April 12

Ex-Vegans Speak Out

Filed under Vegetarian & Vegan Nutrition by Frederic Patenaude

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Ex-Vegans Speak Out

One phenomenon we’ve been noticing lately, probably more notably due to social media technologies like blogs and Facebook, is how many ex-vegans are coming out to share their experience on why they stopped being vegan after many years, often due to health problems that occurred on a vegan diet that were quickly resolved with the re-introduction of animal foods.

There’s even a website, www.letthemeatmeat.com, that interviews these ex-vegans.

In addition to the casual experience of these ex-vegans, we also have many raw food authors who used to be vegan for a number of years, but now include some animal products in their diet.


Common Problems

By reviewing the stories of ex-vegans, I have identified a few common problems that some people have run into.

Sometimes, they were able to solve these problems with proper supplementation or a chance for another raw vegan diet (such as a low-fat one), but the problems I will list below are strictly limited to the people who did not find any improvement in supplementation or (for some who have tried it) low fat veganism.

Of course, this is purely anecdotal and it’s impossible to accurately decide what actually happened in every case (versus what they said happened). However, I believe it would be a little close-minded to totally dismiss these stories as arising from “anorexic” people who “didn’t do the diet properly.”
Dental Problems

This is mostly common in raw-foodists, who tend to have more dental problems than the general population. I discussed the reasons in my book Raw Food Controversies.

Essentially, the low-caloric density of the diet encourages frequent snacking on sugary foods (like fruit), which promotes decay. Eliminating snacking and eating actual meals is a key element in preventing dental problems on a raw food diet. Strict dental hygiene is required as well.

Some vegans report an increase in dental decay on a vegan diet, but I suspect that’s simply because they’re eating more refined carbohydrates like flour, cookies and vegan junk foods.

Low Sex Drive

This symptom is not common, but happens to some men who go raw. Most vegan men don’t complain about low sex drive. In my opinion, that’s mostly limited to men who follow a fat-free diet (with no overt fats), undereat calories, and exercise too much and too often. This is completely preventable.

Lack of Energy

I’ve met a lot of “tired vegans,” and I used to be one of them, although I experienced this symptom on a high-fat, raw vegan diet. People complained about feeling exhausted and needing to have frequent naps to recover.

In vegans, I attribute this mostly to the overconsumption of grains (especially refined grains and flower-based products) and oils, under consumption of fruit and underconsumption of total calories.

In raw vegans, it’s caused by a high-fat diet and the underconsumption of fruit or a calorie restrictive diet.

Lack of Stamina

Many ex-vegans report that when they were on a vegan diet, often after a few years, they lost stamina to exercise. For example, in the past they could work out for 60 minutes on the treadmill, and before they broke their vegan diet, they were finding it hard to do more than 20 minutes, and often needed all day to recover.

I would attribute this in most cases to the same causes for lack of energy, but also possibly to a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Constantly Hungry

This symptom is common in vegans but even worse in raw foodists. It’s easily explained by the fact that plant foods are not as calorie-dense as animal foods, and also carbohydrates don’t satiate as much as protein-based foods.

Vegans and raw foodists need to eat more, but also fill their sweet tooth with fruit, which tends to eliminate most of the cravings by providing the simple carbohydrates the body desperately needs.

Hair Falling Out

This is a symptom that tends to happen mostly to raw vegan women who go on a very low fat diet or tend to drop weight rapidly. To avoid this issue, I would encourage an increased consumption of omega-3 rich foods such as flax, walnuts and hemp seeds, even if this brings you above 15% fat. Lower the fat content in the diet progressively, not overnight.


This is probably the most common extreme symptom that vegans experience that lead them to change their diets. As we’ll see below, it could simply be caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Ice Cold Extremities

Some vegans and many raw foodists experience cold feet and end and often attribute it to poorer circulation on this diet. I don’t know that it’s the case, but I’ve found that as long as I exercise daily, my body stays very warm.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

This deficiency is common in long-term vegans, but also common in the meat-eating population.

