Vegetarians May Be Hiding An Eating Disorder
Vegetarians have many reasons for not eating meat. Some do it for animal rights, some for their personal health, and some to save the environment. A new study suggests that a lot of people with eating disorders may claim to be vegetarian in order to politely refuse food and mask their problem.
Women with eating disorders are four times more likely to be vegetarians than other women, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They discovered that over 50% of women with eating disorders had been vegetarians at some point during their lives, whereas only 12% of other women had tried a vegetarian diet.
Vegetarians have many valid reasons for refraining from foods, but disguising an eating disorder is a surprisingly common cause. Venessa Kane-Alves, a dietitian, said “Going vegetarian can be another way to cut out a good category, or a number of food categories, if you become vegan. It makes it easier when people ask you questions about where those foods have gone. It’s a more socially acceptable way to restrict foods.”
Hiding behind vegetarianism
Many teenagers turn to vegetarianism in order to hide their eating disorder from their parents. Adults are much less likely to be concerned if their child wants to save the environment than if they were risking their own health to be thin.
This research does not suggest that vegetarianism causes eating disorders, or is unhealthy. On the contrary, with a correct balance of proteins and vitamins, it is much healthier to be a vegetarian than to eat meat. However, for some women, it may suggest an eating disorder.
68% of women with a history of eating disorders believed there was a relationship between the two.
The Illusion of Control
By cutting out meat, it is easier for women with eating disorders to lose weight and feel in control. This may point to orthorexia, an obsession with healthy eating that can be considered an eating disorder.
If you know someone that is a vegetarian and also seems to have an obsession with losing weight, it may be wise to suggest that they get medical help. This is a tough issue, because many women with eating disorders are not willing to get help.