I would love to go vegetarian, but every time I try cutting meat from my diet, I end up really, really, REALLY hungry. What am I doing wrong? (Or do vegetarians just eat constantly, like cows and bunny rabbits?) It’s totally possible to be a vegetarian without being hungry all the time — and it definitely doesn’t require constant grazing (a relief for those who don’t have time to pack a bunch of snacks!) — but there are a few tricks for making it work. Before we talk about exactly how to create satisfying vegetarian meals and snacks, though, let’s first dive into why you want to make the switch in the first place. It’s important to make sure that you’re interested in vegetarianism for sound reasons — not for potentially unhealthy ones. Although vegetarianism can be a fine choice, many people have a not-so-accurate belief that it’s a foolproof way to eat healthier (and certainly headlines about new studies might lead you to believe so). When you really look at the research, you’ll find that it can still go very wrong. First and foremost, if you’re thinking of going vegetarian primarily to lose weight, don’t. It’s important to note that vegetarianism does not lead to long-term weight loss (no weight-loss diet does), and research has also shown that people who choose vegetarianism for weight-control reasons are at significantly greater risk of developing eating disorders than non-vegetarians or people who go vegetarian for reasons unrelated to weight loss. In other words, it’s not that vegetarianism causes eating disorders exactly, but if your main motivator for trying it is weight loss, research shows you do have an increased likelihood of developing a disorder. On top of increasing risk for developing disordered eating, other research shows that women with a history of eating disorders have a poorer chance of recovering fully if they are vegetarian. So, my advice is to stick to omnivorous eating until you’ve truly made peace with food; then, you’ll be able to revisit the idea of vegetarianism without the risks, at a time when you have a better chance at achieving a healthy balance. It’s important to note that this process usually involves getting professional help: Check out NEDA’s website for resources.
It’s not that vegetarianism causes eating disorders exactly, but if your main motivator for trying it is weight loss, research shows you do have an increased likelihood of developing a disorder.
By paying attention to how eating makes you feel and experimenting, you can span out what’s satisfying for your body — even as a vegetarian.