This past weekend I attended a dinner party where the topic of what it means to be healthy came up. I dined with five other guests, two of whom were strict vegans.
These days, I'd rather discuss politics and religion over the sad state of our food supply and what constitutes a "healthy" individual. However, after my good friend and host announced me as "Sami our resident nutritionist," the door was wide open for debate. If you're a practitioner, you know how this is going to go. One minute you're enjoying a beautifully prepared coq au vin, the next you're getting someone's entire medical history while wanting to know how you can help them.
The lady sitting next to me said, "You must be vegetarian then, right?" Since I get this question a lot, my response is always the same: "No, actually I'm not. I thrive on high-quality animal products and really need them to be healthy. Several years ago I was vegan and I really damaged my health. The truth is that we are all biochemically unique, each requiring different nutrients to thrive."
I could tell by the look on her face that this was not going to be pretty.
She went on to tell me that I obviously didn't do it right and that most people have it all backward. Clearly, more than five years in clinical and private practice working with all types of disorders was a moot point.
Oh how I remember the days of being vegan, when I was right and everyone else was wrong, and if you didn't agree with me, then I wanted nothing to do with you. Yes, I was one of those vegans. I wore the label with great pride.
Later, as my health suffered, I came to realize that I lost myself in what other people thought was good for me. I realized that as an adult, I was still perpetuating the childhood cycle of trying to fit in so others would like me, because deep down, I didn't like me.
Looking back, there were so many warning signs that I chose to ignore — major digestive issues, severe hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue, and multiple skin rashes to name only a few. Sadly, this false label was more important than me loving myself. Sadly, being rail thin trumped not having any energy to enjoy life. Sadly, all I cared about was being able to fit into a size 0 dress.
If something clearly isn't working for you, don't you owe it to yourself to figure out what does? If veganism works for you, that's wonderful! If not, I encourage you to explore other options. Again, we're all biochemically unique and require different nutrients to thrive. It's also important to honor the fact that what works for you at one point in your life may not be in your best interest at another point. Honor it without guilt, fear or shame. I wasted too much time in guilt and shame because I thought I was being "bad" for needing animal products to be healthy.
In the comments below I want to know:
Is there an area of your diet you're afraid to change because of someone else's viewpoint?
Can you begin to explore other options that may help you feel better?
Can you incorporate one new thing this week such as more protein and/or healthy fats just to see how it goes?
You have the power. Now stand in it.