Should I ignore my bloating?

I have been vegan for over five years, been focusing on more whole plant foods for over three years. Very thin overall, my belly is the only part of me that bloats after food… and it also tends to be bloated in general, but at least the post-sleep belly size I can rein in if I stay consistent on 100% whole plant foods with zero deviations for several months or more.

I always had bloating as long as I can remember and I have always been thin overall as long as I can remember even before going vegan so I don’t think it’s related to veganism. I did eat fried foods most of my life. Avoiding them is easy at home where I just don’t put them in here, but if I go out and try to be more social I pay a price of being more exposed to junk food other people are eating which can activate cravings for these foods and then this often leads to a week long junk food binge and that is the only time junk food is at home, via food delivery, as a result of a triggering event, usually outside the house.

I don’t have cramps, gas, pain, indigestion or whatever as long as I avoid processed food – talking completely added salt, added oil, added sugar free and as many whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits that I want. A bit of nuts, almonds, seeds and mushrooms with my salads and stews but overall around 15% calories from fat. Sometimes I use small amounts of tofu. Sometimes I try going lower on fat intake to accelerate reduction of post-sleep bloat but it causes itching after showers in the summer if I go much lower than 10%, so I tend to save my ultra low fat experiments for the winter. I eat about half of my food by weight in raw fruits and vegetables, the rest is cooked stews mixed with raw vegetables. I find that also is important for my digstion to have a balanced mix of both and eating only cooked stews, while very cheap, is not enough to get my digestion right. Nor does eating 100% raw work for me either… too much grazing for me to sustain it without turning on junk cravings.

Then there is also the part of my initial belly size after sleep… that changes in response to processed food intake. Goes up with processed food, raising my post meal bloat as well. When I do eat processed food, I gain weight crazy fast… I can rise 1 kilogram a day eating vegan junk food. Obviously it can’t be fat, you can’t gain fat THAT fast, but then again… for every day I eat processed, it takes a week for my body shape to be restored to before the junk food and usually I can’t keep it down to just 1 day of deviation, so in a week I can go from 58 kg to 65 kg and it will take me at least a month of 100% WFPB (whole food plant based) and exercise to get back to where I was before the deviation, often two months. If it isn’t fat, I’m not sure what it is, because it takes quite a while for me to lose it while taking almost no time at all to gain it.

I just spent several months deviating on and off and it’s been taking me many more months of 100% clean eating and exercise to get back to where I was, but it’s happening slowly. I know exercise alone is not enough, because many times that I tried to out exercise junk food I always gained weight. This time my junk food binge got me to a record high of 70 kg, and after over 3 months I have gotten back to around 62-63 kilograms. So maybe this time, it was fat. Still quite bloated at this weight, even post-sleep. I need to get to 58 kilograms to get rid of at least post-sleep bloat. Maybe in a month or two, I will lose the rest… unfortunately I have a birthday coming up in a few weeks, and I am feeling the pressure on the one hand to “not be too extreme” but on the other hand I know there is a very high probability it will be a slippery slope to another binge if I make an exception.

The thing is people tell me I’m too extreme but I know that any small amount has a very, very big effect on me, then it turns on cravings for those junk foods, then the effect is even bigger and the reason I stop, usually after a week, is because of too much pain from indigestion. When I deviate from 100% WFPB that is the only time I have issues other than cosmetic bloating. So basically I go on a binge until it makes me feel too sick to continue and the pain outweighs the pleasure. Then I make sure to eat perfect again to get back to where I was, until something happens and someone convinces me YOLO and you can’t be perfect all the time (sometimes it’s me) and I yoyo up and down again.

It sounds like I’m making things unnecessarily hard for myself, but as hard as it is to be “perfect”, I find it much easier to completely abstain from processed food than to try and moderate it. Moderation fails for me even worse than abstaining, because small amounts have such a big effect on me and I completely lose motivation until I just feel bad enough physically to get back on track. I’ve even tried just eating the same healthy foods and adding a bit of salt to them, or even a bit of tahini… it just reminds me too much of the processed fried foods I used to eat all the time for years and turns on my cravings.

