Vegetarianism

When I was sixteen I started dating a vegan. He was older, lived on his own, was in a band and I thought he was so cool. The relationship lasted all of five minutes, but he left me with something I would hold onto for the next five years: vegetarianism.

It was sort of the perfect storm that led me to becoming a vegetarian. My mother had always told me I had the body that was “prone to getting fat”, I was compassionate and then introduced to the horrors of factory farming, I was sort of hippie-ish by nature and didn’t want to destroy the environment or kill anything, I wanted to be healthy and have clear skin, and I thought going vegetarian was my answer. How had I not seen it sooner?

Of course the answer to life’s problems was eschewing meat!

I didn’t want any part of factory farming or destroying the environment or raising my cholesterol levels and chances of getting cancer. Unfortunately I failed to realize four main things:

  1. I was still contributing to factory farming by eating tons of soy, corn and other grains that destroy the earth.
  2. I was contributing to the death of more animals by eating this way.
  3. Vegetarian diets are not sustainable and I didn’t even know what a pasture based, grass-fed farm was. I didn’t know anything about sustainability or the environment for that matter.
  4. Meat doesn’t raise your cholesterol or chance of getting cancer. In fact, (grass-fed) meat is really freaking good for you.

But I was sixteen. I was uninterested in facts! I had my new dietary dogma and I was stickin’ to it.

I’d seen the vegan pamphlets. I’d seen the PETA videos. I’d heard doctors with very little nutritional knowledge say that meat was bad for you, that fat was bad for you. I heard my friends say that we aren’t meant to be meat eaters, that our ancestors didn’t eat meat, that gorillas don’t eat meat (and look how strong they are!).

If only I’d have actually looked for the facts that were right in front of my face. We aren’t gorillas. Our ancestors did eat meat (what the hell did they eat if not meat?) and there has never, ever been a naturally occurring vegetarian culture.

For five years, I ignored these facts. I ignored my declining health, my mood swings, my debilitating periods, my blood sugar irregularities, my cystic acne. I was regularly eating soy, beans, grains and veggies. I ate a lot of wheat. I ate very little cheese and eggs. Eventually I wised up and cut out the soy. I began drinking fruit smoothies every morning. This didn’t help.

I eventually switched to mostly raw foods and just could not maintain it. I was starving, even more than usual. I felt hungry for five years straight. Looking back, I know where my anxiety came from, I know where my depression came from, I know where my overwhelming desire for both alcohol and sugar came from. These things stemmed from my diet.

How-Vegetarianism-Ruined-My-Health1

Because when you aren’t eating animal products and animal fat, your brain suffers, your hormones suffer. The body needs fat. It needs vitamins and minerals found only in animal products (like B12 and true vitamin A, retinol). That cholesterol I was so worried about? Turns out I really needed it, that it was found in every single cell of my body, I would die without it.

All those grains and beans I ate that turned to sugar in my body and fermented in my gut and really did some damage. I needed traditionally fermented food to balance out my gut flora, but I had no idea what the hell fermented food was.

Little by little, I learned. I read every book, blog and study I could about nutrition. I studied cultures, our ancestors, archaeology. I rebuilt my health over the years. I went to school to become a certified nutrition consultant. And this is why I do (and love) what I do. There is so much bad information, wrong information when it comes to health.

I’m here to tell you that their advice is wrong. That eating a ton of soy and grains and beans while giving
up healthy fats from animals will rob you of your health. Foods from animals are not your enemy, they are your best friend. Eating meat from local, pastured based farms will not destroy the environment, in fact it supports the environment and builds topsoil. The genetically modified soy and corn, the grains and beans, the current agricultural practices will destroy the environment.

So before you decide to become vegetarian (especially if your’e a teenager) do some research. Some unbiased research. Make sure you are making the right choice for yourself. Make sure you’re making the right choice for the change you want to see in the world. I want to see local, organic and pasture based farms thrive, so that’s the way I eat. If you want to support genetically modified food and Monsanto, then you can eat the soy and the corn and the canola. But you will suffer for it. Every time you buy food, you make a choice. You vote. You choose local farmers, or you choose to have no idea where your food comes from. You choose your health, or you choose your demise.

