"My Vegan Diet Almost Killed Me" - Really?

Jen Slack's picture

I have recently read some stories about some vegans who have gone back to eating meat and dairy. After reading. perhaps, the most notorious story on the subject, I was left puzzled and riddled with questions.

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As a vegan of just four months, the thought of eating steak or chicken, in the form of a craving, does come to my mind from time to time. However, it does not last long.

When a craving occurs, I purposely envision the videos of abused cows, chickens and even videos of slaughterhouses that I have seen. Immediately, any craving is quickly diminished. It's a recall method that I have put in place. It began when I decidedly took the time to watch these videos and to allow them to infiltrate my mind. As tough as the videos were to watch, I knew I had to see them, to see the truth of them and to be able to recall them when necessary - like in the event of a craving.

In searching veganism on the web, I also came across some articles that seemed to promote the lifestyle as a true danger. Being the inquisitive person that I am, I needed to know more. Here is what I learned.

Veganism was "killing her"

The New York Post headline was enough to make me take note. "My Vegan Diet Almost Killed Me". Really? A vegan diet that almost killed someone? I definitely needed to investigate more. Was I embracing a life that was truly dangerous to my health?

It did not take long to figure out something was amiss. Right from the first sentence of the article, it was obvious.

"Curled up in bed in her West Village apartment, shivering from cold and exhaustion, Jordan Younger tried to ignore the hunger pangs as she counted down the hours until she could have a glass of green juice."

While that sounds truly awful, I had to ask myself, what is actually vegan about this? I had only been doing this a few months, but had never heard of vegans who were shivering from the cold, and counting the hours until they could drink green juice.

Continuing with the second paragraph, I still saw no connection to veganism.

"The then-23-year-old New School student, in the midst of a grueling, month long, 800-calories-per-day juice cleanse, was truly suffering: Her lips were blue, her hair was falling out, her skin was blotchy and she hadn’t had her period in six months due to extreme vitamin deficiency."

Any other vegans reading this will have alarm bells going off as well. There is nothing vegan about restricting calories for months on end to the point of exhaustion and other obvious signs of poor health.

The girl, who had been a vegan blog writer, had 70,000 instagram followers and was obsessed with her diet, to the point where she was diagnosed as a "orthorexic" - someone who is obsessed with eating healthy food.

Clearly, this girl had issues. What five foot four female who weighs 105 pounds and restricts themselves to 800 calories a day, calling that "healthy"?

First off, according to this healthy weight range for calculator, a 23 year old woman who is 5' 4" in height, would have been between 107.8 and 145.6 pounds, based on the healthy BMI recommendations.

She was already underweight, and also restricting her calories - severely. Using this calorie calculator, this highly active young woman should have been consuming over 1900 calories, yet was starving herself eating just 800 calories per day.

When her memoir, Breaking Vegan was being published, she said this to the Post “The obsession with my diet took up my every waking hour,”, and of veganism, says this,“It was stopping me from leading a normal life full of social activities and other interests.”

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What does this have to do with veganism?

In my reading on veganism, and on the various Facebook groups, I have never seen extreme calorie restriction for months on end as a part of the vegan lifestyle. In fact, I have seen many vegans who consider themselves "junk food vegans" who don't seem to care at all about their food choices or calorie intake, so long as their choices are "cruelty-free", meaning no animals or biproducts from animals.

Vegans do not seem to me at all to be orthorexic, although I would not doubt that there are some who are.

As well, I am not sure why she felt her veganism stropped her from leading a normal life with outside interests and social activities. It has never interfered with my life in any way, and I do not even have any friends that are vegan. Surely, a 23 year old from California could find like-minded, vegan friends - especially one with a blog with so many followers.

Something is either wrong, or missing in this article

"Her public profile hinged on her vegan identity, yet her choices were damaging her body", is another puzzling statement the article makes. If she is trying to survive on 800 calories per day, to the point where she is no longer having a period, while going to yoga and trying dismiss hunger pangs until the next green smoother, indeed, do sound like very poor choices. However, these choices have nothing to do with being vegan.

Incidentally, Ms Younger when back to being an omnivore, when a pal suggested she eat some fish. Younger did and within a week, her period returned and shortly thereafter, she confessed to her vegan audience that she was no longer vegan. What if the friend had simply suggested she start eating the 1200 calories a day she was missing? How about adding a tofu scramble with toast, a peanut butter sandwich, with an apple, and a lentil, black bean burger with salad, or the equivalent amount of calories in a healthy form, per day , to those measly, green smoothies? What would have happened then?

Ironically, in another online blog, another young woman, Veera Bianca, chronicles the changes that were made after she began to eat meat and dairy back into her diet, which included skin problems, hormonal issues, stomach pain, sluggish feelings, nasal congestions and a constant battle with her moral conscience.

Constant battle with moral conscience

This I can understand.

If a person adopt a vegan diet, or plant based diet, purely for health reasons, as so many do, a battle with their moral conscience would not be an issue, if they decided to go back to consuming animals or their bi-products.

However, anyone who decided to go vegan for the animals or for the environment, or for both must have these struggles. How can you be a vegan for the animals and then decide it is moral to eat them? How can you become adopt a plant based diet for the betterment of the environment, and then simply go back to being a meat and dairy consumer?

In the case of Ms Younger, above, perhaps she was never really had it in her heart to be vegan, for the animals. If she was vegan, fighting for the plight of the animals, maintaining a healthy weight would have been an easy task. There is so much good vegan, and healthy vegan food to be found. Even if she had adopted a vegan diet, for her health, for healthy reasons she would not have been consuming the low calorie diet that she had been consuming.

The reality, perhaps, was that a young woman, late in her teens, veganism was just something that she decided to identify with in hopes of looking cool or hip or accepted, or even to be a rebel? Something that garnered her attention, through her blog. Perhaps, at the age of 23, she was not familiar enough with nutrition and how to get the proper nutrients in a vegan diet.

If she was truly a vegan at heart, she would have done better by her health, in order for the movement to furthered. Instead, she abandoned the movement, seemingly falsely accusing veganism as the problem, when it was an eating disorder that caused her desire to be super skinny - seemingly, the true culprit of her ill health.

Do you think the New York post was being disingenuous in their coverage, of what seems to be an eating disorder?

Have you gone from vegan to omnivore or vise versa? What experienced have you experienced? Please share comments and questions below.

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Comments

I went from being vegan/raw vegan to straight veg lacto/ovo. I was surprised that even though I am adept at nutrition knowledge, I had to go vegetarian after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in spite of all my righteous vegan ass kicking.... realizing I could not maintain certain levels of nutrients due to malabsorption & genetics that prevent my adequate levels of b vitamins, magnesium, and zinc. I was then re-evaluated many times over & my health has greatly improved over my painstakingly made vegan choices. Was there guilt? Sure. Especially after all the great brain-washy type materials that make one feel as if all suffering is on one’s hands. We all know it’s bad, but the question becomes how to be totally ethical as well as practical to our lives & others. Many don’t join “the movement” because even saying stuff like that comes off as cultish and overwhelming. A less dogmatic approach, and one that considers the health of each individual is very important.But my goal to personally source all of my own food while obstaining from any meat, getting sparingly the lacto/ovo contents of my diet from personal friends less than 50 miles from home doesn’t feel wrong. Mass production, fossil fuel derived products like pleather, & the food industry, vegan or not, kills more animals, and buying food should be thought of ethically as well, not simply dietary choices, as store bought goods are damaging through harming the environment as a whole, making extinctions rise. All things must balance, as this woman realized for herself, and this is not something to be judged over.