Tips for New Vegans: Dealing With Ex-Vegans

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(Sorry for the haphazard posting this week… it turned out to be a busier one than I expected. I’ll continue the series through the weekend.)

Veg Blog reader Charles sent this question:

I’m a fairly new vegan. I’m sure other new vegetarians or vegans are likely to encounter long time vegetarians who went back to eating meat “for health reasons.” They realize, sometimes after 10 or more years, that they are not getting enough protein or iron or whatever.

As a new vegan, I have no response to them because I figure they’ve been a vegetarian (for many years). Who am I – a new vegan – to question their conclusion?

How do new vegans handle ex-vegans who think the vegan diet is unhealthy?

This is an interesting question and I’m curious what other readers have to say about it. Here’s my take on it.

Whenever I hear from an ex-vegan or vegetarian, my gut reaction is probably a bit judgemental. After all, maybe there are some legitimate health reasons that certain people need to go back to meat, fish, dairy, or eggs. I’m not a nutritionist, so how would I know for sure?

But here’s the thing: most of the ex’s I’ve encountered that stopped being veg for health reasons were told to do so by their primary care physician. We all know that doctors don’t receive adequate nutrition educaton* (I’ve gotten the “how do you get your protein?” question from doctors a few too many times, myself), so I don’t know that I’d necessarily take their advice without consulting a knowledgeable nutritionist first.

If you’re comfortable enough in the situation, probe the ex-veg for more information. If they say they had to start eating meat again for the protein, ask them how much protein they need to eat in a day (the average man only needs 55-60 grams a day). I’m willing to bet that most don’t know. Then point out that it’s really easy to get enough protein if you’re eating a diet with varied beans, nuts whole grains, etc. When my wife was pregnant, she regularly got 80-90 grams of protein a day.

If iron is their thing, ask them about supplementing, fortified foods, or whether they tried eating iron rich foods with vitamin C (while avoiding tea and coffee) to increase absorption.

The point is, in most cases it’s not a lack of meat that’s the problem, but a lack of nutrients or a poorly planned diet. Look at Donald Watson. Dude was a vegan before there was even the word “vegan.” (Literally. He invented it.) Watson died in 2005 at 95 years old. If you can find some interviews he did in the last few years, you’ll be amazed at how sharp and insightful he was, right up until the end. In the last decade of his life, he “climbed many of the major peaks of the Lake District” in northwest England. If someone can be vegan for over 60 years, most of it during a time when there were no vegan convenience foods and less was known about vegan nutrition, I find it very hard to believe that a vegan diet can rationally be considered “unhealthy.”

Of course, this only handles the reasons behind health-related switches back to the dark side. How to handle this in a socially acceptible manner is a whole ‘nother problem. As with any time you’re trying to make a point that may be taken as a criticism, it’s all in the tone of your voice and how you present yourself. Gently try and get them to open up about not only why they started eating meat again, but whether it bothers them that they had to do so. Ask them whether they would give up meat/dairy/eggs again if they could do so without risking their health. Perhaps they’ll say yes, particularly if they were veg for ethical reasons. At this point, let it go.

Give it a few hours or a day and do a little research online. Then, drop them an e-mail saying, “I was thinking about our conversation earlier and came across a few articles that you might want to check out…” Enlist the help of the PCRM or a vegan forum. Get the idea in their head that, hey, maybe being veg again is possible.

Who I find really difficult to deal with are militant ex-vegans. They are far worse than any so called “militant vegans” I’ve ever met. These are the people who feel they have the experience and, therefore, the right to disparage veganism or vegetarianism because they “used to be one of those.” I don’t know about you, but I can never imagine giving up veganism and I can’t imagine any truly committed vegan ever going back to animal products and disparaging their former lifestyle at the same time. These militant ex-vegans with a chip on their shoulder may not be worth engaging in an argument. Let them blow off their steam and, in turn, look like blowhards to everyone else. Lead by example and just leave them with a simple phrase like, “Huh. That’s weird. I’ve always thought it’s pretty easy/healthy/fun being vegan.” There aren’t many ways they can come back against that without sounding like a fool.

To summarize… for those that are regretfully ex-veg: discuss, question, research, inform. For antagonistic ex-vegans: don’t get dragged into arguments. They’re not worth the trouble.

* Did I really just link to an article by the California Table Grape Commission as a source? Yikes. How about this one instead.

53 Responses to “Tips for New Vegans: Dealing With Ex-Vegans”

  1. Charles

    Thanks, Ryan, for such a thorough and thoughtful response.

    Great advice on following up with an email. It’s a good way to put forward different views… articulated by those who have more experience and knowledge than me. I will keep that option in mind next time.

    Also, thank you for telling me about Donald Watson. I find it strange that this is the first time I’ve come across his name, even though I’ve been vegan for almost a year. What an amazing man!! Truly inspirational.

    Like you said, if he can live 60 years on a vegan diet and thrive, how can anyone say it’s unhealthy.

