Meal Prep, Veganism, & Eating Disorders

I recently read an article claiming that meal prep, veganism, and healthy eating on Instagram can trigger eating disorders. At first when I read the article, I felt embarrassed/ashamed, because as a vegan dietitian who loves to meal prep, and as a person who recovered from disordered eating, I would never want my posts to make someone feel inadequate or triggered in any way. My intention for showing my meal prep and food photos is to demonstrate how creative, nutritious, and easy plant-based eating can be.

What this article failed to mention is that eating disorders are not about food (seems counterintuitive, right?) Many people (myself included) develop eating disorders as a result of trauma and/or underlying depression and anxiety. To blame social media or pretty pictures of salad in mason jars takes the focus away from the complex causes and treatment of addictive behavior and maladaptive coping mechanisms.

That being said, some of my meal prep photos do feature recipes low in calories, protein, and fat, so the article made me think “do I really want to present veganism in a restrictive way”? (the answer is NO because I believe in mindful/intuitive eating and I know restriction often leads to bingeing).

A huge part of my recovery was intense therapy. Another aspect of my recovery was learning about nutrition and how to adequately fuel my body (from an RD). I learned how to prepare food and enjoy it without anxiety, which led to my love of cooking and meal prep. I learned that a balanced diet includes all types of food- including veggies AND ice cream.

I learned that messages about dieting, weight control, and health will always be there and that’s ok because through therapy I gained the skills to acknowledge what does and doesn’t serve me, without placing blame on things that could possibly be triggering.

In treatment, I also reflected on my reasons for being vegan. I became a vegan when I was 15 due to many reasons, some of them more selfish (like wanting to lose weight). I then learned about animal cruelty and the impact of factory farming on our Earth. But because of the association between veganism, weight, and food restriction, it was absolutely essential for me to let go of my vegan diet during treatment. I was able to return to veganism when I was stable in mind and body. I now use my nutrition knowledge (as a dietitian) and my passion for veganism to share how easy, nourishing, healthy, and satisfying this lifestyle can be, with the right intentions. Being aware of my own history, I would never want to promote veganism solely for weight loss. I think adopting a more plant-based diet can be a useful tool for overall health and is the most sustainable way of eating for the health of our planet.

If you feel like you might be using veganism/vegetarianism to mask an eating disorder, I encourage you to please let go of labels and honestly assess your intentions behind this lifestyle based on compassion for all beings- including yourself.

I have a lot more to say on this topic and I will share those thoughts in another post. But for now, I hope you take time for yourself and do things that bring you health and healing in mind, body, and soul.

-Jess

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