It was great being a vegetarian for the first year. I had more energy and my skin cleared up. However, after that year, it was all down hill. I started to feel sluggish, tired, cold, and hungry all the time. My struggle continued for an additional year in a half until my body said “no more.” So, we are clear, this is not an anti-vegetarian or vegan article. I just want you to know my experience since you may have similar health issues.
To make matters more complicated, a year ago, I discovered that I was hypoglycemic. Honestly, the diagnosis wasn’t a surprise since I struggled with carbohydrates my whole life. As I got older, falling asleep within 45 minutes of a carbohydrate-based meals was just normal. My doctor was following my thyroid symptoms since symptomatically my thyroid appeared not to be working well.
But I was bound and determined to stay a vegetarian. My doctor said I needed to eat protein with every meal. Not too hard, right?
My Life as a Vegetarian
I became a vegetarian for health, environmental and animal rights reasons. And I was a good vegetarian. I didn’t eat junk food like tons of pasta and bread due to my hypoglycemia. (I did eat an occasional slice of pizza when we were out since finding vegetarian options that I liked other than egg salad wasn’t so easy in my area. I can’t eat spicy or salty food.)
My morning meals consisted of smoothies in the morning with one of my homemade gluten free muffins. My regular meals consisted of beans like lentils, garbanzo, and black beans. Often times, I would throw in some tempeh. Within a few hours, I was starving. Stomach aching starving.
Just an FYI, dairy and I aren’t good friends so I shied away from yogurt and cheese.
I resorted to eating fats like almond butter and peanut butter when I was starving, A scoop here and there. Coconut and almond yogurt became my best friend.
Not surprisingly, the scale started to tip. Within those three years, I gained about 8 pounds. I truly believe if you are going to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, you need to eat a low fat diet one.
But perhaps it was the carbs?
Increased the Exercise Regime:
As the weight continued to climb I became so discouraged. Losing weight has never been easy for me. So, I upped my exercise regime to 6 days under the theory, I was getting older. I tried dancing off my pounds with Zumba. (My new love.) Nada. Nothing. Just nice weight gain but at least I was salsa-ing. Wasn’t I lucky?
Oh, and my legs were starting to swell more. (I have lymphadema so they naturally swell but they weren’t going down at night.) And did I tell you over the last decade, my hair was thinning? Yes, my gorgeous hair in the front was thinning. I started to shift over my hair line so people wouldn’t see how it was thinning.
My hair is my vanity.
The worst thing was my hunger would not subside. I was a mess. Eggs became my new food of choice to fill me up.
I reached an all time low when I was in Austin. I ate a quinoa veggie salad and within 40 minutes, I couldn’t stay awake. I fell asleep in the car. (But, the meal was so yummy.)
So,what the heck was wrong?
Went back to the Doctor
We changed insurance carriers, so I had to find a new holistic doctor. She took one look at me and saw how my hair was thinning and ordered new blood tests. My cholesterol rose from 175 to 212. My thyroid numbers were hovering near the danger zone. She too had been a vegetarian and is hypoglycemic. Due to the combination, she gained 15 pounds.
I knew I was in danger and headed in her same direction. Reluctantly, I started eating chicken and turkey. The second day, I ate chicken I couldn’t stop myself from eating. I just wanted more. Could have been the exercise? Depletion? Who knows.
On the other hand, I haven’t really eaten much meat. It sits too heavy in my stomach.
The Thyroid Diagnosis
The doctor gave me Armour thyroid pills for my thyroid. Her theory is once your thyroid goes it is really tough to get it to function right again. I would love anyone’s suggestions since I don’t want to take this medicine.
My doctor is also testing for yeast in my stool, so I will keep you apprised. (By the way, I am NOT going to tell you about how they test your stool. Just too much information. Gross.)
I think going vegetarian is great and wish I could have stayed in that world. However, everyone’s body is different and you need to listen to yours. If you have any my symptoms, promise me you will see a doctor. Keep complaining until someone hears you.
Don’t be a martyr. Life is too short.
Join the Conversation
- Were you a vegetarian or vegan? If so, why did you leave?
- If you are hypoglycemic and vegetarian? How do you make it work?
- Have you healed your thyroid without medicine?
Lori Popkewitz Alper says
I’m so glad you listened to your body Anna and you’re doing what’s best for you.
