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Can Vegetariansim Mask an Eating Disorder?

Most of us know that when followed correctly, a vegetarian diet can be incredibly healthy for both humans and the planet. But what happens when someones’ intentions for being healthy go too far? According to the Journal of American Dietetic Association, twice as many teens and nearly double the number of young adults who had been vegetarians reported having used unhealthy means to control their weight like diet pills, laxatives, vomiting or diuretics, compared with those who had never been vegetarians.

These recent findings underscore a chicken-or-the-egg scenario: does being a vegetarian enable an adolescent to develop an eating disorder, or does the youth’s choice to become a vegetarian mask an underlying eating or body image issue? Health and nutrition experts see it as more of an issue with the latter, namely that there are predisposing factors that initially lead a child to choose to abstain from meat and also carry out unhealthy behaviors to control their weight.

While health benefits and animal-cruelty may be the driving forces for a teenager to abstain from eating meat, they might also be drawn to vegetarianism because it restricts or limits the kinds of foods they can eat. With eating disorders like anorexia or orthorexia, the choices of what a person is allowed to eat becomes smaller and smaller as their disease progresses. And when body image and body weight weigh heavily on the minds of these teenagers, it is easy to see how this disordered eating can become out of control when a young adults’ reasons for becoming a vegetarian are layered and do not just include the sole intention to inflict less harm to animals.

(Via Yahoo News.)

April 6th, 2009

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