Why in the world did I become veggan — a vegan who eats eggs — after 16 years of being vegan? First, I turned vegan for ethical reasons in 2004, when I was just 14 years old. I couldn’t bear the thought of contributing to animal suffering, and so I gave up all animal products. For 16 wonderful years, I indulged fully in the vegan diet trying all the vegan ice creams, cheeses, mock meats, chocolates and baked goods in existence. There wasn’t a vegan restaurant in New York that I hadn’t tried (Peacefood Cafe is my fav, btw). However, dealing with various health issues that affected my quality of life, I made the difficult decision to become veggan in 2020.
The reason I became veggan was due to health reasons. First off, I want to say I believe it is absolutely possible to be 100 percent healthy on a vegan diet, and I am so happy for those who are. However, every body is different! We need to recognize this. For me, being 100 percent vegan meant that the whites of my eyes weren’t white, my hair was losing volume and I was chronically fatigued. I couldn’t make it through a day without feeling absolutely exhausted.
And I was not a “junk-food vegan” — I always ate tons of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, quinoa, beans, legumes, seeds, whole proteins like seitan and tofu, healthy oils like olive and coconut, and superfood powders like spirulina, maca, hemp and more. That’s not to say I didn’t gobble up vegan donuts and fried chik’n every now and again, but my every day diet was clean, healthy, colorful and balanced.
Vegans might be thinking, well what about supplements? Trust me, I tried! 16 years is a very significant amount of time to experiment with supplements. I got my blood tests and saw my nutrient levels, and was low in iron, D and B vitamins. I tried many different brands of B12, D3, chia and flax oil, iron, biotin, zinc, and multis at the recommended doses in the recommended ratios for years at a time to no avail. It helped but it certainly was not eliminating my issues. I will say Garden of Life has my favorite B12 and D3 (which I still take). But, it was very frustrating to try and spend all this time and money with minimal results. I was getting very upset and, though I didn’t want to believe it, I knew I needed to take another step.
How I took the leap to veggan
It wasn’t until 2016, 12 years of veganism, that I started to debate adding eggs to my diet. When I did research about foods for hair health and energy, eggs kept coming at the top. It made sense, since what I lacked (biotin, protein, B12, D and more) eggs contained in significant quantities in a super bioavailable form. However, I was stubborn and absolutely hated the thoughts of adding eggs to my diet.
For 4 years, I kept going back and forth in my mind about whether or not to add eggs. Sometimes I’d think to myself, “Gina, just STFU and deal with it and continue being vegan.” And other times I’d think “but you’re physical and emotional wellness, G! Eat eggs!” I thought I was being superficial and petty by adding eggs just because of feeling tired and not looking the way I wanted. But, it was starting to affect my mood and quality of life.
Ultimately, I decided my health and happiness matters and in 2020 found a brand of local, humane, pasture-raised eggs, hard boiled them, said a prayer of acknowledgment and gratitude and ate two. Though I cried hysterically the first several times eating eggs, I knew I was making the right decision. And now I can say I’m rarely tired, the whites of my eyes are white as can be, and my hair has regained its strength and volume.
How I maintain ethical standards as a veggan
Choosing eggs. The number one thing I make sure of when choosing eggs is that they are humanely-sourced. I eat only pasture-raised eggs (108 sq feet of pasture per bird) that have either a Certified Humane of American Humane Certified label. Plus, I prefer organic and non-GMO where possible as well. I also trust the Certified Humane label more than the American Humane Certified so I opt for those wherever possible. There are many pasture-raised egg brands I trust, and I always opt for ones that are local when possible. I also contact/call the farm when in doubt. I avoid caged (conventional), cage-free and free range as they do not meet my ethical criteria. That being said, I do know there are some trustworthy free range brands out there but be sure to do your research.
Consuming eggs. When it comes to consuming eggs, I make them only at home (so I know that they are humane eggs), and only in whole form. I primarily eat them hard-boiled tho occasionally consume in other ways (like veggan omelets and scrambles). Because I eat eggs for health reasons only, I do not use eggs in any baked goods or for binding. It is extremely easy to bake vegan so in my opinion there is no excuse to use eggs for baking — I consider that to fall under overconsumption and unnecessary consumption. I eat only the amount I need for health reasons, which is 1-2 every day or every other day.
As I mentioned, everyone is different. Some people can be totally healthy as a vegan and others can’t. However, this is not an excuse to mindlessly eat animal products. Eat only what you need at the frequency and in the portions appropriate for your body. Overconsumption is the real tragedy of this society, so we want to steer clear of that in all areas of our diet and life.
It was a very difficult and emotional decision for me to add eggs. But I had to honor my body. I still sometimes hate myself and feel like a bad person for eating eggs, but I know I do so as mindfully and humanely possible. And my body so needs and appreciates every last pasture-raised, humane-certified egg I consume. You need to ask yourself, what is the very least amount of harm I can do to the animals and the planet, while providing the most health benefit to myself?
Being an ethical veggan was an amazing solution for my health challenges with veganism. For you, the solution may be different. But I thought it was important to share my story. Be mindful, know your body, and eat as humanely as possible considering both your health and the wellbeing of all sentient beings.