Why Veganism Almost Killed Me

For dinner this past Monday, I had  a vegan breadfruit curry. Simple ingredients, curry powder, garlic, red onions, ⅛  cup of chopped cashews and a ¼ cup of chopped breadfruit. It was absolutely delicious and filling. Finger licking good. 

Fast-forward, to 3am, I am lying in bed, and pain is shooting from the middle of my stomach outwards 

and I am burning up from the inside out. The pain is making me delusional. I would like to say this was my first time with this excruciating pain but unfortunately it wasn’t.  

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For those of us that are “health” conscience and even for those of us who aren’t, the age-old mantras of exercise regularly and eat “healthily” have been pounded into us since childhood. For me, the first part: exercise or movement has always been easy to integrate into my lifestyle on a daily basis. I try to follow the basic following guidelines:

  • Does this movement get my heart pumping?
  • Can I get a bit of sweat dripping? and finally but most importantly,
  • Do I enjoy this form of movement? or Would I continue doing it if after a few weeks of it, I gained weight from it?

I’ve learned that the only movement that I can stay consistent with is one in which I love participating in.

On the other hand, nutrition science is hella confusing for most people, even myself. The media and commercial industries are always introducing new food and diet fads for people to obtain the “perfect body” or to “get healthy”. It is constantly changing and evolving: eggs vs. no eggs, vs. egg whites, red meat vs. no red meat, red wine- good for the heart, or not?, protein powder, liquid diets, the smoothie craze, the list is endless.

What does it mean to “stay healthy” and who defines the “perfect body”? According to the media, not you.

The newest fad on the market is veganism, and more and more of my friends are converting to this restrictive lifestyle because it is the newest, “healthiest” way to live. Now, before you get up in arms,  I have nothing against veganism as a personal dietary choice. Everyone has the right to make choices for their own bodies. However, I am anti-healthism and against commercial industries that benefit from the expensive meat free lifestyle and blanket messaging. Nutrition is not cookie cutter and not every diet is healthy for every lifestyle or everybody. Eating should follow guidelines similar to my movement rules:

  1. It should feel good in your body.
  2. You should enjoy eating it.
  3. It should help you remain in balance and feel whole.

Although I try my best to eat in balance, my own dietary restrictions often make it difficult. This is going to sound crazy to many of you, but I am sensitive to most fruits and vegetables. Specifically, my stomach does not digest fibrous material and some sugars well. The microbes in my belly ferment FODMAPS and produces painful gas, stretching my intestines, resulting in bloating,  abdominal pain and cramping.

 FODMAPs are small chain carbohydrates (sugars and fibers) that are often malabsorbed in the small intestines. The acronym FODMAP stands for fermentable, oligosaccharides(sugars), disaccharides(lactose, milk sugars), Monosaccharides (excess fructose) and Polyols (sugar alcohols).

Unfortunately for me, I am unable to eat most of my favorite fruits and veggies and have to limit my lactose intake. I know…it’s incredibly ironic to be a wellness professional that is basically allergic to “healthy” foods. The first three months of my diagnosis, I was always confused about what to put in my mouth, because contrary to widespread nutritional messaging, the healthful foods that were “good” for me, were also the ones that would make me deathly ill. Imagine, you’re at the bar with your friends, shooting the shit and snacking on some delicious wings.giphy1

As you’re talking, you mindlessly reach for a celery stick, that you usually love dipping in ranch dip between wings, when you’re friend reaches over and smacks the celery out of your hand, yelling” “What the hell is wrong with you? Are you trying to kill yourself?”

To the rest of the bar, that had gotten quiet after her outburst, this must have been a very strange scene and must have thoroughly confused.

Me… I was confused too and a tad embarrassed. She was right though, celery was no longer a healthy pallet cleanser for me at that time.

I had to accept the truth. In order to live a healthful lifestyle for myself I would have t to say goodbye to sweet mangos,  tangy apples, legumes, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and of course pallet cleansing celery.

Maintaining a balanced diet as a vegan, requires that individuals find ways to consume enough vitamins, minerals and proteins from purely plant based sources. One of the easiest, and cheapest sources of plant rich proteins per volume are legumes. Unfortunately, for someone like me with a dietary restriction, it is incredibly difficult to get the nutrients and proteins that I need to survive and thrive solely off of a plant based diet, making it unhealthy for my body specifically.  Unless my preferred way of kicking the bucket is death by veggie.

In addition, eating vegan does not automatically make a person healthy. In my practice and in my friend group, I have encountered vegan folks that are convinced they eat “healthily”; while mostly consuming baked apple pies, french fries and whole avocados on their salads. None of which holds much nutritional value but are high  in fats whether you make the distinction of “good” or” bad” fats.

So my point is this… nutrition is not easy but that also does not mean you have to jump on every fad diet train.  Not every fad diet is for you. It’s not that they are bad or that veganism is bad but be aware of who benefits from this new “food science”, who has access to it and who does not. 

Some quick tips when making decisions about what to put into your body:

  • Know your body and listen to it carefully when it comes to what you do or do not eat.
  • Remember: Healthy is a fairly subjective word depending on where you are in the world and your specific body type, composition and activity levels.
  • Do your own food research and keep a food journal about how different foods feel in your body when you eat them. Does certain things make you gassy, what gives you an energy boost, what makes you sleepy.
  • Do not attach morality to how or what you or anyone else is eating. Do not get into the habit of justifying why you ate one thing over something else.
  • Be mindful of your goals in relation to your body to insure that your food consumption matches those specific goals.
  • Finally, make sure that your motivation for your food habits are not motivated by weight loss or other people.

Eat and be happy, be mindful, stay active and most of all listen to your body. Your body knows best.

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Thanks for reading yall. I’m all about building community and shining light on different aspects of wellness. If you like the article, help me build community by sharing, liking and commenting.

Peace & Love

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