Why I Am No Longer Vegan
This post shares my honest experience moving away from a vegan diet because it was no longer supporting my health. I share what happened during the 3 1/2 years of eating 100% plant-based and why I no longer support this lifestyle.
I wrote this post half a dozen times and shared drafts with a limited number of trusted friends before ultimately scrapping them all, starting over, and writing from my heart.
You read from the title of this post that I am not vegan anymore.
I know this is a shocking statement, and I apologize for any disappointment, confusion, or anger that it might create.
I became vegan in 2010 and followed a whole foods version of that lifestyle for nearly 3 ½ years. During that time, I resolved health conditions including chronic migraines, allergies, and anxiety. I learned so much about nutrition and the realities of food production and I never, ever thought I would consume animal products again.
You probably also know that in 2012, a cancerous tumor grew on my thyroid gland*. It was removed and, as far as I know, I am cured. The physical and psychological ramifications were more difficult to heal, though, and are relevant to this discussion because I believe they put me in a fragile state.
Pretty quickly after my cancer diagnosis, I started viewing foods as either “good” or “bad” and I questioned every bite as to whether or not it would feed cancer cells. Food became the enemy.
Read more about my cancer diagnosis.
Fast forward to the end of 2013 and early 2014 and my frustration started to grow over why I wasn’t bouncing back from my experience.
I developed insomnia, amennorhea, hot flashes, brittle nails, depression, and a complete lack of energy, not to mention a recurrence of binge eating and restrictive eating patterns that I had not experienced since adolescence. I was on a very dangerous path.
Read more in my article on how to fight fatigue on a vegan diet.
Changing My Diet
After extensive research and with the advice of several doctors, I started experimenting with different variations of a vegan diet, knowing the power of good nutrition on both the mind and the body.
I added plant-based protein powders and increased my overall intake of beans, nuts, seeds, and soy products, as well as using bright light therapy.
These changes helped, but were not enough, so I started taking a high-quality probiotic and a high-dose, fish-based EPA supplement that also helped, but were not vegan.
Then, most recently, I started consuming animal foods including eggs and meat, mostly fish.
Post Vegan Changes
The result? I’m feeling better. Over the past two months or so, I’ve been sleeping more soundly and my energy levels have stabilized. My very near obsession with food and restriction is virtually gone and my mood is overall much, much better.
I’m not saying that I am in perfect health and I never have a hard day, but overall I feel as if I am healing. I continue to work with a professional therapist and using the book Intuitive Eating as my guide for the emotional work. I do not know yet of the long-term effects of this new way of living and I imagine it will take more time to see quantifiable results, but this is the route I am taking.
Please know that I am not suggesting in any way that a 100% vegan diet can’t work for some people. I am not the best example considering my health issues and I don’t have the answers as to what may have been the reason why I could not sustain a purely plant-based diet.
I suspect that I might be someone whose chemistry requires higher quality protein or that my digestive system wasn’t doing a good enough job in extracting what I needed. And, obviously, my health history has had an impact on how I feel and how my body functions.
[Editor’s note: I have a comprehensive post on the dangers of a vegan diet that goes into further details about the problems that can occur when you eliminate all animal products from your diet].
One of the costs of this change from a vegan lifestyle is the impact on animals. I did everything I could to educate myself about the issues these past several years and my concern for animals was what brought me to veganism in the first place. I believe I was an ethical vegan in the sense that I tried everything I could to not start eating animals again.
I am making every effort to choose ethically-sourced animal products, although that does not erase completely the guilt of my choices in the sense that I am still contributing to animal suffering. However, I am committed to continuing to educate myself about the issues and being open to the possibility of further change in the future.
You may also want to check out my article on how to re-introduce meat after a vegan diet.
My Body, My Choice
If you are reading this and feel a sense of support that I am doing what I need to do, then I appreciate that understanding. I do not expect that everyone will feel that way. I clearly remember reading in the past about people doing what I am doing and feeling judgment for their decisions. At the time, I could not understand what could possibly lead others to “go back” from being vegan.
