All About Food - Veganism, Diet Culture, the Clean Program

Releasing the fact that I was so focused on food for years of my life has been an interesting and very imperfect journey. I went vegan and found intuitive eating around the same time. They were both very important in the culmination of developing a healthier relationship with food.

I grew up in the thick weeds of diet culture and that has shaped experiences that I have to this very day.

Those early months of intuitive eating and veganism really were so great. I look back on that time with a deep sense of comfort in getting to experience that part of my journey in the way that I did. But everything is in a constant ebb and flow and this was no exception. It has ebbed and flowed continuously for a few years now, but I must say that the positives have greatly outweighed the negatives. Still, when I’m feeling discontent with my relationship with food it is a struggle. Sure, I see it in a different and much more compassionate light than I did years ago but it is still something that oftentimes makes me want to scream.

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When I went vegan and everything with food was sunshine and rainbows I found myself interested in the food blogging life. And I dove deep. I was a “food blogger” for about 4 years. Sure, now I was eating cupcakes and documenting all of the various restaurants that I was eating at but I was still very much in the mindset of food every day, and often, all the time. But when you’re eating cupcakes and talking about how much you enjoy all of these restaurants that you get to go to all the time it is perceived in a much more positive (and “healthy”) light than that of diet culture.

And so that’s how it went until it couldn’t go that way anymore. And when I mean that it couldn’t go that way anymore I mean in the aspect of my mental health. I just transferred one unhealthy coping mechanism (restricted eating, diet culture, etc.) to another (all food, all the time). I wasn’t necessarily in an unhealthy relationship with food at this point, but I definitely wasn’t my most aligned either. I was sticking to veganism because that’s something I clung to very much so due to ethics. In the year prior to letting go of veganism when I began to consider doing so I really felt unsettled being so connected to food and having my identity online perceived as this vegan food blogging person. And that’s when everything really started to get shaken up.

I backed away from blogging and sharing my life online months before I stepped away from veganism but looking back I can see how it is all so deeply connected. By clinging to these identities of a vegan and a food blogger and having my life revolve so deeply around both aspects really left me so unsettled when I stepped away from each of them, especially doing it separately.

Taking a break from blogging was really hard for me because it was/is something that I truly enjoy so very much. I took time to processes that and truly take the break that I needed and once I was in a good place with that I did the same thing to myself again, this time with veganism.

I was terrified to walk away from veganism because there is so much there that I don’t even know how to encapsulate into a paragraph that portrays the exact things that I feel and want to express.

I don’t necessarily blame veganism for my health issues. But I also don’t believe that veganism is the right diet for everyone. Or even most people, but hey, to each their own. And just saying that makes me cringe because it is something that I very deeply believed for so long. Veganism did nothing but bring positive things into my life until my health started to fall apart. I could sit here and list all of the amazing things that I have gained from my 5+ years of veganism, but I don’t see a point in doing so because the fact of the matter is that it simply didn’t work for me and walking away from it feels exactly like walking away from a long term relationship that was good, but not great. Sure, that seems dramatic but that is exactly how it feels for me.

And now that I’ve been a non-vegan person in the world for about 4 months I find that I have been catapulted right back into the diet culture weeds.

I just finished up the Clean Program last week and while I stuck to the program perfectly, when I completed it I found all of this stuff come right back to me. Sure, the cleanse was okay. I didn’t have a super amazing experience though. I thought this post was going to be a recap of my experience on the Clean Program because I thought that I was going to have this super awesomely amazing experience like all of these people I see preaching about it online. But alas, that has not been the case and the money spent to do the cleanse really wasn’t money that I felt was well spent. So it’s disappointing to me that the whole 21 days were pretty blah and then I come off of the cleanse and I’m blasted with all of this stuff that I thought I’ve overcome but haven’t and I just think that it’s really important to note that you can put any name onto a restrictive diet but at the end of the day it is still a restrictive diet. And when you come off of that diet then your issues will still be there. It happened to me with veganism (even though I know that veganism is a lifestyle or whatever you want to call it) and it happened to me with the Clean Program AND it happened to me when I saw my most previous functional medicine doctor who had me on such a restrictive diet that I can’t believe I lasted on it as long as I did. And after all of this I am tired of it. Each time I’m appalled by the fact that I “should have known better.” But then I realize and understand that this is all part of the process and experience that I’m supposed to go through for whatever reason, I’m not exactly sure yet. But I’m sure there is one. And I’m just here still trying to process the fact that I’m not vegan anymore and I’m eating fish, chicken, and eggs and it’s still so weird to me and my Starbucks cup that is sitting on the desk beside me is filled with green tea and stamped with a VEGAN sticker that I put there so long ago when I was a different person.

When I was a different person.

I just need to sit with that because I never in a million years thought I would be a non-vegan person ever again.

Yet, here we are.

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I don’t even think I’ve changed that much. I just eat some different things now and if anything, I’m way more compassionate and filled with empathy for those who have been through a similar experience. But at the same time, I just feel so different. A deeply profound ethical belief that I have held for so long has basically been ripped from me and I was the one who did it to myself. Now I’m in this strange limbo place where I still want to/need to have these ethical beliefs and I can’t unlearn what I know about the animal agriculture industry but I also can’t keep being vegan because my body so strongly told me no.

I don’t have a pretty bow to wrap this post up with and I don’t have an inspiring message to tack on to the ending here. All that I have is my experience that I am feeling called to share. I didn’t plan to write this post. I sat down to write about the Clean Program and give a recap of each week/day throughout the experience. But this is what came from that intention and I believe that this is what I need to share. So here it is. And here I am, still trying to figure out what this all looks like for me and how to be in a good place with it.