Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Food For The Former Foodie

The book I'm reading now is Leaving Jetty Road by Rebecca Burton.  Lovely book so far and I can REALLY relate to it.   One of the characters is a Vegetarian with an eating disorder.

I wonder if there is any correlation between vegetarianism and eating disorders.   I'm not saying one CAUSES the other.   I just wonder if the type of person who is likely to have an eating disorder is also the type of person who might become vegetarian.
I had/was both.   The eating disorder came first.  It started in February 2004 and was in response to two things.

1. The upcoming wedding of my very beautiful and thin sister--which included a somewhat jovial request for the bridesmaids to keep their weight in check.   This is what gave me the desire to be thin.

2. A spiritual crisis.  I think it came from having weird dreams and reading about dreams--the idea that they could have a metaphysical basis.   On one hand, the idea excited me.  On the other hand, it terrified me.     I started reading books about higher selves and how there are parts of our memory we don't easily  have access too.   I felt this loss of control--that there were parts of me that I was totally clueless about.   I needed to regain that feeling of control so I became obsessed with calorie counting and food weighing.   I quickly lost tons of weight and felt not only a sense of control, but a great amount of confidence and success.   

I became vegetarian seven months later.   It actually began as a nutrition thing.  But then I bought a book about the Vegan lifestyle and became more passionate about the environmental and animal concerns.

I do not in anyway want to say that Vegetarianism is bad and leads to eating disorders.

I am very pro-vegetarian.  I think it's better for the environment, for your health, and for animals.   I think it's an excellent way of life.    I just think certain people with certain types of personality can take things too far.   And by certain people, I mean people like me. 

What is too far?   I don't know.    Maybe obsessively checking ingredients?   Maybe putting obsession of purity over morals.   An example might be freaking out over eating one marshmallow because it happens to have gelatin.  Eating the one marshmallow might make you feel impure and yucky, but it's not going to have a huge horrible impact on any animal.  Another example would be throwing away all your old leather shoes just so you can appear to be a perfect vegan.   Throwing away your shoes isn't going to bring the cow back to life.  

The thing is.....I have the type of personality that can go in those crazy directions.  That's one of the reasons why I'm sticking to being just Vegetarian and not vegan.    

Anyway, things are better now for me.   I won't say I'm free of eating disorders because I think once you have it, you ALWAYS have it.  And you always have the danger of returning to it.   When I get very angry and upset, one of the first things I think is I'm going to stop eating.

But for the most part, I'm okay.   No more calorie counting or weighing myself ten times a day. My metabolism was extremely messed up for awhile, but it's better now.   

I'm still a vegetarian.   I'm content with that, but try to eat less dairy/eggs, and try to stick to free range type stuff.   I try not to be anal about it though, and for the most part I'm doing a good job with that.

I'd like to try some Vegetarian restaurants in Australia--mostly because you can't really find them in Fort Worth.  We have one, but I don't really like it.   

I'm looking through the Internet for restaurants now.  If any of you know of some in Sydney and Canberra, please tell me!  Or if you know that one of these restaurants has gone to heaven, please tell!   We went out looking for the Maurice Sendak inspired restaurant in San Francisco--searched and searched.  Totally lost.  Then we found out it had closed down years ago.

Here are ones I've found so far. 

1. Badde Manors   looks cool. It's in Glebe near the Broadway shopping center. Full vegetarian. I'm not sure if there's anything Jack will eat. We might make it one of those meals where we give him a smoothie and tell ourselves it has enough protein to get him by until dinner. They have a dip platter. That might work. He likes hummus.

2. Iku Wholefood Kitchen looks nice and casual--good for a quick snack of meal.   It seems to have a lot of locations: CBD, Glebe, Bondi, etc.

3. Bodi is near Hyde Park so I figure I should record it.  I don't get too excited about Asian vegetarian restaurants--just because it's usually very easy to find Vegetarian dishes in any Asian restaurant.  There's usually a wide choice.   I WOULD like to find a Korean Vegetarian restaurant--something with fake meat.   I miss Bulgogi!  

4. Govindas looks unique.   It has a Vegetarian Indian buffet.  After you eat, you can watch a movie on weird chairs.  I think I'll skip the movie, but the food looks good.   It's in Darlinghurst. 

That's it for now.   The funny thing is when I had the eating disorder I was very obsessed with food. My life revolved around it.  It's really all I cared about.   When we went on a holiday, the thing that made me most excited was where we would eat.  I would spend hours looking at food and restaurant websites.  Once I started to recover, I stopped caring about food so much.   I became bored with food websites.

When we went to Sydney last year, I had absolutely no interest in researching restaurants or putting any thought into it.    We pretty much just walked into any restaurant that looked fairly okay--very spur of the moment.  

