OPINION: No, Meatless Mondays will not cause eating disorders

A drawing of a person in line at a dining hall buffet, with a plate full of abstract vegetables.
(Ella Lehavi • The Student Life)

CW: Eating Disorders

“OPINION: The unintended consequences of Meatless Mondays” pops on my phone. A few seconds into my Instagram scroll, I’m appalled at the content and the ironic timing of this absurd article. Happy Eating Disorders Awareness Week, everyone! Today, we will be equating a vegetarian diet to a complex mental illness.

The article centers around the idea that by encouraging a form of restriction, Meatless Mondays also encourage disordered eating. This argument completely trivializes the complexity of eating disorders. Restriction does not inherently equal disordered. In fact, restriction can be present in a healthy lifestyle. Many healthy individuals limit their consumption of sweets and drag themselves to the gym at 7 a.m., as may those with eating disorders. Forgive the oversimplification, but it boils down to this: If someone with an eating disorder accidentally overeats or unintentionally misses a workout, they will spiral. Others say “oops” and move on.

So, no, not all forms of restriction will “lend itself to disordered eating,” as Lewis claims. It is not about what a person eats but about why they do or do not eat those things. Choosing to be vegetarian for environmental purposes or skipping lunch because of a tight class schedule does not automatically imply that an individual is suffering from an eating disorder. Externally-forced restriction — as in dining halls not offering meat or your lunch period being too small — is the opposite of disordered restriction. Eating disorders consist of self-imposed restrictions. There’s a difference between not finding chicken in a dining hall and not being allowed to eat chicken because of some illogical rules constructed by a mental illness. Sorry you went to Frary and had to eat tofu. I can promise that your pain does not come close to the hell on earth that is an eating disorder.

Impressively, the article acknowledges that the relationship between eating disorders and vegetarianism is correlational, not causal, and even provides the correct reason for this connection — yet it still misses the point. Yes, vegetarianism can be a “guise.” But no, vegetarianism does not cause eating disorders. Meatless Mondays will not cause eating disorders. 

If someone really wants to claim that Frary is encouraging eating disorders, I would add that protein is the least dangerous food group to not serve. Those who have struggled with disordered eating may have different fear foods, but eliminating the food groups we demonize as “fattening” — i.e. carbohydrates and fats — would be more questionable. Having meatless meals for environmental purposes doesn’t ring any alarm bells.

P.S. On behalf of all Asians, tofu is good. Sorry your taste buds suck.

Daniela Sechen HM ‘23 is from Los Gatos, California. She likes field hockey, pretending to play the drums and Graham Central Station ice cream.

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