Also, to get those last few kilograms off and get to a post-sleep flat belly (still bloats after food) I think I need to get my fat intake below 10%, or at least, eating that amount of fat accelerates the process a bit… and at that weight I reach a bit below normal BMI, around 17.5 and I am told that puts me at risk for cardiac arrest, I should go to a gastro doctor, I should go get psycho therapy to learn to moderate… I don’t want to moderate unhealthy foods that have such huge effects on me. The cosmetic bloating is one thing, but as long as I avoid processed food, that’s the only issue I have. If I eat anything processed, I have digestion problems + cravings return. If I don’t eat anything processed, after several months I get to 17.5 BMI, around 56-58 kg. If I try to “moderate” these foods it turns on cravings and I yo yo back up, go back to 100% WFPB and go back down several months later… and sure, being 65-70 kg is normal BMI at my height (179cm) but again… the foods I need to eat to reach that weight increase my bloating even more and cause pain, indigestion, even reflux. Even when I ate more fat from whole plant foods, I still seemed to go down in my weight eventually, just slower.

So I was ready to just resign to the fact that it’s just a cosmetic issue, as long as I eat healthy I probably am healthy. I have blood pressure around 110/70. Total cholesterol around 100. Supposedly that makes me heart attack proof, but according to some doctors the weight I reach if I stay consistent on whole plant foods is too low and puts me at risk for cardiac arrest.

To top it off, just when I thought to accept the bloat as cosmetic stuff I can safely ignore, I saw a video by Pam Popper, who is one of the more objective research based Youtubers out there share that regardless of total BMI, belly fat puts me at risk for chronic disease… but I already have to scratch the low end of normal BMI to get my belly flat, and even when I do, it’s flat only after sleep. My waist and belly inflate by over 4 cm circumference after food and anything less than perfect abstinence from processed food and my belly is bloated even after sleep. Is that just normal inflation or is that bloating? I don’t see other female friends of mine inflate that much after food. Is it because I’m a trans woman?

Is my BMI unhealthy and I should raise it, bloating be damned, or is my bloating the more important problem, BMI be damned?

Do I even have IBS if all I have is bloating as long as I avoid processed food?

Is my bloating even fat related? Do I have visceral fat? Or is it all just some sort of inflammation or gut bacteria related problem?

I’ve tried low FODMAP, and I think it might have helped a bit… but it could be that I just ate less food because it wasn’t tasty enough, I couldn’t sustain it and I ended up feeling it’s all useless and went on a junk food binge. At least when I’m eating whole plant foods without low FODMAP restrictions, I enjoy the diet well enough to not want processed food when not directly exposed to it.

I think I have a pretty sensitive palette that I can enjoy grains, legumes, potatoes, fruits and vegetables without any added salt, oil or sugar but trying to live on just potatoes and a few select fruits and vegetables is too boring for me and the low FODMAP recipes I saw on Youtube and elsewhere were too processed or impractical for me. To top it off, even in the few weeks I tried it and it seemed to be working, I wasn’t sure if it only seemed that way because I didn’t want to eat the food so there wasn’t enough in my belly to get me bloated, but I also didn’t get enough calories to sustain it.

Everyone else who uses low FODMAP protocol said that they have many more issues besides just bloating, and again… for me, that is the only symptom as long as I avoid processed food. Which again made me doubt if it’s relevant to my case at all. If my only problem is bloating, maybe it’s just a cosmetic fact of life for me and I don’t have IBS and everything is alright with me and I’m majoring in minor things…

…but then that brings me back to the belly fat studies, and I have no idea if what I have is even belly fat, IBS or whatever.

I do know that it’s quite frustrating, beyond the physical issues, which at the end of the day, 90% of the time are merely cosmetic as far as I can tell… that I find myself having to defend my practice of trying to completely abstain from processed food. That I want to be able to have that birthday vegan pizza with my friend without stressing over the consequences that I know will happen from experience, only to experience them for the 50th time for the sake of “not being extreme”. I want to be able to sit in a restaurant with my work group without going crazy that I either look insane if I say I can’t deviate one bit or actually feel like I am going insane when the craving monster takes over me if I give in to social or internal pressure…

…but I can’t…

…and I’m not sure what I can do about it.

