Disordered Eating, Restrictive Eating, and Ex-Vegans

Disordered Eating, Restrictive Eating, and Ex-Vegans

By | 2014-08-12T12:44:33+00:00 August 12th, 2014|66 Comments

The most disheartening thing about the more public breakups with veganism is not just that they are public. I can understand that a popular blogger will want to tell her followers that she is no longer eating a vegan diet. I can see the value of telling your readers that you are dealing with health issues and are struggling with staying vegan. That you need to take some time to sort it all out. And that because of that, you’re going to stop blogging for a while.

But some ex-vegans are so determined to share their new meat-eating lifestyle. And to garner praise for their decision. The disclosure that they are now eating animal foods is usually followed by posts all built around the same themes: listening to your body and having respect for other people’s choices as well as the need for “balance.” And because so many people want to believe that we need animal foods in order to survive, or want validation for their belief that veganism is just another dietary choice (rather than a moral imperative) those posts resonate with scores of readers. They regard the ex-vegan as “brave,” and “inspiring.”

And so seeds of doubt about the safety of a vegan diet are planted. And ex-veganism actually becomes something to admire in the minds of many of these followers. The ex-vegan isn’t just abandoning veganism but actually advocating against it with a revamped blog complete with recipes and photos that feature animal foods. Including foods like chicken meat that represent some of the worst cruelty in the world.

Are there healthy people who truly can’t survive and thrive on a vegan diet? I’ve noted before that we just don’t know the answer to this. There is no way to prove that every person can thrive on a vegan diet. What I do know is that I’ve not yet heard a convincing story from an ex-vegan—one that has persuaded me that the person needed animal foods in their diet. The stories are always either packed with nutrition nonsense, or they are too vague to be persuasive.

And too often, there are recurring themes among those who go public with their stories: unresolved disordered eating and/or a very restrictive approach to vegan food choices.

Two recent blog posts highlight these issues, one by Gary Smith, The Thinking Vegan and another by Marla Rose, the Vegan Feminist Agitator. (Read them both; they’re really good!)

Some ex-vegans are clearly obsessed with “clean eating” (an unfortunate term that has orthorexia written all over it). Or with cleanses and detoxes. Or they are devotees of a health guru who tells people EXACTLY which foods they should and shouldn’t eat in order to experience optimal health. And when someone believes that there are foods that are so “toxic” that they should never EVER be consumed, it’s not surprising that they might be open to all kinds of unfounded ideas about diet. Nor is it surprising that some ex-vegans gravitate toward a Paleo-type diet which has its own set of rules and restrictions.

So, while I’m certainly sympathetic to anyone who is struggling to regain their health, I’m still skeptical about whether this ever translates to a need for animal foods. There are always too many other things going on with the ex-vegan stories.



  1. Vanessa August 12, 2014 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    Very well put. I think the main point in these instances is that these specific people probably sought out a restricted diet for the control factor and not the health factor. Whenever you’re eating to gain control over your body, you can be going down a slippery slope. Here’s to health and kindess!

  2. Katie @ Produce on Parade August 12, 2014 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    A great post! I couldn’t agree more. There’s nothing more confusing or sad when a vegan suddenly decides to revert back to supporting cruelty. It just doesn’t make any sense! Confusing veganism with a restrictive diet just reinforces what many non-vegans believe. I try to tell as many people as I can that I’ve never eaten a vaster variety of foods, healthy foods to boot, before becoming vegan. Truly.

    • unethical_vegan August 14, 2014 at 9:59 pm - Reply

      Revert to cruelty?

      This is an incredibly judgmental point of view. All Vegans are cruel. The point of veganism is to strive to be less cruel.

      As for ex-vegans, there are quite a few that do remain vegetarian or continue to eat a “veganish” diet. Unfortunately, they are typically just as ostracized as the proverbial “bacon-orgasm” ex-vegan.

      • LorriePaige September 11, 2014 at 10:16 am - Reply

        Being judgmental is necessary sometimes. As we judge people who are murderers by sending them to prison. If we didn’t judge, all criminals would be free to do anything they want.

        Vegetarians are just as cruel as omnivores. Farm animals, like cows, are kept alive and mistreated horribly to end up slaughtered for their meat anyway.

        People should seek vegan nutritionists if they are not feeling well as vegans. It’s THEIR way of eating vegan that is not healthy. There are different types of vegan diets and many may not be getting enough healthy vegan meals in. As common sense should dictate: They should see a vegan doctor, instead of making excuses and giving up on animals.

    • Sia Brook August 17, 2014 at 3:12 am - Reply

      I feel the issues with many of these ‘vegans’ that revert to carnism is that they’re unaware of the moral baseline of veganism and quite possibly adopt a plant based diet and not the vegan ethical stance. There is SO much information available to achieve optimal health that to declare it didn’t work for them is completely unacceptable and misinforms the public about veganism.

    • stephanie September 24, 2014 at 6:28 pm - Reply

      I am 48 and have been a Vegan for 11 years now. I did it for health reasons, with having animal cruelty issues much later on. My younger sister not only got Thyroid disease, but Thyroid Cancer at the same time which is very rare. My paternal uncle got Thyroid Cancer at about the same time. Thyroid disease runs rampant on my Father’s side of the family and when my sister became ill I refused to go down that path. So I went Vegan cold turkey after my Thyroid hormones were showing signs of elevating when I was 37. I have had not a single Thyroid issue since and my blood tests are within range every time. I am regular as well. My whole life, before I turned to a Vegan diet, I would go 4 to 5 days without a bowel movement and doctors would tell me that it is normal for some people. After the last doctor told me that I never went back to a conventional MD.
      I never get sick, which is a bonus, but my diet has given me other issues that have taken me a long time to work out. Phytic Acid is the big one. The only way I truly found out how to deal with it was reading a book about curing tooth decay. The author believes in eating meat, but he had very valid points about things I have been doing wrong for many years….and I was not a Junk Food Vegan for very long in my 11 years.
      I live in California which makes it really easy to eat a varied diet, but because of the Phytic acid issues my diet has become much more restricted and that is not easy at all. I am sticking it out at least for a short while so that I can heal my teeth. I believe that I have mineral mal-absorption issue because of the Phytic acid, but I have taken steps to correct it. BUT even before I did I felt the need to think about maybe eating one animal food just in case I am missing some element in my diet, but in the end I did not do it, still believing that I would be fine. If I was going to go down that path it would not have been because my body spoke to me. I would have done it from a purely medicinal purpose and not because it was “good eating”. Again…. I believe in talking about an issue rather than hiding it and then making some lame excuse as to why I need a cheeseburger…. BTW the smell of animal products make me physically ill after all this time. It would not have been easy to go back. Again….I understand that eating Vegan can be difficult, but it can be so rewarding in too many ways to count.

  3. Jan Steven August 12, 2014 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    I cannot help but wonder if calorie restriction isn’t part of her problem. And it’s the other-than-human animals that pay for this.

