate your realistic and gentle approach. Unfortunately my body struggles on a vegan diet due to health issues but I try to incorporate it into my diet as much as I can. Who knows… Maybe I can get back into it one day. 🙂 love you.

    1. Love you Amy! Like I said, not hear to judge. I’m mainly referring to deprivation and eating disorders here, which definitely do not apply in your case. It’s also clear that foods that you are intolerant to should not be eaten! ❤

  13. What a thoughtful, well-written, and timely post! I’m sure I’ve read some of the high profile things you are speaking of and while I try to be understanding of others’ choices and not give vegans a “bad” name by public shaming others, I agree that I’ve been troubled by how a vegan diet has been portrayed. I, like many others who have posted here, try to eat healthily as a vegan, but I also really enjoy vegan treats! It concerns me greatly to have the vegan diet misunderstood in this way and I applaud you for this post. Not only did it need to be said, it put words to some thoughts I’ve had myself in the last week or two! Thank you so much!

    1. I’m so happy I could mirror some of those thoughts Teresa. We need to stand up for ourselves, our lifestyle choice and for the animals ❤

  14. Somer, I love your beautiful blog and refer to it often for recipes. As a breast cancer survivor, I know how important it is to eat more plant foods, and I have made a conscious effort to do so. A part of me would love to be completely vegan, but I don’t tolerate a high level of grains, potatoes or beans very well, and soy is out. So..that leaves not much to eat, and after a few days, I begin to crave meat.

    I am totally against factory farming and animal cruelty, but I’m fortunate to live in an area with abundant small, local farms. I buy meat, eggs, and milk from humanely-raised pastured animals.

    Ultimately, we all have to listen to our bodies and our hearts and eat the diet that makes us feel best.

    1. I applaud you for trying to make the most ethical choices for you. My parents get their meat from local farmers as well, which is better than supporting factory farms.

      So, the questions is, why are grains, beans and potatoes hard for you to tolerate? I know some people find the increase in fiber in the beginning is difficult to tolerate, but after a few weeks, they body adjusts and thrives for most.

      Bless you for surviving breast cancer! Also, best of luck on the rest of your health journey.

      1. Thanks! The women on my father’s side of the family all had diabetes, so I definitely have a carb threshold. Too much makes me bloated and causes weight gain. One of these days I’m going to do a proper elimination diet/cleanse and try to pinpoint my food sensitivities.

  15. THANK YOU! This sums up everything I’ve been thinking about regarding this topic, particularly in the past week or so. One thing that I think is particularly notable is that true veganism has actually helped some people overcome eating disorders (e.g., the green recovery series on choosingraw.com).

  16. EXCELLENT EXCELLENT post! Thank you for saying all that you did! I am SO SO SO sick of people using ‘veganism’ as an excuse for either an eating disorder or other form of deprivation!
    Whilst I know that there are plenty of people who genuinely need to avoid gluten (or soy or whatever it is), too many use that as an excuse!
    It gives us true ‘vegans’ a bad name when people revert back and yet had they been eating well enough they never would of had to…. or don’t call themselves vegan in the first place they should just say they are on a diet!!!!!

    1. It’s a tricky thing though! I think honestly people start out with good intentions, even if it is to go on a diet, many also start to feel more compassionate towards animals, but then with over-restriction, things don’t work out! They may not be seeing clearly enough to see that they need to stop restricting so much in order to get well.

      Hopefully some people in that dilemma will get the right messages and start making better cruelty free choices.

  17. Well said! I agree with everything. I don’t know how or when or why people get confused by what vegan means. My vegan journey is almost identical to yours. For some reason people would assume I was also gluten-free in the beginning. It makes no sense. Now, I am soy-free and gluten-free temporarily because of my daughter. I know I won’t always be. That’s why the whole paleo diet gets on my nerves, telling people to cut out good stuff like whole grains when it’s not even due to an allergy or intolerance. I don’t know if you follow me, but I did write a post last Wednesday in response to the GMA bit on the vegan blogger who confessed to having an eating disorder. After reading her reason why she’s no longer vegan it was obvious she had an eating disorder. Yet they still tried to make it seem like a vegan issue. It made me sad and angry. If someone truly cares about the animals and the planet they should do all the things you suggested instead of making excuses and “taking the easy way out” by consuming animals again. My husband and I are the only vegans we know, but we stand up for what we believe while still respecting others and their choices. They respect us in return. Mutual respect is our support system. I went off topic though. Basically, people need to know the truth so thank you for writing this.

