The Connection Between Vegetarianism and Eating Disorders

by ckeat1 on November 4, 2013 - 9:41pm

      Would you believe it if I told you that there could be a link between eating disorders and vegetarianism? In the article ‘The Inter-Relationships Between Vegetarianism and Eating Disorders Among Females’, the authors make it clear that this relationship is a growing trend. In this case study, individuals with and without an eating disorder history and individuals with different stages of eating disorder recovery were compared on past and current vegetarianism and motivations for and age at becoming vegetarian. Participants in this study were 96 female eating disorder patients (ages 16 and older) seen at the University of Missouri Pediatric and Adolescent Specialty Clinic. Non-eating disorder controls were recruited as a sample from the university campus via fliers and psychology classes. All participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire and were also interviewed. At the end of this case study, it was found that significantly more females with an eating disorder history reported that their reason for practicing vegetarianism was motivated by wanting to lose or maintain weight. Also, those who reported there was a relation reported that being vegetarian helped them lose weight and maintain the eating disorder and also provided another way to eliminate calories and feel “in control”. In the eating disorder group, vegetarianism is most prominent among those recovered from anorexia nervosa. As concluded in this article, having a history of an eating disorder is associated with greater likelihood of having been (or currently being) vegetarian and having been primarily motivated by weight-related reasons.

       The main inferences/conclusions in this article are that people with eating disorders would, without a doubt, take advantage of the concept of vegetarianism to avoid having to eat the same amount of food as non-vegetarians do. Being a vegetarian myself, I found this article very interesting. I had never thought about there being a connection between eating disorders and vegetarianism. However, could this be insulting to true vegetarians, who do not eat meat because they think it is wrong to hurt animals? Do they think it is wrong to manipulate this practice for personal problems?


Bardone-Cone, A., Fitzsimmons-Craft, E.,Harney, M., Lawson, M.,Maldonado, C., Robinson, P., Smith, R. (2012). The Inter-Relationships Between Vegetarianism and Eating Disorders Among Females. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Vol. 112, Number 8. 1247-1252.


As a vegetarian myself, I also found this article interesting. I originally became a vegetarian in support of animal rights. But as the diet progressed (now in my 2nd year), I felt better and lost weight. So I also tell people it’s great for your health. I think it makes sense that many people who suffered from eating disorders turn into vegetarians later on. To begin becoming a vegetarian it’s hard and takes discipline. You have to control your diet. There are many studies that show that those who have eating disorders (not all) focus on their diet because it’s one of the few things they can control in their lives. It also makes sense that the study was done with females, as the pressure to be a certain weight and look is a very serious pressure in today’s society.

Hello ckeat1,

Simply by looking at the title of your post, I knew it would be discussing the controversy around vegetarianism, which is whether vegetarianism is linked to eating disorders. I have been a vegetarian for 3 years now and could not be happier to make my part for the earth and the animals. Personally, I have never experienced eating disorders due to my new lifestyle. In fact, I have been very careful to get all the nutrients that I needed to stay healthy. Consequently, I chose to comment your post to share my opinion on the link between vegetarianism and eating disorders, to prove there are many other reasons to become a vegetarian than to lose weight and also because I feel very concern with this lifestyle, like you already probably noticed.

First off, the article states that some people become vegetarian to lose weight. However, I believe turning to vegetarianism results in so much more. In fact, most vegetarians, including myself, want to reduce environmental impacts from the industries producing omnivore food. For instance, meat production uses much more water than vegetable production. According to the P.E.T.A website: "Chickens, pigs, cattle, and other animals raised for food are the primary consumers of water in the U.S.: a single pig consumes 21 gallons of drinking water per day, while a cow on a dairy farm drinks as much as 50 gallons daily. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of cow flesh, whereas it takes about 180 gallons of water to make 1 pound of whole wheat flour." As a matter of fact, my parents always taught me that I should do my part to preserve our precious earth in any way possible. Therefore, being a vegetarian is my part to save our environment. Also, most vegetarians, including myself again, enjoy this way of life to support animal rights. In truth, the life of an animal on a factory farm is horrible. They are poorly treated like a simple food supplier and without any respect. According to the P.E.T.A website: "Animals on factory farms are treated like meat, milk, and egg machines. Chickens have their sensitive beaks seared off with a hot blade, and male cattle and pigs are castrated without any painkillers. Farmed chickens, turkeys, and pigs spend their brief lives in dark and crowded warehouses, many of them so cramped that they can’t even turn around or spread a single wing. They are mired in their own waste, and the stench of ammonia fills the air." How does it feel now? Could anyone feel guilty to eat meat again after knowing that? I personally always loved animal; they’ve been in my daily life since I was a child. Consequently, when I learned a few years ago how terribly they were treated in farm factories, I stopped eating meat progressively and then none. I do understand that it is hard to stop eating meat suddenly overnight. However, if more people were conscious of the harm these poor animals are going through, maybe they would reduce their meat consumption, which is already a good step. Furthermore, turning to a vegetarian diet reduces heart diseases and chronic illnesses. According to a Harvard Medical School study: “Compared with meat eaters, vegetarians tend to consume less saturated fat and cholesterol and more vitamins C and E, dietary fiber, folic acid and phytochemicals… As a result, they’re more likely to have lower total and DLD cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower body mass index”. Finally, I disagree that vegetarianism is directly causing eating disorders. In my opinion, people claiming that being a vegetarian leads to eating disorders are actually not eating the nutrients necessary when you are a vegetarian. In fact, we need to make sure that we eat enough sources of iron including beans, broccoli, raisins, wheat, and tofu. Also, we need enough proteins found in rice, beans and corn. Therefore, I think some people are putting the blame on a vegetarian diet when they are not consuming these essential nutrients and thereby dealing with eating disorders.

Now, I would like to know more about your worldview as a vegetarian by asking you some questions that require reflection… Would the world be a better place if everyone was a vegetarian? Do you think vegetarians lead better lives than non-vegetarians? What would happen to the cow population if we stopped eating them? Please let me know!