As a holistic nutritionist, I had centered all my studying and lifestyle based around the lessons I had learned about all the insane health benefits of a vegan or plant based diet.
I had been eating a solely vegetarian diet for over a year because I hated the idea of what larger operating farms looked like. The sounds the animals made made me cringe, and cry. The more I learned about all the benefits of a plant based diet, the more I realized I didn’t need animal products to live a full healthy life.
The transition to vegetarian was tough. I craved chicken more than anything. I didn’t miss bacon like everyone said I would. Of course, I had done my research to make sure I was supplementing my diet correctly to ensure I wasn’t lacking iron, protein or zinc. Because I already had issues with low blood pressure and light headedness, I really took these matters seriously.
Quickly into my vegetarianism I started experiencing a lot of different stomach pains, tiredness, dizziness and acne. My hair started getting brittle and was getting more noticeable wrinkles. I was also far more irritable and was majorly lacking sex drive.
Six months into vegetarianism I started eating a gluten free diet. I had learned a lot about the effects gluten can have on your energy, brain, stomach and memory. Being a vegetarian who didn’t know much about cooking vegetables, I started off by leaning heavily on foods like potatoes and grains for my main courses.
After doing an elimination diet, I felt much better after going gluten free. Although it wasn’t easy.
Going gluten free had helped with my mood swings, tiredness and stomach issues. However, I was still noticing my skin being drying, breaking out far more and my hair losing it’s luster. I even started getting a darker upper lip. So basically, I was rockin’ a 5 o’clock shadow…like all the time.
I read a lot of books from vegan or plant based writers about different diets. Alicia Silverstone’s “The Kind Diet” really struck a chord and I loved hearing that she was suffering with cystic acne. This was overwhelming to hear because my acne had recently grown worse. I decided to implement some of the things she did and finally start this whole vegan thing.
Every message board I found was of vegans raving of their great skin and hair. Sometimes they went through a “cleansing” phase where their body broke out at first and then adjusted and cleared up. I had already stopped eggs and milk and only ate cheese on occasion so I couldn’t figure out why my acne was still taking over…and spreading.
I decided to quit the cheese too. Maybe the occasional taste of it was just enough to keep my body reacting in all these different ways.
My other symptoms like tiredness, weakness and lowered sex drive I was attributing to other things. I was trying to figure out how to boost estrogen and vitamin levels.
My hair and skin I figured was just “old age.” I was getting close to 30. Plus, I used a lot of natural beauty products like coconut oil and essential oils. I tried switching those too. Nothing made an improvement.
As the acne started to spread (like wildfire) to my back, I really began getting self conscious. I started buying the toughest acne busters and scrubbing my back day and night.
On top of all these things, I was constantly stiff. I just told myself I wasn’t doing enough yoga. I needed to stretch more. If I would bend down, I had to do a grandma moan to get back up. It took immense effort to started myself back up again.
As a vegan (and vegetarian) I always took recommended supplements and continued to tweak my diet to be as healthy as possible. I really wanted to stick with this type of diet. Morally, it felt wrong to eat animals.
I can’t even begin to explain how many things I changed, tweaked, researched and read through trying to find the answers I needed.
As summer came, my sexy female mustache started becoming more and more obvious. I was so exhausted. My acne had slightly improved but was still all over the place. My marriage was doing well, but I still lacked a desire in the bedroom. Plus, I had tried everything. I was sad, tired, sore, angry and desperate.
That’s when I started reading about failed vegan diets. One of the most prevalent testimonials was from The Balanced Blonde. I had never heard of her before, but apparently she was a big-wig in the vegan community and faced a giant backlash when she decided to step away from it. You can read her story here: “Why I’m Transitioning Away from Veganism”
I had Googled all these different and shocking testimonials while visiting my mom in Michigan. With a 6 hour car ride ahead of me the next day, I told myself I would stop in Wisconsin at the Culver’s and get a fish fillet.
