I went vegan for seven months, and the results were not what I expected.
I want to discuss a topic that I often see circulating in the “health realm” and that is veganism. I know this is a much-debated issue in the world of health and well-being, but I find this subject to be quite fascinating based on my own experience being fully vegan for seven months two years ago (I cut out all animal products entirely, I stopped wearing makeup from “cruel” brands, I stopped wearing fur and leather etc). It is extremely difficult to go completely vegan in today’s society because so many commercial products involve some type of animal cruelty; it is nearly impossible to accomplish this, but I did the best I possibly could.
Back to the beginning…
I first decided to go vegan, basically overnight, after watching a couple of documentaries, especially Cowspiracy and Earthlings (by the way, I still recommend watching these documentaries because they are super interesting and well done), but after seeing this, I decided I was done with meat. As soon as the next day came around, I was not touching milk, eggs, ice cream, chicken, steak, anything of the sort that involved an animal to produce it. I even began researching cruelty free clothing, makeup and accessories. I started eating copious amounts of fruit, as well as lots of nuts and grains to compensate for the fact I was not getting any calories from animal products anymore. This meant I needed to eat way more in order to be full. For example, if I didn’t have time for dinner I would eat 5-6 bananas or 20 dates. Fruit is not bad for you, but the high quantities of sugary fruit I was eating was not beneficial for my body, or giving me the nutrition I really needed. At first, I felt good and like I was doing the right thing, but after a few weeks I was feeling extremely tired and low-energy. I didn’t understand why. I was eating a lot, and not skipping meals. I was having green juice everyday, and healthy, complex carbs like brown rice and quinoa. I was lethargic, and found that my immune system was not holding up. I was getting sick more often than normal; at least once a month I would come down with some sort of illness.
What was the problem?
I started doing a ton of research and found that I needed to start supplementing to be a healthy vegan. So, I started adding in vitamin D, algae omega 3, and vitamin B12. It was very difficult to keep up with taking all of these supplements, in addition to being very expensive. I found that despite taking all these supplements, I wasn’t feeling any better and to my horror, my skin started to break out everywhere. After doing some research into this issue, I found a condition called perioral dermatitis, which I have discussed previously on my blog. This nasty skin condition completely ate up my life. I spent way too many hours obsessing over my skin in the mirror, feeling more self-conscious than I have ever felt in my entire life. In my eyes, I thought I looked disgusting, as if I never bothered to wash my face, even though it was quite the opposite. I tried every single remedy you can find from Google, until finally resorting to antibiotics, which only did more harm to my already damaged gut.
Making some changes…
I was so confused, because my diet was “perfect” and nothing changed about my skincare, or medications prior to getting these breakouts and getting sick all of the time. I was even incorporating algae, maca powder, flaxseed and all of these super healing foods that the vegan community recommended. Nothing was helping. I finally decided to see a Naturopath last February, and that decision has impacted my life positively to this day. The lovely lady I saw works for HART Acupuncture in Farmington. I cannot recommend this place enough if you are struggling with any ailment and traditional medicine is not helpful. I will forever thank this place and specifically my practitioner, Doctor Franzoni, for changing my life. She also was a Trinity alum, which makes this story extra awesome. Anyway, when I met with her and told her everything about my lifestyle-diet, workouts, lifestyle etc, she immediately had so much advice to bestow upon me. The first thing I had to do though, was go through some testing to see what specifically was happening internally, even though Doctor Franzoni had a good idea of what was going on. I got some blood work done, and I was horrified to discover my gut flora was negatively impacted, and I was low in several main nutrients: zinc, magnesium and B vitamins. My protein levels were also low. Doctor Franzoni told me that these deficiencies were causing my skin to break out, and causing my immune system to consistently fail me.
How I got back on track…
Doctor Franzoni gave me an entire protocol that would replenish my gut bacteria, and get me the proper nutrients in which I was lacking. At this time, I was also doing a lot of other improvement work in different areas of my life. I had decided to get off the birth control pill, as well as get rid of toxic people who were only weighing me down negatively. It was the perfect time to get a little “reboot” and get my health to the best it could be. After a few days, and definitely a few weeks, I saw so much improvement in my skin. The bumps were almost completely faded, and not only that, but my complexion looked healthier. I felt more like myself, and as an added bonus, I felt like I was in the best shape of my life. I also had more energy for longer, harder workouts.
To Doctor Franzoni’s recommendation, after completing the three day power flush from the Allergy Solution, I kept my diet to primarily Whole 30 Paleo based for several weeks. That basically means no grains, sugars, gluten, dairy, legumes or beans. I know this sound drastic, but it was really not that bad for me to do, since seeing the visual progress of how my skin was looking was worth it. Also, I knew this diet was not going to be for the rest of my life, but I considered it part of my Reboot of Health protocol. For those of you who are interested in seeing a list of the specific swaps I made, here is what I did:
- VEGAN NO MORE. Introducing high quality animal products back in my skin did wonderful things for me personally.
- CUT OUT GRAINS, LEGUMES, AND SOY. Lots of vegan alternatives, particularly vegan mock meets are very high in these items which are not bad for you in moderation, but in excess, can definitely cause some problems. This is because these items are high in anti-nutrients which can impact your digestion and can actually leach other nutrients from your body. Soaking grains and legumes can help with this.
- NO DAIRY. When dealing with skin issues, dairy is usually a big culprit. With conventional dairy products comes hormones, antibiotics, and other gross stuff that should not be entering your body.
- ZERO PROCESSED INGREDIENTS. You need to be cautious about sauces, creams, dips etc because companies often add sugar, soy and fillers. You should be able to recognize every ingredient in the food you consume, and in addition, it should all come from Earth. A problem with vegan diets is a lot of the alternative items have a laundry list of ingredients. A vegan burger has twenty ingredients, whereas a 100% beef burger has one. You get the idea.
I ate lots of yummy, paleo meals and found tons of snack replacements for the foods I ate commonly before. I was eating way more protein and healthy fats, and less sugary fruits and processed vegan foods. I felt a million times better on the inside, and it reflected on the outside as well.
The main take away from this post is that a vegan diet is not a silver bullet, or a panacea for any health problem.
I thought it was, and ended up creating way more health issues unnecessarily. In addition, when I was vegan (although I am embarrassed to admit this) I acted in a very militant, all-knowing way. Whenever I ate a meal with someone who was not-vegan, I would preach to that person and feel the need to talk about all the cruelty behind the animal industry, and how meat is terrible for you, so on and so forth. Looking back, I realize this way of acting was not reflective of who I am as a person, or who I want to be. After a lot more education, in addition to trial and error with my own diet, I realize I was misinformed. Now I feel my diet is balanced, healthy, sustainable and wholesome, all while not being restrictive or limiting. If you are vegan and love it, that’s awesome. If you are paleo and love it, that’s awesome. If you aren’t on any sort of diet and love it, that’s also awesome. Instead of having a mindset that of “my way or the high way” when it comes to nutrition, try to be more open-minded and understand different perspectives. That’s what I did, and it changed my life for the better.