“Heat Free” Banana Oat Bread; Plus, New Information About the Link Between Eating Disorders and Vegetarian Diets. What Does This Mean for the Vegan Community?

by Gena on August 5, 2012

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I’m not sure why I keep thinking that suddenly, because it’s August, we’ll have a break from the heat here in DC. We’re having anything but that: just a weekend of steamy temperatures and heavy humidity. On Friday, when I got back from Blogher 12 (thanks for the comments on my recap!!) I really wanted to make some kind of bread to take to class on weekday mornings. I’m getting weary of my superfood overnight oats, delicious though they are, and wanted to switch things up. Since I had a bunch of overripe bananas, banana bread was the obvious choice, but the thought of turning on my oven was, well, less than appetizing. As it turns out, the nice thing about living in a basement apartment is that it traps cool air. The not-so-nice thing is that it also traps hot air.

So that’s when I though back to the raw banana bread I mad from Amber’s cookbook (which I reviewed here). I decided to put a simple spin on that, but to add oats. This makes the bread not technically raw for those of you who are purists (unless you use raw oat groats, you’re not working with raw oats: even if you haven’t cooked them, they’ve likely been flash cooked) but it’s still delicious. And it’s still heat-free, which is my personal priority at the moment!

The base of this bread is a mixture of oats, almonds, and flax meal. I find that this gives it a good texture: a little pliable, a little firm, thick enough to dehydrate without ending up with a thin cracker, rather than bread. It’s also sweetened only by the banana (no added sugar in my version, though a little extra date paste, agave, or stevia would be just fine), and it keeps nicely (at least a full week) in the fridge. It has already made for one good snack, and I’m certain that it’ll be a nice addition to my portable, student breakfasts!!

raw banana oat bread

Heat Free Banana Oat Bread (high raw or raw, vegan, gluten free if you use GF oats/flour, soy free)

Makes 8 slices

1/2 cup almonds
2/3 cup oat flour (or 3/4 cup oats or raw oat groats, ground finely in a food processor)
1/4 cup flax meal
Pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3 large, ripe bananas

1. Mix together almonds, oat flour, and flax in a food processor till finely ground. Pulse in salt and cinnamon.

2. Add bananas to the mixture and process until it’s smooth and uniform. Add as much water as you need to get it to be the texture that is a bit thick and sticky, but totally pliable and easy to spread.

3. Spread onto 1 Teflex lined dehydrator sheet, and dehydrate at 115 for 6-8 hours. Flip the dough and dehydrate for another six hours. This bread is particularly good when served with almond butter and banana slices.

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Hope you enjoy this! Please note that I don’t have a cooked version: I tried one, but it didn’t turn out, and since I didn’t have time to make another, I only want to give you the version that I know actually works. If one of you figures out a cooked spin, let me know!

It’s been quite literally a jam packed weekend, between Blogher, school work, and blog work. I did, though, have a chance to attend Anne’s wedding shower, which was so lovely! The spread, below, was brimming with love and thoughtfulness from Anne’s friends to her. I’ve loved helping her to celebrate this special, upcoming event in her life.

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Final topic: this morning, JL mentioned a study on her blog that seems, at least on first inspection, distressing. The Journal of the American Academy of of Nutrition and Dietetics recently published a study with unfortunate implications about the relationship between EDs and vegetarianism. A study of 160 women, 93 with an ED or ED history, 67 without, indicated that significantly more of the women with ED histories or current EDs were likely to be or have been vegetarian. Among them, a significant majority said that they had become vegetarian to lose weight (rather than health or ethics), as opposed to vegetarians in the control group, many of whom did not report to weight loss motives. 68% of the ED group linked vegetarianism to their disorder.

When I first heard this, I can’t say I was surprised. Of course a lot of women with EDs use vegetarianism as a means of restricting food; here in this community, we know that (and we frequently talk about it, with nuance and honesty). What I hoped was that the study perhaps would show that a large number recovered women stuck with vegetarianism (finding in it values and philosophy that actually enabled recovery). Unfortunately, the study showed that 33% of still disordered women were vegetarian, whereas only 13% had remained vegetarian (the implication being that, once women were no longer obsessed with weight, they no longer had any need to be vegetarian).