Ultimately, I feel that this is a very personal choice and I cannot say whether you should or shouldn’t be vegan. If you can eat this way and feel good, then I believe there are proven health benefits as well as being a more compassionate and sustainable way of living. I still feel committed to doing what I can to help animals and to take care of our environment.
I know that what I have written may result in a change in my relationship with many of you. The difference in our values may be a “deal-breaker” and I think it is only natural that some of us grow apart, although I do not necessarily wish for that to happen.
As always, I am open to your questions and concerns, but please know I will not tolerate hurtful comments. For my readers and friends who still connect with where I am coming from, I thank you sincerely and I couldn’t be more excited about continuing on this journey with you.
*I want to clarify that I do not believe a vegan diet caused my cancer, nor do I believe I will ever know the exact cause.
**I feel obligated to paste my disclaimer here that I am not a licensed health professional so I am not offering medical advice nor am I able to respond to specific questions about your situation. Please consult your health professional before making any changes to your diet.
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I have been Vegan since 1967 cetainly works for me clearly does not work for some. While a member of American natural hygiene society ( now health science) several members wrote in dissapointed that they could not manage on a Vegan diet. Dr Greger, nutrition.org is a good comprehensive place for prospective Vegans and those having probelms on a Vegan diet. My wife finds if she does not eat eggs she has leg cramp problems that go as soon as she eats eggs again,supplements covering the hutritional benefits of eggs do not help; she said goodbuy to dairy products dealing twice with early breast cancer free of this now nearly a decade. I am sure whole food eating, mostly uncooked is why I have not had problems. I have doubts about complex processed meat substitutes I am sure simplest is best. There are so many Vegans now social isolation is no longer the problem it once was though family worry and hostility can be. Animal liberation Vegans who take litle thought for what they eat other than being Vegan are for sure heading for problems that the mainstream media will delight in highlighting. Humanity is and has been omniverous for millenia what the ideal diet is will vary person to person, vested interests will for sure muddy the waters as big pharm has the vaccinate or not debate over covid. For me eating plants not what is manufactured in plants works though there is little profit in promoting this as always ‘follow the money’
I agree that big pharm and the processed food industries have a huge negative impact on health. But if you follow Dr. Greger back to this roots, you will also see that he has an agenda as well and does not tell the whole truth.
I am before a decision. Reading about pros and cons of vegan diet to get an objective understanding. I was wondering what did you mean in one of your replies that Dr. Greger is not telling the whole truth. What is the agenda, what would be the whole truth, what is he missing in his book?
In my opinion, Dr. Gregor is about animal welfare, not about doing the best for human health.
Like a lot of your other commenters, I am in the process of transitioning away from veganism for health reasons. Since being WFPB for 4 yrs I’ve developed IBS and my relationship with food is pretty dreadful! Have you seen the results for all cause mortality in the adventist health study 2? For men it’s a no brainer – vegans do better followed by pescatarians. For women its less clear cut and pescatarians do better than vegans. Although there is a perception that men need more meat than women, that’s not what the data says! Which makes sense! With childbearing, menstruation and menopause we have way more to contend with!
Carrie, I am so glad I found your post too. The other people commenting are far more veteran vegan/vegetarians than me, I have only been vegan for 6 months. But I have always tried to use vegan hair and skin products and other products. Before I went vegan, we were eating meat at least once a day and sometimes 3 times a day, and I grew up eating meat regularly. So maybe my system was just used to a much higher level of iron. I don’t know, but I have been feeling so bad since January, 3 months. Just tired and dizzy and sometimes having numbness in my limbs. I am going to the doctor Tuesday to get everything checked but I am so unsure of everything now. I have been taking iron supplements and other recommended supplements for vegans the whole time I have been vegan but I don’t think it’s been enough. We have started adding back in eggs and chicken. I feel so bad for eating chicken but I try to get it from local farms where they raise them out in the open. Anyway, articles like this are helpful. If you have any insight or advice let me know.
Hi Margaret, I’m so glad you are getting blood work done. That should give you a lot more answers. In the meantime, I would really listen to your body. If you don’t want to eat chicken, maybe try just sticking with eggs and maybe a small fish like sardines?
