Apr 24, 2016
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  1. Vegan newbie
I am Skye, in my head and online at least.

I've been vegetarian for 22 years as I was brought up that way. I have been wanting to transition to a vegan lifestyle for a long time because I am aware that most animal products involve some level of cruelty. My main problem has always been that I am not at all assertive and I spend a lot of time at home with my family and we always eat together in the evening. My parents are vegetarian, but they feel that being vegan is taking it a step too far (the 'but what about cheese' argument comes up a lot!). It's also complicated by the fact that I have struggled with an eating disorder for about five years so of course, if I bring up wanting to be vegan, the assumption is that it's an excuse to restrict.

I am at a point now where I am determined to do this, after much debate with myself over whether it really was because of ethical reasons or if it was my eating disorder voice talking. It will probably be quite a slow transition while I'm staying at home over the summer trying to build up the courage to properly talk to my mother about it. I think I'm going to start offering to cook the evening meal more so that I can slip in vegan food to show her how easy it really is.
Hi Skye,
I think your idea of cooking a family meal is brilliant. Maybe we can help you by providing some amazing recipes that they want again and again? There is a topic on food in the forum subdirectory.

It sounds like your parents are really caring. I envy you the way they brought you up in a vegetarian home. That can't have been easy back then. Meal times are really about being together than the actual meal, I think. I'd be more inclined to focus on the no-leather, no cruelty products (make up, hair, clothes) side of veganism right now, and relish the discussions at dinner with your parents about the early days, and whether or not they had their parents telling them, "you must feed your baby daughter more protein," etc.

They would've been using the Linda McCartney cookbooks, I reckon. Wow. Did she have vegan recipes in those books back then (sneaky vegan thought) ? ;-)

My mum had occasional vegetarian dishes she got from a Gail Duff book. It is such a great book I have bought it for many people. It has hardly any photos and looks like a paperback, but the vegan and vegetarian dishes are really yummy. Obviously nowadays I only cook the vegan ones or adapt the others. Maybe you could find a copy and give your parents a blast from the past ... that might be a gentler way of reconsidering all of your diets together ... or not? What do you think?

Vegetarian Cook Book by Gail Duff Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0330256432
Reminds me of a video I watched just before switching from vegetarian to vegan.

As for the relationship with eating disorders, to be a successful vegan you actually have to eat a larger volume of food than you would have to as a vegetarian. Many people with difficult relationships with food have, therefore, been able to use veganism to heal. It affords them a level of control that they are accustomed to but with healthy boundaries. But if, at any level, you suspect yourself of perpetuating your disorder then you have to be honest. A vegan diet should not be considered an 'omission' of certain foods like eggs and dairy, but gaining a better awareness of edible plants. I have tried so many foods - especially fruit - that I'd never even heard of before going vegan which makes it a real joy.

Depending on your relationship with a weighing scale, determine what a healthy BMI should be and try - for the first month or so of being vegan - to monitor your weight. If, however, you think that this would flare an obsession with number-counting then don't do it. On the other hand if you are able to maintain a healthy weight for at least a month on a vegan diet then my hope is that will be indicative of the fact that you're not trying to use it a mask a deeper disorder.

The best way to broach the subject is probably just to buy supplements, vegan butter, milk and other replacers - just put them in the fridge and start using them, no discussion. Show your parents you can do it without slipping into bad habits, rather than endlessly wanting to talk about it, which might only make them believe that it's a 'phase' or an extension of your obsession. Action is more decisive, and it's no great loss if a household of vegetarians gets to eat a single tub sunflower butter... Yes, cooking a meal is a good idea too. :)

Thank you for all of the advice! I love the video, that's brilliant.

I think that as far as the scale goes it's better if I stay away from it at the moment because number obsession was a huge thing and I don't want to start that again. I think that as long as I am honest with myself and notice if I'm deliberately trying to restrict and using 'I'm vegan' as an excuse then it should be okay.

I've started getting vegan butter and milk and just keeping it in the fridge and getting the milk out when people make me tea. Nobody is making a big deal out of it, which is good. I think talking to my mum about when she decided to become vegetarian is a really good idea, I hadn't thought of approaching it from that angle.
Skye, you sound so wise as someone who has battled with this condition... wise and honest. I've just finished teaching the psychology behind this and other eating behaviours. It's a tough nut to crack, yet you sound really well placed to succeed. Well done, you!