It’s certainly not heartening news, and I fear that it will strengthen the treatment community’s bias against vegetarian and vegan diets. That said, I don’t think it undermines the green recovery message. As I said, it’s no surprise that women with EDs use vegetarianism to restrict. When I was anorexic, I was willing to use quite literally ANY special diet to restrict. I claimed I had a wheat allergy (a total fabrication) so that no one would make me eat bread. I cited my family’s history of high cholesterol to justify my low fat diet (in all of my disordered phases, low fat/no fat was my MO). I used my IBS (which started when I was 11, the same year my ED did) as an excuse to skip restaurant dining and family celebrations. Interestingly, the only diet I did NOT use to suit my purposes was veganism. Why? Too many carbs.

So, a lot of women use veganism and vegetarianism as an excuse to restrict. To me, this is simply one part of a bigger revelation about disordered eating, which is that any kind of special diet can be a convenient enabler. Vegetarianism happens to be handy, because it’s already quite mainstream. What this limited study (only 160 test subjects) fails to indicate is how the 13% of subjects who had recovered fully and still identify as vegan/vegetarian feel about their lifestyles.

And that slice of women—that 13% of fully recovered and still vegan/vegetarian—is what interests me, because they may have similar stories to the women I feature in green recovery. When I started that series, it wasn’t because I think all women with ED histories will find a positive relationship with plant-based diet. I’m a realist, and I know that some won’t. I wanted to explore the idea that, for certain women with my history, plant-based diet can be a very real avenue toward freedom, joy, and peace with food. And I think the stories we’ve all shared—not to mention the overwhelming number of women I know in the plant based community who have experienced full recovery and also had their lives changed for the better by veganism—are evidence of this idea. For these women, veganism can be literally life saving.

And for this reason, the conversation needs to be broadened. The time honored treatment bias (vegetarianism is a handy excuse for ED women) needs to be reconsidered. Not all women with ED histories are going to use vegetarianism to perpetuate their issues. Some of them—some of us—will find in veganism food that makes us love to eat, a community that gives us strength, and a sense of purpose and altruism that helps us to break out of our own self-obsessed, obsessive worlds. I don’t think I would have stopped relapsing had I not ultimately found my way to veganism. I don’t think I’m the only one. Our stories are powerful, and they matter.

And while it’s not directly pertinent as a means of addressing the study, I should add that the animals matter, too. And directly related to this, it’s worth pointing out that in this study, the implication was that subjects had become vegetarian after their disorders began. It obviously does not pertain to the hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who become vegetarian for animals, for health, and for the environment.

What do you guys think?

Final, crucial announcement: you have exactly 1 more day to enter my giveaway to win a FREE JUICER. Enter now!!

xo

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

JL August 5, 2012 at 8:05 pm

I knew I could count on you to break that study down, Gena! Thank you!

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Anonymous August 5, 2012 at 8:13 pm

I also think it’s worth noting that the ED preceded the veg*n choice the participants made. That’s a distinction that needs to be stated often and loudly.

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Gena August 5, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Of course it does. Thank you for mentioning it — I just added a sentence to that effect.

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Gena August 5, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Sorry, wanted to add: It’s not made explicit in the article when the choice to be veg came about. I can only say that my impression from reading it is that vegetarianism developed in concert with disordered eating. It may have preceded in some cases, though if it was a weight loss measure for most women, it doesn’t seem likely.

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Molly August 5, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Wow, I will definitely have to try this. P.S. Just had to share that my grandmother took me to a raw restaurant here in the suburbs of Chicago. I thought of you! Hooray for supportive grandparents! Hope our paths cross again sometime soon.

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Averie @ Averie Cooks August 5, 2012 at 8:23 pm

I want that bread! It’s hot enough in Aruba that I could probably put it on the roof of my car and dehydrate it. Or on my forehead :)

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Hannah August 5, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Maybe I’m just exhausted from a long day at work, but I just want to clarify – so those with EDs began vegetarianism after the diagnosis? Was it the diagnosis or the symptoms? I don’t even know what I’m asking, to be frank. Maybe you can make sense of what I am trying to articulate!

