Before I start this post, I want to say that I have a podcast episode where I talk about fatphobia and diet culture. My co-host and I speak about our pasts with eating disorders and how veganism helped us on that recovery journey. This isn’t to say that everyone’s experiences are the same. I am sharing this post because I see that eating disorder recovery spaces typically frame veganism as inherently restrictive which is a shame because for many of us, going vegan improved our relationships with food so I think it’s important to speak about that side as well. Also, while there are a ton of non-dietary swaps you can make to divest from animal products, this post is focused on the dietary aspect of veganism as it is the part that I struggled with the most.
Here are my 4 tips if you are someone who wants to go vegan, but suffers from an ED or disordered eating patterns.
Transition at your own pace. Many people give up on her vegan journey because they made the transition too quickly and they didn’t have the time to adapt. Do not compare your journey to that of others : do you.
Swaps > Cuts
In 2021 there are a plethora of plant-based alternatives to your favourite animal based products especially if you live in a major city. For example, if you’re someone who loves cream in their coffee, swap your dairy creamer for a plant-based creamer and sit with that one swap until you are ready to swap another item and add it to the list of foods you consume in a plant-based version. With this method, you can adopt a fully plant-based diet in months or years depending on what is feasible for you.
Veganize your favourite meals instead of trying classically vegan recipes
Folks think that going vegan means consuming different foods when in fact you should start by veganizing the dishes you currently eat. Instead of drafting a list of “vegan meals and snacks” like smoothie bowls and oatmeal bowls, veganize what you eat right now. If you’re someone who typically eats scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast for breakfast make that in a vegan version. To make this cost effective, swap scrambled eggs for tofu scramble or chickpea flour scramble and swap pig’s ass for rice paper bacon or tempeh bacon. If you use the same spices you use on your animal based dishes and take time perfecting these veganized meals, you’ll see that they are just as good if not better than their animal based versions which will make eating fully plant-based enjoyable and fun!
Anchor yourself in your “why”
Before starting or continuing your vegan journey, examine why you want to make that switch in the first place. It can be rooted in disordered eating patterns and not rooted in the belief that all living beings deserve to live a life free of undue harm. Once you know that you are in it for the ethics, making those swaps makes more sense and they are more feasible to carry out because you have a reason that goes beyond you and that isn’t rooted in restriction or unhealthy eating behaviours. Throughout my journey, I followed vegans online, I watched documentaries, and I read books that helped me learn more about veganism as well as plant-based nutrition. Way before you label yourself as vegan, you should be anchoring yourself in the “why” as this will ensure that you are steady in your veganism when that time comes.
Again, these tips come from my personal experience with recovery and going vegan. When I went vegan I wasn’t fully recovered from my eating disorder because I was not able to recover whilst eating animals given how I felt about participating in that exploitative system. That said, I recovered enough to make the swap and because I transitioned slowly, it didn’t feel like I was restricting anything. Going vegan enabled me to extend compassion onto myself as I learned to do the same onto other animals so my ED recovery journey and my vegan journey informed one another. Anyway, I hope this was helpful to you and best of luck on your recovery and/or vegan journey!