When I first went back to eating fish — a salmon salad — after a year spent being a strict vegan, I noticed the effect quite fast.
I felt more alert and aware, as though someone had woken me up.
My experience replicated that of actor Anne Hathaway, who said she felt like her brain had “rebooted” when she returned to eating fish after years eschewing it for a plant-based diet.
Nor are we recovering vegans alone.
Ellen DeGeneres has added fish and eggs into her formerly strict diet. Tim Shieff, a vegan YouTuber and influencer, has admitted adding meat back on to his plate as a tonic for symptoms such as “digestion issues ... fatigue, brain fog, depression, lack of recovery, lack of energy, yawning all the time”, and “waking up stiff”.
And a new British Medical Journal report warning that vegans may be risking serious nutritional deficiency and storing up a litany of health problems could be a wake-up call for the estimated 600,000 Britons who, according to the Vegan Society, now follow a plant-only diet.
I gave up fish, dairy and eggs in a moment of desperation.
Having suffered merciless irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for years, I wanted to see if being vegan could end the unpredictable but regular bouts of spasms.
Having already experimented with antispasmodic drugs, hypnotherapy, peppermint pills and so much more, this was about the only thing I hadn’t tried.
So I played around with various “milks” made of almonds, hazelnuts and cashews until I found oat milk, which suited my taste buds. I liked its sour cream substitute, too.
My grocery basket filled up with marinated tofu and quarter-pound vegan burgers from the Linda McCartney’s range, and sacks of kale and spinach.
And I tapped into a vegan network online where you learn what treat foods you can eat: salt-and-vinegar flavoured Pringles, Bourbon biscuits and Fry’s chocolate creams, since you ask.
My family were, for the most part, content. I swapped the macaroni cheese, Spanish omelettes and creamy fish pies for Thai green curries with cashews, Mexican three-bean chillies and pasta with aubergines and courgettes.
At first, I lost weight. And I noticed my IBS was improving.
But my skin was not happy, with regular breakouts, and my nails crumbled away. I added in a vitamin B spray and ate vegan calcium tablets and kept going.
Around the time the boredom kicked in — Christmas, somewhat inevitably — I realised I wasn’t losing weight any more and indeed, the pounds were creeping back on.
This seemed like the breaking of an unwritten contract that if you restrict your diet in such a draconian way, you can sneakily diet without having to think about it.
I looked at my overall eating habits and realised I was becoming hugely bread and peanut butter-reliant. Calories, it seems, don’t care if you are vegan or not.
Now I’m “veganesque”. The meat-free family meals we enjoyed — the chillies and curries — are still on the menu. I’ve probably upped my fruit and veg intake to seven or eight portions a day with ease.
But I no longer have to pretend that vegan “cheeses” are edible. Sorry, they’re not. Pass the Comte.
— The Telegraph Group Limited, London 2019
Victoria Lambert is a British journalist and author of Boundaries.