Besides severe nervous system degeneration problems, a B12 deficiency can cause fatigue, depression and “brain fog,” which could explain many of the failures of the ex-vegans who tend to feel instantly better when they start eating meat again.

A good supplement is the best way to prevent a B12 deficiency, but perhaps some individuals cannot absorb the supplement optimally and therefore feel the best results when they get their B12 from animal foods.

Eggs and dairy products are generally a poor source of B12, which would explain why the ex-vegans feel so much better when they start eating meat or fish again (just a few ounces of fish provides enough B12 for about two days). (NOTE: I recommend the B12 supplement over animal-source B12).


This is a more rare symptom that could be caused by a diet rich in raw cruciferous vegetables (like cabbage, broccoli, etc.) that contain thyroid inhibitors known as goitrogens. In some sensitive individuals, consuming a lot of these vegetables can cause thyroid problems.

The simple solution for those with a pre-existing hypothyroid condition is to avoid these raw cruciferous vegetables, or steaming them instead.

This was just a short excerpt of the March issue of the Raw Vegan Mentor Club Newsletter! I’m looking forward to hearing from you on this!

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21 Responses to “Ex-Vegans Speak Out”

  1. Chris says:

    Great article. Its sad so many ‘vegans’ are returning to a meat-based diet without looking for the real source of their problems…..

  2. marina says:

    Frederic, I hear you and many others saying that the low energy and constant hunger are a sign of undereating, so people should simply eat more fruit. But, what about people who are trying to lose some weight?
    I would dearly love to go raw, but it seems the minute I do, my body jolts into a starvation mode and I not only fail to lose, i actually gain weight and it is very very difficult to lose afterwards. If i increase the amount of calories, it does stop me from gaining but i don’t lose. If i add exercise (i have run marathons and half-marathons and do 90 minute sessions of power yoga, i’m no weinie!) i stop losing and gain. Again, starvation mode, it seems.
    i am at the end of my wits here. the only thing i can think to do is go back to omnivorous (the thought of it revolts me!) and once i lose the weight i want to lose, go back to 811.

  3. Vera says:

    Fred, Thank you for all your great articles. It is very hard to keep up with ones vegan principles when you are the lone crusader in a world of animal eaters. And when your health is shaken, how easy it is to cave.
    You have to learn how to be vegan. And thats why I’m so grateful that you spend your time teaching people how to be raw vegan properly. And I’m not even 100 % either, but I’m better this year than I was last year, and thanks to you Fred, next year I’ll be more raw than this year.
    I don’t know any other raw vegans and I only know about 5 other vegans and a handful of vegetarians in my little world. But I tell people why I eat the way I do and perhaps they will change also.

  4. Bonnie says:

    Good suggestions for a lot of this. I will tell you though that icy cold hands and feet are not necessarily fixed by daily exercise. I exercise daily, and it has had no effect on my hands or feet! Other suggestions welcome.

  5. Mark Gailmor says:

    Frederic, this blog couldn’t have been more timely. There are a group of brothers, who I know you’ve probably heard of. They go by the label Raw Brahs and they’ve been following the 80 10 10 for a year or two. They recently posted a video of a bachelor party and right after the party the came out and told people that they will be eating little quantities of meat for their b12 needs. They went on to propagate lies manufactured by Weston Price about Vegans in India, which I informed them were manufactured and untruthful.

    I try my best not to hate on anyone because that’s wasted energy. However, I can’t help but to feel a little sorrow since these guys were singing the virtues of fresh fruit one week and are now eating meat, which they justify by saying it’s only “one animal” and they try to create an analogy, abeit a poor one, on how many bugs we’re killing to grow a garden versus one animal. They clearly didn’t take in to account how much water, food and poop that one animal creates before it hits maturity.

