After 8 years of living and breathing the vegan lifestyle, I have outgrown the “vegan” label.
I’m trying to give myself grace in this massive transition because it’s quite a shocking shift but one that has been a long time coming. The decision did not come easy, as you can imagine. I’ve quietly pondered about it for some time and it wasn’t until I was postpartum that the idea became feasible and necessary for my physical and mental health.
I’m truly sorry if anyone is disappointed in my decision. I’m deeply sad but have come to accept this new way of life. Giving birth to my baby caused some major waves and shifts and a total re-birth of who I am, but I like to think my daughter brought me back to my true intuitive self.
So, what happened?
Well, I thrived for the first 5 years as a vegan but the last 3 have been a struggle for my gut health, in particular. And before you want to recommend a probiotic, it is not that simple, trust me. I am a integrative health practitioner. I have tried everything under the sun while staying vegan. Every probiotic and supplement. You name it, I’ve tried it (well as much as I can do while breastfeeding). I have major issues going on in my gut.. most likely intestinal permeability and SIBO (amongst mold and probably parasites) but, any high fiber food either bloats me like no other or leaves me in pain, as if there is a constant brick in my stomach. Any high histamine or high oxalate food triggers my mold symptoms (I already don’t eat gluten or refined sugar). The thing is, most plant based foods are naturally high in fiber and many are high in oxalates and histamines as well.
I’ve been living in quiet agony.
Until you have experienced such sensitivities to EVERYTHING you eat, it may be hard to understand. It got to the point that I ran out of food options which is a dangerous road to go down (being vegan is restrictive already). I found myself feeling scared to eat anything and/or not wanting to eat at all, to avoid the painful bloat. This is not like me because I love food and have a big ole appetite. I want to nourish my body not deprive it.
It’s puzzling right? Vibrant green juices, nourishing smoothies, rainbow salads, what could go wrong? The plant based diet is all the rage. The “healthiest” diet around (or so I thought). And for some people who don’t have underlying gut issues, I believe it can work. Maybe not forever, but we are all different and what works for one person may not work for another.
I went vegan before it was cool, back in 2014. I’ve watched veganism become trendy. I’ve promoted it on this blog for the entirety of 8 years. I did it the right way, not the junk food way. I did everything I was supposed to. I took B12 and monitored my protein intake and ate a lot of healthy fats and carbs. I never did raw vegan, never did a juice cleanse either. I always focused on “real whole foods”. Again, I felt amazing the first 5 years and could not imagine living life any other way. I was entranced in the lifestyle and everything about it. I made amazing friends through the community. I inspired hundreds if not thousands of people to eat more plant based meals. Even up until a year ago I couldn’t imagine stepping away from veganism (although I had thought about it from time to time).
For me, the bloating started a few years ago and it’s hard to pinpoint why because I was so unaware of what being bloated was like… I just thought I was gaining weight (which I was as well, the body holds onto weight as a protective mechanism in the presence of toxicity). There was so much inflammation that I was completely unaware of. But I started to realize that most of the plant proteins (which are pretty essential to live a health-focused vegan lifestyle) were starting to affect me. Same with high oxalate foods like spinach, beans, berries and chocolate which I was eating EVERY SINGLE DAY for years. I even hopped on the celery juice train for a while (terrible idea) but couldn’t figure out why it made me feel so crappy? Hello, the oxalates. Eating too many oxalates while you are dealing with mold in your body is a recipe for disaster. I had no idea I was dealing with toxicity but right around this time is when I started learning about Microbe Formulas, Cellcore, parasite cleanses, all things gut related, mold, food sensitivities, etc., all in trying to figure out my bloating issue. Healing is a wild ride.
About fiber: fiber is great for bowel movements and to help bulk up your stool but you can overdo it and I believe I have over the last 8 years. (FYI, animal products are devoid of fiber which is why they don’t affect me).
Lentils are the WORST offender (hello high fiber), same with most beans, grains, nuts, raw veggies, leafy greens and fruit. Fruit and dates bloat me like no other which sucks. Um hello, I can’t have fruit (except apples) which is nutzo. I don’t have time to soak/sprout all my grains and beans and nuts to remove the phytic acid/phytatea and it honestly doesn’t even help (I still bloat). I can’t have smoothies. I can’t have yogurt or anything with probiotics. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to why I bloat, but uncomfortable bloating everyday is not normal in case you were wondering. Not to mention it really effs up my body image.
The only options I had left were tofu and cooked vegetables which I was fine with but it’s not sustainable forever, at least not for me. Is that happiness? Tofu and cooked vegetables are all I was left with to not feel like sh*t on a daily basis? This was my breaking point. Especially because I’m breastfeeding and need to make high-quality milk… this way of living wasn’t cutting it anymore. I was so exhausted from wondering what the heck to eat. I still dread the thought of breakfast and it possibly ruining my entire day as it had for literally years. Side note: all of my symptoms went away during pregnancy and I felt AMAZING being pregnant. But every symptom returned full-force postpartum).
