I did eat an exclusively vegan diet for a number of years and since I’m being honest, I wish I could say I still am. But with the changes in my body from pregnancy and breastfeeding, the simple and plain truth is that I became too hungry. When creating life inside your own body, you need not only more calories, but nourishing and satiating ones as well. I desperately tried to keep up by eating more kale salads, more vegan and gluten-free pizzas, more protein smoothies, none of which made me feel full. My body wasn’t satisfied and my mind raced as I would reach for the sugar-laden vegan desserts - hooded as healthful- to compensate.
The wake-up call came one day when I looked in the mirror and acknowledged that I wasn’t being kind to myself with this tipsy-turvy food plan. My intellectual self finally listened to what my body had been trying to say all along - that it couldn’t sustain itself with my pre-pregnancy vegan diet. I needed animal protein. The next day, during a quiet afternoon at my parents’ house, I felt a strong urge to test it out. I raced to the fridge and pulled out a cold piece of leftover baked chicken wrapped in foil. My heart pounded as I stood silently in the kitchen, my dog peering up at me as the foil crinkled loudly in my fingers. I took a bite, and then a few more until I finished the entire piece. I felt a celebratory feeling spread through my body as I rolled the foil into a tiny ball and threw it into the garbage. When you’ve deprived your body of the fuel it so desperately needs, it feels so darn good when you finally satiate that hunger. The witnesses of this climactic event were my dog and the elephant in the room, all of us saluting the fact that I had just become not vegan.
Spoiler alert: I am more than one year into postpartum life, still breastfeeding, and still feel as hungry as I was when I was pregnant. And most days I eat that baked chicken. And my body loves it.
I think back to my solo days as yogi and chef and salute my old self. I’m grateful for those experiences because they have shaped who I am today but I now address my very different lifestyle in the land of marriage and baby. The sleepless nights, the midnight fights with my husband because of the sleepless nights, and my son’s sweet smile that melts my heart in a way that nothing else in the world can match.
Recently, a friend of mine asked me if I’m still vegan and I responded that I am a hungry breastfeeding mother. How’s that as food for thought?
I tip my hat and salute us all as we embrace our personal food journeys. Instead of aspiring to fit into a category (or a piece of clothing), as you move through your days, ask yourself which dietary choices will contribute to your healthiest and happiest body. Worst thing that can happen is you won’t always make the best choice, but you’ll try harder next time.
Embrace your food journey, because it is just that. Expect it to be an ever-evolving and unpredictable road filled with twists and turns, but totally worth the effort.
Article by Yael Kellen-Rolnick • September 1, 2019
Yael is a New York University alumna, writer, health coach, yogini and chef.