My story is quite an extreme one.
When I was five years old my entire family became vegetarian. This would have been in 1975, when being a vegetarian was still very unusual. I gather it was after a distressing trip to an agricultural show, but of course I don’t really remember the details. Before that, I had eaten a fairly normal diet. Apparently, as a toddler in my high chair I used to repeatedly ask for ‘more meat!’
The first way that it affected me was that I became quite phobic about food. In retrospect I think that I must have been a bit traumatised by the switch, because I went from being a fairly normal eater to an incredibly fussy one. They say that children know instinctively what they need, and I think that on some level I must have known that our new bean- and grain-heavy diet was not very good for us. I hated it, anyway, and responded by being frightened of everything except Weetabix and bread. I was really nervous about the food my mother cooked, although she was a good cook and most people loved her food.
As I grew up, I didn’t really realise that my health was being impaired by my diet, but now I look back the signs of steady deterioration were there. I had chronic earache and thrush, my nails were always really weak, and I must have had mild rickets without anyone even noticing. I say this because early photographs show me with straight legs, but by the time I was about ten I had developed bowed legs, and my ankle and knee joints had thickened – both symptoms of rickets. By the time I was ten I was chronically constipated as well, and I was definitely already anaemic.
However, it was not until I was about 16 that my health really got a lot worse. I had been under a great deal of stress due to problems at home, and I had been eating very poorly for a few years and generally not looking after myself. I suffered a sort of hormonal collapse – my thyroid seemed to more or less shut down and I began to struggle to keep my weight under control. I responded by massively restricting my diet, and never took any hormones for the problem. I was permanently exhausted, and really depressed. My periods stopped completely also. In the next few years my digestive system began to be severely affected; it became more and more difficult for me to cope with more and more foods. Initially the things that I gave up were toxic foods like sugar, but as the years went by, I found myself having to cut out more and more food groups. My veganism was as much prompted by my progressive inability to digest different animals foods as it was from conviction. I had eaten a lot of yoghurt in my twenties, but then I realised that it was giving me terrible sinus and digestive problems, so the dairy had to go. I used to love eating eggs, but then they began giving me terrible skin problems and stomach aches, so they too were jettisoned. I have since read that this is a very common phenomenon; vegetarian or vegan people find that their diet is increasingly dictated to them as their digestive systems deteriorate. I also had to cut out carbohydrates as I had a terrible problem with candida overgrowth that I simply could not get rid of.
By the time I was in my mid-forties I had been forced to cut out virtually all food groups and was basically living on vegetables and green powders. I spent a small fortune on the so-called super foods like spirulina, chlorella and barley and wheat grass powders. It was a colossal waste of money, but in retrospect they probably stopped me from suffering from even worse malnutrition than I already did. At least I was always able to digest them, which is more than I could do with most other foods.
Apart from the terrible digestive problems, which often meant at least a few sleepless nights every week, and a great deal of pain, there was a long list of major and minor things that were wrong with me. My brain was permanently fogged up, I was a terrible yellow colour, my skin was dry, I was always cold, I had little bumps all over my body, my nails continued to not grow properly, I had a problem with water retention, particularly in my lower body, and I struggled to keep my weight down, even with a strict exercise routine. I had had a lot of problems with poor oral health, including periodontal disease. I was terribly thirsty all the time, which I now realise is a sign of severe anaemia. My liver function was impaired, so I couldn’t tolerate fried foods or alcohol. Generally, my health was lousy. I had to plan my life really carefully, because there was little wriggle room. If I didn’t keep to a certain routine, what fragile health I had could be undermined very rapidly. I was quickly emotionally overwhelmed by having too little time to myself, and had to force myself to go out and see my friends; I never really wanted to. I generally didn’t talk about my health problems with people, and would tell myself that things weren’t so bad, because I didn’t have anything life-threatening. Nonetheless, however much I tried to kid myself, things were not great, and life was only bearable because I was fairly resigned to the situation…and thankfully, I had always had a large number of interests to distract me. In any case, I had had a long time to get used to poor health, so I didn’t really dwell on it that much. Maybe if I had, it wouldn’t have gone on for so long!
Two things saved me. Firstly, I had (have!) a dear friend, who was an ex-vegan. He had suffered tremendous health problems which he had mainly resolved through going back to eating meat. At first, I didn’t really want to listen to his concerns, but he was kind and respectful, and I think I knew deep down that he was right. Anyway, he talked to me about how copper toxicity can result from zinc deficiency as a result of vegetarian and vegan diets, and although I didn’t immediately act on his ideas, they had an impact. I was also beginning to listen to a lot of podcasts on the internet, which continues to be a rich source of valuable new information. I was particularly inspired by the Canadian clinical psychologist Professor Jordan Peterson and his daughter Mikhaila, who famously cured her severe auto immune condition with an all-meat diet and now blogs about her experience. Jordan Peterson also adopted the diet and experienced significant benefits. At that point this seemed impossibly extreme, but I decided that I would start eating meat again, and see what happened.
