Why I’m Not a Vegan, Part 5: Macronutrients and Why they Matter

My Disclaimer  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 … Continue reading

Why I’m Not a Vegan, Part 2: What Happened When I was a Vegan

[source] My Disclaimer  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 … Continue reading

Acne and ED, Interlude: You Are What You Don’t Eat

 If you want to read the whole series in order, start here: 

Acne and ED, Part I: How Vegan Began

Acne and ED, Part II: The Never Ending Detox

Acne and ED, Part III: Un-Becoming Vegan

And so here I was, at a crossroads. I had committed to being a vegan. I wanted nothing to do with meat. And yet I was broken down mentally and metabolically. Worse, I was doing nothing but accumulating scars on the most visible part of my body. I agreed to at least indulge my mom in exploring another way of eating.

As I mentioned before, my mom is into Crossfit. And the people at her gym introduced her to a way of eating called the “Paleo Diet.” She was convinced that if only I started eating bacon, I’d be cured. I did not harbor such preconceptions when I suspiciously opened up Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint and started reading.

And I read the Primal Blueprint with a serious amount of skepticism. It basically told me that the lifestyle I’d been living and the diet I was following was completely wrong: my high-carb, low-fat, moderate-to-as-high-as-I-could-get-with-hemp-powder-and-brown-rice protein diet ran directly against the Primal Blueprint’s guidelines. Moreover, my sleep and exercise were, according to Mark Sisson, completely off-base and out of rhythm with my body. I finished the book in one night, and went to sleep with my brow furrowed.

I wasn’t convinced. After all, everything I’d read since becoming vegan said the opposite. How could eating meat be good for me? Weren’t egg yolks the reason for heart disease? What about the China Study?!*

It wasn’t until I borrowed Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat from the library that things started to make sense.

According to Taubes, the science behind the low-fat, high-carb diet is inherently flawed. The FDA adopted the low-fat mantra after confusing correlation with causation. The connection between dietary and somatic cholesterol has been debunked time and again, although the results of those studies have been purposely obfuscated by the government and the media, or else just simply misunderstood.

Moreover, if you look at the rates of heart disease, diabesity, and related diseases, you’ll see a direct correlation between them and the adoption of the low-fat, high-carb diet (circa the 1980s). And there are scientists today who are proving causation in study after study after study.

(For more on that, check out Taubes’ 2004 article “What if it’s all been a big fat lie?” in the NYT, then read the book–and if you want to get seriously serious, read Good Calories, Bad Calories, Taubes’ 400+ page tome on the subject.)

Anyway, I’m not here to argue about plant-based versus animal protein diets (today). Just to explain why I decided to give Paleo a try.

Now that I had at least decided to proceed with an open mind, I borrowed my mom’s copy of the Whole30 and got to work.

The Whole30 is a tough-love 30-day diet and lifestyle change meant to help you cold-turkey transition to a healthier, cleaner way of eating. For people who approach it from the Standard American Diet of processed foods, it’s a shock to the system–no sugar, trans fats, packaged anything–that probably results in weight loss and huge medical benefits (I say “probably” because the creators of the Whole30 suggest that this isn’t about weight loss but about establishing healthier food habits). But there’s a shock to the system for recovering veg*ns, too: when you shift your diet from grains, grasses, beans, and legumes to animal proteins and healthy fats, you are fundamentally changing the way your body runs and reacts.

And since I’m no stranger to 30-day diets and transformations, I figured I’d give it a go. Why not? Giving up food wasn’t new to me. Every “diet” I’d tried was about what I couldn’t eat. Even though I constantly thought about the things I was eating–trying to trick myself into looking forward to egg white pancakes or packets of “green” meal-powders–it was always within the context of the things I wasn’t eating. And god forbid I go “off-plan” and cheat–then it was open-season for ED to start shooting me down with reminders of how horrible I was for eating the things I “couldn’t” have.

