Part of being a catalyst for positive growth and healing in others, is doing the work yourself and staying true to your being and listening to what you need; body, mind and soul.
If you know me then you might know about my transition out of veganism in the winter of 2016-2017. I had been a vegan for about two years, and my entire existence was deeply invested in that lifestyle and the cause behind it.
I’m not proud to say, but I was definitely the preachy vegan. I spoke about the horrors in the animal food industry, the supposed health benefits, and the fact that I truly believed that I would never go back to being an omnivore. I was a vegan who saw the world in black and white, with no in between shades of grey and no compassion for those who did not agree with me.
I became interested in veganism in 2015 because I knew that I could heal my body through food. I had experimented with being a pescatarian, a vegetarian and an omnivore for many years and I wanted to see how my body would flourish without any animal foods in my diet. I was very spiritual at the time and I deeply believed that the human population was disassociated and disconnected from the food that we ate. I knew that there was a lot of cruelty and unnecessary suffering in the production of animal products and having had a mother who battled two types of cancer led me to believe that nutrition was at the basis of it all, animal foods specifically. I didn’t want to cut out animal foods because I thought they were gross or unhealthy, but I believed that the way we treated animals caused them to die in a state of fear and overwhelming sense of negativity that then transcended into our bodies if we ate them.
Instead of trying to limit my animal consumption, or finding ethical sources of animal protein, I decided to cut out all animal products cold turkey. This was just before the social media and internet world had deemed veganism trendy, but I found it a very easy and fruitful transition. At the beginning.
In the first few months I was able to detox my body, heal my anemia, increase my metabolism and energy levels, tame my menstrual cycle especially my pms symptoms and my cramps. I thought I had found the cure to all ailments and I felt like I was on cloud nine!
It wasn’t until the summer of 2016 that my health took a turn for the worst. As the season changed into Fall, I found myself extremely lethargic, having no energy, overweight, I had foggy memory and I was beginning to feel ungrounded and out of body-later I found out it was called disassociation and depersonalization. I didn’t know at the time, but my thyroid was inflamed as was my gut from the stress of my vegan lifestyle that slowly led to malnutrition. I felt absolutely horrible but I refused to alter my food choices to see if they were the culprit. Deep down I had a hunch that I may have been malnourished- even though I took all the precautions and supplemented with everything you could think of and consistently switched up my foods. I thought I could just fight off this low point and all would be well, especially because I was reading and listening to a lot of misinformed vegans (not professionals) who swore that extreme weight gain, bloating, and lethargy was “normal.” I didn’t realize then but many of the vegans I subscribed to on YouTube also dealt with mental health issues, and I didn’t put the two together.
Around Christmas of 2016, my body officially gave out on me. I went into a disassociated state that lasted a few days. I felt out of body, I felt disconnected from myself and the world. It was like I was in a movie or I had overdosed on acid. It freaked me the hell out and that’s when I had my first panic attack at work.
I had never dealt with a noticeable depression or anxiety, or any mental health issues for that matter, my whole life. When I was hit with the panic attack I thought I was dying. I didn’t know what was happening to me, all I knew was that I was petrified and I couldn’t breathe or talk and I didn’t really know where I was. Not the greatest feeling, especially since I had only been working at this school for 2 months!
I went home and had a few days off, coming back for our last day before Christmas break. Little did I know, I would be out for over a month!
That weekend I was hit with the darkest, debilitating and overwhelming feeling I had ever experienced in my life. I developed severe anxiety and was constantly trying to stop myself from having panic attacks. My body was fighting for it’s life on the outside and I was fighting myself on the inside. These were all new feelings and experiences for me and I didn’t even know where to start in getting myself out of this hole.
After lots of research I realized I was in the middle of a severe depressive episode, and I was finally able to put a name to the out of body feelings I was having; disassociation. I read that disassociation can occur when someone experiences post-traumatic stress. Along with therapy, yoga, research, meditation, affirmations, writing, and being in nature I read a ton. I purchased a book called Natural Prozac: Learning to Release Your Body's Own Anti-Depressants by Dr. Joel Robertson. One of the suggestions to naturally heal from depression was to alter my diet. By this point I couldn’t take another day of feeling the way I did without actively trying to fight my way out of it so I took a chance and started to incorporate animal foods back into my diet.
I also came across one of my favorite podcasts which has sadly ended- but it really helped me to learn more about what was happening to my body and how to heal. Daniel Vitalis of the Rewild Yourself Podcast was a vegan for 10 years who switched back into an omnivore and he had one of the most amazing podcast episodes called The Hidden Cost of Veganism with Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth. “A former vegan, best-selling author and environmentalist, Lierre spent 20 years eating a vegan diet, and in that time, she did significant damage to her body. Only when she began to introduce animal foods back into her diet — eating a more balanced, omnivorous diet — was her body able to heal and regenerate.” In this episode I was able to learn that ¾ vegans suffer from mental health problems and that there has never been a single civilization that has been able to thrive and live off of a vegan diet. Two big red flags in my opinion.
During this transition I began to notice my neck swelling, extreme bloating and nausea. I knew that the bacteria in your gut alters according to what you eat, and because I had been away from animal foods for so long, my body was unable to properly digest it. This added stress on my digestion plus the mental, emotional and spiritual turmoil I was in caused my body to go haywire. To this day I am still on a healing journey from being vegan and transitioning into a conscientious omnivore.
I am not mad at myself for my decision because I gave it my best try, and I made the choice that was right for me and my well-being. I tried out veganism and it was great to detox my body, but it was not the best choice for my health. I know that overcoming this health journey with my leaky gut, hypothyroidism and possible candida will only make me stronger and better equipped to help others heal and with my holistic coaching business.
I know that health is not just what you eat, but how you treat and move your body, what you put on your skin and hair, how you adapt to stress, your coping mechanisms, your emotional well-being, having a spiritual connection to something greater than yourself, and being the inspiration to live your best and healthiest life, not only for yourself, but for your loved ones as well.
I am truly grateful for persevering through my trauma, depression, my issues with codependency and anxious attachment styles, sexual abuse and my battle with veganism because it was all able to catapult me into the direction and path that I needed to be walking on. It has led me to some of the most amazing tools, people and self-care activities and epiphanies that I could have ever dreamed of having.
Let this be a reminder to you to always listen to your body instead of what others may be telling you to do. Dig deep inside of yourself to heal and transcend your suffering into something great. And never let the obstacles in your life hold you back and keep you down from living your best life. People change, our needs change, our bodies change, our environments change, and it will always be ok if you stray from the path that was once cut out for you.
I wish you well on your health journeys. Feel free to comment below if you have any other questions about veganism and make sure to leave your suggestions as well!