An eating disorder in disguise

Given the restrictive nature of a vegan diet, some dieticians have classified teenage veganism as an ‘eating disorder in disguise’.

Orthorexia Nervosa is the ‘new’ eating disorder referred to, which is an obsession with eating foods considered healthy, and fear of eating foods that are not. Many have also pointed the finger at Instagram for contributing to the increase in Orthorexia sufferers.  This is particularly since prominent vegan blogger The Balanced Blonde (formerly known as The Blonde Vegan) admitted that going vegan triggered her eating disorder.

Not surprisingly, this association has been dismissed by many passionate vegans, leading to much debate. These articles highlight the two different perspectives on whether or not there is a correlation and the role Instagram has played.160763-165203

Is a vegan diet really as healthy as it seems?

With an increasing number of young people adopting a vegan diet (over 40% of Australian vegans are aged 15-34), it is important to consider some of the key health concerns associated with this regime. Cutting out numerous food groups will inevitably come with a few risks. While it is possible to be healthy on a vegan diet, this requires much research and education (and usually supplementation), something few teenagers consider before jumping on board the #vegan trend. This has been attributed to the fact veganism is made to look so desirable on Instagram.

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As part of our investigation we plan to speak with qualified health professionals including  Jessica Sepel and Jennifer Murrant, as well as vegan food ‘instagrammers’ leading the trend to gain insights into what a vegan diet looks like and whether or not it is nutritionist approved.

The #vegan movement

Australia is the third-fastest growing vegan market in the world. The desire to be healthy is one of the key factors influencing the increasing shift towards veganism, particularly amongst young females. Evidently, there are other, very honourable driving factors such as animal welfare and environmental impact, however the focus of our investigation will be on health.

Our focus is on teenage girls who are partaking in the vegan food trend. Veganism has become very popular online, particularly on Instagram which has had a significant influence on this shift. The concern, however, is that some people following a vegan diet do so with little education as to what essential nutrients they are eliminating and as a result, may actually be doing more harm to their health than good.

Here are a few interesting articles highlighting the increasing vegan population in Australia:

Two members of our investigative team, myself and Sophie Fisher have health related Instagram accounts (@healthsynergy and @coconutandbliss) showcasing a large selection of vegan recipes. With the assistance of a qualified health professional, we will  be sharing recipes on our #vegan is the new black website and social media channels with specific reference to the non-animal protein and nutrients contained in the recipes.

Is veganism only for the affluent?

As we explore the increasing popularity of vegan cafes in Sydney, it is interesting to observe the parallels in where they are located. The eastern suburbs and lower north shore are vegan hot spots, flooding with the very on-trend acai bowls, chia puddings and green smoothies (which are sure to be snapped for Instagram).

If you travel a little further out of the city, however, say, out west… Finding a good vegan meal may prove more of a challenge. This may have something (or everything) to do with the fact that a vegan meal often comes at the price of an arm and a leg.

This has led some to believe that veganism is a “first-world luxury” and a trend that is prevalent only amongst the elite. Many dedicated vegans, however, are against this view arguing that it is possible to be vegan on a budget. Among them is renowned vegan author and speaker, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, who says that eating a plant-based diet will actually save money, a view she explains in this short video.