    Thanks again, Ryan, for all that you do. :)

    Charles

  2. Marcy

    Thanks, a topic I have never seen blogged about, with some great suggestions. Although what I find a lot given as a reason falls into 2 categories not mentioned in it:
    1) “It’s too hard to permanently give up dairy/meat” (I have yet to hear eggs mentioned, but who knows) i.e. the “I’m weak and that stuff is mighty tasty” argument, usually in combination with “most people aren’t as strong-willed as you/you can do it but most people could never stay that way”.
    2) “I used to be veg/vegan, but my boyfriend/family/exchange program family/party hosts wasn’t, so I gave it up, because it was just easier to all eat the same thing”. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve run into who have given up being veg or vegan for their man. Most notably the “I cook for both of us, and he doesn’t like that food, so I just went back to eating meat and dairy so we could get along”. This sounds like it wouldn’t come up much in this oh-so-modern age, but trust me, I literally can’t count the amount of times I’ve hear variations on it especially relating to the boyfriendhusband angle. The ‘cooking for him’ reason is a direct quote from an ex-vegan who would put down my veganism in front of our roommates during my study abroad, as is the exchange family reason (which I didn’t buy, because I’d just been in that situation myself, and handled it entirely differently…same goes for siginificant other & fmaily reasons, actually).

  3. Sonia

    I’m an ex-vegetarian because I became so violently physically and mentally ill as a vegetarian I was nonfunctional. My health turned around profoundly within six weeks.

    I know an ex-vegetarian who suffered from pemphigus, and after years of profound suffering and trying more and more restrictive vegan and raw dieting, went into remission when he adopted the diet for Blood Type O (meat, fruit, veg, no grains).

    I know an ex-vegetarian who’s depression went into remission when he went back on meat. Almost within days, after months of intense pain.

    I know an ex-vegetarian who’s Crohn’s disease went into remission when he went on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (fruit, meat, veg, no grains, sugar, or lactose).

    I know an ex-vegatarian who’s fibromyalgia greatly improved when she increased the animal protein in her diet, and reduced the grains and starches.

    Shall I I go on?

    Were they advised by primary care practicioners? NO. Every single person I mentioned was either advised by a naturopath familiar with the facts of human physiology being optimized for omnivorism (some of you are a varient that can handle veganism, most of us are not), or familar with Dr D’Adamo’s work. Others searched and searched and searched and finally just choose to try a radical new way of eating to heal. Clearly what they were doing wasn’t working.

    Please see http://www.beyondveg.com

    We are animals, too. We should not suffer by eating food we cannot digest or absorb nurioushment from.

  4. cannibal vegetarian

    A naturopath who advised vegetarians to start eating animal products again, hmm, his name wasn’t Stephen Byrnes by any chance, was it? He was a naturopath and ex-vegetarian who used to be quite vocal about turning his vegetarian clients onto meat…till he dropped dead of a stroke, in his thirties. (To be fair it might have been stress that got him, judging from his flaming reviews of pro-veg books on amazon.com.)

    Anyway, anecdotal “I knew a person” evidence isn’t much to go on. Could have been anything. And, could you further explain your statement that most human beings can’t physiologically handle being vegan?

  5. Marcy

    Thanks cannibal vegetarian. Since there’s no laws requiring people to go veg or vegan or organic or anything else, it seems silly how many people try to convince us with scare tactics and urban health legends to eat meat/animal products again. It just seems like out of all the problems in the world, and including all the folks go do go veg/vegan and stay that way perfectly fine, that there are bigger faux-fish to fry…

  6. bazu

    I think it’s just the over-zealousness of the newly converted. Just like new vegans can be too enthusiastic and talk about it all the friggin’ time (I know I did), new former-vegans might need everyone to believe they’ve seen the light. I hope they grow out of it. (How many times have I heard that someone just NEEDED chicken. What exactly is in chicken that makes your body NEED it so badly anyway??) That all being said, I don’t enjoy getting caught in a conversation with an ex-veg with an axe to grind.

  7. Garth

    Just to add a slightly different perspective to this, I was vegetarian, stopped being vegetarian “for health reasons” and have since returned to my vegetarian ways.

    I was originally a vegetarian for about 8 months for ethical reasons. I had gained a mess of weight (~50lbs), was tired all the time no matter how much I slept and felt generally crappy. I looked at my life, my health, and saw that all of these problems started about two months into my vegetarianism. I attributed it to that. So I went back to eating meat for the sake of my health. Within a week or two I was feeling a little better, lost a couple of pounds and was seeing improvement. A month later, I got way worse, put on another ten pounds and felt worse than when I was a vegetarian. I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. The doctor said it was unrelated to my vegetarianism, from studies he had read it *may* (inconclusive, could’ve happened anyway) have been my habit of eating excessive soy products that triggered an already existing problem. From what I read later, it seems like soy is fine for people with healthy thyroids but I have a family history of thyroid issues and it may have sped along a condition that was already on it’s way.

    With my doctors encouragement, I went back to vegetarianism. It’s been about a year since I went back to being veg. I feel great now. He put me on some meds, I still eat soy in moderation (~once a week). I’m losing weight, no further issues.