How-Vegetarianism-Ruined-My-Health

Sources:

The Vegetarian Myth

Meat: A Benign Extravagance

Gut and Psychology Syndrome

Deep Nutrition

37 responses on “How Vegetarianism Ruined My Health

  1. Colleen

    OMG thank you for posting this. I have been battling myself for about2 years now over becoming vegan (for all the reasons that you said you became vegetarian) and eating meat & dairy but healthy, grass fed, pastured, meat & dairy. You just helped me see the light! Many thanks!

  2. Jessica

    I, too, had such warped ideas of how healthy vegetarianism was, until I saw my “healthy, organic, vegan I-live-my-life-better-than-you” sister in law become pregnant with twins, who are still on a very meat-restricted diet. Their nutrition and development has suffered, greatly, in my opinion. The way of life they are choosing is just that, a choice of theirs, for their children, and they’re selfishly ignoring the results. We see the same pediatrician and her boys are deemed grossly underweight and under-nourished. One has vision development problems, and frankly, they have terrible cranky attitudes-all the time! They don’t eat raw honey or eggs from our farm, nor the food we grow ourselves in the soil we’ve composted with chicken, goat, and rabbit droppings, and crop rotation. Six months after her boys were born, my daughter was born. Three years later she has a fuller vocabulary, better social and empathy skills, striking, glowing skin, shiny hair, resilience to scrapes and boo boo’s, and is almost a full three inches taller than her cousins. The proof is clearly in the pudding (not that they know what that is either!)

    1. dani stout Post author

      That is so sad and so true. I have seen the exact same thing in children who are restricted from eating high quality animal products. As an outsider you can clearly see how food is so negatively affecting everything from growth to mood, but it’s tough to comment on it. I think it’s awesome that you’re nourishing your daughter so well. I love that you grow your own food! Keep leading by example, mama!

  3. Dawn @ Transformed By Food

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. So many people need to hear this, although many have closed themselves off to new ideas and will not listen. The Vegetarian Myth is a very important book that should be required reading for any and every health care professional, and anyone considering the transition to a vegetarian or vegan diet.

    It really concerns me that some parents (and many so called “experts”) are promoting vegan and vegetarian diets for children and teens. Nutrient deficiencies could impact them for their whole lives, and such a decision should not be made without first reading a wide range of resources (arguing both sides) on the topic.

    Thank you also for sharing other great resources as well. They are all on my bookshelf, along with many other health and nutrition books. Healthy eating and avid reading go hand-in-hand, and the road to optimal health and wellness always begins in the gut.

    1. dani stout Post author

      I agree, The Vegetarian Myth really opened my eyes. It breaks my heart to see children that are restricted meat and fat because they have so many problems with health, their immune system and behavioral problems. They’re often worse than kids on SAD diets. That’s why I wrote this. So many people just assume vegetarian and vegan diets are healthy, and the opposite is true. I agree that it’s upsetting to see “experts” promiting these diets, especially since they are so nutrient deficient. It is much easier and environmentally sound to get food from pastured/wild animal sources.

  4. Frank

    While I agree that becoming a healthy vegetarian requires a lot more research and planning than most converts are aware of, your photograph shows clearer evidence of photographic lighting than diet.

    Did you go from wearing “weird clothes” to being a nudist? You don’t appear to be wearing any in the “healthy skin” photo.

    1. dani stout Post author

      What matters more was how I felt physically and emotionally. Vegetarianism, even unprocessed and gluten-free vegetarianism ruined my health. Adopting an ancestral diet continues to restore the damage I did for those five years.

      It’s a joke!

  5. Karyn

    Thanks for sharing!! It took me 20 years of vegetarianism to figure out it was the root of all my problems.I wish I knew then what I know now.

  6. Megan

    I’m an almost lifelong vegetarian (3-28 years) who will just never be able to stomach putting flesh in my mouth. Just can’t. My husband hunts his own game and the only meats he eats are venison, duck and goose, or sometimes we get grassfed beef and pork from a local farmer. I won’t touch it when I cook it and a drip of blood on the counter turns my stomach STILL after being with him for almost 9 years now. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good, healthy way to eat. I WISH I could eat gelatin, broths, ect just to ease into it but the idea of something from a dead body….I just can’t. WON’T. However……

    I’m totally with you- there is a fine line between eating vegetarian and eating WELL. Fritos are vegan, ya know. I have to work hard to make sure my diet, and my kids (neither likes meat at this point, though it’s offered occasionally) get a balanced, nutritionally dense diet. We raise our own chickens so that we get the best eggs we can, we drink milk kefir and I’m learning about fermented foods. We use good fats and avoid sugar. We are moving away from soy (gah, that one is hard for me!) but we are doing well with it. I think all diets can be done to promote health as long as there is a careful consideration to what feeds the body what it needs. It’s the blindness of many diets that can be so unhealthy.