  4. Liz August 12, 2014 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    Maybe they are having other underlying issues but you are not living in their shoes or dealing with what they might be dealing with health wise or emotionally. How about trying to just wish them well, keep the dialog going and keep the door open for them to maybe come back to eating vegan at some time in the future? The underlying judgment you make that they do not have a good enough reason to quit a vegan way of eating is sad to me and seems to go against the vegan ethos of compassion.

    • Have Gone Vegan August 12, 2014 at 7:02 pm - Reply

      Sorry Liz, but I think you’re missing a main point here. If it was just one or two vegan bloggers who decided to “listen to their body” and eat animals again it’d be one thing, but there’s a definite and predictable pattern now.

      Part of the pattern is that the ex-vegan hides whatever difficulty they’re having along the way (and don’t ever seem to ask vegan professionals like Ginny for help), do a complete turn-around on their blog, and are now as enthusiastic (if not more so) about meat eating as they were about veganism. And veganism isn’t a diet, but a philosophy and a commitment to prevent animal use and abuse. It isn’t primarily about people’s health, although the health benefits are a nice bonus for sure.

      As for judgment, what about the judgment of ex-vegans that animals don’t matter as much anymore? Because the one thing you’ll notice is that concern for animals conveniently slides to the background and the focus shifts to the ex-vegan — their appetite, their feelings, their sudden need for “balance”, and oddly (or perhaps not) the need for public attention and approval. If I were in their shoes, I think I’d feel sad that I couldn’t maintain my commitment to being vegan, and I certainly wouldn’t be using social media to discredit either the “way of eating”, as you put it, or the movement itself. And I think that high-profile vegans have an even greater responsibility to do no harm when it comes to other sentient beings, or to the vegan movement itself.

      • Carolyn PANDIS August 12, 2014 at 10:25 pm - Reply

        To Have Gone Vegan ~

        Perfect response. I was going to answer her, but your answer is better!

        Have you read the essay by Marla Rose, Vegan Feminist Agitator, referred to in the blog post? It is excellent. If you don’t already know Marla Rose, trust me—you will love her.

      • unethical_vegan August 14, 2014 at 10:08 pm - Reply

        How many ex-vegans do you actually know? As a long-term vegan I know quite a few. Interestingly many ex-vegans are vegetarian, veg, or veganish. Some of them still eat a vegan diet and avoid animal products but have vehemently rejected veganism. Many of the most dedicated animal rights activists have criticized the ideological rigidity of veganism and avoid calling themselve vegan.


        The childish stereotypes and the desire to claim that ex-vegans were never vegan is rooted in insecurity and cultish self-identity.

      • Catherine August 18, 2014 at 6:39 am - Reply

        I agree entirely; when some folks go vegan they do it for themselves and the animals; when they go back to eating meat, the cruelty issues conveniently evaporate. I do think that you can eat an unhealthy vegan diet, especially given the number of highly processed, packaged vegan “foods” out there. I suspect some folks don’t do the research and take the time to learn to cook good vegan meals, and then blame veganism for their failure to thrive!

      • Lauren January 7, 2015 at 12:29 am - Reply

        That’s their business if they want to be vocal about the conversion. That’s their blog just like this is yours. Unless you are paying for the roof over their head or bills, y’all don’t have an opinion. It’s not a matter of “doing it right” either. The “one size fits all” mentality that’s going on here is ridiculous.

  5. Ashlee August 12, 2014 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    As per usual, BRAVO and AMEN. If folks want to beat the drum of veganism and defect – fine. But if they’re going to scapegoat veganism as the culprit when it’s their own poor or restricted or misguided choices, than no, that’s not cool. Moreover, if certain ex vegans want to game fame for their disordered eating, to that I say, – THERE ARE WARS GOING ON AND STUFF; Get over yourselves.

  6. Corrin Radd August 12, 2014 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    I was listening to my body to have Oreo’s and Pringle’s and that sort of stuff…you know, because our bodies always want what’s best for us and for the world around us.

    • Emma August 13, 2014 at 5:58 am - Reply

      These are my exact thoughts whenever I read these things! I find it very interesting that people associate their craving for meat, eggs or dairy with some sort of ‘nutritional need’, completely set apart from cravings for salt, sugar, fat, cigarettes, coffee or alcohol.

  7. Heidi August 12, 2014 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    I cannot understand how anyone who has enjoyed the joy of eating a cruelty free diet could ever go back. I have been a vegan for 22 years. I am what my best friend calls a voluptuous vegan. I am 51 and raised 5 children some vegetarians and some meat eaters. My awesome hubby of 26 years is a meateater who loves my vegan food. Once you have the uplifting energy a healthy vegan diet brings plus the knowledge of the positive impact you are having on the planet why stop?? For eggs of all things????????? For my part I make and bring delicious vegan to work for my co-workers and to any gathering we attend. So many people are amazed how yummy and filling vegan food can be.

  8. Marla August 12, 2014 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    Brava, Ginny, and THANK YOU for sharing your consistently sensible, thoughtful analysis. We are so lucky to have someone like you.

  9. Ellen Jaffe Jones August 12, 2014 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    Breaking News: 34 years, vegan. Except for a brief derailment when my kids were young and I believed misinformation about dairy.

    7th in US in 1500 meters. Mom, aunt, both sisters had breast cancer. And much more. We were part of the original breast cancer gene studies. May come from the sickest family in America.

    Where are the reporters? Where are the docs who’d like to study me? The only studies I qualify for and participate in are those that don’t require I already have cancer and mandate being willing to take drugs. Two studies, to be exact.

    Alas…no money in broccoli. I’m not a celeb or drop-dead gorgeous. But hey, at 61, I’m just delighted to have placed in 71 5K races for my age group ‘just’ on plants. The main reason I compete is so I can wear vegan shirts at races and gently answer questions as I’m holding an age group award when someone says, “You can’t run on a vegan diet.”

    Animal abuse atrocities are as close as the nearest YouTube channel. It’s really not possible to stick our heads in the sand these days and pretend that we just don’t see. Whatever.

    Carry on. Tune out the noise. Go plants!

    Kudos, Ginny, on telling it like it is. Again. Sigh…

    • Sharon McRae August 15, 2014 at 8:17 pm - Reply

      Ellen Jaffe Jones, you are such an inspiration to me! My Mom died of breast cancer after a 26 year long battle and a diagnosis in her early 40’s. Since then, I’ve modified my diet a bit more each year and now eat a completely whole food plant-based (vegan) diet. I am 52 and healthy, feeling much younger than my years. My Mom did not have the genes but she was overweight, very inactive, and had a horrible diet. I can’t help but believe that the steps I take daily protect me from the same horrible fate that claimed her life, sadly and needlessly. Thank you for putting your story out there…there is no doubt you will inspire many!

