From Vegan to Omnivore – An Update

It's been a while since I've brought up the subject of my health status yet I continue to receive regular emails from people who are going through the same/similar issues as myself and are wanting support/advice. Other readers are just plain curious to know where I'm at in this journey. The most common questions I'm asked are: 1. Are you still eating meat? 2. I'm experiencing 'a,b,c' just like you did. Can you help me? 3. How do you feel these days?

The good news is that I'm still feeling great! A million times better than I did this time last year. Last summer was a terrible one physically, mentally, emotionally, and I'm so grateful to feel like a normal human being again. For a quick breakdown (full story HERE) - my digestive tract was in bad condition and I had constant gut pain, was constipated, got to the point of daily headaches, was so depressed/purposeless that I was on the verge of suicide, had constant angry outbursts, anxiety, fatigue, weakness, etc, that lasted about 8 months.

Going back to January when I stopped posting updates on Universal Eater... I felt amazing on my sugar free/cacao free diet, eating mostly meat, eggs, veggies, plain yogurt, and a bit of nuts/chia. I feel that cleansing my body of ALL sugars  (yes, even fruit) and cacao for a while was extremely important, and something that I'd like to do once a year. Mentally my status was on an even keel, and physically my strength was back so I started working out. My body started to lean out immediately after cutting the sugars (since I was still imbalanced, even a little sugar was causing my body to puff up). My motivation was high and all was good. An interesting thing happened too. Normally I despise winter. In my northern location in Canada we have very long, cold, dark winters that get me down and leave me with a perpetual chill. For the first time since I can remember, I felt comfortable in the cold. Near the end of January I started eating a small amount of sugar and cacao again and still felt great. By the time I went to Australia in mid February I was still eating meat (wild kangaroo!), occasional eggs, raw milk, and incredible biodynamic yogurt. By the way, chia pudding made with raw milk and topped with goji berries and cacao nibs is so rich, creamy, and satisfying!

These days I still eat meat on a regular basis and I do eat some form of animal protein every day. I feel off if I don't and end up reaching for too much sugar and cacao. Actually, it's my natural tendency to want to eat sweet things over anything else so I do have to be careful and make sure that I get sufficient protein. If I don't eat meat I enjoy fish (my dad catches it a few times a week) or eggs. In addition I eat daily salads, lots of fruit, nuts, seeds, moderate cacao, and my beloved daily raw dessert. I feel much more balanced physically/emotionally eating this way. I know that excess cacao throws me off (especially when eaten on an empty stomach) so I know when to take a little break from it.

Just to be clear - this is what works for ME. I'm NOT suggesting that this is the way for everyone - in fact, I know that a raw and/or vegan diet works for some people. I DO believe that everyone on a SAD diet can benefit from eating raw vegan for a period of time in order to cleanse the body and mind. After that, it may be time for a rebuilding phase and this is where the animal protein comes in. Veggie proteins just don't do it for me in the same way. I've finally discovered that it's important to listen to my body instead of my head. Some days I crave eggs and the thought of meat turns me off - so I eat up my eggs with my veggies and feel great! Other days the opposite is true so I eat accordingly.

A meal of 2 eggs with spinach, zucchini, and tomatoes. I love runny yolks - a yummy form of biotin!

Interestingly I got many compliments about my looks when I was sick. On a regular basis I was told I looked great, looked healthy, looked fit. Yeah I was thin but I was tired 24/7 and slogging along. Last summer I went to my friend's gym in the city and while he was doing his workout, I took an exercise class - the same style of class I've taken many times in the past. I couldn't believe it when I was so weak that I could barely make it through 12 pushups on my knees.

I've put on some weight since changing my diet (I'd rather be 10 lbs thinner) but I'm healthy and strong again. Whoa am I strong! (well for my standards). Some muscles have reemerged that I think had started to atrophy over the past few years. I'm able to do super workouts now. I'm up to 20 "real"/man pushups in a row and complete up to 60 full pushups in a workout, something I couldn't do before. It's a great thing and I feel extremely empowered and motivated to continue.

So on that note, I'm happily forging ahead with my omnivorous, high raw diet. I feel purposeful again and life is pretty darn good...

I'd love to hear from you. Do you feel amazing on a long term raw food/vegan diet? Have you tried raw and run into any imbalances? Is the thought of eating cooked food or animal protein scary if it means gaining a few pounds, even if it means becoming healthier?