I was pretty much convinced that the Paleo thing would just be another list of foods I couldn’t have. And, technically, by starting with the Whole30, it was: No grains. No beans. No peanuts, for god’s sake.** No dairy.*** No, no, no. I even went further and did an autoimmune protocol, which means excluding potentially allergenic foods that cause or exacerbate everything from autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis to acne (the latter, of course, being the reason I tried it). On the autoimmune protocol I further limited my diet by excluding “nightshades,” which are a class of vegetable that contain “alkaloids[, which] can impact nerve-muscle function and digestive function in animals and humans, and may also be able to compromise joint function.”  These foods include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and any pepper, from sweet to hot.

And so this was how I found myself eating a breakfast of scrambled eggs for the first time in almost a year. (Okay, fine: scrambled egg whites. I had read and understood Why We Get Fat on an intellectual level, but ED doesn’t listen to intellect–ED only knows that there are more calories in whole eggs than in egg whites.) This was how I found myself enjoying tuna fish for lunch. (No mayo, but it’s surprisingly good with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and Italian spices!)

The Whole30 went well–in fact, while I wasn’t weighing myself, I visibly lost my vegan belly bloat.+ My acne, though by no means cured, was hugely alleviated. In fact, I was able to stop taking the doxycycline I had been prescribed during the vegan disaster.

Now that the month was over, however, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I still hadn’t completely gotten rid of the acne, still hadn’t completely committed to the idea of eating animal fat, still hadn’t moved past the 30-day diet mentality.

Less Acne Than on Vegan Diet

Scarred but healing

Staring into the abyss of “what next,” I failed to recognize that I was so busy concentrating on the foods I couldn’t eat that I had forgotten to consider the ones I could.

– K.

*The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell is the number one document to which the veg*n community turns to validate the high-fat:cholesterol connection. Denise Minger of Raw Food SOS debunks the China Study here.

**No peanuts because no legumes. Apparently, as a defense mechanism, legumes contain a indigestible anti-nutrients called “phytates.” Phytates make all of the nutrients that Fitday calorie counters tell us we’re eating unavailable to our bodies. Moreover, peanuts contain proteins called lectins, which permeate the lining of our digestive tract and wreak all sorts of havoc on our guts and bloodstreams.

***Not a problem for me, since I’d stopped eating dairy in January of 2011. I’ve since had one container of Greek yogurt (July 2011-ish, if memory serves), and I felt so horrible after eating it that I haven’t looked back.

+Ah, the dreaded bloat. My yoga-and-vegan-induced weight loss lasted until November or so…After that, I started to gain weight and lose muscle (in part due to the fact that I wasn’t able to exercise at the level I had previously due to my ankle). But even after I returned to working out (and working through the pain), I couldn’t seem to get comfortable in my own body.

I will admit to taking progress photos for the sake of the Whole30. I have not done so since, nor do I feel the need to anymore. I’m posting them here solely to demonstrate the physical change that occurred after giving up veganism. Here is what happened after a month and a half of “Paleo” eating:

Belly bloat and weight gain on a vegan diet

First day of the Whole30

Losing weight and bloating on Paleo diet

About 1.5 months (Whole30 +15) post-veganism

Acne and ED, Part III: Un-Becoming Vegan

Update: If you want to read the whole series in order, start here: 

Acne and ED, Part I: How Vegan Began

Acne and ED, Part II: The Never Ending Detox

As I became more and more invested in my mostly-raw vegan diet, my face become more and more pockmarked and scarred. Despite my pristine diet, the promised detox never came–or else it just kept coming and coming.*

While the PD cleared up around my mouth, the hormonal, cystic acne intensified, and I developed worse regular acne. I had to start wearing bandaids on my face nearly every day, just so that I could go to work without scaring my customers away with my broken, bleeding face. It was horrific, and I was embarrassed to no end.

