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The Intersection of Veganism, Orthorexia, and Anorexia

Here is a slippery slope I see over and over again with our girls: Vegan–> Orthorexia–> Anorexia. Before I get into this, please know I am not against veganism in any way and believe that there are all different kinds of ways to eat- and do so healthily. Furthermore, I am not suggesting that someone’s desire to become vegan means they are destined for an eating disorder, but I do see a pattern with our adolescents, specifically. We need to be attuned to the motivation behind our children’s eating desires. Does negative or positive psychology fuel them?!

 

If your daughter comes to you and says, “I want to become Vegan,” sadly, this might NOT solely be because of:

  • A new-found discipline
  • Putting health first
  • Loving animals
  • Saving the planet

 

Maybe there is a HINT of these “PROS,” sort of like an added benefit, but her real reason could be:

  • “I dislike/hate my body, and I want to restrict.”

 

Despite how she tries to convince you otherwise, and you want to believe her, at least be aware of this possible primary motivation.

 

I see parents praising their daughter’s desire to become vegan in their attempt to be healthier with a loving humanitarian heart, when all the while, without knowing, they are facilitating disordered eating and negative body image. It isn’t until the behaviors are spiraling, she has lost “too much weight” and family mealtime becomes an all-out war, that they realize there is a problem.

 

TIP: So, what do you do about the desire to become vegan?

 

  • Ask questions!!! Please, ask questions first.
  • Do not step into the mind field of making statements (even reassuring ones) about looks and/or body shape/size.
  • Stay zoned into the needs of her developing/changing body. By eliminating animal products in her desire to become vegan, she is eliminating many protein sources. Now, there are still ways to get quality plant-based protein in her diet. However, this requires a very conscious effort and relentless determination to meet her body’s nutritional needs. If she is an athlete, she needs even more.

 

Let’s shift a bit–say she watched a video about mass-produced meat and literally refuses to eat any animal products. Make her understand that this new way of eating doesn’t mean just eliminating but also means ADDING!!!!! Make sure you focus on what she must also INTRODUCE. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT.

 

“Teenage girls need protein to grow and develop properly; protein is an important component of skin, hair, nails, muscle tissue, bones, organs, and glands. Although most teen girls – at least in the United States – get plenty of protein in their diet, those who avoid animal-based foods should carefully plan their meals to ensure adequate intakes of protein and other nutrients.” – Healthyeating.sfgate.com

 

FACT: 40-60% of peak bone mass is accrued during adolescence. 90% is accrued by the age of 20. That is the window. Then it is closed. If protein is eliminated or minimized during this timeframe…well, you get the picture! The desire to become vegan is a noble one, but please be aware of the nutritional and mental context of the diet your child may be entering.

 

With love & light,

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