  10. Greg August 12, 2014 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this post. I am a bit frustrated for making my vegetarian choice, but having difficulty going vegan. Meanwhile I am not reaching any weight loss goals. I have stated several times I might need to eat a chicken to loose weight. That, however, goes against the whole reason I went vegetarian in the first place. … A bit frustrated. I appreciate the post and the encouragement to continue my quest to become full vegan

    • Siobhan August 17, 2014 at 3:31 pm - Reply

      You do not need to eat chicken to lose weight. Eat greens in abundance, some fruit, a fair amount of healthy fats, beans, vegan protein shake, and LIMIT PROCESSED CARBS, e.g., sugar, bread, pasta, rice. You WILL lose weight, no chicken required.

  11. MarieRoxanne August 12, 2014 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    Why listen to your body? Does your body have a mind? A conscience? A figurative heart that is hurt at all the animal abuses? What about the cholesterol and plaque that is now growing in your veins and arteries? No. you are listening to the world’s views on eating – listen –
    What about the OMG it is just soooooo hard to be vegan.
    Ahhh, now I don’t have to “diet” anymore.
    I am now able to be myself.
    The body just NEEDS animal protein to survive.
    I can eat with my friends in a restaurant.
    I don’t have to listen to all the “benefits” of veganism anymore…. because I don’t WANT to.

  12. Susan August 13, 2014 at 7:21 am - Reply

    With all the research on the addictive qualities of bad foods…”listening to your body” is kindof ridiculous. It requires that one can differentiate between a need vs a want. I think the addiction aspects of animal based diets is not mainstream enough for people to make that particular connection.

  13. Djuna August 13, 2014 at 7:24 am - Reply

    Beautifully put, as usually, Ginny :-). I am of the view that food choices are highly personal and no one diet is better than another (even while I chose to live a vegan lifestyle). I think the worst thing for me about public ex-vegans is that so many things they said as vegans about animals come back to bite them in the butt when they decide to become ex-vegans. Everyone has a choice, but that sort of thing comes off as hypocritical and I stop trusting that person.

    For myself, I’ve had times when I’ve convinced myself (out of desperation) that eating dairy and eggs (I haven’t touched meet since 2004 and never will again) will make me feel “healthier”. The times I’ve gone back have been for weight loss reasons (silly, I know), as I used to be a huge follower of the low-carb diet and ate lots of dairy/eggs. But each time I went back, I only lasted a day or two. Not only physically not feeling well but also morally feeling bad led me back to veganism. For me, that’s the best proof that veganism is a moral decision for me and the health benefits are just icing on the (vegan) cake.


  14. Lisa @The Valley Vegan August 13, 2014 at 7:35 am - Reply

    Well said. I think it highlights something important that those who are, and those who are quick to praise, the newly un-vegan don’t understand: animals are the primary focus of the lifestyle. We’re just weeding out the “vegans” who think this is a weight loss plan.

  15. Dustin Rhodes August 13, 2014 at 8:04 am - Reply

    What I find so frustrating — because this kind of thing happens over and over again — is that vegans rally around these food bloggers who clearly promote disordered eating until they stop following a plant based diet. Vegans are partially responsible for turning them into minor celebrities and giving them attention that ends up being destructive. Even on the Let Them Eat Meat blog, I can’t find a single ex-vegan who didn’t follow a diet that wouldn’t be considered disordered. Obsession with the Perfect Vegan Diet is so rampant in the vegan community; I am so glad you and Jack constantly attempt to remind people that no such thing exists, and I am sorry that it so often falls on deaf ears.

    • PythagoreanCrank August 13, 2014 at 11:32 am - Reply

      Bingo Dustin!

      Vegans shouldn’t hate the player, hate the game. Specifically that which allows and/or promotes any junk science diet or disordered eating just for its lack of animal products. Indeed Ginny and Jack do what they can but the problem is systemic.

      My take in Another One Bites the Meat:

      • Jon Wheeler August 15, 2014 at 12:18 pm - Reply

        What I don’t understand is why so many supposed science-based vegans (including Ginny) are drawing such firm conclusions about the cause of ex-veganism based on a few internet blogs. Where exactly do these blogs fit on the hierarchy of evidence ?

        I find this idea that restrictive vegan diets are driving people back to animal products to be particularly nonsensical. For starters, the only real life ex-vegan in this article (Natalie Portman) was an ethical vegan and was not on a restrictive vegan diet. Secondly, my instincts tell me that if people are really missing olive oil and white bread, they would go back to eating olive oil and white bread. If Ginny or anyone else here can point me to some science-based evidence that explains why that wouldn’t be the case I’d love to see it.

        • Ginny Messina August 16, 2014 at 8:06 am - Reply

          Jon, I think you’re reading more into this post that what I wrote. This is not a post about why people abandon veganism. It’s a post about those who abandon vegan diets in a very public way and try to convince others that a vegan diet failed them. I wanted to point out that, of the stories we have heard–which sometimes have considerable impact–none actually build the case against veganism. And this is because, in addition to unsupported beliefs about nutrition, these public ex-vegans always seem to have underlying issues–which include very restrictive diets and/or eating disorders. So, I’m talking about this particular group of ex-vegans, not ex-vegans in general.

          And, certainly, the more restrictive a diet is, the harder it is to stick to. So by encouraging very restrictive approaches to veganism—especially unhealthy approaches that say there are certain foods you should never eat, I think there is a good chance that we do raise the likelihood that people will abandon vegan diets.

          • Jon Wheeler August 16, 2014 at 1:49 pm


            Please read the penultimate paragraph of the article to get an idea of what I was responding to. I was also responding to the two comments above mine.

            I honestly can’t see why anyone would draw firm conclusions about anything based on the content of an internet blog. People have all sorts of ulterior motives for starting a blog and we simply have no idea whether anything they write is true. The only ex-vegan in the article who we really know anything about is Natalie Portman and she doesn’t even remotely fit the profile you talked about.

            I’m not sure who or what you’re referring to when you say: “by encouraging very restrictive approaches to veganism—especially unhealthy approaches that say there are certain foods you should never eat, I think there is a good chance that we do raise the likelihood that people will abandon vegan diets”.

            Are you referring to Kaiser Permanente’s promotion of a whole foods plant-based diet, or the Cleveland Clinic’s promotion of Dr Esselstyn’s diet, or Rahm Emanuel’s and Ed Smith’s promotion of the Engine 2 Diet, or Bill Clinton’s promotion of The China Study, or the FDA’s recommendation to completely avoid foods with trans fats ? Please advise.

            Either way I’d appreciate it if you could explain more fully why you think someone eating a so called restrictive or disordered vegan diet would be more likely to go back to eating animal products as opposed to just going back to eating the vegan foods they gave up.

          • Ginny Messina August 16, 2014 at 5:55 pm

            Trans fat is one example of a dietary component that should probably be completely avoided. There is extensive research on its effects and widespread scientific consensus on the harmfulness of trans fats. The same cannot be said for olive oil or veggie burgers. Nor can it be said for animal foods.