My acne at its worst

I honestly didn’t know what to do. I hated myself even more than ever–and, mind you, this is the recent history I’m talking about.

Worse yet, the “vegan glow”  had already begun to fade. While my first few months of veganism made me lose weight and feel like I was filled with light and hope, the glow quickly wore off.  I started putting on weight again, feeling leaden, bloated, and constantly hungry. I would have mini-anxiety attacks when I couldn’t take my scheduled 15 minute breaks on time at work, because all I wanted to do was just get to my next meal.

And in case you’re wondering my diet looked something like this:

Breakfast:

  • Green Juice (made with 1/2 pear, 2 stalks celery, kale, swiss chard, and broccoli) and a piece of Ezekiel Low-Sodium Sprouted Grain Bread, or
  • Green Smoothie (made with broccoli, kale, frozen berries, vegan raw protein or hemp powder, and a tiny bit of coconut oil)

Mid Morning Snack:

  • Apple & 2 brown rice cakes

Lunch:

  • Homemade raw hummus (chickpeas, a minuscule amount of tahini, lemon juice and serrano chili peppers) with carrots and broccoli or on a pita with sprouts and bell peppers
  • Raw vegan meal replacement mixed with just enough water to make a pudding

Mid Afternoon Snack:

  • Apple & 2 brown rice cakes

Dinner:

  • Tempeh and stir-fried peppers, broccoli, and kale, with Bragg’s Liquid Aminos and Quinoa

Dessert:

  • 2 tbsp raw almond butter with vegan chocolate chips and cinnamon (and if I was still hungry–which I usually was, several servings of dry Publix cereal or two pieces of toasted Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Bread)

Low calorie? Check. Low fat? Check. Animal-free? Check. Besides my nut-butter-and-chocolate-chip addiction (I couldn’t go to bed without having that snack) and the constant need to pad my days with extra bread and cereal, my diet seemed pretty impeccable.

Why wasn’t veganism curing my acne? Why wasn’t I able to fit into my work pants anymore? I started to question my investment in the whole thing.

The camel’s back broke** in May, when I went back to Florida for my little sister’s college graduation. The thought of being featured in a single family photo made me sick–and the impossibility of finding a single meal to eat during that trip made my heart (and stomach) ache.

Rollercoaster Hair

Me and my brother on graduation weekend. Wearing no makeup and a bandaid on the cheek turned away from the camera.

I subsisted on apples and meal replacement powders nearly the entire time (and I dipped liberally into the container of raw almond butter I had packed in my suitcase). When we went out to restaurants, I bothered the waitresses with requests for substitutions until there wasn’t anything but a few limp pieces of salad left on the plate anyway. (And, of course, I asked for the salad dry, leaving even olive oil and vinegar untouched despite the fact that olive oil is definitely vegan. My fear of fat was stronger than my hunger and sense of taste.)

On the last night, we went out to dinner at a chain restaurant, where the only vegan option on the menu was an appetizer: white bean hummus with pita bread. I had eaten nothing but meal replacements and apples all day, so by the time the meal came, I was starving. I ate the whole thing, sopping up every last bit of hummus with my family-sized order of pita. When the waitress came to take my plate, she actually looked me in the eye and said, in a most condescending tone, “Well, looks like somebody was hungry…”

I went back to the hotel and looked at my bleeding, scarred face in the mirror, ashamed for reasons I couldn’t even name anymore. That was it. I was done.

My mom, a scary-ripped crossfitter and lifelong health nut, had been pushing me to stop being a vegan and try this “paleo” thing she’d been doing since she started crossfit the year before. I had been actively ignoring her for months–I was already exhausted following one diet; I didn’t need another set of rules and restrictions to learn. Moreover,  by this point the idea of eating meat made me ill–I knew it was unhealthy, I felt I was above that, I didn’t want to admit defeat…but when I returned to California, exhausted, hungry, and pimply as a schoolgirl–with no other isolate-able reason for my problems but my diet–, I told her I’d at least give it chance.

