A New Chapter in My Journey: Letting Go of 100% Plant-Based

I would like to begin by saying, the thoughts below are based on my own individual experiences. I am not a nutritionist or a medical professional. I’m just vulnerably sharing my story here with the hope that it will help some of you on your own path. Love you all.

I’ll start with the beginning of my journey to a 100% plant-based diet. I decided to go vegetarian in the Fall of 2014. It dawned on me after a conversation around the lunch table with a few co-workers. One of my colleagues mentioned the hormones and antibiotics that are given to most animals. I was totally grossed out and I decided that I would try giving up meat for a week. I stopped eating poultry and red meat immediately but I was still transitioning away from seafood, dairy and eggs. My digestion was incredible and I felt energized. I was super motivated to stick with this new way of eating. After only a few days, I felt AWESOME.

I created my Instagram account in January 2015. I was so excited to share photos of all the new meals I was making! Instagram quickly exposed me to the world of veganism. I was definitely intrigued. The health benefits sounded amazing. I absolutely love fruits and vegetables so I thought it would be easy enough for me. I was also very disgusted by the animal agriculture, dairy and egg industries after watching a few documentaries. I loved the idea of compassion and that I was no longer contributing to harming animals and the environment.

My skin health was my main motivation to no longer consume dairy. As a teenager, I had pretty bad breakouts. However, my skin cleared up completely after starting hormonal birth control. I started the pill as a way to control my extremely heavy menstrual cycle and the symptoms that came along with it. Of course, I enjoyed the benefits of short periods with little or no symptoms as well as clear skin. Six years later, I found out about the dangers of hormonal birth control. I made the immediate decision stop taking the pill. It was then that I realized the birth control was only masking my symptoms. Right away my heavy periods came back and my skin was worse than my teenage years. My colleague, who had originally planted the seed about vegetarianism, mentioned to me that dairy was probably contributing to my skin breakouts. She was right. It was super easy for me to switch from skim milk to almond milk. Eliminating dairy was the single best decision that I could’ve made for my skin. Within a couple of weeks, I noticed the inflammation on my face was noticeably less, and while not totally clear, I saw vast improvements.

I started to notice earlier this year that my menstrual cycles were NEXT LEVEL and taking a huge toll on me. I was feeling extremely weak and tired the week before my period and the week during. My headaches were getting worse and worse and my periods were SO heavy. I knew something was wrong. I had a feeling my iron was low because of the heavy menstruation. I started increasing all of the iron-rich plant foods, especially during my cycle. However, nothing seemed to change. During this time, I was having intense cravings for seafood. Fish was a staple in my diet before going vegan. It caught me by surprise because I had never craved animal products in the first two years of eating plant-based. I brushed it off as just a seasonal craving because it was summer. I increased my intake of omega’s and healthy fats to try to satisfy the cravings.

I started having digestive issues about 2 months ago resulting in intense abdominal pain. Suddenly foods that I previously digested with ease, were wreaking HAVOC on my system. I went to see a holistic doctor here in NYC. I thought that I might have developed an allergy to nuts or gluten. The doctor took blood-work and checked for possible food allergies as well as vitamin and mineral levels. When I received my results, I was SHOCKED and TERRIFIED. No food allergies but my iron was CRITICALLY low and my iron stores were even lower. I was also deficient in other essential vitamins and minerals. I was so upset, I could not believe how eating a plant based diet focused on nutrient dense fruits and vegetables produced these results. I felt as though I had failed my body.

I knew instantly after speaking with the doctor what I had to do.

My first step was research. I wanted to learn as much as possible about my deficiencies. Specifically, heme (animal sources) iron vs. non-heme (plant sources) iron. Of course, there are a lot of conflicting views on this topic. However, the fact is heme iron is absorbed more easily by the body than non-heme iron. Despite my best efforts to consume all of the non-heme sources of iron, my body was not absorbing enough and needed more. This was amplified by the amount of iron I lose regularly during heavy menstrual cycles.

I knew I had to start eating animal protein to bring my iron and iron stores, as well as my other deficiencies, back to normal. As much as I knew that incorporating animal protein was completely out of necessity for my body, the thought was still horrifying after not eating meat in nearly 3 years. I knew I had to obtain these products from the very best sources. I wasn’t about to run out to the nearest fast food chain – LET’S BE REAL.

I want to be strategic. My goal is to maximize my nutrient intake in the most conscious and healthiest way possible. My focus is to buy organic, wild, cage-free, hormone and antibiotic free, free range, etc. from the most sustainable sources that I have access to.

It’s been almost a week now that I’ve slowly started incorporating animal protein into my diet again. I already feel that my energy has increased. I was worried about having crazy digestive issues but that hasn’t been the case. It actually seems that the more animal protein I eat, the more my body craves it. I can feel my body responding positively.

The takeaway here is that our bodies are smarter than we give them credit for. I have a deep connection with my body. However, I still let my mind talk me out of listening to my cravings. I always tell everyone who asks me questions about nutrition “listen to your body”. I needed to take my own advice, be true to myself, take care of my health and my body. After everything that we have been through together, I owe it to my body to fuel it with what it is asking for and not fight it.

Health has been and always will be my #1 priority. It has been very difficult spiritually and emotionally to start eating animal products again. I am trying to find peace in the difficult moments with my decision because I know this is what my body needs.

