The end of an era

By Megan McArdle

So I should preface my holiday cookbook guide with perhaps unstartling news:  I've been told by my endocrinologist that it's time to give up being a vegan.  One of the major reasons that I have, as you have possibly noticed, been sick for months, is that my thyroid has been in parlous condition.  This wasn't exactly unexpected, because I have an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis that slowly kills your thyroid.  Because of that, I was very careful about supplementing my soy intake with iodine, because soy can interfere with thyroid hormone.

In my case, the supplementation wasn't enough.  I should stress that this is not a problem for normal people; your thyroid just ups its production a little.  My thyroid, however, couldn't cope.  My blood levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone shot up, I gained fifteen pounds in four months, my voice dropped half an octave, and I could barely get out of bed in the morning--I literally had to take naps two hours after waking up.  I've had to cut my soy intake way, way down.  Like, to "amounts so small they're not on the label". 

After a little over a month, it's clearly working--I'm almost back to normal, though I'm still tired.  (And I still can't fit into any of my clothes.)  But it's not really possible, at least with my job, to be a vegan without consuming soy; almost all the meat substitutes are made with it, and in DC, there are basically no restaurants serving seitan.  I tried to go on soy-free, but I was getting sicker, unsurprising since I was basically living on Fritos and peanut butter every time I left the house.  So, the year-long experiment with veganism is at an end.

No doubt people who have resented my veganism will point to this as proof that a vegan diet is unhealthy.  This is triple-distilled balderdash.  It's unhealthy for me because I have, essentially, a soy allergy, just as eating a mediterranean diet is unhealthy if you're gluten intolerant.  For most people, it's at worst no less healthy than any other diet.

At any rate, I'm back to eating certified humane animal products.  And no doubt, many of my vegan readers will get angry.  All I can say is that I did my best, and if I could figure out a way to make it work without spending hours every single day cooking, or consuming soy, I would.  I'm a moderate on animal rights; I believe in animal testing, and the reason that I support veganism is that I think it's possible to do in a healthy way for most people.  But I do value human life and health over animal life, and that includes mine.  I'm now looking into things that I didn't have much need for months ago:  buying milk from a local dairy, for example.

At any rate, please don't turn this comment thread into an excuse for vegans to yell at meat eaters, and meat eaters to gloat over me.  I've actually been really sick for the last five months, though I didn't blog about it, and I'd appreciate not having that used to make a political point.


This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2008/12/the-end-of-an-era/4434/