For instance – in my ED experience – I was diagnosed in 2006 but it was in 2008 when I tried high-raw/veganism (when I emailed you the first time) from a very disordered point of view. So even though I had been seeking multi-faceted treatment for two years, I still slipped into veganism as a form of restriction. The timing of things is so complicated and elusive, and it’s hard to pinpoint it sometimes. I’m still trying to figure it out!

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Gena August 5, 2012 at 8:35 pm

The article didn’t make this explicit. My impression is that the vegetarianism developed in concert with the disordered eating. Of those identifying as “recovered,” only 13% were still vegetarian, so the suggestion is that the vegetarianism did not last long after recovery.

i think what you’re suggesting is that some people who are technically in recovery or still recovering can seek out veganism as a new means of limitation. Very, very true! But I guess my point is that, in this study for instance, 13% of the full recovered group (and I’m not sure what that means, but there was also a “partially recovered” group, so let’s assume this means people who are legitimately no longer disordered) are still veg. How has it impacted their lives, and could it have impacted their lives in a really wonderful way (as it did for me and some others?). See what I mean?

I’m tired too :)

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Nichole August 5, 2012 at 9:38 pm

I went vegetarian in high school when I was in the full throws of my restrictive phase. I thought it was something cool, pretty, thin girls did. It was a short-lived stint. I also did Atkins, South Beach, grapefruit diet, cabbage soup diet, over-exercising, etc. Anything I heard about, I tried. If those women were asked, I bet every single one would admit to trying every other types of dieting, before or after. That’s what happens when you adopt any way of eating strictly for weight-loss.

Whether the disorder developed before or after is almost inconsequential. A way of eating will not give you an eating disorder. The weight-loss itself can trigger one, but it’s my feeling you have to be susceptible to it in the first place.

The first “diet” I did was a no-fat diet when I was 12. I wasn’t disordered before the diet (I was wholly unaware of my weight or body before then), but I definitely was by the time I hit high school. It wasn’t the no-fat diet that did it to me. It was the initial weight-loss, coupled with some thoughtless comments made by my mother, attention from other girls, and a lack of nutritional education.

That all being said, I do worry greatly that people who will not look that deeply into it will certainly use this study to harm the lifestyle.

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Lisa @ The Raw Serenity August 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm

Changing my diet to be completely vegan and toxic/chemical free saved my life.
No treatment, pills or therapy helped me with my ED like Veganism has.

I too NEVER used vegan or vegetarian as an excuse be of the lies my ED told me about carbs.

Like any media source, they focus on the negative more than the positives.
I went vegan because I was only eating “diet” chemical “foods” that my brain was not functioning. Eating vegan whole foods removed the toxins and replaced them with nutrients that my body and mind needed to recover.
I now feel like eating is a beautiful natural thing to do.

I think we should just encourage support and positivity towards green recovery.

Love your work gena (and your banana bread!)

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Lauren August 5, 2012 at 10:23 pm

This is exactly what I hope to study more in depth some day, if not for my dissertation, then for later on. Thank you for sharing this! I’ve interlibrary loaned this article now.

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Joan August 5, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Gena—do you get heat in the kitchen from the dehydator, or is it just less than an oven?

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Gena August 5, 2012 at 10:34 pm

I do get heat, and it drives me nuts, but it’s less heat, and I can also leave it on all day and just have the window open while I’m not there, rather than having to deal with it when I’m home :)

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Joan August 5, 2012 at 11:51 pm

thanks Gena, I am waiting until cooler weather here in California’s central valley to buy my first dehydrator, but look forward to real kale chips soon, although the oven has done a fair job. Have you had any experience with the stainless steel deydrators? I have read that the plastic type can produce an odor and thought the other might be a better choice for me.