I’m so thankful I came across this post, cause the same thing happened to me! I used to have horrible GI issues and eventually met my naturopathic doctor who started me on a whole food plant based diet and I transitioned to it 6 years ago. At the time it was the best decision I made at the time and eventually healed my gut. I never felt more alive! Ironically, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer almost a year ago and had a thyroidectomy back in December. Thankfully the cancer was only localized in my thyroid and didn’t metastasize anywhere. 5 days later I ended up in the hospital again for hypocalcemia because my parathyroid glands shut down from the surgery and I they haven’t worked since. I will have hypocalcemia for the rest of my life. I am also extremely vitamin D deficient. I found a vegan vitamin D supplement on Amazon which helped bring my levels up but I’m still extremely deficient. I don’t get a lot of sun where I live so I looked for other sources of vitamin D and the best way to bring up your levels is through fish. It also doesn’t help that for the past few months I have also had insomnia, horrible muscle cramps, irritability and honestly, I don’t feel healthy anymore. I love my vegan lifestyle and I always said that I will never return to eating meat, but being a vegan is no longer healthy for me. Even with my calcium levels back in their normal range I still feel horribly lethargic. Just like you said in your other post I am also remaining dairy free but I am going to start incorporating eggs back into my diet and eventually fish. I may or may not introduce poultry but I will not return to eating red meat or pork. Thank you for sharing your journey and helping me make this decision to return to eating meat.
Hi Maureen, I’m so sorry to hear about the complications from your surgery. I am thankful it was contained though (thank goodness)! Please continue listening to your body and I would also encourage you to reach out to a functional medicine doctor who might be able to help you address the insomnia and muscle cramps. Take care and keep in touch.
I’m really glad I’ve come across your website! I have recently decided to start eating meat after 17 years of being a vegetarian. Over the last few years I have had a lot of digestive issues and came across some information that you seem to echo regarding the benefits and essential nutrients that meat provides, and is hard or impossible to get from a vegetarian diet. It is very challenging even the thought of eating meat again. I was never a fan of the texture of meat and that remains. But I want to try and restore my energy and hopefully stop the fatigue and mood swings. I also noticed that I had an increasingly negative relationship with food, where I wasn’t even sure what to eat as it all upset my digestive system. I’ve only just started back on my meat journey. Fingers crossed it helps! I look forward to reading more if your posts xx
Hi Melissa, I’m really glad you found my post and I hope you find some relief with your expanded dietary choices. I am actually thinking about starting a course or ebook for vegans/vegetarians who are thinking about eating meat again. Is this something that you might be interested in? Feel free to shoot me an email, I’d love to get some input as to your greatest needs and what I should include in my course.
I think a course or an ebook would be a great idea! I’m still learning how to cook meat, it is a minefield. I turned vegetarian as I also left home so I never really experimented or learned how to cook meat, I’m sure some basic tips would be very useful to most of us!
Carrie well done on your decision and follow whatever you think it keeps you healthy and feeling good.
I made my own research over the last 10 years and i well understood that there are almost no pure plant eating species on this planet. Even the cow and the sheep are consuming each years a lot of animal protein through small bugs and other living species that the eye cannot easily see. Those species are living in large numbers on every plant and leaf that they eat in the farms. There is a massacre in every bite of the cow or the sheep but we do not see it, we do not perceive it, that’s why we do not care. But life is still life. As humans when we buy plants we clean them and sometimes we wash them with soap to ged rid of pesticides but we ged rid of every small life on the plant. Personally i prefer to follow what my anchestors did and most of them lived up to 100 very healthy. The traditional Mediterranean diet. Maybe i am speaking from a confortable position of having my own farm and land exactly out of my house and i do not worry about the quality of the food as everything here grows and lives by itself in its natural environment. I am sure that in the cities is much more difficult.
PS: The local vet told me that a cow eats more than 12-15kg of pure meat (that is inside every small bug) every month through the plants. The amount is not big when you think that she eats all day non stop. Same happens with the sheep, the goat and all other plant eating species.
