It’s been awhile since I last shared anything about my health and diet update, but after taking time away for the last two years, it feels right in my heart now to finally open up about my health, life and dietary changes. I kept pushing this post off because its difficult to look back at such a dark time in my life and I wanted to feel 100% ‘ready’… and I was waiting for the ‘right time’. I’ve come to realize though, that I don’t think I will ever be completely ready to share my journey over the last few years nor will there ever be a right time to share something like this. I was worried about how it would be received, the opinions made and whether people would understand. And that was my own problem, I expected people to understand, but how could I expect someone to understand something that they never went through. I’m now in a place where I’ve accepted that people won’t understand, but I wanted to share my experience because I felt that I still do owe an explanation, to try and help those who have reached out to me about their concerns, how I’ve navigated these huge changes over the last two years and what changes to expect moving forward with my blog and platforms.

With that being said, I’ll be going over a lot of things. This was written over the course of two and a half years and a lot has changed. And I also do want to give a trigger warning because I will be talking about physical health, weight, diet, exercise and mental health.

I briefly shared that I was no longer eating a 100% plant based diet on my instagram story at the end of May in 2022 and looking back, I made the mistake of rushing to share this part of my life. I went into it thinking I was going to make a thorough explanation shortly after, as to why and what the past few years have been like for me. I was in a dark place for a very long time because so many things were happening to me physically and mentally. I felt guilty and embarrassed, and going through all of this I was scared because I didn’t know what steps to take to help myself. I was still so unsure and confused with how my body was reacting and changing– and wasn’t in the position to share anything in detail yet. I’m appreciative that 95% of the responses were understanding and encouraging, and I respect the few that were disappointed, but with the few that were aggressively negative, it really took a toll on me mentally alongside my own feelings about it. Even while I thought I was ready for these kinds of responses, I didn’t think it would affect me as much as it did… but with everything else going on, I felt that I really needed to take a step back from social media. I apologize for taking such a sudden and long break to follow up.

Before getting into it, I hope to be clear that I know veganism is a moral standpoint, NOT a diet. Veganism has nothing to do with my health, but eating plant based is a huge part of the lifestyle. I am in no way implying that a plant based diet is unhealthy or not optimal. I wholeheartedly believe that it can be one of the most healthful ways to eat for many people and absolutely the best thing for the animals and environment. In the past, I didn’t understand how or why some one could just go back to consuming animal products knowing what goes behind the scenes in the animal farming industry. The 10 years that I was ‘vegan’ or eating a plant based diet, up until February 2022, I never ever considered going back. However, after 3 years of my own health declining and experiencing the debilitating physical and mental pain that revolves around food, I understand that for some, it can be really difficult or impossible to be 100% plant based. I will be going into as much detail as I can to provide context and be transparent about how my diet, food and health has changed throughout the years. 

Why Veganism & a Plant Based Diet

I became interested in veganism when I was 15, after watching the documentary Earthlings. I was appalled by the inhumane practices towards animals in our food system. I watched multiple documentaries/videos and learned more and more about the environmental, economical and health aspects of veganism.

The first immediate shift was food. In terms of what kind of food, I knew I could eat anything that didn’t come from an animal, but didn’t really know how/what to cook so I ate pretty simply: fruits, vegetables, beans, tofu and grains. I was never a huge meat eater and being lactose intolerant, I never consumed dairy anyways so it wasn’t a drastic change in terms of food choices. While looking for some recipes online, I came across different diets in the vegan community: raw vegan, 80/10/10 and high carb low fat, raw after 4.

I think like most people during that time, I tried a ‘high carb low fat’ plant based diet for about a year, but because I was still growing and weight lifting, I did consume more fats from foods and protein than the HCLF diets suggested to fuel my activity levels and ensure I was still having regular menstrual cycles. I know there are some arguments that eating any of these kinds of diets may have been the cause of a lot of ‘ex-vegans’ health issues, but I personally can’t confirm or deny that because there isn’t really any evidence (only experience) suggesting so. 

This is one thing I want to highlight to anyone who is interested or just starting a plant based diet: please, do NOT follow what other people online are eating based on their appearance or experiences. I urge you to do your research thoroughly from reputable plant based sources and dietitians to ensure you are eating a well balanced and sustainable diet that is right for your body’s needs. Here are some reputable sources and plant based dieticians: vegan.org, vegan sociey, and the vegan RD

12 years ago, there weren’t all the amazing vegan products and options we have today. Once new products started hitting the market, I loved trying new plant based options. So naturally, I started to incorporate more of these kinds of foods. Vegan mock meats, cheeses, yogurts, cereals, ice cream and all kinds of desserts– they became something I really enjoyed incorporating into my diet. I found it mentally and physically more satiating and satisfying. And this was how I’ve been eating ever since: predominantly whole plant based (lots of fruits/veg, grains, tofu, tempeh, beans, legumes, nuts) with the inclusion of cooking with oils and still enjoying dairy free yogurts, mock meats, dairy free cheeses, ice cream and all the desserts when I felt like it. This was the time I felt the most optimal with lots of energy. Being physically active, I was amazed at how quickly I was able to recover. I truly thought I would be eating a plant based diet forever.