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Rose August 5, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Thank you for posting this.. I’m going to look into your ‘Green Recovery’.. I have an ED past and I’m currently eating 90% vegetarian and aspiring to veganism, thanks in part to my husband’s recent cancer diagnosis. The animal aspect means a lot to me as well.. I’ve been on and off eating poultry until very recently. We took a road trip a few weeks ago, and at a rest area there was a truck full of turkeys going to slaughter. The sight of those poor birds, gasping for air in the heat, covered in poop, and half their feathers ripped off by the wind really put a stamp on it. I can’t eat animals any more. I’m still in a love/hate relationship with dairy, and we eat eggs directly from the local farm.. It’s so hard to have a healthy relationship with food when there’s so much guilt attached to it..

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Susanne August 6, 2012 at 12:20 am

Gena, did the study cite the reasons and age ranges of the former vegetarians? I ask this as one of your older (oldest?) readers – at 45, I think I’m the only strictly plant-based eater my age I know of who isn’t a hardcore hippie. I’ve met quite a few middle aged former herbivores who went the Atkins/Paleo route once they hit menopause and started gaining weight. I’m extremely anxious about all of it – I’ve struggled on and off with disordered eating since I was a teenager (actually, since I was a child, if you count the genesis of the ED mindset). I suspect that when the much-feared Change hits me, I won’t be able to resist doing absolutely anything to keep the weight off. Even if it means shunning years of positive changes.

Oh – I know this is off-topic, but I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on the side effects of hemp seeds. I had a terrifying vaso vagal response/severe panic attack/IBS episode a few weeks ago after using hemp hearts for the first time in a smoothie. Coincidence?

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Emily Gigger August 6, 2012 at 10:55 am

My mom is almost 60, a whole foods plant-based eater, and definitely not a hippie! You’re not alone!

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Angelli August 6, 2012 at 12:48 am

Well, I think that there are many people that become “vegetarian” or “vegan” when they are already in the ED, trying to cover it, or to have excuse to avoid some food, and then when they think in vegetarian/vegan alimentation, they automatically relate it to limitation, restriction, even dangerous, but that’s because they saw it like a way of losing more weight. I became vegan when I was in my ED, but not fo losing weight, and so I decided to get well because I didn’t want people to think that was the reason, and I didn’t want like to use vegan life to it, and I get mad when people relate being vegetarian or vegan with “she/he is just hidding and ED” or “are you vegetarian vegan? how much have you lost?” but I think is great that some people find alive to their ED’s with a plant-based diet, because I believe and know it’s so much healthier and you’re eating from the earth, you’re eating life :)

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Kate August 6, 2012 at 2:01 am

Hello,
I love your recipe, however, I am not an owner of a dehydrator :( do you know any other way to do it? wouldn’t mind if I had to use the oven, I’m am not 100% raw anyway.. would love to try this lovely bread though :)
x

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Brittany August 6, 2012 at 9:26 am

oh i was going to ask the same thing! is there any way we make this dish of deliciousness without a dehydrator?

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liz August 6, 2012 at 3:25 pm

I don’t have a dehydrator either so I am just going to take the idea and have a banana with almond butter and cinnamon spread on it. I might put it on a piece of bread :)

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Kari @ bite-sized thoughts August 6, 2012 at 3:25 am

I really appreciated your thoughts on this topic. I read that article and had a bit of a *sigh* moment. I sometimes keep my vegan eating preferences quiet specifically for those reasons (I work in a context that makes doing so necessary some times, but not always). I think promoting vegetarianism and veganism as dietary patterns that include a lot of things, rather than just taking meat out!, would help. You certainly do that and this bread looks great :)

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Sadie August 6, 2012 at 5:21 am

I have a very similar story. I did become a vegan as a way to restrict what I ate. But I stayed a vegan because it taught me to love food, to love animals, and most importantly: to love myself.