    1. Haha! People almost ALWAYS assume that I am gluten-free because I’m vegan. Um no, I eat lots of naturally gluten-free foods and because many of my friends are gluten-free, I do know how to bake gluten-free as well. But for reals? I LOVE bread!

      AS for the story on GMA. I honestly feel for the girl involved. There are so many mixed messages out there! She’s very young and she’s being targeted over and over again and this isn’t what this post was meant to do. I really want people to know that a vegan diet can be healthy and well rounded.

      I honestly think that those that leave are eating too restrictively to really feel that they can continue! Clearly she was too restrictive and had an ED before she was ever vegan. I hope that she recovers and can find health again, maybe someday she’ll try veganism again when she’s in a better place.

      In the meantime, I hope this post helps others who are battling with restrictive or disordered eating within the realms of veganism.

      1. I felt the same for her. Maybe she’ll return, maybe she won’t. The important thing is for her to be healthy. I think this post could help those facing this problem. I never knew what a restrictive diet was until last week. I had no idea people were suffering from this. A vegan diet should be well-rounded or it won’t be healthy.

        1. Exactly. I know a person with an eating disorder, I wouldn’t recommend veganism to them because I know that they would use it in the wrong way to further restrict their diet. It’s hard enough sometimes for those people just to eat and be healthy period.

          I see this kind of restriction everywhere. It’s hard to watch because it’s touted as the healthy vegan lifestyle, when in reality, some of it is borderline obsessive. It definitely needs to be well rounded.

  18. What a timely and important post! I’d like to thank you for all the pictures of gorgeous plant foods you chose to add to your words! People need to see photos like this, to see the wide variety available to them on a vegan diet! Some bloggers (and right now I have no idea whether you’ve done this or not) post “what I ate today” type photos, and I’ve never liked that because it puts too much emphasis on what/how much a person is eating, rather than on learning to make a healthy dish. I sincerely hope that those struggling with disordered eating and feelings that a vegan diet is not adequate for health get help and realize a vegan diet does not cause this.

    1. Marlee, thank you! These are all photos of foods I’ve prepared and eaten! And I love all of them!

      I’ve never participated in the what I’ve eaten today type posts. In some cases I think they contribute to food shaming because some of those involved in those kind of posts look like they’re not getting proper nutrition and only post the healthiest things ever, which may also not be a correct representation of their diet. (Kinda like everyone just posting their happy times on facebook and not that donut they ate at midnight) 😉

      I’m sure there are those who do it right though, it’s just not my game.

      The more that we talk about this the more people will feel that restriction is not a good thing. XO

  19. Great post, whether you are vegan or not, everything you have said about deprivation diets is all so true. You have to find what is right for you, not follow some fad. Well said Somer ☺️

  20. Although I can see that you are coming from a good place, the way you have framed your post is not going to reach those who have orthorexia. As soon as you got into how *you* eat, I feel like you went back into a “no true vegan” tale. Your way of eating works for you, and that’s great. But that is still just one way to do it. There are a million ways of eating vegan. Orthorexia is a problem. But you can’t appeal to people who have thought out their diets to the extreme by saying *you* eat in moderation and they don’t. In the end, everyone eats what they think is moderation. It can mean only one tbsp of oil at every meal, or every day, or once a week, or once a month!

    1. Sophie, thanks for those thoughts.

      It was actually a conversation with a friend that steered me away from entering a restrictive eating cycle. So I can’t say this won’t help people. Obviously my intent is that vegans will talk about this and help one another. I hope that’s the case,

      Also, I’m not saying my diet is the correct vegan diet. Obviously there are many types of sound and healthy diets within a vegan lifestyle.

      Some may choose to add more protein, some may choose to add more carbs (and etc.) and I see that there are healthy friends on both ends of those spectrums. BUT neither of those types restrict the other food, they just balance it differently.

      I believe restriction and deprivation come in when a person is gluten-free, soy-free, salt-free, nut-free, sugar-free, oil-free (and more) without a specific allergy or legitimate health reason behind their diet. That’s where I see problems and non-sustainability develop. It doesn’t seem like living, it seems like self inflicted torture.

