Dropping the Vegan Label to Lift my Body & Mind
A couple weeks ago, I was planning on writing a blog post about why I became vegan. Now I am writing a blog post on why I stopped being vegan. Crazy how quickly life can shift sometimes, eh?
For those of you who have been following my journey for a while now, know that I’ve been switching between veganism, vegetarianism, and living label-less for quite some time. I never knew what triggered each ‘switch’, but all that time, I was confused. And I bet you all were too. I don’t blame ya! Like what are you supposed to think of someone who declares themselves vegan and then shares a picture of a real scone in London on their instagram stories?
I would be pretty darn confused. So that’s the main reason why I wanted to write this blog post. To try and un-confuse you, but also in the hopes of creating some clarity about where I am at the moment! Because honestly? There’s a lot on my mind. Too much to share in an instagram caption, but also too complex to talk about in my stories.
So, where to start? Perhaps that is the question that has been causing me to put off writing this; I really don’t know where to start! But something I’ve learned is that you always gotta start somewhere, even if that be a ramble that turns into a beautiful story. So bouncing off that, I’m just going to say it how it is and hope my rambling turns into some sort of fluent story!
The first time I wrote about removing the vegan label was in my post about giving up restriction. I highly recommend giving it a read if you want some more back-story to this post, but essentially I write about the effect veganism had on me. Initially, following a strict, 100% plant-based diet made me feel amazing…until I came home from school one day to find myself lying on the floor of fullness after the worst binge of my life.
For weeks, I could not stop eating. I was having insane cravings for things I hadn’t allowed myself to eat in years—cookies, cake, chips, candy, chocolate bars—you name it. I couldn’t understand why these cravings were happening at the time they did, because I had been weight-restored for over a year at this point.
My only conclusion was that my body was feeling restricted again. Hence the ‘unexplained’ cravings and episodes of overeating. But how was I restricting? I wasn’t counting calories. I wasn’t exercising more. Yet I could not stop thinking about food. Calling myself a vegan made me so obsessed with what I could and could not eat that my eating disorder (which I thought was a thing of the past) felt activated to control again. Instead of restricting food directly, it chose to creep into my life in the form of a vegan diet.
‘Okay, so you can’t restrict your food intake. But you can restrict what type of food you eat.’
When I realized the true purpose my veganism was serving, I realized it was simply not serving me. The only person it was serving was my eating disorder.
But what about the animals?
I am fully aware that many vegans may comment on the above statement with the question ‘what about the animals?’, because obviously, my being vegan was serving all of the animals that are being mistreated in the horrid animal industry. This was also one of the main factors that convinced me to become vegan in the first place, because I truly do care about the animals and the health of our planet, mother Earth.
I know that a vegan lifestyle is more sustainable, is better for the animals, and is better for the planet. I’ve done my research (and even debated about this topic for a school assignment), so I truly do know what the benefits are of being vegan!
So then why would I stop?
First things first, I love eating organic & plant-based. Love it. There’s nothing better than the feeling of nourishing yourself with a big tempeh salad or my vanilla cauliflower protein oats or a thick & creamy smoothie bowl. Knowing that food can taste good, be good for the environment, and be good for your body is just the most amazing thing ever!
But what’s not the most amazing thing ever is feeling like you have to constantly be at war with your body and mind to live up to a certain label.
To put it bluntly, I am a very perfectionistic, black & white thinker. When I go for something, I give it my all. This perserverent mindset is a strength of mine, but is also one of my biggest pitfalls. This fact has constantly proven itself through not only my eating disorder & recovery, but from almost everything I do in life.
A pattern I have noticed through all of this perfectionism is that I attach labels to everything. These labels make me feel like I have everything under control, which is essentially what it all comes down to. When I lived by the ‘sick’ and ’eating disorder’ label, I felt I had control over what I did and didn’t have to do. I could skip school assignments. I didn’t have to show up to practice. I didn’t have to go out to eat…because I was the sick girl with an eating disorder.
This feeling of having ‘everything under control’ was also one of the main drives of my eating disorder. It’s what made me feel attached to it for years, yet was also what was trapping me in a life-less box. When I realized that I was actually being controlled rather than being in control—that’s when I decided I didn’t want to live by the ED label any longer.
What’s this all got to do with veganism?
Yes, good question! I have said a lot about the label regarding my eating disorder, but what about the vegan label? For me personally, it’s all connected. When I adopt a certain label, I go all in and do the very best I can to live up to that label. Again, this is a strength and pitfall of mine, in and of itself. Why? Because the label ends up controlling me.
With my veganism, this was no different. What started off as ‘conscious, plant-based living’ turned into another label that was controlling me. I wasn’t giving my body or mind a say in it all, or even listening to the multiple signs my body was giving me to say ‘hey, watch out’.
My body disagreeing with me
After a couple months of eating 100% plant-based again, my body started disagreeing with me. I started to experience extremely dry skin, especially on my hands and ankles. My hair started falling out by the handfuls when I combed it, and my joints started aching when I went for runs.
Puzzling this all together, I realized these were all symptoms I had actually been able to heal when I was taking collagen.
Aside from these external cues, I also noticed my IBS started to come back. I started experiencing increasing bouts of nausea again, and my bloating, stomach issues, and gas—all symptoms I had relieved my following a low FODMAP diet years ago—had returned.
Dropping the Vegan Label
I knew what I was doing was not serving me. As much as I care for the animals and the environment, I had to look at myself and think about what was best for my health. It was difficult at first, considering I truly truly truly want to contribute to the ending of animal welfare and the breaking down of our planet. But what I also realized? You don’t have to be a ‘perfect’ vegan to make a difference.
I still eat mainly plant-based because I love it—but I no longer do it with a vegan blindfold on. I have started listening to my body again and am going to do what it needs me to do. I have started taking collagen again because it helps my hair, skin, and joints. And I have started being conscious around high FODMAP foods because they often don’t agree with me!
You do you
Everything I mentioned in this blog post applies to me and is based on my personal experiences. If you can follow a vegan diet and can maintain a healthy relationship with your body & mind, you do you. If you struggle with IBS and can tolerate certain fodmaps and not others, you do you. The reason I wrote this blog post is to share what I’ve been through, in hopes to inspire others and perhaps allow someone to realize that they’re not alone. But if you can’t relate to any of this at all, that’s okay. You do you.