I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while and when I asked many of you the other week what you wanted me to talk about, this topic, had the most hits. I was surprised and had so many thoughts flood through my mind.
Mainly wondering a few things. If people were/are feeling sick, experiencing low energy levels, and an overall sense of ‘blah’ maintaining a vegan lifestyle like myself when I was a vegan, curious to start incorporating meats again, or if their body is actually craving meat and wondering how to approach this.
When it started:
For me, honestly, it wasn’t necessarily a personal choice to be completely vegan, but more of a somewhat forced dietary choice that led me there from the digestive issues and the migraines that I was suffering from. I didn’t wake up one day and shout I AM GOING TO BE VEGAN. In fact, I enjoyed eating meat, eggs, dairy and fish- it is how I grew up and didn’t think twice about it. It gave me energy, made me feel strong, and satisfied long after my meals were finished. Then, after college and down the road, as you know, I started to experience severe digestive pain & long story short I was diagnosed with leaky gut, SIBO, IBS C/D as well as gastroparesis and on top of that I was experiencing some pretty heavy migraines regularly often causing me to spend some time at the ER. You can catch up on my part 1 and part 2 of digestive issues and healing your body in the links!
SO, after being hit with all of that, my food choices needed to be re-examined. Foods that I once loved: eggs, red meats, certain fish, and other non- related meat/protein sources were causing havoc on my body. Certain white fish and deli meat (nitrates) were causing my migraines immediately to flare and because of my gastropareis (which is when your body can not empty at a normal rate, note: this is very simplified, explained in detailed in links above) I could barely digest foods such as red meats. I would feel run down, extremely full from just a few bites, and the meat would feel stuck in my throat even! Since my body wasn’t breaking down, digesting, and processing any of these foods in my body, it would sit in my stomach/rot while I continued to add more food causing my SIBO and leaky gut to worsen.
Dairy was the first to go. Every time I ate dairy I would immediately become ill. Migraines, sick, extreme bloat, so it was a no-brainer and honestly that didn’t bother me. I knew I had a major problem with dairy. I then eliminated red meats and truthfully became fearful of eating fish because of a potential migraine attack. Salmon also made me feel terrible, so I stayed away. That pretty much, left fish out of my diet too. I never really ate bacon or sausages so much, so the only thing that was really left was chicken. I kept chicken in my diet for a while, because I had just given up so many foods what felt like immediately and it was super overwhelming and I felt pretty hopeless as to what I could actually eat. At this time I didn’t just give up certain meat, eggs, fish, dairy, I had also stayed away from certain grains, legumes, coffee, I couldn’t eat raw vegetables, and I was taking a CRAP ton of medication. If you are thinking, what the hell did she eat?! I was constantly thinking the same thing every day I would wake up.
During this time; I was eating copious amount of vegetables; sweet potatoes drizzled with tahini and nut butters, sugary smoothies filled with dates and bananas, chicken here and there, and really that was pretty much it. My nutrition intake was not balanced at all. I felt helpless, but also loved it. I felt in a sick weird way, cool and that I was super healthy. My body was craving this sugary lifestyle and that is all it wanted. I loved eating nut butters by the spoonful and justified it with it being my only protein source so it was OK, not realizing that the high fat content was hurting my stomach as well and causing IBS-C. My smoothies would be filled to the BRIM with dates, bananas, coconut water, nut butters and I would drink them down so fast and be bloated just as fast and feel so terrible just as fast. I was also always super tiny, but I started to realize that my pants weren’t fitting me, I was always bloated, inflamed really, and gaining weight fast. Not blaming it on my diet, I would blame it on the leaky gut, the SIBO, migraines, all these other symptoms and continue to take more and more medication and work out harder to sweat out the bloating and twist out the pain of my stomach in hopes my IBS would settle as well. Life on the outside was perfect, on the inside I was slowly withering away and becoming super depressed, so so tired, irritable, and self-sabotaging. Soon enough, I took chicken out of my diet, because every time I started to eat chicken, I felt sick; I couldn’t digest it, I would feel too full. I think it was also just a mental thing too and I was already feeling so terrible, that I just gave it up. Smoothies, bottomless bowls of vegetables, and juices just “felt” better, that’s what I thought.
It also made it easier at the time to label myself as a vegan when I would go out to eat, or be in a social setting instead of having to explain why I couldn’t eat certain foods. At the time I was still pretty uncomfortable with everything I was going through and I doubted anyone cared that, well if I eat red meat, I won’t be able to digest it and then it will get stuck in my throat or it will sit in my stomach blah blah. Yeah PASS!!
So basically, veganism just fell on to my lap with a big slap in the face and a whole lot of sugar that did not work for my body, but in a weird way, I stuck with it because I thought what I was feeling was normal and did it for about 5 years. This blog was started when I was a vegan! It wasn’t until 2 years ago that I started to incorporate meat, eggs, and fish back into my diet.
