It’s 4am. I can’t sleep.
I am thinking. And thinking. And thinking.
I know that I need to write all of these thoughts down.
I feel the need to write and share what is going on in my spinning brain.
In case you are wondering, my recovery from anorexia is still going.
I am still trucking along.
I still have my breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
I still buy myself a cookie when I want and eat it with joy.
I still challenge myself and have pizza with the kids and ice cream thereafter.
I have not abandoned ship.
But there are big issues at hand.
For the past few months, I returned to a plant-based diet. A little back story, as some of you reading this blog may not be aware that I was vegan for a period of time after the birth of my children, but then went back to an omnivorous diet a few years later. Why? Well, I was getting dizzy, weak, and overall just felt pretty BLAH. I had always loved animals (and still do!), so my decision to go plant-based was one based in ethical beliefs, not purely for trendy health reasons. Obviously, it distressed me that the food I was eating (beans, legumes, seeds, nuts, grains) could possibly be the cause of my odd physiological ailments. So I tried implementing more Vitamin B12 into my diet. I supplemented with chia seeds and hemp and tried incorporating more avocado and healthy fats into my meals. I read books and blogs and articles. I tried eating raw, eating cooked, eating timed meals, eating freely. I tried every possible solution I could to help me feel alive and thriving plant-based, but nothing worked. I still felt pretty dang awful.
So I went back to eating animal products, and although I felt a twinge of guilt when I bit into a hamburger for the first time (the poor cow!!!), I knew I needed to eat a variety of foods to feel, well, alive. My odd physical symptoms went away, and I continued eating subway sandwiches and L&L plate lunches for the next few years.
So when I returned to being vegan, I did so with some trepidation. I didn’t want to feel physically awful again. I wanted to “do it right” this time. When I told my husband (who has been plant-based for the past eight-ish years) that I was going to eschew chicken and fish, he asked me why. And so, I stated to him my reasons:
I love animals.
I love the environment.
I want to do my part to help keep others and our world operating at an optimal level.
And those are all true, valid, important reasons.
I still remember reading Charlotte’s Web in the first grade and bawling my eyes out because Wilbur was going to be slaughtered. I don’t think I ate bacon or sausage for a good five years thereafter. I saw (and still do see) animals as wonderful creatures that God created.
I still remember in elementary school learning about how ocean pollution destroys aquamarine life, how plastics can overrun landfills, and how we need to do our part to help save our planet. Ever since then, I have always reused plastic bags (even before it was mandated by the law) and looked to buy local food products in hopes of doing my part to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.
Being a plant-based eater seemed to be a way to show my ethical/moral compass (loving animals and the planet), so that was what I told my husband and others as the reason why I went back to eating vegan.
But also, if I am being totally transparent, there was another reason I went back to being plant-based.
Deep down, I was fearful. Fearful of consuming animal products because they may make me fat.
It is incredibly sad and I feel silly and ashamed to admit it. But I was (and honestly, still kind of am) scared.
Scared of what? Scared of the unknown amounts of fat and calories in a piece of steak. Scared that I would/will start to eat a piece of chicken thigh (not breast!) and suddenly gain a ton of weight. Being vegan took a lot of the guesswork out of the equation. A plate of ribs? Sorry, can’t eat that. I’m vegan. Chicken katsu? Uh-uh. I don’t eat animals.
Sadly, I went back to being plant-based because I couldn’t deal with eating like a normal person.
And so for the past few weeks, I’ve been really thinking about my decision of returning to veganism…and I knew that my motivations in doing so were not 100% ethical. Outwardly, I was embracing an unfettered, unhindered lifestyle, one that showed that I was putting the welfare of others (animals and the planet) before my own. Inwardly, I also struggled with the idea that I actually needed to put those reasons on the back burner for the moment and really focus on recovery from disordered eating.
There are TONS of research and articles and blogs and books devoted to the notion that true recovery occurs when a person is able to eat without restriction–and being vegan is TOTALLY restrictive since eating in this manner requires an individual to omit a whole food group.
I thought I could do it. I thought I could “prove all the haters wrong.” I thought I could be the outlier, the one to “recover” and “get better” from a restrictive eating disorder by restricting.
Yeah, I know. It sounds crazy. And inwardly, I knew what I was doing wasn’t quite right. You know that little bubble of doubt that sits in your stomach when you think about something that just doesn’t seem right? Have you ever heard that quiet Jiminy Cricket voice that says, “No no, think again!”? Those inward intuitions started speaking to me a few weeks ago. And so, I prayed. I sat down and asked God to guide and direct me, to make it clear WHAT I should do to make this recovery journey one THAT WOULD ACTUALLY STICK.
And wouldn’t you know it, He answered. Almost immediately, my body literally started rejecting this idea of being a veggie eater.
First, I started to feel weaker during the day. More tired. Not as peppy. More foggy-headed. Then, my legs felt heavier, my eyes felt drier and my vision was not as clear. I just felt, well, pretty darn awful.
I didn’t change anything in what I ate or how much I slept or how I trained. In fact, I was even sleeping more because I was so fatigued.
I knew part of the problem that I felt physical poop-ish (for lack of better adjective) was that I just wasn’t getting the energy and nutrients I needed. My diet, which seemed so altruistic and admirable, was causing me to slowly degrade, physically and emotionally. And I knew that God was telling me that the way I was eating was not what He wanted for me.
This revelation is a hard pill to swallow. A big, hard, trying pill. I want to help the planet. I want to help animals. But I certainly cannot do so if I am too weak to DO ANYTHING. And how morally wrong would it be to claim to want to help the world by being vegan, yet am really eating a plant-based diet because I’m actually scared to eat a piece of chicken I don’t know the nutrition facts about?
In the end, I knew/know that eating unrestricted, unfettered, without reservation or fear IS the key to full recovery. And sadly, I cannot do it being vegan. I need to be able to challenge myself by eating a hamburger and not being concerned about how much saturated fat there is in it. I need to be able to order a three-egg omelet with pancakes. I need to challenge the notion that there are only certain types of food that are “good” or “bad” and that in fact, my body needs all types of nutrients in order to live and thrive.
So what does this all mean? It means that last night, I ate chicken for the first time in….well….I’m not sure. It means that I am eating chicken again tonight. It means that I am actually thinking, “Wow, I think I want to eat some fish this weekend and maybe a burger later or corned beef for dinner.”
Going back to an omnivorous diet doesn’t mean that I have totally abandoned my core ethics and beliefs. I am still aware of my actions, I still don’t use leather products, I still don’t use soaps or cleansers that have been tested on animals, and I still teach my children that animals are God’s wonderful creatures that should be shown love like any other person.
Ironically, eating ALL types of food versus just plants actually makes me a more real, ethical person.
Eating all foods means that I am trying to totally heal myself and understand and accept that I cannot do it being plant-based. It means that this revelation doesn’t make me a failure or a bad person–it just shows that I need to take care of myself so that I can be the individual that God intended me to be…and that person is one with strength, energy and drive to live a selfless life that gives back to others (animals included!) and makes a difference (for the better!) in our world.
It is incredibly scary to write this post. I feel like my journey is never linear, never predictable, never ordinary or planned. But that’s ok because I know that life is the same way. We are all constantly changing and evolving and making mistakes and getting right back up and rectifying those errors. So, thank you to those who have actually read this long, rambling post. ;-). I will be sure to update you more on this journey…and if you would like to share about your experiences in recovery (or even from going plant-based back to an omnivorous diet), I’d love to hear from you!