Hi I just came across this article because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about going back to meat. I’ve been a vegetarian for 11 years now and over the years I have been going up and down on the scale like crazy. It has been a real struggle for me because I find that I always choose foods that are carbs and sugar and not vegetables and fruits. Over the years I’ve suffered from huge bouts of depression and I know that I must also be deficient in many vitamins. I am always tired and drained and have very little energy all the time. I also have had hormone issues and have nonalcoholic fatty liver. I know that this cant all be caused by being a vegetarian, but it’s very hard to find information on the topic. I was glad to come across this blog. Since Covid I have probably put on an additional 15 to 20 pounds on top of the 30 that I had already gained before it. My diet has been an excess of carbs and sugar foods and I know it needs to stop. I’m trying to correct this now or I will get into some major health problems soon. Do you have any tips on easing back to being an omnivore? This is going to be a struggle because I am such an animal lover, But I think it’s time that I started putting myself first.
Hi Andrea, thanks for the note. I’m sorry to hear you are struggling. You might want to check out one of the book by Dr. Amy Myers. She is a functional medicine physician and has excellent dietary advice. Or, I would highly suggest seeing a functional medicine practitioner who can help you figure out exactly which nutritional deficiencies you may have. This article (https://www.cleaneatingkitchen.com/how-to-reintroduce-meat-vegan/) represents my best tips for easing back into eating meat, but certainly someone like a functional medicine practitioner can help you step-by-step. I agree that you should put your health first, and then you can have the energy and vitality to live your best life and inspire others!
While I commend you for trying to be sensitive to the beliefs and feelings of your readers, I also don’t think a truly health-conscious community would ever shame you or even expect you to apologize for making a decision that is best for you and your health. Today, I am a person who maintains a balanced, conscious diet of mostly organic, minimally processed foods. I eat whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, along with meat, dairy, and eggs raised by farmers who respect the animals and treat them humanely. I often say I prefer to eat ingredients, not products.
I’ve watched the exponential growth of the vegan movement with a mix of amusement and concern, as I know from firsthand experience how hard it is to maintain while getting adequate nutrition. Before settling on my current way of eating, I tried vegetarianism, macrobiotic, and vegan diets. Each left me feeling tired, eating too much or too little of something (carbs, fat, protein, other nutrients), and thinking way too much about food and what was ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to eat. I also found the processed vegan ‘substitute’ foods made me feel terrible, and I developed a horrible soy intolerance which I still have nearly twenty years after cutting it out of my diet.
Each person deserves to find what works for their health, and food-shaming is an intolerable habit many of self-righteous vegans I meet who think their beliefs and choices make them somehow better than others. Props to you for making healthy choices that work for you.
Hi, Carrie. I was vegan from 2010-2012 and shifted vegetarian diet from 2012-2014. In autumn 2014 I had to make a hard decision and put my well being first. I had to put fish back on my plate and after that other meats. I really shifted every stone and also took every supplement I was supposed to that I could be vegan. When that wasn’t okay with my body, I really did everything right that I could be vegetarian, but my body was not okay with that either. When I did start to eat meat again it was mentally hard and first six months I was some what depressed about that. But then I started to think that there is no good reason for me to feel bad about me eating meat, because it was out of my hands and that my health comes first. When making decisions about diets health should always come first. My family and friends were very supportive towards me and my decision, because they wanted for me nothing but good health. And I knew that. And that is why I appreciate your bravery to be so honest about your decision in public even though you knew in advanced how some would critizice and turn their backs, even when they knew about your struggles in health department. I am ending my comment with quote from Hippocrates: Let food be thy medicine!
Hi Carrie … you don’t have to apologize for changing your diet. I applaud all the people who can stick with a vegan diet but I know all too well that it just doesn’t work for everyone. When a person’s health starts to suffer, as yours did, then it’s time to make a change. I tried to stick with a vegan diet for ethical reasons, but my many food allergies prevented me from continuing. I simply couldn’t eat all the vegan food that I needed to get the nutrients required for good health. I added eggs and dairy back into my diet because that’s what I can tolerate. I still don’t eat meat and fish but not because I think they should be eliminated if required for good health. I just never liked meat or fish, and eggs and dairy suffice for me. Everyone has personal opinions about a vegan diet, a vegetarian diet, or a meat based diet. I just wish everyone could respect the decisions made by other people without name calling and condemnation. I guess some things are just too much to hope for. I wish you good health!