Why I am no longer vegan (after 6 years)

After six years of living and preaching the vegan lifestyle I no longer follow a vegan, plants-only diet. Instead I've started eating meat again and I thought I'd share why. I've wanted to share this with you all since I started eating meat again around four months ago but I've been procrastinating on making this video partly because I wanted to see how my body responded to the introduction of meat again and also because I've been a little afraid of how it would be received. My decision to eat meat was something I didn't make lightly. I've quietly pondered about it for some time and have been researching the benefits of eating meat for over six months now.

It all started after I listened to a podcast by Dr Mark Hyman which was, 'Why Vegan Diets May Not Be Good for Your Health,' featuring Jayne Buxton. This took me down a rabbit hole as it questioned everything I believed in as a vegan; that eating a plants-only diet would improve my health, how it was better for animal welfare, and how it would help in saving the planet from from the excess carbon being produced from the animal agriculture sector. Suffice to say, having the integrity of your beliefs questioned isn't easy. But, I believe that it is important to reevaluate certain ideas we assume are facts every so often as information changes all of the time, particularly in the health and nutrition sector. Six years ago I decided to go vegan after watching a few documentaries on veganism, such as Cowspiracy, What the Health, and Forks Over Knives. This was based on a one-sided view of the story around animal agriculture and its impacts on human health and the planet. Since then I've come to learn that while a plant-based diet may work for some people it is definitely not for everyone (as with any diet, there is never a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to eating) and while others have noted an improvement in their health (which can be misleading at first and I'll delve into this further later), I did not.

So here is a little about why I'm no longer vegan and why I started eating meat again and other animal products after six years of eating only plant foods. I went vegan back in 2016 after watching the documentary Cowspiracy and learning that animal agriculture was supposedly worse than the whole transportation sector in terms of carbon emissions. I say 'supposedly' now because since then I've learnt that it isn't true. This claim was based on a 2006 report made by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations where they said that 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions were from livestock making it a greater emitter than the global transportation sector. The Food and Agriculture Organisation actually reduced down their 18% number after receiving challenging allegations revising the new number down to 14.5%. However the damage had already been done entrenching the idea that the climate crisis is largely a result of global agricultural farming. I was one of those people who wholeheartedly believed this. If you'd said to me six years ago that I'd be making this video I would have never believed it. Being vegan has really helped shape the woman I am today and I've learnt so much from the experience.

It's helped me to learn as well that changing your beliefs and ideas around something is okay. I've learnt to keep more of an open mind about things that I may disagree with, as my way isn't always the right way. Plus, veganism was a stepping stone into living a more sustainable, eco-friendly life for me. It led me on the path to where I am now where I make all of my own products and live as consciously as I can. Another reason why I went vegan was because of the acclaimed health benefits. Again, this has turned out to be misleading. the nutrients found in plant foods are less bioavailable meaning they're less absorbable for our bodies than those found in animal sources. And, what's more, some nutrients can only be found in animal foods such as pre-formed vitamin A, B12, D3 and K2, haem iron, taurine, carnosine, creatine, CLA, EPA and DHA. This means that in order to receive these nutrients you have to supplement, which is what I did. But even still, synthetic forms of these nutrients found in supplements or fortified foods still aren't up to par with those naturally found in food sources, as the body recognises these forms of nutrients more than our man-made versions and these vitamins and minerals are absorbed more easily when they come from food.

Plant foods are also high in carbohydrates. When you remove animal fats and protein from the diet you need to replace it with something else and that something is often carbs. Carbohydrates are broken down by the body into a sugar known as glucose and when that sugar enters the bloodstream the pancreas responds by producing insulin which allows glucose to enter the cells in the body and provide them with energy. over time the insulin receptor sites in the cells become less sensitive, meaning more insulin must be produced to do the job. Eventually cells stop responding to that insulin altogether leading to a condition known as insulin resistance a precursor for type 2 diabetes. While meat is more fatty that's a good thing. The idea that animal foods raise cholesterol has been proven to be false, as fat doesn't make you fat essentially. It actually does the opposite. High-fat low-carb has been found to help reduce inflammation as the body uses ketones for energy rather than glucose.

