This blog is a personal story on my short, but eye-opening journey with veganism. I invite your thoughts, but request your compassion.
Veganism is defined as a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
Around this time last year, I decided to stop my vegan lifestyle after only a short 5-6 month period being in it. Before I explain why, I want to dive into my experience with veganism.
Why did I go vegan anyway?
I’ve always loved and deeply cared for all kinds of animals. I’ve never had animal skins, furs or feathers to clothe me but yet, they were in my meals. I had spent weeks doing research and watching documentaries on animal slaughter and the practice of veganism, to finally come to the realization that I needed to go vegan. Living vegan wouldn’t mean just helping the animals, but the environment too. I needed to find peace at the dinner table with no dead animal flesh or their by-products on my plate. I didn’t do it for health reasons, as I appreciate the nutrient benefits that animal products offer.
So, was it healthy?
Absolutely! The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and American Academy of Pediatrics agree: Well-planned vegetarian and vegan eating patterns are healthy for almost everyone, including infants and toddlers.
There are several news articles that claim vegan diets are dangerous, especially when you look up raising an infant on a vegan diet. The stories of vegan parents who starved their babies because of mistaken beliefs about infant feeding are horrible and heartbreaking. But it has nothing to do with veganism. With any diet, time and attention are necessary to help both adults and young children, vegan, vegetarian or not, get all the nutrients they need for good health status, normal growth and development.
If we only consider meat eating as the norm, then a vegan diet might seem like it can’t work – and it might not work for everyone. But if you want to do it for yourselves or your children, then it’s up to you to learn more about it and seek counsel from a Registered Dietitian who can help plan a nutritionally adequate diet for you and your family.
I won’t go into detail on every macro or micro nutrient you may be concerned on missing in a vegan diet, but if you would like more information, feel free to connect with me.
Was it easy to follow?
Yes! I made sure to meal plan and pack vegan snacks whether I was at work or on-the-go. I did my research on restaurants and eating joints in the area, so that I knew what my options were anywhere I went. There are tons of recipes for vegan meals, snacks and desserts online, so I never ate boring, uninspired food.
Why it all ended
I can truly say veganism was a perfect match for me – it aligned with my beliefs and views.
But the entire time, what I ate was almost all I thought about. Months into it, being in internship and working longer hours at the hospital, treats were often set out in the hospital wards, and all day I’d think about how I couldn’t have one. If I went out to a restaurant and the vegan option I believed existed didn’t, I’d skip dinner. Or my Tim Horton’s bagel had butter on it instead of margarine, so I felt guilty for the next week. Sometimes I ate something I thought was vegan but wasn’t, and someone would call it out, driving the guilt and shame in even more. My restriction was evolving into something unhealthy. I occasionally track my calories and macro nutrients, and never find it disordered. Until I discovered that with a vegan diet, I ate a lot more lower-calorie foods while still feeling full, so I could drop my calorie count to “experiment.” In a short period of time, I dropped 15 pounds, and the thoughts of ‘maybe just a few more’ lingered.
I can’t say I ever truly engaged in disorder eating. But I have a deep interest in food and metabolism, which sparked at a young age leading to my degree choice and now career. This deep interest is used everyday in my work, and when it seeps into all my thoughts outside of work, I know for me, it’s becoming disordered.
Sometimes veganism is wrongly associated with eating disorders. The peak age of onset for the most common eating disorders is in the adolescent years. Eating disorders have a complex etiology and prior use of a vegetarian or vegan diet does not appear to increase the risk of an eating disorder, though some with pre-existing disordered eating may choose these diets to aid in their limitation of food intake. I didn’t use a vegan diet to help with limiting my food…in the beginning. But because I eventually did, and didn’t see any other way mentally, I knew veganism was no longer the great choice it had once been for me.
What’s the point of this story?
To share. I felt a lot of guilt and shame, and still do for not continuing on what I believe is a kinder way of life. I received comments for ‘giving up’ on veganism, which only made it harder. But I share this story, because if there’s someone else out there who has experienced something similar, I want you to know that even a Registered Dietitian, a ‘nutrition and food expert’ experiences disordered eating. The key is realization and either seeking help or changing your lifestyle to prevent those pesky unhealthy thoughts.
I continue to enjoy trying and understanding other ways of eating, like intermittent fasting or keto, but I do it for a week or two at most. As for my usual eating now, I practice food freedom and an all foods fit approach. I eat mostly plant-based, I enjoy treats and I don’t cast judgement on myself or my food choices.
Lastly, this blog is in no way meant to say a vegan diet or any particular diet is a form of disordered eating. It just was for me. This isn’t meant to defend my decision to quit veganism to anyone. There is no one right way for everyone to eat. Find what works best for you, experiment with different foods, be kind to yourself and remember, you don’t need to prove to anyone why you’re eating whatever it is.
My sweet dachshund Henry who’s always giving kisses and providing unconditional love.