Eventually social pressure and convenience got the better of me, and in my early twenties, I moved from a vegetarian to a pescatarian diet. There were little vegetarian options through my overseas travels, and I didn’t want to be a difficult travel companion. This was also motivated by the high-protein, low-carb “Atkins” approach that was popular then. Soon, I was dabbling with chicken, hearing that eating animal protein was the best, most effective way to eat and stay lean.
When I went off the OCP I lost my period. My doctor put me on a Ketogenics diet, to help me get a natural cycle. I was eating very high-fat and high-protein. I still didn’t naturally gravitate toward eating a lot of protein, but I tried my best, and I was told to strictly avoid all but one carbohydrate a day. One carbohydrate a day! If I wanted a carrot, that was to be considered my carb. Can you imagine? It made me extremely “carbophobic”, and if you ask me, was just as, if not more, restrictive as some of my disordered eating of the past.
This way of eating also made me demonize fruit in such a way that I easily went months without eating a single piece! But as is the problem with restrictive eating and fearing a whole food group, I replaced fruit and other carbohydrates with something else, fat. Whilst I do believe that good fats are extremely beneficial, I was eating it in high quantities, and it wasn’t doing me any favours. I felt sluggish, my skin seemed dull, my hair and nails brittle and I felt there was always something wrong that I just couldn’t put my finger on. I was extremely stressed from having to work out precisely when I would have my one carb for the day and social scenarios became a source of anxiety for me. This way of eating was not only limiting and extremely inconvenient, it actually didn’t help me in any way.
After 6 months of this diet, I had had enough. I was going overseas where there would be lots of tropical fruit, and I decided to just eat intuitively for the first time in a very long while. I travelled, relaxed around food, reintroduced more carbohydrates such as delicious fruit, went back to eating only a little fish (pescatarian) and was able to reduce my stress – being away has that advantage! Within 5 weeks of this, I got my period for the first time in just over 1 year. It would be unfair for me to attribute this 100% to my “letting go”, however, it wouldn’t be entirely wrong to draw some correlation between the two. I definitely felt better – during that entire trip I could feel my body healing. It was a powerful indicator that I needed to listen to my body and reassess my food choices.
The next 6 months became a gradual progression toward going 100% plant-based. I totally eliminated dairy, as I came to understand that it isn’t necessary or healthful, particularly with hormonal imbalances. At this point, eggs and the occasional piece of fish were the last parts of my carnivourous diet that I had to relinquish.