I work in a mixed use building that houses a commercial kitchen. On the weekends they rent their space out to a woman who makes raw vegan ice cream. It's basically coconuts, cashews, fruit and agave. It's actually pretty paleo and pretty tasty...but I digress.
A few years ago she got real sick and "healed" herself with strict raw veganism. She's a really nice person and a hard worker, which is something I value greatly. We've touched on nutrition in conversations before but I never felt I could really say anything bad about raw veganism. She's so devoted that I didn't want to open a wound or insult her. She raised her kids raw vegan, and despite the fact that they're very sheltered (and home-schooled) they're great kids. They're active, smart, well behaved kids. I really like them, although in my opinion they're really shy and don't get enough social interaction.
Long story short, she recently suffered what could be described as a psychotic event and is homebound, bedridden and horribly depressed. I'm helping to take care of her with a large group of her friends, and since her incident she's living off green drinks, water and bananas.
In her current state I could never suggest that she might benefit from high quality animal fats and proteins. But if she gets better do I try to convince her that she's doing more harm than good on her "pure" diet? I'm really conflicted on how to handle this. All I can do now is try to get her kids outside as much as possible.
This isn't like talking to your semi-healthy co-worker about how paleo is better than Mickey Ds. She and I agree that industrial and chemical food is bad, but I think she is ruining her health by eating bananas and figs and not much else. We're friendly but not the best of friends so it's going to be hard for me really lobby hard for her to try animal fat.
Sorry for the rant style question....it's been a tough couple a days.
Speaking as someone with a lot of raw vegan friends, I think it's probably best to work with her chosen diet, rather than try to "convert" her--especially right now.
You might try bringing her some coconut manna. Sounds like any good fat would be helpful Also, avocados would probably go over well...
Also, get her some Vitamin D in rice bran oil or MCT oil if you can find it. Tell her it's great for depression--use the kid card , if necessary!
If she will eat fish (some raw "vegans" will eat sashimi), that could be a possibility, too.
Am I alone in thinking this is not some casual detail in this narrative?
"Long story short, she recently suffered what could be described as a psychotic event and is homebound, bedridden and horribly depressed."
That "long story" is way too short for any one here to offer relevant thoughts, let alone suggestions or recommendations, about diet of all things.
"We're friendly but not the best of friends so it's going to be hard for me really lobby hard for her to try animal fat."
Especially if she were a friend, there are good reason why for you to "lobby hard" should be difficult.
The person who most needs your attention is — you. As you note, it's a stressful time. Step back from the drama. She's not being force-fed the bananas. She's making intentional choices, based on her sense of priorities. With all due respect, you should be doing the same. Love your friend. That is, accept her exactly as she is, and exactly as she is not.
If she does get better, you can count on her attributing it to her diet.
Honestly, unless I'm with family or a friend that I would consider almost as close as family, I take a deep breath and remind myself that everyone is fully responsible for themselves, nothing more and nothing less.
I do make an effort to shine brightly enough in my life that others can't help but take notice and/or inspiration; and for those that do inquire, I gladly discuss and try to provide scientific backing and recommend reading that can help one educate themselves in order to make an informed decision.
This does beg the question, does being more educated than a majority of the population about a subject such as nutrition, imply a certain responsibility?
perhaps some sub-lingual B12 drops could help that vegan induced dementia. you might be able to find some in candy form who knows? what vegan doesnt appriciate a good piece of candy now and then? if she were my friend i would find some.
Check out this link: http://www.beyondveg.com/
I've had some success talking to people from the perspective of an ex-vegetarian. Sometimes what we wish were true simply doesn't mesh with what our biology mandates, and that is a very hard hurdle to get over even when self-discovered. It took me a long time to discover that what makes the brain happy makes the body happy, and it sounds like she hasn't discovered that yet, but might have the chance to if you can figure out how to intervene.
She will be very, very sad, and you are going to get a lot of push back, but it might be time to be very brave and have a heart to heart with her and let her know that if she gets worse she may end up in an institution where she has no control over her food supply, will be force fed pharmaceuticals, and could be isolated from her children.
Get a copy of "The Vegetarian Myth" for yourself, and maybe offer it up to her as "an interesting read" just to open the dialogue. The book goes into depth about how vegan diet can be responsible for just as much animal suffering as an animal based diet, it is just more behind the scenes. You can talk to her about the positive soil inputs of pastured animals, and how by getting her calories from grassfed beef, goat, or lamb she is reducing the world's dependence on fossil fuels. Talk to her about the need for the right ratio of omega 3:6 for her brain to function properly (veganism is a nightmare for omega 6 ratios, and the lack of omega 3's and subsequent inflammation could be contributing to her dementia).
