It seems there are a breadth of vegan bloggers who have made their way to the ex-vegan blogger category lately, due to the fact that they equate their vegan diet with anorexia, orthorexia, or other forms of unhealthy restriction. As is to be expected, a discourse is taking place -some of which is healthy and supportive (Thanks, Sayward!), and some of it, as you can imagine, is not so much.
Veganism and ex-veganism are topics that are near and dear to my heart. I am vegan. I have struggled with orthorexia, anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive exercise myself. I too, at a time, was an ex-vegan.
I was a freshmen in high school when I saw my first “Why Vegan?” pamphlet, and the pictures contained within would not erase themselves from my brain. I had already been vegetarian for about a year, and decided that it was only logical to set a date to go vegan. (October 30, 1998 for the record!) I was 14 at the time, and this was long before unhealthy food behaviors entered my stratosphere. (that didn’t happen until age 24.)
I remained vegan through the worst of my eating disorder. I remained vegan through the beginning of my recovery, despite the recommendations of my doctor, my therapist, and various support group members. I knew that, without a shadow of a doubt, one could have a positive relationship with food on a vegan diet, that it wasn’t all about juice cleanses and water fasts. (Hell, at this point you could replicate the standard american diet while remaining vegan- not that I recommend this!) My veganism didn’t shake through getting an eating disorder, nor did it shake through obtaining a healthy weight for my body size. My veganism shook when my stomach seemed to stop working.
I have written before about my struggles with IBS, and my regimen to take care of my ever-sensitive guts. Things are good with my belly, now- great in fact. But I want to tell you that at a time, I felt completely hopeless.
When one is drastically underweight, and does the work to get healthy, it is a total mind trip. Your body changes and feels totally foreign. Additionally, digestion tends to be tough. This is true for a lot of people and for me, it was no different. In my recovery, I was absolutely plagued with intense bloating (to the point where I was asked if I was pregnant ALL THE TIME. ) Every time I ate something it was like it attacked me from the inside out. Bloating was just the beginning, and it only got worse from there.
Although I had been in recovery for about four years, I was starting to fear food in an entirely different way. Beans became off limits, and grains too- both because every time I ate them I had instant pain at best, and diarrhea at worst. I started looking into a raw vegan diet because I had heard from many different sources that it was wonderful for digestion. I tried it, and it was even worse than a cooked vegan diet full of grains and beans was. I had a multitude of tests done to determine my problem, and when I was diagnosed with IBS, I was almost disappointed. IBS seemed like no big deal, so why was it ruining my life?
I started to feel like everything I ate needed to be incredibly cooked and pureed in order for me to properly digest it, and even when I did that, I sometimes STILL had flare ups. I became anxious and withdrawn, embarrassed to go out with constant stomach trouble, and was downright lonely. For all my healthy eating advocacy, I sure wasn’t feeling very good.
In September of 2012, I joined my crossfit gym, and of course, was introduced to the idea of eating Paleo (although to my coaches credit, they ALWAYS supported my choices, and were never dogmatic about eating Paleo or anything else). Despite this, one of the (many) health claims about a Paleo diet is that it just so happens to be awesome for digestion, so it piqued my interest. I knew I wouldn’t be willing to eat meat, but I became intrigued about the idea of adding eggs to my diet and going Paleo as a vegetarian.
After an intense amount of research, I decided that I would add pasture raised eggs to my diet, and only after I was SURE that the hens had a good life. (I used this egg score card to determine which companies I might call to ask questions to). Sadly, I told my friends I wasn’t vegan anymore. Everyone I knew had seen me slowly subtracting foods from my diet in an effort to feel better, and most were just happy that I was adding something back in.
The true and honest real talk is that I *did* feel better once I added eggs to my diet. My digestion improved drastically, not because of the eggs, per se, but because I was eating less fiber. Let me say that again: I did not feel better because the eggs worked some miracle, they just replaced other protein sources that were irritating to my guts.
In the nine months that I ate eggs I learned a ton about fermenting, soaking, sprouting, and cooking with kombu to make grains and beans more digestible. I wasn’t paralyzed by stress and fear of eating (which totally messes up my stomach) and was able to get into a healthier mind set around food. At some point, I got a “weird” egg from my farmers market (it was too gross to go into detail about here) and I was just done. I realized I had gathered the tools to get a vegan diet to be more digestible for me, and that even if I didn’t eat meat and dairy, and even if I was getting the most compassionate eggs possible, they were still an animal product, and I am grossed out by consuming things produced by animals. My slide back into veganism was easy, and it felt like home.
What didn’t feel like home, was the backlash I got from (some of) the vegan community while I was gone. People assumed I was eating fully Paleo, that I had gotten sucked into the “Crossfit dogma” and was “one of them” now (C’mon guys, really? us vs. them? Not cool.) My face was put on a website called exvegans.com (which started as a database of ex-vegans and quickly turned to graphic carnage shots of factory farming- I have not linked to the site because I don’t really recommend anyone support the people who made it). The description of me simply read “Lacy Davis- ex vegan. Now has a weird obsession with eggs.” I heard through the grapevine that many people thought of me as disingenuous and a traitor because I was no longer vegan. Ouch.
As I said, I did come back to veganism and I am all the happier for it. My digestion continues to remain strong with just a little extra effort, and a good chunk of my work with Super Strength Health is helping people go and stay vegan. While I remain dismayed at the poor treatment I received from parts of the vegan community, I am super clear that those people were not and will never be my people, and that ultimately, it is incredibly important for our compassion to of course include animals, but also humans. Some of them are struggling, and for all the righteousness that moral outrage may produce when it comes to ex-vegans, it simply doesn’t help.