I want to include again that this is just MY experience. We are all SO different and that is beautiful! I 100% believe that some people can thrive on a plant-based diet and that is truly amazing. I wish I was one of those people but, unfortunately, that’s just not the case. I have a ton of respect and appreciation for the vegan community and the movement. I think we can all agree that more plants are better for everyone! Especially with the current Standard American Diet.

I still plan to keep my diet very plant focused in the future. I love creating and eating plant-based meals (especially buddha bowls)!

I’m not sure where this journey will take me but I know I will continue to grow and change as time progresses and I’m excited to keep sharing with you. I am SO grateful for my body. I am also so grateful for the Instagram community that has been so supportive and opened my eyes to so much. I truly feel that every season in life happens for a reason. I believe with confidence that I am being guided on this path.

I know that not everyone will understand and that’s okay. I hope you can all find peace in knowing that we are all in control of our own individual decisions. No one else can know exactly how you or I feel individually in our own bodies. You are the only one who can decide what’s best for you.

I will always keep it 100 and real. Thank you all so much for your love and support.

13 thoughts on “A New Chapter in My Journey: Letting Go of 100% Plant-Based

  1. thanks for sharing. we left the meat 2 months ago, my allergies are way better but cravings come every now and then. will try fish and evaluate. thanks so much, blessings and best wishes, keep posting your bowls!!!

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  2. Have you read Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis? Did you consult a plant-based physician? There are so many in NYC! If you haven’t, do so. Go to plantbaseddoctors.com to find one.

    Whether “organic, wild, cage-free, hormone and antibiotic free, free range, etc. from most sustainable sources” or not, those are still innocent, sentient beings who value their life just as much as you value yours. Given that human beings have no biological need to consume or use animal products, going back to eating, using and wearing animals and their products is morally wrong.

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  3. Alex, I know this was probably so difficult to share with the world. I’m sorry you have received so many judgmental comments on IG, but I hope you know that you are more than your diet and that what you put in your body is YOUR choice. It sucks that as much as you want to be vegan, you can’t. I’m sure there will be ups and downs in the journey ahead, but just wanted to let you know that it’ll all be ok and this is what life is all about– learning and growing.

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  4. I also went 100% plant based, saw dramatic improvements in my digestion, skin, energy, everything! Then I lost weight, a lot of weight (I was lean to begin with). My iron levels also dropped, I began getting dizzy just trying to get out of bed, and eventually got to the point where I was collapsing on the floor or completely blacking out. Though I still do not consume beef or poultry as I find they flare up my digestive track, I have added back in eggs and fish. Our regulations here in Canada are different (no hormones) and I am buying from local farmers where you can actually go see the chickens! I don’t watch labels as closely as before though I buy very little ore packaged food. I feel better now, back over 100lbs and rarely dizzy anymore. Humans are animals too and all living creatures have an instinct to do what it takes to survive. I wish you the best 🙂

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  5. In a community where there is a lot of judging I think you were brave to come out with this. Thank you for sharing your story. You should do what is best for you.

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  6. Hey girl, it’s really amazing that you are so in tune with your body and willing to share with others so they can see how valuable it is. I wanted to reach out because I really hope you would reconsider your feelings towards birth control. While it can be dangerous and have negative side effects, millions of women choose birth control because the good outweighs the bad. I hope you would reconsider looking at birth control as not a mask of your symptoms but actually that it temporarily fixed them, like taking Sudafed for congestion. I was on birth control since 16 then got off from 20-25 and I made the decision to go back on because all in all the positive outweighs the negative and allows me to lead my best life. That being said, I think people should eat whatever the need to be their best selves, especially in the way you are doing.

    Best of luck from your fan and LIC neighbor, Amanda

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  7. Very inspiring to share your journey! I had the same troubles and I agree that finding what works best for YOU is what matters most. Good luck to you and don’t listen to the haters 🙂

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  8. Hi love! My story is yours, so please don’t feel discouraged. 🙂

    I was a PERFECT WFPB vegan for 2 years (seriously not a single drop of refined sugar/grains or vegan junk food) and I ended up with terrible cystic acne, debilitating periods (like almost passing out), horrible depression, anxiety, and major fatigue. I tried every supplement (omega-3’s, iron, D3, vitex, K2, zinc, you name it), different types of B12 supplements, food combining. I tried just adding oil back in, I tried playing with different levels of all my macros and micros. Everything. I even got my certificate in plant-based nutrition and consulted a plant-based doctor.

    Nothing worked. Before all of this, I had no health problems. I went back to eating meat, fish and eggs in May and my skin cleared up by June, my mood stabilized, and my periods are no longer painful.

    You are doing the right thing. Trust yourself. I got swept up in the vegan movement and thought it was the only way–but it turns out, it’s not the right diet for everyone. And honestly, even the environmental science of it isn’t accurate (I highly recommend checking out Sustainable Dish for more information about that). So much false or inconclusive science is hyped up by those with an ethical vegan leaning.

    Some people may have a moral issue eating animals, but, “Every life is on loan from the community from birth and without fail is paid back to the community in death. The community is a web of life, and every strand of the web is a path to all the other strands . . . Everything that lives is food for another. Everything that feeds is ultimately fed upon or in death returns its substance to the community.”

    If you EVER need to talk, please reach out. From one recovering vegan to another, you are not alone. You are strong, intelligent, beautiful, and you are a wonderful, kind, caring person. Keep shining darling.

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