When Things Started to Change

In the beginning of 2019, I began having digestive issues, though nothing in my diet or environment changed. It was very mild at the time, and because I’ve never experienced uncomfortable bloating before it didn’t even cross my mind that it was potentially something to be concerned about. I brushed it off thinking it was purely stress related because of it was coming close to the end of my time in university and finishing up the last of my exams. After graduating, I went back home and although I felt so happy and free to finish school, the bloating continued. During this time I was still on top of my supplements, eating the same amounts of food with variety. 

Around spring time, my digestive issues became more frequent and noticeable– the bloating was a constant nuisance and the gas was terrible… diabolical. I refused to go out and would have to leave the room to where no one was to release it because it was that bad. I always felt heavy in my stomach and the need to poop. I kept making excuses for why this was happening and my family would laugh it off for eating so much plant based foods that were more prone to producing gas. I went for my regular check ups and blood work but everything came back normal. I didn’t really know what else to do so I started experimenting with adding and removing certain foods to see if there were certain foods that were causing these symptoms. I really thought that it would resolve on its own and left it at that until the end of the year (the red flag I should have dealt with sooner). 

By March of 2020, my symptoms intensified. I was heavily, uncomfortably bloated, painfully inflamed and had diarrhea multiple times a day. Skin conditions I’ve never had before, rashes began to flare but I kept trying convincing myself it was something in the environment. This was also the time when the first COVID lockdown happened. I was resistant to seek help from my doctors because I knew that one of the first things to come up would be to try and reintroduce animal based foods back into my diet and at the time, mentally it was not an option for me.

However, understandingly my parents kept insisting to me to go for another checkup, do other examinations and seek for second opinions. Due to COVID restrictions, my appointments for examinations were weeks away and spread throughout the year and into 2021. I’ve had multiple tests done– two colonoscopies and endoscopies, MRI’s, ultrasounds, blood work, urine tests, stool tests and even X-rays with no results. I was cleared for hyperthyroidism, Crohns, celiac, cancers, polyps, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis and peptic ulcer disease. Every time I got results back, a little part of me hoped it would be that so I would have some sort of answer so that I could know what to do to make myself better. I was so exhausted and frustrated not knowing what was going on and just trying different medications and dietary changes with no improvement. As a result, I was diagnosed with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). 

I worked with two dieticians to figure out in more detail what foods were causing my symptoms, and the main culprits were soy (tofu), beans, legumes, oats, pea protein, kale, radishes and several other vegetables. Basically, all plant based protein sources. I stubbornly stood by my morals despite having the results right in front of me. It was either I cut that food out which was an important macronutrient, continue to eat those foods and feel like sh*t, or to reintroduce animal proteins back into my diet. I chose the first two for a long long time.

For months, I experimented with different suggestions from my doctors and dieticians while still maintaining a plant based diet: working on a FODMAPS diet, incorporating more fermented foods, taking probiotics, incorporating more variety into my diet (changing up the types of fruits/veggies), eating completely gluten-free for several months, removed all artificial sweeteners, started soaking my beans and then stopped eating beans and lentils all together and made sure to cook all my vegetables. Each one of these changes helped my symptoms but only for a brief period of time. I started digging in deeper and kept a food diary of how I felt after eating what kind of meals. I tried cutting out all ‘processed’ foods, refined sugars and any deep fried foods. Every time I cut a type of food out, I was scared to incorporate them back because of how it would make me feel. I started to literally fear food and eating because of how it made me feel. No matter what I removed or added into my diet, it felt like I was on an emotional and physical rollercoaster with symptoms constantly going up and down. 

By this time, my entire life revolved around food. I never in the past thought a plant based diet was restrictive, but the combination of sticking to a plant based diet and the long list of food that really triggered my symptoms made it mentally and physically so exhausting to the point where the thought of food was repulsive.I began to hate food. The thought of having to cook and eat felt like a chore because I was constantly worried and stressed about whether or not I would get through the day. You really don’t realize how much life revolves around food until you have these restrictions. 

But I continued to do this until the end of 2020 and throughout 2021, which was the peak of the worst. I had lost over 24 pounds, had no period for over a year, was going bald, insomnia, my skin was breaking, constant extreme burping and took a huge toll on the quality of my life.  I know a lot of this is superficial stuff but at this point I started to hate how I look: sunken face, bald patches behind my head and dry, flaky skin from head to toe. I had no confidence and found myself always alone because I didn’t want to see anyone.

