In the summer of 2013, the Internet went abuzz with a website called ExVegans.com [currently disabled] that released a ‘Vegan Sellout List’. It’s mission? To publicly name and shame ex-vegans and share their photographs and other personal information with the world.
This site reminded me of my experience with veganism five years ago.
After being diagnosed with massive uterine fibroids, I went on an exploration of alternative medicine, which included ayurveda, iridology, reiki, acupuncture, reflexology and many more. Each modality helped me understand the many aspects of holistic health. Then I met a homoeopath in Auroville who also happened to be an ardent vegan. Homoeopathy was a system of medicine I was eager to explore, so I immediately booked a session. However, our session ended up being a spiel about animal cruelty and the need for me to turn vegan. Already an animal-lover and a vegetarian, I felt awfully guilty after this discussion and decided to turn vegan immediately.
It was the worst decision I ever made.
My condition worsened as I immediately lost lots of weight and began experiencing exhaustion and adrenal fatigue. Additionally, I was consuming large amounts of soy products—the main alternative to dairy for all vegans—which is a huge hormone disruptor, if consumed in excess. I learnt much later that soy milk, blocks of tofu, tofu noodles and other processed soy products should be completely avoided by women with fibroids.
What’s right for you may be wrong for another
Since then I’ve coached and conducted workshops for hundreds of women and have arrived at one resounding conclusion: we are all different. The concept that guides my work is called bio-individuality. Bio-individuality is based on the fact that when it comes to food, there is no one-size-fits-all. We are all unique and have highly individualised nutritional requirements.
Here are just some things to consider before deciding on the right diet for a person:
- Body composition
- Cellular structure
I have clients whose meal plans include white bread, bone marrow and cheese, and others who thrive on raw vegan fare. But this isn’t something I decide for them: we arrive at these conclusions upon carefully and patiently observing the body’s health and energy after consuming different kinds of food as well as understanding their very unique body/mind/lifestyle composition.
It’s true: One person’s food can be another person’s poison.
Being tolerant of other’s food choices does not make me an animal hater
Let me be clear here that when I propagate bio-individuality, I’m not standing for animal cruelty. I donate to animal shelters, participate in events that raise awareness about factory farming and personally believe that most people on this planet are likely consuming more protein than is needed by their body [especially in America]. But I don’t believe in using guilt, fear or any other scare tactic in changing people’s eating habits. This is akin to religious fundamentalism, whose followers—blindly married to their beliefs—are willing to commit any or all crimes to further their propaganda.
So how do we decide what’s the best food plan for us?
It helps to work with a health coach or nutrition expert who is willing and open to working with your individual nutrition needs. Here are some of my tips:
Trust your body’s intelligence
We try and override our body’s intelligence by intellectually deciding what to eat. Instead, we need to get better at simply listening to and observing our body’s signals. Energy and mood are great markers for whether a certain diet is working or not. Our bones, skin, hair, nails and whites of eyes will indicate the health of our internal organs. Try eliminating certain foods from your diet for a few weeks to see how you feel without them.
Harmonise with the seasons
Spring and summer are seasons when the body naturally detoxifies. It’s the perfect time to embark on a vegan, vegetarian or raw food diet. Nature provides us an abundant bounty of foods that are light, uplifting and cleansing during this time. Similarly, during autumn and winter, our body starts to prepare for the colder months and craves fatty, creamy, heavier foods. This is a good time to eat a high-protein, high-fat diet as these foods are more readily available then.
Always know the source
For most of our settled history, human beings have raised and consumed animals. Our ancestry plays a big role in deciding whether or not a vegan or vegetarian diet is appropriate. There is, however, a stark difference between ancestral and modern-day consumption—and that difference is reverence. Traditional cultures [such as that of the Native Americans] held special rituals during October’s harvest season, thanking their brothers from the animal kingdom that would be hunted down in the months to come. In India, the sacred cow was raised on the farm, fertilising our crops, sharing our labour, providing milk for the family. We have lost this connection with our animal brethren and that is the worrisome part about animal consumption. We don’t know and we don’t care: an attitude that is turning out to be dangerous for our bodies as well as our environment. Pasture-raised animals that are treated humanely will nourish us very differently than commercially-raised animals that have been abused and fed antibiotics and GMO feed.
Like all relationships, our bond with our body becomes deeply rewarding and nourishing when we learn to truly listen: with an open and curious mind and without judgement or pre-conceived notions. When we make space for that communion, we can experience what John Muir explains eloquently: “The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fibre and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing.”
I’m sorry to hear that you ran into issues with transitioning to a vegan diet. When people hear “vegan” they often think of foods like tofu, but one doesn’t have to consume soy to be vegan. There are many other wonderful foods to eat, such as almond and flax milks, beans and lentils, quinoa and grains, and seitan (and of course fruits and vegetables).
Any time you drastically change what you’re eating (and not eating), you’re going to need to make adjustments along the way. I found that making sure I eat enough calories (esp. whole grains) and healthy fats (avocados, nuts, seeds), I’m able to maintain my weight and energy. I highly recommend working with a supportive registered dietician who can assist with adjusting what you’re eating to find the right balance.
Saying that going vegan was the “worst decision you ever made” may be a way to get people to read the post, but its sensational title is off-putting to those who choose to be vegan for ethical reasons. You may feel like it was the worst decision you ever made, but it was the best decision for the animals.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as “humane” meat and milk. All farm animals are ultimately killed many years before their natural lifespan. The cow’s milk that we drink means that the baby calves get none from their mothers.
Honoring our bodies means honoring the bodies of all animals, both human and non-human.