    While I do agree everyone’s body functions differently and there may be people who need higher than normal levels of protein or iron (I try to keep an open mind) — attributing my health problems to my vegetarianism was a mistake. It was probably stronger than a coincidence because of my overindulgence in soy products but that’s not because of vegetarianism. So, I understand the quitting vegetarianism for health reasons but from my experience, if you’re experiencing health problems after changing your diet, it’s worth a visit to the doctor before doing anything else drastic.

    My $0.02…

  8. jason

    i’m just gonna be straight here. people are pussies. that’s it. they don’t care enough about the ethics of it, they’re lazy and easily misled. i’ve been vegan 17 years and never been better.

    people love to hear good news about their bad habits as dr. mcdougall points out. as for sonia and her many ex friends. i call bullshit on that one. people were either never really into it or too lazy/ignorant etc etc.

  9. Kris

    This is a really interesting topic. I’ve been vegan for a decent amount of time and feel comfortable defending myself when confronted, but the thing that really gets me is when you get the older ex-hippie crowd of who were “vegetarians” years ago and who give you that attitude, like they think that your veganism is a charming faze that they went through, but one day you, too, will grow out of it and eat fois gras with the best of them. I get really tired of this idea that my lifestyle is that that weak and subject to change.

  10. Kris

    And of course, I have more to say after “submit”. :)

    The biggest (biggest!) thing about eating a vegetarian or vegan diet is what you are eating. When people first go vegetarian they typically continue to eat an omninorous diet, minus the meat, therefore consuming “side dishes” in mass quantity. My inquiry when people say they were unhealthy or gained weight when they were veg is “What were you eating?” Man (and woman) can’t live on PB&J, mashed potatoes, chips and Coke alone! I think that if you’re willing to put in the time to learn about proper nutrition and to cook for yourself anyone can thrive on a vegan diet. And if you don’t want to put in the energy, well then that’s a whole different topic.

  11. cannibal vegetarian

    Belatedly to Marcy–you’re welcome. I’m only a vegetarian myself but have high regard for vegans and aim to be one myself someday. It certainly does seem to elicit some weird emotional responses from some meat eaters.

  12. angela

    This is such an emotional topic for me. I was vegetarian for 8 years and vegan for six. When I transitioned to a vegan diet from a junk-food vegetarian diet at the age of 24, I experienced some of the most wonderful health benefits I’d ever known – weight loss, increase in energy, etc. I kept the McDougall diet from time to time, losing more weight and feeling great. Then I turned 30 and my health became a nightmare. While on the McDougall diet I was diagnosed with gallstones, which led to two surgeries, and am now diagnosed with gastroparesis, meaning that my stomach fails to empty itself within the normal amount of time. This means that I am never hungry, am constantly distended so that I can’t fit into my clothes, and occasionally nauseus. I’m lucky too, because most with this condition throw up everything that they eat. I’ve since realized that I need to pack as much nutrition into each tiny meal as I possibly can. In the midst of all this, I’ve discovered intolerances to carageenan, which is in a lot, but not all, soy products and also to corn. I can no longer eat legumes because no doctor, naturopathic or allopathic will take bloating and distention seriously if you consume beans of any kind. Now I eat dairy and fish, and you won’t hear me calling myself a vegetarian because I don’t believe that a person who eats fish is a vegetarian. No one without this condition has any idea what I’ve gone through this past year. I am trying to get my master’s degree and my health has nearly ruined my efforts. I have no desire to spread the word about the harmful effects of a vegan diet, because I believe that every person’s body is different, and that it really probably is the best diet for most people, but not all. It was obviously the best diet for me for several years, but I have to deal with the fact that it is no longer the right choice for me. There are some ex-vegans who won’t try and talk you out of your choices and perhaps we all need to accept the fact that everyone has different needs.

  13. groundhog

    Hello…

    Just like to add my own story here…after years of reading about what might be the perfect diet for humans, and short experiments with such things as macrobiotics, and just plain old vegetarianism, I was very healthy, but constantly reading about health and diet and finally fell into veganism. A few months after that, began eating according to Dr. McDougall’s plan. Right away, my daughter’s ibs improved dramatically, and we were all encouraged. But also right away, I began having similar symptoms to ibs, for the first time in my life. Other McDougallers said this was normal after switching from SAD to McDougalling, just temporary, etc., so I ignored it. Even though the thought never occurred to me that I’d never experienced this with other experiments in diet that I’d tried out previously. Time went along, life was busy, and I got used to ignoring my symptoms, which became worse and worse over the years. By the 10th year of McDougalling (my only McDougall slip-ups were that I never quit coffee for more than a few months at a time, and we would eat out, about once every two or three months, in either Japanese or Indian restaurants, and have vegan dishes with oil added…we ordered a vegan pizza now and then too, but the place where we got that was not into using much oil, so it was much lower fat if it was vegan)– I was 100% vegan for over 10 years, and 99% oil free during that time. My health got so terrible, and I had gotten so used to just ignoring, even denying my problems, and finally it came to the point where I HAD to figure out what was wrong…I was sick each and every day…BAD sick, and looked terrible too. I was starving and eating tons and tons of food each day, thinking this is what McDougall said to do.

