Vegetarian Eating Disorders: New Study Links Vegetarian Diets to Eating Disorders

Chief Marketing Officer Julie Holland’s EverydayHealth blog “The Truth About Eating Disorders,” is temporarily unavailable while it moves to a new location on the EverydayHealth website. In the meantime, Julie’s blogs will be posted here on the Eating Recovery Center blog.

Community-supported restrictive diets are becoming more and more common in today’s society. If an individual has the genetic or temperamental risk for developing an eating disorder, choosing to eat strictly vegetarian, vegan or gluten free for non-medical reasons can be a precursor for the onset of an eating disorder. Following a strict diet and avoiding certain food groups could also be an individual’s veiled attempt to minimize disordered eating behaviors that are being used to lose weight.

A recent study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that women who struggle with disordered eating behaviors are four times more likely to be vegetarian than women without eating disorders. It’s suggested that eating disordered individuals engaging in a vegetarian lifestyle may be trying to legitimize their food avoidance. In addition, some study participants were in various stages of eating disorders recovery: fully recovered, partially recovered and not recovered (or active in the eating disorder); and the study found that as individuals progressed further in their recovery, the likelihood that they were eating strictly vegetarian decreased greatly, from 33 percent of eating disordered individuals to only five percent of fully recovered individuals.

No, “vegetarian eating disorders” aren’t a new type of eating disorder, but these behaviors certainly are ones to be taken seriously.

At Eating Recovery Center, nutrition for eating disorders patients is a crucial part of the treatment process. Our dieticians take each eating disorders patient’s diet into consideration and actively discuss his or her motive or desire to be vegetarian, vegan, etc. Although not always intertwined with an eating disorder, restrictive-style diets like vegetarianism can play a role in the development of an eating disorder as well as cause barriers to lasting eating disorders recovery.

If you, a friend or a loved one is eating vegetarian and engaging in disordered eating behaviors, you may want to speak with an eating disorders specialist, family doctor or dietician to learn more about vegetarianism and eating disorders and how to approach your friend or loved one to seek eating disorders treatment.