While I’m no health professional, I’ve come a long way where healthy eating is concerned. I read ingredients religiously (and understand them), I know where my greens come from and where my almonds are milked (joking, obviously). I’m just a girl well-versed in the topic of #health, informing you of my experience.
Highly medicated on supplements
The month of November began with instructions to take twenty-five drops of silver with breakfast, massive plastic-covered L-Glutamine tablets thirty minutes before both lunch and dinner, lemon balm drops on my salad, two zinc tablets in the evening and finally finishing the day off with another two probiotics. It’s been almost two months and I’m still highly medicated on supplements. Overnight I had gone from six years of veganism (vegetarian when I wanted to be) to introducing red meat, chicken and a whole load of fish back into my diet. This was not because I was fed up eating soy-inducing tofu chunks, four eggs a day, pasta for comfort and getting bloated on chickpeas. As everyone prepares themselves for veganuary, ready to chow down on everything raw, gluten-free, dairy-free, low-fat, high-fat, and of course, vegan - I’m tucking into my newfound life of eating meat. Why? Well, honestly, because I have a parasite.
Since I began messing around with food groups at age seventeen, my digestive system has been a mess. From going vegetarian, to being a hardcore vegan (before finally deciding I love cheese pizza too much), to completely cutting out bread and then eating far too much of it, I went back and forth between vegetarianism and veganism for six years.
The vegan/vegetarian lifestyle made me feel all fancy. I enjoyed sashaying through hipster cafés, flipping my hair and asking for a matcha latte with almond milk and a vegan flapjack on the side. But it wasn’t until three years in that I really began feeling sick after eating. Suddenly, I was fighting awful digestion, but trying desperately to continue living a cruelty-free lifestyle - even though I knew it wasn't working for me anymore.
I often felt drained, both physically and mentally. I was unwell and unsatiated; I could never seem to get the balance right. After finally making moves to do something about it, I visited a naturopathic doctor. It was the best thing I’ve ever done - for both my health and my mental state. I found out that there was something else going on internally - a parasite in my system causing absolute chaos.
While I knew dairy didn't agree with me at all before I even got tested, I’d occasionally like to indulge in a not-so-gourmet pizza after a night out, or spoil myself with a fresh croissant laden with butter when abroad in Paris. I was quickly told I was intolerant to all dairy products after my first consultation. I almost cried when she told me I was allergic to eggs, but MSG I could live without (mostly found in Chinese food); soy was a surprising one and alcohol was even more surprising (although gin doesn't count). On top of all these intolerances, what was most surprising was that I managed to pick up a parasite when in Prague last January. Don't ask me how or what I ate, because I honestly don't know - whether it was through contaminated water or food.
Turns out that I had been eating foods that I was allergic to for years. This was making me feel unwell. But once I had a parasite, everything went downhill, fast. The parasite was living on all the food my body was rejecting; growing and multiplying in all its critter glory. The naturopath said that although I didn't look it physically, I was malnourished - my system needed meat, chicken and fish. As our session neared an end, she asked me if I was vegan/vegetarian for ethical reasons. And while I do love animals and aim to live in as eco-friendly a way as possible, I was willing to begin introducing meat, chicken and fish back into my diet, I was willing to try anything to help.
Do what works for YOU
I'll be honest, eating those foods again after six years was strange. I started with fish and moved on to chicken. It was weirdly satisfying and never felt wrong; my body soon didn't feel so 'empty'. Although I still haven’t eaten meat (baby steps), it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for my health and for my mental state.
While I’m a sucker for wellness content and all things healthy, the vegan diet just wasn't right - for me. Everyone’s body is different. Some people thrive on a plant-based diet, but it brought me a lot of pain, both mentally, emotionally and clearly, physically. But that doesn't mean I can’t live a healthy lifestyle eating grass-fed protein and an abundance of vegetables. Perhaps you’re thinking about going vegan for ethical reasons or conjuring up some drastic New Year’s resolution, but I can’t stress enough how smart your body is, so listen to it. Do what works for YOU, not what's working for someone else.