I do know, that the solution will not come from the clueless standard medical and diet/nutrition care, that have absurd ideas like I should avoid cruciferous vegetables because they can cause gas or I should eat more protein even after I show that I get 10-15% calories from protein. Sure, I would love to have a flat belly with minimal post meal bloat like I see on other female friends, maybe it has to do with me being a trans woman… I don’t know… but I’m not going to give up healthy cruciferous vegetables for a god damn cosmetic issue. My brain staying healthy to ripe old age is more important to me than how I look, and how I look is very important to me as a trans woman who gets misgendered daily and hates being misgendered, who went through hormones, surgeries, voice feminization, makeup and years of experimentation with clothes, wigs, hats and growing what’s left of my hair (went bald at age 19 long before I went vegan) for two reasons:

– to hate myself less when I look at my body
– and to reduce misgendering

…and it was much worse pre-transition than it is now post-transition, but I still get misgendered daily and it still bothers me and makes me think twice about leaving the house, which at least makes it easier to avoid junk food most of the time. “Wear it like armor” they say, like Tyrion Lannister, failing to understand that identity and status are not the same thing, that half of identity is in one’s head, and half of it comes from external validation, so I would have to be a brain dead drugged up delusional idiot to ever stop taking offense from people misgendering me on a daily basis. Sorry, I meant just the days when I go out of the house despite years of negative experience regarding going out of the house, teaching me again and again and again that venturing outside the house is probably a bad idea.

…so you can infer from what I wrote above, illustrating how much the way I look is important to me, that when I say that my brain health is even more important to me, exactly what that means, having experienced first hand seeing a close family member succumb to dementia, helpless to do anything about it with everyone else rejecting the advice of the crazy vegan man who thinks he’s a woman…

So hey, what do I know? Absolutely nothing.

Why is it hard to give up oil?

Mic. the Vegan recently made an unofficial part 2 to his video “Oil: The Vegan Killer”. Let me preface this post by saying I totally agree with what he says in his video. I am just going to add here some points of my own. To understand the context of my addition, please watch his video.

Also, before I get into the response itself, I’d like to mention I’m glad he used some information in my previous post and mentioned it in his video reply to Blaire White no longer being vegan and would like to thank him for that.

One of the things he talked about near the end of his video, is why people find it hard to give up oil and seem to find reasons why it is healthy to eat oil despite the data. I will not get into the data itself, for that you are again, invited to watch Mic’s videos on the subject – part 1 and unofficial part 2.

Big stew with a big salad and no oil

I think one of the primary reasons people don’t like having their oil “taken away” is that it is so ubiquitous in restaurants and food in stores, including bread, that it ends up that if you want to avoid oil completely, you have to always cook your own food and pretty much never eat anything anyone gives or prepares for you even if it’s vegan and for lots of people that is too “extreme” and “not healthy” because of the social implications. Even if you’re used to cooking your own food, if you’re really into cooking, that destroys pretty much 99% if not 100% of the recipes you’re used to cooking and you have to restrict yourself a lot or learn an entire new world of cooking from the likes of Chef AJ.

Personally, I don’t mind restricting my diversity. I was never especially diverse in the amount of different foods I ate, whether before I was vegan for ethical reasons or before I went for mostly whole plant foods for health and figure reasons.

Also, if I am exposed to fried foods, especially if they are vegan, it can be a real psychological battle to overcome the part of me which tries to rationalize eating these foods… hence my occasional junk food binges. So most of the time, I stay a lot at home where these foods just aren’t there (because I decided to follow the science and throw them away) so I don’t have to fight cognitive dissonance all the time. I personally am happy to live a relatively solitary life, but most people aren’t living alone and finding vegan people to live with is hard enough… finding people who will avoid oil and processed food on top of that is even harder.

