Why I’m Not Vegan Anymore

I’ve been dreading writing this post. The little voice in my head has tiny feet that are firmly planted in the ground, digging in its heels, shouting “I don’t wanna!” But it’s a topic that I know will resonate and possibly help others, and so, here’s the truth: I’m not vegan anymore. And I have a lot of complicated feelings about it.

For those who don’t know, I was a vegan endurance athlete for 3.5 years. I even wrote a handy-dandy guide for newcomers to the vegan lifestyle, and I still wholeheartedly support every word I wrote. Being plant-based fueled me through GORUCK Challenges, Tough Muddershalf marathons, two triathlons and a Half Ironman. Not to mention, dozens of other road races and countless training hours. Suffice it to say, veganism was kind to me (and animals!) for years. Until it wasn’t.

Somewhere along the way, my head started getting very foggy. I was fatigued; constantly exhausted. But why? I was taking my B-12 every day, eating tons of leafy greens and colorful veggies, drinking bounties of water, working out reasonably, sleeping a normal amount… it didn’t add up. I went to a doctor and had my bloodwork done– everything was normal. Iron levels? Great! B Levels? Superb! They had no answers for me.

For several months, I had a nagging in my back of my head, gently poking me. I ignored it. And ignored it. And continued ignoring it. And then, I found myself covertly looking up “vegan to omnivore transitions” online… just poking around on the interwebs to see what showed up. After several weeks of this, finally, I made the decision to try — just try– eating meat again to see if it helped.

For anyone else who is thinking about making the transition back, I do not recommend doing it the way I did. I basically just jumped back in head-first– you really ought to take about 6 weeks and eaaaaaaaase your way back. The first non-vegan thing I had was eggs, and I wanted to die. Nooooo bueno for my stomach. Then I tried some tuna a couple days later. My stomach tolerated that a little bit better, but it felt very, very wrong. The next day, chicken. A week later, steak. RP was treating it like his own drama reality show, texting me “how’s it going? What are you eating next? Tell me when you take your first bite!” The whole process was strange and hard, and I say that with full appreciation for the fact that I am fortunate to have food to eat at all, and am grateful for the animals that gave their lives for my meals. Believe me, those things are not lost on me– I am grateful for both.

The first couple of weeks were the hardest, mentally. Physically, I feel better…and worse. It took about two months for my body to get used to everything. I’ve noticed that digestion is nowhere near as fast as it was before, but putting on muscle has been easier (though, I started 5/3/1 around the same time, so obviously that is a major contributing factor). I don’t feel bloated the way I did when I was eating beans every day, but I also don’t slim down as quickly as before (again, this is due, in part, to the fact that I am lifting heavy and running less). The fatigue and brain fogginess is gone, but I also don’t feel as light as I did while plant-based. So, as you can see, there are pros and cons to this transition. I don’t weigh myself (and even if I did, I’m lifting heavy now, so the scale would be irrelevant), so I can’t tell you whether that’s changed. I toned up a lot after switching my diet, probably from eating more protein and less carbs. So, it’s a trade off– I feel better in some ways, and not as good in others. But, getting rid of the fatigue and brain fog was extremely necessary for me to function in my daily life.

Emotionally, it’s very, very hard. Not only did I meet a lot of wonderful people through the vegan/vegan athlete community, but I don’t feel any different about animals than I did when I was plant-based. I love all animals. Factory farms are unspeakably evil, and should be eradicated. The conditions for “farm-raised” animals vary greatly, and either way, I don’t support killing sentient creatures– except, since I’m eating them, I guess monetarily, I do now? It’s hypocritical, really, that I would never be able to kill a chicken in front of me, and yet I’m willing to eat their meat when someone else does. As you can see, I do not feel at peace with my omnivorous decision, but for the time being, it is what I physically need. I take moments before meals to thank the animal I’m about to eat for its sacrifice. I do not eat unconsciously, and perhaps I will return to veganism again, someday. I’m sure this post will receive its fair share of opinionated comments from both sides — that’s fine. I don’t deny that my decision is a selfish one. But for now, this is where I’m at.

I would like to mention that there are many, many people who live happy, healthy, vegan lifestyles for 20+ years without problems. Every person’s body is different, everyone has different needs. I still advocate for veganism, and at the very least, conscientiousness as it relates to food, agribusiness, animal rights, etc. As with all things, you know your body best. Do what works for you.

Do you have any questions about vegan-omnivore transitions (or vice versa?) Comments? Anything you’re curious about? Please let me know in the comments.

And as always, Remember to breathe.

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