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Vegetarianism and eating disorders


I was asked by Dietician recently why I became a vegetarian. I gave her the standard “so I will feel better” and “I’m against animal cruelty” (which I am) answers. But after thinking about it, I know being a vegetarian has to do more with my eating disorder and less to do with animals. I know being vegetarian is just an extension of my eating disorder, another way to control my diet.
My first stint into vegetarianism was in 2004. I was working as a bookkeeper for a small health food store and was drawn to the very different world of vegetarianism and veganism. So I slowly started sampling the foods around me like tofu, seitan, and tempeh. I started feeling better, having more energy, and losing weight as I cut out meat. The weight loss lit my eating disorder on fire. I started cutting out more and more foods from my diet. But eventually I left the job and went back to eating meat, where I engaged in other eating disorder behaviors.Something new: Nature’s Path Flax Plus waffles. Now, I’m not a big waffle fan, but I wanted to try something new for my breakfast. These sure didn’t taste like an Eggo waffle. They tasted fresh (although they were frozen) and went perfectly with a little almond butter and sugar free maple syrup. Also at the breakfast party were Greek honey yogurt and fresh blackberries and raspberries. A very satisfying breakfast.
When I went in treatment two years ago, I was not vegetarian. But when they served me what I thought was a big piece of meat, my eating disorder said “Hell, no”, and I told them I was vegetarian. Eating food has always made me feel dirty and tarnished, so by restricting anything, i.e. meat, I would feel clean and good about myself. I realize logically that eating meat or food in general doesn’t contaminate someone or make them dirty. But the idea that there’s still something I can restrict, i.e. meat, is comforting. Just the idea that there are foods that I will not let myself have brings me peace.
Morning snack. Dried mango. I forgot where I picked these up, but they really have me missing Trader Joe’s dried mango. They just weren’t as flavorful and had a sandy texture to it. It might be worth the 30 minute drive to go to Trader Joe’s and pick up the real deal.
I wonder if I will ever totally be over ED. It appears like I’m doing such a good job with my meal plan but my thoughts betray my actions. I’m constantly berated by myself for eating, for being a failure yet again at food. And, yet, there is a strong dichotomy inside. If I wanted to restrict I know one of my members would see to it that it would take place. Her words taunt me. Just try it. Just miss one snack. You remember how good it felt. I want to listen to her voice because she instantly brings me comfort and safety. But there’s the other side of me that enjoys food, that wants to be healthy, and that wants friendships.
Lunch: French green beans, Salt and Vinegar chips, and veggie bacon with avocado on a Griller from Morning Star. I forget what the fruit is. That was also another “let me try something new” purchase from Whole Foods. I don’t know what it was, but it tasted like a plain tangerine. Booo.
Food has always been important to me. I remember as a child I use to bake cookies and cakes when there were no recipes. I just threw a concoction of different ingredients together in a bowl and it somehow turned out edible. I would feed my creations to everyone in the neighborhood. I wonder if there is any coincidence to the fact that this was around the time I developed the eating disorder.This fancy camera work makes me feel upside down. :)Dinner: Almost a repeat of lunch, except we have a mushroom and swiss “burger”, a boat load of French green beans, Salt and Vinegar baked chips, and Oikos honey yogurt. I was surprised at how good my mushroom & swiss “burger” tasted. I don’t know anyone other than me who likes mushrooms.
Even knowing now that my motivation for vegetarianism is largely related to ED, I still won’t be giving it up anytime soon. I like eating healthy. I like Green Monsters. I like coming up with 101 ways to cook tofu. It brings out my creative side. But being a vegetarian doesn’t feel like a choice I’m making anymore. As with an eating disorder, it feels like it controls me. But I can’t face the alternative. It’s restricting at its healthiest.
Snack: vanilla soy milk and Honey Smacks. My fav cereal.We baked Banana Bread today. I love to bake. And this bread is so, so good.Maybe eating healthy and the ED don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Maybe I could find a way to eat healthy, get rid of the ED, and still avoid eating meat. Maybe I could be free of ED and eat healthy because I WANT to. Maybe…

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5 thoughts on “Vegetarianism and eating disorders”

  1. First of all, before I forget, I love mushrooms and put them in everything I possibly can (food-wise, anyway.) This is my first time to your blog and I just have to say that I can relate on so many levels. I won't ramble, but the vegetarian conundrum is one I have often debated in my head (for the same reasons, including the "meat" in treatment.) A big thing that struck me was your need to feel "clean," as this is something I have said over and over and over in terms of my food.

    My old therapist was always puzzled by this and couldn't get past the fact that I loved food, but it had to be "clean" food when I wanted it how I wanted it (we have parted ways.) I know it has a bit to do with my OCD, so I have no real advice, but just wanted to let you know I SO get it.

    Food is my obsessions, yet I restrict it to what makes me feel safe, clean and pure, in some sick sense. I can't rationalize eating something "junky" just because it sounds good if it has no nutritional value. At this point I know that it doesn't matter, that I need anything and everything for nutrition and health, so I'm trying on just eating and moving on. Not everything can be what I want all the time–what I need is more important right now.

    So, it's a compromise. Some of this, some of that and too much introspection 😉 Great post.

  2. LostShadowChild, I'm so glad you have found a path with eating that is more healthy. Good for you. I know it was really hard for a while. I'm kind of moving towards that really hard place right now… near the point of no return. I will say that I think what's saving me, is that I have moments of being able to frame the eating as a healthy internal negotiation. So, I can sometimes eat small amounts, but it has to be considered a healthy meal.

  3. I understand not wanting to eat meat too. There's something about the texture that makes me feels disgusting. It's probably my imagination, but it also seems as if eating meat is noisier – noise while eating is big trigger for me.

    My brother has a dx'd ED, and he said that it started one day when he was in the school yard; he looked around and suddenly realised how dirty the world was. So I can understand that cleanliness tie in.

    I'm not sure what is going to help you heal and cope with the ED; but wanting to be healthy and have friends are two huge steps…

    That's awesome looking Banana Bread 🙂

    Just wondering – does it help to take photos of your food?

    Take care,
    CG

  4. CG,

    Surprisingly enough, it does help photographing and posting pics of my food. I started doing it because other blogs I read were doing it and I liked seeing what they were eating. It brings out the foodie in me.

    How does it help? It's good for my non-existent memory to look back at what I've eaten so I can prepare it again. Also, because I don't like posting ugly, crappy pictures, I prepare my food (at least try to) to look appetizing, arrange the food in a certain way, and use garnishes. So it forces me to take the time to make my food appealing and delicious enough to eat.

    And since I get ideas for food from other blogs, I hope that others might get ideas from me and help in their own recovery.

    I was nervous to post pics to begin with because I was changing the format and I thought D.I.D. readers might not like it, but I've gotten really supportive comments and e-mails, so I'm glad I did it.

    Hope you're doing okay.

    Missing In Sight.

  5. Hi Missing In Sight,

    I'm glad the photos are helping… Remember your blog is to help you. So, it's about being true to yourself and your own healing 🙂

    Take care,
    CG

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