When I went vegan overnight (read my vegan story) it was for the animals. I was disgusted with our food system and mistreatment of them. In the last 8 years the vegan movement has been incredible in opening people’s eyes to what goes on in factory farms. The grocery store shelves are lined with unbelievable vegan food alternatives (that aren’t real food though…) I also believe the movement has guided more non-vegans to support smaller farmers who use the most ethical of practices, instead of supporting big business farming practices. I know some vegans will disagree with the idea of “ethical farming” because I was also in that headspace only a few years ago. But then I watched The Biggest Little Farm and my mindset shifted. I opened my eyes to other possibilities besides my little vegan bubble of a community.
So you may be wondering how/when this change happened?
I tried fish a few times over the summer and felt like I was breaking all the rules. As if I was betraying myself and my readers and doing something “bad”. On the other hand, branching out was nice, plain and simple. It was nice to enjoy a piece of fish with my husband and not feel like crap afterward. I’m pretty sure he thought it was a random fluke or just a phase I was going through. He supports me no matter what but I don’t think he saw this change coming either. After all, he only knows me as being “vegan”. It’s been an adjustment for everyone to say the least.
Anyway, before our trip to Florida this past November, I made the decision to step away from the vegan label for good and gave myself total food freedom while on vacation. I ordered fish and cooked vegetables most nights and my stomach was fine, no symptoms. A miracle! I can’t even tell you how freeing it felt. Such a weight had been lifted, like I had been missing out for so long. It felt so “normal” in a way and I no longer felt like an outcast or like so many foods were off limits for me.
When we got home I decided to try eggs but that didn’t go as well (update: I tried eggs again and they seem to be okay for me now!). I’m staying away from dairy for the time being until I further heal my gut after breastfeeding. I’ve tried turkey in chili and chicken in homemade chicken noodle soup (so healing with bone broth too). It still very much weirds me out (especially to talk about fish and chicken and turkey on this blog) but I know it will take time to get used to this change. I’ve been adding collagen powder (<< this one is free of glyphosate) to my king coffee and find it really soothes my gut lining while adding protein and amino acids that my body so desperately needs. I’ve also been taking liver pills which are so nutrient-dense and they make a noticeable difference in my energy, seriously. My body is loving them even though it’s still so surreal. I’m also taking these digestive enzymes before every meal – they really help.
Making any kind of big life change is challenging and healing is not linear… but deep down, this feels right.
There was never a moment where I craved red meat like some do. I purely crave the freedom to eat whatever my body wants and to heal my irritated stomach while bringing down inflammation. I’m not saying animal products are the answer to all of my problems because I need a specific root-cause protocol to truly heal, but animal products do not trigger my symptoms and that’s the most important part in my journey at the moment. I need a break from the constant bloat. I also crave the simplicity of using an egg in pancakes or banana bread instead of making a gummy flax egg. Or ordering fresh fish when I’m in Florida vacationing with my family instead of a crappy salad just because I’m vegan. Or not having to be the picky weird one while out at a restaurant. I don’t want to order from the sides menu anymore. Or taking my daughter out to breakfast someday when she’s older and being able to order anything we want. Feeding her food has been a whole new level of fun and re-learning experience for me, while trying not to imprint my food “labels” or ideas on her. It’s back to the basics. These are things I think about! I’m re-learning what it means to eat intuitively with more options and not confining myself to such a small box. That type of living is in the past for me.
While my heart is heavy, I still believe the plant based lifestyle has a time and place for whomever feels called to it. I love and loved everything about it. It gave me so much. It taught me so much. It is a HUGE commitment. Huge. Did I say it’s a huge commitment? Because my god it is. The vegan lifestyle evolved into my identity and ultimately my entire career. I’m forever grateful for the experience, I truly am (cue the tears streaming down my face). My three books are my proudest career accomplishments yet and are centered around balancing hormones on a plant-based diet. I wanted to give women the option to heal with plants if that is what they are drawn to. Do I still believe in my books? Absolutely. The foundations will always be the same regardless of your diet. I still make the recipes multiple times a week but maybe I will add in some meat or fish instead because I can’t tolerate most plant proteins right now.
Through this experience, I’ve learned that how we eat doesn’t have to be all or nothing. There can be some wiggle room. I’m not a bad person for stepping away from being vegan even though it was such a huge part of my life.
From now on I’m done with the labels. I CRAVE FOOD FREEDOM. For myself, for my daughter and for our family as a whole.
I hope you always listen to your body too, and don’t let a label get in the way of true inner health and happiness. Intuitive eating and living is something I’ve preached since day one and this change is not one I was expecting. But right now I feel at peace. I feel happy and content and excited for where this new journey will take me.
While I don’t know what the future holds, I do know this blog is everything to me. Not having the mental capacity to blog for the last 5 months has been wrecking me. I’m aching to get back and have posts lined up to share more about my gut health journey I’m on, healthy recipes, happy hormone tips, mom life and more. I hope you’ll stick around.
Love you all,