    1. dani stout Post author

      That is awesome! My boyfriend is also a vegetarian, I make him a protein shake every morning with raw kefir, raw eggs and raw milk. Some people just can’t stomach meat and it’s great that you put in the effort to eat well. Congrats on making the move away from soy!

  7. Nat

    I’m so curious about The Vegetarian Myth now! I know you and I disagree and I’d love to learn even more about your viewpoint, because obviously you know your stuff, and reading that you used to be a vegetarian adds a new layer of complexity to the matter 😉

    I know that I feel better eating wild salmon, humane raised eggs, and some organic dairy than I did when vegan, but I wonder if it’s only because I haven’t figured out what my body thrives on best yet… We’re all different. The key is to research a shitton and listen to our bodies… which is NOT so easy, let me tell you! Thanks for this post 🙂

    1. dani stout Post author

      I highly recommend the Vegetarian Myth! I think it’s great to eat a plant based diet with wild salmon, eggs and organic dairy; especially if you feel good eating that way! I technically eat a plant based diet with these things – and red meats as well, but no grains. I always say that ancestral eating is a template in which to work from, everyone has to tweak it to their own personal preferences.

  8. Alina

    I know you meant well but this post is very misleading leading when it comes to the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. There are absolutely no vitamins, minerals and nutrients found in animals products that you could not get eating a plant based diet. If you do it right (making sure to get all of the nutrient necessary for a healthy body) choosing to maintain a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle is one of the healthiest and most compassionate decisions you can make. But being vegetarian/vegan is obviously not for everyone and there is nothing wrong or unhealthy about eating grass fed, farm raised meat and animal products (though as humans our bodies are not meant to digest dairy/eggs at all, but that’s a different argument). But there is also nothing wrong or unhealthy about choosing to be vegan or vegetarian. Your health problems as a teenager stemmed from an unhealthy diet lacking in essential nutrients, not a lack of animal products. (:

    1. dani stout Post author

      Alina, I know you mean well too but your information is completely wrong. There are literally no plant based forms of b12, among other nutrients. As humans our bodies are meant to digest meat and eggs extremely well, we are very effective at doing so. If we weren’t, we literally would have died off long ago. Humans have always eaten animals, it is what allowed our brains to grow and our species to evolve.

      Here is some info I wrote recently about what a vegetarian diet lacks:

      You can read more about what a vegetarian diet lacks in this article: http://ancestral-nutrition.com/an-open-letter-to-jay-z-on-plant-based-diets/

      1. Patrick Grday

        I understand that we each have our own path, but b12 is the ONLY nutrient – THE ONLY – that can’t be found in plants. And many scientific studies (The China Study is a great start) show the DIRECT connection between eating animal products and cancer (among other diseases). Your photo before and after sadly shows a lack of objectivity – especially when you call attention to your clothes as a part of vegetarianism that is bad. And greasy hair?!? showers help.

        You are certainly entitled to your own opinions – but not to your own facts.

        1. dani stout Post author

          There is literally no connection bewteen eating animal products and cancer. There is no study that has ever proved this, including The China Study. The China Study is complete fallacy. It’s not even peer reviewed.

          If this were true, humans would have died off of cancer long ago – we evolved eating animal products. This is a fact.

          You need to do accurate research, especially on The China Study: http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/07/07/the-china-study-fact-or-fallac/

          PS – the clothes part was a joke!

      2. Patrick Grday

        I’m pretty sure you won’t allow this post, but your claims are opposite the truth in many ways.

        You said:
        I was still contributing to factory farming by eating tons of soy, corn and other grains that destroy the earth.

        TRUTH: Animals grown for food eat FAR MORE soy, corn and grains than all people combined. Reducing the number of farm animals cuts that total farming dramatically. Of all rain forests razed for farming – 75 percent is for animal location and 25 percent is for food TO FEED THOSE ANIMALS.

