As many of you have probably heard there have been two popular vegan bloggers that have recently changed their vegan ways. That is to say, they aren’t vegan anymore! Jordan Younger from The Blonde Vegan, and Carrie Forrest from Carrie on Vegan, have both recently wrote posts revealing that they began eating small amounts of animal products and are thus, no longer vegan. This got mixed reviews from their fans. Some supported them, some were angry, Jordan even reported receiving death threats! (Which doesn’t really sound like the compassionate vegans I hope to know).
It’s perfectly reasonable to find going vegan challenging, it’s perfectly reasonable to find any change in your life challenging. So I wanted to take a look at both of their posts and see how this could possibly happen. After reading them, it became very clear to me where they had difficulties. I’m afraid these same challenges may happen to more of you, so I want to address this problem, and offer some resolutions. Some bad habits to avoid. The reason they both gave up on vegaism, isn’t that it was too hard or too limiting, it isn’t because they needed protein from animal flesh, and it definitely isn’t because they suddenly decided to have revenge on animals. The real reason is that they were too worried about being healthy. I know, that sounds like a good thing. I mean aren’t we all aiming to be healthy? Of course we are, but there is healthy, and then there is stressing about every morsel that enters your body. About having the perfect diet. No mistakes ever.
I want to clarify that I am not a doctor, and these opinions are my own, my intention is to provide insight on the choices that were made, how they can be destructive, and how to avoid them.
The Slippery Slope
Before going vegan, many people think of the diet as very limiting. Then you go vegan, and that magical vegan glow begins to happen where your body sends you good energy vibes, and you feel better than ever. Suddenly the diet doesn’t seem limiting at all. With an abundance of plants to choose from there is more than enough to eat, and you love it. You want to keep up this awesome feeling, so you may begin to do a little research making sure you really are getting enough protein, or what to say when people ask you about your calcium intake. As a result you begin learning more about nutrition, that kale really is amazing, that processed food (even vegan processed food) really isn’t great, and that olive oil isn’t as good for you as you thought it was. So you up the kale intake, you cut out processed food and the oil. Sounds good right?
Then you join gluten free craze, begin to fear sugar, certain grains, and before you know it, you are restricting so much that you are hardly eating at all. Your diet becomes so limited that, that your attempts at perfect nutrition are beginning to backfire. Your diet isn’t varied enough and you aren’t getting the nutrients or calories you need.
As Jordan said in her post, “Having grown up with a notoriously sensitive stomach, I already avoided wheat, fried foods, sauces, oil, flour of any type, some legumes and many grains. Then I started reading about raw foods, digestion, food combining, the space at which meals should be eaten apart from each other, and the dangers of even all-natural fructose. (And let’s not forget my bout with 80/10/10 raw veganism.)”
Carrie Forrest was pretty much in the same boat saying in her article, “Pretty quickly after my cancer diagnosis, I started viewing foods as either “good” or “bad” and I questioned every bite as to whether or not it would feed cancer cells. Food became the enemy.”
It isn’t that any of these one eliminations is terrible, after all if you are actually celiac, you obviously should avoid gluten. It’s just that when you begin restricting yourself so much you likely aren’t feeding yourself enough of anything. “I started living in a bubble of restriction. Entirely vegan, entirely plant-based, entirely gluten-free, oil-free, refined sugar-free, flour-free, dressing/sauce-free, etc. and lived my life based off of when I could and could not eat and what I could and could not combine”, wrote Jordan. She was suffering from whats called Orthorexia, an eating disorder in which there is a severe obsession with eating healthy to the point of it backfiring and becoming damaging. While Carrie didn’t claim the same eating disorder, she mentioned similar patterns in her own eating. It wasn’t just pursuing the goal of veganism, it became about the limiting. To only eating the most perfect foods. By categorizing foods as good or bad. Instead of feeling fulfilled, food became a challenge. If you are against eating any animal products, and then you layer that with no fried foods, no sugar, no wheat, no sauces(!?) no legumes, barely any fruit, etc. I’m gonna go ahead and say that this isn’t a sustainable way to eat.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Luckily for these ladies health, they both have realized their harmful diet choices, and began loosening up about what they were eating, and their health began to come back. “It’s time to advocate a lifestyle that doesn’t involve restriction, labeling or putting ourselves into a box.” Carrie wrote. Having read a ton of books and watched a ton of documentaries on nutrition, I personally don’t believe they needed to eat animal products to gain their health back. That being said, I can understand how it is important for both of them to stop restricting their food, as it is the restriction that seems to be the problem.
“Some days, I had wild and ravenous sugar cravings that took over my mind and hindered me from focusing on anything else.” Jordan said in her post. I’m of the belief that if you have a wild sugar craving, perhaps you should, I don’t know, eat cake? That’s what I would do. One piece of cake isn’t going to doom your entire health. Just don’t eat cake everyday.
So how do you become a successful thriving, easy going, happy, scrumptious vegan? Easy. Eat! Eat lots, eat often, eat what you like. If you feel like you may be wandering into dangerous limiting territories, I have written a list of 5 potentially harmful patterns that at one point or another, I have fallen into myself… that is until I encountered a big bowl of popcorn, or decided to make cupcakes!
Caution 1. Only eating super foods
While super foods are great, (I mean kale, yum!) There is really nothing wrong with a good old standard carrot, some beans, or a bowl of brown rice. Chill out on the super foods, they alone will not fulfill you.
Caution 2. Worrying About Every Little Thing That Enters Your Mouth
I read all ingredient lists making sure there isn’t any animal products, but I am not obsessed with every food being perfectly 100% healthy. Even Dr. Joel Fuhrman in his book Eat to Live recommends 90% of your diet being healthy, giving you the remaining 10% to be less healthy. So veggie dogs, ideal? No. Delicious? Yes. Join your friends a the BBQ and stop stressing.
Caution 3. Obsessing About Micronutrients
Yes, you need to get calcium. You need vitamin C. You need iron. You need a full range of vitamins and minerals, but do you know what is awesome about this? It’s really easy to do! As long as you eat a variety of whole plant based foods, you will get everything you need. See, again this isn’t about limiting to the six most perfect foods, its about having a large variety of fruits, veggies, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Yum!
Caution 4. Only green sludge for me!
While I am a big fan of green smoothies, it amazes me how much some people really get obsessed with them. I see feeds on instagram entirely based on green smoothies. And what’s this trend with green smoothie bowls? Eck! Not for me thanks. I do love a green smoothie to start my day, but I think it is a good idea to chew your food. Go ahead. Use your teeth.
Caution 5. Fear of Fruit
Yes, fruit has sugar. It’s also natural unrefined sugar that is surrounded by a ton of fiber, water, and a boat load of nutrients. Get over it, fruit is good for you. Eat it. If you are worried about gaining weight from fruit, just look up “fruitarian”. You won’t see too many large people in that group.
So if veganism is new for you, or if you have been doing it for years, just be aware of the obsession with perfect health that can somehow creep into our brains. Eat an abundance and variety of whole plant based foods and don’t sweat the small stuff. Be the healthy and happy vegan you set out to be.