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Vegan Teens or Anorexics in Denial?

Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be vegans.

That’s the message in a piece published recently in the Daily Beast by journalist Danielle Friedman, who posits a number of vegans are anorexics in denial.

Friedman went out and spoke with a number of the nation’s leading experts on eating disorders, who reported a high number of supposed vegans in their programs ultimately confess to simply using meat and animal product avoidence as a socially acceptable excuse to avoid food. The problem is so pronounced that Dr. Marcia Herrin, founder of the Dartmouth College Eating Disorders Prevention, Education and Treatment program, is now urging all parents to forbid their children from going vegan till they go to college, arguing that time-pressed families won’t be able to determine if the child’s decision is a well-thought out philosophical decision or simply a “ruse” to cover up a compulsive need to diet. “Most families don’t have the time to prepare vegetarian entrees,” she said. “What’s at risk is the child’s growth and deveopment and potentially an eating disorder.”

Researchers in the field point out that not only do so-called “Pro-ana” websites urge anorexics to adopt a vegan lifestyle to both encourage weight loss and provide an excuse to avoid food in certain settings, but books like the highly popular “Skinny Bitch” series also promote it as a way of staying thin. The message has gotten across: vegans are disproportionately represented among those in treatment for anorexia and bulimia.

However, the article did not address an obvious question: are the concerns expressed by doctors negated if one of the parents is also a vegan? I confess this is an issue that’s confounded me for years. While I can’t quite imagine a vegan parent happily preparing a filet mignon for their child, I do worry about the impact of demonizing any  food group to people not old enough to understand the philosophical underpinnings of the vegan movement.

What do you think?

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Photo: Adrian Nier

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