A few months ago I wrote about my journey into veganism, explaining how I got where I was, and my reasons for this journey. Years earlier, I had written a pair of posts explaining my reasons for giving up on vegetarianism, specifically around my ability to exert myself. Today's reasons for giving up veganism are far more complex.
Please keep in mind that these are my individual experiences. Everyone's experience is different, in some way, and I am not knocking veganism or vegans. This is my view, this is my journey, and this is my reminder to myself. I am speaking primarily about the food side of veganism, though I will dive into the other aspects as well, since they do apply. I also am fully aware of the system that I am supporting by eating animal products, and I'm doing my best to only support those that are still within the realm of humanity.
Disordered Eating and Consequences
These are technically two points, but I believe that they are intertwined. I could be mistaken, and I'm continuing to experiment while I figure this out. To say it clearly, I have a strong tendency to binge eat, and I also suffer from recurrent digestive issues. I believe that the binge eating is the primary cause of my digestive issues, but there are some food ingredients that correlate with these issues, too, and it's hard to dismiss them.
I've been keeping loose notes on what I am eating, in the form of online tools and also in a simple pen and paper notebook. The original plan was to keep track of calories, but, ironically, counting calories also correlates with binge eating, so I've stopped counting calories, and simply keep track of food, in the hopes that I can find some correlation between my digestive issues and what I'm putting in my mouth. When I found myself sick last week, for what felt like the 3rd week in a row, I was appalled to find that I had actually been feeling horrid for at least 6 weeks. (It might have actually been longer than that, because my records are by no means complete.) I had originally thought that this was all due to a blood donation I had made in November, because I had vague memories of the time before, when I also had horrid issues after a blood donation, but this predated it by more than a week.
My second thought was that it was gluten that was causing my digestive issues. I've seen signs of gluten sensitivity in my notes for some time now, and it expressed itself the last time I was vegetarian, too. A large portion of my diet had been filled with pasta and bread, as well as gluten-based products like fake meats and veggie burgers. I think this exacerbated an underlying condition, because after a few months on a vegetarian diet, gluten-containing products start correlating very strongly with digestive (and respiratory) issues. There's very likely something there that needs further investigation at some point. I am unaware of any tests that can confirm a gluten sensitivity, though. I'm not allergic to it (at least not on skin tests), and I've tested negative for Celiac disease on two separate (and quite different) tests. (At least I wasn't, as of several years ago.)
I cut myself off of gluten two weeks ago, but saw no improvement. I was still experiencing digestive issues a week later, and I was still bingeing. Furthermore, with gluten-based products gone, animal products gone, tomatoes and celery out, and me still doubled over in pain for several hours a the week, I found depression creeping in. I realized that I had to push the reset button, for my own sake, as well as for my family's sake.
The effects of vegetarianism even seep into my meat-eating self: today, at my mom's house, I found myself intentionally eating the accidentally burnt ends of the ham that she had cooked, so that it wouldn't go to waste. I know full well that no one should be eating that; that the cancer-causing compounds increase significantly in burnt food. I ate this after I was already full from dinner, and I then backed that already full binge up with some pineapple, in an effort to get some vitamin C into my body to help counteract the burnt food I had just eaten. This is not the first time I have done this, though this is decidedly different from the other binges, where my mind shuts off and I just put a massive amount of food in my mouth. This one was half conscious.
This one is hard to sugar-coat. I am far, far angrier when I'm not eating meat. I found this with vegetarianism as well, as mentioned in the previous posts. Simply eating some nut butter was insufficient this time. Adding animal products has almost completely resolved this.
Considering that I've started and stopped this journey based on compassion, it becomes really hard to continue on when you find yourself overflowing with rage. I know that being angry often correlates with being hungry for me, but I also found myself being angry after a full meal. I don't fully understand this, but I know full well that I'm far more calm when I'm not eating vegetarian or vegan.