I'm still lacking interest in restaurant research, but I want to do a little bit of it--just because I want to be a little less blind about the whole thing compared to last year.   I SHOULD just make Tim do the research.   He's become a total foodie--works at a cooking school and everything.   Actually, I've told him we're going to eat most meals in our hotel/apartment.   His favorite hobby is cooking.   I don't like going to restaurants much.   So, cooking works out best for all of us.  


Mandy said...

I remember all of your calorie counting and obsessive weighing. It worried me because you looked so perfectly thin in your photos. I, too, have had an eating disorder and agree that once you have it, you always have it to a certain extent. I doubt that I'll ever be totally over it. And I was a vegetarian. For many years. Now I eat some meat and I feel healthier. I'm also trying not to be totally anal as well. Today I even baked cookies from while flour with the kiddos.

Dina said...


I was thin. I think it's hard though because I wasn't yet dangerously thin. I think it's hard to tell whether someone is being healthy and reasonable or if they have an eating disorder.

Well, I guess the calorie counting kind of gave me away.

I fortunately never got bad enough that I stopped having my period or anything like that. I don't think I was ever in any real physical danger. Although it could have gone in that direction.

I'm sure most people start out fairly reasonable and then slowly get lost in all of it.

I'm trying to remember if I remember you talking about the eating disorder. Was that before I met you or after?

I do think some people need meat more than other people. I talked to one person who said she became vegetarian and her eyelashes started falling out.

I think maybe some people need more protein or iron. Maybe?

I feel fine being vegetarian--or at least not worse than I did before I ate meat.

I've never been a big fan of it though. Even in my baby book, my mom wrote something about me refusing to eat meat.

Later I did grow to like some of it and I do miss it once in awhile, but I usually don't.

That's why I'm not into this whole idea of everyone needs to be vegetarian. I'm more into everyone should REDUCE the amount of meat they eat. I don't feel right telling people to sacrifice something they might love. Because for me, it's NOT a sacrifice. It might be like someone telling me I need to give up chocolate.

I feel it makes more sense to say eat less meat and try to buy it from an ethical source--avoid factory farms and all that.

Good on you about the white flour. Well, not the white flour, but about not being so anal.

I was so anal when I had the eating disorder. I remember obsessing over ingredients.


It's hard not to be anal when you are anal.

You almost have to become anal about not being anal.

Gina said...

Oh yes....Badde Manors definitely. Govindas is fun too :)

So on a completely different subject entirely....here's a list of Australian young adult fiction you may like. Google a few and see if they might be your kind of thing. If not, I can doubtless think of a heap more recommendations!

The House on River Terrace - James Moloney
Playing Beatie Bow - Ruth Park
So Much To Tell You - John Marsden (not one of the Tomorrow or Ellie books - his first "big hit")
An Older Kind Of Magic - Patricia Wrightson
Looking For Alibrandi - Melina Marchetta
The Slightly True Story of Cedar B Hartley - Martine Murray
Antonio S & The Mystery of Theodore Guzman - Odo Hirsch
Mandragora - David McRobbie
Strange Objects - Gary Crew
any of the Cairo Jim & Doris books - Geoffrey McSkimming (not heavy, but lots of fun!)
and I think I already suggested Thunderwith and Came Back To Show You I Can Fly...

Let me know what you think!

Gina :)

mscherrylane said...

cool! I'd love to try this awesome vegetarian cooking ;) (and learn!!)

it's bizarre- i always thought ppl with eating disorders thought they looked fat...never knew it was from a desire to control!

there are some good veg/vegan restaurants in Newtown- and I've tried a lot of the ones you mentioned...

there is a place you can buy awesome vegan sticky rice that you can just keep in the freezer if you don't feel like cooking! and a place with awesome tofu icecream...remind me to tell/show you when you come!

speaking of dreams...urgh i ate meatbone soup late last night(leftover) and I had psychadelic dreams(will blog later so you can have a go interpreting ;)...I really can't wait to start the vegetarianism...but the asian in me says food mustn't be wasted so I need to finish my stocks first even if they seem to make me "sick"! :(

mscherrylane said...

p.s i can relate to the being anal bit- that was me more so before..now i'm only anal about important things like...good food! :)

Dina said...

Gina: Glad to know those restaurants are still there!! Thank you SO much for the list of books!! I typed out a list. I'm going to print it later and keep it in my wallet.

mscherrylane: We'll go out for tofu ice-cream. Are you going to go vegan or vegetarian??? We've been buying this really great Vegan ice-cream. I forgot what it's called, but it's made out of coconut.

I don't think I ever had a body-image whatever you call it. I forgot the name, but it's where you have an unrealistic view of your body. When I became underweight, I never thought I looked fat. I once saw someone jogging who looked very Anorexic and I thought I'm never going to look like her.

Also, once I got the stomach flu and went down to 96-97 pounds. I remember being terrified that I would get too thin. Yet at the same time, I felt a kind of thrill. I think I felt pulled in 2 directions--one said you have to stay alive and healthy. You have a child. You have 2 nieces who don't need a skeleton as a role model. Yet another part of me said you can never be too thin. Fortunately, I ended up listening to the first one more.