    It’s because of people like this that people run far away from us. They see smiling faces one moment singing the virtues of a vegan diet and the next minute their promoting the consumption of flesh.

    Thanks again for your post.

  6. Angelika says:

    Fred, as always, great article!

  7. Jessica says:

    I agree with your article. But I actually don’t have a sweet tooth I crave more salty foods…I still eat plenty of fruit though, it helps with Myasthenia Gravis.

  8. Tussock says:

    Fred, I have been an avid reader of yours. You make sense. On paper. But I don’t think any one diet is the right one for everyone anymore. I am chronically so ill I know if I don’t turn things around I’m heading for an early grave. I have gone raw vegan, I have juice feasted and every other way of getting mega nutrients from raw vegan. I got more ill. Every time, without fail. I read the book Eat Fat, Lose fat, started inplementing the “health recovery” principles, and oafter 2 weeks I have more hope than I have had in many years. I feel healthier, stronger and I can weep for being able to say this, I have more energy. Much of this is due to the fermented cod liver oil which I take religiously every day. My body craves it. I hope you publish this. It may very well help someone who has no hope…

  9. Paul Palmer says:

    Thanks Frederic. When i did my early raw vegan experiments 47 years ago I felt weak, exhausted, and constantly craving cooked animal foods. What you said makes sense. I would add some of my mistakes: Did too much fasting, didn’t eat enough greens, ate too many nuts and seeds and dried fruit. More recently, i didn’t eat enough calories at 500 calories per day, which of course was nowhere near enough. Then i made the mistake of ignoring any bodily sensations of satiation in an effort to eat enough. Mistake to the other extreme. In early childhood I was trained to ignore the body’s signals of satiation and use food as an emotional anesthetic, and have been a binge eater ever since; so overeating triggers junk food binges for me. Now i listen to my body while mindful of getting enough calories, and so far it’s working.

  10. […] So why wouldn’t I recommend a vegan or raw vegan diet? It is a diet that has multiple nutrient deficiencies, that can only be sorted out with supplements. It consequently carries a high risk of serious health problems. Even this vegan eater and mentor list the common problems of vegan eating and why. Frederic Patenaude; Vegans speak out on their health problems […]

  11. Kim says:

    I hope you all can accept this in the spirit it is intended. After reading the post and comments, it’s clear to me that raw food vegan is not likely the best choice for MOST people. I’m sure there are some, maybe 10% or so of the population that can thrive on such a diet. But seeing how you have to “learn” how to do it, massage it this way and that tells me that it’s not a species appropriate diet. If you have to put that much time, effort, thought and planning into the way you eat, then it will fail for many. A whole food diet including pastured meats,eggs, dairy AND a few low-sugar fruits and non-starchy veg can be very healing and sustaining. And many foods should be cooked. As an example, carrots and tomatoes are more nutritious cooked w/added fat…it makes the vitamins more bioavailable. Some cruciferous veg need to be cooked to disarm the anti-nutrients.
    These are important things to consider when eating for health.

  12. lola says:

    Dear Frederic,
    I am one of those ex-vegans who have turned into meat eater. Honestly, all those reasons you have listed are signals that the body is telling you it is malnourished and causing hormone havoc. I have a vegan friend whose electrical bill is four times as much as mine, and I have a bigger house to heat! He is constantly cold. I have been over eating on all foods (meat, grains, dairy, fruits and veggies as well as spoonfuls of Coconut Oil) following Matt Stones High Everything Diet and I can be quite content sitting around not doing anything or moving with the house temperature at 18-19 degrees C.

    Veganism leads to hormone destruction. Period. Kevin Gianni had poor Testosterone levels and Anne Marie Gianni is Hypothyroid. There is no perfect vegan diet. Its just a sales pitch.

