Teen Vegan Suspected of Being Anorexic & Superior

Teen vegan problem with meat eating family & ancient relatives who never heard of vegan diet and think that she is anorexic and superior

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I am having a huge problem with my meat eating family. Most of my relatives are extremely old (70+ years old) and have never heard of this. They put strange ideas into my parents’ heads that I will become anorexic.

Worst of all, a family friend who is a doctor wants to do a check up on me to make sure I do not have an eating disorder. This has made my parents totally opposed to my vegan diet and my father is threatening to take me out of a good private school he has just put me in.

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Even more absurd is that whoever I speak to of my diet thinks I’m some communist and tries to stay away from me. How can I get out of the check up and how can I try to get my family to understand that I am just sensitive to animal abuse but not anorexic, and nor do I think that I am better than anyone else. Lastly, I need a way to explain my diet to others without having them freak out. :( A.W.

Savvy Vegetarian Advice:

Hi A.W. My advice is to get a medical exam and set your parent’s minds at rest. The reason they want you to have it is because they’ve heard all the horror stories about anorexic teenage girls & vegan diet. They probably aren’t aware that the eating disorder almost always pre-dates the vegan diet, which becomes just another way to starve themselves.

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Do you have your own family doctor, who knows your medical history? Maybe you could go to that one instead of the family friend. Get your doctor to check your blood levels for iron, B12, and other common nutritional deficiencies. Take a nutritional supplement if recommended. Of course, you know whatever doctor you see will likely try to talk you out of your vegan diet.

It is unfortunately true, even if you’re not anorexic, that it’s common for vegan teens to develop nutritional deficiencies because they don’t know much if anything about nutrition, or don’t have access to the right foods, so they’re not getting what their growing bodies need.

Malnutrition can be quite serious. If I were your non-veg parent, I’d be concerned too, and I’d want to know – does your school support your vegan diet (assuming you eat there)? Are you getting what you need nutritionally?

I recommend you get 2 copies of the book, ‘Becoming Vegan’ by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis – 1 for you, and 1 for your parents. It’s an excellent nutrition reference for vegans written by vegan RD’s. 

You’ll get all sorts of responses from people toward your vegan diet, mostly coming from understandable ignorance. Read the book so you’ll have some info to share when people ask how you get your protein and so on, and also so you can make sure that you’re getting the nutrients your body needs.

If you’re healthy & energetic, and seem well up on vegan nutrition, that will help to reassure people who care about your welfare.

If you tell people that you’re vegan to avoid being cruel to animals, that implies that you think they are being cruel to animals by eating meat. That’s why they think you’re saying that you’re better than them.

Keep a low profile about your vegan diet, and if the subject comes up, make it clear that this is a personal choice for you, and that you respect other people’s personal choices. Try to mean it, and try not to preach.

If you find you have to back off being totally vegan for a while, but even (or especially) if you don’t – take the time to study up on vegan nutrition, and learn how to cook vegan food whenever you have a chance.

Start showing your parents that you can be responsible about your diet, and they’ll eventually feel better about giving you more freedom to choose for yourself what you eat.

Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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