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.

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.

19 thoughts on “When I Decided Not To Identify As a Vegan”

  1. I really appreciate this Ellie; you made those relationships more of a priority than the food, and I really respect that you still want to get the eggs from ethically sourced places; that’s not always easy for us, but I do like getting them from farms if we can. It is so true that those relationships are more important than the label reading, and I think God is doing a great work in you and teaching you so much.

    1. We all can only do the best we can. Sometimes it’s not practical to live a certain way, and this will change based on time of year, stage in life or ever the composition of the gut flora. Crazy right?! I think it’s important to remember that we’re all different and we all know what is best for our own bodies.

  2. Ellie, I just want to commend you for making the best decision for your own health and well-being. I can imagine how difficult it would be to lose the community that you built around you, but I’m glad some real-life community is taking shape in your life. Also, there is something to be said for preventing food waste, because waste is terrible for our planet, so go you!!! Can’t wait to see where you go from here, but I wish you some amazing health and wellness!

    1. Thank you so much for this comment Caroline! I don’t know why wasted things make me so mad, but they do. I feel like I am helping the problem when I reuse or take the leftovers. It might mean I don’t always eat what I want, but it sure tastes better knowing it wasn’t wasted.

  3. I love this post. I never comment, but I want to say that I really respect everything that you said here, and your honesty about your history with restrictions and how being vegan may have had some role in that.

    I am an ethical eater. I have made some concessions for my health, but minimize those as much as possible. I eat with an ethical eye towards animal welfare, economics, and the environment. Sometimes those ethics are at odds with one another (like in the case of eggs sometimes or with certain ingredients in food that is going to be tossed) but I make the decision to eat it or not based on my own personal values. I find that some labels that draw that hard line miss some of the nuances that are really still ethical considerations.

    Very well written post.

    1. Katie you and I are one in the same. Ethical considerations are important, but there is a line or a gray area, which is self respect. Thank you for commenting, feel free to reach out whenever you need it <3

  4. I am so proud of you for not labeling yourself. I think doing so brings more harm than it does good. It’s totally okay to prefer certain foods, but not allowing yourself certain foods is a form of restriction. Labeling your eating just ain’t fun!

  5. Ellie,

    Your desire, ability, and commitment to seeing your journey, being curious about it, and simply being so aware of it – as well as your willingness to share it so open and honestly with others – are both amazing attributes. I think it is wonderful you are writing about this time in your life because it obviously, and rightfully so, means a great deal to you and therefore deserves all the time and respect you can give it by writing about it.

    It sounds like your morals have simply shifted. To slightly different yet just as impactful and important focuses. Ie: choosing to decrease food waste over other past restrictions. Or focusing on your budget. Nothing wrong with that! Simply different. It also sounds like some of your fundamental needs that veganism once filled have started to become filled in other areas – like your need for connection now being filled by family. I’m seeing this so much in my own journey. The things that my ED was once so needed for are now being filled by other things – relationships, passion, career – and therefore that past need is simply decaying away. Its fascinating. Dang maslow and his heirchy of needs!

    “part of my journey has meant I need to be more flexible.” Your journey is your journey. My journey is my journey. We need to do things for us.

    1. This comment means so much to me Cora. You are so busy and have such a hectic schedule, it means so much that you have taken the time to read and write this to me. Thank you for validating my feelings and making me feel heard. That is so important for me in my own journey. Sure, I am confident in my choices, but having others agree with me doesn’t hurt ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. I love this.
    I’m so glad that you are doing what is right for YOU and for YOUR health. It would have been easy to be too intimidated or feel guilty about not sticking to a 100% vegan lifestyle, so I’m glad that you really examined your health and how you were feeling and let that be the real judge of what you should do. I’m proud of you for stepping outside of labels!

  7. Thank you so much for this post, Ellie. I often struggle with the OK-ness of being vegetarian and not vegan and trying to come to terms with the fact that I am doing the best I can. In the past when I have tried going vegan I have found myself in the world of extremism and ignoring a lot of other important things. Your post really helped. Thank you. I hope you are well and that I’ll see you out on the trails soon!

  8. 100% on point. I relate SO hard to feeling like part of your identity was lost when you transitioned. I honestly never wanted to stop being vegan, but my health was taking a turn for the worse and I couldn’t fight it anymore. Eggs are a great choice, although I cannot eat those still. I stick to mostly fish, but have added other animal products like collagen and bone broths. I have intestinal permeability (as well as an autoimmune disease) and literally all the vegan foods cause it to become worse (including fruit!) I came to terms with the fact that I was doing what I needed for my body, and I choose local, organic, and ethically raised products.

    I figured my love for animals can live on in my mission to encourage others to also buy ethically raised animal products. Factory farming is something I still don’t support, and I just do the best I can for my body each day. <3

    1. I couldn’t have said it better myself <3 Eggs usually still turn my stomach, it's mostly when eggs are in things I'm cool with it. However, after my last race all I wanted was an egg and cheese biscuit...which totally happened ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. Ellie this is so dang good. Wow. I know 100% what youโ€™ve been through and Iโ€™m so happy and proud to see your journey! โ€œI refuse to please people while I know I am hurting myselfโ€ – this this this is sooo good and so true! You can always go back to veganism if it serves you again, but you canโ€™t take care of others until you take care of yourself first.

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