    After lots of digging and trial and error, and reading over discussion boards of celiac organizations, I discovered, through a lot of difficulty and a lot of TIME, that apparently for me, all of the bread, pasta, grainy foods I was eating abundantly in place of the stuff I’d dropped from my diet had instigated either a gluten intolerance or full-blown celiac disease. It took me 18 months to get back to anywhere near normal, and along the way, during the healing of my chewed up intestines, I became intolerant to some other foods.

    This idea, of gluten intolerance or other carbohydrate intolerance, lectin intolerance, etc., doesn’t seem to go over well in discussion with most other cooked vegans. The raw folks are quite open to the idea; however, my attempts at being raw have all been failures. Now I eat fish, lots of fish, becuase I can’t eat soy anymore. Corn is questionable in small amounts. I took up eggs to have somethign to eat, and now seem to have on and off intolerance of them too.

    I feel the McDougall diet screwed up my body. I’ve seen others on his message board with things like ulcerative colitis, different autoimmune diseases, diabetes, etc., who didn’t seem to be doing well with either the gluten or other starches or lectins in the legumes, etc. They are usually treated as just not following the rules…there is big denial going on there, and they either get worse by sticking ever more strictly to ridiculously limited forms of the diet, or they disappear from the board.

    This is my story of veganism…not only didn’t work for me, but turned me from a healthy person to a sicko. I don’t wanna be militant or angry, but it’s hard to be happy about it. I would have liked hearing a litte bit of warning that so much grain could possibly harm some people…maybe I would have listened to it. I remember my old SAD days of eating, when I was healthy,
    happy, and even skinny, and could eat and enjoy whatever I wanted…they’re gone forever now, because I can never eat
    anything with gluten in it ever again, and have to be extremely careful about what I eat, have to watch out for other intolerances that tend to pop up out of nowhere, etc. Starch-based veganism is obviously not for everyone…too bad most people find that out after the fact. Now, in addition to having to be careful about my food selection, I also have to wrangle with my own ethical issues over eating fish, but havne’t found out another way to just have enough to eat.

  14. Carla

    My experience as a raw vegan (9 months)

    The Good:
    Lost weight (down to a 4/6), improved digestion (for a few months)

    The Bad:
    BAD mood all of the time, no matter what I ate. Very heavy and extremely painful periods within a month of starting that diet, long cycles.

    The Ugly:
    Gray teeth (and they are still gray ), hair falling out, increased hypothyroidism, more estrogen dominance, increased ovarian cysts, horribly depressed in the last two months. The teeth part is frustrating because I was blessed with naturally white, straight (w/o braces) teeth and now I can hardly smile because I cant get used to gray, dingy teeth. Now I’m worried about the health of my teeth overall.

    That doesn’t make the “good” part sound so good. I broke that cycle when I had salmon and brown rice for Thanksgiving.

    Now I eat a diet of humanly raised, grass fed beef, chicken, limited fruits, lots of vegetables and plenty of fats (raw butter, coconut oil) and fermented foods and beverages. I have not gone back to eating grains because of my compromised digestion and gluten intolerance.

    I have never been better health wise in my entire life. I’m not longer horribly depressed and suicidal, my weight is still down, I have normal cycles, my thyroid levels are normal, no more ovarian cysts, etc and have tons of energy.

    My brother on the other hand, has been vegan for the past 15 years and have done very well. Different strokes for different folks and we should accept that no particular diet works for everyone.

  15. Joseph

    Humanely raised animals…what a crock!

    Fuck happy meat!

  16. Rachel

    I have MS, and have never fully adopted a “vegan” diet.

    A while back, I cut out eggs & dairy and noticed my symptoms got increasingly better, so I kept doing it and kept seeing improvements.

    I slowly started to cut out meat, and I noticed that my symptoms got increasingly worse. I thought “Oh, it’s just the B12” and started taking a B12 supplement. That didn’t help. Apparently, my body does not use B12 efficiently. I still take B12 supplements once a month (sub-lingual) but I do eat meat infrequently because my body simply needs the B12 at this point. And using fortified products just does not give it an adequate source for some reason.

  17. cdaws

    My family has been vegan for six months. I am 29, my husband is 34 and our children are 9, 7, and 22 months. We have never felt better in our lives. I lost 16 pounds right away and the depression I have struggled with most of my life completly disappeared. My 7 year old daughter’s chronic constipation cleared up almost overnight and our over all moods and productivity has improved.
    When a person eats meat they are not only ingesting whatever hormones and pesticides that the animal has ingested but they are also eating any illness that animal may have had. Cows are often drug to the kill-floor because they are too ill to walk there. YUM! There is also the fact that the animals who are slaughtered are fully aware of what is happening to them, which triggers several physiological reactions, such as a spike in blood pressure and a dump of adrenaline into the body. again…YUM! When you eat animals and animal products you are eating horror and pain, anguish and terror, suffering and cruelty. Want some fries with that torture?

  18. cdaws

    If people would be intelligent about their food cxhoices when making the swir=tch to veganism they would’net suffer so much. I have cut nearly all whites (flour, pasta, sugar) out of my family’s diet at home. We eat lots of fruits, vegetables, soy products, whole grains and nuts. If you think you can survive on a diet of pasta and fritos then you WILL feel like shit. Try having a green vegetable once in a while. The B12 vitamin is the only legitimate arguement to not being vegan but most people can get that from supplements.
    On another note, humans stop making the enzyme lactase after the age of 4. Which means we cannot digest 95% of the lactose in our bodies. That means we must not be intended to drink milk past the age of 4! In some cases it begans to disappear at the age of 18 months. We are the ONLY species on the planet that drinks the milk of another species. Cows are NOT milk-producing animals any more than we are. The only time they produce milk is when they have a baby to feed. So the farmers take their calf, sell it for veal and reimpregnate the cow. For an average of five years the cattle go through this horrifying treatment and then they are ground up for burgers. Things that make you go hmmmmm.

  19. happy

    I have enjoyed reading all of these different opinions and experiences. I am newly vegan- went from cooking and eating meat and dairy ALL the time to none- over night. It felt like the right ting to do for so many reasons- raising and slaughter of these creatures to the hormones and crap injected into them. I just decided to give it up…all of it. I have noticed a difference in the way I feel- good most of the time but sleepy some of the time. I contribute the sleepiness to my body actually ‘working’ on my body without all of the dead animals and cheese schmucking it all up. Ive been researching B12 and how to get it…so Im going to suppliment and see how that goes…
    I totally agree w. cdaws- you are right- all of it- yukko!
    What is this McDougallers thing? never heard it before today- I plan on researching it- sounds dangerous and not somewhere I want to go;)
    My husb does not participate or agree w. me- Im dealing w. that – I think that he will come around to actually enjoy some of the food I make- even if he wants to add sausage to it… Friends and family are very supportive- I have a Dinner Club w. the girls and they want to have a vegan meal once a month in support of me. Thought that was nice of them. I really hope I do not have the same fate as some of you all- that would really suck to HAVE to go back for health reasons. That would be the only reason to ever go back to contributing to the torture and consumption of other lives. Anyhoo. just wanted to share.

  20. skinny (white) bitches « Vegans of Color

    […] I’ve also heard folks arguing that this is a good way to get the “chick lit” crowd interested in veganism. Stealth conversion, like Latham’s quote above would seem to indicate. But from my own experiences, & from what I’ve heard other folks talking about, those who convert to veg*nism for health reasons (I’m being generous & putting the “I want to be a skinny bitch” crowd under “health” although really it’s more about appearance & weight loss) are less likely to stick with it, unless they also have a strong ethical reason for eating the way they do. Is this just going to end up with a crap ton of ex-vegans in a few months? (& we know what a pain in the ass they can be.) […]

  21. Jesse

    I’ve actually been vegan for almost 2 years now after reading Skinny Bitch. The humor of the title and the frankness of the writers really attracted me to buy the book–the info. inside it kept me vegan. Perhaps it would be wise to not judge how people fall into veganism, but rather embrace them once they are there. It is this sort of hyper-critical holier-than-thou mentality that scares many people away from veganism (acting as though your veganism is somehow more pure since you don’t care about your waist size). If someone stops eating animals and their secretions because they want a smaller ass, then I say score for the animals. The fact that someone would go vegan because they want to be a “skinny bitch” is a sign that veganism is going mainstream and that’s a beautiful thing.

  22. Bitching Without The Skinny : Elaine Vigneault

    […] lying vegetarians – the people who eat meat but call themselves vegetarian. Samhita is one of those ex-vegans who think it’s funny to joke about buying fur coats. They think that qualifies them somehow […]

  23. BenevolentVeg

    Ryan’s suggestions are well meaning, but the passive-aggressive email follow up erks me… sounds a little too much like a page out of the religious fanatics handbook for bringing ex-members “back into the fold.” Anything that makes vegans seem cultish only works against us in my opinion. We should be encouraging and supporting those who try to reduce animal products in their diet, not attacking and questioning the motives of people who have to keep some products in their diets for health reasons. Strict vegan diets work great for some people, but not for others, and we all need to respect each others choices. Anyone who takes the time to learn about the animal welfare/environmental issues involved in their diet choices and makes the effort to change their lifestyles accordingly, to whatever extent they can is not our enemy. Ignorance of the issues is our enemy, the disconnect between the suffering of farm animals and the tasty steak sitting on the plate. The people who pity the cute little baby calf on the farm, then order veal for dinner, they are the people we need to figure out how to reach. Focusing on getting the information out and the positive benefits of reducing animal products in the diet is a better approach than undermining each other.