            Some vegans who are struggling with their health do in fact make efforts to make appropriate changes by adding more healthful plant fats and more plant protein to their diet. Sayward’s blog post is one example. http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/2013/01/facing-failing-health-on-a-vegan-diet/ And I know of other examples of this from people who have contacted me for help.

            Unfortunately, I also hear from others who are unwilling to make those kinds of changes because they are convinced that to do so is unhealthy. And I’m not even saying that I know these people would start to thrive if they just broadened their vegan diet a little bit. But it is very unfortunate when people will not tweak their vegan diet because they’ve developed fears of certain foods—foods that are not harmful.

            And some of those who are attracted to the most restrictive versions of veganism may have unhealthy perspectives on food choices overall, which might cause them to jump from one restrictive plan to another. Again, it’s very interesting that so many of these public ex-vegans suddenly become all enamored of Paleo diets.

            At any rate, because I am not convinced that people need to eat these more restrictive versions of vegan diets, and because I think these diets may raise the risk that some people will fail on vegan diets, I advocate against them. And for that reason, I think you will never be happy with my blog, Jon!

          • unethical_vegan August 20, 2014 at 1:50 pm

            *KP’s whole foods plant-based diet is not a vegan diet.

            *Bill Clinton is veganish — not vegan.

            *Esselstyn does not advocate for *strict* veganism and frequently cites Ornish’s vegetarian dietary practice favorably.

            *The China study included few, if any, vegans.

    • unethical_vegan August 15, 2014 at 10:41 am - Reply

      “Even on the Let Them Eat Meat blog, I can’t find a single ex-vegan who didn’t follow a diet that wouldn’t be considered disordered.”

      And let me retort with an anecdote of my own. The so-called disordered diets that many ex-vegans describe often appear to me to be similar to the “diets” posted all over the internets by current “vegans” — especially those enamored with instagram and green juice.

      • unethical_vegan August 15, 2014 at 10:50 am - Reply

        In retrospect I guess we are saying pretty much the same thing — disordered eating and obsession with purity is a big part of mainstream veganism.

      • Ginny Messina August 16, 2014 at 8:22 am - Reply

        Yes, I see a lot of those diets posted all over the internet, too. The point is that the more vocal, public ex-vegans all seem to fall into that category.

  16. Gary August 13, 2014 at 9:38 am - Reply

    It’s interesting that the ex-vegans’ bodies are always telling them to eat animal products that heavily promoted in their culture. I haven’t read about any ex-vegans saying their bodies told them to eat giraffe or dog meat, or entrails or robin eggs.

  17. Jae August 13, 2014 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    Reading this post reminded me of my own concerns about the onslaught of the 80-10-10 (“high carb low fat”) vegans proliferating Instagram with thousands of followers. I want to honour the idea that everyone is different and can thrive off of certain foods, but eating bananas and dates for breakfast, a pineapple for lunch, and then having rice and other carbs for supper doesn’t seems healthy to me. Where is the balance?

    Mind you, my only understanding of this diet is what i’ve seen on instagram, which appears to be all fruit with rice or starchy veggies and a tablespoon of seeds/nuts).

    As such, I would love to hear your thoughts on the HCLF/80-10-10 diet (if you have already, please pass along the link).

    Thank you.

    • Ginny Messina August 16, 2014 at 5:47 pm - Reply

      Jae, I’m not a fan of very low fat diets at all. I don’t know of any evidence that they have health advantages over vegan diets that include more plant fats. And I also think that some people, older people in particular, do better with a little more protein in their diet. So I agree–some people may do just fine with the 80-10-10 eating pattern, but it’s not for everyone. And I doubt that anyone absolutely needs to eat this way to be healthy.

  18. Angela Minelli August 14, 2014 at 3:33 pm - Reply

    I’m actually struggling with the opposite – going vegan! How do you get variety and convenience down if you’re a GFDF sugar-free vegan?

    • Chef AJ August 16, 2014 at 7:28 am - Reply

      Angela, I am GF/DF and completely sugar free. I also cannot eat nuts or seeds or chocolate and choose not to eat oil and salt. Yet I’ve been vegan for over 37 years. And even with what some may think of as severe restrictions, I was still able to be an Executive Chef at a Los Angeles restaurant and have a large celebrity clientele that I cook for. There are literally thousands of kinds of fruits, vegetables WHOLE grains and legumes to eat so variety is never an issue. And by using an electric pressure cooker, I make delicious meals for my family everyday in under ten minutes. People who eat animals eat about 4-5 different variety of animals. There are over 18,000 different types of legumes alone from which to choose. A plant exclusive diet is has much more variety than one that includes animal products, which is not very convenient for the animals.

      Love & Kale,
      Chef AJ

    • Ginny Messina August 16, 2014 at 8:14 am - Reply

      Angela, you can build a wonderful, healthy, interesting diet around a variety of beans, soyfoods, nuts, seeds, gluten-free grains, and fruits and veggies. Bean burritos topped with guacamole, lentil soup with veggie sausage, gluten-free pasta tossed with veggies, chickpeas and a vegan pesto, Asian stir-fry with brown rice, tofu and veggies, tempeh and sweet potatoes topped with spicy peanut sauce–the possibilities are endless! Use my food guide and just choose gluten-free options in the grains/starches group. http://www.theveganrd.com/food-guide-for-vegans

  19. Ann August 15, 2014 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    Excellent, as always!!! Frankly, it seems there are two kinds of ex vegans: celebrities, who appear to be embracing and then renouncing veganism for the attention, and young female bloggers who seem to have some source of money (hubby or parents or both) so that they don’t have to have real jobs, who are clearly eating disordered and spend their free time (which they seem to have in abundance due to the lack of a real job, etc) obsessing about their bodies and symptoms, and who flit from one fad diet to another in what seems to be an attempt to find a diet which will solve all their problems and quell their dissatisfaction with their lives.

  20. B August 17, 2014 at 10:20 am - Reply

    I actually developed symptoms of anorexia two years into being vegan. Veganism had nothing to do with why I stopped eating. It was actually eating 80/10/10 for 4 months that allowed my body to heal enough to be able to digest yummy vegan foods. I think if these people were honest with themselves veganism didn’t cause their anorexia either, it was their anorexia that drew them to a lifestyle that was restrictive, it was a place for them to hide. No one becames anorexic without sufficient stress or anxiety, without preconceived notions in their heads about how they should look or who they should be. I couldn’t imagine giving up veganism. It was my passion for animal rights that has kept me going, writing/blogging/tweeting about it that has relieved my stress and given me a sense of purpose and community. It has made me want to get better in all aspects of my life.

  21. Mary August 17, 2014 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    I followed a vegetarian diet for 12 years. I still ate dairy and eggs. One day I just started to eat meat. I was either unaware of the cruelties of factory farming or maybe I just chose to ignore it.
    Either way, I decided to go from eating animal products to a vegan diet and have not looked back.
    Yes, I still have an occasional craving, but I don’t give into my brain (not my body).