I spent more than half my day in the washroom and the other half in bed sleeping because my body was so exhausted. As a person that loves to work, move and be busy it was also affecting me mentally. I felt that I was wasting every single day not being able to function properly and the way I wanted to.

This wasn’t just a problem of my own either, it affected everyone around me and my relationships with friends and family. When you’re that low of a weight, you can’t think straight or logically and I became an extremely toxic person to be around. Looking back, I treated those around me that I loved so horribly because I couldn’t control my mood and emotions.

As 2022 approached, after numerous tests, going back and fourth with my doctors and dieticians and exhausting all my other option, I truly feel that I tried everything in my power to heal while still on a plant based diet. It wasn’t until my sister told me that my mom showed my dad a photo of me and started to cry that it hit me. As dramatic as this sounds, my parents thought I was going to die. Eric told me right before that he didn’t know how much longer he could wait for me to get better. It makes me sick to my stomach that I made the people I love feel this way. I put off making this change for months, for years and even though I did this out of my love for animals I felt selfish for not considering the people around me. After being vegan and maintaining a plant based diet for 10 years, it was a huge part of my life and identity. Online, it was almost like my personalty trait and I didn’t want to let that go. I love animals, I don’t want to contribute to the suffering of animals but I also didn’t want to suffer anymore either.

My experience adding animal proteins back into my diet

February of 2022, I began to add fish back into my diet. I felt guilty and it did gross me out. None of that magical overnight physical mental thing happened, but I stuck with it for a few months. This was when I briefly mentioned on my stories that I was no longer plant based. I needed to step away from social media and to focus on getting well first. My mom was going back to Japan for a week for business, so I decided to tag along last minute for a few months for a change of pace.

I felt lonely but I was able to spend a lot of time with my uncle who has also been extremely sick for many years (severe hyperthyroidism). He’s the only person left from my mom’s side that lives in Japan and going through all of it alone. He was the only person around me that somewhat understood what I was going through physically and mentally. We had long conversations about life perspectives, navigating and what it takes to be happy. I’m forever grateful to my uncle that shared words of wisdom with me that gave me hope and courage, and will hold onto for the rest of my life. We also reminisced a lot together about my grandma’s (his moms) food, taught me more about Japanese food and cuisine which was also a huge highlight. During my time in Japan, it was much easier to maintain a pescatarian diet because of the wide variety of seafood. Japan is my home, away from home. As much as I wanted to stay in Japan, I knew the time was coming to an end and I had to head back to Canada.

When I got back to Canada, I felt like I was stuck, again because I was in the same environment that I went through everything. There were so many sad memories that I couldn’t let go of. I went back into a mental spiral with going back and forth on a plant based diet because I felt so guilty, which made my body fall back. I was spiralling out of control again to the point where I couldn’t control my myself. This lead to a so many arguments, injuries and emotional pain on my partner and myself that I really regret.

I needed to set myself straight again. I could not continue to eat in a way that was also not supporting my health. I know that eating a 100% plant based diet is best for the animals, but I needed to find a healthy balance and treat my body kindly too. To me, veganism was always about compassion and doing the best you can. Compassion for animals, for people, the planet… but also for myself. I stood by my morals for as long as I could, I really wanted to hold onto it but my body was telling me something different.

I re-introduced fish back into my diet but after a year, I felt food restriction in the way I never did on a plant based diet. Since developing a shellfish allergy last year, I was rotating everyday between the same three fish. Eventually, I began to add eggs a few times a week and poultry a few times a month back into my diet for variety. Again, I didn’t get better overnight. If anything, I felt worse for the first month… mostly mentally. But as the months went on, I no longer had painful inflammation, bloating and diarrhea. I began to gain healthy weight and started to have energy again. Although physically I was improving, it took more time mentally for me to adjust. The constant guilt I had when eating wasn’t healthy and I knew I had to work on that too.

Moving Forward: What to Expect from Okonomi Kitchen

There is no doubt that eating a plant based diet is the best thing we can do for the animals and environment. I still believe in the power of a plant based diet for health, and I truly feel the best eating a predominantly plant based diet. However, I do now realize that some people just cannot be 100% plant based and be at their optimal health either. How can I expect myself to be healthy when my body can’t tolerate majority of plant based proteins? It’s taken me years to accept that.

I knew I needed to be in a good place both physically and mentally before I commit to sharing this change. People have said I used vegansim to make money, or I’m not plant based anymore to make money or just stopped caring. Again, no matter what I said or don’t say you are entitled to your own opinions, but I’m in a place now where I know in my heart I changed my diet for my own health and thats what matters to me.

