‘Vegan’ is a term that is becoming a lot more mainstream in today’s society. More and more people are becoming intrigued by this plant-based diet and overall it can be perfectly healthy. After all, the chances of seeing an overweight vegan are slim to none. But what if there was a way that veganism could both save someone’s life or detriment it?
Eating disorders are also becoming a lot more common in young people today. At the beginning of 2015 a report commissioned by eating disorder charity ‘Beat’ estimated over 725,000 people in the UK are affected by the mental illness. With the rise of both dieting and this mental illness, it is only natural that the two will cross paths. While veganism can be practiced healthily, the rising popularity of the diet means it is easier for eating disorder sufferers to use the lifestyle as an excuse to not eat and opt out of social situations involving food. It is then that the diet can become problematic.
16-year-old Ashleigh Ponder was diagnosed with anorexia at 13 and admits that while in recovery she contemplated going vegan. “It was because my eating disorder saw it as an opportunity to restrict. I had to consciously remind myself that it’s OK to put my health first.” She believes that good health is all about balance and uses her Instagram account ‘Balanced Not Clean’ to promote this message to her 16.5k followers. “I think any food is good. I personally just consider food in terms of its place in my wider intake so I get a balance of different nutrients. Do what is best for you – not what the status quo is trying to guilt trip you into.”
However, just because veganism doesn’t work for all people in recovery, doesn’t mean that it can’t help at all. Marissa Kai made the transition to veganism and has now made a full recovery from her eating disorder. She believes that if it wasn’t turning vegan then she wouldn’t be recovered at all. “Going vegan helped me gain a healthy relationship with food, which ultimately made me want to recover.” However, she is fully aware of the problems that may occur through following the diet while in recovery. “At the beginning of recovery I was still trying to stay slim, but as time went on I realised that I needed to do what was best for my health rather than my looks. Patience was the biggest key in my recovery. I say ditch the scale, cover up your mirrors, and then you’ll find out what reasons you are doing it for.”
If you have an eating disorder and are thinking about turning vegan, it is important to know your intentions behind the decision. Ensure your reasoning is ethical and not related to your weight or appearance. Speak with your team of healthcare professionals and a nutritionist. They will be able to provide you with information and will help you to decide whether veganism is the right path for you.