The Times has an article called Is Vegetarianism a Teen Eating Disorder? that discusses the link between eating disorders and teenagers who test out a vegetarian diet. First, just let me say that I am definitely not an expert on such a topic, and everything I write is just my opinions regarding this topic. Overall, the author of this article cites a study that has concluded that teenage vegetarians are unhealthy, are hiding behind claims of animal rights and environmentalism to mask their eating disorders, and that vegetarians are prone to binge eating.
The following paragraph made me cringe, especially because of the annoying ridcule the author displays:
For one thing, many young “vegetarians” continue to eat the white meat of defenseless chickens (25% in the current study) as well as the flesh of those adorable animals known as fish (46%), even when they are butchered and served up raw as sushi. And in a 2001 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers found that the most common reason teens gave for vegetarianism was to lose weight or keep from gaining it. Adolescent vegetarians are far more likely than other teens to diet or to use extreme and unhealthy measures to control their weight, studies suggest. The reverse is also true: teens with eating disorders are more likely to practice vegetarianism than any other age group.
Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t people who have eating disorders and use vegetarianism to lose weight. And eating disorders are terrible and obviously those suffering should seek help. However, just because teens say losing/controlling their weight is a main reason for the shift in their diet does not mean that it is necessarily a bad thing. Vegetarianism is healthier than an omnivorous diet, and people learn this though veg*n outreach campaigns. Trying to be healthy is a good thing, and even though there are people who take it to an extreme, it’s unfair to group them together.
The article points out that vegetarians are far more prone to binge eating than meat-eaters. The reason is almost comical: “It could also be that vegetarians are hungrier in general and somewhat more prone to bouts of binge eating.” Uh, sure. We’re all just super-duper hungry because we don’t overdose on protein. They’re probably trying to link binge-eating with eating disorders, but it’s still a poor argument.
The main reason I wanted to highlight the Time’s article was because of this:
The authors suggest that parents and doctors should be extra vigilant when teens suddenly become vegetarians. Although teens may say they’re trying to protect animals, they may actually be trying to camouflage some unhealthy eating behaviors.
If someone you know has an eating disorder, please, please get them help. But I fear that an article such as this will scare parents and others to such an extent that they take it to an extreme, even fighting with their newly veg*n children. I think it is important to talk about eating disorders, but this article makes it seem like animal rights/environmentalism/real health concerns just don’t exist. What do you think?