Aiming to Thrive - The Evolution of my Diet

Monday, March 25, 2013

Photo by Nicole De Khors from Burst
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.


Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing Ashley. Being vegan is not a religion and it's not about being 100% pure it's about doing the best you can. At the end of the day you have to do what is best for you - you know your body better than anybody! Good luck to you on your health journey. xo

Lauren said...

Good for you listening to your body!! Evolution in diet is bound to happen with everyone. I feel great on gf vegan, but if I didn't, I'd evolve too. Thumbs up for being honest! :)

Gillian said...

Good for you for putting yourself first!

I like to call myself a "flexitarian". I eat 80% vegan but when travelling or in social situations love to share whatever bounty is available. When I'm in France I'll eat what my family prepares.

I struggle with this as I would love to fully commit to one diet, but I know the approach is not right for me, my lifestyle, or my beliefs (I don't believe in labeling or limiting, life is full of change). But I love the vegan/vegetarian community and feel very connected to it. I think Michael Pollan nailed it - eat mostly plants and eat the rest thoughtfully and in moderation.


C. said...

Oh Ashley, I love this post and I love you darling! You have put into words everything that I have been battling the last few months.

Being gluten free is first and foremost with me, it's a necessity. Everything else comes after that. Yet I have found that I have gotten caught up in the excitement of being 'vegan'. Yes, I have felt the best I have felt in a very long time, and have found other sensitivities through it (like dairy). Unfortunately I have forgotten to be kind to myself, to my body and really listen to it.

No one person is the same. In body, mind or spirit. We all have different paths, and the real treasure is knowing where your own path is, not in following someone else’s.

I feel the same way, I can't go back to eating meat, I'm just not interested, I have a hard enough time with hormone imbalance, and I can't justify the harm it does to animals and the environment. I will continue to find my own path, the journey has been so rewarding in many different ways!

I too, will be enjoying the gluten free, dairy free, whole foods focused vegetarian way :)

Thank you for sharing your heart!

Anonymous said...

BTW - the comment from 'C.' was me! I got a little confused with where to sign in ;)

Dani said...

I love you no matter what you eat!

Chris Vollick said...

Another great post, Ashley!! Listening to what your body is telling you and adjusting accordingly is the smart thing to do!! I remember Bill Clinton saying in an interview that he found the most healthy option was a "mostly" vegan diet to maintain things like cholesterol. Keep up the good work!!

Linz said...

I think listening to one's body is always the best way to go, and we may have different needs as time goes on. Being open to change and listening to what makes us thrive can only be a good thing.

Wonderful post!

Anonymous said...

Lovely blog, and congrats for finding what works for you!

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