        I was contributing to the death of more animals by eating this way.
        TRUTH: This doesn’t even make sense. Are you saying that since they didn’t get eaten – they died? About 200 animals a year die for non-vegans… if there are no customers, farmers will make other things (plants) that they WILL eat). I don’t get this.

        Vegetarian diets are not sustainable and I didn’t even know what a pasture based, grass-fed farm was. I didn’t know anything about sustainability or the environment for that matter.
        TRUTH: It’s the most sustainable diet there is Period.

        Meat doesn’t raise your cholesterol or chance of getting cancer. In fact, (grass-fed) meat is really freaking good for you.
        TRUTH: completely false. Check The China Study – or even the government health (which promotes eating meat and milk) – they even tell you to cut down to reduce chance.

        – See more at: http://ancestral-nutrition.com/my-so-called-vegetarian-life/#comment-50736

        1. dani stout Post author

          You said:
          “Animals grown for food eat FAR MORE soy, corn and grains than all people combined. Reducing the number of farm animals cuts that total farming dramatically. Of all rain forests razed for farming – 75 percent is for animal location and 25 percent is for food TO FEED THOSE ANIMALS.”

          This is so ridiculously short sighted. I don’t disagree that agricultural production to feed CAFO animals is damaging, but you are ignoring one huge fact: I do not eat, or advocate eating CAFO animals. I advocate eating local animals grown on pasture. Animals that eat grass in turn nourish the grass and build topsoil, which is exactly what the earth needs. We could literally reverse environmental damage by enacting this farming method.

          Furthermore, if you acknowledge that soy, corn, wheat and legume production is damaging to the earth, how is it evironmentally responsible to have everyone give up meat in favor of eating these things?

          You said: “About 200 animals a year die for non-vegans.”

          That is ridiculous. Tell the truth, did you just make that up? There is no evidence that this is factual.

          A vegetarian diet is one of the most detrimental diets to the earth, agricultural production is steadily destroying the planet.

          The China Study, as I stated in my other response to you, is a joke. Humans have been eating meat forever, and there is no evidence that doing so is at all damaging to health. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

          I’ve read The China Study, you need to read The Vegetarian Myth.

          Get it here: http://amzn.to/1mc5sei

    2. Kenneth Dunlap

      Alina, there’s pretty much no food that the human body isn’t meant to digest. That is why we, as a species, are able to thrive in so many different environments. Yes, some people lack an enzyme to digest lactose, but that is an issue with specific people, not humans in general.

  9. Lisa Wolfe

    You’re awesome, Dani. I love that you are not only willing to make your point but to defend it compassionately and logically. Thanks for having the guts to post ALL comments, not just the friendly ones! 🙂 xo

  10. Shanna

    I think you really need to do some more research. The American Dietetic Association has a position paper that states veg and vegan diets can be healthy. Also, the Adventist Study DID find a correlation between a vegetarian diet and decreased cancer rates. Some stuff you are saying is true – GMOs are bad for everyone. As a vegan I only eat organic or Non-GMO verified foods. I’m glad that the meat you choose is local, as I buy my food from local farms as well. The comparison you made in your article between being vegan and eating GMO soy and corn, vs being an omnivore and eating local food was unfortunate. I’m sure you’re aware vegans can also choose to support local farms, so correlating veganism with supporting Monsanto makes you seem short-sighted and uneducated.

    Sounds like veganism didn’t work for you and you’ve found a diet you really like, and that’s great. But others can be vegan and very healthy and socially conscious and you really shouldn’t negate that. There were a lot of other fallacies in your article as well that are very irresponsible if you really care about people’s health and diet choices. I’ve done plenty of research about this too, btw. I have a MS in Nutrition from NYU. I beg you to please educate yourself a little better before trying to influence something as important as people’s health.

    1. dani stout Post author

      The American Dietetic Association is also partnered with Frito Lay, does this mean Fritos are healthy? Absolutely not. The ADA is kind of a joke; they promote a lot of outdated and completely wrong information.

      Here’s the thing about vegans promoting local farms, I don’t know where you’re from, but I’ve never been to a local farm that sells vegan staples like beans, lentils, soy, etc. I’m in the Mid Atlantic so maybe it’s different where you are, but with winters it makes it next to impossible to be vegan and support local farms year-round.

