TW: Going Vegan After An Eating Disorder

If you’ve read this blog for a while or you know me in person, you may know that I suffered with an eating disorder for around 5/6 years, during sixth form and university. It’s not something I make a secret of, and I’m more than happy to talk about it in detail. But, as I’ve said before, it is something that I feel is definitely in the past for me now.

I no longer associate myself with being ”in recovery” and although I probably won’t ever have a fully stable relationship with food, my diet at the age of 24, has never been better. I’m able to eat well, give my body the nutrients I denied it for years and feel comfortable in my own skin. I no longer throw up (I can’t even remember the last time I did!!) and although I still calorie count, it’s no longer a numbers game for me.

However, what I wanted to write about today was the transition to veganism, after recovery from an eating disorder. It’s something that I think would have been really useful for me to read the last time I attempted it, and to an extent, I think changing your diet completely can often bring back the little ED voice inside your head.

Choosing to forgo all animal by-products and meat is a huge change and it’s something that only you can decide for yourself if you’re ready for, but here are my thoughts on it:

My history with becoming a vegan

Veganism is something that I’ve played around with for years and years. However, previously – although I might have told people it was down to a love of animals and a desire to protect the planet – it always came back to an easy way for me to restrict foods, to avoid eating out and essentially to have total control over my diet and choices.

I’ve been on-and-off vegetarian for years. Spending nearly 4-years eating exclusively marmite on toast and cheese. (Healthy eh?) However, I first tried veganism at around 17 years old. I had naiively assumed that because I was vegetarian already, it would be a simple task and an easy way to eat even less.

I declared to my mum that I was becoming vegan (over Christmas Day might I add!) – stocked up the cupboards with healthy alternatives, and refused to eat any meat or dairy for about 3 days. Obviously, I cracked after that.

My reasoning was purely based on calories and self-control. Of which at that point, I had very little.

I bounced between vegetarian, meat-eating and vegan again for the next few years and I’ve always thought that when I was able to dissociate it from being about ‘control’ and more about the fact I didn’t like eating animals – that would be the right time to try again.

Why now?

I’ve dabbled with veganism over the last year or so, often failing to stick with it – but Luke and I agreed to work on it together, and in January started Veganuary. It’s made it so much easier this time to have a support at home, people online to talk to and also to know that I’m so much more healthy and capable of making this choice for the right reasons this time.

I’m firmly an advocate that people should never be made to feel guilty about their own dietary choices, and that mental health and recovery will always be the most important thing.

I understand how privileged and lucky I am these days to be able to make a choice to change my diet or what I’m eating, and to keep the eating disorder voice at bay.

Is it right for you?

I think the key thing when making a dietary change is to speak to your nutritionist (if you’re still in treatment) or to talk to a doctor.

Ask yourself the reasons that you’re making this change. Is it that you’re understanding or learning more about the movement? Is it that you’re feeling pressured or guilted by other people or that little niggling voice in your head?

Even if you’ve educated yourself on the impact of eating meat and dairy on the planet, and you’re feeling guilty – remember that you need to look after yourself over any of those other factors first. If you are not in the right place to make a change, then that is completely understandable.

I think it’s so important to think about if it’s the right choice for you and your own recovery. 

If veganism is just becoming another set of rules you’ve made – then it’s probably not the right time to make that change.

Rach

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