When & Why
I vividly remember one day sitting on my couch and reading about how much sugar intake is recommended for the average person (yes, I know, this is what I do….). I think I had hit an all time low at this point, because I was feeling so uncomfortable with the way that I was feeling:
extreme hard bloating
constantly craving sugar
3 PM tired/crash
always hunger/wanting to constantly eat
never satisfied after a meal
always bloated after a meal
skin issues (redness, breakouts)
& at the time the average was something like 25 grams a day and I was currently drinking a smoothie from a local juice place with the nutritional label on it, that read: sugars: 48 grams. I nearly lost it. One, because I had already had one that day and two because I was drinking these on the regular, multiple times a day. I, then started to calculate how much sugar I was consuming a day and realized that I was consuming anywhere from over 100 to 150 grams a day. I wish I was lying.
I realized that eating this way, this lifestyle wasn’t working for my body. Consuming high sugar smoothies, juices, juice cleanses, only vegetables, and being high carb was in fact hurting my body instead of healing it. It was simply worsening my leaky gut, contributing to my SIBO, causing more migraines, and triggering my IBS. That day, I went to the market and bought meat for the first time. I didn’t tell anyone I just did it, really without even thinking twice about it. I knew this was what I needed to do. I was tired of feeling miserable all the time and not myself. I was also experiencing some INTENSE cravings for meat. Couldn’t stop thinking about it AND my body was craving peanut butter hardcore; which is a sign that your body is deficient in protein. I wasn’t craving red meats, fish, nor eggs, but chicken and turkey. I subconsciously knew that my body wasn’t being fed properly and I was disrespecting it by trying to follow a diet that wasn’t right for ME.
Which is an interesting concept. Some people THRIVE on vegan diets, raw diets, paleo diets, vegetarian diets, high carb, low carb, whatever diet there is out there! When you think about it, that is pretty cool. It goes to show and prove that no two bodies are the same. We all need different foods, things, calorie intakes, sugar intakes, etc to survive and function at our best. Which is why there should be more of an understanding and less judgement as to what people are eating and why they are eating a certain way. Our bodies are constantly changing and it is important to listen to what it needs, craves, and wants because it is telling you something. What it is telling is, is exactly what it needs at that moment. Your cravings are a sign of something that your body may be missing or needs. Everyone needs to focus on what they need as an individual and worry less about everyone as a whole. When I was little I was full of life eating meat, during college and after, it caused many of the said problems above, but then after reintroducing it into my body, I felt alive again!
The first thing I made was turkey meatballs. Thinking back, I really don’t know why I just didn’t grill up a piece of chicken or something a little easier, but I was seriously craving turkey meatballs. So I listened. I followed some recipe, made them, and ate them. Nothing bad happened. In fact, I felt amazing. I was completely satisfied after my meal, I wasn’t bloated, I wasn’t tired, and was full until way past the time I normally ate dinner. I started out slow since I hadn’t eaten meat in over 5 years, I didn’t want to over do it and stress out my system. I first decided to stick with turkey and chicken and work my way into organic eggs and wild caught fish when I felt ready. It can be a big deal going from not eating meat, eggs, fish to eating these foods again. A big deal for your body, your mental state, your community (I had started this blog as a vegan), and your physical state whether it all be positive or negative.
I was also excited about this because it opened up so many doors for me in social settings, my own kitchen, and I felt that I was on a path in healing my body. I was determined to cut my sugar intake drastically down, incorporate a variety of foods in my body, eat more balanced and really tune in to what it needed. For the first time, I realized the importance of tuning in, listening to what my body needed and fueling it rather than following a certain diet or standard because it is the cool thing to do. The cool thing wasn’t working for me at all and I needed to take a step back and figure out what worked for me as an individual.
After eating meat I noticed that I was
more satisfied after meals
sugar cravings stopped
less hungry throughout the day
less tired/energy levels more stabilized
more confident in how I felt
To this day, I am still figuring out what my body needs. There are months, weeks, or even days, that I might not eat meat, or eggs, or fish. I may over do it on certain vegetables or get stuck in a rut with foods, but that is just how my body is. It is constantly changing and I try to eat as balanced as I can, while listening to what it wants to eat. I eat to fuel my body so I can have energy for the day, work out, be social, life my life, have healthy skin, a healthy brain (!!!), and hopefully continue to heal my gut. I do not follow any diet, but rather live label free. This works the best for me mentally and physically. I did it without seeking the approval of others. I did it for my body and my health.
Mentally I don't feel constrained to a paper list of things I can and can't eat and physically I feel that I (I hope) am eating enough of a variety of proteins, healthy fats, vegetables, and whatever else falls in between to be happy, balanced, and healthy. This is what works for me and it may or may not work for you, but that is OK. The most important thing is to listen to what your body, your mental well being, needs in order to function and for you to feel your best. That is what matters.