My decision to stop being a vegan was based on a gut feeling–literally and figuratively: the blog post(s) that I’m about to provide you with are simply based on all of the research I’ve done since making the decision to stop being a vegan.
I’m writing it all here not to promote any kind of orthorexia or nutritionism or restrictive eating or dogma–I’m writing it here because there are people who want to understand the potential health implications of a low-fat plant-based diet.
I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist–just a girl who is sick and tired of being sick and tired–and sick and tired of watching so many people make decisions based on half-truths, emotional appeals, and ingrained biases that ultimately leave them sick and tired too.
Why I Became a Vegan in the First Place
When I first realized that my “Eat-Clean Diet” was the reason for my relapse with anorexia (and the template on which my newfound love of binge-eating was formed) in 2010, I realized that I needed to make a big change.
I felt heavy, bloated, and fat. I was tired, depressed, and anxious. I chalked it up to my diet of chicken, turkey, eggs, and protein powders, and decided to do a 180.
A good friend of mine had done The Engine 2 Diet, a mostly-raw vegan diet that is endorsed pretty heavily by Whole Foods Market, so I downloaded the book for my kindle and decided to give it a try. Amazon also suggested that if I liked The Engine 2 Diet, I’d also like Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr. CSD turned out to be a mostly-raw, mostly green juice vegan cleanse diet, that appealed even more the E2, mostly because of the purported weight loss.
In other words: I did not become a vegan for ethical reasons. I did not even become a vegan for health reasons. I became a vegan because I thought it would help me get skinny again.
These days, it seems like the vegan-for-weight-loss message is becoming ever more prevalent. With books like Skinny Bitch, which contain not-so-thinly-veiled vegan calls-to-action, or out-and-out vegan cookbooks and diet books endorsed by thin-and-pretty celebs, flooding the market, it’s hard not to equate veganism with a “diet.”
And when it comes down to it, as much as it pains me to say it, most of us are in it for the weight loss.
“No, no,” you protest. “I’m in it for the health benefits.” Sure. Probably. But don’t for one moment think you’re fooling me or yourself. Health, in this country at least, is connoted by weight loss. It just is. Aesthetics are interwoven into the American health narrative.
And the initial weight loss from switching from a SAD or processed foods diet to a mostly raw, smoothie-and-juice-filled diet can be a thrill.
I know I felt it.
What Happened When I Was a Vegan
From the moment I threw out my protein powders and stopped eating chicken breast and egg whites, I felt amazing. My mostly-raw vegan diet was a study in greens and grains: green juice* for breakfast with a slice of sprouted, gluten-free Ezekiel bread or 1/4 c cooked quinoa with cinnamon, tempeh stir-fried with peppers and broccoli (on a hot skillet with no fats, not even “healthy fats” like canola oil, god forbid) or black bean and brown rice burgers on a giant salad for lunch, green smoothie** for dinner, and then gluten-free cereal with soy or almond milk or a spoonful of all natural peanut butter mixed with vegan chocolate chips for dessert. Add in giant apples for mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks, and I was set.
Or so I thought.
I quickly dropped the extra 10 pounds I had put on in the months since my ankle injury (less chronic cardio meant I was getting in more calories than I was putting out), and I felt like lighter than air.
I know I’m not the only one to have experienced this feeling. When you switch from a diet that isn’t working for you–especially a diet high in processed foods or foods to which you’re sensitive or allergic–to one that is, as Michael Pollen puts it, “mostly plants,” you are, of course, going to go through a period when your body feels fresh, clean, and new.
It’s like your body can’t stop thanking you for liberating it from the stress it was under while being forced to choke down denatured whey protein from grain fed CAFO cows.
But then…your body realizes that something’s wrong. Something’s…missing. And that’s when things start to go to hell.
J. Stanton does an incredible (and incredibly disturbing) job of explaining the “new vegan high” on his blog, Gnolls.org. As J. says, “Necessary animal-sourced nutrients like vitamin B12, menaquinone-4 (vitamin K2 MK-4), and DHA are unavailable in the vegan diet, and must be replaced by supplementation in order to avoid physical and mental deterioration.”
So, according to Stanton, your body does the only thing it can do: it starts eating itself.
I’m pretty sure that I just heard every single one of you out in the blogosphere who has ever eaten or considered eating a vegan diet scoff.
“How can that be?” You ask? “I supplement. I’m getting every nutrient I’m not eating from a pill and my macros*** are within the government guidelines–in fact, my fat intake is even lower.”
How, my friends, could that be a problem?
To be continued!
*Cucumber, Kale, Swiss Chard, Parsley, 1/2 pear, Broccoli, Ginger
**Frozen Broccoli, Kale, Hemp Protein Powder, a smidgeon of coconut oil (not too much, because I didn’t want to “get fat”), cinnamon, and cocoa powder. Add water and blend.
***Macronutrients. The three macros are protein, fat, and carbohydrates, and each one is somehow exalted or vilified depending on the dietary theory you follow.