Now what to expect from this blog and my platform? This part was what was holding me back from returning to social media and continuing food blogging because sharing plant based recipes was what started my food blogging career and what I had been doing from 2012 – 2022. For a long time, I didn’t know what I should, or wanted to share on my platform anymore.

I’ve really missed sharing recipes on a regular basis, and that is where my heart is still at so that is what I want to continue to pursue. Over the two years, I’ve been practicing new cooking techniques, learning to cook with different ingredients and developing recipes.

After almost a year and a half of figuring out who I am as a person now, what I enjoy and how my lifestyle has changed, my focus is to share as much recipes from my culture. Japanese food and plant based food has always been the core of my diet so will continue to share many plant based recipes. But there will also be recipes that are not plant based. However, if and when I share a non-plant based recipe, I will have plant based options/alternatives where possible in hopes to cater to all eaters and so that anyone can opt to try whichever variation they prefer. I want to keep this space welcoming to all eaters without criticism or judgment. My ultimate goal has been, and will always be to inspire others to eat more plant based food and will continue to do so in my own way.

I will always advocating for eating more plant, I feel the best eating majority plant based but healthier wth the additional of animal proteins in this stage of my life. Thank you for reading if you made it this far. Even if you don’t understand my decision, I hope you can respect it. I appreciate all of your continued support and excited to regularly share recipes again.

Lisa

Konnichiwa

About Lisa

I'm Lisa, a home cook, recipe developer and founder of Okonomi Kitchen. Here, you'll find a mix of classic and modernized Japanese recipes, and creative, plant-forward meal inspiration using seasonal ingredients. I hope to share more about Japanese cuisine and culture through food and recipes.


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37 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing, you are such a strong and admirable person for going through such a really hard time and opening up. I think life is always a quest about norms and values which keep shaping our happiness. Whatever I do, I keep trying to remind myself to enjoy, take it easy and put myself (therefore health) first. even if you’re not completely plant based anymore, that’s totally fine. I have been vegan for almost 5 years now and your Youtube-channel which I followed 6 years ago has been a fun inspiration for me becoming vegan. All the love, from the Netherlands

  2. From The Vegan Society: “Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”. It’s NOT possible or practicable to live with health challenges brought on by a plant-based diet, and through sharing your thoughts and recipes, you are still advocating for people to make kinder, more ethical choices. Thank you for sharing your experience here and best wishes to you in this next chapter.

  3. I really loved this post! Thank you for sharing it with us and letting us know how you’ve been all this time and I’m sorry to hear that you had to go through painful moments, whenever I experience painful things there’s a quote I like to remind myself of “the wound is where the light comes in.” By Rumi. You absolutely do not need to mind or put any value in any single person’s opinion when it comes to your health and your well-being! Don’t be upset if you see someone disagreeing with you because it’s not worth it! Just live your own life however you wish because in the end, you are the person who is going through all these things so always believe in yourself and trust yourself and this journey you’re on! We as human beings have always lived on eating animal based foods for thousands of years so there is nothing wrong if your body needs to feel better with it. I am also vegan recently turned vegetarian for health reasons as well and honestly I took a long time thinking about whether I would eat meat or not because I also had restrictions based on my health and I haven’t yet but if I feel like it comes to a point where it’s important for me to just introduce it back to my diet I thought I would just consume organic free range halal meats from time to time – that’s the best choice that came to mind but I never once considered if people were going to like or not like my decision because it has nothing to do with anyone else but me! So please Lisa don’t mind anyone at all! Only soak up the positive comments and forget the rest! Sending love and I wish you all the best! I’m happy you’re posting more on Instagram and I’m waiting for you to fully be back even with non-plant based recipes!

  4. Thank you for sharing your story!
    I’m glad you are doing better ❤️
    Excited to see the next recipes you’ll share!
    Wishing you good health, happiness and prosperity!

  5. I’m so sorry for all the suffering you’ve had to endure these past years, especially from those less open-minded. I hope that you have found strength and turned your trials into lessons, and kindness and understanding of yourself.

    Being raised Buddhist, I see the core of veganism as essentially being kind and thoughtful to the whole world around us, including other humans. Sadly, we forget that sometimes. You are doing your best. Others have no right to judge you. Thank you for courageously sharing your story.

  6. Lisa I love you!!! You are so brave and such a fighter. I have followed you since I was vegan (for six years) till now while I am not anymore. You have always stood out to me as authentic, kind, and passionate, and nothing has changed in that regard. Excited to see how you will keep creating in this new season of your life. You are so loved!

  7. Thank you for your vulnerability. At the end of the day every being is unique and we all have somewhat different needs. I will continue to love your recipes as you share them 🫂 I am ultimately just so so glad you’re doing better and hope that continues!