On Wednesday evening I received a call from my doctor’s office telling me the results of blood work I had done two days prior.
As I had suspected, the test revealed that I am anemic. Aka, I have low iron… not much of a surprise really, since I am vegan and iron is mostly absorbed from meat. I had a feeling I was suffering from low iron, but still wanted to know for sure.
What made me suspect low iron?
For about 6 months now, I’ve been feeling low on energy, weak, tired, foggy at times, suffering from headaches, and to be honest just not “in the zone”. There have been numerous times when Dan has called me out on being flighty and spaced out. Though, these times aren’t frequent they have happened enough times for me to raise a cautious eyebrow and ask… “what’s going in?”
From the chart above, I have experienced:
- Reduced exercise tolerance
- Cardiorespiratory disturbances
- Pruritus (apparently is fancy lingo for itchy skin)
- Impaired immune system
- Impaired concentration/cognition
- Impaired libido (TMI)
- Intolerance to cold (but that could be because I HATE cold)
- Pallor (fancy for being pale in color)
The tired and weak symptoms are the two most prevalent, and as a trainer who needs to be high on energy and up on her workouts, these just won’t do.
So at my annual doctors appointment on Monday I mentioned all of this to my doc, who then agreed I should get tested.
So that’s where I am and here lies the decision I am trying to make.
I promptly started taking an iron supplement on Friday to start getting my levels up. I’m fine with that… what I am not fine with is the idea of having to take a supplement long term.
For quite sometime I have preached the importance of getting all of the body’s necessary nutrients from a whole food diet. I hate taking pills of any kind, yes, even iron pills. Heck, I don’t even like taking Advil!
Also, at the request of my doctor I started taking vitamin B12 pills as she believes I am likely low on it as well due to my lack of animal products. I was taking B12 a few months ago (at the request of my husband), but once the jar ran out, I stopped. Well, now I’ve got a big ole’ bottle in my medicine basket.
Is veganism worth it?
I love eating vegan. I love the way I have developed a healthy relationship with food, I love the way that my body feels after a hearty plant based meal and more importantly, I feel good about myself eating this way.
After taking the jump to eating plants full time, I began learning more and more about our current meat industry and while I don’t judge anyone for eating meat at all (Dan eats it every day… I’m the one that cooks it for him), I simply hate not being 100% sure as to where the meat is coming from, how it’s being packaged, how the animals were fed prior to slaughter, etc.
If I could have a small farm in my back yard with chickens, cows, etc… then I would have no problem going back to a meat eating diet. I would know exactly what I was eating and how it was prepared.
But, like most, I don’t have that luxury.
I also know that food is fuel, to the body, that’s it. Of course to us as humans, food is a lot more than just fuel, it’s togetherness, it’s memories, it’s comfort, etc… but at the basic level, it’s nothing more than gasoline to keep going mile after mile. And if your body runs of standard fuel, yet you give it diesel, it’s not going to go very far… right?
So, I’m at a standstill right now.
The 2 Choices I Have
Do I continue to follow a vegan diet while simultaneously taking supplemental pills to help balance out my nutrition, knowing that I am having to give my body fake sources of nutrients that I could be getting naturally from an omnivore diet?
Now I know what you’re thinking… Taylor, there are plenty of vegetables that are high in iron. And you would be correct, however heme iron is the iron that is best absorbed by the body which is found in animal products. Trust me when I say that 90% of the foods listed below are a standard part of my diet now. So clearly my body is unable to gather the iron up as much as it needs.
Do I accept that fact that some people just need meat to be healthy? As an athlete I want to be the strongest that I can be. For myself, for my clients, for my family… I want to set an example. I want to be healthy and I want others to say, “she’s an inspiration.”
And of course I want my body to be healthy, as it deserves only the best. Our bodies deserve to be spoiled, and proper fueling and exercise are the ways I do that.
Is that possible to be all those things knowing that I am choosing to not give my body the fuels that it requires?
I don’t know.
But I do know that I will be taking some time to reflect on the past 2 years since I’ve given up meat. I do know that I need to make a choice.
What else am I worried about?
I don’t want to use this as an easy out… Yes, I am scared that perhaps you will judge me if I do walk away from a vegan diet. No one wants to be a disappointment or a failure… for me, failing is one of my biggest fears in life (perhaps a confession and a story for another day).
I would love your opinions, good and bad. What do you think?