"More than a diet": A qualitative investigation of young vegan Women's relationship to food

Appetite. 2019 Dec 1;143:104418. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2019.104418. Epub 2019 Aug 23.


One's relationship to food is an important factor that can contribute to wellbeing but can also lead to eating disturbances. Research in this area has linked vegetarianism and veganism to disordered eating. However, through social media, many young women have recently started to share their vegan experiences with many highlighting the role that veganism may have on promoting a 'healthier' psychosocial relationship to food. The current study aims to qualitatively explore the role that veganism plays in young women's wellbeing and relationship to food. Participants were ten young vegan women aged 18 to 25. Semi-structured interviews were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). These women were found to passionately engage in a vegan lifestyle, as opposed to just a vegan diet, which appeared to have a number of positive effects such as a healthier lifestyle, a stronger sense of control and agency, more meaningful social relationships, and a sense of connection to a vegan sub-culture. Through veganism, many of the women transitioned from social disconnection and a focus on body image, to a stronger emotional (empathic), cognitive (knowledge of animal cruelty and healthy eating), and behavioural (diet and consumption choices, connections with others) investment in their social worlds. We suggest that the healing potential of veganism, is derived from this passionate investment of the self that redefines young women's ways of being in the world. The healing benefits of engaging in a vegan lifestyle may have clinical significance for working with young women who are socially disengaged or who are at risk of disordered eating.

Keywords: Animal ethics; Diet; Eating disorders; Identity; Vegan; Vegetarian; Women.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Image / psychology
  • Diet, Vegan / psychology*
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Healthy Lifestyle
  • Humans
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Identification
  • Vegans / psychology*
  • Young Adult