  22. Elisa August 18, 2014 at 9:28 pm - Reply

    I just wanted to comment regarding the 80/10/10 (fruitarian) diet and “cleaning eating” / raw foodism in general and why I think it’s unhealthy for reasons non-specific to the vegan diet.

    When I first became interested in veganism in 2011 it was for ethical reasons. I was skeptical as to whether I could be healthy without eating meat or dairy so I began to search for information. Luckily, I was already someone with an inquiring mind and didn’t just base my decision off what some vegan health guru said but rather tried to read scientific studies when available, find less biased sources of information and be realistic about how I was going to make changes in my life. Having attempted veganism for a pitiful 2 months after reading the book “Skinny Bitch” in 2007, my motivation this time around was entirely different, so my approach was a lot more pragmatic and reflective. Less reactionary and more considered.

    Having said that, I did also look for people I could relate to online and ended up stumbling on the fruitarian community on YouTube. Whilst I didn’t buy into the fruit-only diet these people were advocating, I did feel an affinity with them simply because they had foregone meat and dairy in pursuit of an alternative way of living. In my real life, people were being extremely critical of my decision to be vegan and some didn’t even know what a vegan was. So I can completely understand why new vegans are drawn towards gurus, popular bloggers and other relatable sources of information because they provide people with a social network. I also became acquainted with the vegan bodybuilding community, raw foodists, baketivism [Isa Chandra and other vegan chefs], ethical vegans [Peter Singer and other philosophical minds], etc., I thought it was great that such a diverse crowd all existed under the one label.

    Although I approached veganism this way, not everyone does. Considering the fruitarian, “cleaning eating” and raw foodist (80/10/10 and 30 Bananas A Day [now Raw Till 4]) communities were the first I found, I assume this is the same for many others and not everyone is taking their teachings with a grain of salt. Sure, these diets may work for some people, but let me tell you what the Raw Till 4 crowd is currently advocating:
    – 3000-3500 calories from fruit and possibly other cooked carbohydrate sources (like potato) per day.
    – Moderate exercise.
    – Eliminate all salt and fat from the diet except for that in the fruit and vegetables you’re permitted to eat.
    – No seeds, nuts, oils, avocados, coconut, soy or other beans etc.,
    Then some optional add-ons like only drinking filtered water, dumping raw sugar or coconut sugar into fruit smoothies to increase sugar intake and some strange food combining rules like never eating fruit after you’ve eaten vegetables because it will cause ‘fermentation.’

    Recently, proponents of these diets have requested that their followers begin to make videos on YouTube expressing their love for the “lifestyle” with abusive language, “Just get over yourself and make the videos.” YouTube and other social media has become so overly saturated with these fruitarian, “clean eating” and raw food bloggers I recently saw a new vegan make a video saying, “I keep trying to find information about how to eat a vegan diet and all I can find is videos about 80/10/10.” My boyfriend who pays little attention to these communities even said in jest to me, “You’re not a vegan, you don’t even own a mason jar…” LOL

    I think what I’ve realised is that not everyone is going to try to find the best scientific information on which to base their food choices, but rather, people seek out information from people who are like them or who they want to be like. People also regularly mistake popularity for intelligence especially when they’re naive about a topic.

    The other thing I want to note is that these particular vegan subcultures are rife with bullying and harassment. So when someone begins to question the diet which they’ve come to know as their “vegan diet” – perhaps they’re struggling to eat 3000 calories a day, they’re gaining/ losing scary amounts of weight, they got blood test results which looked grim – these communities are scientifically illiterate and can’t explain why these things are happening because their diet isn’t based on science. I mean, they didn’t start eating a fruit-based diet because they studied biochemistry. So what happens? They victim blame. It wasn’t the diet that didn’t work, it was the person that didn’t work. They cheated, they didn’t eat enough fruit, they have an eating disorder that makes them too afraid of binge eat 43 dates for lunch, they’re secretly scoffing burgers at McDonalds… I’ve seen people who finally get the courage to vocalise their concerns to a public forum just to get torn to shreds. The leaders of these groups themselves will fat shame, victim blame, bully and harass people in order to protect the perfect image of their restrictive diet of choice because they have financial priorities and obviously their own emotional baggage. Diet aside, where is the compassion here? This isn’t a culture of love and compassion. What is veganism without compassion? It’s just a fad diet. Fad diets always end.

    I can understand why someone who is very connected to veganism through one of these subcultures might then advertise their eating disorder recovery as one involving meat or dairy. If you don’t understand why you got sick in the first place and your miracle recovery involved including some seafood or dairy milk in your diet, the ethics become irrelevant because you’re cured! You’re healthy, you’re obfuscating the online bullying (which is VERY real) by gathering new paleo diet followers so you have a social group who respects your dietary weirdness and you’re also allowed to rejoin the human race by participating in comfortable omnivorism again. And you can turn around to anyone you rub elbows with and say, “Vegans, eh? Want to buy a t-shirt?” and they’ll respond, “I know, right? Vegans. Yes, I would love a t-shirt.”

    I agree with everything you wrote in essence, but I can’t paint the ex-vegans exploiting their ex-veganism as standalone villains either. We, the vegan community as a whole, have to take a bit of credit for placing so much value on someone’s vegan identity when they make decisions that are purely dietary. We seem to celebrate someone having gone vegan reluctantly for 2 days because a doctor told them they might die of a heart attack but scrutinise people who eat a lacto-vegetarian diet for 20 years out of compassion for animals because they’re not vegan… There’s no ethical consistency there. So if someone starts getting vocal about their new, ex-vegan lifestyle, I think we should refrain from demonising them and their misguided profiteering and just reflect a little on the internal dynamics within our multifaceted community that contribute to people arriving at this destination… because as you say it’s definitely becoming a trend.

  23. emolmos August 19, 2014 at 9:21 am - Reply

    Do not judge too hard people.
    We humans do suffer from cravings, stress, misinformation, doubt, fear, egoism, laziness, etc.

    Just keep showing that a vegan diet is possible and healthy. You are doing a great job.

    Btw, I do follow a pretty low fat vegan diet (some nuts, some seeds, no oils), and I do feel great. The exception is some “not vegan” D3 in winter.

    Just to add some information, I do think there is a “stress (adrenals) – stimulants (caffeine, alcohol) – exercise – protein and fat” connection.
    Stress demands some nutrients that are difficult (not impossible) to get on a vegan diet. And a lot of stress is common in most people lifestyle.

    This is just my opinion.

  24. VG2 August 23, 2014 at 11:31 pm - Reply

    So…..let me get this straight…..it is ok when someone anounces that they are going Vegan but not the other way around?, so it is ok when someone agrees with you but stops being ok when they have a different opinion?. I read the article again and replaced the word ex-vegan for vegan, meat diet for vegan diet and so on and it makes exactly the same sense for someone that does not follow your vegan believes. It’s all about believes, it makes sense to you because you believe it, other people have different opinions. At least the ex-vegans gave it a try…is that what really bothers you?, that they actually have some real insight to give?

