What I Didn’t Anticipate When I Stuck The Vegan Label On My Diet

by TaylorR

*This is the final post regarding my recent nutritional changes. After this, there will be no more labels.

Labels. 

It’s a strange thing really. Growing up, I wanted to break free of labels. To be my own person. I think every teenager and young adult agrees. Of course we want to be accepted, but we didn’t want to be labeled as any one thing.

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Somewhere along the way that changed.

As an adult, fitting in seems to be a lot more important than ever before. We want to be accepted by our peers and feel like part of the in-crowd.

That desire creates a longing for a label.

Labels join us, bind us, and makes us feel like a part of a collected group. We long for a label that suites our character and passions.

Enter Veganism

Two years ago (next month actually), I took on a 90-day challenge: to test a vegan diet. As you know if you’ve been reading Lifting Revolution for any amount of time, that 90-day challenge officially ended just weeks ago.

I feel as if something changed during my vegan journey.

I originally adopted the plant based lifestyle because I felt good about myself. I liked the way I felt eating meat-free. I developed a healthy relationship with food (finally), and simply felt we went together like peas and carrots.

I didn’t think about labels at first. But then I did.

I found myself telling people that I was vegan.  Some how it would just pop up in conversation. Weird looking back now, because it’s not like you introduce yourself to someone new and promptly announce:

“Oh hi, my name is _________ and I eat an omnivore diet.”

So why was it happening to me?

I began writing articles (not many) for vegan publications. And I began to enjoy not just the food, but the pride I got simply by being in the “vegan club”.

I was part of a group, I felt accepted. Similar to my sorority days I guess. Finding other vegans created instant bonds and conversations that lacked awkward silences… we just “got” one another.

Talking about chia seed eggs and how to use tempeh were fun chats that flowed effortlessly.

What I Didn’t Anticipate

There were a few things that happened that I didn’t anticipate. All equally important in making my decision to toss away the label and move forward with my nutrition.

1. What I didn’t anticipate was what I was actually doing to my body.

I felt so weak and tired during this workout… Oct 2013 

After the first year, I was still loving the “diet”. But I was suddenly tired, cranky, unable to concentration. Heck, there were times when I couldn’t even read a sentence correctly. Dan would get so annoyed, as would I. Why the hell couldn’t I spit out the words that were right in front of my eyes in typed letters?

I also realized my physical performance was declining. As an athlete, I started to feel winded, fatigued and out of shape. But why? My training regiment didn’t warrant a reason for it!

My strength began to decline, I am not proud of it, but I will say these past 8 months have been some of my weakest.

What used to be easy, seemed to be impossible. Remember how I wanted to do 20 pull-ups last year?

Ha! That didn’t come close to happening. All of my strength seemed to melt away.

I was Superman…

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But kryptonite was always in my pocket. That baby didn’t budge.

I also wasn’t recovering properly from workouts. I was suddenly sore for multiple days from a workout that previously wouldn’t have left an impression on me.

Turns out my body was low in iron and B vitamins. Not that that was a shock, however I truly believe that just supplementing with a pill is not the fix. A balanced diet is.

2. What I didn’t anticipate was what I was doing to friends and family.

I went in to this vegan life with the idea that the only people it would affect were Dan and myself. As long as Dan was supportive and willing to go mostly meatless (I made him chicken a few times a week but other than that he ate vegan dinners) then we were good.

I didn’t realize that friends and family were intimidated to have us over. Unsure what they would make for the “health nut”.

My parents actually preferred for us not to come over for Sunday dinners (family tradition) because they didn’t want to watch me eat just broccoli or complain about cheese being tossed into salads/veggies (I still don’t eat cheese). It caused them stress and anxiety.

People didn’t like inviting us over and then asking me if I would be okay bringing my own “main course”.

It didn’t bother me at all, but it bothered them. They wanted me to enjoy the food they spent time preparing.

Of course that makes sense.

3. What I didn’t anticipate was having a bad relationship with food all over again.

I went in to this because I loved the new relationship I developed. I ate when I wanted, stopped when I wanted, and enjoyed my meals guilt-free.