And thank god I did, because I wouldn’t be blogging here today if I hadn’t.

Acne Breakout While Vegan

– K.

*When writing of detoxes, medical professionals and their ilk often forewarn of a few weeks of side effects like acne, as the body rids itself of the toxins through the skin. However, I was either so full of toxins that my skin just never healed or else I was just deluding myself and permanently damaging my skin for nine months.

**Metaphorical animal cruelty signaling the end of my vegan experiment?

Acne and ED, Part II: The Never Ending Detox

According to the vegan blogosphere and their best-selling spokespeople, the best way for me to get all the benefits of my new vegan experience was to not only clean out my body from the inside out, but also from the outside in. In truth, it really does matter what you’re putting on your body as much as it matters what you put into it. And far be it from me, the queen of perfectionism, to half-ass a detox.

So, out with the whey powder and out with the shampoo.

If you’ve ever been brave enough to try to turn over the bottle and read the ingredient list on any of you’re beauty products, I commend you for at least making the effort–because I couldn’t pronounce a single component of any of mine. Not only did parsing the ingredient list make me feel slightly illiterate, I was also kind of frightened. What, exactly, had I been absorbing into my body?!

I found an amazing vegan, natural blogger called Bonzai Aphrodite (by way of a carefully worded Google search) who wrote about her experiences going “no-poo.” And while the title is a bit off-putting, the concept made a lot of sense: stop washing your hair with shampoo and conditioner and just let the natural oils balance. Apparently commercial shampoos and conditioners are an unnecessary modern convenience, and the practice of shampooing daily has only been in place since the advent of widespread indoor plumbing–but in employing these methods of cleaning our hair, we’ve actually upset the balance of oils that naturally occur on our scalps. When we use shampoo to wash the oils away, we actually stimulate more oil production than natural, and therefore need to keep using the shampoo to avoid looking like complete greaseballs.

Me with very short hair

It also helps that I continually cut my hair shorter and shorter as the vegan experiment dragged on… (Broke down and put on concealer in this picture)

Fortunately, there’s a fix: just stop using shampoo and conditioner. Instead, mixtures of baking soda and water and apple cider vinegar and water become your new shampoo and conditioner. Sure, there’s a several-week-long adjustment period in which your hair will overproduce oil as it gets used to going au naturel, but it’s worth it in the long run because you spare your skin the harsh chemicals and your wallet the unnecessary costs of commercially produced hair products.

So, I sucked it up and wore a hat for several weeks until my hair adjusted. (I also relied heavily on cornstarch to soak up any excess oil and keep my hair somewhat tame.)

And I didn’t stop there.

After intense acne-forum research I stumbled upon even more uses for my new bottle of apple cider vinegar. As it turns out, even the most “gentle” soaps out there are toxic, so I threw all of my soaps, creams, and toners away. Instead I turned to ACV. Apparently it is a centuries old tonic for skin problems–used both internally and externally. I began my mornings with a tablespoon of ACV diluted in a glass of water, and I also used as a toner after I washed my face with water.

My detox also meant giving up things like makeup and deodorant as well. Makeup was hard to part with, mainly because the only makeup I ever used was concealer.* Going bare-faced was humbling, but I was willing to suck it up, since the only people who ever saw me anymore were my coworkers/roommates and the random strangers who came into my store who I would never see again anyway. Deodorant was the hardest. I tend to be a sweat-er–in fact, I had started using the clinical strength stuff while I was living in NY. But since moving to Florida, I had already given up the antiperspirant, what with all the rumors about the aluminum mimicking estrogen and causing breast cancer. So giving up deodorant altogether was the next logical step. Fortunately two things made the transition easier: 1) Bonzai Aphrodite (the no ‘poo gal) had a recipe for an all-natural preparation using baking soda and coconut oil, and 2) when I became a vegan, I stopped sweating.**

But despite all of my best efforts, the acne didn’t clear up. And the red rash around my mouth (my “goatee”) got worse. I continued my feverish Google searching until I stumbled upon a possible diagnosis for the rash: perioral dermatitis.  And while a Google Image Search returned some cases much worse than my own, there were a few pictures that looked eerily similar.  And, upon further research, I figured out the culprit: toothpaste.

