Have you ever felt morally conflicted? I have, and today I’m sharing why. If you’ve been following my blog or instagram page for a while, you may have noticed that I try to follow a plant-based/vegan lifestyle. I say “try” because I’m human and I’m not perfect. As you’ll read below, I’ve had moments when I’m not 100% vegan. I still wear my old leather shoes and belts, but I no longer buy these items. I do this because I personally do not want to contribute to violence and pain in this world, but I understand people may have other beliefs when it comes to what they do.
A few months ago, I started having intense cravings for meat, poultry, and fish. This is not a new occurrence for me. I became a vegan at age 15, and honestly, I’ve taken a few short breaks in the 12 years since then due to health issues and intense cravings that were related to anemia and B-vitamin deficiencies (pro-tip: take your vitamins). The most recent series of cravings motivated me to pay closer attention to my diet. Even as someone who (almost) has their Master’s in Nutrition, I still have to remind myself what balanced eating looks like.
I tried adding more protein to each meal, but the cravings persisted. I tried going outside more too, because I tend to get low in vitamin D during the winter, but I still craved salmon constantly. Every time I really wanted a piece of chicken or fish, I reminded myself of the torture animals face, so instead I would buy beans, tofu, veggies, and some form of carb…followed by another carb because I wasn’t really satisfied and I found myself overeating on desserts (vegan muffins, vegan cookies, etc.).
Finally, sometime in the past two weeks, I decided to just eat a piece of chicken. It tasted delicious, I felt satisfied, but I did not sit right with my morals. I brushed it off, and tried to convince myself to listen to my body. This worked, and a few days later, I ate a wrap containing meat and cheese at Whole Foods Market. However, this time something felt so different. In all my years of being a vegan, it was really mostly for my own health. I felt it was easier to not overeat on a vegan diet, especially because all my “trigger foods” used to be dairy-based (ice cream, froyo, cheese, and baked goods, the latter of which you can find all sorts of vegan versions). Over the past year or so, I’ve become more aware of how eating affects the environment and the animals I love.
This most recent fall-off-the-wagon made me realize some important things. First of all, it’s important to eat a balanced diet. If something feels off, it probably is. If you’re constantly craving something, it may be a sign that you’re deficient in a nutrient. I realized I’m really lacking in omega 3’s (an essential fatty acid found in fish, but also found in plant sources such as flax oil and chia seeds). I’m also sensitive to some of the proteins I was eating, especially large amounts of legumes eaten in one sitting. I realized that it’s important not to judge yourself, and to not judge others. I felt an immense sense of guilt when I was eating chicken, and I felt equally guilty after I overate on vegan junk-food when I couldn’t seem to satisfy my hunger and cravings. No one is perfect. We do enough self-criticizing that I would hope I don’t face criticism from vegans and animal-rights activists. I learned from this recent experience what is important to me and that is my health, the planet, and living in accordance with my values. Because of this, I’m making it my mission to plan out my meals more carefully, supplement my diet with a vitamin/mineral supplement, take an omega-3 supplement, and try to eliminate foods that don’t agree with me. I don’t plan on ending my veganism, in contrast, I’m really interested and excited to develop a more nutrient-dense, plant-based way of eating using the knowledge I’ve gained from my nutrition classes.
I hope to help people who have struggled with similar issues. I also hope to spread a message that even adding more plant-based foods and eating less meat is great and something to be proud of. Have you gone through a similar experience when it comes to veganism or any issue related to how you eat and how you feel? Feel free to comment, email me, or connect on facebook or instagram @vitaminvalentine.