I have always had a soft spot in my heart for animals. And every since I found out in elementary school that meat actually came from slaughtered animals, I longed to be a vegetarian. I ate mainly vegetarian but still ate meat while living with my family at home throughout high school. It was only while in college, I made the dramatic decision to become vegan.
It had first started out with me wanting to become vegetarian. But I suffered with IBS in college and avoiding dairy helped me feel less bloated along with experiencing other uncomfortable symptoms. I thought to myself that I might as well become vegan if I didn’t eat meat or dairy…which I see now was definitely “all or nothing” thinking!
For months while in treatment, I fought my dieticians when they advised I become vegetarian, instead of vegan. I would continuously ask nurses and counselors if the meals I was presented with were vegan and would either eat it with tears in my eyes or shut down, numb out and mindlessly stuff down the food I was given to finish.
It was only after 4 months in intensive treatment, I voluntarily let go of the restriction I had put on myself of staying vegan. And honestly, it has been one of the most monumental steps I have taken in my recovery journey.
Even though I am very passionate about animal rights, being vegan WHILE battling an eating disorder was just not applicable for me. My eating disorder gradually took over, and it became an obsession. Being vegan and restricting out so many foods was just another way for me to feel “in control”. Checking backs of food labels for calories changed into checking for dairy or egg products. Being vegan was a more acceptable excuse I used with my friends and family to avoid going out to eat. I hijacked myself into thinking that I hated cheese and loved vegan desserts…definitely not true!
I challenged myself with a non vegan food everyday until it became more tolerable. Even though I now consider myself vegetarian, I still allow myself to eat vegan foods! The difference is that I am no longer restricted to eating ONLY vegan foods.
Being vegan while in recovery from an eating disorder isn’t advised by most health professionals. ED may tell you that you are strong & different, and can still fully recover while being vegan. But just because you CAN, doesn’t mean that you NEED to. Letting go of veganism opened me up to not only a less restrictive diet, but also to a less restrictive life stlye. It helped me release a large set of food rules that I was trying so desperately to hold onto. I told myself that if I still want to be vegan in ten years, after being stable in recovery for sometime, I can open up that door again if I so choose. But for the time being, veganism is not on my agenda!