Veganism & Recovery: For The Animals or For Control?

Having struggled with an eating disorder for over two years now there is nothing that I haven’t thought about in terms of food, recovery and a ‘healthy lifestyle.’ After all, there was a time in my life that thoughts of food and anorexia consumed every part of me. However, it’s only over the past few months that I have begun to see the pattern of people in recovery deciding to go vegan.

Now, personally I have nothing against vegans. It’s their choice at the end of the day. As long as they are happy & healthy then I see no harm done.

Here’s where my problem lies. Someone in recovery is trying to eradicate all negative thoughts of food – no ‘bad’ or ‘fear’ foods. They are trying to break that barrier of saying ‘No, I am not allowed to eat that food.’ They are trying to recover both physically & mentally – the latter being much harder and taking a longer period of time – so why is it okay for these people to decide to go vegan? Why would it be okay for them to cut out large food groups from their diet? Won’t it just further stimulate the thought of ‘I’m not allowed to eat that?’ Isn’t that what we are trying to avoid?

A year ago I joined the recovery community on Instagram – a place where you can share your thoughts, feelings and achievements with others who are also dealing with the same or similar problems. It’s a place for you to document your recovery and overall I have found it of great help. This was where I first encountered people in recovery turning vegan. Now, whether they are 100% in it for ethical reasons I don’t know, but from my eyes and experience I see it as a way for these people to further restrict their diet and have control.

How do I know this? Recently I spoke to my therapist about wanting to begin some sort of exercise. I told her that “I wanted to feel fitter, healthier and good about myself.” After all, exercise is good for you. As therapists do, she dug deeper with further questions and it was uncovered that this would be a way for me to gain the control that my eating disorder had slowly lost over the course of the year. I am now in the healthy weight range, eating a wide variety of different foods and naturally my eating disorder hates it, so subconsciously I was looking for new ways of controlling my weight and body shape while not going back to restricting my calorie intake.

My point with extreme dieting such as veganism is the same as the one that my therapist raised about exercise. It can be a way for the eating disorder to gain control where it may have lost it elsewhere.

On Instagram I have witnessed people turn vegan who had never previously been vegan, people who turned vegan and then turned back because it ‘wasn’t for them,’ and people who are physically recovering from the illness but are still struggling a great deal mentally because there are still foods that they avoid like the plague because apparently they’re not allowed to eat it.

To conclude my thoughts, I think that any sort of diet – unless it is health related such as diabetes or coeliac disease – should be avoided at all costs in recovery. When you are 100% recovered both physically and mentally and are able to judge when it is you making a decision and not your eating disorder, then you can consider going vegan or even vegetarian if it is something you feel strongly passionate about. Make sure that you are doing it 100% for ethical reasons and because you love animals and not for reasons that are in any way related to your weight and body image.

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