AP photo from the LA Times
The story about vegetarianism and eating disorders is also found in the Daily Mail and ABC News, both of which add more details than the LA Times piece.
A new study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association looked at a self-reported survey of 2,516 young adults aged 15-23 about their eating behaviors, weight, and lifestyle. They found vegetarians on the whole ate healthier and had healthier weights than their meat-eating counterparts. However, of the former and current vegetarians, they reported they were twice as likely to use unhealthy measures to control their weight such as diet pills, laxatives, and purging than their non-vegetarian peers. About 20% of current vegetarians also reported binge eating and a feeling of loss of control.
Several questions the researchers asked were:
Does lack of meat in the diet make people more likely to binge?
Are people with a susceptibility to eating disorders attracted to vegetarianism in their teen years?
Whatever the answers are to these questions, the more important question to ask is what the motivations are for choosing a vegetarian lifestyle. This is a cue to parents to take interest in their child's answer, and if it is for weight loss, a red flag should be alerted. However, at the same time, many teens also answer that going vegetarian is about "health." This is when it can get tricky as the "health" scheme can become a guise for an already existing eating disorder or a pre-emptive eating disorder in conveniently restricting.
Sometimes I feel vegetarianism gets a bad rap in thinking that vegetarianism and eating disorders go hand in hand, but at the same time, I can ascertain why it's a big deal too. In the end, it comes down to personal choices. Hopefully, those choices will be ones that reflect true health, mindset, and beliefs and not just to determine a number on the scale..
Note: *Two related posts by bloggers Carrie (Vegetarianism and eating disorders) and Kim (Going vegetarian?)