Funnily enough, I feel like it’s much easier to find fruitarian people than it is to find people who eat whole plant foods including cooked whole plant foods, at least in my area in Israel. Even though the fruitarian style is more restrictive, it seems to be more popular because it draws the line at a simpler place – no cooked food at all! – whereas a whole plant food diet is a more nuanced approach, requiring people to pay attention not to use oil while still cooking and when people miss those nuances they don’t get the same benefits, so going fruitarian seems to work better for them, but that’s probably just because that’s the only time they ever actually went completely whole foods based.

I mostly see vegans who eat a vegan version of the standard American diet or fruitarians, who use all sorts of pseudo science claims to back up why eating all cooked food is bad. Vegans who actually go by the science and eat plant foods, cooked or raw, as long as they are unprocessed or minimally processed, are in my subjective experience the rarest breed of vegan and considered the most “extreme”. Perhaps the best anecdotal piece of evidence I have for this, is that whenever I reject X processed food saying “no thanks, I’m a whole plant food vegan and try to avoid processed food” the response I almost always get is “ah, so you only eat raw food?”

As I said, it is more complex to explain to people that you avoid salt, oil, sugar and other processed foods but you still cook than it is to say “I just eat fruits and vegetables” and that is often what my diet is boiled down to by other people when they say “I could never eat just fruits and vegetables” no matter how many times I will repeat “and whole grains and whole legumes and nuts, seeds and mushrooms”… in their minds, it seems it’s the same thing, perhaps because most of them never cooked their own grains and never heard the word legume.

Fruits are also an essential part of a healthy diet

On a personal note, I’ve always felt after eating fried food, which used to be every day… that I have to have a big sugar rush to compensate for the fat bomb in my stomach, so I would often drink Coca Cola and/or have ice cream or chocolate cake for dessert. Ever since I’ve been cooking without oil, fruit salad for dessert is more than enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Not Just Lettuce Eating Vegans

I finally got off my lazy ass and recorded a song! 🙂 This one is a cover of the original teenage mutant ninja turtles theme, but with alternate veganism promoting lyrics that I wrote. The clip includes subtitles in English and in Hebrew, you need to click the CC/subtitles button to enable them. I hope you enjoy it and if you did, like and share it!

Blaire White No Longer Vegan

Hi, my name is Ruth Ruthless and I’m a vegan trans woman.

Blaire White, another trans woman, who has been vegan for 10 years, has recently made a video where she said she is no longer vegan and has explained why she has stopped being vegan in that video. I will explain why the reasons she gave in her video to stop being vegan are invalid and hopefully show her that she can go back to being vegan and be healthy.

This is also not just about Blaire. Her video sends a message as if it’s hard to be both a trans woman and be a healthy vegan. I’m a trans woman too and I’m vegan and I doubt I am the only one.

She claimed she had major deficiencies due to a vegan diet, but the only two vitamins she specified in which she was deficient, are the two ones you don’t get from diet. Vitamin B12 is from bacteria and vitamin D is synthesized by the body in response to sun exposure. Non vegans are just as susceptible as vegans to these deficiencies, especially these days when animals are cooped up in such small spaces to accommodate the incomprehensible demand for animal products that antibiotics need to be employed to a degree that any B12 producing bacteria in animals would be dead so they need supplements, just like humans.

So virtually all sources of B12 and D in western countries are a result of fortification and supplementation due to sterile environments and living indoors and there is no benefit to getting your vitamin D and B12 together with cholesterol and saturated fat in animal products over taking a supplement directly, especially if you supposedly care about your health.

I saw a discussion with her and Ask Yourself where apparently she tried supplementation but it didn’t work, but she did not consult with a registered dietitian and she did not check her blood results again to see if her supplementation was adequate… so there were still things to try and there are still things to try before giving up and going back to eating animal products.

In her original video she also mentioned she doesn’t want to strain her liver. Where is the evidence that taking D and B12 supposedly adds a burden on the liver the same way taking estrogen pills does?

