I Was A Vegan For 3 Years And Now I Eat Meat And Eggs Almost Every Day—Here's What I Learned From Being Plant-Based

The plant-based life is more popular than ever. Influencers, celebrities, and public health organizations all tell us that veganism is the healthy way to live. But I was a plant-based vegan for 3 years, and despite my best efforts, I realized that most of the things we're taught about veganism just aren't true.

By Gina Florio4 min read
Cover Image (8)

I have always been an animal lover, to the point where I would cry when we drove by a mangy stray dog on the side of the road as a kid. I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian—until I realized how much death and pain would come along with the job. There was a point in my early 20s when I wondered whether my diet was cruel. After all, I was eating dead animals almost every day. In 2011 I saw the documentary Forks Over Knives, a film that explained how the plant-based diet is the best way to reverse obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, etc. I was convinced that the vegan diet was the healthiest way to live, and from there I started experimenting with the vegan lifestyle.

As the next few years went on, I kept reading more and more about how cruel meat eaters were, how we participated in the evil slaughtering of animals due to our lack of morality. I watched the videos of factory farms and cried my eyes out, feeling incredibly guilty for being so heartless and eating chicken for dinner the night before. Soon enough, I was vegan. I lived the plant-based lifestyle for three years—and I was committed. I didn't do veganism the wrong way. I didn't eat the processed, packaged foods and fake meats. I avoided fried foods and refined sugar even if it was vegan. I tracked my macros and got over 100 grams of protein every day. For years I thought I had the moral high ground. But soon enough I realized that I've been lied to about the vegan diet, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't sustain good health and fitness levels if I continued to abstain from animal products.

Veganism Negatively Affected My Fitness Goals

I've been working in the health and fitness world since 2013. I've always enjoyed working out and lifting weights regularly, and I've been training clients for years. I have no shame in saying I take my fitness goals seriously. Sadly, the vegan diet made it impossible for me to reach my fitness goals, no matter how hard I tried.

The hardest thing about the vegan diet as someone who works in the fitness industry is that it's difficult to build lean muscle. You simply don't have access to whole protein sources that have the complete amino acid profile and are also low in carbs. I ate over 100 grams of protein every day (and that was a difficult daily mission, trust me) while I was vegan and I still couldn't get rid of the last layer of fat. I always looked bulky and chunky, because I couldn't build more muscle while also burning the excess fat. I was working out every day, training intelligently with my coach, and I still couldn't get to the finish line. External physique isn't everything, but there's nothing wrong with wanting to look better. And, frankly, I was unhappy with what I saw in the mirror. I couldn't shed that last 10 pounds and I constantly looked fluffy.

Even more upsetting was the fact that I couldn't reach my biggest fitness goal. I was trying to achieve a strict muscle up on the rings for a year, and I was stuck on the last phase of training without being able to move forward. I can't explain it but I hit a wall with my strength training and just couldn't progress. My coach gently recommended I try eating meat. I resisted for months, but finally I decided to give it a try. Within one month of eating high-quality meat regularly, I achieved my first muscle up and my strength-training goals have flourished ever since.

Veganism Isn't Actually Cruelty-Free as It's Advertised

We're told that the vegan diet is the only way to eat if you really, truly love animals and don't want any of them to die due to your nutritional needs. However, the more I learned about the vegan diet, the more I realized that there's no such thing as a diet that results in zero animal deaths. I watched videos of farmers explaining how they handle their land and crops, and I read details about how many animals have to die in order for all of us to enjoy food, regardless of whether you're vegan or not.

There's even a pretty believable theory that vegans actually kill more sentient animals with their diet than conscious meat-eaters do. That's because it takes much more land to grow vegan crops like rice, soy, corn, wheat, etc than it does to raise animals. And the more land you need to grow crops, the more animals have to be killed because you're taking over their natural habitat. I read once that vegans actually kill 25 times more sentient animals per usable kilo of protein than conscious meat-eaters do, but they're not the kind of cute animals that get attention on Instagram. They're snakes, birds, rodents, insects, etc. Vegans don't seem to care much about these animals, though. They only care about cows, pigs, and chickens.

The so-called moral high ground that vegans like to boast actually comes from a logical fallacy that humans and animals are equal. As much as I love animals and want to adopt all the stray dogs and cats, at the end of the day we have to acknowledge that humans and animals are not equal. We live in a natural hierarchy in which we have domain over animals and many are put on this earth for our nutrition and advancement. That does not mean we should be cruel and treat animals with evil intent, which is why I'm very much against factory farming. But it does mean that there is no such thing as a diet that results in zero animal deaths—unless you're the vegan that grows literally all of your own food and knows for sure that no animals were harmed in the process. The best we can do is make sure our meat is coming from a sustainable source and that the animals were treated fairly while they were alive. This is also the best way to treat the environment in the long run.

I Was Constantly Sick on the Vegan Diet

In the last year I was vegan, I caught a cold 4 different times. Keep in mind I was eating a plant-based diet and hardly touched junk food. I drank plenty of water and got enough sleep. I exercised regularly and took care of myself. It was a mystery to me why I was sick all the time. Just when I would kick a head cold, I would find myself waking up with a runny nose all over again two months later. When I started reading forums of people who previously lived the vegan life, I saw that this was actually quite common. There were a lot of individuals who had the same experience as I did. There's something about the vegan diet that just killed my immune system, despite doing plant-based the "right way."

I'm Healthier Than Ever on an Animal-Based Diet

I'm so glad I reverted back to an animal-based diet a couple years before I got pregnant because I was thankfully healthy and vibrant throughout the nine months and postpartum. Eating high-quality animal products has helped me sleep better, lose excess body fat, improve my moods, get stronger, and even get my glowing skin back. I can't recommend it enough. I know the vegan diet may look new and shiny because it's trendier than ever, but I don't recommend it to anyone, especially women in their fertile years who want to prepare themselves for a healthy pregnancy and birth.