Did You Become Vegetarian Because of Your Eating Disorder?

I wanted to talk about something a little different today. Kind of just a clarification/get-things-out-in-the-open sort of thing.

So, I’m vegetarian. You knew this already, right?

Actually, it’s very possible that you had no clue I’m vegetarian. I don’t really talk about it. I don’t make a big deal of it. But yes, all of my recipes are meat-free or have meatless substitutions. Being vegetarian is not my main objective of this space here on Happy Food Healthy Life. Having a healthy relationship with food is.

disclosure: this post could be triggering for anyone suffering an eating disorder or a history with food restrictions.

Earlier this week, I was made aware of an article about a blogger who decided to transition away from veganism because it was making her obsessive and less-healthy in the long run. She was becoming overly obsessive and controlling about eating only “clean” foods and really only liked the feeling of an empty stomach.

I have thought about the correlation between a vegan/vegetarian (let’s just call it “veg”) lifestyle and eating disorders in the past, and I think that it’s about time that I address the issue.

I'm answering the question: "Did you become vegetarian because of your eating disorder." Is there a correlation there? Is becoming veg just an excuse to cut calories. Find out the scoop! www.happyfoodhealthylife.com

“Did you become a vegetarian because of your eating disorder?”

The first answer that comes to my mind is No.

I did it for animal rights. After watching numerous animal rights’ documentaries and reading about the treatment of animals, I had no desire to be a part of that. I just couldn’t bear the thought of being a contributing factor of animal cruelty. Done. And my thoughts and feelings on that subject still stand true.

But now that I look back 10 years ago to when I made that decision, knowing what I know now about my eating disorder, I know that there was probably more to it than just animal rights (even though I still stand by that as a large part of my decision). I’m sure there was a large part of my subconscious that was excited about the fact that I’d be able to get out of many food-related situations because of my decision to become veg.

Think about it.  I’m invited to a BBQ and “forget” to bring my veggie burgers, so my only option is to load my plate with salad. Pretty “convenient” for someone trying to restrict their caloric intake, right? Many meats are generally loaded with fats that someone with an eating disorder may be turned off by. A veg lifestyle could get them out of eating those sometimes-scary fats and added calories.

No, I don’t think that every vegetarian has ulterior motives, by any means. But I do know that there can be the possibility of some sort of relation to disordered eating. And this doesn’t just have to be a veg lifestyle. It is all across the spectrum. Gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, etc etc. They are all restrictive in some way. Unfortunately, despite the fact that some people have a real physical need to make these restrictions, these types of “diets” are becoming trendy. More and more people (I’m thinking teens especially) will make the claim that they need to go dairy free because they feel bloated when they eat dairy. This may be the case, but it also may just be a way of getting out of a whole food group in order to lose a couple pounds.

{if you want to learn more about my personal eating disorder story, check it out here}

Why this sucks big time for me:

Well, I’ll be honest. This correlation and tendency in my obsessive nature totally sucks. I have some chronic digestive issues that cause a lot of discomfort. I know what the professionals will tell me.

“Let’s try an elimination diet. We’ll start with dairy. Then gluten…” so on and so forth.

I can’t do that. Eliminating whole food groups means going back to reading labels. Watching every ingredient. Monitoring what I’m eating rather than really listening to my body and what it wants. It goes against what I believe in as far as a healthy relationship with food.

It sucks so bad that I’ve finally gotten the mental crap figured out only to have my physical body not willing to cooperate.

In conclusion.

I’m currently veg for animal rights reasons and I do also feel healthier not eating meat

It’s possible that when I made that decision at 21, I was subconsciously making it a little bit for my eating disorder as well, but I can’t confirm that for sure

My eating disorder history is getting in the way of me really being able to take care of my body

These are my opinions based on my personal experiences – please no hating

Pigs and cows are cute


  1. Jessica says

    I’m not much of a commenter on anyone’s blog, and I confess to only sporadically reading yours, but this post popped up in my Facebook newsfeed and after reading, I felt to compelled to comment. I too am a vegetarian. Unlike you, I have never had an eating disorder. I became vegetarian for financial and environmental reasons (not so much animal rights, I’ll eat ethically raised animals on holidays), but I continue to be vegetarian for some of the same reasons you do, or did, in a way. I focus on eating organic/local/non-processed food avoiding those things becomes much easier as a vegetarian. No more McDonalds, no more hot pockets, no more most things at restaurants. This to me sounds similar to your excuses while suffering from an eating disorder, but coming from a different place. I use my vegetarian status as a more socially acceptable excuse to not eat highly processed unhealthy foods than “that’s gross”. Thus, I find it ironic and interesting that the method I use to maintain my health can be used in the opposite way, as a way to maintain an eating disorder. It’s kind of disheartening, but I’m glad I’m aware of the possibility, and it makes sense looking back at certain friends’ eating habits when I later learned they had eating disorders. Disclaimer: I am NOT focused on eating “clean”. I go for taste and nutritional integrity, not so much nutritional value or balance. And pigs are super cute. 🙂

  2. Eilish says

    I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 9, and my ED didn’t begin until I was 12. Still, the treatment centers I went to were very strict about allowing vegetarians, as lots of the patients used it as ED behavior.

  3. says

    Thank you for sharing this. I have battled disordered eating from one extreme (Bulimia) to the other (Binging only) for almost 20 years now. Though I’ve been “healthy” for many years, I currently need to lose several hundred pounds and I’m finding it hard to find a balance between eating healthy and going too extreme. I appreciate that there are others out there who have dealt with some of the same issues, because sometimes I feel like I’m alone – especially being obese since much of society does not believe obese people can deal with disordered eating.

    BTW, I’m a new reader. I found your blog via a Pinterest post yesterday or the day before and subscribed immediately. 🙂

    • Holly Waterfall says

      Amy, first of all, I am so sorry for your struggles with disordered eating. Those are struggles I wish on nobody. I know how you feel though – because of my eating disorder past, I am not able to participate in any sort of weight loss challenge or anything remotely close to a diet without accidentally going too far with it. It sucks, but it’s the reality. Instead, I have found better ways to get healthy without controlling my food. It’s all about moderation and listening to your body (which is NOT easy at all).
      I wish you the best and hope I can help in some way. Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you. xo Holly

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