It was January 2016. Out of absolute nowhere, I had started to crave for red meat by the time I had been a vegetarian (part of the time vegan) for the past many years. I tried to ignore my strange craving, but it seemed to not go away. Then one night we were eating out at a restaurant in Turku. While I was devouring into my piece of tofu, I felt such jealousy for my friends around me eating reindeer. A moment later, I found myself holding onto a fork with a piece of that Rudolf. I swallowed it down and couldn’t help but admit it was the TASTIEST piece of food I had enjoyed in years…
From then on, I decided to give another chance for meat and dairy. Many vegans or vegetarians never enjoyed the flavour of meat, but I have forever loved a good steak. The main reason for going vegetarian or vegan for me were the issues in animal agriculture. But after being a vegetarian for many years, I started to learn about the health benefits and decided to eventually go vegan.
With having a complicated relationship with food to start with, letting go of restricting labels such as veganism earlier this January gave me more freedom of mind. I have still been eating mostly a plant-based diet, but with a notable amount of added greek yoghurt, eggs, feta cheese, beef, chicken & fish. At first, I got really excited about how easy it was to eat whatever I wanted and in some ways, it felt even easier to eat ‘healthy’. Eating this way helped me to cut down on processed carbs, sugar and wheat, which was a great benefit. But now, six months later I have come back to question my dietary choices.
Here’s what happened after 6 months of eating animal products again:
1.My skin got worse
I started to let go of the vegan label by adding cottage cheese as my daily snack. I have always loved cottage cheese for its flavour and for the fact that it is such an easy protein-filled snack to take on the go. After the first 2 weeks, the skin on my chin was covered in pimples and I felt disgusted looking in the mirror.
I figured it would just take time for my body to get used to dairy again, but I can ensure you that 6 months later – it has only gotten worse. My face has not adapted to dairy one bit. And the skin on my arms feels itchy at all times.
2. Hormonal issues
Let’s talk about lady issues for a bit. During the time I was completely vegan, I had no menstrual pain what so ever. I had kind of already forgotten what it can be like! The second or third month of eating meat and dairy, I started to get monthly cramps and feel absolutely terrible for about 24 hours each month.
3. Strange stomach pain came back
All my life, or as long as I can remember, I have had this strange pain in my stomach that can just appear out of nowhere and completely paralyse me for hours. I have woken up to it at night wishing the pain could kill me. I’ve been to hospitals to figure it out but never got a proper diagnosis to what it is.
During the years of not eating meat or dairy, I managed to completely forget about this bizarre paralysing pain that would appear out of absolute nowhere. Then one day about two months ago I was walking to my friend’s place and felt the pain strike again. I could hardly walk and once I got to her place, I had to take strong painkillers and to fully rest for 3 hours to feel fine again. It happened again the next day, just after I had a steak with vegetables for dinner.
4. I started to feel extremely sluggish
At first, going back to eating eggs and yoghurt gave me more energy than I had had in the past months. I felt really excited about it and thought I’d finally found the right way of eating. But only a few weeks on, I started to lack energy. After every meal, I felt like taking a nap, which never happened on a vegan diet.
5. Constant battle with moral consciences
One of the hardest parts of eating meat again was, or is, the battle with my moral conscience. Animal agriculture is one of the main reasons I ever decided to cut out animal products from my diet. I have worked on a pig farm for a week and seen the fear and pain in the animals eyes, which completely broke my spirit. I have been hanging out with a cow, enjoying a pretty sunset together while trying to get to know its charming personality. I have shared my lunch with a chicken. I have always been that kid who would get along with the animals and would see the value of life in all beings.
6. Nasal Congestion
As a kid, I was actually teased in school for always having a runny nose. It was like I had the flu that would never end all-year-around. It got a bit better as I grew older, but my nasal congestion completely vanished with a vegan diet – and has returned during this summer after adding meat and dairy back to my diet.
So, now what?
Honestly, I don’t know. My personal goal is to feel good and get back to a better shape, and eating less carbs was in a way an easy approach to it. But I do miss feeling vibrant like I did on a vegan diet. But at the same time, I fear labels. I guess I will go back to eating mainly a vegan diet, but to mainly focus on feeling my best – if it sometimes requires a piece of fish or a bowl of greek yogurt, so be it?