  24. DJ

    I’m not sure if this has been posted yet, I haven’t read all the comments. Stephen Byrnes had AIDS. He tried to save his own life before he died of a stroke. Rupture strokes are common in people suffering AIDS.

    Genetics is a large factor in our diet. There are many people who have had great health while eating a vegan diet. I tried to eat healthy as a vegan, made sure to get 4-5 servings of grains, 3 servings of beans, 5-6 servings of fruit and lots of vegetables. I could not function very well as I do on a diet with meat in it. Feel free to disagree but I don’t think a vegan diet’s for everybody. I think both sides could benefit from each other instead of pulling wild assumptions about the other. “Vegans are just stupid, clueless skinny hippies.” “Meat eaters kill intentionally by eating meat and funding the slaughter houses.”

  25. b

    I was vegan for 15 years.
    Something just was not right. I am open to finding out I’m wrong, if I am, but I became so sick of the lack of wholeness I was experiencing–diet wise, that I began eating eggs and drinking raw milk.
    I have gotten ill once since but cannot tell exactly why. I got ill sometimes as a vegan too.
    I will switch back if it does not work out but have to do this for now.
    By the way, a meat eater does not have to eat factory farmed meat and a milk drinker can drink milk from a farmer that treats the cow well and does not pasteurize the milk—so the slaughter/cruelty thing should be left out of the discussion.

  26. Ryan

    By the way, a meat eater does not have to eat factory farmed meat and a milk drinker can drink milk from a farmer that treats the cow well and does not pasteurize the milk—so the slaughter/cruelty thing should be left out of the discussion.

    Sorry, but that’s wrong.

    It doesn’t matter if the milk is raw/unpasteurized/organic/whatever — the cow still needs to be impregnated, her calves will still be taken away from her so that her milk can be used, and when she’s “spent,” she’ll be killed for meat. So slaughter and cruelty absolutely cannot be left out of the discussion.

  27. b

    Hmm. That may be true.
    I’m still feeling this out.

    I will say, (and I admitted this when I was vegan (and raw vegan))sometimes more things are killed by flying produce here from all over the world than killing one deer.
    There is no one-set rules per se.
    Some fruitarians are responsible for way more harm to animals and the environment than some hunter/gatherers–and vice versa of course.

    I am not taking this lightly. I am making yogurt, eating it, listening to my body as well as my conscience, and seeing for myself what’s going on.

    Ryan, I appreciate the response. I am sure that may also be true for goats as well.

  28. concerned-veggie

    Wow, what a bunch of self-righteous assholes!

  29. libbyblue

    i tried being vegan for eight months, but ultimately had to resume an omnivorous diet for health reasons. i have struggled with disordered eating for my entire life. i am still not particularly good at self-care. the more i have to think about the food i eat, the more opportunities there are for me to be dragged back into the cycle of self-hatred and self-starvation because food is evil. in a society where the vegan diet was the norm, i could probably follow it (minus the soy — thyroid issues) with no more trouble than i experience on an omnivorous diet now (which is still considerable, but something i can function with). we do not live in such a society. living vegan requires a tremendous amount of thought, and thoughts can harm or even kill me. i still purchase vegan products (choosing a hemp belt over a leather one isn’t going to trigger my particular health problems) and prefer to consume vegan foods when i can, but the calculations and the label-reading and the timed meals to try avoid letting my mind lapse into starvation mode are just too much for me. i’m a reluctant omnivore. i’m still not going to use my personal issues to try to discourage others from pursuing an animal-free lifestyle.

  30. Sofia

    Interesting to read all these comments. I wonder why people are so angry? I’m an ex-vegan (yes, now I’ll get angry comments too) but I was very active vegan and animal rights activist for many years. I raised two vegan children and started eating certain fish during my third pregnancy. Trying to keep my story short. Anyway, it seems like people are talking about morals vs health. What always has bothered me with the vegan world is 1: Angry vegans (I don’t know what your problem is and who do you think you are telling people how to live) 2: The fact that vegans proudly talk about the health benefits of plant food but keep quiet about negative info about veganism. 3: Vegans think they are better than others.
    It reminds me a little of brainwashed religions. Everyone has to make their own decisions for themselves. While I was a vegan I had a great friendship with a non vegan. She did SO many amazing things better than me. She used cloth diapers on all her children, she knitted most of their clothes herself etc. No body is perfect and it bothers me that people act like they are God! Where does your soy come from? Where do all your clothes come from? Do you buy EVERYTHING organic? And local? And who ever drives a car consumes gelatin from tires. The list goes on. As a vegan, I never had problems with people not respecting me, but I always respected them for their decisions. Comments like “people are pussies. that’s it. they don’t care enough about the ethics of it, they’re lazy and easily misled” shows how much many vegans have to learn still. It is very immature and will DEFINITELY not convince anyone to live like them. Come join my misery?

