Why I'm No Longer Vegan
Well, this is a post I've put off writing for a long time. For anyone who's Vegan reading this please give me a little respect and read through until the end. And, save yourself the trouble of writing a guilty comment on the animals' behalf at the bottom. Trust me when I say that anything you could possibly think to write to upset me I have already said to myself many times. Thanks in advance!
TW: Eating disorders, anxiety, depression
Let's get real for a second here. One of my New Years resolutions is to feel less guilty. I truly believe guilt is a redundant emotion and if you're living true to yourself you never feel it. But, I have been feeling guilty and secretive when it comes to my changes in diet. If you didn't know I was vegan or plantbased for 2 years. If you knew me during that time I'd be really surprised if you didn't know. I was incredibly vocal about my new lifestyle even creating an Instagram account exclusively for food photos.
But, lets go back to my childhood for a second. When I was around 4 years old I was a really picky eater. Things I'd refuse to eat included milk, eggs and meat. It wasn't until last year that my mom told me that I'd point to beef put in front of me and say 'that's a cow'. However, when I was around 7 my dad decided that picky eating was off the table and so I gradually adapted to eat everything. Then I started elementary school in Vancouver. My new best friend was Julianna who's whole family were vegetarian. It became a fact of life that I would to. I was spending a large chunk of my time with her anyway. But, when I say vegetarian I mainly mean eating pasta, pizza and the occasional 3 bean chilli. Eventually, once again my parents had enough and meat became a part of my diet.
Flashforward to 19 year old me. Aside from a brief consideration of Veganism after reading Skinny Bitch when I was 13, I had truly plunged headfirst into carnivorism. Pork became my favourite meat. I can remember polishing off a whole pack of maple bacon and licking my fingers clean of the fat. Although I never quite got over my distaste for lamb and chicken and I still wouldn't go out of my way to eat eggs. But, I was dairy free because of a lactose intolerancy diagnosis. Anyway, so I'm 19 and I was completely miserable. I was on my gap year in Turkey and I'm the heaviest and unhappiest I'd ever been in my whole life. To counterbalance my now crippling social anxiety I turned to YouTube and my bed to fill the bulk of my free-time. If you're vegan you probably know where this is going - I found Freelee. Now for those of you who have never seen one of Freelee the Banana Girl's videos, she advocates for Rawtill4. A vegan diet that involves 10-ish bananas in a smoothie for breakfast and massive portion sizes. What appealed to me was her echos of you can eat as much of this high carb food as you like and you'll be skinny. No more yo-yoing dieting. No more calorie restrictions. Amazing. For the record, the major caveat for her skinny promise was biking miles per day and sleeping well. But, at the time she tapped into two of my deepest desires to be able to eat as much as I wanted and to be thin.
In my high school years I'd developed disordered eating that exaggerated itself when I was depressed or anxious. Basically I would eat enormous quantities of food until I felt physically ill. It was my special ritual of bingeing. I'd look forward to the weekend when I could spend all my money on greasy foods and then pass-out. There's a feeling of bliss when you binge that I imagine is like a drug high. The problem? It lasts for about 10 minutes before you need to start eating again to maintain it. When I would binge all the feelings I didn't want to feel would melt away. Until the euphoria ended and I felt even worse than before. Beginning the cycle of self-loathing and depression. I've only recently started to make long term recovery towards these problems, but everyday I have to make choices. In fact, before writing this piece the vulnerability and guilt I felt encouraged me to almost cook a whole kilo of potato wedges. If you think I'm exaggerating you're clearly lucky enough to have never suffered with this.
So, back to 19 year old me. This beautiful woman tells me all of my problems surrounding my unhealthy relationship with food and body confidence could be solved with veganism. I was sold. Of course my initial motivations were toxic. But, I started to justify my decision by frantically researching veganism. From finding the YouTube and Instagram community to watching documentaries like Cowspiracy and Forks over Knives. I joined the vegsoc at uni and surrounded myself with the few like-minded thinkers I could find. The worst part, I alienated myself from my family who I was angry at for not raising me vegan. Given my lack of kitchen and living in catered accommodation, my desperation to remain vegan culminated in a time where all I would eat was hummous and Kettle crisps. My obsession was causing problems within my relationship and friendships, everyone was begging me to eat again. I felt sick, I looked sick, I was in the worst mental place of my life. All-in-all I was angry. There were bouts of happiness when I thought about my environmental contribution and the ethical elements. But, anger for the most part. I feel really sad looking back now because I was so focused on my diet that I was sabotaging my happiness.
What I need to say is that I honestly believe that for ethical and environmental reasons veganism is without a doubt ideal. I think health-wise it's way better than eating meat and dairy isn't really necessary. But, what my problem was I let this guilt and anger get in the way of my mental well-being. I was quite honestly worse than I'd ever been before veganism. My relationship with food and my body was toxic. This need to stand up to the ideal I was preaching to everyone was tearing away at me. Until eventually my vegan binging and starving routine morphed into non-vegan bingeing. My cravings for cheese were becoming unavoidable. I don't think that's to do with cheese itself. But, for me personally cheese has a deep emotional attachment and had always been my comfort food of choice. Saying no for 2 years led to one evening after a night out when I was pretty drunk ordering two large pizzas and finishing it all in one go.
My shame surrounding this is immense. Every time I think about veganism it creates a pit in my stomach. Even though my close friends know I now am vegetarian (occasionally pescetarian) I never post photos online for risk that one of my old vegan friends calls me out. I'm not proud of my behaviour and I know this description isn't pretty. But, I can honestly say I'm starting to feel whole again. Who knows maybe someday I'll go back to veganism. In fact, I still don't buy leather and most days I eat plantbased inadvertently. I've realised now that hiding behind an ideology when you feel insufficient is the easy way out. The hard way is to rebuild my relationship with food and self-love one by one. I've had set backs since kicking veganism (mhmh keto), but this post is proof I'm willing to start accepting myself again. Veganism is beautiful when it comes from a place of self love and expression. For me it was one of my darkest time when my self-criticism was at peak and I was projecting a sense of superiority on others because of my diet.
Summary: Please don't ask someone about their diet ever. Food is already screwed up enough in our collective conciousness. Please feed yourself generously and love your body even more so. Don't ever say, I've earned this pizza or I don't deserve this ice cream. Don't let other people or yourself tell you what you should do. Hold your lil belly or thick thighs or whatever and promise to love them no matter what. Most importantly, remember mental health is the most important gift you can give yourself.
Personally, I've sought help for my eating disorder and depression. Here are some resources if you've developed an obsession with food from calorie counting to restriction or if you're tired of beating yourself up. Body dysmorphia is crippling. Believe me there's a way out.
UK: Beat - 0808 801 0677 or https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/
Body dysmorphia: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd/#.WnX73ZM-eYU
One last thing, you are worthy of love and belonging. And I love you, even if you don't love yourself right now. You're strong enough to beat this.
All my love, Sam💖