More Stupidity on Vegans and Eating Disorders

Atrocious anti-vegan piece in the Daily Beast, even worse than the crap articles that appeared this week in New Scientist and Mother Jones.

I honestly don’t know if this Daily Beast piece linking anorexia to veganism is deliberately dishonest, or if the writer had the part of her brain that does analytical thinking surgically removed. In any event, one passage after another will make smoke come out of your ears. Here are a few:

But for those at risk of developing an eating disorder, it can mask or trigger an illness, providing a socially conscious excuse not to partake in family barbeques or dinners out with friends.

There is not a word in this article that offers evidence that veganism can trigger an eating disorder, a point I’ll return to later.

And why should it make any difference if the excuse for anorexia is socially conscious? Anorexics typically make all sorts of excuses for avoiding foods; why argue against the safety and sensibility of a vegan diet, as this article does, because of some lies concocted by a few anorexics?

Dr. Marcia Herrin, founder of the Dartmouth College Eating Disorders Prevention, Education and Treatment Program and now a dietician in private practice, takes a stricter (if potentially problematic) approach: Herrin tells parents not to let their kids be vegetarian until they go to college, echoing that the diet can create a “ruse” that loved ones can’t see through.

So, nobody under college age should be allowed to go vegan or vegetarian because a tiny number of anorexics will use this diet as an excuse for why they’re avoiding food? I hope like hell this article has misstated Herrin’s position; I’m going to send her an email to find out.

Herrin may be onto something: A 2009 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association revealed that young adults ages 15 to 23 who reported being vegetarian were, at some point, more likely to have also engaged in unhealthy weight-loss behaviors like bingeing, purging, and using diet pills or laxatives. And surveys show that the prevalence of vegetarianism among eating-disorder patients is higher than in the general population.

The vegetarians in this study also had more nutritious diets than the omnivores and were less likely to be overweight or obese. But does the article tell us that? Of course not; because this is hack journalism.

And once again, there’s nothing here to establish causality. That is: there’s no evidence that healthy people are going vegan and then developing eating disorders at higher rates than omnivores.

This article is stuffed with a lot more bullshit, but let’s skip past all that misery to the conclusion:

At its most basic level, veganism is about practicing non-violence toward animals. And in keeping with this philosophy, its followers should look out for their own well-being, too.

What a patronizing thing to write. Again, this article has offered no evidence that healthy people who’ve chosen a vegan lifestyle are at higher risks of becoming anorexic. It’s a story about anorexics using veganism as an excuse for not eating. This is such a basic and obvious distinction, yet something the author somehow fails to grasp.

I don’t know squat about anorexia, but thirty seconds of research shows that childhood sexual abuse is a risk factor, as is mental illness. And it’s a rare disease that afflicts just 0.3 percent of the population. These are all vital background pieces of information that the author ignores in favor of her idiotic veganism-can-trigger-anorexia thesis.

Finally, even the title, “When Veganism is an Eating Disorder,” is absurd. It should be: “When An Eating Disorder is Dressed Up as Veganism.”

This article will no doubt infuriate countless vegans, but the real damage will come from all the omnivorous parents who will read the piece, and who won’t be able to recognize that it’s a massive wall of bullshit. (Thanks, Meghan.) Link.


You can subscribe to our newsletter by entering your email below!


Our Top Cookbook Choice: