How vegan life is improving my mental health

Last modified date

Heads up: this is absolutely not a “going vegan will cure your mental illness” blog post, it won’t. This is merely an explanation of how going vegan is supporting my personal recovery.

Why vegan?

Five years ago I wrote a blog post called On Vegetarianism, that was when my cognitive dissonance around food revved up a gear. In that post I said that I enjoyed meat, didn’t like veggie options and that many restaurants in France just don’t have veggie options. While two of those things remain true, I noticed that over the following few years I went off meat more and more. I was never big into red meat but I found myself going off lamb, pork, chicken and, yes, even bacon. It was gradual but as the guilt and self-hate around eating things that went against my morals increased, so my enjoyment of the taste of those things decreased.

I suspect that part of the reason it became more and more of an issue for me is that my BPD presents with an excess of empathy; I gave a very brief overview of the dairy industry to a friend recently and cried. On top of the intense emotions which are often a symptom of borderline, there is often the absolute joy(!) that is feeling those intense emotions for everyone else too. It is next to impossible for me to explain and, I suspect, to understand if you don’t live with it yourself but suffice to say, it is a lot.

Tentative steps

In a weight loss post (cn: weight loss including numbers) from 2016 I mentioned a desire to go vegan. I was trying to make small changes by replacing milk with plant milks and reducing my animal product intake. For a multitude of reasons it didn’t stick but my desire to go vegan only continued to increase. I began pinning recipes and found a science & logic led YouTuber.
At the end of 2017 I began trying to cook the odd vegan recipe. They came out OK but weren’t the best. It worried me a little because as much as I wanted to go vegan, I also wanted to eat a nutritious diet and enjoy my food.

The turning point

vegan tofu scrambleThis year in Spain I noticed a lot of vegan options in supermarkets. Tofu, quinoa, soy dairy alternatives, seitan burgers and more were readily available in supermarkets. I took the opportunity & started trying out some of the recipes I’d pinned. The first recipe I made was tofu scramble and Oh. My. Life.

I really enjoyed it. Both the cooking it and the eating it. I then discovered what became my go-to vegan meal of mushroom & spinach bolognese and that was it. The war was over, meat had lost!

I found I vastly preferred those vegan options to their omnivorous versions and I was really enjoying cooking again too. I was enjoying having autonomy over what I put in my body and fuelling it with foods that didn’t also fuel my brain’s “you’re a bad, evil person” thought process.

Loving my body

In May of this year I decided to give yoga another chance. I talk about my yoga experience in a blog post I wrote at the time but the long and short of it is that it finally hit me that, while the small things can absolutely be self care, not doing the big things in a self loving way is going to perpetuate the cycle. I could continue to avoid any form of anything that would make me feel my body in order to not feel distressed or I could get on a yoga mat and face my fear of being in my body.

It worked. Getting back on the mat and being gentle with myself there was a breakthrough moment for me and that in turn provided the revelation that I could listen to my favourite songs and whack on a face mask every week but if every time I ate I fed my guilt and self hatred, I would continue to feel bad about myself.

Combined, yoga & moving towards a vegan life, have helped me to view my body in a very different way. My drives have moved from wanting to lose weight to wanting to put nutritious things into my body, to feed it well, to look after it. It would possibly still be a stretch to say that I care about my body, but I want to care about it now and I know that self care does not stop at caring for my mental health.

Adriene, of Yoga With Adriene fame, says something in one of her videos that has stuck with me since I first heard it. She is talking about how her videos are all “yoga for X” or “yoga for Y” but that that doesn’t mean you only move X or Y. The phrase that hit me was “it’s all connected. One moving part.”
It probably seems ridiculous to many people, that that would be a revelation, but it was. In that moment I understood that the desire to be on my body’s team that I had expressed in a tearful ‘Tweetburst’ earlier in the year required me to actually show up for my body and to see it as mine.

Veganism as self love

To that end, my veganism is an act of self love in the same way my yoga practice is. I get on the mat not to burn calories or tone up but to stretch my muscles, to tune in to my body, to connect. I choose to eat vegan because, along with eliminating my cognitive dissonance, it has helped me learn what my body needs and how I can give it those things to properly fuel it. For me, every vegan meal is a conscious choice to do right by my body. Every time I wonder what to have & that thought is followed by a mental checklist of dietary requirements I need to hit today I reaffirm that my body deserves to be cared for. That I deserve to be cared for.

A vegan diet is not the answer. A self loving life is.


Also published on Medium.

1 Response

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.