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Abby August 6, 2012 at 6:19 am

I rambled over at JL’s, but the gist is that I’m a vegetarian and not vegan in that I will occasionally eat local organic eggs (and therefore don’t feel qualified to use the “vegan” tag on myself.) However, I suffer from OCD and have been “in recovery” from an eating disorder for years and know that I’m addictive/obsessive personality is something I have to keep in check. While veganism can open up so many doors for people and is in no way a restrictive lifestyle choice, for me, restricting certain foods can be a slippery slope. First it’s dairy, then it’s eggs, etc. I am very conscious with all of my choices and keep things whole and simple, mostly because that’s what makes me feel best–physically and mentally–but I hate that I question my motives at times. Am I using it as an excuse to restrict or am I truly making the choice to cut out (organic local) eggs for ethical reasons? Right now, I am leaving a few non-vegan items in to ensure that I get the amount of calories I need to take care of myself physically before I decide if I’m mentally strong enough to maintain a vegan lifestyle.

Ramble aside, yes, I read this story last week and agreed to a point. I don’t believe that people who go vegan to lose weight have the same motivation as those who do it for ethical reasons, meaning they use it as a means of restriction instead of education, compassion and a diverse plant-based diet.

Something I rarely hear mentioned is the “typical” personality of someone with an eating disorder and how that can factor into the decision to be vegetarian or vegan. While perfectionism and obsessiveness are often noted, I think a lot of ED sufferers are also very compassionate and sensitive to their environment and those around them. One of my main goals for recovery is to get healthy enough to be able to make the decision to go vegan for ethical reasons. I want to 100 percent show my compassion for animals and the environment–not to people please, but to please myself–but know I have to have compassion for myself and my health first. (Sorry for the novel. I’m in “a place” right now with this and a wee bit on the fence on the direction I should go myself ;) )

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Sarah August 6, 2012 at 8:01 am

The current issue of Eating Disorders Review has an article about this, showing that “semi-vegetarians” are the ones at risk for disordered eating over true vegetarians: http://www.eatingdisordersreview.com/nl/nl_edr_23_3_6.html My inclination is to think that those who use vegetarian/vegan diets as a means to eliminate foods are at greater risk, whereas those who are doing it for ethical and even health related (truly recognizing the health benefits of a plant-based diet) are at no greater odds. There is definitely a fine line between choosing not to eat something for ethical/health reasons and choosing not to eat something because of one’s perception of how if will affect the waistline. There are so many dietary myths floating around that make healthy eating challenging for the ordinary individual, but are only exacerbated in those of us struggling with EDs. I myself found that the medical community reluctance to accept the validity of a vegan diet quite detrimental to my recovery process. I’ve done inpatient treatment 3 times now. Each time I entered as either a vegetarian or vegan and each time I was told I had no option bu to eat meat. Rather than to work with me to create a healthy meal plan that aligned with my ethical beliefs and debunk by dietary fears, I was forced to adhere to a meal plan that shot my anxiety through the roof due to having to deal with consuming animals in addition to my ordinary ED fears. Not only that, the overall quality of the food being served (tons of animal products and processed food and the few fruits and vegetables served were largely from a can, barely recognizable, or picked last year) only made matters worse. That kind of food would make anyone feel like crap after eating! Each time I came out of treatment I would go back to eating vegan again, but none the wiser in how to properly nourish myself. I’d be curious to find out the success rate of those who enter vegetarian or vegan, for any reason, and were permitted to remain eating that way, but were actually fed healthy food and educated in the true health benefits of a plant-based diet would be more successful. Based on the stories here I am inclined to think the success rate would be much higher, since so many have experienced how truly nourishing food can make them feel. I too am beginning to break free as I learning how to properly nourish my self in a way that aligns with my ethical convictions.

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sarah August 6, 2012 at 8:19 am

Wow, this is horrible! I am so sorry to hear that they did that. You’re on the right site if you want to learn about how to nourish yourself in a way that aligns with your ethics.

I was lucky in that when I was in recovery (never in in-patient), I guess. No one ever suggested I start eating animals again. I never even connected my decision to go veg with my eating disorder until many years later, but then again, the internet wasn’t really all that popular then, and it was on the internet that I even learned this was a thing.

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Ruth August 6, 2012 at 8:52 am

In the study, how did they decide who had had an ED and who still had one? The public and health professionals both already often think that being vegan is in itself disordered eating. So perhaps some of the 20% who dropped vegetarianism upon recovery could have been and wanted to be healthy vegetarians but were discouraged? And some of the 33% who were still disordered might not have actually been that ill? Conversely, some of the healthy vegetarian 13% might not actually be that healthy.