If you use any commercially popular toothpaste, you’re introducing all sorts of chemicals into and around your mouth, including two called Sodium Laurel Sulfate and Ammonium Laurel Sulfate. Their only purpose in the toothpaste (and in shampoos and soaps) is to help produce the familiar lather that makes you feel like you’re getting clean.*** These sulfates are finally being recognized as huge irritants–which is why so many shampoo brands are quick to advertise their “sulfate free” formulas these days.

Turns out that SLS is a major cause of perioral dermatitis. And so I suffered for years because I was too busy investing in Colgate and Crest, when all I needed to do was read the ingredient list. (There’s also some speculation that fluoride might also be a contributor to PD, so I did some research to find a brand of toothpaste that contained none of the potential irritants.) I went out to Whole Foods and bought a tube of Jason Powersmile (SLS and fluoride free!). The PD cleared up almost immediately.

Too bad it didn’t help with the rest of my face.

– K.

*And cheap eyeliner. The kind that smudges like crazy and never completely comes off even after using makeup remover. In fact, Lysander used to joke that he’d never seen me without eyeliner, even after we had lived together for two months. Why didn’t I buy anything less crappy? Because for an investment of $1.99, I didn’t really care if anyone ever saw me 100% without makeup. I’m cheap, what can I say? (This stuff is really crap, but it’s the only eyeliner I had bought since high school…)

**Except for during Bikram sessions, of course. It’s pretty much impossible not to sweat while balancing on one leg for 90 minutes in excessive heat.

***In Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit, the author discusses how lather is more of a marketing ploy than a cleaning tool.  When you brush your teeth, you feel the sensory cue of lather which implies the reward of clean teeth. You develop of a routine around the cue/reward, and thus keep buying toothpaste because you implicitly feel cleaner. For more on SLS and habit, check out this blog post.

Acne and ED, Part I: How Vegan Began

Before I get started on this series of posts on my experience with veganism, I just want to say that this is my experience and may not reflect your own if you happen to be a card-carrying member of the veg*n community. I get it: your choices are your choices–whether you make them for ethical or for health reasons–but so are mine. As I explain why I’m not a vegan anymore, please understand that I don’t imply judgment toward anyone’s food choices. If you find yourself in accordance with me, so be it. If you don’t, so be that too. So, please read with an open mind, take from this what you will, and I’ll see you in the comments section! 

 

If you came to veganism late in the party, then you’re probably here because the term carries as much cultural caché as the red string had when Madonna was into Kabbalah. Believe it or not however, before being vegan was the trendy way to lose weight and look like Alicia Silverstone, before Usher told Justin Bieber that it was the cool thing to do, before raw kale smoothies were posited as the secret to life, veganism was an ethical movement. Far from pandering to the fad-diet-obsessed world of celebrity and fitness, veganism was a protest against the unethical and immoral treatment of animals. Saying no to meat wasn’t about being heart healthy; it was about having a heart where animals were concerned.

 

And while I’m all for the ethical treatment of animals, I came late to the vegan party–and I came for the kale smoothies.

 

When I read Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet, I fell for the mostly raw, vegan party line–because I wanted so badly for it to be true. And I took from the diet the principles that worked for my life: eat plants, mostly raw; drink lots of fresh, un-oxidized juices straight from the juicer; no animal products–not even honey–whatsoever. Why? Because if that kind of diet could cure Kris’s cancer, it could cure anything. (And it would help me lose weight–an added bonus!)