I personally take my estrogen as a cream, to avoid potential liver damage, even though my endocrinologist says I don’t have to since I don’t drink alcohol and don’t smoke. If she is so worried about potential liver damage, she can use a cream too. Either way, no real justification was given to go back to paying for abuse and slaughtering of animals. She has to take her hormones as a trans woman regardless of what she eats and she has to get her B12 and D either way, like everyone does, whether from supplements or fortified food, vegan source or non-vegan source.

And the whole “I need to be an adult and go to restaurants” thing she mentioned in her original video is self contradictory if she is supposedly worried about her health… Nothing healthy is being served in restaurant food. It’s all laced with copious amounts of added salt, added sugar and added oil so they can compete with the strong flavors in other restaurants. There is nothing especially mature about eating at a restaurant rather than cooking your own healthy food at home, I could in fact argue the opposite is true.

In the Ask Yourself discussion she said she heard all of the pro-vegan, anti-vegan, a-vegan arguments yet she seems to not know how to get vitamin D and B12, she isn’t specifying any other nutrients in which she is deficient, she wasn’t willing to take on the offer to consult a registered dietitian to resolve the issue and allow her to be a healthy vegan again… this doesn’t sound like someone who has been vegan for 10 years, it sounds like someone who has been vegan for 10 days, maybe 10 months and hasn’t done her research and due diligence to actually resolve the issue.

She also seemed to imply in the original video she had other deficiencies besides B12 and D, but since she did not specify any of them that I can address specifically, I can just say that the academy for nutrition and dietetics specifies that “appropriately planned vegetarian, including vegan, diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.”

Blaire, whatever inconvenience taking B12, D and your hormones causes you, it doesn’t justify paying for the abuse and slaughtering of animals who suffer much, much more than mere inconvenience and it isn’t even the best way to resolve your health issues. It’s actually more likely to cause you long term health issues due to getting cholesterol and saturated fat back into your diet in exchange for alleviating short term symptoms that could be taken care of with B12 and D supplements and if there are any other deficiencies you have, there are plenty of online resources to help you learn how to get those nutrients from vegan sources and I would love to help you resolve those too if you want my help. Better yet, find a local vegan clinical dietitian.

Maybe there are certain nutrients that are depleted more by virtue of being a trans woman taking hormones. I know about myself that if I don’t eat broccoli almost every day, despite generally eating healthy whole plant foods, beans and brown rice with vegetables and fruits every day, that my folate in my blood tests shows low but resolves if I eat enough broccoli.

Also, you’re taking hormone treatment, I don’t know how you’re doing it, but I am under supervision by an endocrinologist and taking blood tests every 3-6 months. Where I live in Israel, that comes standard with being a trans woman taking HRT unless you are doing it via black market and not being supervised, which at least where I come from, is considered dangerously unhealthy… so you should be having a lot of blood tests to track how what you’re doing is working or not working and what changes according to what you change in what you do. That’s how I know what I need to eat to get my needs met… I have many blood tests between endocrinologist appointments where I tried different things and saw what works so as a trans woman you can actually use that to be healthier.

So TL;DR, everyone can and should go vegan, trans women too, including Blaire White, for their health, for the planet and for the animals. Like Ask Yourself said, there are plenty of registered dietitians who want to help her resolve her issues and be vegan and I hope she takes the offer up.

March 28th 2018

Ruth Ruthless

Every once in a while I like to delete everything and start all over.

So hi there, I am Ruth Ruthless! (or Ruth Peleg, whichever you prefer)

I am a trans woman born October 10th 1979 from Israel. What’s a trans woman? In my case I was born male and am now female. I finished the physical part of my transition on April 2017, it took me about 3.5 years.

Besides that I’m asexual, bisexual, childfree and vegan. I sometimes like to run. I sometimes like to sing, play guitar, bass and drums. I play a lot of World of Warcraft. I’m hoping to manage to get myself to record original material and covers but I’m not doing very well with that. I am also very much interested in nutrition and do my best to avoid processed food for my physical health, mental stability, digestion, figure and it saves a lot of money to cook and eat at home.

I am also bald and wear hats most of the time but sometimes I put on wigs of various colors.