I became a vegan out of desperation, not to be healthy, not to save the animals, not to lose weight, but to stop practicing my eating disorder.
I was nineteen, enjoying my first year of college, but my eating disorder kept rearing its head. I realized I wanted to be in recovery regardless of whatever it took. One of the things I did was look at the foods that I usually binged and purged on. It seemed that almost all of the items contained milk or eggs. I decided to eliminate milk and eggs from my diet and figured that since I already didn't eat red meat, I might as well cut out all meat products. While, as I mentioned in my previous piece, my desire to lose weight and my initial desire to become a vegetarian were interrelated, veganism was a tool that helped me in my eating disorder recovery.
Because I was doing it from a place of recovery, it worked wonderfully for me. Before I started, I saw my nutritionist (who discouraged me from becoming vegan - to no avail) and she told me that vegans often didn't get enough protein and B-12, so I needed to be vigilant about getting those. I was. I'd go to the store, pick up an item, look at it's nutritional facts and, not even interested in its calories, carbohydrates or fat content, check to see how much protein and B-12 it had.
I quickly learned that when I wasn't eating binge foods, I wasn't purging.
To be fair, that wasn't all I was doing. I was also going to several eating disorder support group meetings each week, had a recovery mentor, and worked with a therapist. I believe my vegan diet did play a key role, though. It was my first time having that much relief from my eating disorder for such a long period of time.
What brought such freedom for me with veganism was my focus on recovery. It wasn't nearly as much of a burden as some might have suspected it would be for me. Instead of going to the grocery store and thinking, I can't eat those food items, I'd say, I can eat these food items. Instead of feeling constricted by what I couldn't eat, I felt free to eat things that didn't lead to mental gymnastics later. They were loving guidelines - guidelines not to restrict me but to help me.
After about a year of being a vegan, during which I had probably been the most comfortable with my body ever, I started skipping support group meetings, became unfocused, and decided I might want to drop a couple pounds. Oops. Shortly thereafter, being a vegan became a burden, I started attending a different support/diet group, stopped being a vegan, and had a relapse.
Am I saying that a vegan lifestyle is ideal for recovery? No. Am I saying it's not ideal? No. What I'm saying is a recovery lifestyle is ideal for recovery. Over the years, I've been a vegan, vegetarian, raw foodist, non red-meat eater, and more, but what worked for me is the recovery. The first time I was a vegan, I focused on the recovery and the right food plan at that time followed. The other times that I became a vegan, I focused on the food first, and I believe that is why I didn't stick with it for a long period of time.
Vegetarianism, veganism, raw foodism, etc. work for some people with eating disorders and don't work for others. Being a vegan worked for me for awhile because it was one part of a larger picture that centered around my recovery. While I am not longer vegan, I appreciate the role veganism played in my recovery.