And while cholesterol has been labelled as "bad" it's a really essential component in the body. Cholesterol is a critical building block for many of the hormones that help with proper functioning of the body, it plays a part in the immune system, and is significant in the proper repair and maintenance of tissues in the body. Without cholesterol we would have no cell renewal, and no life. Plant foods also come with an array of anti-nutrients like oxalates, lectins and phytic acid which prevent nutrient absorption and can cause inflammation in the body when consumed in large amounts. A common phenomenon that often occurs with many new vegans is the 'vegan honeymoon,' a phase which can last for months or even years. It's where people find they're initially helped by going vegan but after an extended period of time, sickness starts to set in. And this is what happened to me. In my experience, my health problems started about four years after going vegan.

I became very fatigued and found it extremely difficult to lose weight, which as a young woman in my 20's I thought was very unusual. I had also developed leaky gut, something I never experienced before and suffered with a candida overgrowth from all the sugary fruits and high carbohydrate foods I was eating. Plus, I felt hungry all the time. I experienced many nutritional deficiencies, the most common ones being zinc, iron, and B12. These deficiencies left me feeling tired and fatigued  most of the time, no matter how much sleep I got. I was also losing hair and not just a little, a lot which really scared me. To help with my fatigue my naturopath suggested that I start including eggs in my diet (as I refused to eat any other animal foods at the time) and I noticed a huge improvement in my mental health, fatigue and nutritional deficiencies.

A year later I went vegetarian and a year after that I started a pescatarian diet which quickly switched to an omnivore diet focusing mostly on animal foods as I could keep to a high-fat low-carbohydrate regime which I found worked best for my body. For me when I went vegan the resounding message that was being conveyed was that as an individual, the single biggest thing you could do to help the planet and reduce your carbon footprint was to eat a plant-based diet. However this isn't necessarily the case. While we think eating plants will help the planet what we don't see are the impacts crops are having on the health of the ecosystems. Soy for example is a main staple in a plant-based diet and while it's estimated that 75% of the soy grown is used for animal feed, the feed given to livestock is mostly made up of the by-product and crushed soybean matter left over from extracting the soybean oil. So even though more soy by weight is consumed by animals  the more soybean oil that is consumed by humans directly impacts the soy that must be grown to accommodate the demand, driving deforestation and damaging the soil via the use of monocropping and chemical fertilisers.

Industrial monocrop agriculture requires tillage, chemical fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides like glyphosate, insecticides, fungicides and other harmful substances which degrade the soil, killing microbes. This leads to erosion of the topsoil, resulting in flooding, and can leach chemicals into our streams, rivers and oceans. The fact is that all foods impact the environment in some way and what we should be looking at is how the plant food or animal food was produced, rather than the food itself. We can start asking questions like was this food grown in a sustainable way, without artificial fertilisers that kill insects ravage the soil, and cause runoff into rivers and oceans? Was it grown locally, or has it been imported, travelling extensive distances to arrive on my plate? We as consumers hold so much power when it comes to the food industry. We can help by buying our meat from suppliers who uphold high standards of animal welfare. This is what I've really committed to since transitioning to eating meat again.

Ensuring that the food I eat has been produced in a humane, ethical and sustainable way. While grass-fed and finished beef or pasture-raised chicken, pigs, and poultry are more expensive than the standard feedlot meat, the value is worth it as you really do get what you pay for. Plus it also means that everybody wins in this scenario. The animals, the farmer, the customer, and the environment. I firmly believe that we have a responsibility to properly care for the animals on which we depend on. It does not give us freedom to treat them any way that suits us. We must put respect and compassion at the heart of animal agriculture. Animal welfare matters and should be built into the strategies we use to farm. I hope you got something out of this video  whether you are or aren't vegan. Thank you so much for watching. I hope you have a wonderful day and I'll see you soon again..

Video Transcript – As found on YouTube

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