Saturday, March 17, 2012

Why I'm Not a Vegan Anymore

My Vegan Story


My husband Doc and I were vegan for 25+ years, he was a vegetarian for about 7 years before I met him.

I became a vegetarian to battle ulcerative colitis and he became one to conform to the Mormon doctrine of the Word of Wisdom.

In the winter of 1984 we were in a violent auto accident with a drunk driver. Doc broke his back and I went into premature labor with our youngest daughter Jamie. For 6 months Doc sat in a recliner fitted with a back brace, as laying in a bed hurt too much. I was medicated and put on bed rest.


We recovered slowly and both of us gained a lot of weight, as we didn't know much about eating a healthy diet. I had only been a vegetarian for a year.

We were SAD (Standard American Diet) vegetarians. You know, pizza, sandwiches, spaghetti, chocolate pie, pancakes...

In 1985 our chiropractor suggested we'd try a raw food vegan diet to help us heal our injuries. This diet change help us recover very quickly, as we ate only organic fruit, nuts and vegetables along with a daily sprout salad. I went from my post pregnancy weight of 170# down to 90# in a matter of weeks.

It was miraculous!

However, our children were another story.  After only 6 months of this diet they stopped playing, they lost their usually happy vital energy. They had sallow dry skin and grew big bellies like the starving children in Africa.  I knew something was wrong, but the books we were studying reassured us this was normal at first and claimed after they had adjusted to eating this way they would gain weight and be healthier than ever.

Thankfully the people around us decided to talk to us about this situation and at the advice of a friend who was a nurse we gradually included some cooked foods. Our new diet consisted of whole grains, homemade breads and beans in addition to our organic produce and nuts.  We never fed our children a full on raw food vegan diet again.

Us adults were strictly vegan, with a fondness for the memories of the vitality we had experienced on our raw food vegan diet.  Every spring we'd returning to eating a raw food diet or close to it for the next 23 years.  However, in the fall we found that we couldn't stay warm eating only raw foods, so we'd reluctantly returned to cooking some of our diet.

Throwing away the stove was a regular spring event. I think I have given away at least a dozen stoves in the last 20 years.  My children would tease me that they knew it was spring when they would arrive home from school to find the stove sitting on the curb.

However, the health and vitality we had originally experienced as raw food vegans became nothing but a memory.

After about 3 years of becoming a vegan I became clinically depressed and had waking visions of throwing myself in front a cars and buses. This fear kept me home bound for over a year.

Tired of being unable to leave home by myself I sought counseling. My doctors treated this condition with antidepressants and assessed me as suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

I also gained 20 lbs. past my healthy weight, I then weighted 140#. I looked 6 months pregnant. I hated how I looked and I hated how I felt.

At the same time Doc's thyroid failed and he suffered a mental break down which left him disabled.  He had been an extremely organized and proficient business executive and a talented musician/song writer.

None of the many mental health professionals he saw could figure out what was wrong with him.  None of the anti-depressants helped.  Not one of them inquired about his diet, nor did they suggest a full physical.

Seeing him sit wrapped in a blanket (even in the summer) staring at the wall was heart breaking.  He stopped playing guitar, lost his band and job as he couldn't even sign his name.

I'll let him tell you more about this bellow.

All I could think of during those 23+ vegan years was how much I wanted to die. I tried to commit suicide several times. Thankfully I would remember my children needed me and would seek help.

I was always gaining more weight no matter how little I ate or how much I exercised. I was angry all the time.  I couldn't think and my memory was terrible.  I couldn't sleep very well and spent every day dragging myself through life exhausted, insecure, living without joy.  I was an emotional wreck.

I also had sever hormone imbalances. My menses became irregular and I would experience false pregnancies.  I also suffered 4 miscarriages and lost a set of twin boys at 22 months gestation.

By my late 30's and through out my 40's on top of continuing depression and insomnia, I had I developed several autoimmune symptoms and my heart felt weak. I couldn't walk even a mile.

My blood pressure was high and I couldn't get any relief from natural means. As I was already on several antidepressants and didn't want to take more medications, I just lived with it.

Now that I look back on those days I can see that we weren't able to think clearly.  No matter how hard we worked at it we could not seem to keep our lives “together”.

I could tell that we weren't stupid people, both of us had high IQ scores to prove it, so why did we make so many mistakes?

We were always either being taken advantage of by unscrupulous people or we'd be unrealistic about our investments.  So, as well as having health issues we'd always be struggling with financial problems.

It confused me that the people around us, not eating our "superior vegan diet" were some how passing us by.  We couldn't seem to make the right choices or do as much as they could with their lives.  Why was our energy level always so much lower than theirs?

And, we spent upwards of $1000 a month on "good" foods to feed our family, but some how still had all the same illnesses and health struggles of people who lived on nothing but take-out.

Then in the fall of 2010 Doc suddenly, after trimming some small trees, became partially paralyzed from the neck down. Because he had been in two car accidents, one when he was 19 and the other with me and he had broken his neck and back, we thought this paralysis was the result of those injuries and his using the wrong tool to trim those trees.

So we reverted back to what we knew and tried to use raw food vegan diet and "super-foods" trying to heal this paralysis. After almost a year we had to concede that this approach failed.  He did not improve at all and my health was failing completely.

During this period my teeth started to hurt and my gums quickly receded a lot. They hurt all the time and I could barely eat. Returning to a cooked vegan diet improved the situation quite a bit, but left my tooth nerves still exposed.

In addition to having problems with my teeth my autoimmune problems seemed to get worse and I became even more chronically exhausted and depressed. I couldn't get enough sleep, I hurt all day everyday.

I felt like we were just sitting around waiting to die.

We eventually decided to try the medical route.

Doc's x-rays revealed the back injuries from those car accidents had healed! One of his chiropractors said he had the most perfectly aligned neck bones he had seen!  However he had developed arthritis down his neck and spine. This made no sense to us, we were sure our diet would have prevented arthritis!

Blood tests reveled his cholesterol levels were really horrible, which was even more confusing since he didn't eat any saturated fats.

Dissatisfied with the medical treatments Doc was receiving and their effects, I returned to my old ways of thinking.

I believe our bodies have the ability to heal themselves. So I kept searching for what we needed to do to heal ourselves.

I started thinking about how healthy my 85+ years old Aunts are. I started thinking I should eat like they do.  Perhaps like my grandparents did when they were children.

The healthiest of my aunts is 90+ and grows all of her own food. She eats home grown vegetables, a little meat