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 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.
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.
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.
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 most 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.
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.
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.