No, Veganism Is Not Orthorexia

I’m seeing this a lot lately. This being folks turning to veganism as a way to hide or legitimize an eating disorder. Now, this might not actually be the case, but it has me worried enough that I want to talk about it. As I’ve said a gobzillion times before, the definition of veganism is getting muddied by people who don’t give a shit about what veganism is actually all about.

This matters to me and I’ll keep ranting on about it like a lost man in the wilderness, yelling at all who might hear. But let’s get down to the real issue here which for today is orthorexia nervosa. It is not a recognized eating disorder at this point, but I’m sure it’ll become one in time.

What is orthorexia? It is an unhealthy excessive or extreme preoccupation with eating only ‘perceived’ healthy foods and avoiding, at great lengths, ‘perceived’ unhealthy foods. You can see how veganism gets co-opted into this I’m sure. Orthorexia comes from the Greek words ‘ortho-‘ which means ‘right’ and ‘orexis’ which means appetite. So basically, orthorexia is right appetite or more specifically nowadays ‘right diet’. It’s a relatively recently noticed issue that was coined by Steve Bratman MD.

Unlike, anorexia and bullimia which have to do with the amount or quantity of food eaten, orthorexia rather is focused on the ‘rightness’ or ‘purety’ of the food eaten.

Here’s an example of one woman1 who was once ‘vegan’ but was really just using a strict vegetarian diet as a coverup for orthorexia2. And whats with bloggers using the internet as personal confessional… I digress, that’s a post for another blog at another time.

In any event, I took a look at the above mentioned website. The woman was never vegan, she toyed with a plant based ‘vegan’ diet, which is really just a plant based diet which should never have had the word ‘vegan’ attached to it.

Additionally, she mentions that her plant based ‘vegan’ diet triggered her orthorexia. That’s just bullshit, I reckon it was likely her mental illness, that triggered it and had her trying a restrictive diet. In any event, this is not about a specific person and their mental health issues. It’s about veganism being victimized unfairly.

But that was just one quick example I came up with. Incidentally, from the research I did, it seems that more men than women seem to be affected by orthorexia, which seems strange to me for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is women generally receive more societal pressure to look a certain way. But wtf do I know 😉

Anyway, the MD who came up with this mental illness has a handy 2 question self diagnostic test to see if you too are orthorexic. Here are the 2 questions:

1) Do you care more about the virtue of what you eat than the pleasure you receive from eating it?3 Hells yeah.

Virtue for those who might not know has to do with holding high morals, and I’d argue that not willing to have or to kill animals for pleasure is a virtue. So I’m already f*cked, but maybe I’ll get off on the other question which is:

2) Does your diet socially isolate you?3 Winner, winner, Tofurky dinner.

Whose vegan diet doesn’t affect them socially, at least on occasion. Seems like you can diagnose anyone with a mental illness nowadays. Again, that’s another post for a different blog on another day.

But, and this is what I’m really trying to get at. Veganism is not just a dietary approach, which is where the confusion lies. Veganism is a lifestyle choice that excludes the use of animal products because it is predicated on the ethical foundation of trying to cause as little suffering to sentient beings as possible. Diet is included, obviously, but so are other lifestyle choices like entertainment, clothing and personal grooming products.

So please, if you think you might be orthorexic then get the help you need. Veganism is not your savior and furthermore you’re just not vegan in any event. The best I can suggest is that you’re following a strict vegetarian diet.

You might be wondering why I’m ranting about this again? Yeah, I feel bad for you son, but I got 99 problems and that ain’t one of them.

Veganism is having a lot of difficulty getting traction and the last thing we need is to have it watered down into some soylent mix of solely dietary pablum. Veganism is fighting to try and liberate animal agriculture and abuse. It’s a long war and we’re barely winning any battles on the forefront, what with most folks working towards welfare rather than abolitionism.

And another thing. If we continue to allow veganism to become associated with orthorexia, then we’re in Dante’s ninth circle of hell, which incidentally is treachery, where it’ll be a cold day when we get to resurrect the cause and climb out of the inferno we’ve been cast into, like the mental demons of orthorexics.

Lastly, everybody loves a loser, and most of the vegans dropping out of the cause like flies are these folks who ain’t really ‘vegan’. The sooner we straighten this out the better. Real vegans aren’t likely to bale at the first sign of dietary trouble.

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  1. well said. I am new to vegan lifestyle and am amazed by how food obsessed many websites are. I live in the UK, food is everywhere, eating vegan is easy really for me (apart from i really miss pizza). However so many articles on people saying they lived off avocado and raw spinach and they were starving, I am not f*&^%$g suprised, being vegan is not just what you eat, its a philosophy I am learning. People with food issues need to be careful with anything that is self inflicted and restricted until they have their physical and mental health in order.
    BUT getting rid of lovingly made wool jumpers, having to say goodbye to my expensive walking boots, thats a pain…..that is difficult for me, but I will get there in the end. I just realised my whole house is carpeted in wool, now they are not coming up anytime soon, I dont have the spare money. Keep up the interesting blog.

    1. Diet is only one part of veganism. For me it is a lifestyle choice centered around ethics. The dietary part is really the easy part. But following the golden rule helps keep things in perspective.

      As for your wool sweaters/jumpers, and [leather] walking boots, those aren’t anything you have to give up. It’s a personal decision you need to make, but there is a case to be made for using up those clothing items made from animal products that one had before one became vegan. Don’t be pressured. You’re still entitled to consider yourself vegan if you use up those products you had before. The alternative of course is donating them to charities.

      I remain agnostic on the issue, though 25 years ago when I became vegan I did a bit of both. I continued to use my leather shoes for a while, but then decided to donate them some months later (I’m not hard on clothing) when I could afford to replace them with non-animal products.

      1. Thanks for the reply and for the reminder that I have choice. I decided that I would give my two new pairs of walking boots to family. So I visited my nephews and found out they are just off to canada on a holiday and appreciated the boots…result. Even tho` I am an old geezer I am a gay old geezer so my choice of boots were suitable for the younger man! They were as delighted as any 15 year old is allowed to be without appearing uncool. Saved them 80 quid each! The jumpers went to my dad and the silk ties went to charity, now I am wearing polyester weird knitted ties from China which are much more suitable for stylish old gay psychology proffs!! I realised the problem was the decision what to do, not how much the original stuff cost or what I would do. Once I found good homes for my non-vegan stuff I was away. Thanks Jason, the thought Mason.

        1. You’re too kind. I’m glad you found good homes for your old and beloved
          products. Perhaps you might come to be a great vegan uncle example to
          your nephews. I know I am inspired by the younger generation.

          Thanks for sharing some of your personal details with me 🙂 A blogger
          I have enjoyed on occasion who you might already know. He is both gay
          and English is

          Check him out. Hold tight to the ethics!

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