My Thoughts on Veganism (You Know You Wanna Know)
Hey guys. 🙂 This afternoon I started feeling strangely compelled to write a post on my feelings about veganism… So much has changed since my initial “Why I’m Transitioning Away from Veganism” post nearly a year and a half ago, and aside from defending myself on the daily about not being a vegan HATER (obvi), it has been a long time since I’ve spoken out about how I really feel about the diet and lifestyle. I think you might be surprised about some of my recent reflections.
New Reflections on My Own Vegan Journey:
First of all, I feel incredibly grateful for my 2 years as a plant-based vegan. Not just because the journey set me on the path that I am on now, but because I learned to appreciate the insane amount of benefits you can get from eating lots and lots of plants. Sure, we all know that it’s healthy and balanced to eat a veggie with every meal and skip out on the high sugar desserts. But as a plant-based vegan, eating ONLY food from the earth, no refined sugar/flour or processed ANYTHING, you are really and truly able to feel the crazy awesome health benefits of eating a veggie-heavy diet. A processed-free plant-based diet is great for digestion, great for skin (unless you go overboard of course), great for energy and all around leaves way less opportunity to feel sick and heavy / overly full from what you’ve just eaten.
That was a part of the diet that I fell in love with, and I do think it’s too bad that I had to slap the vegan “LABEL” on my diet and take it so far, because I could have reaped those benefits and also listened to my body when I needed more variety on the occasion. Since I didn’t listen to my body when I needed more, I got more and more deficient until a solely plant-based diet wasn’t possible for me anymore.
Onto the Next Phase:
Then I had my “transitioning & recovering” phase, where it was very important for me (mentally and physically) to eat a lot of animal protein, fat, fiber and all around variety in order to get back to a healthy, happy place with food and with my physical body. That phase lasted for about a year, and I am very grateful for the food freedom I eventually found and granted myself… Although there was a lot of anxiety along the way after living in such a rigid, restrictive lifestyle — self imposed, may I add, not restrictive just due to having the vegan label on my diet.
Throughout that phase, I will be brutally honest: I had a bad taste in my mouth about veganism. I was getting attacked by people from the vegan community every single day, and I was also feeling regretful about how deeply destructive I had let my own diet become when it was once only a positive decision for my health. I felt that people who are extreme as I am in diet and in lifestyle should steer clear of using labels like veganism, vegetarianism, paleo, etc in order to make sure they are able to prioritize listening to their bodies.
I never disliked “veganism” as a whole — OBVIOUSLY. I am not one to stereotype and to judge an entire group of people based off of the radical and outspoken voices. I just felt that as far as my own relationship with the lifestyle was, I wanted to stay as far away from the extremism as possible. I still enjoyed vegan restaurants and vegan dishes, but to be honest I was incredibly fearful of going a whole day only eating vegan food, for fear that it would spiral me backward into an unhealthy cycle of restriction and imbalance. (Imbalance due to the fact that my hormones were so out of whack that it was biochemically important for me to be eating animal protein with almost every meal at that time.)
To Each His Own !!!!
The next phase was: TO EACH HIS OWN. I’ve always felt this way, and I still feel this way more than ever. I respect anyone who chooses to eat and live in a way that makes them happy, healthy and feel good. Once people start judging others for eating differently than them, that’s just food taking over our lives a little too much and not allowing us to just BE and let our personalities and our character do the talking and connecting for us.
The New New New Thoughts:
Recently I’ve turned over yet another new leaf with how I feel about veganism. I am still very much of the “to each his own” mentality, and I still get annoyed when someone says to me, “But what about the ANIMALS?” as if it is humanly impossible not to care about animals but also to eat a non-vegan diet and just live a conscious lifestyle. My most recent discovery is… I do freaking love plants. I do. I feel so good when I eat a lot of vegetables and when I keep the crappy food to a very, very, very low minimum.
