When I think about my four years as a vegan, on the whole, it was amazing. I met some great people, expanded my cooking abilities and tried tons of different foods I probably would not have thought of eating before.
I also felt like I was making an ethical choice that was good for the animals, the planet and my body. I still believe that is true.
Becoming a vegan oddly helped me eliminate the food rules I still had from darker times in my past. When I went vegan I decided that if it was vegan, I would eat it. It did not matter what it was, if it was vegan, it was fair game. Coming from a past where I went through a period of food extremism, this was tame. This was liberating.
Just make the ethical choice, you cannot go wrong.
But, as I’ve written about before, although this started as a choice to liberate my mind, help animals and the planet, started to actually backfire on me. Part of this was my fault, actually, all of it is if you think that the body you are given is your fault.
What I did wrong:
I did not take a B-12 supplement for the first three years as a vegan. During that time, I spent a year of it essentially eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches as I thought I didn’t have the time or the want to really to cook. Sure, I could have ordered food, but I am also frugal so I don’t do that.
Part of my history with extreme food rules, meant that I was tired of thinking about food in the nutrient sense. I say that loosely, because I am a certified holistic health coach, so I get that nutrients and food is important, but largely for myself, I don’t think about it very often. I know what is healthy, I know what tastes good, I try to eat food that is more on the tasting good side than the healthy side. I never have been a calorie counter and still never will, however if I am honest, sometimes I don’t get enough in. I try, but I don’t focus on it and not having sufficient overall calories means you probably aren’t getting all the nutrients you need.
I was intentionally blind to these things for four years.
When I started working with Inside Tracker, part of that was a big step in opening the door to look at my food specifically and making it more nutrient sound. They had options and recommendations for vegans, which I followed, got healthy, and started running well again.
Too soon, I got complacent. I started neglecting all the things my diet needed, not in a restriction sense, but in an “I don’t want to think about this and just eat whatever” again. It was fine for a while, but then the niggles, the fatigue, the digestive issues began to come up again. Time to try again, and keep on the path this time.
Green Lakes was a turning point. It wasn’t my training, it wasn’t my resolve, I simply could not walk. Now whether that was due to nutrient deficiency or the knocking I took at Escarpment, I will never know, but coming home in the car with my dad, again explaining why I don’t eat eggs to him, I had to pause.
Why don’t I eat eggs? Why am I doing this?
Part of being vegan for my was the community aspect. Four years ago I had very strained relations with my family, isolated myself from things essentially because I just didn’t trust people. Hearing the Rich Roll podcast every week gave me community. I heard his interview with Gene Bauer, researched it and transitioned to vegan. As soon as I did, I found this amazing (mostly online) community of accepting people who all aligned with my morals. Do the least harm you can, start with what you eat. Everything is ok as long as it’s vegan.
It’s very black and white thinking and it seems very safe. Oddly, I think that people, including myself, like things to be set in stone. No gray areas. Even if it’s constricting (which some people claim veganism is) it also provides a safe place, a barrier between you and those who are different. I could identify with other vegans. I finally had a community.
Of course, the environment and animal welfare is and continues to be important to me. It always will, but there is a gray area in there that I must acknowledge.
The Gray Area
My gray area started when I worked on my family relationships. I started to have a real-life community of people who love and accept me. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s something I am not willing to give up. They have not pressured me at all to not be vegan. They just ask questions.
I started to feel like crap, and was tired of it. I started to question the choice I made to cut out some foods that can really be beneficial to health (for some people). Eggs can be a fine food when the quality is high and you respect where they came from.
Spending more time with other people allowed for so many opportunities to connect, often over food. It was very liberating, when I made the choice to stop reading labels and allow some eggs and dairy into my diet, to just eat. My friends and family no longer have to ask if something is ok. I don’t have to ask the barista or whomever if something is vegan, which they often don’t know, and then I’m just like, “ok, coffee please.”
Call it lazy, call it whatever you want, but the relationships I have now, and how I want to represent myself and be with people is worth some dairy in things and no label reading.
If you think that is lazy, here is another ringer: if it’s free, I’ll eat it. I hate seeing so much food waste. So even if the sandwich has meat in it, I’ll pick out the meat (usually, sometimes I don’t because that’s another gray area) and thank the universe for this gift. I’ve tried so many delicious things from my work that I would never have gotten to try if I drew the hard vegan line. I commend people who do, but part of my journey has meant I need to be more flexible.
When I decided to not be vegan anymore, it was kind of traumatic. I felt as if I was losing my identity. These feelings signified to me that this was the right decision. I have not broken any laws (but to be honest, animal agriculture should be against the law) with the free-range eggs I’ve eaten a few times or the dairy that is in desserts that would be thrown away. I simply am being more flexible. I am living in the gray area. I did not do this because I missed cheese (still don’t really like it as much as everyone else) or meat (just no). I have made the decision to be more flexible in my life. I have decided that there is no label that can define me perfectly, because I am myself, one of a kind.
If that makes people disappointed, uncomfortable or angry, that is part of being the the gray area and being flexible. I refuse to please people while I know I am hurting myself.
I did not give up being vegan to please my family or friends, I gave it up because it was not serving me anymore.