Leaving Veganism - My Journey to Better Health
I understand that this topic is incredibly controversial.
Not everyone is going to understand or agree with my perspective on the matter, and that’s okay. I feel that I am making huge strides towards my happiest, healthiest, and truest self, and leaving veganism is a huge factor in that.
I was vegan for just under 4 years and I believe that it was one of the best things I could have ever done for myself. It taught me how to nourish my body with whole foods, to appreciate the planet and what she offers to us every single day, and it opened my eyes to the cruelty that resides in the meat/dairy/egg industry. After watching COUNTLESS documentaries and reading many articles and books, I swore that I would never touch animal products again.
I dove in head first, following all sorts of vegan accounts and groups on social media. It didn’t take long for me to pick up on the hostility and anger that a lot of vegans have for omnivorous eaters. Now that being said, there are plenty of wonderful, kind people in these groups as well - but I have seen far more negativity than support throughout the years. I feel that we need to respect everybody for their decisions on what they are doing for their bodies. Not your body? Not your business! We are not all the same, which means we are not all going to be able to maintain the same diet. We are bio-individual, and that is a beautiful thing.
As someone that has been struggling with digestive issues for about 4 years, (about the same amount of time as I’ve been vegan - imagine that!), I have undergone dozens of medical tests in order to find out what the heck is going on inside my poor little belly!! I’ve suffered with intense cramping and bloating, insanely irregular periods, and even began noticing a huge depletion in my energy levels and strength. Thanks to all of these physical side effects, my mental health has also been suffering immensely. I went to my naturopath with these symptoms and she asked that I consider reintroducing animal proteins. I was VERY hesitant and told her that I would consider the eggs, but not meat - I just couldn’t fathom it.
After months of urine, stool and blood tests, as well as ultrasounds and various other things, we finally received some results. It turns out that I have EPI (exocrine pancreatic insufficiency), which means my pancreas isn’t creating the digestive enzymes I need to properly break down my food. I was also tested for something called SIBO, which stands for '“Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth”, and the test came back positive. In order to prepare myself for this test it was required of me to eat a very strict diet of meat, eggs, and white rice. You can imagine how I was feeling when I was told I’d have to eat meat all day and NO vegetables… (I cried and had a panic attack at the grocery store as I dealt with the butcher behind the counter), I had no idea what I was doing. I got home and made myself steak and eggs for breakfast, then later had a chicken fried rice. I was nervous that I would suffer severe discomfort seeing as I hadn’t eaten anything like that in years, but I responded really positively to it. I should have seen that as a sign that my body needed it, but I turned a blind eye. I was vegan after all!
SO, once we knew what was going on, we had to find a way to heal my system. I told my naturopath that I wasn’t going to eat meat, or any other form of animal products for that matter, because in my mind I was following a diet that worked better for my body and mind/conscience. My fear of being disowned and hated by the vegan community grew stronger and stronger, so I was doing everything in my power to remain a ‘proper’ vegan. That meant that I had to start supplementing BIG time to make up for what I was lacking. I also had to start taking antimicrobials in order to kill the bacteria in my small intestine from the SIBO.
I am currently still on ALL supplements and antimicrobials, so I am taking 10 different types of pills and tinctures 2-3 times a day (some are twice a day, others are with every meal). Even with all of these goodies I wasn’t noticing a huge difference in my health and well-being, until I reintroduced meat.
A while back I was scrolling through Instagram and I came across one of my favorite accounts. She was very passionate and vocal about veganism for over 20 years, but due to family health concerns she converted back to eating animal protein/fats and she talked so openly and honestly about her journey… something clicked for me. I realized that maybe I was ignoring what my body had been trying to tell me all along. I kept telling myself that the cravings weren’t real, that my energy levels were fine and that I was struggling in my workouts because I wasn’t working out often enough (even though I was exercising 6x a week). But the more I watched her videos, read her posts, and LISTENED to what she had to say, I knew I had to at least be open to the idea.