      But in the end, all of this is my opinion, which is why I haven’t cited other articles supporting my thoughts. And you’re right, moderation to one person may be an entirely different thing to another.

      I’m a Mormon (or a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). Our health code was written nearly 200 years ago and it states that people should eat meat sparingly, and in times of winter or famine. It also states that it’s pleasing to the Lord that meat not be used.

      My interpretation of this is that I don’t eat meat. We have refrigeration, year round produce in the grocery store and access to plant based foods all the time.

      I don’t believe it’s necessary or required for my survival in this day and age. Obviously other members of my faith interpret the very same health code quite differently. They may eat once a day and consider that sparingly. I’m not trying to judge here. But if I can help people, that’s my goal. ❤

  21. Thank you so much for this amazing, straight-to-the-point post: I’ve seen too many bloggers of late blame veganism for their orthorexia to the point where they are starting to indulge in “just” fish or “just” eggs and are suddenly magically better – in fact it seems that starting to actually eat food instead of near-constant cleanses and very restrictive diets is what makes them feel better, not necessarily because it’s not vegan. I suspect people with eating disorders may gravitate towards veganism because it appears from the outset to be restrictive, but I’ve found it to be the most bountiful “diet” ever – so much to choose from, and no reason (other than normal moderation) to cut out whole chunks of the food tree, such as carbs. Anyway, I could ramble on, but just wanted to say: great post! 😀

    1. It does seem clear to me that feeling better starts with recognizing deprivation/restriction and than putting a stop to that behavior by starting to eat food again. I agree with you that animals don’t necessarily need to be part of the equation.

      There’s been some discussion in this feed about people healing their eating disorders with veganism and thoughts about people with eating disorders gravitating towards it because it allows them to restrict even more within the realms of a so called “healthy vegan lifestyle”. It’s a difficult thing all around!

      I also love the variety of choices and the foods that I eat. It is truly bountiful!

      Thank you so much for your thoughts!

      1. True- admitting to having a problem is the big step, but then there’s a journey of healing. I can understand for some that would mean completely going to extremes of choice just to feel liberated from their own behaviours and mental restrictions, but it’s just disheartening that veganism, whilst perhaps not explicitly targeted as the cause, is the casualty nonetheless.

        It definitely opens my eyes to the way in which food and lifestyle is approached! I’m healing an ED incidentally with veganism (that is, not wanting to participate in animal cruelty is my main focus, veganism the happy consequence), which is why it’s perplexing to have the opposite, where veganism is considered the stomping grounds for cultivating an ED. I’m trying to practise compassion towards people as much as towards animals and figuring out the other side of the coin, because some of the reactions to these confessions were rather violent. If someone just said “i have an ED” it would have been met with infinite internet hugs, but the idea of “leaving” veganism has brought out the claws!

        Yikes, back on a ramble! :s

  22. SUCH an important and well-written post! I’m so used to people looking at me and going “I couldn’t be vegan,” or “I tried, then gave up” like I’m making some unthinkable sacrifice. In reality I’ve never enjoyed food more than I do now!

    Its true that “healthy” eating (which can quickly and easily slide into the danger zones of eating disorders and restrictive diets) does tend to go hand in hand with veganism. But this seems more due to the fact that going vegan in the first place requires a certain level of conscientious thought with regards to food, which results in healthier eating – rather than that a plant-based diet is automatically healthier than an omnivorious one.

    People need to understand what the word actually means. Veganism by definition has everything to do with liberation and nothing to do with restriction. -_____-

  23. Somer, I loved your post and intend to reblog it today. Love your caring approach to explaining what a vegan diet is. But more than that, I so agree with you on the deprivation aspect and especially on the ridiculous fads in which a category of foods is taboo.

    I did not know that veganism was often linked with eating disorders and I had to look up the word, “orthorexia.” The eating disorder claims against veganism are purely money-motivated by those vested interests in agriculture and most certainly this new term, orthorexia, is the psychiatrist’s way of defining yet another “disorder” so people can be drugged.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Patty!

      I would say Orthorexia is a made up term, but I know people who actually have the disorder. I’m not saying they need to be drugged though. They get to the point where foods are good or bad and not just food choices.

      Foods that are bad are off limits and usually there’s not a lot of rhyme or reason as to why the foods themselves are in that group.

      Eating from the bad food group can cause these people feelings of shame and self loathing. It’s really sad! It often goes hand in hand with body dysmorphic disorder. All of these are just another type of eating disorder.

