I was vegan for years then had to be selfish

After eight and a half years as a vegan, I’ve decided to quit.

When I first became vegan, it was an ethical decision, it didn’t have to do with the environment or nutrition. From the research I had done, I discovered the reality behind factory farming and instantly became a vegan overnight.

After following the standard American diet, I felt really good and energetic after going vegan. I have noticed benefits within a month of consuming plant-based foods. I lost weight and grew my hair; it was truly amazing.

I’ve felt amazing for years. In my mind, I was never going to stop being a vegan until a breakthrough happened.

Kayla Varney (pictured) stopped being a vegan after 8 1/2 years.Kayla Varney

I started battling infertility in 2021. My partner and I had a hard time conceiving our first child so I expected it to be a challenge again the second time around. We started trying for another baby in the summer of 2021 and I still wasn’t pregnant in the fall of 2022.

I’m not saying that the vegan diet caused infertility. I don’t believe it. But I think it was a catalyst. My meat-eating husband and my struggle with infertility prompted me to do more research.

I don’t think eating animal products will necessarily change my fertility status. While I’ve seen some research on the benefits of consuming full-fat dairy products for fertility, most of the research recommends primarily plant-based diets for infertility.

In my case, it was mostly that I started researching fertility and realized there was so much information out there that I wasn’t accepting because I was so stuck on ethical veganism.

I have found that meat is rich in bioavailable nutrients, which have been shown to reduce the risk of chromosomal abnormalities. It was something I never thought about because the idea that “meat is bad” was so stuck in my head.

I did more research in general about health and wellness, which led me to try some new diet and lifestyle changes. I had to be selfish at that point. I couldn’t go on living my life trying to save everyone around me when I was breaking down. I was dealing with depression, anxiety and infertility.

I realized that much of my information and opinions on the vegan diet, even though I was talking about it from a nutritional point of view, was actually from an ethical point of view.

I was just following vegan influencers on social media, vegan nutritionists and doctors on social media, so I was just consuming information from one side of things; information that told me meat and dairy were bad.

I have never seen information about the benefits of animal products, so I was 100 percent, wholeheartedly convinced that they were bad for me.

Once I started doing the research, I realized that meat can absolutely be good for you. Animal products can be good for you too when they come from the right source and are of high quality. Not all meat will kill you like some vegan pages say.

Kayla Varney (pictured) told Newsweek that she feels freer after eating meat.Kayla Varney

I’m not blaming veganism for this, but I wasn’t really focusing on myself. I was focusing on what I could do to change the world. I think trying to change the world can actually be a little toxic at some point because you stop living your life for yourself. In fact, you stop living your life altogether.

I started adding animal products to my diet in 2022 and started eating animal products consistently in early 2023.

I feel more physically satisfied. I’ve also noticed that my body holds curves better and it’s easier to build muscle.

Mentally, I feel freer to go out and live my life, eat what smelled or sounded good, and just not live life according to a list and set of rules that was expected of me. As someone with a messy eating background, it felt so good to allow myself so much food freedom.

In retrospect, when I was a vegan, I realized that I was really stuck and not open in my opinions and information.

And as someone who has jumped into the nutrition space on TikTok, I really want to make sure that going forward, I’m not just sharing information based on my personal ethical viewpoint, but information that is actually accurate.

I have so much respect for the vegan diet and if it works for you and makes you feel good, that’s great. I think causing as little harm to the world as possible while taking care of yourself is obviously the best thing ever.

Even though it took me a long time to get over the fear of no longer being a vegan because it was an integral part of my identity and I felt like I was admitting that I was a failure, I’m honestly very confident in my decision. I feel really comfortable where I am now.

Kayla Varney is a full-time stay-at-home mom, holistic nutritionist, and content creator.

All opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.

Have a unique experience or personal story to share? Email the My Turn team at myturn@newsweek.com.

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