As I’ve been on this journey, I have done my best to be open and honest with my followers on social media - Instagram especially. I speak my mind and share details about my life through my stories, and it terrifies me some days. I have mentioned on multiple occasions the fact that I’ve been struggling with these health issues for years, and that all I want is to be the healthiest, happiest version of myself and that that may mean reincorporating animal products. For the most part, I have received so much support and I am incredibly grateful. But I have also received messages from people that can’t seem to understand why I would put my health and personal needs before animals, but this is my life. I am stuck in this body until the day I die - I want to flourish, to feel happy, healthy and strong. I DESERVE that.
I love animals and feel blessed to share this planet with so many beautiful creatures. It breaks my heart knowing that so many suffer - but if my body needs more than plants to thrive, I am going to give it that nourishment. Before eating I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and thank the land and the animals that are providing for me everything that I need in that moment. We are a part of this beautiful cycle, and veganism stops that cycle. Animals are able to properly digest grasses and absorb them, they fertilize the soil; revive the earth. We can’t do that as humans. What we can do is raise those animals (kindly, lovingly), and consume them for all their nutrients. If we STOP raising and caring for them, they will die, which means the soil will die.
I am not saying that I support large factory farms, (or even a lot of the family run farms), but there ARE places where you can get ethically & pasture raised, grass fed meat. We just have to be smart about where we are spending our money. Not to mention, as long as the animals are eating the diets they are meant to be eating, they don’t need all of those yucky antibiotics! We lack a lot of education in this area, so I encourage everyone to do some research of their own in order to form their own opinions.
About a week ago now, I was serving lunch at the restaurant I currently manage and I was selling burger after burger, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how badly I wanted one myself. I was conflicted and confused. I hadn’t found myself craving meat to that intensity in a very long time, and I kept trying to talk myself out of it. But when the time came to order our lunch, I found myself requesting a burger patty (I can’t eat gluten, so no bun) to go along side my salad. I felt that I needed to trust my intuition and reminded myself that if I took a bite and couldn’t handle it, I could give it to my coworker.
So I got my little patty and I just sat there looking at it for a while, unsure of what to do. Eventually I cut into it and had my first bite and I don’t even know how to describe the way I felt in that moment. It was exactly what I needed. I had a hard time slowing down after that first bite, my body was so excited. I felt more satiated after that meal than I have in years. From that moment on, I knew that animal products needed to be reintroduced into my diet.
It has been a week of experimenting with different sources of animal protein and I feel incredible. I’ve lost weight, there’s no bloating, less stomach/abdominal pain, my energy level has increased, my mood has improved and I am regaining my strength relatively quickly. I’m feeling so wonderful about where I’m at physically, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! I didn’t realize how much I was suffering until now. I feel like a veil has been lifted and I am able to see clearly again.
I believe that eating a mostly plant-based diet is the key to optimal health. As well as protein and fat we need plenty of healthy carbs, fiber, vitamins and minerals, which are all found in plants! My intention is to eat meat as my body craves it, but not to consume it excessively or every day. I don’t plan on eating or drinking any dairy products, besides high-protein greek yogurt every once in a while. The dairy industry is not something I wish to support, and in my opinion milk products just aren’t that good for you anyway.
As time goes on I will continue to adjust my diet to match my needs, I just ask that people respect my decisions.
Thank you to everyone who made it to the very end of this incredibly long write up, you’re a trooper! Please remember that this is MY personal experience and opinion. I am not saying that it is impossible to be a healthy vegan - I KNOW it’s possible since I’ve been there myself, I am just recognizing that at this time in my life, it is not what works best for me.
If you are thriving on a plant-based diet, I’m proud of you. If you are thriving on an omnivorous diet, I’m proud of you. If you are LISTENING TO YOUR BODY and eating intuitively, I’m proud of you. Remember to nourish your mind, body, heart and soul to the best of your ability each and every day, no matter what other people think or say.
I love you all.