One of the frightening things I learned while writing my body image book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, was that when a girl chose to be a vegetarian, it wasn’t always for healthy reasons. I know this is a controversial topic. According to my teen blogger, Rebecca, who has been open with all of you about being in recovery for an eating disorder;
“at least half (maybe even three-quarters) of the girls at my treatment center were vegetarians. At the time I was like oh what a coincidence I never meet this many vegetarians in my everyday life. Then it hit me; we use our vegetarianism as a way to restrict… I can think of so many instances in my past where I just didn’t eat at a meal because something touched meat, or was near meat, or the ladle for the pasta was next to the spoon for the beef stew, etc. So many of the girls in treatment were the same way.”
As Rebecca reveals, she is not alone. Studies have found that teen vegetarians are much more likely to diet and use unhealthy measures to control weight AND perhaps more telling; teens with eating disorders are more likely to be vegetarian than any other group. So what happens when a teen who is recovering from an eating disorder decides to get honest with herself about her vegetarianism?
By: Rebecca Tishman
My toes were tingling, my body was stronger than ever before, and I felt intoxicated because I was actually living!
After 5 years of being a vegetarian and spending 4 years of that time battling an eating disorder, I’ve finally decided to take the next step in my recovery and remove the vegetarian restrictions my eating disorder imposes on me. With the support of my doctors, my mom, my sister, and a few close friends, I’ve successfully added meat into my regular eating habits.
My support team and I have grown accustomed to setting goals and meeting the challenges we set up together. My most recent challenges have been wearing clothes that don’t cover me from head to toe, the dreaded bathing suit challenge, eating ice cream, and adding variety to my meals, just to name a few.
Two weeks ago I told my therapist I was ready to start considering the vegetarian challenge. With her support and the support of my family I made the soup with chicken broth. A few days later I met with a nutritionist who called me out on all the behaviors I was still holding on to and reaffirmed the need for me to tackle the vegetarianism immediately! I went to the dining hall with some friends who were totally unaware that I had decided to take the plunge: I made myself a sandwich with lettuce, tomato, ham, and whole wheat bread…mmm delish! Not only did I eat the sandwich but I enjoyed it! I called my mom as soon as I left the table and cried tears of joy. I’ve tried meat a few more times since the ham sandwich and each time it just gets easier.
For years I had been questioning whether my desire to be a vegetarian stemmed from my eating disorder and these recent challenges have convinced me that they are totally intertwined and in order to reach true recovery I must give up being a vegetarian.
When I ate the soup with chicken broth for the first time, the wave of emotions I rode was extremely similar to the one I rode when I ate my first meal in my inpatient treatment center. I felt guilt, self-loathing, and disappointment as though I was failing, cheating, and breaking rules.
I called my sister and discussed how the majority of my thoughts were not even related to the animal I was eating which I had claimed for so long was the reason I didn’t eat meat. I’ve finally faced the lies I’d been feeding myself instead of food. And I plan to keep facing these lies until they no longer exist and I’m truly recovered, which someday will happen.
Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing your recovery process with us as you continue to get healthier, stronger, and more powerful!
While there are many vegetarians out there who are choosing that eating path for healthy reasons, Rebecca shows that this isn’t always the case. Just something we should be vigilant of if our daughters decide to choose vegetarianism.
What do you think of Rebecca’s realization and how she’s conquering her eating disorder? We would love to hear your views.
Another article by Rebecca: On Fat Talk
Is Vegetarianism Feeding Some Girls’ Eating Disorders? Teen Blogger, Rebecca Tishman Reveals Her “Meating” at the Dinner Table is a post from: Dr. Robyn Silverman - Child Development Specialist, Body Image Expert, Success Coach & the Creator of the Powerful Words Character Development System