    Your dental theories are totally out of wack. My daughter at 18 months started to get dental decay. We were veggie and mostly vegan as she had some food sensitivities back then. We totally reversed it by switching to a whole foods meat diet. Have you ever tried brushing the teeth of a young child?? Most are not so willing to open their mouths and comply with brushing. We brushed but not religously, sometimes missing days. Her cavities were healed. There was no need for fillings. We used NO toothpaste, fluoride treatments or brushing after meals. And just to let you know kids snack alot. Just MEAT, TALLOW, LARD and FISH OIL. Oh and cant forget plenty of yogurt.

    I also have fallen into great depressions. Especially in the winters when the sunshine is not there. Colostrum and fermented cod liver oil have made the most debilitating depression a thing of the past. These were times when it was hard for me to get out of bed without weeping. Colostrum is so bright and yellow and it feels like I have swallowed the sun. It puts a smile on my face within minutes of ingesting it.

    Having hair fall out should be a major sign of malnutrition. My sister was losing her hair when she went through an anorexic phase.

    Hypothyroidism is not just a symptom of eating to much calciferous veggies. It is a symptom of constant dieting, fasting and deprivation. Check out Matt Stones www . 180degreehealth dot com / hypothyroidism dot html. The best way to check the thyroid is to check your body temperature. If it is lower then 98.6F or 37F then you are having problems with thyroid.I went from 35.6 basal body temp to normal 37.2 basal body temp. This is a huge difference!

  13. Johann says:

    I am curious about the comment made by Marina. If you happen to see this, email me if you can. I have had similar things happen with me over the years and would be interested in sharing info. I am thinking it is probably possible to get my address through this site.

  14. Tera says:

    I’m a vegan, but not a raw vegan. I LOVE BEING VEGAN! I’m so healthy. I experience none of these things!

  15. Mark Gailmor says:

    Veganism leads to health destruction? That sounds like it’s directly from the mouth of Sally Fallon of the Weston Price Foundation. Even Dr. Weston Price, would be completely disgusted with how his name is being used these days since he recommended a Vegetarian diet for most of his family member. That said, I’m going to contradict that last comment. Veganism does not lead to health destruction but poor eating does.

    Oh, and your child having tooth decay has nothing to do with her diet unless you were feeding her a lot of processed sugar foods. Most children don’t want to brush their teeth but it’s a habit that they have to learn. My son was raised vegan and is not 20+ years old. He has had one cavity in his entire lifetime.

    There are plenty of veggies in the plant kingdom that stimulate hormone production including sea vegetables, spirulina, chlorella. Also, pumpkin seeds contain ala that converts to dha in the body. Sea veggies also contain high levels of dha so those people raving about fish oil that contains high levels of dha need to look at where the fish are getting their dha. From the sea veggies of course.

    Anyway, I’m only pointing these things out to let you know that I have been a vegan for 23 years and following a low fat raw vegan diet for two of those years. However, I modified my diet and include seaweed, because it’s important, as well as sprouts and some fermented foods because I believe these are missing, but critical components of the 80 10 10 lifestyle. My son got lots of seaweed and other necessary components of the veggie world growing up because we consulted with the most successful vegans we could find to make sure our nutrition and his was the highest available. Those vegans with low hormone levels are missing key ingredients that is available to them but they choose to ignore.

  16. yamina says:

    Hey Frederic !
    Once, I got a magnifying mirror. Damned ! What’ that ?! My enamel was eroded ! My teeth were strong and white before becoming fruitarian… I was disgusted. I thought it was due to the acidic and dried fruits I ate thoughtlessly. After reflexions and readings (included your articles), I conclued that it was the consequence of the cravings I had for cookies. I was practicing daily aikido training, which was exhausting and my body was reclaiming more food to handle its needs ! He was the wise and I was the fool, thinking this behavior was due to my greed. I have read that the best was to eat less possible, but I was very active, without health issues and I obtain these awful result that I am now trying to solve by eating more, more fruits, more salads, and potatoes which contain all the amino-acids at the same level than the classical egg, except methionin which is not as higher as the others and that can be completed by tahin (my proper discovering ! I am proud and perhaps going to write a book !)
    Thousands of thanks ! Without your information, I would still asking myself thousands of questions, thinking and rethinking and rerethinking and rerere… I have so much better to do ! Have an enjoyful spring !

