Why I stopped being vegan is the follow up to part one of my story and my journey into becoming a Holistic Nutritionist. As you learned in part one, I didn’t grow up living super healthy nor did I have any interest in my own health and wellness besides just wanting to ‘look good’. So when my boyfriend (Sam) and I moved into this new condo in Toronto, a whole new world of cooking opened up for me. It also opened up a deeper issue that I had been hiding from, my messed up relationship to food and with myself.
Moving into the big city!
At first when we moved in, we ate pretty average and of course went out to eat quite a bit, being right downtown we took advantage of all the places around us to get our foodie on. I worked my full time job, came home (hungry) and whipped up whatever I could as quick as I could. Sometimes, I was on top of it enough to take something out the night before for dinner, but most of the time, the last thing I was thinking about was what to make for dinner. I relied on easy weeknight staples like baked fish, chicken, pasta and roasted veggies (sometimes…). I was experiencing some digestive issues, hormonal problems (bad PMS) and didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. Truthfully, I don’t think there is a worse feeling than being uncomfortable with yourself. Always looking in the mirror and judging what was staring back at me, studying my thighs that touched, my stomach which was never flat enough and picking at the muffin top that seemed to just be getting bigger. I wasn’t overweight by any means, but I certainly wasn’t healthy, I didn’t work out or move my body at all and I felt like crap.
Enter the Plant-Based Era:
Around this time, the vegan or plant-based diet was really starting to pick up steam and I was seeing it more and more. Being the rather impulsive person that I can be, I watched the documentary “Forks Over Knives” and it really opened my eyes to the health benefits that going plant based could entail. I thought to myself, “I used to be vegetarian before, I could do this” although giving up dairy was going to be hard, I made the decision that I was going to go plant based. Initially, I said that I would do this for 30 days and see how I felt and go from there. Like I said, I can be pretty impulsive and I have a competitive personality, so if someone said I couldn’t do something, you can bet I am going to go hard AF and do it. In this case, I was just being competitive with myself. It started out simple enough, I was eating foods I had never heard of and really getting into salads like I never had before. I felt amazing!
The Label Defines Me:
The extra bit of weight that I had started falling off and I started weighing myself daily just to see the number on the scale decrease. In one month, I lost a good 8lbs, which is quite a bit when you only weighed about 117 lbs to start. I remember seeing the scale hit 107 and I thought I had hit the jackpot. I acted like it too, I was smiling and happy and couldn’t believe all this extra energy I had. I even started drinking green smoothies every morning and actually liking it (well after I invested in a Vitamix I did). When the scale hit 105, I thought to myself, I have never weighed this little that I can remember. When I excitedly told my good friend, she had a surprised look on her face and looked at me and said, “you better be careful not to lose anymore.” She was concerned and rightfully so, I was on a dangerous path that I couldn’t really see yet, it had only been about 2-3 months at this point and I was becoming obsessed. Obsessed with my weight, what I looked like and rigid with my food choices. If it wasn’t vegan, I didn’t have it, no question about it. I became consumed with veganism and it was driving people crazy, it was all I talked about and I thought I knew everything about health at this point. Just sitting here thinking about it makes me shudder and I sincerely apologize to all those people that I annoyed with it, because judging what other people eat is NEVER OK.
I let the label of being vegan completely consume and define me. I was no longer just Jaclyn, I was Jaclyn- the vegan and I was introduced in this way, proudly so, to new people. Everyone knew I was vegan, it was who I became. The reason the label felt so good at the time was that it somehow made me (in my mind) a better person and it gave me control over foods that I didn’t have before. At work, when we would celebrate a birthday and have cake and treats, I could abstain and control myself because it wasn’t vegan. This was something that I never felt I could do prior, I was that girl eating Nutella out of the jar with a spoon at midnight.
By taking on this label, I masked my own insecurities and built up new ones that I couldn’t yet see.