Of course, it had been 43 years since I had eaten any meat, so I had to slowly get myself used to the idea of trying it again. Most people who go back to eating meat do so because they really miss it, but it wasn’t like that for me. I had to persuade myself to do it, and the emotional resistance was tremendous. It took three months of a calculated desensitisation process (looking at pictures of meat online) to pluck up the courage to try some chicken. However, when I did, I loved it straight away. Initially I had thought I would just eat meat occasionally, but my body knew what it wanted. Soon I was eating it every day, and feeling better and better. I just felt stronger in every way.
However, it was not until I went completely carnivore that I began to see the real improvements. The first thing to really change was the colour of my skin. I have already mentioned that I was very yellow – orange, really. People used to ask me sometimes why this was the case, which was very embarrassing. Anyway, when I began to eat only meat my colour initially got a lot worse. For a few weeks I was so orange I was almost a neon colour. Then it suddenly went away, and I had a normal pink-ness for the first time in decades. From what I have read subsequently, this was a sign that my liver function was beginning to return as my body readjusted. Specifically, my yellow skin probably resulted from the copper poisoning which my friend had told me about, which was being rectified as I began to assimilate the zinc from the meat, and expel copper. Yellow skin can also result from chronic anaemia. Copper poisoning is a common problem for vegetarians and vegans, as it is extremely difficult for them to get sufficient zinc in their diets (zinc is a copper antagonist in the body, and stops bio-unavailable copper building up in the tissues).
It would be dishonest to claim that everything has resolved itself – it hasn’t, yet. However, I am not so unrealistic to think that 43 years of malnutrition can be sorted out in one year. Apparently, it takes years for minerals to rebalance in the body, so I must be patient. However, every month is bringing improvements, so I’m more than happy with my progress. It is certainly true that over the last 14 months my emotional and physical health has radically improved. The first thing to really change was my mood. I became a great deal calmer, and more sociable. I began to look forward to seeing friends rather than dreading social occasions. My digestive problems have got a lot better and my weight is more stable. My skin started to lose the dryness and flakiness, and my hair stopped falling out. The quality of my sleep improved a great deal. I stopped needing to drink all the time. People tell me that I look about ten years younger. This is probably the most visible sign of progress. The skin on my face has lifted and tightened, as if I have had plastic surgery (I haven’t!). The nasolabial folds that run from the nose to the mouth are strongly associated with the ageing process, and mine have all but reverted to how they were in my early thirties. Long-term vegans and vegetarians often develop a characteristic ‘sunken eyed’ look. I certainly had this, but it has started to reverse itself. Best of all, I have so much more energy and stamina.
I mainly eat beef and salt. In the early days I was eating a lot of chicken, but I feel much better on a beef diet, and now I’m really not that interested in chicken anymore. I gather that most carnivores naturally gravitate towards grass-fed ruminants after a while; as was indicated during my childhood, the body knows what it wants when we give it a chance to find out. We eat a lot of grass-fed beef mince, but I do love really rare steak – barely cooked. Ironically, my poor digestive system, which struggled to cope with pretty much any food for years, has absolutely no problem at all digesting virtually raw steak!
Anyway, I’m tremendously grateful for the internet, which I feel has given me back my life. I have learned so much in the last few years. Principally, I have learned that most of what we are told about diet simply isn’t true. Plants are not wholly innocent and innocuous, but contain poisonous substances that undermine the assimilation of key nutrients, and can seriously impair human health. Far from being essential for human health, all the vegetables we eat now have only existed for a few thousand years, being the result of the selective breeding of wild plants that were too dangerous to eat in their natural state. Meat is not a toxic substance that should be eschewed in favour of a plant-based diet; it is both health-giving and absolutely essential. I ate a plant-based diet for nearly all my life, and although I started off as a healthy little girl, with every year I got weaker and weaker. We are animals, and need to stop thinking of ourselves as somehow separate from nature. It is this mentality that leads people to suppose that we can turn our backs on our ancestral diet, the diet we evolved eating, and take ourselves out of the food chain. We simply cannot. Yes, it is important that we treat animals well and farm responsibly and with compassion, but this is perfectly possible whilst still eating meat. Another myth is the notion that meat-eating is somehow bad for the environment. In reality, it is monocropping agribusiness that is the primary problem, as it destroys soil-health and natural habitats. Flying food half-way around the world (as with the food that most vegans rely on) is certainly not sustainable. Locally produced grass-fed animal products which require minimal disruption to natural habitats are better for human health, animal health, and the natural world.
I firmly believe that humanity will one day look back on veganism as a dangerous and misguided fad. After all, my story is far from being unique; already there are numerous instances of ex-vegans speaking out about how their diets wrecked their lives, until they recovered their health eating meat again. Anyone who is in any doubt only has to watch YouTube for a few hours! The quicker we work together to quash the anti-meat propaganda, the better – for all our sakes.