  31. Ayurvedic Doctor

    I’ve found that many of my patients who are having trouble on a pure vegan diet start doing better after adding some saturated fat back (coconut milk, oil, or even ghee). It is my personal feeling that those who “feel better” after eating meat aren’t necessarily missing the protein, but perhaps the fat (needs further study). Also, changing how food is prepared can help with many symptoms (ie, cooking with heeng or asofoetida can help reduce gas formation when eating beans).

    In ancient times, milk was always drawn from a humanely treated cow, but only after her calf had fed. The feeling was that milk is a product of the love a mother had for her offspring, and it is something that should not be messed with. Any breastfeeding mother can attest to the dynamic nature of milk production. It is no wonder that milk that comes from stressed cows is disease inducing. As an aside, Ayurvedic medicine encourages milk to be consumed warm, which possibly reduces the harmful animal protein effect.

    I would encourage all vegans thinking about returning to eating meat, as well as ex-vegans who shifted for “health reasons” to read a bit more about the Ayurvedic diet…

  32. ryan

    I would encourage all vegans thinking about returning to eating meat

    Or not.

    Thanks for your other input, but trying to encourage vegans to eat meat is not welcome on a blog focused on ethical veganism.

  33. Krista

    I think you may have read him wrong, Ryan. He’s missing at least one comma. He is saying if you are considering returning to meat then research the Ayurvedic diet first and learn that it isn’t needed. He’s saying add healthy saturated fats into your diet.

  34. ryan

    Ah, yes, you seem to be correct, Krista. My snarkiness was a bit too reactionary this time around!

    Apologies, Ayurvedic Doctor!

  35. Krista

    It’s okay, if this were my blog I think I would have a lot of knee-jerk reactions, especially with a lot of the “uplifting” comments that crop up.

  36. katrina

    wow. reading these comments is amazing to me. i’ve been vegan for ten years. i think what many vegans need to learn is to be compassionate to all animals, including humans. i am reluctant to tell people i am vegan because of the attitudes of so many vegans out there. don’t get me wrong, meat eaters can irk me like no other with their self righteous attitudes and passive aggressive (or just aggressive) questions. but i would love to believe that a person who follows a diet that is based on compassion, would have compassion for people as well, and maybe a little bit of understanding. to me, eating animals is unthinkable but i love many many meat eaters out there and would never question their choices just as i hope they would never question or disrespect mine.

  37. Susan

    I stopped eating meat and dairy on 1 Jan after reading the book “Skinny Bitch” over the holidays. So now I’m eating a lot of soy-based substitutes and I’m coming across articles and commentary that eating too much soy can cause severe health problems (hyperthyroidism, etc). Can anyone shed some light onto this? I’d rather make adjustments to my diet now than later after I’ve developed some terrible health problems. Thanks.

  38. Krista

    Susan, I feel the best bet with soy foods, just like any other food, is to eat it mostly in it’s whole state. Tofu, tempeh, cooked soybeans are all great. It’s when it starts getting overly processed that you can run into problems.

    Now, I also think it’s okay to occasionally eat processed soy foods, like faux meats and such, but think of them as a treat.

    If thyroid problems run in your family or you already have a thyroid problem then consume less soy. But be aware there is a lot of soy in packaged food, so read labels. My mom has hypothyroidism and is careful with her consumption.

  39. Susan

    I was a vegan for 2 years before falling off the wagon last summer during a holiday in greece (it was too hard to resist homemade veggie lasagna after 4 glasses of wine, and it was downhill from there). I haven’t even told most people that I now eat eggs and dairy (especially people who either really admired me for it, or went out of their way to make me vegan food, the guilt is too much) because I’m so ashamed. I know how horrendously cruel it is, but for some reason my will power has just gone right out the window and I can’t get it back.

    The point of me saying this, is that I used to get really mad when ex-vegans would get on their soapbox and tell me just how unhealthy is is not to eat dairy (since, as most people agree that vegetarianism is healthy, dairy is what these people must have the problem with, right?). It really annoys me when people who simply lose their willpower (like me) are too proud to say it, and instead try to get others to come down to their level, to make themselves feel better, or right.

    A woman I know used to be a vegetarian (it was the little lambs that did it, she sniffed) but now eats anything that walks, and once sat and gave me a lecture about how she was literally dying without meat, and had to go ‘back on it’ for health reasons *cough bullsh!t*. If that was true, you would think these people, having felt so compassionately about animals in the past, would eat the bare minimum of meat to keep their poor wasted bodies going, but I often find that they have meat every day (and with most meals).

    Anyway, although the advice in this blog is the most polite way to deal with ex-vegans, you have to ask yourself why they care so much, as to interrogate you on your food choices. Tell them to eat what they want and you’ll eat what you want, because I bet they’re only trying to get you to convert back to make themselves feel better.