When recovering from an eating disorder, it’s HEALTHY to eat all sorts of desserts & new things that were once “off limits,” to ditch the food rules and just let yourself be. It’s mentally healthy and it’s physically healthy for you to do that because those food anxieties will rule your life in a heartbeat if you let them. But once you’re passed that stage, as I believe I now finally am, it’s time to think about what really makes you feel good, and what is truly important to you when it comes to your mind + body + nutrition relationship.
Here are a few things I know about myself… (I think anyone who knows me will agree with this, too). I love feeling healthy. I love BEING healthy. I love eating well, I love prioritizing wellness, I love getting a lot of sleep and going on long runs and practicing yoga every day and pushing myself in HIIT classes and fueling with healthy, balanced, nutritious meals. I have horrible stomach problems, terrible ones, that make it incredibly difficult for me to be “relaxed” around food. In a way, it is very worth it to me to eat more veggies/fruits/nuts/grains/legumes than anything else, because I know it makes me feel good and allows me to live in the moment versus being upset and uncomfortable about my stomach probs.
But I’m Still So Extreme…
Now here’s the kicker: as an extreme person, it’s very (VERY) easy to start noticing these things and feel an intense desire to label my diet. “OMG, maybe I should start being primarily plant-based, but still eat animal protein when I feel like I need it!” has run through my head more times than one in the last few weeks.
But how about this? How about just noticing the way that I feel, accepting it, living it, and NOT LABELING IT? How healthy and happy and balanced is that?!
I have been eating plant-based meals from Cafe Gratitude almost every day this week (Postmates addiction), with lots of smoothies, acai bowls, nut butters (so many long runs!!!) and raw vegan chocolate. Alternately, I have also been eating a little bit of organic chicken and salmon and farm fresh eggs because I’ve had them on hand and I ain’t scared of them the way I used to be — even though I notice myself gravitating toward craving plants and complex carbs like rice, quinoa, and (LOTS of) sweet potato this week instead of animal protein.
I’ve also noticed a trend among my many friends who have drifted from veganism and then felt pulled back toward it… I’ve seen two friends just this month decide to RE-label their diet after walking away from it at one point in a public way. And I get that. I totally understand it. I feel the pull a lot to. It’s an appealing lifestyle, and when done moderately and not in a radical, judgmental, end all be all kind of way, it is a damn healthy way to live. But for me personally, I don’t plan on using any labels again EVER. Even if that meant one day I ended up eating allllll plants all the time, I still wouldn’t label my diet. There’s no reason, because I have nothing to prove — not to myself, and not to anyone else.
Why Label? Who Do You Need to Impress?
I think there is so much freedom in loving your body, loving your lifestyle, feeling GOOD and fueling yourself with nourishing foods… And not having to label it to feel like you have to fit some sort of wellness mold. I have finally gotten to that place, and I am SO HAPPY to be here. I want that for all of you too, and I hope that I can inspire you with my journey to help you get there– if you’re not already there, that is. 😉
And if you ARE VEGAN, and if you ARE READING this, I say more power to you. I am glad that you’re eating in a way that fuels you and sustains you and makes you happy. I hope that for all of us. I don’t have the bad taste in my mouth about the lifestyle as I once did… And thats because I am finally at a place where I can accept everyone’s diet and lifestyle choices no matter how different they are from my own.
( And if you are an ethical vegan, for the animals and for the environment and perhaps for your health too, all I ask is that you please try to understand where I am coming from. We all have different priorities in life, and one of mine is feeling as good as I possibly can, always. Call me selfish if you must, but I truly believe everyone should try to feel as good as they can — inside & out. )
In a nut shell, what I’m trying to say here is that I am super grateful for my own vegan journey because it taught me the importance of fueling myself with food from the earth. I am finally getting back to that point after a long roundabout road of trying to be *LESS* extreme, and I am really excited to see what the uber healthy Jordan mind has up her sleeve (more recipes, maybe?!) while also keeping myself in check and making sure I maintain balance and variety at the same time. Health is a JOURNEY, peeps — not a one stop shop. I just want to keep feeling good, happy, healthy, alive & energized.