When I first turned vegan almost 3 years ago, I began to experience a radical change in my emotional state that I couldn’t quite explain. For many vegans it may be a dramatic shift, or perhaps unnoticeable, or a slow, creeping emotional change that you notice all at once later down the line.
Causes for becoming vegan are varied, but a trend within the vegan community is that individuals seem to become more and more involved, often emotional, in their cause, as time goes on.
Reasons for this obviously range from research, having a more open-mind and becoming more aware of atrocities committed in animal production industries. But, it is explicitly linked to our body’s chemistry and the effects dietary changes can have on our moods and emotional levels. Today, I want to focus solely on this impact.
- Our bodies have a limited capacity in processing more than one ‘complex’ task. Two tasks that happen to fall under this category are: 1. digestion and 2. conducting emotions.
- It happens to reason, then, that when our bodies are focusing energy on, say, digesting a large meal, our ability to conduct emotion is hindered somewhat. This is something we’re all aware of, to a degree; this concept of ‘comfort eating’.
- There are particular foods that our bodies struggle more to digest: heavy junk food and meat based products being right at the top of the list, and so in delving further into the mechanics of our bodies we can trace relationships between certain dietary habits and the intensity of our emotions.
What then, does this mean for people making the switch towards plant-based eating?
It’s known that individuals changing their eating habits from omnivore-vegetarian-vegan-raw vegan are likely to experience cravings for foods they used to use, in Rozalind Gruben’s words, as an ’emotional analgesic’.
- This, amongst other social and ‘craving’ reasons, causes many people to backtrack on their switch, as they find emotional comfort in certain foods.
- It also brings a new way of experiencing the world into our consciousness. As the intensity of our emotions heightens, our experiences are dramatically altered: from how we react to different situations to how what decisions we make.
How to understand, accept, and deal with these things:
- Don’t ignore the cravings, many ‘diets’ are damaging because we deprive. We say “oh, I can’t have this anymore.” Instead, examine why these products are are a negative presence in your life. The damaging affect they have on your own body, towards the environment, animals, and other people. Decide: “I won’t have this anymore!”
- Accepting the change in your emotions is difficult, as, especially in my own culture, being emotional is often synonymous with the being ‘hysterical’ and has heavy connotations of negative behaviour. However, just imagine that you’re on a roller-coaster. It has some dips, a few peaks. Looped y-loops too, and maybe some kick-ass spirals and an underwater cave and- okay you get the picture. Life isn’t just high’s and low’s. It’s not a binary, it’s an expanse of different experience, and emotions.
- Now, imagine that you’ve just turned vegan, and so you’re now just on a slightly different roller-coaster. The plunges and heights and dizzying turns are all still there, but everything is a little more intense. You feel it all in your body, up a notch. The anger, embarrassment, anxiety, excitement, elation, love, confidence. It’s all there to be felt, but more.
And this isn’t to paint non-vegans, or those who eat foods that are hard to digest, as unfeeling or numb to emotion or that there is any negative judgement to those who do suppress emotion for whatever reasons. There is, after all, a myriad of social and personal influences affect individual experience.
However, in being more aware of this link, we can more easily understand our emotions, and we are more readily able to accept and cope with them.
Personally, I’ve began to feel more honest both towards myself and others. My insecurities, fears, and worries are still present, however I have a more controlled handle on what I can do, if anything, and sometimes on how to simply accept these emotions as part of life. On the flip side, I’ve also learned how to appreciate, love, and connect with the world in an entirely more powerfully positive way.
How has changing towards a plant-based diet changed your outlook on life?