 

Not only could I do some serious calorie control while eating mainly kale and broccoli, but reports of glowing, perfect vegan skin convinced me that my new diet would cure me of my lifelong problem with acne.

 

Now, those of you who know me have seen what I’m talking about, but for those of you who don’t, I’ll explain:

 

I don’t have the kind of Accutane-requiring acne that takes over a person’s face with a nearly interminable army of angry red bumps; instead, I suffer–and I mean this both physically and emotionally–from three different kinds of acne, all of which have caused major skin infections and embarrassing scars since the day I hit puberty. The first, your regular old comedones (black and white heads) show up on my nose and chin whenever my face is within about a million miles of an external toxin like hair gel or makeup. The second, small hard, red bumps that almost look like rosacea or eczema but aren’t either of those things, which show up around my nose and mouth like an unwanted goatee for as-yet unexplained reasons and last for months before fading. The third, painful, hormonal cystic acne due supposedly to the influence of polycystic ovarian syndrome, of which I received the (as we’ll learn mis-) diagnosis in 2007.

 

Blowing a Kiss, With Acne Scars

Me, along with the vestiges of high school acne, circe 12th grade. 

I think at least a small part of my ED sprung from my battle with my skin: if I couldn’t be pretty because of my acne, I could at least be fit enough to be a “butterface”* (a direct quote from my internal monologue–scary, huh?).

 

I’ve tried to deal with my embarrassing condition every way I could conceivably think to do so since I was 14 years old. When I was 16, I had to go to a Valentine’s Day party wearing a huge bandaid on my face because I ended up with cysts on my chin so horrifically infected that I had to be put on antibiotics because the infection had spread to my lymph nodes. (Needless to say, I didn’t get asked on a lot of dates in high school.) I’ve tried birth control (many different kinds) for hormone regulation. I’ve tried Proactiv. I’ve bought every acne and oil control product on the shelves at Walgreens. I’ve worn every brand of concealer I could get my hands on (and have broken out because of each and every one of them). I’ve seen dermatologists and tried topical retinoids and oral antibiotics. Nothing, nothing, nothing has ever worked with any consistency or duration.

 

When I became a vegan, I believed that kale was the solution. When I looked at the faces on the women in the vegan blogging world, I saw the acne-free beauty that had eluded me for my entire young adult life.

 

I was also 24 and tired of looking like I hadn’t finished puberty. (I know older women wish for the skin of a 16 year old, but I don’t think that this is what they mean!)

 

Part of what attracted me to the (mostly) raw, vegan diet was the idea of detox: My body had been under severe stress, what with all of the cooked meats and eggs, the dairy protein powders, that I had been shoveling into my face every two or three hours for almost two years. I needed to completely clean it out, start over, clean slate.

 

So in addition to emptying my kitchen of animal products and starting my 30-day yoga challenge, I also emptied my bathroom of beauty products. I was going…no ‘poo.

– K.

*A “butterface” is a horrible insult describing a woman who has a great body…but her face…

It’s disgusting that I even internalized this term while tuned into the channel of my negative self-talk, let alone that this term even exists. And, my dear male friends who taught me this term, I don’t care if you think it’s funny–it’s not. I’m sorry that I ever pretended to laugh and not be offended while you used it. (I’m even more sorry that I adopted it into my own self-vocabulary.)

The Vegan Card

As you’ve probably figured out by now, I was pretty committed to my relationship ED.* And I’ve also learned the hard way that ED doesn’t take kindly to cheating.**

When I first began my vegan experiment, I quickly figured out how to use it to continue to isolate myself. No, sorry, vegans can’t eat hamburgers. I’d love to join you for lunch, but they don’t have vegan food in the food court.*** I would stay out late, but I have to get up early to make my kale smoothie. Even though I was no longer logged onto my calorie counting app, I still knew exactly how many calories–and their estimated macronutrient breakdowns–were passing my lips at every meal.