I have been, and will continue to be, vegan for the love. My lapse taught me that more than anything, my diet has to feel safe and healthy for me, while remaining compassionate. It is completely and totally possible to remain vegan THROUGH various illnesses, but it might take some tweaking, trial and error, and even a break.
I choose to be one of the vegans that will be here if and when an ex-vegan decides to come back.
This super simple recipe will make your entire house smell amazing.
My housemate, who is not a quinoa fan, described it as the best quinoa she’s ever had.
Make it, immediately, and let your taste buds sink into creamy, rich, garlicky, heaven.
|Garlic Coconut Quinoa|| |
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 5-10 cloves of whole garlic, depending on how much you hate vampires
- green onions for garnish
- Add quinoa, salt, and coconut milk to a pot or rice cooker and stir (since coconut milk is more dense than water, you will need to stir a few times throughout cooking to ensure your quinoa is evenly fluffy)
- Peel garlic cloves and pop them into your quinoa/coconut mix whole (trust me, they are going to cook so much that they will be mild by the time you eat them)
- Cook quinoa as instructed on the package. Once all the liquid of the coconut milk is absorbed, check to see if the quinoa is done to your liking (it should be fluffy, not seedy). If not add ¼ to ½ cup of water and cook until absorbed.
I get asked about my workouts all the time, and I find it really flattering. Certainly, I am a fit person (and I know this), but it’s wonderful to know that people, like, notice. Anyway.
I have been thinking about posting my workouts for quite some time, but have hesitated because I have a little fear. My workouts are just that-mine. I want to talk about them because they’re super fun and exciting to me, but I am not telling you to do any single little bit of what I’ve done. I am not a personal trainer, and mostly, I just do what my body says to do. Some days that is lifting heavy, some days it’s a fair amount of cardio, and for goodness sakes, at least once (but likely twice) a week, I chill. I write and I read and I listen to podcasts and I think about things that aren’t exercise. It’s good for the soul.
Since I come from a background of exercise addiction and compulsive overexercise, I have rules for myself, and those rules feel great. I think they are reasonable rules for most people to follow. They are:
1) I don’t exercise more than an hour a day
2) I don’t exercise more than three days in a row
3) I don’t lie or skip things I have committed to to get a workout in.
4) I don’t schedule my life around exercise. I schedule exercise around my life.
These rules exclude walking and bicycle commuting, although I will say that if I know I am going to have a bike-heavy day, I am likely to take a day off of formal work. How’s that for progress!
SO. At this point in time, I don’t train for endurance events (although my rules are totally flexible and this could change), and I exclusively exercise to feel rad in my body, not because of something I ate, and not as punishment. Please read about my workouts with curiosity, but not a measuring stick. You do you! You innately know way better what is going to work for your body than me- I’m sure of it.
Monday: Formal Crossfit workout. Front squat 3 rep max ( I worked up to 120) and than a cardio burst: three rounds for time of thirty 20 lb. slamballs, twenty burpees, and ten front squats at 75 lbs. This workout took me forever (like 20 minutes, which is like six years in crossfit terms) and was HARD. I drank my post-workout Vega smoothie in one giant gulp.
Tuesday: Tuesday’s workout was really fun. My friend and client, Brian, was interested in learning a few things about lifting weights, so I accompanied him to a 24 hour fitness to show him the basics. First of all, normal gyms, WOAH. SO MANY MACHINES. I looked them over and was like “well Brian, I can’t tell you anything about these. Sorry!” Then we settled into a rusty squat rack in the corner and went over deadlifts, cleans, jerks, snatches, thrusters, and squats. God, why does every lift have to sound so dirty?
I did all this with just the bar as weight, but we lifted them a fair amount of times as practice. Does this count as that whole “lift light for many reps” thing? I’ve never done that before.
After lifting we did a quick cardio burst, one that he made up and was terrible (I seemed to have blocked it out, but I know it was like 10 minutes.) and one that I made up. Mine was a 21-15-9 rep scheme of 30 lb. dumbbell snatches, burpees and sit ups.
Wednesday: Rest day! I did end up walking around a lake near my house (about three miles) while listening to a podcast I like, though.
Thursday: Five mile run around said lake and my neighborhood.
Friday: More rest! Both Wednesday and Friday were really work heavy, and I was super stoked to just give myself space to not try to fit exercise in. I know many people struggle with exercising MORE, and I totally support finding moments for sweat when you can never seem to get it together. I am the total opposite, though. Rest days are perfect for me, but they never come naturally.
Saturday: 2 mile run to the farmers market with stair sprints in the middle. Kett and I then went on a date in San Francisco that ended up being a five or six mile jaunt around the city. It was lovely.
Sunday: 1 mile swim! This is a big deal for me. When I was a kid I almost drowned in the ocean, and have since been basically terrified of water. Last summer I had a job that gave me a residence with a pool for about a month and I decided to make it my business to learn how to swim laps. Turns out, I love swimming. My goal last year was to swim a mile, but I never quite made it. I came back to Oakland and had “swim” on my to-do list for roughly a year. On Sunday I decided I was tired of the dialogue in my head around it (I didn’t know where a public pool was, I was worried everyone would be super good and mow me down, I didn’t know proper pool etiquette) and I just went for it. I swam a mile (though it did take FOREVER, I probably broke my own time limit rule) and the stuff I didn’t know I picked up as I went. Although I havn’t swam in a year (and I barely did before that) I was better, stronger, and faster than last year. I’m going to go ahead and attribute that to weight lifting and core strength.
My goal next week is to lift more. Lots of cardio this time around!
How do you like to move?
All workouts fueled by massive amounts of vegetables, duh.