This is a problem with any kind of study, I know, but in this case we’re looking at a behaviour/belief that has been and still is looked at as a symptom of the illness so it seems unlikely that we can draw conclusions any more meaningful from this study than we could have from our own experiences. I can’t see the study, but it seems to me they are being very overconfident if they think they can tease apart disordered eating and vegetarianism so easily.

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liz August 6, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Just wondering, where did you get this idea from:
“The public and health professionals both already often think that being vegan is in itself disordered eating”

I am curious if this if just a thought you have or if you’ve seen this in a journal or in your interactions with public health professionals. Anecdotally, I work in public health where going meat free for some meals or whole days is encouraged for obesity, cholesterol, blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease.

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Ksenija August 6, 2012 at 8:59 am

First: I always wanted to make raw bread myself, but never had the guts to try. This recipe sounds so delicious and easy, that I want to give it a go next week. Thanks a lot.

Second: Regarding this whole discussion. Me for my part found a beautiful kind of relieve when I found the vegan diet to be the one for me. Before I had like tons of foods which I did not like, where bad for me, not allowed or unhealthy – and I was confronted with them all the time. So my daily diet was pretty restricted to safe foods and so boring.
Nowadays with all the vegan food, I found so many new delicious products and recipes. I do give everything a try and I completely fell in love with food and cooking. There are no bad foods anymore – just those which I want to eat right now and those which I can eat every other day I want to.

So for my part: I feel more convinced and happy with my vegan diet, years after my disordered eating, than ever before.

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Ashley August 6, 2012 at 9:11 am

I want this bread riiiight now!!

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Lisa @ Lisa the Vegetarian August 6, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Before reading this post, I hadn’t heard about this study. I find that so many people out there just don’t understand why a person would choose not to eat meat and I can see them taking this and using it as “evidence” that this is bad. I do hope that there are additional studies in the future that broaden the parameters and focus more on what your message is about green recovery and using a vegan/vegetarian diet to feel good about yourself and how you’re interacting with the world.

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Amber Shea @Almost Vegan August 6, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I’m so pleased to have inspired this bread! I love your oaty variation.

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Lisa August 6, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Gena,
Did you know you were nominated for a VegNews veggie award for your blog?
http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VegNewsVeggieAwards2012

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LorriePaige August 6, 2012 at 2:39 pm

The juicer looks awesome! Lucky them whoever wins it. :) I love banana bread; maybe I’ll try the recipe.

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Laura August 7, 2012 at 1:36 am

It’s unfortunate how these concepts are confounded in research. “Vegetarian” is a broad category that can indicate a dietary restriction, an ethical motivation, or a nutritional well-being goal. Counting those practicing vegetarianism as dietary restriction in this study is like looking for an effect of meditation on social anxiety, and counting people who spend time alone avoiding people as “meditating.” It shouldn’t be a surprise that a dietary change that is NOT necessarily towards better nutrition (particularly in the hands of a person with an ED) would have a detrimental effect on health (and probably eliminating meat was not their only tactic- their vegetarian diets were also likely imbalanced in other ways). What we DON’T know is how introducing a vegetarian diet vs omnivorous diet, with their respective values and goals, would affect people who already suffer from an ED and are not making good progress. This has little to do with the rather obvious conclusion of the research that people with EDs are associated with diets involving rules and restrictions. One day, we’ll do this study :)

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Gena August 9, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Yes, my friend, we certainly will.

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vanessa August 8, 2012 at 6:24 am

I was the mood for a treat this past weekend but NOT in the mood to turn on the oven, so I got to work making this bread as soon as I read your post, and BOY am I glad I did! Just ate some for breakfast as suggested: with almond butter and banana…plus a sprinkle of spirulina and sea salt, because I can never get enough green (and salt…LOL)! Thank you so much for the recipe – it will now be in my regular rotation :)

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vanessa August 8, 2012 at 6:30 am

Ooh, forgot to mention: I also added about half a shredded zucchini to the batter!

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