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  1. August 26, 2011 at 02:03

    I couldn't do raw...I tried for about a year...<br /><br />I was the sickest and weakest I had ever been.<br /><br />I went back to eating organic meat, eggs, and cheese and I've been feel great. My only issue with switching is that junk food is much more open to me now that I'm not I really need to be careful. <br /><br />Yoga has helped me keep my eating in check. <br /><br />Brooke<br />

  2. Anonymous
    August 26, 2011 at 02:41

    I was raw for years & was doing great. An N.D. put me on meat for heavy menses (anemic). I felt really strong on meat. But after a year I started feeling & looking toxic; my energy went way, way down. I went off the meat & had almost 2 years of the most scary cleansing of my life that affected my heart beat. (animal fat = cloggy cholesterol) My dad is going through the same thing right now as he recently decreased his animal consumption. Hey, I would have rather eaten seaweed for the iron! It's been a rough 2 years! I am clean & raw again & feel soooooooo much better!! :))) PHEW!!!

  3. August 26, 2011 at 02:43

    I've never been 100% anything, raw, vegan, or otherwise. I too, struggle with not eating too much sugar but so far I haven't had any problems from it. I got interested in eating raw as a way to eat my sweets in a healthier way. Now that I have kids and see how they naturally would eat sweet foods all the time, I am trying even harder to pull away from the constant sugar. I did read though that the reason children are naturally attracted to sweets is because in nature sweet things are rarely poisonous. Bitter on the other hand, which children seem to naturally dislike, is often what poisonous foods taste like. Thanks for the update Healthy; I'm so glad to hear you are feeling healthy and strong!

  4. August 26, 2011 at 03:16

    I am glad you are feeling better. I do think that each person is different. I know I feel best eating vegan and raw food with lots of veggie juices and green smoothies. If I eat too many nuts I get clogged up. I struggle with this because I love my fats (avocados, coconuts, almond butter, etc.). Wishing you the best.

  5. August 26, 2011 at 03:26

    Heathy, this is the same thing that Cliff and I have found out too! A balance and I am so glad you are doing well! Hugs!

  6. Anonymous
    August 26, 2011 at 04:36

    I think it's so important to listen to your body and honor what it needs. Always high quality, whether it's raw veg. or animal products. Moderation in all things. So glad you're feeling strong.

  7. August 26, 2011 at 08:32

    Hello there :-)<br />I discovered your bog 1 month ago, and I love it a lot :-)<br />Sorry in advance if my english isn't good : it's not my mothertongue (I am French young women living in Paris).<br />Personally, I am a vegetarian, but not vegan, and not raw.<br />I eat 6 to 8 eggs / week (from a little farm near my father's home where I know the little chicken are happy :-)), and some cheese (yummy french cheese !).<br />The cottage cheese is one of my favorite cheese : it's very rich in proteins (200g of cottage cheese = 1 steak beef), and low fat.<br />You can even made your own cottage cheese (there's a recipe on my cooking website) : cow, sheep or goat milk.<br /><br />The confusion between vegan and/or raw VS eating healthy is often made.<br />But, we can totally eat raw or vegan, and not healthy at all !<br /><br />And, as you said : everyone is different :-)<br />Please, don't hesitate to post some new recipe of your own, even if it's cooked or not vegan...<br />It's you, and it's YOUR blog :-)

  8. August 26, 2011 at 13:18

    Thank you all! I really appreciate hearing what works and what doesn't work for you guys.

  9. August 26, 2011 at 14:21

    So happy you are feeling better. I agree, what works for one person may not work for another. I find I feel so much better when I eat a lot of raw foods. All being vegan has saved me from getting parts of my intestines removed!

  10. August 26, 2011 at 17:04

    well its comforting to know that we all go through our own ups and downs with our bodies and they way we feel. heather im glad youre doing well and listening to your body! i do really well on a high raw diet with organic meats, eggs and occassionally cheeses mixed in. i was turned off to meat for a while and never went vegan but rarely ate meat, and for that time period i was sluggish, depressed and weak.

  11. August 26, 2011 at 21:28

    Last summer, my husband and I were doing raw food probably 75% of the time. We felt so wonderful after beginning to eat this way that we slowly began to eat less and less meat and more and more raw, until our food intake was closer to 90% raw. <br /><br />After several months, I began to notice feeling fatigued every afternoon. Eating fruit would not help the tiredness and lack of energy go away. <br /><br />Then, winter came, and cold, raw foods were not appealing, so we began to eat more cooked meals, including more meat. After a few weeks, I began to notice I wasn't feeling so fatigued and wiped out in the afternoons anymore.<br /><br />So, for me individually, I have tried a raw diet and it doesn't work for me. My body functions well on lots of veggies and fruits but I find I need more protein than they and legumes provide.

