The Veganuary is a global campaign by an organization of the same name, which wants to encourage people worldwide to try a vegan diet in the first month of the year. The trend is particularly widespread on social media and is putting pressure on non-vegans to go completely vegan for at least a month. How do I see Veganuary 2023 looking at people who are currently recovering from an eating disorder? Do I recommend joining the trend? And how can you maybe use the Veganuary 2023 in a more helpful and effective way for yourself?
More and more people are choosing to be vegetarian or even vegan. You probably also know a friend or other peers who eat according to these concepts. Vegetarianism avoids meat and fish, veganism also doesn´t consume dairy products, no eggs, no honey, no gelatine, etc. The reasons behind this can be different:
These are just a few reasons why someone might choose to eat vegan or vegetarian. In general, we can agree with all points (although I would like to point out that you have to be careful with the “health” aspect, because some people may actually not get along with a vegan diet well).
Why I usually eat vegetarian food is simple: I find the consistency and taste of meat incredibly unpleasant – even as a child I had a bit of a problem with it. Now, the thought of chewing on the flesh of a dead animal is just weird. But I am okay when other people eat meat. However, I don’t want to “label” my diet, because if I ever feel the need to eat meat, then I will just eat it and move on. From time to time I also have fish (yes, with fish I have less problems with the dead animal – I have no idea :D).
However I don’t eat completely vegan because I would still perceive this as too restrictive. We still don’t have vegan milk alternatives in all cafes, let alone baked goods. Even when I’m at my friends house, there isn’t always a vegan option. With my background of eating disorders, I don’t want to dare to limit my eating in this regard just yet, because it could quickly trigger more eating disorder thoughts. For me, not eating vegan is also a kind of self-care.
The question of whether veganism is possible and useful in recovery is an important question. During recovery from an eating disorder, the focus should be not only on regaining weight, but also on giving yourself unconditional permission to eat. Affected people often have the thought: “If I gain weight, then I would like to do it with “healthy” food.”. Vegetarianism and veganism in particular seem to support this plan.
The thought “only eat healthy” is a clear tendency towards orthorexia, the eating disorder behaviors (restriction, compensation, …) are replaced by other eating disorder behaviors (clean eating, plant-based nutrition, mainly fruit and vegetables, weight training, excessive Yoga practice,…) So veganism is often just an excuse to restrict and control foods again – just in a more socially acceptable way – but in the long run it won’t free you from your food focus and eating disorder.
Even if I am not (yet) completely vegan, I think the basic idea and the intention behind it, to protect the environment and animals, is beautiful and important. However, as I said above, we don’t need a thousand people doing it perfectly, we need billions of people doing their best. So here are a few ideas – which I actually implement in everyday life that you could implement in Veganuary 2023 – if it doesn’t feel restrictive to you and doesn’t feed your eating disorder. Please be honest with yourself. There’s nothing wrong with saying it doesn’t feel safe for you. Mental health comes first.
Perhaps you are asking yourself why you should be so careful with this topic and not simply go without animal products for a month like others. But remember that you have a special background. Especially if you are still in recovery or have not recovered for too long, nutrition and exercise are vulnerable topics. Eating disorders are insidious and can eventually sneak back into your life without you even realizing it.
Maybe now is just not the right time for you to change your diet. That’s okay – there are many small ways you can contribute to climate protection and participate in Veganuary 2023 without rsiking your recovery. If you decide to become vegan for reasons not related to eating disorders, it will come naturally because when you give yourself unconditional permission to eat, you are eating what makes you feel best physically, emotionally, and mentally. Take small steps.