So when I was asked to go out on a date, I figured it would be no problem: I could just pull the “vegan card.”

My date-to-be pulled a different card entirely:

If you’ve ever seen the Vegan Bucket List, then you are a) familiar with the nationally acclaimed Sublime restaurant in Fort Lauderdale and b) probably already a hardcore, green-smoothie-and-tempeh vegan.

Sublime, Vegan, Restaurant

Sublime Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, FL

He even told me about the restaurant beforehand (because ED likes to panic if I don’t know the menu before I eat at a restaurant) and gave me the option to drive myself so I could leave if I felt like I was going to have an anxiety attack.

And since my date-to-be was also a really nice guy, I had exactly zero reasons to say no.

And so it was a date.

One of my friends happens to be an amazing make-up artist, and she volunteered to help me get ready for this, my first actual date in over a year. I went home to put on my dress and promptly proceeded to have a major panic attack, during which time I cried enough to do some major damage to the mascara. When I was done freaking out for no reason, I pulled myself together, put myself into a dress, put said dress and self into my car, and hauled ass to Fort Lauderdale.

The dinner was, as expected, spectacular. But that’s not why this date was so special. Food, as I’m learning, is just food. The experience is everything.

My date (by this point “to-be” become an unnecessary qualifier) was also a magician. And he asked me if I would consent to a card trick before dinner. I agreed.

My job was to simply separate the deck, one card at a time, into two piles. At one point, while I was randomly assigning cards to either pile, he hesitated and asked me, twice, if I wanted to rethink my card assignment. Other than that, I separated the cards quickly and without really thinking about it.  Although “my decisions” about where to place the cards technically guided the whole trick, he somehow managed to have me separate the deck into a pile of black cards and a pile of red cards–with the exception of one: the black 8 of clubs was in the red card pile. I was nonplussed–was this the whole trick? It didn’t seem all that impressive–until he told me to look down at the bottom of the menu.

I’ve been on my fair share of great first dates, but this one took the (vegan) cake!

Needless to say, I liked pulling the 8 of Clubs much better than I liked pulling the “vegan card.”

Dinner consisted of decadence in the form of fake meat, simulated dairy, and many, many vegetables. I even had a few glasses of wine+ and a seriously indulgent chocolate dessert. The sheer number of calories was enough to warrant a severe punishing by ED when I went home, but I was too happy to care about ED’s reaction while I enjoyed my time with the magician.

The magician could, as magicians do, control for just about everything–the timing, the outcomes, the emotions. But life, and more importantly a life lived with ED, unfortunately demands a different kind of control. So while the magician could promise to make the moon disappear, ED’s magic was more impressive: ED could make me disappear. Going out–and especially eating restaurant food–meant introducing variables that could not be entirely controlled: I needed to know how my food was prepared, what time I’d be able to eat it, if I’d be home in time and with enough calories to spare for dessert, if I’d be staying up late enough to make me late for a workout or Bikram session, and whether or not I’d be able to leave if I started to feel claustrophobic and anxious. So more often than not, the magician came over to my house after dinner and left before bedtime.

And so, as usual, I started to pull back into myself, shrouding myself in ED’s protective, familiar, strangling embrace and away from the comfort and even freedom that my magician tried to offer.

8 of Clubs, Cards, Magic Trick

In the end, the vegan card trumped the 8 of Clubs.

– K.

*Perhaps you can consider the dark circles under my eyes ED’s promise rings?

**If you can remember back to 2007, 2009, and 2010, you will have three of my most extreme examples of dating while under the influence of ED. I don’t recommend trying this.

***And, to those of you who are going to argue that the falafel at Maoz was vegan, I wasn’t about to shove fried food into my mouth just because the falafel guy told me it was 100% vegan, gluten-free, kosher, and “healthy.” Fried food is still fried food, just like organic gummy bears are still pure sugar.

+The first time I’d had alcohol since early March, and the second to last time I’ve had alcohol to date.