I recently became a fan of a website called Mind Body Green (MBG), which aims to help individuals attain “mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, and environmental well-being” (You can learn more about their mission here). In addition to offering online classes and training on nutrition and fitness, MBG mainly offers a variety of articles written by experts in nutrition, health, and more. While browsing the site recently, I landed upon an article by Nadine Greeff called “8 Real People Share Why They Stopped Being Vegan,” and it made me wonder, would any of the reasons noted by these former vegans ever drive me to stop following a plant-based diet?
Weight struggles. In the article, two of the former vegans, Sherrie and Ali, explained that they either gained or lost a lot of weight after going on the vegan diet. Like these women, I have some friends who have had similar experiences, most of them finding themselves thinner than they had been in years. I personally lost some weight myself when I first transitioned to the vegan diet, but I think that’s because I didn’t fully know what I could eat. After doing some research about what my body needs and how I can get it on a plant-based diet, my body quickly returned to its original weight (I should note that I am neither underweight or overweight–I’m fairly average). On the opposite side of the spectrum, however, I have also experienced weight gain, but this has been a result of me over-doing the vegan junk food or eating too many breaded foods that are not whole grains. As noted by Ali, it’s important eat a well-balanced diet, but that goes for everyone–vegans and non-vegans too.
Eating disorder behaviors. Two of the former vegans, Emma and Shannon, expressed that the restrictive nature of veganism became too challenging for them, while another former vegan, Kate, discussed how this restrictiveness specifically triggered eating disorder behaviors. I have never been diagnosed with an eating disorder, nor gained or lost an excessive amount of weight, but I have definitely gone through phases of crash dieting and restrictive eating. When people tell me that it’s too hard to go vegan because it’s so ‘resctrive,’ I sometimes I wonder if I can’t identify with this because of my previous experience with restrictive eating. Strangely enough, I feel that veganism has opened a lot of doors for me when it comes to what I can eat. I’ve actually spent more time getting creative in the kitchen than ever before. If you’re feeling too restricted on a plant-based diet, I highly recommend taking a moment to browse some vegan recipes on Pinterest or purchase an entirely vegan cookbook, like Isa Does It, to learn what a wide variety of dishes is still available to you.
Health. Finally, former vegan Ali noted that eating plant-based left her with low energy and craving meat. She claimed that since returning to a diet that includes eggs and fish, she “feels so much better,” implying that she felt this way because “I had to listen to my body.” I agree that Ali needed to listen to her body; however, was there not a plant-based way that she could meet her body’s clear need for more protein? It’s really hard to say why Ali was struggling so heavily with fatigue because we don’t know what she was eating: Was she actually eating plant-based, or was she just eating vegan? Because those are two very different things. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I strongly believe that there are different diets for different people, but no matter what diet you pursue, you should evaluate what you’re eating: For instance, you may be following a ‘healthy’ vegan diet, but are you actually eating a plant-based and following the vegan pyramid, or are you just eating vegan junk food and not ensuring that you meet your dietary needs?
Despite what this may post may imply, I feel that all of these former vegans had very valid reasons for choosing to move away from a plant-based diet. However, I think there are things they could have tried to do differently before abandoning the lifestyle. As mentioned, these are issues that I struggle with myself: My weight has always been a challenge, my eating behaviors should always be under scrutiny (as in, am I eating to meet my dietary needs, or am I being unhealthy (e.g. am I eating enough?), and my health is a never ending battle of finding the right balance. But right now, I’m happy trying to manage all of that while on a vegan diet. What do you guys think? Would you ever stop being vegan for any or all of these reasons?
The featured photos were taken by Denys Nevozhai and Taylor Smith. Find more of their work at unsplash.com.