  12. August 26, 2011 at 21:39

    Thanks for sharing your story..its mostly the same as mine. I tried raw vegan for a time and I think it was a great cleanse in the short run...but not the best diet for me in the long run.

  13. August 26, 2011 at 21:57

    I have been reading about "Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine" by Gabriel Cousens, MD and he talks about the different Ayurvedic body types. I have learned that I am a vata who generally don't do very well on the Raw Food diet. We need more fats from avocados, oils, nuts and seeds. <br /><br />I did very well for the first 1 1/2 yrs. and then had an emotional breakdown last Dec. experiencing some of the same symptoms you did. I added a bit of eggs and salmon back in and felt better w/in about 2 hrs. I also learned from Victoria Boutenko that from her studies w/ Raw Vegans and vegetarians all over the world, the Raw foodists who live around the tropics do very well on this diet because they are around fresh, raw foods all the time. But those in the North and South - the colder climates, did not do well. They needed some warm foods, and cooked foods, and some meat. Makes sense. <br /><br />I like to stay high raw, but I don't do 100% Raw. I teach Raw Food classes but am completely honest about my experiences and teach to listen to what each person needs. I wish more Raw Food people would tell us the whole story and what they have been through instead of making it appear to be so easy and such a perfect lifestyle. It would be refreshing to hear more stories like yours. <br /><br />Thanks for having the courage to let us know and be true to yourself. We all need that. I struggled w/ a serious sugar addiction that I've had a very difficult time overcoming too. I realized I was making it worse w/ my high fruit consumption to the point of having a horrible Candida condition. I then read "The pH Miracle" and realized I was very acidic and needed more alkaline foods to balance me out. There are so many different things we need to be aware of to come into balance, and not try and conform to what everyone else is doing. I read a lot and have gotten something from each of the hundreds of books on nutrition that I have been able to try. Sometimes it works for awhile and then I need something else. It's not crazy it's just how we learn to find a balance, especially in our colder climates. <br /><br />I too love your blog and am grateful for all you have helped me w/ in my life. I wish you continued health!

  14. August 27, 2011 at 01:47

    so funny you posted about this, I was planning on emailing you to see how you were doing, and I had some things I wanted to share with you in my health journey and get your opinion. I am so happy to hear you are doing well and feeling better and stronger that is so important! I hope you do not mind but still think I might email you :) <br /><br />xoxo<br />Michelle

  15. August 27, 2011 at 04:00

    thanks so much for sharing. its encouraging to know that i'm not the only one that battles with irritable digestion. i am vegan due to my health issues and eat cooked grains and steamed veggies a lot. do u feel like your digestion is in the healing stage now? or its still a daily battle? i got LEAP tested (blood test for food sensitivities) and i found a whole list of things i shouldn't be eating that is causing my tummy to go crazy. i've been on a phased eating plan with my holistic nutritionist in tandem with my LEAP report and i've been slowly feeling better!

  16. August 27, 2011 at 05:09

    Hi there i also have had my struggles with going from a sad to raw diet i flipped back and forth alot and i have also experienced the problems with the fatigue and sugar issues i have found a healthy balance is to eat the most veggies i can little fruit and 3-4 servings of protiens minimun perday (nuts mostly) i have troubles eating things like beans (my stomach bloats out like a balloon!) i also found when i went back to eating meat again (mostly chicken) that i would end up with really sore teeth and achy joints id advise anyone to do this my md tested my uric acid level and it was thru the roof! so i returned to eating raw and i am taking a multivitamin/multimineral supplement as well as b12 everyday this way i dont have the lows because my body is getting enuf of the minereals protiens and vitamins it needs to keep me going it is a struggle i agree to find out what eating plan/way is best for you but when u do it pays u back :)

  17. August 27, 2011 at 20:49

    I am really struggling. I've been eating high raw for 2 years. I've always had digestive issues, EVERYTHING makes me bloated. I look pregnant almost all of the time. I'm hypoglycemic and sugar intolerant. Every few months I eat a few bites of raw cheese, but otherwise have been vegan for about a year. I stopped eating meat because I felt so sick when I ate it, I've since then felt like a "switch" has flipped in my brain and I now don't see food, I see a dead body, and it really grosses me out. I tried raw milk and it made me super bloated and sluggish. I can't digest vegetables (raw or cooked) and have a hard time with nuts/fats, fruit is too high in sugar for me and my blood sugar gets too low with just juice... what do I eat?? I'm so frusterated and hopeless and scared and even depressed at times. Can anyone help? I have made improvements eating raw, just not to my digestion.