I also often bring up how we shouldn't confuse the "how" with the "what" in our diets. Vegetarianism is a just and noble response to the commercial meat industry, and that was pretty much all that was available in the '60's and '70's when the literature for vegetarianism was being written, but we now have free range chickens, and pastured beef and pork readily available, and properly raised animals don't cause health problems the way commercial meat does. So, from a health standpoint a veg. life doesn't hold water anymore. And from an ethical standpoint, all animals die whether we kill them or not, most guilt I suffer from taking a life of another being to sustain my own life has been mitigated by feeling some personal responsibility for that beings quality of life, and doing what I can to make sure it only has one bad day.
Let her know how impressed you have been with the progress she made improving her health by detoxing with her raw vegan diet, and that raw food is great for "cleansing" the system, but what she is suffering from now is not something she needs to detox from, but an illness of deficiency, her brain is starving and needs the most bio-identical building blocks possible to rebuild it, i.e. animal fat and protein.
The desire of not wanting to do harm needs to take into account the self. Denying herself what she needs to be healthy is also anti-feminist, historically veganism has been used to control women's sexuality and to keep them "in their place". In the Victorian Era there was something called "green sickness" (anemia) because it was fashionable for women to eat only salads and sweets, her diet sounds like a modern version of that. She can choose to self-select herself out of existence, or she can come to terms with where she is now, and work towards improving the future of food. Weston A. Price set out in search of a healthy vegetarian hunter-gatherer society to share with the world as an ideal, but every healthy indigenous society he encountered included some animal products.
Bone broth is pretty universally considered to be a healing food (even if it doesn't fit in with her current ideals, deep down I think people know it is good for you), maybe you could make a deal with her that if she doesn't start to feel better after a week of homemade broth with each meal that you'll support her other choices without question. A big stick of butter melted in there couldn't hurt either, her brain is obviously starving for fat.
She may be familiar with the Vitamineral line (it is vegan), I've found the Vitamineral Earth made as a hot broth/tea to make me feel better in general and more grounded. You wouldn't have to cross any idealistic lines to offer her that, and it would get a little more vegan nutrition into her. She should also at least be having some miso or veggie broth, and kim chi or other fermented vegetables to rebuild her brain from the gut up. I understand a lot of fruit after a workout or having a baby, but to heal from something like this having a fruit based diet seems like it would contribute to candida or gut badness and diminish mental health further.
This will take an enormous act of courage, but you may be her key to returning to health. I'd be pretty upset if I knew someone was holding out on me if they had critical information that would help me heal. There will be an initial angry emphatic "no!", but you have at least offered your knowledge and caring, and it might sink in eventually. Try to be as well researched and diplomatic as possible, and make sure you prepare to accept her unconditionally even if she refuses every single piece of info you share with her.
Absolutely agree re: B-12, the symptoms of deficiency are often psychological, and can range from suicidal depression to straight-up psychosis.
I don't know that arguing with her about anything will help, but if you do go there, be sure to agree with her if she's an ethical vegan (i.e., yes, if we could all be healthy without harming a fly that would be ideal, and when you get healthy again, decide then, but for now you simply can't support animals this way right now).
There are a lot of ex-vegan blogs (let them eat meat, for example), and they talk a lot about sudden-onset depression. That, along with "brain fog" appear to be near-universal symptoms for those vegetarians/vegans who get sick (there are many threads in PH about it too), but when I was a sick vegetarian, I didn't read those or see myself in them until after the magic moment that I ate a lamb chop and felt like a superhero. Until then it just literally never occurred to me that my sickness was nutrition related, since I appeared to have been doing so well without animal products for so long., plus one of my closest friends is a vegan triathlete who's never been sick a day in his life.
For me, and for some ex-vegans, I think the turning point is when you get too depressed to give a sh*t about anything anymore. If you guys are feeding her/caring for her, she certainly may get there and simply stop putting up a fight, so if you're bringing her groceries, unless she literally flips out at the sight of meat, it might be a good idea to throw some bone broth/cod liver oil/etc. in the fridge in case that moment comes. She may also be sort of subconsciously craving meat, so having it in the fridge may help if she has a "weak moment." And chances are, once she gets some in her, you won't be able to pry it out of her hands. For a lot of us, it's literally a magic moment of "holy crap, this is who I am, this person is awesome, where the hell has she been??" I had that with ice cream after being a vegan for 3 years, and I had it with lambchops after being a vegetarian for 17.
In the meantime: B12 (seriously, I'd go with shots if she's willing, oral doses have meh efficacy, as someone who's supplemented with it for the full 17 years I was a veggie and still came up deficient in every blood test). Also I'd supplement the crap out of her, just lots of everything, multi-vit, multi-mineral, some extra Zinc probably and Vit D, EFA's, DHA.
You might consider sending her this link http://voraciouseats.com/2010/11/19/a-vegan-no-more/ Since it was written by someone who was obviously a very devoted vegan, it might hvae more inpact than info from the paleo world.
I did a post with a ton of links you might find useful - especially to the vegan dietician who writes about deficiencies and how to deal with them and still stay vegan. Jack Norris http://www.veganhealth.org/
Here's my post with health issues typical in a raw vegan diet http://paleozonenutrition.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/why-i-dont-recommend-a-low-fat-raw-vegan-diet/
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