Since beginning my weight loss journey in 2006, my diet has been in constant evolution.
I first started by cutting out the crap, cooking more and eating more fruits and veggies. Eating healthier was an integral stepping stone for doing an elimination diet to help manage my Crohn's (and within two weeks being symptom free) and then in the summer of 2009 going vegan.
And for a long time, being gluten free and vegan was a great thing for me. I felt healthy. And symptom free. And happy. It felt like the right diet for me and was easy to maintain.
And then I started to question whether my diet was still the most optimal. With health being the primary focus of my transition to gluten free veganism, I wanted to ensure that I was still thriving. I was confident that I was making healthy choices and was nutritionally balanced, but I just started to wonder if it was still entirely right for me. I wasn't feeling awesome all the time and started to doubt that I was giving my body everything it needed with the foods that were available within my dietary choices.
When I was in St. Lucia last year, the doubts started to creep in even more. Some big conversations about maintaining a gluten free vegan diet that was also lower on the glycemic index and giving my body what it needed in times of stress made me feel like I was suddenly at a tug of war with myself. It felt so awful because being vegan had become such a big part of my identity and I wasn't sure that I was ready or willing to give that up. It was no longer just about the food.
It somehow felt wrong to be doubting my choices, but rationally I knew that I needed to do what was right for me. My diet was in constant evolution based on how I was feeling and the information that I had about nutrition, but this felt bigger than that. With all that I had learned and believed about being vegan, could I fathom the thought of changing that?
I knew that I didn't want to go back to eating meat again - it didn't feel like the right decision for my body / digestive system and the ethical side of veganism / vegetarianism just made that a no-go for me. Cow dairy was also a no-brainer as I believe that it was a huge contributor to my Crohn's symptoms and I felt so much better without it.
With all of this to consider, the support of my fellow retreat-goers and a heart to heart with Meghan, one morning I had some eggs with my breakfast. Eating eggs after not doing so for three years felt very foreign and bizarre, but following the meal I felt really good. I bought my first carton of organic, free-range eggs when I returned from St. Lucia and started having scrambled eggs with salad and veggies a few times a week for breakfast.
And I started to feel like I was thriving again.
I felt energetic and stopped feeling faint from time to time. My hair became glossier and thicker. I felt good about the choices I was making with the types of eggs I was choosing and was happy to have some more variety in my diet. It was the right decision for me and where I was at. It's been about a year since transitioning to gluten free, dairy free vegetarianism and I feel awesome. I have vegan meals probably 75-80% of the time, with some eggs and goat/sheep dairy thrown into the mix. The added protein and variety has agreed with me.
The hardest part of this change for me has been coming to terms with the fact that I was no longer vegan. I wondered if I would feel hesitant to tell my vegan friends, or change my position among the community. I removed references to being vegan in all of my social media platforms and slowly started to embrace my choice and share it with people along with my rationale. Most people were very accepting and with those who weren't, I reminded myself that it was my life, my choice and most of all my health.
In the past couple weeks I've read a couple of really interesting blog posts from prominent vegans who have changed their diets. Both Kristen Suzanne (from Kristen's Raw) and Alex Jamieson have written detailed accounts of why veganism was no longer right for them, which compelled me to write this post. The reaction from the vegan community regarding both posts has been interesting, heartening but sometimes sad to read. I applaud both women for speaking so candidly about their decisions and have done the research to make the choices that are right for them and their families.
I love what Michelle and Lori had to say about changing and evolving diets in this post, and I truly agree with their sentiment that there is no perfect diet. I don't believe that there is one-size-fits-all diet for every person on the planet, nor do I believe that others should try to dictate or condemn the dietary choices of others. It's an incredibly personal decision, and at the end of the day we should try to make conscious, informed decisions about what is right for us and what will help us best to thrive.
And that's what I intend to continue doing in my gluten free, dairy free, whole foods focused vegetarian way.