I started showing symptoms of an Eating Disorder when I was 13. I was a 5’2 7th grader with braces, my crush did not know I existed, and I was restricting my diet. But I was sneaky about it— no one ever noticed. Because I lied.
I told friends and teachers at school that I was allergic to peanuts in order to avoid the cafeteria sandwiches. I would take extra long on test days so that I had an excuse to spend my lunch periods in classrooms instead of at cafeteria tables. Most drastic of all, I decided to become a vegetarian, claiming an newfound appreciation for animals and wildlife— when in reality it was an easy excuse to only eat half of my dinner. This behavior was incredibly unhealthy mentally, emotionally and physically, and when I got help for my ED years later, I went back to eating meat.
That was, until last November, when I decided to become a vegetarian again.
It was a difficult decision, and ultimately one I made because I truly do care about animals and the environment— but if I claimed to not be interested in the health benefits, then I would be lying. If we are being completely honest, knowing that there was a chance I might lose weight. Helping the environment and having a healthier body were just added bonuses that I told everyone else were the main concepts. In retrospect, that should have been my first red flag.
Now that I am 22, I have a well-developed understanding of my relationship with my body, with food, and with my ED. I know that it will always be warped in some respect and I will always be seeking to shrink myself, even when actively fighting against that. I recently made the decision to transition back into eating meat, and it’s hard to understand why.
Erin, how can you eat meat when you know and care about where it comes from? A question I am asked frequently by my vegan/vegetarian friends. Short answer: I do not know. I feel badly about it considering the research I have done into the environmental affects, not to mention that something has to literally die. I do not know. I am still dealing with that.
Then why did you do it?
A loaded question. One that deserves an honest answer.
My vegetarianism made me unhealthy. The first sign was that it made me feel like I was doing something good, which made me feel like I was better than those who were not. That is not true and is a toxic mentality. The second sign was that I was much too excited when there were limited meatless options, thereby controlling my portion size for me. It reminded me of the seventh grader I used to be, hiding in libraries and lying about allergies. Thirdly, I stopped caring about the health benefits and cared solely about eating less. I would not go out of my way to eat more vegetables— I was too focused on what I was not eating to think about what I was.
My ED developed almost 10 years ago. I did receive help when I was deep in the thick of it. But as any survivor will tell you, it is an ongoing battle to recover and stay recover. There are good days and there are bad days, good decisions and bad decisions. The key is learning your triggers and what you can handle, and being completely honest to that.