I kindly ask that you read this entire post before leaving any comments. While I am no longer vegan, the recipes on this blog will always be vegan friendly and cater to all types of eaters. Thank you for your continued support.
I have been putting this post off for a while because I’ve been really nervous about how it would be received. On one end, I was worried that friends and family who were skeptical of a plant based diet to begin with would have an “I told you so” mentality. On the other hand, I worried that those who believe a plant-based diet is the only healthful way of eating would be critical and not understand my choice. The bottom line is, I won’t ever be able to please everyone. This is the best decision for me and I am here to share my story in hopes it helps anyone who is in a similar position as I was.
I first went vegan in the Fall of 2015 and I felt really good. I had been pescatarian for a few months prior to that, and decided to cut out all dairy to help my hormones, digestion, and skin. Eventually, eggs were the only animal products remaining, so I figured why not try veganism? Initially, it was a change I made for my health. However, it quickly became a deeply ethical stance after learning about factory farming and how animals end up on our plates. To me, veganism wasn’t a diet, it was a lifestyle, and I was in it for the long haul. For myself, the planet, and the animals.
My skin was the clearest it had ever been, my energy was high, my sleep and mood improved, my periods we easy, my running got better, the benefits were seemingly endless. I was so excited about sharing my cruelty-free lifestyle with others, so eventually Eat With Clarity was born. I was passionate about sharing recipes and health tips with others and was excited to see the vegan movement grow. However, when my health started to deteriorate last year, I hid behind the camera. I didn’t look well, I didn’t feel well, and thought if I showed my face it would turn people away from the vegan lifestyle. I never intended for my blog and account to be solely about food. However, I had virtually no energy or desire to show my face to the world, so that’s what it became.
I like to think I was a really responsible vegan. I always took my important supplements (vitamins D, B12, and even a multivitamin for good measure), didn’t try extreme fruit only diets, month long water fasts, or any of the other ridiculous trends I’d seen others doing.
Where things went wrong
About a year and a half ago I started to lose extreme amounts of hair in the shower. I’m not talking about a few extra hairs in my brush or on my pillow. I mean huge handfuls that would require me to clean the shower drain at least 3 times over the course of a 5-10 minute shower or else I would end up taking a bath instead.
I hate to sound superficial, but hair loss as a young woman is terrifying. It’s scary to feel like your body is going against you and scarier when you don’t know how to stop it or how bad it’s going to get. I didn’t share any of this until now because it’s hard dealing with health issues and broadcasting them publicly. Everyone seems to have an opinion about what you should and shouldn’t do, so I kept this to myself for the most part. Frankly, I don’t love sharing this now. But I think it’s important to include these details and share my story because what I went through is incredibly common. So, if you too are dealing with hair loss or other health issues, please know you aren’t alone.
I knew I needed a change
In addition to the hair loss, I experienced a lot of digestive discomfort and acne so severe I could hardly sleep. No matter what I ate, right after dinner I was always bloated, gassy, and felt painfully inflamed. I played around with different foods, macronutrient breakdowns, and a host of other things, but nothing seemed to help. No matter what food I cut out or added back, it stayed the same. Some of the discomfort went away after my first parasite cleanse, (long story short, I had parasites) but a lot of it stuck around. My skin was terrible, my energy was low, and it was really hard finding foods that didn’t irritate my body.
I saw countless doctors and specialists. Eventually, after getting multiple rounds of blood work done, I learned I had several nutrient deficiencies despite my diligent supplementation and varied plant-based diet. My iron, B12, and vitamin D were extremely low, as well as iodine, selenium, and a few others. The iron deficiency was ignored by my doctor for almost three years (this is why I am so passionate about questioning your doctors – this never should have happened). As you can imagine, I felt like crap. My body was shaking, extremely fatigued, I felt constantly out of breath, and it seemed like I was losing more and more hair every day.
I eventually supplemented around 180 mg of iron per day (for reference: the daily value for women my age is 18 mg) but my levels hardly budged. This high dose lead to even more digestive discomfort. I was emotionally and physically drained, isolated myself from the rest of the world, and knew I needed a change. My primary care doctors refused to run additional tests (such as my thyroid) to get to the bottom of my health issues, (they said it “goes against the system”) so I finally sought out a Naturopathic Doctor who could help me dig deeper. We did a stool test and additional blood work to figure out what was going on.
My body (due to compromised gut health and parasite infections), was unable to absorb iron and other nutrients in my food and supplements. In order to absorb nutrients, I needed to heal my gut. There were many foods I had to eliminate to heal my gut such as certain nuts, grains, and legumes. Continuing on a vegan diet without these foods would lead to further deficiencies. I contemplated making the change for months before I actually did. Veganism had become a huge part of my identity over the years and I didn’t want to let it go. I love animals and didn’t want to contribute to any suffering, but I also didn’t want my own health to suffer.