  18. August 28, 2011 at 05:33

    Heathy I admire your story & your courage to be honest!<br />Keep doing what works for you that is the most important thing.<br /><br />Holly I feel your pain I use to be super bloated myself. Have you tried to take digestive enzymes to help? Also spirulina & probiotics are great. I found these things really helped me with the super bloat. <br /><br />All the best,<br />Strawberry

  19. August 29, 2011 at 01:42

    I adore this post.<br />Thank you for your authenticity.<br />For me too, high raw with animal protein is THE BOMB. <br />Bless you dear one.<br />Light / love

  20. Anonymous
    August 30, 2011 at 19:55

    Hi! Thanks for your courage. Two years ago a guy sent me a link that helped me a lot when I had to make a decision about my diet. Maybe you will find it interesting:

  21. August 31, 2011 at 11:44

    Great update Heather. And I want to let you know I am feeling so much better too after you put me in touch with Denyse. SOOO grateful you and her and a few other amazing women have helped me change my life so I'm so thankful. Much Love! XXXXXX

  22. August 31, 2011 at 14:36

    Im so so happy to hear from all of you! Thank you!

  23. September 1, 2011 at 17:09

    It is so hard to know what is right to eat and what is not, I can not eat raw but nor can I eat meat, it's really hard to understand the balance needed for you.<br /><br />As a result of yoyo dieting I eat too much sugar and have become sick its my mission to know what works for me and what doesnt but unfortunatly it feels like a day to day struggle.

  24. Anonymous
    September 4, 2011 at 05:18

    Congratulations on finally having the courage to get over the "I need to be 100% raw vegan" stuff. Raw vegan DOES work for some, doesn't work for most. <br /><br />People should pay more attention to their blood type and to their ayurvedic body type, more so than something being raw or not. <br /><br />I'll remain anonymous, but I was a raw food advocate for about 8 years, before finally coming to terms with my illness. Being a raw food vegan destroyed my health, and left me struggling emotionally, physically, and spiritually. What helped me back to health was the Blood Type Diet, and common sense. <br /><br />I hardly even eat any raw food anymore, and feel the best I have in a long time; possibly ever. I still do fruit, but mostly low sugar fruit like apples, pears and berries. I eat most of my veggies cooked, except for the occasional salad I have a few times per week. I have animal food basically at every meal. Have been eating a lot of grass fed beef, ground bison, venison, and chicken. I joined a co-op where I can get Raw Milk, which is also a good food for re-building strength and getting grounded again.<br /><br />Anyway, going off on a tangent as usual. Glad to hear of your successes, Heathy!

  25. September 4, 2011 at 19:34

    Interesting what you said about feeling the winter. My husband has sinus problems and ALWAYS feels the cold. He and I recently went to see a naturopath (I went along for support mainly) but interestingly enough we were both given similar eating plans. This naturopath strongly follows the blood type plan but also encourages us to go with what makes us feel good (intuitive eating). Anyway I am interested to know if you are an O blood type also as your current eating plan sounds like something Pat and I should be following. <br /><br />Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us Heathy xxx

  26. September 4, 2011 at 19:45

    Very interesting. I really sppreciate your honesty and willingness to share this in a public setting. I look forward to going back and reading what was going on when you first became ill, etc.

  27. September 4, 2011 at 19:54

    Great post Heather! I enjoyed reading it mostly because you have found the place that works for you and you are confident it is yours :o)

  28. Anonymous
    September 4, 2011 at 19:59

    Hi! Very Nice Post.. thank you. I have the same problem. The more I'm eating "great food" and raw food, the worst I feel. I dont know what to do now... My body, my heart, my head, everything is mixing together and i dont have any energy, i have a lof of headaches, it's very very sad. I'm listening to my body but i dont know what he says to me. I was feeling weird because i always read people saying "im feeling so great eating vegan and raw" and it's not really working for me. that's so sad... thanks for everything and congrats for your courage! Annick G. Québec