      I beg you to educate yourself on real nutrition, not outdated science, not on government agencies with agendas, not on propaganda. Everything I said in this article is factually accurate. There is no vegan source of B12. Vitamin A is best obtained from animal sources because beta carotene converts poorly. Roughly half of cells are made of saturated fat. These are facts. It’s also a fact that there has never, ever been a vegan culture. There’s a reason for this, it’s not environmentally or physically sound.

      Also, and this is a bit off topic but really upsets me, veganism has killed babies. Both babies that were fed a vegan diet and babies of breastfed mothers because of severe nutrient deficiencies. That should be enough to tell you that veganism is an extremely dangerous diet. I wrote a bit about that here: http://ancestral-nutrition.com/veganism-extremely-dangerous-for-babies/

  11. Megan Dogerthy

    You make several broad arguments- like veganism isn’t a sustainable diet and is worse for the environment than meat eating. Would you please provide your sources on this? Also, who are your sponsors? And did you know nutritional yeast is a vegan source of B12. Just thought you should know. Thanks.

    1. dani stout Post author

      I actually did provide my sources at the bottom of the article.

      I don’t have any sponsors. I just signed on with Tropical Traditions as an affiliate for their amazing coconut oil, if that’s what you mean. I’m an affiliate for Amazon as well. But I have no sponsors, no one paid me to write this.

      Nutritional yeast is definitely not a source of B12; BY contains B12 analogs called cobamides. Cobamides block the absorption of true B12 and actually increase the need for it.

  12. Tze-wei Lim

    While I agree that a vegetarian diet is probably unhealthy for humans, Dani, you actually look much healthier in the picture of you on a vege diet compared to the one with you including meat in your diet.

      1. Timothy W.

        Actually, you’re skin looks so much more vibrant before while now you look much pale and you’re hair appears frizzy and dry.

        1. dani stout Post author

          I don’t think anyone with eyeballs honestly believes that. I’m a mess in the picture on the left, not to mention I felt terrible emotionally and physically.

  13. Justin D

    Wonderful article! Well written and done so by a well informed author with first hand experience on both sides of the fence!

  14. Deanna

    You are aware that the farm animals you are eating, are fed only plants? Farmer supplement the animal with b12, either by adding it to their food or by injection, and then you eat that animal. Vegans and vegetarians just supplement straight for the source. Why give something to an animal, and then eat that animal, when you can just take the b12 yourself?

    You mentioned “babies dying” due to not eating animals. Are you aware that 2.5 MILLION children under the age of 5 die every year due to starvation? Are you aware our planet has approx 7 billion people but we have enough food to feed over 9 billion? Yet, so many people are starving. I’ve read from multiple studies that it takes 16 pounds of plants to produce 1 pound of meat. I don’t know who did this study, but it sounds quite accurate. I’ve seen cows eat. Regardless, we can easily agree the plant to meat ratio isn’t close. If we fed the plants to those people, we would end starvation. So eating meat, actually kills children on a large scale.

    I understand this post is 3 years old and no one will probably see this. I personally believe you look better in the veg photo. It actually wasn’t until I seen the text did I realize the meat eaters version of you was on the right.

    Healthy vegan and vegetarian diets are easily obtainable with some education. I eat a lot of carbs and I feel better than ever! Stick to good fats (avocados, nuts, ect.), plenty of whole grains and back off the processed stuff and you’ll be good. Eat your good cholestrol, and stay away from the bad cholestrol. Top 10 foods high in HDL (good) cholesterol are all plants with the exception of fish. Top 10 foods with LDL (bad) cholestrol are all animal products. Supplement with b12 in a pill, shot or liquid form, not the animal form which comes with bad cholestrol and bad fat.

    If you look at individuals who thrive on vegan and vegetarian diets, it’s because they focused on whole foods and getting plenty of calories. Seems to me like you weren’t eating enough. Sugar cravings? Eat some fruit or potatoes (carbs).

    Just because your veg diet didn’t work, doesn’t mean all veg diets don’t work.

    1. dani Post author

      This entire comment is not based in science, fact or basic animal/nutrition education. Ie: farmers supplement or inject animals with B12 – this is not only untrue but completely ridiculous. Cows have two stomachs which allow them to produce B12. Re: “eating meat actually kills children on a large scale.” is possibly one of the most uneducated statements I’ve ever come across.

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