A few months ago, I celebrated 2 years of being vegan. Flash forward a few weeks after that, and I was at the Kawana Organic Farmer’s Market buying a bag of beef bones to make myself some homemade bone broth. Wait what?! Yup…after 2 years of strict veganism, not touching a single animal product, there I was in my kitchen staring at a bag of bones; so damn organic there was still some cow hair on it. It might have been easier to make the leap by simply buying some pre-made chicken stock, but I didn’t want to make the switch without staring it right in the face. I wanted to understand exactly what I was doing, what I was eating, and instead of turning my head away from the fact that an animal had died for my lunch, I wanted to stand there mindfully and be thankful for the animal in front of me. Alright I know what you’re thinking. What the F happened to that whole “omg best decision of my life, I love veganism, save the animals, I feel so great, my energy is limitless, this is the diet of the gods” crap. Well you know what, I don’t take back anything I’ve ever said about following a vegan diet. I did have more energy than ever, I did feel my best, I did have improved concentration and lowered risk of heart disease, while also doing the best possible thing for the environment and stand up agains the unethical treatment of animals. But as much as veganism was so right for me 2 years ago, it no longer is, and here is why.
A year ago I published a post on my blog all about my struggles with amenorrhea. I said I would try to decrease the amount I exercise from 7 times to 5 times a week in order to gain back a normal period. In the end, exercising less didn’t change jack-shit and my concern disappeared quicker than the Harlem Shake fad. That makes it almost 2 full years now that I have been completely infertile and although I have no intention of having kids ANY time soon (I got my own shit to work on damn), it’s still completely abnormal and flat-out alarming. For someone who preaches health, for someone who refuses to have a sip of a latte if there’s syrup in it and happily pays double for a bag of spinach to make sure it’s organic, I’ve been awfully nonchalant about this whole “no period” deal.
When I moved to Australia I thought to myself, alright now’s the time to go ahead and seek professional help yet again. Considering last time the gyno did nothing but almost make me cry, I decided to try something new and went to a naturopath. It was definitely one of the more “kooky” experiences I’ve ever been through and felt like I was doing some weird voodoo thing with a clairvoyant. I was standing there, left fingers pressing on the crown of my head, a hippy-style canvas bag swung across me full of god-knows-what, and my left fingers clenching tight as the naturopath tried to pull them apart in attempt to determine how my inner strength reacted to the minerals she threw in the bag. Sounds pretty legit to me.
As I stood there, part of me was rolling my eyes so hard, but the other part of me kept saying “common Vic, get your head in the game. Even if it’s all placebo, it still means something, and while I’m here and my weekly salary’s already out the window, I might as well give it a shot.” In the end, the appointment went amazingly well, however the naturopath came to some pretty important conclusions. She told me I had a weak liver, something that made so much sense to me, considering my inability to digest high amounts of fat.
After doing some research in Chinese Medicine on the subject, I found a common liver problem called “liver-blood deficiency”. This complication is characterized by a lack of period, itchy/dry eyes, skin issues such as eczema, easy bruising etc. all of which I experience. This is said to arise when someone follows a raw vegan/vegetarian diet for an extended period of time and the liver is no longer supported to produce the blood necessary. Well there it was.
If I wanted to reach optimal health and take care of my body, I just had to give it the minerals it needed.
Being a “health-focused” vegan
There are many different kinds of vegans. Some are “ethical vegans” who decide to omit all animal products from their diet as a stand against animal cruelty, and others do it for the environment. I was neither of those as I initially became vegan for my own health.
Ethical and environmental factors definitely added to my will to stick to a vegan lifestyle, but it was never the ultimate decisive factor.
This is also the reason why I never intended on being vegan for the rest of my life. I always vowed to myself that I would stay vegan for as long as it made sense for me. If a health a concern arose, or a study came out showing how a strictly vegan diet will make you grow a third thumb, then I would stop, step back, and reevaluate (I like my limbs the way they are). I always have and always will put my personal health and wellbeing first.
The importance of reevaluation
One’s lifestyle is really just a series of habits. It’s always easier to stick to what you know and keep your habits going rather than to change. Human nature has also made us prone to search for validation of our current beliefs rather that researching the opposing view. This is why many of us will often get stuck in a certain mindset and be reluctant to accept the fact that our opinions may no longer be relevant. Recently my brother gave me the advice to be attached to nothing. Sounds a little cold I know, but it’s the attachment we feel to unsupported ideas, that stand in the way of our own personal growth and development.
Real strength does not lie in the ability to be stubborn and stick to what we know, but in the ability to take a step back, reconsider and ask ourselves if we are doing something out of habit or if it’s really what we need.
Remaining mainly plant-based
Similarly to the way I didn’t go from being a BBQ ribs enthusiast to a vegan, I won’t be doing the opposite either. Although yogurt and cheese were very much part of my diet as a child, my transition to veganism really began with attempts to eat healthier, and I managed to switch to a 100% plant-based diet smoothly. My transition back to a non-vegan diet will be somewhat similar.
Although I will eventually be adding small amount of meat, fish and eggs to my diet, I haven’t yet headed out and scoffed down a pulled-pork, gravy & bacon sub. TBH I’ve hardly even eaten any meat yet at all. Despite no longer being a strict vegan, I am still not consuming any dairy products, since they doesn’t deliver any of the vitamins/minerals I’m lacking (also not too keen on sipping on udder juice). My plan is to have animal products maybe 4-5 times a week, but making sure that they are of upmost quality: organic, free-range, grass-fed, local etc. Since I will really be sourcing my animal products to make sure their sustainably caught or ethically raised, my consumption will naturally be limited only to animal products I chose and cook myself.
In reality my return to a non-vegan diet is not about the food I will be eating, but more about a mental switch. It’s about finally accepting that this beautifully idealized vegan diet I have been loving for the past 2 years is not one for me. I’m not saying it will never be for me, but right now my body needs iron, protein, B-vitamins and healthy fats, and I love my body way too much to keep it deprived.