It's also, in hindsight, a little odd. While I tend to agree with Buddhist teaching, I am not a Buddhist. If you were to pick a single philosophy or religion to align with me, the closest fit would be Daoism. This duality often expresses itself like this, though, and Buddhism is an expression of my yin. I work better when I am flowing between yin and yang, and not just spending so much time in darkness.
I did my best to fully embrace veganism in all aspects of my life, as I had when I was a vegetarian in the past, and in general, as I have done since I initially made the decision to try vegetarianism 12 or so years ago. Ridding my life of animal products, as well as products created by companies that test their products on animals, was part of this commitment.
The same two problems I had hit before came back, though. I had shed all of my wool to save my spouse some agony (she kept coming in contact with it accidentally, and she's highly allergic to it), and swapped this out with various synthetic fabrics after going vegetarian in July. I also picked up new, bunny-friendly skin care products around the same time. My skin handled the changes fine in August, but come November, as my skin dried out from the cold dry air, I found it increasingly difficult to justify. I haven't bought anymore wool, but I have gone back to several of my old skin care products that I know work on my skin, most of which are produced by companies that still conduct animal testing. I feel horrid about this, and I am continuing to look for products that don't do this and also don't cause my skin to break out (or worse).
Beyond all of that, there is the vexing problem of footwear. My foot measures, consistently 10.5 4E on a Brannock Device. In case you were wondering, there are no shoes or boots manufactured without leather or other animal products in that size. I've done my best to work around this, and very often I can get away with an 11, or an 11.5, or 12.5 (!), but they invariably fall short in some manner. The net result of my staunch refusal to buy or wear non-vegan shoes over the past several months is a persistent case of soreness on the sole of my food (most likely plantar fasciitis). It started a week or two before Ragnar, around the middle of September, with a new pair of running shoes, and has come and gone ever since. I suspect that it has to do with where the arch sits with the larger shoe size. I have, in general, been OK over the past few years running in shoes that are too large, but I was mostly walking and otherwise living in shoes that fit correctly.
(Yes, I realize that this is coincidence, and I could have developed the plantar fasciitis or whatever it is that's ailing me from something else. I'll back up my statement by saying that several pairs of shoes correlate very strongly with the issue, to the point where I can wear them for two days straight and cause this issue to flair up. There is some reproducibility there. The problem is that once it develops, it hangs around for a few weeks, so I've had to be very patient while figuring this out. I think my new boots are also causing the issue, but I'm still waiting for this latest flare-up to die down before I can confirm it.)
My Children, and My Closing Thoughts
My kids both look up to me, and my oldest kid tries very hard to emulate me, in her own way. When I say I'm going vegetarian, she says she is, too, and then backs it up with a "well, kind of...". To me, this means that I'm cutting out meat, and doubling down on the beans and greens to ensure I'm getting sufficient nutrients. To her it means that she's going "I don't like this" when offered meat and then still refusing to eat beans, or green vegetables, unless they're swimming in sugary or salty sauce. I am deeply concerned that I'm setting her up for an eating disorder later in life by continuing to set the example that I have been.
So, from here on out, I'm just eating. My own internal motivations will be my own. You might, from time to time, see my eating patterns shift toward something that looks an awful lot like a primal (paleo) diet, and you might also see it shift towards something that looks an awful lot like a vegan diet. These are my yang, and my yin, and I am in motion. My goal is to find balance, in my impact on my body, on my family, and on the world. I am still looking for answers as to what causes my bingeing, and what causes my digestive issues. I'm not certain I'll ever get them. I have significantly reduced them, though, to the point where I'm no longer concerned about winding up back at the gastroenterologist's office, or worse. (Yes, it was that bad, and yes, it was that bad in the past. I really don't want to get in to details.)
I apologize if none of this made sense. I have been hesitating to write this for several days now, and I finally decided to sit down, have a drink, and write this all out. I'm not going back to proof and rework this (much), as I do with all of my other writing.