The Vegan Food Dilemma:
Months went on and I still loved eating this way. I can honestly say I didn’t crave meat or dairy and I felt fulfilled in every way. But the panic I felt whenever I wasn’t in control of a situation involving food was overwhelming and I really don’t know how Sam didn’t want to murder me… ok so I know he did at times. December rolled in and enter all things holiday. Ever since my mom passed away and my family kind of fell apart, Christmas just didn’t feel the same. At this point, I hadn’t spoken to my dad in months and I really just wanted to go away for the holidays to escape all the drama and the reality that this was my new life now. So Sam and I made plans to go on a cruise with his family over the holidays, we were going to spend Christmas at his parent’s condo in Florida and then hop on a cruise for New Years. It was going to be amazing, I needed this vacation!
After the initial happy and excited feelings wore off, enter the vegan food dilemma. What was I going to eat on this cruise? Cruises are not known for being vegetarian friendly, never mind being vegan friendly. So I googled the cruise we were going on and sent in a special request form for my dietary restrictions. Of course when we boarded, they had no idea what vegan was and offered a vegetarian menu for me. Pretty much everything had cheese, so I had to make many substitutions, but I made it work for the most part. The stress this caused me was pretty ridiculous when I think about it now, but I was all-in as they say and didn’t want to give up after everything I had said about veganism being the best thing in the world.
Enrolling in Nutrition School:
As the months wore on, I kept up with being strict vegan, getting more and more interested in cooking and nutrition along the way. I followed bloggers and nutritionists religiously and once I discovered the Institute of Holistic Nutrition (IHN), I knew that this was the next step for me. My day job was going nowhere and I felt helpless and stuck there, which is never a good feeling. I had spent years doing exactly what everyone always tells you to do, work hard and you will move up. Sure, you may not love what you do, but this is what all people go through when they are faced with a “case of the Monday’s” every week. Except mine was everyday and I dreaded my subway commute and the thought of pretending that everything was ok when it was far from it. Soon, the best part of my day became thinking of what I was going to make for dinner and I spent far too much time on Instagram, scrolling through other people’s feeds and getting inspiration.
Why I Stopped Being Vegan:
Once I started school, I quickly learned about all kinds of other diets and my eyes and my mind were wide open. I was also experiencing a lot of bloating and digestive issues at this time and even though I was doing everything right in regards to eating vegan, it wasn’t working anymore. After being in school for about 3 months, I started incorporating eggs into my diet and then slowly chicken and fish. My vegan label (that I so proudly) wore for about 1 1/2 years started to fade and instead of feeling like a failure, I never felt better and instead embraced my new found love for whole foods. It wasn’t until I truly reflected on things that I have seen how far I have come. I know that having a healthy relationship with food and with myself is what has made all the difference and this is something I want all women to experience. Eating a varied diet filled with real foods and repairing my relationship with food has done this for me and I know this can do the same for you.
I am a firm believer that going to Nutrition School saved me in so many ways. It saved my health and my sanity and it gave my life purpose and passion.
Where I am at Today:
This pretty much brings me to today and my new way of living and looking at food. During school, I of course went down the path that all food had to be organic and dabbled in different diets (paleo, gluten free and grain free) but I always came back to whole foods. I have come to realize that stressing out about food and if something is organic or gluten free are not for me. I love pasta too much to ever give it up and although I mostly cook with ancient grains like spelt, that doesn’t mean I don’t indulge in white pasta here or there. My diet and my life are not an all-or-nothing thing anymore and I couldn’t be happier.
I have learned to be in tune with my body and I know what makes me feel best and surprisingly a lot of that has to do with how I am feeling at the time more than what is actually on my plate. If I am stressed out about food that I am eating, enter digestive issues like bloating and gas. If I sit with intention, enjoy my meal and the company I am with, I am just fine. This missing link between our emotions and food is a topic that is often times ignored and I make it a point to look at these types of issues when I work with clients.
This isn’t a post about being vegan or not, or the ethical implications of such, as I am well aware of them. This is just my journey and how I ended up where I am now. I’ll repeat what I said above- judging what other people eat (or don’t eat) is NEVER OK.
Thank you SO much for reading my story.
How do you classify your eating style? Do you label it or do you let your body tell you what it wants?