      I do think people who have eating disorders ought to seek treatment, but not neccessarily be put on medication. Therapy can be successful for these people. ❤

  24. Reblogged this on mycookinglifebypatty and commented:
    I reblogged this post by Somer at Vedged Out for us today. I so agree with her about deprivation diets. I did not know veganism was linked with eating disorders, did you? My immediate thought–that is a money-motivated effort by the vested interests in some food industries to sabotage healthy eating and creating less need for medical care. Even the term, “orthorexia” sounds just like some made up “disorder” created by psychiatrists in order to find yet one more reason to drug us. Beware — what better way to control a population than via their food.

  25. As someone who’s struggled for years with disordered eating habits and borderline orthorexia, I would never point my finger at being vegan and claim that it’s caused this behavior. If anything, it’s the opposite- being vegan has taught me proper nutrition, how to fuel my body, and to embrace healthy fats and let myself indulge here and there, because it’s okay! I agree that the definition of veganism needs to be defined properly- it’s a lifestyle, not a short term weight-loss cure or a way of deprivation.

    1. Caitlin, your thoughts make me so happy. That’s incredible that veganism has helped you. So many go in the opposite direction that it’s nice to hear a success story like yours.

      It’s definitely a lifestyle and not a deprivation diet!

  26. Aaah so good! Mindful eating should never lead to deprivation. The issues affecting the aforementioned bloggers (who shall remain nameless) are completely unrelated to veganism, and it’s pretty irresponsible to link the two together. That is what I find the most troublesome.

    I hope they find their way – I really do.

    1. Although recent events have pushed me over the edge to publish this post, it’s actually something I’ve been thinking about for some time and it has been in my drafts for ages.

      I know plenty of people who are currently “vegan” who are on a crash course for failure with their restrictive diets. I was hoping to help them more than anyone else.

      I do think when someone has a true eating disorder, it’s difficult to unlink their thought process from the vegan lifestyle and their disorder. I can’t blame them for this thought process, but I do hope they get healthy and find peace. It would be such a difficult situation to be in without a solid support group, sound medical advice and so on. When you are really unwell, sometimes you just want to be well and I can see that some people would do anything to get there.

      1. Oh absolutely. The whole thing must be emotionally taxing. My own frustrations aside I really do feel for these individuals (who remain nameless to avoid The Gossip as much as possible), and the emotional roller coaster they’re in.

        Also, I realized that it may look like I was calling you irresponsible when I was actually referring to the GMA piece as well as a few other articles I’ve read on healthy lifestyle websites. This post is perfect in all the ways!

  27. I totally agree with you! When celebs go “vegan” (and it’s rarely a real vegan lifestyle) they often do so for weight loss or to detox, and it confuses the public’s definition of veganism. The amount of emails I get asking me to review this detox program or that juice fast drives me nuts. That’s not what veganism is about!

    I applaude everyone who gives up meat, but it seems to me that there are so many different “factions” to veganism now, and it’s caused so much infighting. I get so many complaints about salt, oil and sugar in recipes that are posted on both of my websites. It’s ridiculous!

    Veganism isn’t about deprivation or “cleansing”, it’s about doing the least amount of harm to all living creatures.

    1. Dianne, I’m right with you! We’ve talked about this issue again and again. People get offended all the time with my recipes and I hear “that’s not healthy” or something akin to it all the time.

      I never said it was healthy. I only said it was vegan. The end. 😉

      And I love your last sentiment! Veganism isn’t about deprivation or cleansing, it’s about doing the least amount of harm to all living creatures! AMEN!

      1. Agreed! I do think that vegans tend to me a healthier lot in general, but that’s not the definition of vegan. Somer, you just keep doing what you are doing. So many of us love you for it!

        1. Jenn! There are definitely benefits to being vegan! I’ve done research that shows that we generally have lower cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, etc. AND the cool thing is that these studies aren’t based on a single faction of a vegan diet, they were broad spectrum studies. I love all of that!

  28. Reblogged this on The Simple WIfe Life and commented:
    The idea of Veganism as a way to lose weight quickly has gained popularity over the past few years. But what is Veganism really? Is it just a raw food cleanse? or a juice fast? Read on to find out out what being a Vegan really is…..