Over time, that all changed.

Because I was a labeled vegan, I felt shameful anytime I even thought about eating animal products. I ate fish on occasion but felt guilty as if I was letting all vegans down.

I was almost worried that if someone saw me I would get a ticket thrown my way. Or I would get slapped in the face by a die hard vegan.

If I ever ate Fro Yo (which I did maybe 5 times in the 2 years) I refused to snap a picture like my other blogger friends on Instagram. I was ashamed. But oh it tasted so good!

The thing that made me love food, turned against me.

4. What I didn’t anticipate was discovering that it’s okay to not have a label.

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When I first thought about giving up the vegan label I asked you, my lovely readers, for your opinions. While several strong opinions were stated…

I think one said: “if you’re lacking nutrients than you suck as a vegan.”

Most everyone else was very supportive and said to do what was best not for the label but for me. For MY body.

You mean, I wouldn’t get tossed out of the healthy living world for eating fish? Chicken? Eggs?

That’s when I decided that enough was enough. Labels aren’t necessary, and they certainly didn’t help me.

What has helped me? 

Listening to my body. Fueling it with the food it needs and wants. And staying true to myself.

Sure, a diet label may help some, but what works for one isn’t guaranteed to work for another. We live in a world where it is okay to be different.

My body didn’t work the way I envisioned. I’ve met several people who have excelled with one diet or another. And I know several others who like me, realized that their bodies didn’t.

What Will My Diet Be? 

Expect to still see a lot of vegan recipes. I am not walking away from a plant based diet. I still think that a diet composed mostly of veggies and fruits is the way to go.

But also expect to see some gluten-free recipes as well. And some paleo.

 

And pretty much every type of diet as I believe all have benefits that are worth drawing from. I no longer believe that one form of nutrition is better than another (well, perhaps processed is never going to make it on here).

But, I also think my body is loving the eggs and salmon that I can’t seem to get enough of lately.

No more labels… from here on out, it’s the “undiet diet”. Giving my body what it wants, and what it needs.

Out with the labels and in with purposeful nutrition. A nutritional plan designed around cravings, performance, and overall health… balance.

And oh my, smoked salmon and egg sandwiches (on a rice wrap) have never been so good!

I am really like a kid in a candy store right now, I feel as if I am learning to cook all over again!

–> Do you have a go to egg or fish recipe? I would love to know it! <–

 

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

lindsay January 14, 2014 at 7:31 am

oh friend, i love how you have come to realize this. Labels are SH*T! You’re FUELatarian now. I got the same looks way back when (5 years ago) when GF was NEW> people were confused and didn’t know how to eat around me. But… It changed. Focusing on what makes you feel good and not being defined by any food, just good fuel.

Not gonna lie, i know very few people who do VEGANism well. meaning, they are getting all their nutrients from food. Usually they need a supplement. That being said, to each their own. everyone’s body works differently. Again, another reason why labels come and go. And hopefully labels will continue to …. GO!

cheers!

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TaylorR January 14, 2014 at 9:01 am

Always the voice of reason! Thanks lady. I love that… Fueltarian! yup, that’s me!

Cheers to eating what we want! And what our bods want!

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Aqiyl Aniys January 14, 2014 at 9:16 am

Hi Taylor,

Sorry the plant based diet didn’t work for you.

I am thankful that my plant based diet has worked wonderfully for me. In response to Lindsay there are many many people whole do VEGANism very well. I don’t need to multivitamin supplement as my balanced diet offers me concentrated amounts of nutrients. I do take vegan B12 and Vitamin D2 as not only vegans and vegetarians lack in these vitamins but also do people who eat meat. I don’t get much sun in the winter so I supplement with vitamin D and mostly everyone should. Vitamin B12 used to be abundant in our environment but because of moderation, our sources of B12 have diminished. There are an abundant amount of vegans who don’t supplement because that a main reason for becoming vegan, to get our nutrients form the food we eat.

I am glad you are going to continue to make fruits and vegetables a major part of your diet. Just do your best to make sure the meat you eat is grass fed.

