This is a tough thing to write for me because I know full well the repercussions, having seen them many times - hell, if I'm going to be totally honest here I've even been part of the backlash in some very small ways.
I recently made the very difficult, heartbreaking decision to not be vegan. Me, whose very identity was entwined with veganism. Most people in my circles automatically turned to me for help or advice on anything vegan because when they thought of that word, it was synonymous with my name. And it was the hardest decision I've ever had to make.
Making the choice to leave veganism is like breaking out of a cult. You will be vilified, ridiculed, and outcast. But what is much worse than that is my body and mind getting more and more sick because I wasn't listening to it, or trying to live a lie.
To go back to where it all began, I turned to a high raw diet during a terrible pregnancy and at the time, it saved me. My health got remarkably better and as many people do, I got excited about the results and thought this was it. This is the answer to having perfect health. Investigating into this more deeply started me down the path of full veganism - gradually eliminating all animal products from both my diet and my life. But what I found over those 4 years was not the shiny perfect happiness I saw on people's Instagram pages. Instead it was a progressive downward spiral of my eating disorder behaviour resurfacing, and more recently a constant battle with my health. In the last year or so I spent thousands on doctors, naturopaths, nutritionists, testing, supplements, expensive superfoods, and anything else I thought might help. I was determined that what I was doing had to be the right way, because after all - it was best for the planet, the animals and theoretically me too, according to my beliefs. I also constantly felt trapped and restricted, much like I had when I was in the throes of anorexia and bulimia.
I had moments where I had hope that I'd found the answer - trying different ways of eating vegan, low carb, high carb, B12 shots, testing positive for Celiac and consequently eliminating gluten, perhaps that was going to be it! But despite occasional small improvements things were still not where they should have been. I was one step forward, two steps back, each time with much less money in my bank account. The biggest battle I faced was being at a point of reacting to almost everything I was eating on a plant based diet. Being both hypoglycemic and Celiac almost everything I was eating on a vegan diet was raising my blood sugar, make me bloated, tired, give me headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, and consequently leave me feeling terrible - all from common wholefoods. Fruit, grains, sweet potatoes, bread, pasta, all juices even cold pressed green juices unless they were pure low carb veggies, beans... I felt trapped, like it didn't matter what I ate it made me sick.
Then 4 years after I had started down this path I was experiencing something else very unnerving. After all this time of being sickened by the sight of meat. I couldn't stop thinking about it. It was like every cell in my body was crying out for it, I would see it and salivate. I actually felt like a wild animal that would run down another animal and start tearing it apart with my teeth. These thoughts were a huge mindfuck, ones that I tried to push away vehemently because they were at such odds with my values and beliefs. But after battling this for months it got to a point where I had to get real with myself. So just let go, decided to eat whatever I wanted and see what happened. And in doing so my body and mind finally felt back in balance.
I didn't know how to manage what was going on, so I just didn't. I didn't judge it, I just knew I had to start listening to my body again.
And last night after about two weeks of this free for all (even though most of that time I was still eating a mostly plant based diet), meat repulsed me again, I didn't want to eat it so I didn't. Interesting, right - that our bodies know so clearly what we need? I'm not going to ignore that again, and I'm not going to try and fight it.
Veganism has brought so much good with it. Being far more conscious of the planet, the environment and animal welfare, and knowing we don't need to eat meat three times a week or that it is required to be the centrepiece of meals.
So here I am, being completely honest and upfront about my experience. I know everybody's is different and I in no way intend this to imply that veganism is bad for your health because I know there are some people that thrive on this lifestyle. But what I also strongly believe is that there is not one right way for everybody.