  40. ExVegan#1921892329

    I am an ex vegan. I was vegan for 16 years, had two vegan pregnancies and finally last year I threw in the towel. My oldest child had rotting teeth and my younger had a few cavities so I completely changed their diets. I added in raw milk and raw cheese, local eggs and sometimes fish. My youngest child’s decay has stopped! My children are healthier and happier! They never did get THAT sick, but now they NEVER get sick! I am so relieved. I was a hard core vegan too! I never thought it would come to this, but my children mean more to me than a special diet. I myself have only eaten eggs and dairy in things. I haven’t brought myself to eat meat yet. It’s a long process, and my mind is having to be completely trained to think differently than I have for half my life. I wish I had never gone vegan in the first place! The first years of the diet I was so malnourished because I didn’t know what I was doing. Things got better, but I’ve never felt normal. I have always needed excessive amounts of sleep. I have always supplemented with B12 too.

  41. ExVegan#1921892329

    I just wanted to add, that it’s not just my ex vegan children with the tooth decay. Naomi Aldort has worked with tons of vegan families and said most if not all of them have tooth decay! http://mothering.com/health/child-refuses-healthy-food
    This is a serious concern. When I was researching what to do about my children’s teeth and about vegan children, I found more and more vegan children with decay. I found fully grown people who had been raised vegan and raw who have now had children with rotten mouthfuls of teeth! I used to think I had the supreme diet and that I was feeding my children the supreme, life giving diet. Boy was I brainwashed. If you are vegan and considering pregnancy, please think about using animal products at least while pregnant and breastfeeding. Raw milk and local eggs are highly nutritious. You don’t even have to eat loads of it! You can just add a bit in to cover your bases. You might feel better too.

  42. ryan

    Sigh.

    Women can be perfectly healthy on a vegan diet throughout pregnancy and during nursing, as even the conservative ADA has said.

    Thanks for sharing your story, but you can hang onto the advice.

  43. Ex-Vegan

    After having been vegan for almost ten years I can say with more experience than most vegans that, for a lot of people, this lifestyle choice is dangerous. I used to be one of those brainwashed people who scoffed at those who couldn’t remain vegan, saying they were ‘lazy’, ‘doing it wrong’ or were ‘junk food vegans’.

    There may be situations where people can thrive on veganism, and I’ll never discount that. I do, however, now strongly believe they are exceptions.

    I almost died because I was vegan.

    There’s no more and no less to that story. I don’t want to get into specifics, because it’s a lot of pain and anguish but in the end I had to begin consuming animal products again. I wasn’t a junk food vegan. I ate very, very well and took supplements. My health went severely downhill after about six years.

    I already expect most vegans to take it harshly. It’s like a personal attack on their diet choices, and in some ways it is. Being vegan is dangerous to some, and the dangers of it need to be addressed and clearly stated to those who are considering beginning the diet.

  44. Robert

    I’ve been having a lot of encounters lately with ex-vegan “paleo” diets (or “groks,” as they apparently like to call themselves), who are far more militant than any fellow vegan I’ve ever met.

    I have to laugh at their presumption, and confess to enjoying the site of their squirming once I reveal that I’m a paleontology student and demonstrate that I know more about human evolution than they do.

    But still, they seem to be getting more common, and I wish they’re fad would just wither away.

    You offer great advice for this problem!

  45. Robert

    Oops. Sorry about the grammar and typos in that comment. Must be the lack of protein going to my brain! Ha ha.

  46. Crystal

    Hi,

    I was happy to read all of the above comments.

    Only, one thing shocks the very core of my being.

    The love, compassion and respect given so freely to animals should also be given AS freely to human beings by being polite and respectful.

    Who are we to judge. Who are we to point fingers. No one here is flawed. And if I were to choose the MAIN carateristic for the vegan/vegetarian community and the example we are supposed to set for one another and for those who do not share our opinions it would be LOVE LOVE LOVE !!!

  47. Thom

    Thank you Crystal. Veganism without love is soulless. I am vegan and I encourage those around me to join me, but I try to approach with love and kindness rather than anger and judgment.

  48. Jack

    I don’t understand why you think ex-vegans are going to take the word of the PCRM.

  49. Madhava Das

    We’re only here for a short time anyway. I don’t care if I die from it – I will NEVER eat meat or animal product.

    You do what you like.

  50. More on ex-vegans | The Veg Blog

    […] I’ve written about my frustration with vocal “ex-vegans” before: […]

  51. Ted Crawford

    Very interesting topic Ryan and a wide range of opinions. As a family physician who has been a vegan for 3 years, I advocate this way of eating after experiencing all of the positive health benefits myself. As a result, I began promoting this way of eating to my patients. Granted, VERY FEW adopt it, but those who do have all experienced positive benefits on their health. ALL have been able to at least reduce the amount of medication they take and some even have eliminated them all together. I give presentations regarding the benefits of whole foods, plant-based eating and several of my patients come along to give their testimonials as well. I tend to NOT use the word vegan because you can be a vegan and eat unhealthy. Oreos, potato chips, and Coke are “vegan” for example. Many processed foods can be classified as “vegan.” Another important aspect one has to look at with regard to our diet is to examine the human with regards to the type of diet that we are “supposed” to eat as a species based on our anatomy and physiology. If you compare it to other mammals, we were intended to be primarily herbivores. I wish you all the best of health!

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