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America’s obsession with a “thin” beauty ideal powerfully conflicts with the nation’s pervasive obesity epidemic and ubiquitous high-calorie, low-nutrient food options, leading many to adopt unhealthy weight control and eating practices. While diets such as vegetarianism and veganism have evolved as healthier, more environmentally-conscious eating patterns, it is possible that these diets are, in some cases, closely related to disordered eating. This study investigates the relationships between vegetarian diets and eating disorders through administration of a self-report questionnaire to Bard College students, specifically examining (1) whether vegetarianism and veganism may be used to cover pathological eating behaviors, and (2) whether eating disorders risk factors, such as anxiety and OCD characteristics, interact with the "food rules" of vegetarian diets to trigger disordered eating behaviors. Four hypotheses were made: that individuals who exhibit disordered eating behaviors would be more likely to identify with vegetarianism or veganism than those students who do not exhibit disordered eating behaviors; that the more restrictive forms of vegetarianism (full vegetarianism and veganism) would be associated with higher eating pathology compared to the less restrictive forms (semi-vegetarianism); that disordered eating among vegetarians and vegans would be associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder characteristics; and that disordered eating among vegetarians and vegans would be associated with anxiety disorder characteristics. The first two hypotheses were supported, and the last two hypotheses were not supported. The present study contributes to the existing literature on the complex relationships between vegetarian diets and eating disorders, raises new questions for future research, and suggests intervention and treatment applications.
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Walsh, Emily C., "Destruction In Disguise? Examining Relationships Between Eating Disorders and Vegetarian and Vegan Diets" (2012). Senior Projects Fall 2012. 16.