  25. Jaimie September 1, 2014 at 11:07 am - Reply

    Speaking for myself, it doesn’t bother me that Natalie Portman and others are listening to their bodies. Good. Deprive less. But there’s no reason to do it at the expense of other beings.

  26. Emily September 3, 2014 at 9:11 am - Reply

    I am an ex vegan. You do not know how hard it is to say that. I do not advertise it, and I feel ashamed and disappointed every day. The reason I felt the need to comment is that I feel ashamed not only that I am participating in cruelty now but that I am also scared of judgement from the vegan community that I so admire (and was a part of until recently), but I am experiencing what you’re talking about.

    I am 30 years old. I started being vegetarian for ethical reasons in 1997, when I was still only 12 years old. I still ate eggs and dairy, but my goal was to eventually be vegan.

    In 2007, I found out I had B12 anemia. This explained why I could barely get out of bed, and everything took an unimaginable amount of energy. I also lost a lot of weight and felt sick every single day for six months before I finally went to the doctor. I know what you’re thinking – that I probably ate junk every day. This is not true. As disgusting as it was, I ate eggs and dairy every day, along with beans, tofu, whole grains, tons of veggies and plentiful fruit. My mom raised me to be in love with produce and plant foods, and I’m fully committed to them, despite my time as lacto/ovo veg.

    My B12 therapy wasn’t effective, and I made the difficult decision to start eating fish and occasionally chicken again. This is not based on my opinion that any animal is less-than or doesn’t feel pain. All creatures feel fear and pain. It was because those are the only meats I can stomach without throwing up out of sheer disgust at the texture, etc. After adding flesh foods, I felt morally awful and depressed, but my health improved tremendously. I was no longer anemic.

    In 2010, I’d had enough of participating in cruelty, and I decided to be vegetarian again. I felt like myself. I figured my anemia from a few years before was a bump in the road, and I was ashamed that I’d eaten meat again.

    In January of 2012, after concluding that dairy upsets my stomach (in addition to the cruelty of it) and that the egg industry was atrocious, I decided I was going to go vegan finally. I took vitamins every day. I took sublingual B12 lozenges religiously. I paid attention to B12 levels in foods such as almond milk, nutritional yeast, cereal, etc. I read books about veganism and researched it online. I ate a balanced and colorful plant-based diet. I am convinced I did everything right, even though I know some people in the vegan community will insist otherwise.

    Last fall, I started losing weight and became depressed. I started having anxiety attacks, and my doctor put me on medication. My hair stopped growing much, and I felt like I couldn’t make it though the day. I slept in my car on my lunch break from work. Fast forward to a month and a half ago, and I was feeling even worse and covered in bruises. Keep in mind that nothing changed. Still took vitamins, still paid attention to what I was eating, etc.

    I found out about a month ago that I have B12 anemia again. The level of misery that I’ve been feeling, and the fact that I’ve been through this before, led me to the horrible decision to eat meat again. So here I am again, eating chicken and fish and feeling like the scum of the earth for doing it. And the hardest thing to admit is that I feel so much better on days I eat meat. I can actually make it through the day without going back to bed. I feel like a failure, and I’m ashamed to talk about it with my vegan friends. I used to be a vegan who thought there was no excuse for going back to eating meat. But here I am, desperate to get healthy again. I almost feel like I deserve the pain of each B12 injection I have to stab into my leg on a weekly basis.

    So I guess what I’m trying to say is – there are a lot of obnoxious ex-vegans out there, but there are also some people who are desperate to not be anemic and feel very ashamed and selfish for participating in cruelty in their attempt to do so. Judgement from other vegans makes it feel like the most terrible thing, like how dare I try to find a way to get over this condition. I feel like a vegan in my heart, but I also felt like I was fighting a losing battle with my health. It’s so hard to admit. 🙁

    • Daisy September 6, 2014 at 10:20 am - Reply

      Emily, you should give yourself, a human animal, the same consideration as chickens, pigs and cows.

      Here’s a link to a long time vegan who went through some of the same issues you went through. Take time to read her story:


      Consider that eating beef might be better. Cattle are traditionally raised on pasture, only going to the feedlot for the last 90 or so days of their life. One dead steer produces about 400 lbs of boneless beef compared to a chicken’s 3 or so lbs. So fewer animals are killed.

      Many supermarkets today carry pasture raised meat, cage free eggs, etc. Or look at this site and see if you can find a producer in your area to actually visit and see how their animals are treated: http://eatwild.com/

    • unethical_vegan September 10, 2014 at 2:21 pm - Reply

      Emily, Eating animal products to maintain health is consistent with veganism. The goal of veganism is to avoid exploitation and cruelty as much as is *practical*.

      I would strongly recommend that you consider brainless animals, such as, oysters or mussels. These bivalves are a good souce of B12 and lack a sensory nervous system in their sessile form.



    • unethical_vegan September 10, 2014 at 2:27 pm - Reply

      “And the hardest thing to admit is that I feel so much better on days I eat meat.”

      I’m not discounting pernicious anemia as a valid health-motivated reason to eat animal products but this is likely psychological since metabolically relevant B12 levels would not respond to acute consumption.

  27. Daisy September 6, 2014 at 10:15 am - Reply

    I haven’t read the responses to this post, but you seem to be ignoring Tasha.

    She was a long time vegan. Her blog, The Verocious Vegan, was cited as one of the best vegan food blots by a major veg*n magazine. Apparently her recipes had enough nutritional value to be approved then.

    She carefully documented her health problems on the vegan diet. She visited several medical people. They tried to work with her as a vegan, but she was unable to improve her health with pills.

    She started eating meat again and got her life back. She went from an unhealthy, weak, depressed woman into a healthy, vibrant one. She was able to start back to school, get her Masters and a job working in the field she wanted: women and food issues.

    Now that she has a life besides being vegan, her blog is gone. But this link remains….detailing her issues. You know about her. You wrote about her. Yet you refuse to accept that she DID try to stay vegan…..but she chose a real life over being vegan. So what will it take for you to believe that someone can’t be a healthy vegan?


    • Ginny Messina September 12, 2014 at 9:02 am - Reply

      No, I’m not ignoring Tasha. And if you go back and read my post about her, you’ll see that her story reflects what I’m talking about here. It doesn’t come close to making the case against veganism. Tasha had erroneous ideas about nutrition, her story was vague, she sought the help of an anti-vegan doctor rather than someone with actual expertise in veganism and she had already bought into an anti-vegan philosophy *before* deciding that her health was failing on a vegan diet.