  17. yamina says:

    Just a precision : as far as I remember I have eaten cookies. Very energetic in a little amount, and delicious… while eating red meat, cheese, eggs, butter… And my enamel was perfect. I think that it is not only acidic and dried fruits which cause this erosion but the MIX of them and starches. Even in different meals, even on different days.

  18. Ricky Ferdon says:

    I became vegan in the wee hours of January 4th of this year. Since then, I’ve lost 16 pounds (on purpose) – I am a runner. I have dealt with depression in the past. I have no depression. As I said, the weight loss is on purpose – I use the age-old method of burning more calories than I take in. My energy level is great. Last week I, at age 56, set two new lifetime PR’s: most miles run at once (20.6), and most miles run in a week (83). I do take supplements, but, did that before I was vegan. I’ve educated myself through Fred’s great offerings, nomeatathlete.com, and other sources. I am not 100% raw food yet, but looking seriously into it. Since becoming vegan, I DO eat much more fruits and vegetables, and see that increasing, especially as the local farmer’s market just opened and many things will be coming into season the next month or two. My main reason for being vegan is the terrible treatment of animals in food, clothing and entertainment. The health benefits are a great secondary benefit for me.

  19. marina says:

    Hi Johann,

    i did see your post. i’m pretty sure i can’t get your e-mail from this forum though. i’ve created a temporary g-mail account to which you can e-mail me if you like. aniram.harrison@gmail.com

  20. marina says:

    Wow, this has sure spurred on some interesting debates. Although i on’t even consider myself a raw vegan, just an aspiring one at best, i would like to address some issues the ex-vegans-back-to-carnivores have brought up.
    Actually, these are not my words whatsoever, but paraphrases from others, such as Doug Graham or Colin Campbell, McDougal, Dean Ornish and so many other influential, credible, respected and scientifically accredited specialists, i.e. not some self-appointed gurus.
    The argument that there may be several optimal ways to nourish the body does not make much sense as it just does not happen in nature. In nature, an entire species eats what an entire species eats. More importantly, the more likely reason some people run into problems on ANY diet, including raw vegan and including omnivorous is that they are not following the guidelines of the diet in question.
    To address the issue of “getting raw right” and “how can a diet be natural if you have to work so hard at it?”: Havanessian (one of the original proponents of raw vegan way back in the early 60’s) suggests that we have gone so far from eating what is natural (thousands of years) that it has to be relearned and that the reason people crave cooked foods is that it is an addiction to the chemicals in cooked food, mush like to heroine and opium.
    To quote Colin Campbell, author of the China Study, the number of people who are sick and dieing on the SAD diet is astounding. On the other hand, the number of people who are getting well on plant based and raw diets are astounding all the established medical conventions.
    So the natural question arises: why are some people OK on SAD and why are some sick on vegan? there are probably as many plausible answers as there are individuals. I would like to throw one more factor into the equation: what about belief? What you believe works for you, does work for you. Francesco mention Bruce Lipton who wrote The Biology of Belief. The “placebo effect” has been known for at least fifty years. The influence psychology has on physiology cannot be ignored.
    In my opinion, you cannot look for absolutes in anything. You will always find exceptions. One has to look at majorities i think.

  21. Amanda says:

    Thank you for posting this, it has been on my mind for some time and I am glad that you put all of this information out there for people to access. Going raw gave me so many health benefits that I am not even going to go into here but just like anything else there is a healthier way to do things. You can be vegan and eat all junk food and you can be raw vegan and eat only dehydrated fattty foods; but there is a way to eat raw vegan and reach an optimal health.

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