Opinion Column

Vegetarianism often masks disordered eating

Samantha Skelly, Special to 24 hours



You don’t need to search high and low to find pressures influencing us to become skinner, tighter and more ‘beautiful.’ The negative pressure is on and it’s up to us to turn a blind eye to avoid self-destruction.

With the national Eating Disorder Awareness Week happening Feb. 2-8, the Vancouver-based McCreary Centre Society, a non-profit dedicated to improving the health of the province’s youth, reported “53% of females and 14% of males in British Columbia are trying to lose weight who are at a healthy and normal body weight." Some as young as 11-years-old are now announcing they are either vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free or all of the above.

Now, before I dive too deep, I want to make something clear. This doesn’t go for everyone and anyone, read it, find your why and ask yourself the vital questions needed. I support and respect vegetarians, vegans and any other lifestyle choices if you’re doing it an healthy way, and for all the right reasons.

Right, let’s get started.

Whether you’re a vegetarian for health, religious beliefs or for an ethical reason, there is a ton of quality research supporting the health benefits coming from a strictly plant-based diet. On the contrary, there is also an overwhelming amount of research to show a growing amount of people, especially women, adopting vegetarian and vegan diets as a way to lose weight, maintain low body fat and mask restrictive disordered eating patterns.

Does this resonate? Does this come from a place of health, balance and clarity? If so, power to you. Keep it coming. If not, perhaps you need to re-evaluate how you’re nourishing your body.

In today’s health-conscious world being a vegetarian is highly respected. People are always questioned why they chose to eat that way, and there are a million and one reasons they could choose. However, are they masking a deeper concern?

This is my worry. Being a vegetarian allows them to openly control what they are eating without attracting negative attention to their behaviour.

So why is it that in Vancouver there’s an overwhelming amount of people switching to a plant-based diet? Why is it the ‘cool’ thing to do now?

The problem is not the strictly plant based diet, the issue lies in replacing meat with unhealthy alternatives, which may result in malnutrition and deficiency if people are not supplementing effectively.

Extensive research must take place in order to ensure your new adaptations are healthy and in balance. According to Vancouver Coastal Health, 25 percent of girls suffer from symptoms of eating disorders, and 52% begin dieting before age 14.

Perhaps it’s time to take an honest exploration of the motivations behind cutting out animal meat from your diet. Taking the time to authentically explore your reasons behind the choices is one of the greatest gifts you can reward yourself.

Samantha Skelly is a Vancouver-based fitness and life coach.


Do you believe a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle is a healthy choice?

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