  28. Eab September 6, 2014 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    I am a vegan and have been for 8 years. I am doing well. Great even. I have gotten rid of heartburn, reflux, migraines, acne, and weight. BUT there have been some recent gurus who are really discouraging me and almost make me want to leave veganism. I know these gurus are helping people at the same as discouraging some. These gurus claim that sugar, oil, salt is “the evil trinity” That sounds very extreme to me and almost bordering pathologic. ALso, this guru is claiming that smoothies will kill us and damage our arteries. That is just weird. If I eat a healthy vegan diet and all of a sudden drop of a heart attack because of smoothies, then fine with me. We are all going to die people! Nobody gets out alive. ALso, this guru claims nuts, seeds, and avocadoes will kill us! It is just too much and they are doing a HUGE disservice to veganism. It is not all or nothing and it is not a religion. It is making want to leave the community. I am glad I found this article.

  29. Emily September 11, 2014 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    Daisy, thank you so much for posting a link to her story. As I was reading it, I couldn’t believe how similar our experiences are, down to every symptom she mentioned!

  30. Jay P September 22, 2014 at 11:30 am - Reply

    I have had a long journey just like most of you but I’ll try to keep it brief. During my time as a vegetarian my health seemed to be severely lacking over time. I gave up processed foods, sugar and most grains in the search to maintain optimum health. I read everything I could get my hands on regarding health, free-radicals, etc. I also felt being vegetarian was the compassionate thing to do, and it was to a degree. However, I became somewhat weak over time which included digestive issues, mental clarity and the inability to focus. I started taking supplements like creatine, glutamine, B12 and a host of natural herbs/supplements designed to add the nutrients I was lacking from my diet. To make a long story short nothing helped until I introduced animal fats, protein and bones into my diet. The reason that a higher percentage of vegetarians are getting cancer is because our bodies have thrived on a diet including meat for thousands of years. To cut out such an important aspect of our diet only will introduce deficiencies and/or disease. I used to believe that animal protein caused cancer, heart disease, etc until I realized that most meat-eaters who answered these surveys/studies had a horrible diet in general that included not only meat but sugars, processed food, etc. Very few studies at the time were done that focused on meat-eaters that had a healthy diet.

    With new diets like the Paleo, DASH, Bulletproof, etc we are seeing what optimum health can be like! Currently, I am following a fairly strict Paleo-based diet and feel better than ever! I’m in my 40s and haven’t felt this great in a very long time.

    I believe the reason vegetarians have a higher rate of colon cancer is due to the lack of Animal-based nutrients that have proven to heal and strengthen the intestinal/colon walls. Read about the GAPS dies and Bone Broth.

    After all these years of research I’ve found the key for my personal health and it can simply be broken down to this –

    No Sugar,
    No Dairy,
    No Processed Food,
    No Grains which the exception of white rice, popcorn rarely.
    Tons of fresh fruits/vegetables
    Some cooked fruits/vegetables
    Some Animal Meat, Fat and especially Bone Broth.

    Basically a combo of the Paleo, DASH, GAPS & bulletproof diets.
    Also, if you have time read the testimonial on the bulletproof diet site about the buddhist monks who can’t survive at high altitudes without animal fat/protein.

    If you want to follow a compassionate diet for obvious reasons, then that is great but it comes at the price of your own health. I hope this has helped someone, take care! 🙂

  31. Don Matesz September 23, 2014 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    As an ex- ex-vegan, I agree with you Ginny. I have not yet seen any prominent ex-vegan story, including my own, that did not have the person involved in either 1) disordered or restricted eating, 2) unrealistic expectations (meat-eaters get sick too!), 3) a desire to escape the social discomfort of being a vegan surrounded by non-vegans and be “normal,” or 4) a conscious or unconscious perception of the inevitable inadequacy of plant-based nutrition based on consulting/reading anti-vegan “professionals” who are only too happy to blame problems on the absence of animal products and unmotivated to even know let alone seek plant-based solutions.

    Where there have been clear nutritional issues, in every case I have seen, the issues were due to some type of restriction, particularly of fat and protein rich foods, and often an avoidance of “unnatural” supplements. I am very skeptical of claims that “THE vegan diet” caused this or that nutritional problem as I have never seen any of the claimants post meticulous nutrition analyses of their diets so as to identify any specific dietary deficiencies that would allow identification of plant foods or supplements that would solve the problem.

    When people say that supplementing a single nutrient (e.g. B12) didn’t help them maintain a vegan diet, but adding meat solved their problems, I immediately hypothesize that their diet was not only deficient in B12, but in several nutrients; because if B12 alone was not effective, there must have been other nutrients important for blood cell production that were absent in their vegan diet that they failed to identify and eventually obtained from meat. Candidates would be protein, iron, copper, etc.

    Actually I just before I read your blog I was feeling pretty discouraged by the vegan scene. I feel frustrated by the “leaders” who promote the idea that so long as you eat plants, you don’t need to worry about protein, EFAs, vitamins, or minerals because plant-based diets apparently are magically balanced without thought needed; but meanwhile they promote diet restrictions that unnecessarily limit fat (e.g. 10%) or protein or cooked foods (or all of the above) and the nutrients provided by the foods most rich in fats or proteins. I wonder if these supposed advocates of vegan diets are unconsciously driven to maximize the production of ex-vegans by making sure that they teach people new to plant-based diets to eat a diet deficient in calcium, vitamin E, vitamin A (fats being necessary for carotenoid utilization), etc.

    On our YT channel (Plant Based Solution) my wife Tracy Minton and I have posted many videos of our meals for a day, with nutritionanalysis showing how nutrient-rich a vegan diet can be IF you eat whole foods and aren’t hung up on “ideal” macronutrient ratios (that have no scientific basis) or on eating all raw.

  32. Deborah November 20, 2014 at 7:36 am - Reply

    Just throwing in some anecdotal non-evidence. I am a vegan. I became a vegan in 2006. This year I had several months of “ex-veganism”. I was dealing with depression and anxiety attacks and having trouble feeding myself at regular intervals and enough nutrition. I added pasture-raised eggs as a way to get protein and omega 3 quickly and easily. Now that I am emotionally and physically stable I am back to being vegan and supplementing with flax oil and/or algae on a regular basis. I needed a tool to get back to health, and I compromised on my values as little as possible while still prioritizing my health. I feel that black-and-white thinking is the problem here. I have lots of compassion for people who feel sick, but I can’t really understand eating flesh as a first resort, or at all. And the evangelism of ex-veganism confuses me to no end.

    • blog December 23, 2014 at 8:35 pm - Reply

      I used to need to take omega 3 for mental health. That changed when I started taking vitamin d. I get my omega pre-curser from walnuts and flax now, and I’m just as healthy as I was on the high omega 3 doses I used to NEED to stay healthy. I have no idea if there is any scientific basis here. Just my personal experience.

      I’ve also gone back and forth from vegan to not as my health has either given me more space to think about others or when I really don’t have the mental capacity to care so deeply for other beings. I feel much less shame about this now. I do what I can when I can. I know when I have a non-veg phase, I’ll be back eventually. I can’t imagine being a public figure and having so many people express their opinion when I do this. It sounds like a horrible ordeal. I don’t know that I would be back to veganism if I got the shit-storm that celebs like Portman get when they ex-veganize themselves.