Anna@Green Talk says
Thanks Lori. I don’t think the vegetarian lifestyle caused the problem but may it more obvious that something isn’t right. Anna
Heather Rodman says
I’m also a former vegetarian, and hypoglycemic. I survived 3-4 years of it- and spent most of the last three fainting, all the time. I didn’t have the weight gain- quite dangerously, the opposite happened. Bruises and cuts wouldn’t heal (and being a natural klutz, this was a real problem), I was sick all the time, I became anemic…I was a mess. What finally turned me away from vegetarianism was an article that I read, about genotyping diets- it may well have been complete horsewash, but the woman who wrote it suggested that people should be eating as their ancestors did. What she recommended for my genotype (almost purely Nordic) was plenty of dairy, grains such as rye and barley, and MEAT. I eased back into slightly more mainstream diet (still mostly from scratch, with moderate poultry intake, and very occasional red meat), and saw the results right away- no more fainting, increased ability to heal, and much better health overall. This was just in the nick of time- only two years later, I became pregnant with my first child. I shudder to think how *that* would’ve gone, had I stuck with it…it’s almost like grief, when you go back to eating meat, and the physical adjustment is unpleasant (I’m sure you know what I mean!)…but I truly think that some of us just can’t, shouldn’t, try to be vegetarian. I wish you good health- thank you for writing this article!
– Heather R., The Real Leopardstripes
Anna@Green Talk says
Thanks so much for weighing in. I was put on iodine. I personally think there is clue there because my thyroid numbers shot up and I put on alot of weight. My blood test for iodine was way over the normal amount.
Joy @ Joyfully Green says
Anna, this was very interesting–we have been debating this very topic at our house, as my son (age 9) wants to be a vegetarian. (I’m working on a post about it right now.) Glad that you found the right path for you.
Anna@Green Talk says
Joy, I think it is wonderful that he wants to be a vegetarian. I probably could have done it when I was younger and wasn’t so exposed to so many toxic chemicals over the years. My body wasn’t ready to be a vegetarian due to my hypoglycemia. Let me know what he decides. Love your last post.
Have you heard of Mark Bittman and his VB6 book he recently published? I found out about him years ago when he ‘changed’ his way of eating, as a chef, for health reasons and started eating like a vegan, until 6PM. He lost weight, lowered his Cholesterol, and got healthier. But he still ate meat for dinner; at a smaller portion.
If eating food causes health problems or exacerbates pre-existing conditions, as a vegan or an omnivore, then, we need to shift our lifestyle. Not one method is best for everyone. Great that you are getting the help you need. We need you healthy, no matter WHAT you eat. Just stay away from my sashimi and wasabi.
Have you tried a juice feast or going raw to detox? Sometimes it can help balance things out, even just as a short term thing versus going straight to a medication. Although I have NO idea how it would work with hypoglycemia. It helped me with all of my stomach issues that I was having – really this extreme, debilitating stomach pain. After an obscene amount of tests, it remain undiagnosed for over 12 yeras before I decided to go vegetarian and within a month it went away and never came back. Then I started raw at the beginning of this year and it has really been an amazing journey. I don’t advocate a raw lifestyle for anyone, as it’s a very personal choice, but it’s a GREAT detox – as is juicing. Sometimes it can be like pushing a reset button. I wish you the best and hope you feel better. OH did you ever have your B12 levels checked??? That’s a BIG problem with anyone not consuming meat as the primary source of B12 is from meat as it’s a bacteria. Anyways supplements of B12 helped my wife a lot.
I am detox practionner and a Hypoglicemic 🙁
Going into a juice regime for us is to KILL US!!! too much sugar intake!!!
I love detox and juicing, so helpful for many other things, but not so great for hypos, hyper and diabetics.
wow, I so randomly came to this page… Your story sounds so similar to mine. You are definitely not alone here! After my cancer diagnosis nearly two years ago I have been trying to go vegan and raw. Everything I was reading was pointing me towards a cleaner diet. I haven’t had much success though. Always hungry, always dizzy and faint-ish… I also am hypoglycemic and have hypothyroidism. I was anemic and extremely low in B12 and am now fighting off Candidiasis. Last September I finally saw a Holistic Doctor and found all of this out!! Now I am eating meat and veggies with limited fruits. I do still eat every two hours for sure, but have actually lost ten pounds since dropping the carbs/sugars. Never hungry anymore!! I was always hungry and nearly fainting constantly, even an hour after a meal! I wish I would have known how protein can really help with certain bodies… I hope you can get the help you need! Juice fasting never worked for me… NO energy at all… dizzy all the time. I do not think it is a good idea for hypoglycemics. Good luck!
Anna@Green Talk says
Gwen, how did they fix your hypothyroidism?
