When I had just begun my journey in the natural health world I had my first “I just can’t” moment when urine therapy hit the scene. Yes, that’s right folks, drinking one’s own pee for health! When I used to think about veganism I’d think of the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the main actress’ fiance is asked if he eats meat. Aunt Voula hears him say he’s vegetarian so she offers to make him lamb instead. If you asked me ten years ago if I’d ever become a vegan, I’d have laughed and said, “I’m Italian, I just can’t be vegan.” But then, during an ethical, spiritual exploration, I did. Well, temporarily at least.

I was asked to review activist and author, Sonia Faruqi’s, Project Animal Farm. Her provocative story working undercover on factory farms throughout the world literally made my heart hurt. The atrocious treatment to animals reported in her book was beyond inhumane. I considered the ethical meats I consumed humane, but her first-person account was raw and eye-opening. For about six months after my read of Faruqi’s account I didn’t eat any meat. My meat consumption growing up was not huge and I already consumed a primarily plant-based diet so I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult. And, it wasn’t… until I started to feel unwell. There were headaches, fatigue, lack of mental vitality… my recall was beginning to be delayed. I still, to this day, experience a MTHFR mutation (along with several others) that causes difficulty in processing the folate our bodies require to thrive. Even after changing my dosages of certain bioavailable nutraceuticals that target methylation I was still not myself. And I thought,

If I can’t be vegan, then I’ll be the most ethical, conscientious meat consumer I can be.

Now, I know some people are reading this thinking, But there is no way to be an ethical meat eater! And I’m not debating that. I am here however, to discuss transitioning from an ethical, vegan diet to an ethical, “eat for life” way of consuming foods that aligns with the natural cycles of the land and earth. I respect veganism, and suggest it to many people. I support– through research and clinical practice experience– the idea that a primarily plant-based diet is the most beneficial way for most people to live.

I ascribe to the Michael Pollan, keep-it-simple approach: “Eat mostly plants… and don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” This isn’t really an article about not being vegan, but rather an article about consuming as ethically as you can without having to defend your choices to the world, or wake up with a moral dilemma everyday because you consumed a non-plant-based food. It’s about recognizing that a vegan diet– while healthy if practiced with guidance– may not be right for everyone due to personal health based on genetic concerns or genetic traits that have been passed along to us via our ancestors.

Our conversation about food continues to change.

Because self care was emphasized more than ever this year, people are really beginning to examine their beliefs and personal goals centered around food. They are thinking not just about what they should be consuming, but also about the environments in which they consume their meals. This has largely been evidenced by the many beyond-organic, ethically sourced restaurants and markets we’ve seen pop up. Instead of me always leading the food-based discussion with my private practice clients, people are now coming to me asking for help about how not to diet. They’d rather learn how to harness the power of whole foods in an enjoyable, non-trendy sense. The idea that traditional and personalized foods can help us dial in wellness is catching on.

Everyone who reads my articles here regularly knows that I support the idea of emotional eating. In this sense we derive comfort, stability, and happiness through our experiences and relationship with food and are grounded and fulfilled through its nutritive gifts. This notion does not suddenly offer permission to eat animals for pleasure, rather it helps dissolve negative self-talk and the shaming that surrounds it.

Are you considering a transition in the way you consume food based on how you’ve been feeling? If so check out our troubleshooting basics before getting started:

If you:

  • feel tired;
  • have headaches;
  • are having trouble sleeping;
  • are always hungry

and have recently moved to a plant-based diet– one where you started out feeling great, but soon after began to experience these concerns as a pattern (more than three times)– then several things could be happening.

  • You could be experiencing natural detox symptoms due to recently changed eating habits.
  • You may be experiencing nutrient deficiency– not eating enough calories or enough plant-based foods.
  • You may experience a MTHFR-related genetic mutation. Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is both an enzyme and a gene and is crucial to wellness because it processes folate so that the body can use it.

While you can make a transition in the way you eat anytime, guidance from an integrative health expert experienced in personalized wellness and food therapy can help make the transition smooth and nutritive. By looking at your genetic traits you can better understand what foods will offer you your healthiest self yet.

*This article is a discussion based on our author’s personal and clinical experience in private practice and consulting, paired with years of ongoing epigenetic and genetic research. Every day we are learning more and more by personalizing our experience of wellness. Please know that at The Fullest we respect everyone’s personal dietary choices.

Christine has dedicated her career to helping others understand the science of happiness and its powerful effects on everyday human health by harnessing the power of the epigenetic landscape. She is available for both private and professional consultations. Please contact her here.

Artwork by: James Ormiston.

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