  29. I love what you’ve said here. For those following more restrictive diets, if they feel happy and healthy on their diets, I say good for them! But that’s not what veganism is all about.

    1. Thank you Mary! If people are healthy and happy on their diets are both key words. I suspect many on deprivation diets are neither. But again, veganism is not meant to be an equivalent to deprivation.

  30. Thank you for writing this! It’s been really sad to see people labeling veganism as an eating disorder lately- you summarized the difference between a plant-based diet and a restrictive diet so well!!

  31. Such a good post. Eating with common sense is so important, as are the vegan support networks you can create around yourself, it can make turning and staying vegan so much easier to be surrounded by people who support your decisions and find joy in vegan food and reasons for it.
    Thank you for writing this!

    1. That’s exactly what I hope people will gain by thinking about this article. Enjoying beautiful food again and making meaningful connections with people that share similar value systems based on ethics.

  32. Well-said. Thanks for sharing this perspective and reiterating that veganism is a lifestyle and does not have to be restrictive.

  33. Thank you so much for this post, Somer! In my case, being vegan helped me overcome my lifelong binge-eating issue: it may not have been the worst case, but turning to food for comfort all the time was quickly getting old. Plant-based foods don’t come with a side order of guilt, and I don’t have to eat a lot of them since the fiber in them is so filling.

    1. That is beautiful! I’m glad that being vegan has helped you. It’s an issue that so many people have struggled with. Good food is comforting and it’s difficult for some not to abuse it like a drug. It’s wonderful that you’ve found balance without guilt. XO

  34. I think a few of your statements were a bit harsh but I agree that “vegan” has become a little confused due to the many ways of eating now that seem to tack ‘vegan’ on the end. Though I understand that ‘raw vegan’ is not the same thing, I’m sure many don’t.

    Some of the points you’re trying to make are important and I agree that some people following these restrictive diets do seem to be so completely focused on food that it certainly makes it seem ‘disordered’.

    Finally I think that despite all the great health and environmental benefits, that doing it to prevent suffering is highly underrated by many so I believe you struck gold when you said:
    “Reconsider your deprivation diet before you consider eating animals again.”

    🙂

    1. My intentions were never meant to be harsh, but I didn’t want to dance around the issue or mince words either. I’m sorry if I’ve offended you or anyone else.

      I appreciate your feedback and do think it’s something as a vegan community we need to be discussing and supporting and helping one another. In the end, we all benefit from the dialogue and the animals are happier too 😉

  35. Great post Somer! I too see a lot of heavily restricted eating about the place, and I just think it must be so tough for people to place all that pressure on themselves.

    Nonetheless, I too have respect for those who may have given up being vegan, although saddened as the lifestyle works for me. I think we each have our journey to health and wellbeing (spiritual as well) and have to do what we believe is right for us at the times, and I still think these people would have a higher level of consciousness about what they’re eating, and a higher level of awareness about food and nutrition than the average, overweight Aussie or American.

    For me though, vegan (plain ol’ vegan with none of those other restrictions) is what works for me. Variety is the spice of life!

    Robyn x

    1. Yes! People are so hard on themselves and for what end? Some of the people that I see that are the hardest on themselves are the ones who all ready have extremely low BMI’s. There is nothing to be gained (literally) from living in that manner. In fact, it’s clear to me that it’s very harmful and their “veganism” is just a guise for a full blown ED or orthorexia.

      And we do all have our own physical and spiritual journeys to go through and hopefully there’s some sort of realization that being kind to oneself doesn’t involve unnecessary or harmful deprivation of a variety of healthy food options within the boundaries of veganism. We all need variety ❤

  36. I love love this post. thank you for writing it Somer.
    We do need dialogue on this topic and we do need vegan support groups to help each other through the confusion, disorders or what not. The problem is that most support groups end up being eventually run by the people who are the most staunch about certain beliefs and hence more vocal. They might be the most supportive, but more often than not they can end up confusing everyone.
    In the end we all are human, we make mistakes, we have intelligence and common sense, have our problems and such and forget to remember to Keep Calm and be kind to animals, humans and self. 🙂 ❤ ❤

    1. I wonder about the support the people with the disorder get. From the comments on the recent diet change post, they are either congratulating for listening to the body, or harsh about not being vegan. i think being able to accept that it is a disorder/obsession is very difficult, else we would see people who have accepted so, reaching out to explain and help understand the restrictive eating.

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