Sunday, May 6, 2012

Veganism -- A Sanctioned Eating Disorder

As the father of a teenage girl, I try to be informed and stay alert to signs of an eating disorder, especially now that our daughter has become Vegan.  She used to love bacon, lamb, London Broil and liver pate not too long ago.  And goat cheese.

Then the "fish incident" raised a red flag that something was wrong.  She started to negotiate ever smaller portions of fish, her least-favorite animal-based food.  Just before formally announcing her vegan diet, she'd typically feed half to the cats and dog and re-arrange the rest.  Her last plate of fish -- the fish incident -- caused a genuine fit of crying about the pain of the fish.

That's when I blocked from the computer.

But it wasn't until my daughter described the ever dwindling diet of her school friend KG that it occurred to me that veganism is used to disguise an eating disorder.

KG was a vegan before our daughter; she probably convinced our daughter to convert to this way of eating.  Recently, she announced her new way of even healthier eating: vegan, low-fat, without grains and legumes.  It sounded as though the girl decided to adopt the Paleo diet and yet remain vegan.

The idea that veganism is an eating disorder is certainly not new.  Do an Internet search and find many discussions on the topic.  Here's a link to get you started..  Veganism can be one of many manifestations of Orthorexia, an eating disorder where the individual refuses to eat foods perceived to be unhealthy.

I am somewhat comforted that our daughter follows the vegan lifestyle, not just the diet.  She will not buy any products made from animals or that were tested on animals.  For example, she refused to use a set of paints and paint brushes that I bought her before she went vegan.  Instead she talked my wife into buying a second "vegan" set.  It drives me crazy, but I'm still comforted to know that this compulsion is not focused solely on diet.


Tirsden Frozenrayn said...

Ironically I end up searching for vegan versions of products I want to eat quite a lot, due to my ridiculous list of food allergies that makes my own food life look like an eating disorder all by itself. It's not that I don't want to eat so I can be thin (and I am actually getting too thin)... it's because what's left of the food I can eat gets boring fast. That, and some days it really does seem like I am flat-out allergic to food... but I digress.

Veganism as a fad does worry me. Being as I have a super-restricted diet, there are some things I just cannot cut out due to vitamin deficiencies I already have from the foods I can't eat. Meat is one of the things I refuse to let go of, if it gets along with my tummy. Hamburger I have finally pushed off the list of "what I can still eat" because no matter where I buy it, it tears me up. I have a feeling if I did a little research on the internet, I'd find out all kinds of things I didn't want to know about it anyways. But I'm not eating it anymore so it really doesn't matter.

I hope your daughter isn't making the Vegan choice as a peer pressure or falsely-educated move. I really do worry about some of the Vegan concepts. Honey? Seriously? Bees will make honey no matter what. They don't care. Humans may as well eat it. And while the meat industry could definitely use a massive overhaul, some people really should try living without being able to eat most of the food in a grocery store and not by personal choice. Gotta get decent edible material from somewhere.

Square Peg Guy said...

I'm sorry that your food restrictions are increasing. Hamburger must've been are to lose. But I can see how it might cause problems for someone with food sensitivities. I've seen red dye added, and I can imagine that factory-packaged meat might be flooded with an inert gas or otherwise treated to keep it from turning odd colors. (Even Martha Stewart once got raw hamburger with red dye in it.) Then there's the stuff that the cow ingested -- grains, antibiotics, hormones are three that come to mind.

Initially I discounted peer pressure as influencing our daughter because she is a contrarian. But in a perverse way, peer pressure works in the reverse on her. Maybe it's the "peer vacuum" that appeals to her. She can use her diet as an excuse to opt out of all kinds of social engagements, especially dinners. Well, that's sort of the point the post is making, except now we're focused on peer avoidance as opposed to food avoidance.

Falsely-educated, yes, in that she thinks it's healthier than any other way of eating.

Bees do make honey naturally. But apparently an old queen will produce fewer eggs as she ages, and so the beekeeper will crush her to make room for a new queen. I think it's this act of cruelty that makes honey non-vegan.

Great discussion! Thanks for taking time to post!