Going 100-Percent Plant-Based: My Ex-Vegan Saga

Ex-vegan recovery story
Ex-vegan recovery story

Being 100-percent plant-based would complicate my life if my wife Katie weren’t entirely on board.

Katie and I were married eighteen years ago today, at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN. And on every one of our wedding anniversaries, our siblings and relatives remind us what a cold day that was.

Funny, because I don’t remember it being cold at all!

Chicken Cordon Bleu: From great to grimace-worthy cuisine.

Whenever we bump into someone who attended our wedding, the conversation comes around to the food at our reception. It happened again last night.

My wife’s brothers were reminiscing about the cheesy stuffed chicken cordon bleu we served. Hearing them rave, “It was SO good,” I grimaced and thought about how far Katie and I have come since then.

Not long after we were married, Katie decided to uncover the cause of my persistent migraine headaches. She started a food journal to record everything I put in my mouth.

Whenever a food triggered a headache, she noted it in the journal. As the list of offending items grew, we eliminated most processed foods. My migraine frequency dropped by half.

Our diet was becoming healthier, but we didn’t even consider giving up meat and dairy. Why?

100-Percent Plant-Based? Been There, Done That!

Because in my late teens, I’d tried and failed at eating 100-percent plant-based. I wasn’t eager to try again.

So when I married at age 24, I was already an ex-vegan. The Internet was still a novelty, and online vegan-recovery groups weren’t yet a “thing.”

But I certainly could’ve started the first one!

Today, ex-vegans have their choice of support groups. The website Faunalytics has released a study of 11,000 U.S. adults who are current and former vegetarians or vegans.

They’ve made their survey instruments and full datasets available online for anyone to review for accuracy. What was Faunalytics finding?

More than 4 out of 5 (84 percent) of the vegetarians or vegans had abandoned their diet!

My little brother could easily have been one of them. As a groomsman in his all-vegan wedding, I wore an animal-free belt and shoes and celebrated over the animal-free reception meal.

Today, however, he’s an ex-vegan.

Sitting Down to a Plate of Grass

Earlier this month, journalist Kate Mulvey shared her experience with 100-percent plant-based eating in the Telegraph article, “I tried to improve my health through veganism, but it made my life so much worse.” 

It was far from pleasant:

Plant-based eating offers much more than greens.

“Sitting down to a plate of grass when you are a confirmed meat-eater is more like a prison sentence than a pleasurable experience – over the next few months, my mood imploded like an egg-free soufflé.”  

She’d be among friends on the ex-vegan websites, where “imploded moods” seem to be the norm. I should know because I felt just that way about the vegan diet I abandoned at age 20.

Even as Katie tried to ferret out my migraine-triggering foods, meat, dairy, and eggs stayed on the table. So what accounted for my change in attitude?

What led me from resisting veganism during the first nine years of my marriage to running a 100-percent plant-based restaurant during the second nine years?

Resolving the 100-Percent Plant-Based Conflict

My angst over veganism wasn’t really about the diet; it was more about my irritation with myself for failing to follow it. Deep inside, I still believed that 100-percent plant-based eating was best for human health.

More than eighty years ago, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of himself in Esquire magazine:

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

When I started Fruitive in 2012, I shared Fitzgerald’s mindset. My “two opposing ideas” were:

  • a hopeless aversion to a plant-based diet
  • a firm belief that a plant-based diet is best.


Katie and I were genuinely uncomfortable with some aspects of the vegan movement.

But – thanks to my little brother’s influence (he was still a vegan back then) and my faith in the benefits of plant-based eating, the path forward was clear. If I were going to run a health-and-wellness restaurant, it had to be 100-percent plant-based.

Tomorrow, I’ll share more about the journey that’s brought me from being a disgruntled ex-vegan to a blogger whose daily posts are devoted to sharing the remarkable benefits of eating whole-food, plant-based. 

And to my beloved wife of eighteen years, Happy Anniversary! I wouldn’t be so healthy without you! 

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