While I was not dealing with any life threatening conditions, the symptoms I had served as very stark warning signs that something was wrong and needed my attention. If I continued to ignore them now, they would merely lead to more severe health issues down the road.
Up until about a year and a half ago, I looked at my body as exactly that, a body. I thought about food in a very singular way. I just ate what I ate and didn’t have to think too much about it. Food was food. It gave me energy and kept me alive. But it wasn’t until recently that I truly started to look at food as medicine and something that could radically transform my health.
I tried EVERYTHING
In the past year and half I have seen more doctors and specialists than I care to count. I’ve seen conventional doctors, naturopathic doctors, homeopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, nutritionists, dietitians. You name it, I’ve tried it. I’ve had countless tests done, from hormone panels, to thyroid, iron, heavy metals, vitamin A, D, B12, iodine, and more.
I tried DOZENS of supplements (at one point I was taking upwards of 50 supplements a day just to feel normal). A lot of progress was made thanks to certain supplements, but not enough to get my health back to normal. I love animals, I care about the planet, I don’t want to contribute to the suffering of any living being. But I couldn’t ignore the fact that my health was getting worse.
As I mentioned, despite taking a very high dose of iron, my levels hardly rose. However, once I changed my diet and focused healing my gut, my levels shot way up.
Your body speaks to you. Your job is to listen.
In January of this year, I decided to add collagen and bone broth into my diet to help my gut. I was scared to take the first sip of bone broth, maybe even a little grossed out, but as soon as I did, I could hear my body saying ahhh, yes, this is what I need. I drank it a few times a week, and added collagen to my golden milk lattes and slowly started to feel better. Eventually, I added in eggs, wild caught fish, and organic chicken a few times a week. I soon noticed I no longer had the gassy and bloated feeling after I ate. Changes certainly did not occur overnight. Over time I started to feel much better, and my blood work reflected that.
To me, veganism was always about compassion. Compassion for others, the animals, the planet, but also for myself. Despite my morals screaming at me to keep eating a fully plant-based diet, my body was screaming for something different. I couldn’t continue eating in a way that was not contributing to my health. Is eating an entirely plant-based diet a kinder way to treat the animals and the planet? Without question, yes. But I needed to find a happy medium and treat myself kindly. While you can get every nutrient you need (except B12) from a plant based diet, your body processes them differently than if they came from animal sources. Despite personal and ethical beliefs, this is a fact we can’t ignore.
I wanted to see how my body would react to these changes before I spoke about them. In no way was I trying to be secretive. I wanted to be in a good place both physically and mentally before I shared this change. I have no ulterior motive for changing my diet. The sole reason I changed my diet was because it was necessary for my health.
My experience adding in animal products
After many years and many thousands of dollars, I am very happy to report that my hair loss has stopped (for the most part), and is (slowly but surely!) growing back. My energy is higher, I’m able to sleep through the night, my digestion is better, my skin has cleared, and my blood work is much better. My health issues didn’t vanish overnight and my dietary change hasn’t healed everything. Diet is only one piece of the health puzzle, albeit a very important one. I do not blame my health issues on veganism at all. This is my story and experience, and do not want to give the vegan movement a bad rap.
I understand my decision may be confusing or upsetting. However, I want to be clear that a fully plant-based diet is an incredibly healthful and nutritious way of eating. It can (and does) work for a lot of people. However, I had to honor the fact that it was no longer working for me. There is no one perfect human diet. We are all unique beings with different needs, ancestral backgrounds, and physical chemistries. I used to believe that some variation of veganism could work for everyone. But over the past year of dealing with my health issues, I realize this is sadly not the case.
Being a compassionate, ethical, environmentally conscious person does not have to be black or white. If every single person switched one meat based meal a day to a plant based meal, or swapped cow’s milk with almond or soy, that would greatly help the planet and animals. Small changes go a long way and I think it’s important for us to do the best we can when we can. I do my best to be as environmentally and ethically conscious as possible while still maintaining my health.
When I heard stories of other people turning their backs on the vegan diet for health reasons, I would roll my eyes. I didn’t think there was any possible way animal products would promote health. I always thought said person couldn’t have been in it for the right reasons. My sincere apologies to any ex-vegan I ever judged along the way. I can now understand where you are coming from.
What this means going forward
The recipes on this blog will continue to be 90% plant based and always gluten and dairy free. The recipes that are not vegan will always have vegan options or alternatives. Certain recipes will contain eggs, fish, or chicken from time to time. However, I want this to be a place where ALL types of eaters are welcome, no questions or judgment. My ultimate goal will always be to inspire others to bring MORE plants into the picture. For the sake of our health, the animals, and the planet, more plants is an excellent goal. I feel amazing eating mostly plant based, but feel extra amazing with the small addition of certain animal products. I hope you can respect my decision and I appreciate all of your continued love and support. ♡