I recently got an email from a reader, which addressed a question I’ve been getting a lot lately: Why did you switch from vegan to paleo? Her e-mail:
Hey lady! I love your blog
I was just wondering why you switched from veganism to paleo? I’m always interested in people’s reasons because I was vegan for 7 years and am now a vegetarian, maybe headed toward pescetarian. It’s really, really hard to have a rational conversation about food choices with other vegans/vegetarians, they tend to get a little scary when you mention that you aren’t feeling that great. Ie. “YOU MUST NOT BE EATING ENOUGH OF (INSERT FOOD HERE)” Anyway, if this question is too personal or rubs you the wrong way, no worries! Ignore it.
Knowing that it would be of interest to a lot of you, I’m posting my response for you guys. Enjoy!
First, thank you for your email, and thank you for being so kind and sensitive!! I have no issue answering you I was vegan for about a year and half (give or take), and felt really great the first few or six months. During this time, I also wasn’t exercising much. I would run in the mornings for a mile or two (give or take), and then that would be it. I would eat, but I was never truly satisfied. Enter: I begin to train for a 5K, determined to run anything, and increase my food intake. This was fine, but my muscle recovery time was poor.
Around the time of my Half Marathon, I began experimenting with having bites of fish, and found out how satisfying it was. I began to eat more fish, and for a couple of weeks was eating it twice a day, every day. Then I began to level out and would have it a few times a week. I was running and doing cardio, only.
Last summer, a friend of mine introduced me to a book called Deep Nutrition, which talked about how our ancestors ate, and focused a lot on eating as close to the earth as possible, including: butter and cheese from grass-fed organic cows, goat // sheep’s milk, and organic, grass-fed and pasture-raised meat and eggs. I began to incorporate these foods, and felt awesome. Around this time I left for school and continued to eat meat, yogurt, whole eggs, and cheese.
A little bit into college, I began eating in vegan // vegetarian manner again, but this didn’t last very long because my body loved protein. So I began eating Chobani with fruit and nuts a few times a day while I was out on campus. I was still in great shape at this time.
Once I was nearing the end of the year, I stopped eating all animal products and was following a vegan lifestyle once again. I continued this for a month or so and then my body started craaaving protein again. I added fish back into my diet, but was mostly eating tons of quinoa, seeds, and Vega protein powder.
A couple of months ago, I started doing CrossFit style workouts. At the gym, in my backyard, and in my hotels, I starting doing tabatas and body-weight WODs. Not only did I feel great, I was getting stronger. I started eating seafood at both lunch and dinner, with protein powder at breakfast.
Within the last month, I began adding eggs, chicken, turkey, and beef back into my life. I amped up the protein (trying to make it as natural as possible — not solely from protein powder, as I had been doing before), and increased my fat intake. I stopped being scared of oil on my salads, and the amount of almond butter in my bowl. After doing this for a few days, I began feeling satisfied after dinner, rather than feeling like I was “full”, but with room for more. I wasn’t thinking about food. My stomach was silenced.
After a week, I added in more protein sources and amped up my workouts. I have been training at a CrossFit affiliate Box for a couple of weeks now, and to say that I am happy would be an understatement. As my love for CrossFit grows, so does the aggression of my workouts. I’m training harder, and my muscles are recovering faster. I attest this to my increased animal protein and plant fat intake. Not only am I training harder, I am more well-rested after the same amount of sleep. I have been able to cut down my coffee intake to 2 cups a day, versus the previous 4-5 cups (eek!).
Although I haven’t completely overhauled my diet to be strict paleo (I still eat occasional peanut butter or vegan protein, which is typically grain and legume-based, as well as whey proteins), I am feeling straight-up awesome. While fruit is still a staple in my diet, adding in animal proteins (grass-fed and free range, when possible) as well as more plant fats (avocados and almond butter up the wazoo) has greatly improved my ability to train hard and do the things that are most important to me in life: do the work I am passionate about, and spend time with those I love.
I hope this (suuuuuper long!) answer finds you well, and I’m so glad that you asked. I’ve been getting this question a lot, and will probably (read: definitely) posting my response to you on the bloggy. Thank you so much for taking the time to read!!
x’s and o’s for EVA,
For some reading regarding the flexibility of the Paleo diet and general debate, check out:
- Juli from PaleoOMG’s viewpoint on Paleo (my favorite)
- Health-Bent’s In Defense of Paleo
- Mark Sisson’s 10 Real-Life Reasons Why the Primal Blueprint Works for Me
Talk to you soon! Still in New Hampshire until Wednesday.
Thoughts on the “paleo debate”?