I Gave Up Restriction in More Ways than One
I originally wasn’t going to write a post about giving up restriction; this photo was meant for a post solely on why I stopped being vegan. That was until I realized my veganism was a form of restriction.
If you’ve been following me on instagram for a while, you know I haven’t always been a vegan. I was vegetarian for many years growing up, and the first time I ate meat was actually on my first day at Carolina House Eating Disorder Recovery Center. I remember hearing what dinner was going to be that first night, and I completely flipped. There was no way I was going to eat meat after having cut it out of my life for so long.
After almost an hour of disputing with the Carolina House staff, I realized that if I wanted to recover, I had to give it my all. No more cutting corners, no more excuses to not eat food, and no more restricting. All of that was over. The only way to recover for real, was to surrender myself. Surrender myself to everything the program asked of me.
Ever since that day I ate meat every single day. Until one day, a couple months after being back home after enduring 6 months in treatment, I declared myself vegan. It wasn’t as if it happened from one day to the next, however; it was a gradual and slow process.
The transition to veganism
I started cutting out meat for ethical reasons. I started to read more and more about the meat industry, and did not want to participate in something so cruel. So, I became vegetarian again. At the time, I was also following many vegans on instagram, which inspired me to make the full switch. A couple weeks after cutting out meat, I also cut out eggs, and made sure to only buy the vegan meat alternatives at the grocery store.
It was really hard for me to give up (Greek) yogurt, but eventually I found the discipline to do that as well. I was now officially ‘vegan’. I was so proud of myself. I changed my instagram bio to make sure everyone would see I fit in this label, and would tell all my friends at school with pride.
At the time, I still had pancake mixes containing egg, as well as stocks of collagen that I did not know what to do with. I contemplated getting rid of them, but just couldn’t bring myself to do so. A couple weeks later, I was craving that pancake mix and made myself some pancakes with EGG in them. I knew I had ‘failed’ at being a real ‘vegan’, so I now declared myself ‘veggan’ instead. A vegan who eats eggs. Other people on instagram do that. This must be socially acceptable, right?
So, I continued to be ‘veggan’ for a little while, until I convinced myself I had to be vegan again. This cycle repeated itself every couple months, but with different exceptions every time. Some weeks I would be a vegan who ‘only’ ate dairy once in a while. Sometimes I would claim myself to be ‘veggan’. Others I would just not eat any animal products. This cycle went on for a couple of months, until I told myself that if I really wanted to be the ‘best’ at what I was doing, I had to be a 100% vegan. No more cutting corners, no more giving into cravings. Nope. I was going to lock myself in a box. A box where I felt safe, yet confined at the same time. Only then, I did not know it yet.
My experience with veganism
My first couple months of being vegan were actually wonderful. My daily intake was packed with loads of vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes, tofu, smoothies, oatmeal…you name it. I had more energy, I was less bloated, and felt like I was On. Top. Of. The. World.
After this amazing period of feeling reborn, my energy levels slowly started to drop. I was tired after just a couple classes, and came home every day feeling absolutely drained. I finally went to go see a doctor, who prescribed me vitamin B, because I was lacking in it. Problem solved, right?
My energy levels were still extremely low, and a couple weeks later I went back. This time, my vitamin B was fine, but I was lacking in iron and zinc. I got pills for those, too. (This is just an example that doctors don’t always have all of the answers. Sometimes, you have to dig deeper within yourself to find the root of the problem. Obviously, veganism was not working for me.)
I thought to myself that everything should now be fixed. I have pills for all of my deficits and I am eating a healthy and balanced lifestyle. A plant-based diet, no refined sugars, no saturated fats, a limited amount of gluten (even though I’m absolutely not allergic or even gluten-intolerant), and only ‘healthy’ foods. I felt completely in control.
Suddenly, I lost that control. I got home from school one day, I ate all the vegan snacks I owned. Popcorn, chips, cookies, pretzels, graham crackers, dates, peanut butter, cookie butter…everything. Before I knew it, I had eaten bags and bags of snacks as well as 1/2 jar of peanut butter and 1/2 jar of cookie butter. I felt so sick, afraid, and completely overwhelmed. I had no idea what had just happened.
Whatever it was, it happened every single day for almost two whole weeks. The last time it happened, just last week, I called my dad crying, telling him I was so sick of this continuous cycle of overeating and feeling like complete crap. I also reached out to my amazing instagram followers, explaining the situation and asking for advice.
Why was I overeating?
I got SO many wonderful suggestions, and even questions, asking whether I could share any of the advice I had received. OF COURSE I will share that advice, but before I do (in another blog post!), I had to make sure I had conquered this whole ‘overeating’ thing. The first step to doing that, and the #1 piece of advice I received, was to stop restricting. Without knowing it, I was restricting myself.
This whole ‘trying to be perfect’ and not allowing myself anything ‘unhealthy’, was causing me to overeat on these types of foods as soon as I got the chance. I took some time to reflect on all the areas where I wasn’t eating enough, and, you guessed it. My number one way that I was restricting was by being a vegan.
So I stopped being vegan…
I wasn’t allowing myself SO MANY good foods such as eggs, yogurt, grass-fed meats, etc, which was causing me to compensate in the form of binges. As soon as I realized this, I was off to the supermarket. I came home with a carton of eggs, a tub of Greek yogurt, wild salmon (that was on sale!) and some organic ground beef. After purchasing these items, I felt this HUGE sense of relief. I felt this sense of FREEDOM—something I had not felt in what seemed like ages.
That night, I had salmon with my dinner, and for the first time in forever, I finally felt SATISFIED after a meal. I did not immediately reach for handfuls of granola right after finishing my plate, nor did I feel the need to scrape out the rest of the peanut butter jar.
I did, however, enjoy cookies for dessert that same night along with all of the other sweets I was craving. THIS is something I now do every day.
Sure, I occasionally eat a little more than feels comfortable, but that’s part of life. The difference now, is that I no longer feel out of control when I eat foods that may not be super ‘healthy’. I eat what I crave, when I crave it. You don’t have to eat all ‘clean’ or ‘plant based’ to be ‘healthy’. Sure, I still love a good plant-based meal or vegan stack of pancakes or bowl of soy yogurt, but you’ll also see me raising my hand to a stack of fluffy Buttermilk Pumpkin Pancakes or a slice of my Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread. I mean really, I’ve only got one life. I’m not going to spend it with a label on my forehead.