My journey being a vegan with an eating disorder


Erika Pernis

Wingspan’s Ally Lastovica takes a slight detour from her blog “Vegan View” and shares her journey to becoming a vegan, followed by her struggles with an eating disorder.

I feel the need to put a disclaimer for anyone reading this article who may find it triggering or discomforting. My intentions are to share my story and struggles with anorexia in hopes that it will find someone in need of support. Eating disorders have both mental and medical health risks that should be taken seriously, I have linked some resources to ensure that everyone has access to the help they deserve. 


The path to veganism is completely individual and doesn’t look the same for everyone. Every obstacle is a personal challenge and it’s a bumpy road that can be hard to navigate. It’s important to do research and a bit of soul searching before jumping straight into it. My journey was full of mistakes and road blocks, but if anything, my challenges could help someone else avoid going down the same path.

Starting high school, as many can relate to, brought new experiences and people into my life. I felt all the good, bad, and ugly things a teenager seems to go through. Most notably, the new insecurities, lower self esteem, and stress being dumped into the mixing pot that was my freshman year. I struggled constantly with my self image and began criticizing the way I looked in the mirror, more so than I already did. Around this time, I made the questionable choice to go vegetarian. Changing my diet while having such negative perceptions about my body were two factors that didn’t mix well.

The transition began at a restaurant dinner with my family, where out of nowhere I felt sick to my stomach at any thought of eating a burger again. My parents doubted my commitment so, out of spite, I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t eat cow meat for the rest of my life. This somehow snowballed into feeling the same physical illness about chicken, and over the next couple weeks, all meat. It was never a beloved part of my diet, so I knew vegetarianism wouldn’t be too difficult for me.  

Looking back, I know that my decision was influenced by my body insecurities, whether I was aware of it at the time or not. No research was put towards making sure I was getting all the nutrients that a 14-year-old would need, and I didn’t have a care in the world. Once I had already made the switch, I began looking into the meat industry and was horrified by everything I learned. This reaffirmed my pledge to vegetarianism while also brainwashing me into believing that it wasn’t related to my body dysmorphia. Slowly, I started restricting more than just meat, and fell into a pattern of eating the same foods or casually skipping meals. These habits gave me a sense of control that I was lacking in my struggles with anxiety and depression. I didn’t know that these were serious afflictions for me at the time, but I now realize they manifested into an eating disorder.

Things accelerated downhill once COVID hit, quarantine began, and all this available free time opened up for me to fixate on food. During one of many days of boredom, I came upon a documentary that opened my eyes to all the issues with the dairy industries. I watched video after video of these institutions and decided to try cutting out dairy from my diet. After watching another documentary on the poultry industry a couple weeks later, I had convinced myself to go vegan. I talked with my mom about wanting to test it, but I was scared to face the vegan community’s judgment if it didn’t work out. I felt an intense pressure, when in reality it was self-induced as I stressed over the food aspect of the lifestyle. Over the next few months, instead of making sure I was getting all the proteins and dietary guidance I now needed, I restricted myself more and more. 

I was aware from the beginning that I had an eating disorder, and like most who have this destructive illness, attempted to hide it the best I could. Ignoring my parents’ concerns and never asking for help, no matter how many times it was offered, I was headed down a dangerous path but couldn’t press the brakes even when a small part of me wanted to. I felt split down the middle, where half of me wanted to get better and the other half could never be pleased with what it saw in the mirror. Veganism was not a healthy choice for someone so clouded by a parasitic voice in their head, but of course at the time I didn’t want to be healthy.

When sophomore year started, I was at rock bottom and had been feeling pain in my chest for a month or two. I eventually confessed this to my mother and she took me to the doctor’s office to run tests. As can be expected, the results weren’t great but I still refused to change my dangerous habits. Time passed and my parents sat me down one night and told me that they could no longer support my choice to be vegan, it wasn’t keeping me healthy. I couldn’t go on letting them think veganism was the root of my issues, so I finally admitted that I had an eating disorder. After going to the doctor again, I was then diagnosed with anorexia nervosa

My parents made their best attempts to get me better and encourage me to eat more, but I knew deep down there was nothing they could do to take away the harmful thoughts. It got to the point where my mom felt it necessary to find me a spot in an eating disorder facility. This plan changed after my mom got too worried one night about my safety and ended up driving me to the emergency room the next morning. The issues with my heart were more serious now and got me admitted to the hospital floor. A few anxiety filled days were spent there before I was moved onto the inpatient eating recovery floor. 

I was still more concerned with staying vegan than getting better, but honestly just wanted to do whatever I had to so I could go home. I learned many things while in treatment, including the fact that anorexia has the highest fatality rate of any mental illness. I won’t go into too much detail about treatment and all the things that happened along the way, but the experiences helped me heal. I learned that my eating disorder was a separate entity from myself, it was a disease that was slowly taking me away from everything I loved. I had put all my values and beliefs aside to accommodate these eating disorder rules. I was tired of letting it defeat me, so I finally started putting up a fight. I had wasted too much time hating the body I was in, grasping to reach this false idea of perfection.

This wasn’t a life altering realization in my recovery, no matter how much I wish it was. It’s not easy to keep with the growth mindset and healthy coping mechanisms I was taught when there’s still a voice in my head screaming at me to do the opposite. Recovery isn’t linear. The highs and lows can be extreme and it can take years to form a positive relationship with both food and self image. It seems like there are triggers everywhere nowadays, whether it be adults talking negatively about their bodies and feeling the need to share jokes about dieting, or social media promoting unhealthy beauty standards. It’s the most challenging thing I’ve ever gone through, but it does get a little bit easier everyday. Support from family, friends, and therapists can make all the difference in the world, and I’ve been lucky to have this team.     

I was fortunate enough to be able to continue being vegan with a nutritionist’s guidance and my family’s skeptical support. My passion only grew stronger once I had gone through treatment and understood that my moral stance on veganism was an extension of myself, not solely based on food restriction. It’s my belief that who someone truly is exists within their soul, not their skin. The body is the least interesting thing about a person, so why should anyone have to spend so much time trying to shrink it. Food is for enjoying, the body is for caring, and life is for living. I still have to remind myself of these facts, and everyone deserves to believe in them too.