Hello dear ones,
I had a request to discuss how to navigate the desire to make peace with all foods, which is an essential requirement of intuitive eating and and how those of you for whom animal product consumption feels like a non-negotiable can balance the two, if at all.
So let’s break it down into smaller steps.
When I say make peace with all foods that doesn’t mean we have to eat all foods. We all have foods that we have preference for; I dislike blue cheese but love colby cheese. Being at peace with all foods means that we are not afraid of them in regards to weight or even health for that matter. For some people, eating certain foods in certain amounts (bananas if you have kidney disease for example) can be damaging, but for the majority of us,
making food the most important force in our health only puts the balance of our thinking, not on the big picture of factors that truly impact our health, particularly our mental and emotional health.
Hopefully that makes it clear what I mean by making peace with all foods. If you are saying, ” I don’t want to eat animal products of any kind; can I actually become an intuitive eater?” To that I would say yes from a hunger and fullness perspective. And I do think it is possible that a person can eat a non animal product way and be non-obsessive, flexible and well-nourished. I do also think it might be difficult for someone with a history of disordered eating or chronic dieting to live with this much restriction for a long time, if ever. However, let us talk a bit more about the motives to restrict animal products from one’s diet.
I think it is only fair that I disclose my personal and professional opinions about consuming animal products.
I grew up on a cattle farm.
Literally, at least half of the food I ate came from the pasture or the garden. Not because it was what was on trend in the 80’s but because that was what generations of my ancestors did and we were barely middle class so it was necessary from a food perspective. The word organic or it being healthier wasn’t in our vocabulary; it was food.
I didn’t know large factory farming existed til college and I couldn’t imagine people mistreated animals because we loved our animals and respected that they fed us. Learning about animal cruelty disgusts me as much as it probably does you.
From the western nutrition science perspective, as well as from my studies of ayurveda and traditional chinese medicine, animal products are seen as nutritous foods providing rebuilding, nourishing and satiety-providing benefits.
I do think it is easier to eat a nutrient-dense, varied diet with animal products in the rotation. Some people only flourish with animal products in their diet,even with dedicated attempts to eliminate them.
All that being said, let’s talk about if and how veganism can fit with intuitive eating.
I will start with the beginning. Many people first come to me using vegetarianism or veganism as a way to reduce calorie intake, consciously or not. Obviously that would mean that this person would not be well-nourished on these methods of eating.
The first step would be to be transparent about this, learn to eat enough food, even if it is the same foods but give the body enough to be ABLE to increase metabolism, renourish and have accurate signals of hunger and fullness.
Next, I would suggest we look at our options.
We live in a complicated world. I know that our sourcing of food is not perfect. And I am not saying we have a blind eye. People speaking up has improved conditions of animals. We have more choices than ever as to how to use our resources to purchase food. So when people tell me that they would eat animal protein if they knew where it came from, I say you can. There are more and more local farms that
I often see people go to barbeques and the only vegan options are vegetable trays and chips. They might refuse to eat the dip because it was made with dairy yogurt, or refuse the baked beans because it has bacon in it or the slaw was made with mayonnaise that is prepared with eggs.
This question is asked in all sincerity. Is this level of restraint helping the cow that was milked or egg that was laid or pig that has already fed many people and how does this level of restraint take away from the freedom you are trying to reach? It’s not a question to make anyone feel like they are bad or wrong for their choices, but see the bigger scope of our decisions and how that might impact our well-being.
Might it be better to take in bits of animal products to create more well-being in your relationship with food, which can create more focus and space for you to care for animals on a bigger scale? Again, it is something for you think about, not that any judgement is being cast.
Or maybe if taking any in still feels like a non-negotiable, then how willing are you to bring multiple options to places that may have them so that you are satisfied and well-nourished?
I don’t see this as a punishment, but part of your dedication to YOUR self-care and desire to not be part of grand scale industries that have a record of not caring well for animals.
I offer this discussion to you for many reasons.
Let’s start with the reasons people tell me they are or want to be vegan.
I am vegan. I was vegetarian before my eating disorder, and became vegan during a period of recovery (I would later relapse, but have since been on a solid road of recovery for over a year now, and I believe my therapist and dietitian would agree.) So it’s definitely possible to be vegan and have recovery in its fullest. I’m vegan because I don’t support the industries that produce animal products. For ethical reasons. Would I eat animal products at the BBQ example mentioned? No, I would not (I WOULD, however, plan ahead and make sure that I feed myself well before I go, or bring something of my own.) Why would I not eat those animal products? Because I don’t need to and I am confident in my ability to maintain my recovery in the absence of eating animal products altogether. I have evidence for this because I have done it before. Perhaps I could even bring a vegan dish to the BBQ to share. What I don’t want is to send the message that I am willing to go against my values simply because others have not been very accommodating for them. I don’t expect others to go out of their way to provide extravagant vegan meals for me at a BBQ. At the same time, I am a person of worth as much as the omnivore next to me, so I have been trying to get past the shame I have instilled in me about being vegan (from working with clinicians that handled my being vegan in a very disrespectful way) by telling others (gently, without judging them for their choices) that I am vegan, and so maybe they will keep that in mind that there are many different types of people in the world that deserve options (again, it doesn’t have to be a gourmet vegan meal at a BBQ… a veggie burger would suffice). As a vegan who has gone through treatment, I have faced a lot of shaming and judgment by members of my treatment team and other patients/clients, as well. But I have stuck to my values. Veganism is my voice. My food choices are my vote. My being vegan reminds me that my voice DOES matter, and that I can make a difference. It empowers me. I don’t push people to agree with my choices, and I don’t shame them for them, either. I do agree that some people use vegetarianism/veganism as a way to restrict, and so it is important to have a non-judgmental and non-assuming discussion with clients about this. Thank you for being open-minded in this post. 🙂
I admire you determination and dedication, not only to your beliefs but to your recovery. I have nothing personal against veganism and admire the desire to be so. I caution anyone who is using veganism as a way to restrict, out of fear of disease or death or to feel ego/morally superior. If those aren’t on the radar, I say live your life happily to the fullest in whatever way is most nourishing!