The only way in which I felt fat was in terms of comparison. I remember feeling fat at 102 pounds. But it's not like I thought I was fat. It's just compared to 97 pounds, 102 DOES feel bigger. Now I'd feel thin and wonderful if I was 115 pounds.

It's all relative.

I can't wait to read your crazy dreams.

I did the same with not wasting food....I think when I became vegan. It could be the Jew in me....or maybe a past life as an Asian. I was just thinking why would I need to get rid of food if it wasn't just me in the house. Tim and Jack didn't become vegan or vegetarian. They could have eaten it. But I think the food I had and didn't want to waste was actually vegetarian. It was all that vegetarian meat which had dairy/eggs in it.

Anja said...

Govindas is great. The food is excellent, plentiful and the atmosphere is really friendly.

Dina said...


Great! Thanks : )

Mandy said...

My "eating disorder" was when I was in high school. But I never fully got "over it". I'm learning now to not think of the matter as losing weight or dieting... just attracting my ideal weight by controlling my thoughts. If I'm thinking good things about myself and life, I'll eat well. It's pretty simple. And until I got pregnant, I felt better than I'd ever felt in my entire life so there ya go! A good multivitamin is really important and I'm a big fan of New Chapter.

As for eating meat... I eat chicken about once a month. I eat beef about once a month. I eat seafood slightly for often than that and I try to have fish three or four times a month. I lay off the dairy (or at least I had for over two years... this pregnancy is killing me) and I do eat eggs from the place up the road (free range, have personally met the chickens). We are not opposed to goat products and eat them whenever we get to Trader Joe's and it's affordable.

Some people don't agree with it but I tend to think that the Blood Type Diet makes a ton of sense. According to my blood type, I'm the "Hunter" and I'm supposed to eat a lot of meat. I don't see that happening but to answer your question, yes, some people certainly DO need more iron and protein. Iron is more easily absorbed from meat than from other sources too, which explains why an organic hamburger sometimes is all it takes for me to feel good again. And I gotta feel good in order to care for this big family I'm about to have!

Thanks for complimenting my "less than anal" behavior. While we typically eat sprouted and whole grains, I've come to realize that we are missing out on some of the simple pleasures by limiting all things like white flour. At least I know that it's organic and vegan butter is all that we use so the cookies are better than something they'd get at a church party, ya know?

Dina said...


The blood type diet sounds very interesting. I wonder what I am.

I think the amount of meat you eat is VERY sensible and ethical.

Okay, just googled the diet. I'm A--the cultivator and it says I make a good vegetarian : )

It would be interesting to do a poll and find out the blood type of vegetarians. AND find out the blood type of people who tried being a vegetarian and then stopped.

I have to admit we're not doing that good in terms of healthy eating. We eat a lot of junk. We're being more conscious and better about ethical eating, but health not so much.

I think though when you eat more ethically you do end up eating slightly more healthier.

I guess to illustrate my point. We eat a lot of white suger....but the sugar is organic/free trade. Still, we probably shouldn't be eating that much of it.

Ariane said...

I think there might be a bit of a correlation between vegetarianism and eating disorders, because they both require a desire and an ability to control what you eat. Same sorts of personalities, rather than any sort of causal connection.

I am a meat eater, eat lots of it, and feel way better when I do. My only moral concern with it is environmental, I'm hoping we can raise animals in better ways to reduce their water use, in particular. Raising appropriate animals in appropriate environments would be an excellent start.

In the spirit of providing way more information than you want, my (rather convenient) moral line in the sand is that I have no trouble eating animals that have no concept of death, as long as they are treated well in life. The reason that I say this a convenient one is that I have no way of measuring which animals are on which side of the line. I completely believe elephants, for example, are on the wrong side. I also completely believe that cows, sheep and chickens are on the right side. Pigs, however, give me pause. They are very tasty, but I suspect they might well be on the wrong side of the line.

Dina said...


I agree about raising the animals in the right way. I found a website a few weeks ago that lists farms where they use ethical practices. They're good to the animals and to the environment. We drove down there and bought a bunch of meat. I felt so good about doing that. I'm not eating any. Meat is not my thing. But it makes me feel good to see my husband and son eating it.

I don't think there's really anything that bad with killing an animal for food. We're all going to die anyway.

For me, it's more about animals being mistreated, people overconsuming, and the environment pretty much being raped.

I think we all have a line that we draw somewhere. I was reading something once about vegans not eating honey because the bees are mistreated or killed. I don't remember what. But then something was mentioned about the insects being killed to save the plants that the vegans eat.

If you eat, you're going to be contributing to the death of SOMETHING.

I would probably draw the line at insects. I don't think I'd feel that guilty eating a bug. Or maybe I would. I do feel sad when I see one dying and I usually avoid killing them.

If my survival depended on it (or the survival of those I love), all bets are off. I'd eat ANY animal--including a human.