It was 2014 and I was seventeen when I first became vegan. I was in my final year of school, clueless on where my future was going to take me, and I stumbled across an entire community of young girls on the internet who were living vibrant, inspiring and plant-based lives. You know when you find someone completely refreshing online, and they spread pure happiness? That’s what these girls did for me. I’d look at their instagrams and feel so utterly connected to a bunch of early twenty-something year old girls I’d never met, that I couldn’t help but smile to myself behind a screen. And they were plant based? They were VEGAN? I’d never seen veganism normalised so much in my life.
I was an on again, off again vegetarian for years before I went vegan. I hadn’t eaten red meat since I was a kid (apart from one sausage at a footy match – it was 4°C in the middle of winter and I was freezing!) and always went on and off chicken and fish. I had definitely thought about the ethics of eating meat before, and often found myself second-guessing my chicken sub at work, but the affect on animals, the planet and my body that other animal products had never crossed my mind before.
So one night I set myself up on the family desktop and watched documentary after documentary on the animal food industry. Cowspriacy, Forks over Knives, Earthlings, Vegucated. Less than 10 minutes after my binge, I walked out and announced to my family that I was going vegan.
Because of my history with being “vegetarian” in the past, I was mostly left with blank stares from my dad and brother, and while my mum tried to be a tad more supportive, I could tell she didn’t think it would last.
Two years later, I was still vegan. I’d given up trying to explain to my friends and family what I was doing and why. I couldn’t stand the conversation about how eggs, even if they are eggs coming from my uncle, aren’t good for our bodies. No one wanted to listen, so I tried not to force it on anyone. That wasn’t how this worked. If someone chose to do this, great, but if they weren’t ready I wouldn’t push it. And let’s be honest, most of my family wasn’t ready for it. That was okay.
But in May of 2016 I was admitted to a mental health facility and for the first time in years I had to trust someone else with my cooking. After getting all my blood work done I found out that I was low in almost everything. I wasn’t healthy.
This didn’t really come as a surprise. Unfortunately I have a lot of allergies, and most of those directly influenced how healthy I could eat as a vegan. I am allergic to nuts, soy (tofu), legumes (including lentils and chickpeas) and most seeds. This meant that I was mainly living off pasta and fruit and vegetables.
Because I had dealt with disordered eating patterns before, including binging and purging, my doctors were not happy letting me continue with how I was eating, and they suggested that I start including dairy and eggs again. I instantly refused eggs (I had grown to hate them overtime) but I was willing to start including some milk and cheese again.
Although I wasn’t eating a lot of these products, it meant that they were able to provide me with a healthier breakfast and lunch option. But I continued eating mostly plant-based for dinner.
Six weeks later when I was discharged, I honestly felt better within myself than I had in years. This may have mostly been because I was now on new medication and had sorted out a lot of mental issues I’d been dealing with, but mostly I wasn’t feeling prolonged hunger, or weak from not eating enough nutrients. I knew straight away that I wasn’t going back to veganism.
I wasn’t going overboard with the dairy. I was sticking mostly to greek yoghurt, some butter, a bit of hard cheese, and maybe a snack of chocolate before I went to bed.
As someone who had dealt with restrictive eating in the past, looking back on the past two years I could see those patterns emerging. I was either using carrots and zucchini as pasta and eating them with a tomato based sauce or binging on hot chips whenever I went out for lunch or dinner anywhere with friends or family. I was not giving my body enough nutrients to function properly as a vegan.
I didn’t live in a big town, so on top of my allergies, there weren’t really many places I could find a filling, nutritious, vegan meal.
I have definitely backtracked a lot since I first decided to go vegetarian.
I work at McDonald’s and often find myself attracted to deep-fried chicken products. And although letting myself give into craving and eat chicken again was a big step for my mental health, I now know that chicken does not make me feel my best and I need to stop again. Because I’m eating a lot of deep fried chicken at the moment and I am definitely feeling worse for it.
So going forward, I definitely want to research vegetarianism a lot more. My understanding of what is and isn’t vegetarian still isn’t great. I know that some cheeses aren’t vegetarian, but I haven’t given myself time to learn properly what is what. And it’s the same with lollies.
The ideal situation I would like to be in, is knowing fully what products make my body feel the best. I don’t want to tie myself to a label, but I do know that I don’t want to be eating meat anymore. I definitely don’t want to be eating meat anymore.
Hopefully this is a bit interesting for some people. I know it’s always controversial when someone quits veganism, but hopefully people realise this was the only option for my body if I wanted to do the best for myself.
I’m definitely not where I want to be, and I’m definitely not the healthiest that I could be right now, but I’m getting there and I hope people can see that!