I haven’t lost an ounce and am still tired.
Danielle Cleary says
I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years (since I was 16) and have always felt like it was a good choice for me, but I recognize that it may not be for everyone. When I was in my early 20s I read the “Eat Right For Your Type” book (about different diets based on blood type) and it reinforced my instincts about that. Different blood types came about at different points in history and therefore our ancestors ate things that benefited their type (sounds like the genotype diet mentioned in previous comments). Type O were the original cavemen and they do well with meat; type A came about with the agricultural revolution (i’m a type A) and we do well with a vegetarian diet, maybe with some chicken and fish; type B came about with the domestication of animals and so they were the first type to do well with dairy products; type AB are the most evolutionarily advanced, and they do well with a little bit of everything. It made sense to me that something so inherent to our survival (i.e. if you get the wrong blood type you can die) may also affect how we should eat. In Japan they ask you your blood type on your resume and the only regional Facebook difference is that you put your blood type on your FB page there. Dr. D’Adamo addresses many specific health concerns (Gwen–candidiasis is one of them–that’s something I struggled with in my first 20 years of life due to overuse of antibiotics as a kid) and gives tips on it. I think it’s one piece of the puzzle for each person, but it’s definitely fascinating stuff!
Anna@Green Talk says
Danielle, I am type A. How do you stay full? I was always hungry.
PS I am being tested for candidiasis too. Anna
Danielle Cleary says
Anna–staying full has never been an issue for me. When I first became vegetarian I was really more of a “carbivore” than anything else (not particularly healthy, but part of being in college!). I’ve learned a lot over the years and my husband and I cook really awesome food these days, but I’ve never had to cook based on not feeling full…
Karuna CHUAH says
Hi, i am a partial vegetarian for the same reason as yours… the fact partial is sometimes occasion arised that there wasn’t an option available… but i find that in order to have balance vegetarian meal: i rotate thru different ‘cultural vegetarian diet’… e.g. Indian vegetarian, chinese vegetarian, korean vegetarian, western vegetarian style… rotating thru these options reduces the lack of variety in diet, increases the different source of protein, nutrients… I did encountered feeling cold and weak in initial 2nd month but i found it was lack of iodine and food source from the sea, so get some seaweed in the system.. japanese vegetarian will help.. to avoid hypoglycemia, take complex carbo esp before exertion/ energy consuming activity
Anna@Green Talk says
Thanks Karuna for the advice. I will have to look up that diet. Anna
John Hammell says
I have type O blood. My northern European ancestors ate a lot of fish and meat. I am hypoglycemic. I have to eat 70% of my calories and protein in animal based food or else I suffer from severe blood sugar fluctuations that cause roller coaster moods. I have to eat something every couple of hours to keep my blood sugar up. My pancreas over secretes insulin which carries glucose into the cells. Due to this, my cells interpret insulin as an “invader” and have become insulin resistant. They block insulin from carrying the glucose in. If I overeat carbs or protein (both of which convert to glucose), my pancreas secretes more insulin, but my cells block it from carrying the glucose into my cells, so I store the glucose as fat. To burn fat, a hypoglycemic must convert their body to become a ketone burner. The way to do this is to seriously cut back on carbohydrate intake so the body can start burning fat. I came to this page because I am interested in learning more about Agnihotra and Homa farming. The people who I am interested in learning from practice “Ahimsa” or “non violence”. They prohibit meat, fish and eggs from being eaten on their property. This is not consistent with my reality. I just can’t live that way as a hypoglycemic. They say they do this to be “non violent” and “respectful”, but this is very violent and very disrespectful to a person with my physical reality. I came to this website looking for a way to try to educate them and am hoping that they will develop a deeper understanding. Not everyone can, or should attempt to be vegetarian. It just doesn’t work for everyone. Everyone’s nutritional needs are unique and as distinct as their fingerprints. I am a Chapter leader in the Weston A. Price Foundation. We educate people about nutrient dense foods. Although I eat meat, I only eat grass fed meat. I won’t eat meat from animals that have been fed on feedlots with GMO corn or shot full of antibiotics, and I won’t eat farmed fish either for the same reasons. I eat organic vegetables when I do eat vegetables and don’t eat grains, too many carbs. You don’t get fat from eating fat, you get fat from eating carbs! You have to eat fat to lose fat. Read Primal Body- Primal Mind by Nora Gedgodas.
Anna@Green Talk says
John, thanks for your response. I find if I don’t eat regularly and then eat, even just protein, I fall asleep. Do you have the same problem? Anna