Peace and Blessings be with you.

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TaylorR January 14, 2014 at 10:05 am

Thanks! Yes, plant based is still center for us, but the meat we are eating is as natural and organic as we can get it. That’s one of the reasons I am not eating a ton more because let’s face it, it’s not cheap!

Luckily I am still in the sun during the winter so no D for me :)

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Amy Lauren January 14, 2014 at 9:34 am

Despite not being vegan, it seems like you’re still maintaining a plant based diet. Your eating style is still totally healthy but actually healthier because it’s guilt free. I totally snap pictures of my fro-yo (we rarely go out for it, but I keep a container of Publix Heath Toffee Froyo in the freezer)… and I eat a lot worse than most people probably think I eat. Yeah, I eat pop tarts pre-race!

It makes me sad to see vegetarians and vegans knock down those who eat seafood or meat occasionally (I eat seafood occasionally and I eat dairy on a regular basis). People who do eat meat and dairy can still eat vegan foods, after all. Vegans may only eat plant-based food, but omnivores don’t only eat animal based products. Well, maybe those bacon fanatics do. So, you can still eat your same recipes but modify them if you want to.

The added flexibility with family is great and also important. Since I eat dairy and seafood, I can find choices at family gatherings, but when I added in seafood, it was like another world opened for me as far as places I could eat out and dishes I could eat at family dinners, and that helped big time!

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TaylorR January 14, 2014 at 10:06 am

It is a new world all over again. My mom is so excited, it was a the first thing she announced to my mother-in-law when they talked at Christmas… “Did you hear? Kindal is eating meat!” lol, cracked me up!

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Amanda H @EatHardWorkHard January 14, 2014 at 10:15 am

I love this! It must have been a very tough road but I applaud you on your decision and it really seems like you have arrived at a great and healthy attitude towards food. I’m still trying to find balance in my diet and haven’t mastered the whole intuitive eating thing yet, but I do hope to one day be able to completely let go of counting calories!

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TaylorR January 14, 2014 at 11:28 am

Yes, one day! One day at a time and you’ll get there! Just be conscious of your goal and realize it never gets “easy”. You can do it!

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Ronda January 14, 2014 at 11:01 am

Love that you share your journeys and lessons and are proud of all of it! You are human and we are learning all the time.

I have tried various “ways of eating” and my body always goes back to balance. I just Eat. The. Food. :). (Although as little processed and fast food as possible of course! But I even eat that sometmes too!!)

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TaylorR January 14, 2014 at 11:29 am

Thanks! Balance is life, all things in moderation! Life without ice cream is no life at all! Lol

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Kim January 14, 2014 at 11:18 am

I think that being able to realize it wasn’t working for you and making the necessary changes is far more important than fitting into any set “diet.” I like that you don’t feel a need to label your diet at this point!!

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TaylorR January 14, 2014 at 11:30 am

No labels, no more! Just living life a day at a time!

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Sharon January 14, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Excellent post! I’m not a vegan but do eat a number of plant based meals and limit my intake of meat. I look for quality, always, when I consume animal products. I find it quite surprising when vegans, who proclaim a love of animals, show such little love to humble humans. We are all getting through life the way that fits us best. Judgements and labels are not needed :)

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TaylorR January 14, 2014 at 2:32 pm

so right! I love that, you hit the nail on the head with “getting through life with what fits US best!”

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Brittny January 14, 2014 at 1:54 pm

I have gone through something very similar with my own health over the last few months and have been eating eggs and fish “in the closet” simply because of the vegan label I placed on myself. Oddly enough, I mentioned being a “flexitarian” the other day, so this post made me laugh a little. Stop with the labels, Brittny! :) I could not agree more.

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TaylorR January 14, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Hahaha, Flexitarian what a great word though!

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Purelytwins January 14, 2014 at 2:37 pm

we went through those some thoughts and feelings when we were raw vegans and started to eat animal based products again for health issues. we know exactly how you are feeling! and totally agree with you on NO LABELS!! yay for no label party! we are so stick of groups/labels/etc… can’t we all just get along and not worry or judge so much on what someone else is eating.

and we are not surprised you got a comment like that. but we are so happy you are listening to your body and fueling it!! xoxo

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TaylorR January 14, 2014 at 9:27 pm

I am all for a No Label party!

