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What Happened When I Gave Up Veganism

FarmersMarket_400I’d been vegan for more than a decade when I started to crave meat, eggs, and other animal products. But I had built my career as a vegan chef and a holistic health counselor (though interestingly, most of my clients were not vegan, and I happily supported them to find their best diets). Still, I hid my cravings from everyone, including my partner and son. From Women, Food, and Desire.

You see, I was afraid of disappointing people; of somehow letting down my tribe of fellow health warriors, or my clients, or anyone who found inspiration from my work while being vegan. But more than that, I was afraid of being judged; I was afraid that making this kind of change would somehow make me seem less loving, or less credible, or less trustworthy, so I kept my desires hidden. It wasn’t until I began to realize how harmful these fears were that I was able to finally own and honor these desires—because I knew deep down that honoring my desire, giving my body what it was craving and calling out for, would actually make me more trustworthy, more truthful, more authentic, and much more reliable to everyone around me.

So I began to eat free-range eggs, locally sourced, grass-fed meats, and wild fish, in an effort to get more healthy omega-3 fatty acids and avoid the dangers of factory-farmed animal products like antibiotic-resistant germs. But still, I didn’t tell anyone, not even my closest colleagues. And that’s because in my gut, I knew that I would be criticized and ostracized for changing my life by changing my diet.

But I wasn’t at all prepared for what actually happened.

Change Is Scary, but a Powerful Woman Is Scarier
When I came out as no longer being vegan, old friends stopped talking to me, longtime colleagues renounced me, and I was flooded with messages via social media that were way beyond anything I’d ever experienced in my life (before or since) in terms of how vicious and hateful they were. Some ultrapolitical vegans even wished me dead! I was not prepared for this onslaught and it really undid me emotionally. I cried a lot those first few days, sobbed under the covers in my bed—that’s how wounding that initial response was.

But then an email came in praising me for being so brave. Then another, and another… I started to get texts and emails and messages on Twitter and on my Facebook page, thanking me for having the courage to advocate for myself and to speak my truth—and, especially, to stand tall in the face of so much criticism. The tidal wave of support that began to swell after the haters got in their vicious jibes lifted me up and out of the fear and doubt that had me pinned down, and soon I found that the effect of being so honest and transparent was that I felt lighter, calmer, and more energized. In short, I discovered that being honest had set me free. And this freedom felt good. Very good.

Since that coming-out experience, I’ve had other vegan “celebrities” confide to me that they had also needed to add meat back into their diets, but they weren’t yet ready to share this news with their readers and clients. The fear was that they’d lose their businesses, lose their credibility, lose their community. I understood this reticence all too well; it took me a full two years from initial craving to making a formal announcement, via a video I shared on YouTube, to come clean about my evolving diet. It took me a long time to find my voice and the guts to speak up for myself. Reading Brené Brown’s powerful work Daring Greatly helped me understand that vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. When I finally came clean, it was the best thing I’d ever done for myself.

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