I had brought all my gluten free and vegan food along with me and had cooked all my meals while visiting, so my mom didn’t have anything on hand. Plus, I just needed the night to think on it and pray on my decision.
One month, I would give this meat thing one month and if it didn’t work, then at least I would know for sure.
The first 3 hours of my drive were like torture. I was annoyed, frustrated and felt like I had failed myself, my beliefs and my morals. I couldn’t wrap my head around why everything I had learned to be “true” wasn’t.
The fish fillet was breaded and fried, but I just ate it. The first gluten I had eaten in almost a year. I didn’t care. Heck, if the whole vegan thing was wrong, who’s to say the gluten thing wasn’t too?
When I got home, I bought a rotisserie chicken. I sat on the couch just eating and eating. Not because I missed the taste, not because I was hungry. I didn’t enjoy any of the bites I took. I just sat there, irritated and rolling my eyes.
I decided on one egg a day and one serving of chicken or fish. I would have preferred just fish, but I’m a mom with 3 little mouths to feed and chicken is cheaper.
These small decisions were for 2 main reasons:
#1. My beliefs hadn’t changed. I wasn’t just going to forget all the things that lead me to veganism in the first place.
#2. My body needed a slow transition. After processing only fruits, veggies, beans and rice for years, I knew my digestive system would need some time to get used to animal proteins again.
So, I had these 2 servings each day. No cheese, no dairy, just one egg and one serving of chicken or fish. I still loaded my body with veggies and I continued eating gluten as well. Pizza and croissants really comforted me through this transition.
TMI WARNING. While I did experience a more “backed up” digestive track, it was only a few day long process. I know no one likes poop talk, but it can really teach us a lot.
Within 3 days, my acne had almost completely cleared up. Within a week, so had my girl stash (ya have to have a sense of humor about these things.) My energy levels were back. Like crazy back and in every area of my life. I couldn’t believe it. All my problems that I had searched for the answers to were gone just like that.
I was feeling great and was ecstatic to see these changes, including my hair and skin…which I had almost forgotten about. The day I ran my fingers through my hair was a big “AHA!” moment. I had truly forgotten how silky and flowy my hair was. It had always been my favorite feature and I didn’t even realize it was robbed from me.
While I was on cloud 9, I still had to go through a mourning and understanding phase. I had to come to terms with the fact that I really was lacking.
While I was eating a vegan diet, all my bloodworm showed that I was in excellent health. My LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) literally was undetectable. The doctors kept pricking me because they couldn’t find any.
How was it that I had through the roof numbers yet was experiencing so many health setbacks? Vitamins. It has to be the vitamins. Even though I was taking them all. I supplemented and even tried tanning booths again to get a little more vitamin D. Whatever the exact formula was, the proof was obvious.
I came to terms with the idea that maybe some people can thrive on a vegan diet. We are all different after all. No one person works the same. Just like some people are allergic to peanuts, others just may require animal proteins to sustain themselves and live a healthy lifestyle.
After a few months into my old, but better ways of eating, I started to experience the symptoms of gluten intolerance again. They were different this time in that the main symptom was muscle pain in my neck and shoulders. I carried this pain for months without realizing the culprit.
Even recently, I started wanting to transition back to more of a vegetarian heavy diet. Maybe I could do it right this time. Well, the first thing to show up was that super cute 5 o’clock shadow. I put meat back into my diet more and almost instantly it was gone. If pain, aches and acne wasn’t enough to give me pause, a female mustache sure did the trick.
Other than that, I am thriving. I feel better than I have in a long time. Part of me feels angry that I wasted so much time not feeling this great. But then I remember in life, we learn. I learned to cook and love vegetables. I learned different and better ways of eating and really learned to appreciate my body. Now more than ever, I want to care for myself and my health every day. I’ve had it taken away and I will do whatever I can to slow this aging process and keep myself strong and healthy.