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Jazial @ Foxy Fresh January 14, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Oh girl. This really resonated with me!
I was vegan for much of last year and it felt great at first eating really clean but I ask noticed I wasn’t recovering well from workouts. I would feel sore when I’d previously felt strong. Plus I started getting dandruff which is apparently from a lack of vitamin b12 in a vegan diet. My hair felt awful even when I changed shampoos.
I also didn’t like how politically aggressive some of the vegan community is about animal rights and environmental issues. That doesn’t mean I don’t agree with some of their points, I just hate people telling other people any of their lifestyle choice are “wrong”.
In about November I started eating everything and anything I want again and I feel SO MUCH better with a varied diet.

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TaylorR January 14, 2014 at 9:28 pm

My hair wasn’t doing too great either, glad to know I wasn’t alone! I was losing it by the handfuls! Not cute.

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Caitlin January 14, 2014 at 3:05 pm

this is an awesome post and i completely agree with your new path. i often call myself an everythingarian because while i appreciate vegan food and how good it can make me feel, i also really love meat. and seafood. and CHEESE. oh god, cheese ! if i was a vegan who ate cheese on occasion, i’d have to put up with questions about why i’m eating cheese, am i no longer a vegan just because i’m eating cheese. so i refuse to give myself any label because i don’t want to deal with ?s the ONE time i eat a food that doesn’t follow that label. why am i eating this? because i WANT it.

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TaylorR January 14, 2014 at 9:29 pm

Thanks! I love it, eat because my stomach tells me it looks yum!

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Rebecca January 14, 2014 at 3:19 pm

I was vegetarian for 7 years, and then slowly transitioned into eating fish. The first few times I did, I felt so strange…almost like I was on the verge of a panic attack after being so stringent for so long. I got used to fish, then in 2012 slowly introduced meat again. I realized it was just time to do that — I was working out more, and found it was harder (and more expensive) to fuel my body efficiently when I only ate fish. Now I eat chicken and turkey almost daily…red meat is once in a blue moon, and I enjoy it when I do. I have an extremely sensitive stomach so it forces me to eat lighter, healthier things, which is both a blessing and a curse, but it really is all about what works with your body and how it makes you feel.

I do enjoy baking a lot, and I try to make 90% of what I bake vegan and paleo/clean because it means I can eat more without the guilt :) I enjoy vegan food, vegetarian food, a great chicken dish and a good old fashioned cheeseburger sometimes…I just like food! There’s no reason to feel the need to label yourself — just eat what your body is craving, and your body will treat you well :)

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TaylorR January 14, 2014 at 9:29 pm

I am the same. I try to stick to vegan baking because it’s just as good as the nonvegan and healthier!

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Kim @ Roaming Raspberry January 14, 2014 at 6:52 pm

Ah man! I totally would have had you over and cooked a vegan meal. The first thing I do when I invite someone over is to ask if they have any dietary restrictions. It actually makes the cooking experience fun because it creates a challenge. Still randomly excited you aren’t vegan anymore!

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TaylorR January 14, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Haha, you’re the best!

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Adrienne Levy January 15, 2014 at 10:48 am

Good for you!! I think this is awesome. If you listen to your body, you’ll know what you need to eat that day! You’re a healthy gal, who has developed good habits with lots of fruits / veggies /etc . Throwing meat (seafood, eggs, whatever ) into the mix when you are craving it, will only help you out in the long run. I also don’t really have a “label” … Sometimes I’m vegetarian and sometimes I crave a burger from Sesame. I just go with the flow and it seems to work out! Enjoy your new year with new foods! One of my favorite recipe sites is skinnytaste.com – -She has lots of varieties !

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TaylorR January 16, 2014 at 8:16 am

Thanks! I’ll check her out tonight, since its meal planning time for next week! My husband has been craving sesame!

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