  33. Liz B February 1, 2015 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    I was vegan for 5 years. My son was vegan since my 1st trimester and he wasn’t thriving. Low muscle tone, soy allergies, delayed speech, etc. I stumbled upon a blog of a woman with a similar situation who began to give her son meat and fats. I tried it, though I didn’t want to, and it worked. Very quickly my son began to improve. The protein helped with his fine motor skills in his wrists, as well as his speech. The glutathione boost was protective of his brain, which needed the cholesterol. You know, the brain is made of something like 25% cholesterol. I’d given him Hemp oil for years but the fish oil is what made it all click.

    I have personally NEVER enjoyed meat. I’m hypermobile and so is my son. We both have low muscle tone. The protein I get from fish (though I gag while eating it) makes me feel stronger. My son is also not a fan, but he has recovered leaps and bounds in 3 months time. I had to reside to the possibility that we ARE animals. It pains me to think of the death of other animals, but I will do it for my son. That means my health must be great as well. You know, Gandhi tried desperately to survive on a Vegan diet, but he couldn’t . It’s very humbling to know that you must do something so horrible to survive.

  34. […] Ginny Messina, MPH (Master of Public Health), RD (Registered Dietician), says in her website article, http://www.theveganrd.com/2014/08/disordered-eating-restrictive-eating-and-ex-vegans.html: […]

  35. Anna June 27, 2015 at 2:45 am - Reply

    I appreciate this post SO MUCH! I just had to leave a comment.
    See, I’m a vegan (active vegan and planning on being vegan for life). I’m ALSO recovered anorexic. Hearing people say that they had to eat animals “to love themselves enough to be healthy”, or some stupid shiznit like that, makes me really frustrated. It doesn’t make me angry, because I understand it, but it’s frustrating.
    See, I was a vegetarian for about eight years before I became a vegan, and for the last three of those years, I was battling anorexia. When I finally felt like I had a grasp on recovery, I went vegan. I’ve stayed vegan. It’s been about a year.
    I’m not every case. I know that there are people who can’t keep up a vegan diet because cutting out food groups brings them back to their disordered days. But people are told that that’s every person, and that nobody who’s had an eating disorder can be vegan, ever.
    When I talked in treatment about wanting to go vegan, all the other girls would tell me that that was dangerous, and a sign that I wasn’t getting better. Most didn’t believe me that I wanted to be vegan for the animals, and assumed that I wanted to do it to restrict my intake. It infuriated me then, and now that I’m successful, it infuriates me more.
    I’ve met one person who is in the same boat as me, and she was really inspiring. About a year after I’d become severely anorexic, I was walking around my local Warped Tour (it’s a music festival that happens to have a whole ton of animal welfare booths). I was talking to a woman at one of the veganism booths about how I’d love to be vegan, but was just a vegetarian for the moment because I was supposed to be in recovery from anorexia. What she said next shocked me – she said that she had battled anorexia, too, and that what HELPED her was becoming vegan.
    A lot of anti-vegan people, and many in the eating disorder treatment community, would hear that and scoff. I was intrigued.
    She explained that becoming vegan had forced her to pay more attention to eating properly, and now that I’ve done the same thing, I really understand.
    In fact, I’m not sure if I’d be recovered without having gone vegan.
    Because I care so deeply about animal welfare, I can’t stand the idea of becoming an ex-vegan. And there’s no such thing as an eating disorder treatment plan that allows veganism. I knew that if I stayed sick I would die (in 2012 I was hospitalized for a few weeks, nearly dying, because of my eating disorder). I didn’t want to die, and I didn’t want to eat dairy and eggs. So, throwing myself into being vegan was the option I had. I did it. I love it.
    What’s crazy is that now, about a year later, I’m in testing for celiac disease, of all things. I won’t get into it too much, but I’ve been stuck at home, unable to leave or even move, for much of the last four months. My doctor thinks it could be celiac, and I’m pretty sure it is, so I’m moving forward with that.
    I bring this up because it brings up the prospect of living my life entirely vegan AND super-strictly gluten free. Not trendy, lifestyle-momming gluten free, but like, as-if-it-were-a-peanut-allergy gluten free. And a lot of people are like “Oh my God, gluten free AND vegan? What will you eat? That leaves no options, that’s SO restrictive!”
    Sometimes I go off on them. But I also just laugh.
    I’ve been cooking multiple recipes a day lately (I’m feeling a little more alive, at least enough to stand up and cook). Trying my hand at gluten free cooking, just in case celiac is indeed my diagnosis. And my options seem to be more varied than ever.
    It’s not that meat-eaters have more options (although technically they do), but that they get complacent in using the same few ingredients in everything. We have to try harder to find good food, but when we do, it’s often better and is always kinder. We have all the same foods available to us if we only do some basic substitutions.
    I’ve lived on a restricted diet, eating only a few hundred calories a day.
    But now? I’m eating a million different foods. I eat what I like, when I like. I’ve learned how to cook more foods, how to nourish my body properly, AND how to love and value myself. The ex-vegans of the body positivity movement would like to tell you that it’s impossible to live vegan and love yourself. Maybe that’s true for them, but I couldn’t love myself if I killed to live.
    Paying attention to what my body needs, while paying attention to what my soul needs, has allowed me to achieve a complete recovery. Even faced with the possibility of never being able to eat gluten again, I know I’ll be vegan for life. I went vegan during one of the most “dangerous” times to be vegan, and it’s gone better than I ever could have imagined.
    I wish stories like mine were spread instead of the ones you talk about in this article.
    Thanks muchly for writing this, and I’m glad I can share my experience as a vegan who’s also recovered.

  36. Bess June 29, 2015 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    I wonder if anyone has my story. I have stopped being vegan recently, and it is related to disordered eating, although not quite the way you mention–I just started feeling really restricted, and that was triggering all kinds of bad thoughts and feelings and behavior.

    To be clear, I don’t think I would have felt restricted if I hadn’t already had so many emotional issues around food. I tried to treat it in psychotherapy for years and years and just couldn’t cut it. 🙁

    Allowing myself to eat meat and dairy (it’s only been a few weeks) has helped my behavior so far–I’ve been less obsessive. But it’s obviously not morally worth it–no matter how unhappy I was, I wasn’t as unhappy as a egg-laying hen or a veal calf or even a salmon in a fish farm, probably.

    So I definitely regard veganism as vastly morally superior, and I do tell other non-vegans that (albeit in somewhat more moderate language)–i.e. that veganism didn’t fail me, but that I failed it.

    Can anyone relate?

  37. recoveryjournalistk August 12, 2015 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    I completely agree with you, thank you for sharing this. Love your blog and it’s debunking of ex vegans’ stories has helped keep me vegan through some hard times 🙂

    Have you read any of Sayward Rebhal of Bonzai Aphrodite’s writings or talks on ex-vegans? She makes some great points x

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