  29. September 5, 2011 at 16:44

    Interesting comments here. I thought I would just point out one thing. I think it's important to remember that there is more to health than what we eat. For example, whatever diet you are eating, if you notice you are depressed and listless, you might begin right away to think it is what you are eating or not eating, especially if what you eat differs significantly from the norm. But there are other things that could cause those symptoms, like exposure to some type of toxins. If you live in a city, or close to an industrial area - even if someone in the next apartment is having new carpet put in or new paint - so many things. Maybe the water supply has been compromised in some way. <br />For someone like Heather, living in what looks like a pristine environment, this might not be an issue, but then again looks can be deceiving.<br /><br />It's interesting that most people in the wider culture (including a lot of doctors) don't seem to think what they eat really makes a big difference to their health, and don't believe they can heal illnesses by changing what they eat.<br /><br />On the flip side, I think once we get involved in the mindset that what we eat IS super important (and it is), it's like somehow what we eat becomes the ONLY thing that is impacting our health. <br /><br />Anyway, those are just my thoughts. I am glad you are feeling better Heather. I do suspect that the climate has a huge impact on what type of diet works well for many of us. And it can change. I think we don't like to change - we want to feel we've got it all figured out and can forget it for the rest of our lives, but as your body ages, you may feel the need to make changes yet again. <br /><br />Hopefully, we can at least all agree that the SAD diet of highly processed junk, highly refined oils and sugars, and factory-farmed meats is not good for anybody, anywhere.

  30. September 10, 2011 at 02:36

    Heather,<br /><br />I went through an intense phase of infatuation with being 100% raw and vegan - I mean, I was really, really convinced that this was the ONLY way to live if you wanted optimal health.<br /><br />I gravitated to the high fruit camp and began frequenting the 30 Bananas a Day forum (that I now see as a cross between a cult gathering and a police state). I was told quite plainly that if I did X, Y and Z, and kept at it, I would enjoy superior health. I truly believed that eating this way would turn me into some kind of super athlete and raw powerhouse.<br /><br />Keep at it I did, and during the period of time when I was most successfully following that diet, I experienced some of the worst health of my life - extreme bloating, lethargy, brain fog, periods of acute emotional distress, a sort of "ho hum, what's the use?" mental outlook. I also gained over 20 pounds. <br /><br />Finally, one day I felt bad enough that I actually had an epiphany - I saw myself so clearly from the outside and I was able to perceive that this diet WAS NOT WORKING FOR ME. Didn't matter if this or that super endurance athlete thrived on it. My body clearly was sending some intense distress signals, and I needed to pay attention.<br /><br />On that day, I began the long, amazing, painful process of unraveling myself from the Vegan Infatuation. Instead of continuing to trust blindly in those raw vegan gurus, I (for the very first time) began my own research. And what I found out blew my mind - I began to realize that the entire vegan philosophy is built around some very shaky concepts that don't hold water against real science.<br /><br />Some people can do well on vegan diets, but most of us cannot, and I believe now that that is for the best, as grain agriculture is destroying so many fragile ecosystems across the world.<br /><br />It's been a year since I abandoned the "100% raw vegan or else" mindset and I couldn't be happier. My health improved MASSIVELY after I began incorporating small amounts of animal products into my diet - I was literally dumbfounded over how much better I felt. My body literally sang with health and good, joyful feelings.<br /><br />I have settled into a high raw diet with smaller amounts of high quality, pasture raised animal products. <br /><br />It bothers me that veganism has such a stranglehold on raw food world. I feel like many more people would stick around if veganism were presented as an option and not a mandate. Paleo/low carb/primal diet scenes are full of ex-raw vegans, and this is a bummer to me because I do feel that these folks are perhaps throwing out the baby with the bathwater - you can enjoy all the health benefits that raw brought to your life while getting rid of the problems that veganism introduced.<br /><br />I share my own diet journey in more detail on my website:<br /><br /><br /><br />I also did a 30 day trial of the paleo diet following my abandonment of the 100% raw obsession, and I blog about each day of my experiences and all the conclusions I came to along the way as my body intuitively led me to eating my current, high raw, animal protein-friendly diet:<br /><br /><br /><br />I know exactly what you mean about your body guiding you to eat differently on different days. I do feel that my extended raw experimentation gave me the ability to really be in tune with my body's needs. Some days I eat meat, some days I don't. Some days I eat 100% raw. It is an ever-flowing, ever-changing rhythm, my body's needs, like waves, or like the phases of the moon, or like the seasons.<br /><br />Warmly,<br /><br />Heather

  31. September 10, 2011 at 23:46

    over this year i have been gradually buiding up to a high raw diet. If i got a week just eating raw i loose lots of weight (which is not good because im underweight) and i feel doesnt matter how much avocados, seeds and coconut i eat...Also i havnt been running lately...i just feel week and cold. Since reading this i believe i should start eating eggs again...i was out with my friends yesterday and just WANTED to eat something "Bad" so i ate a lord of the fries mock meat butger which very unhealthy..but in the morning i weighed myself and I had not lost weight like I have been everyday on the raw vegan diet...I really think my body does need more than raw seeds, vegetables and fruit...

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