by Michael dEstries
Categories: Eats
Tags: .

Back in October ’09, actress Hilary Swank inspired a bunch of comments on the ‘razz after she told Marie Claire magazine that she gave up her 18-year vegetarian diet because she believed it wasn’t healthy.

“I just started withering away. I wasn’t getting enough vitamins or protein. (It was) very emotional.”

Back then, we thought those comments were a little odd — since Swank had been a vegetarian for 18 years without any apparent difficulties. Why the sudden shift?

We now have the answer. In an interview with You magazine, Swank says it was mercury poisoning that caused her to decline in health following her role in “Million Dollar Baby”.

“I put on 19 pounds of muscle. I was 29, I was a vegetarian and suddenly I was eating so much fish that I got elevated mercury problems. It plagued me for a couple of years after that movie.  When I discovered that my health was suffering, I had to change my diet. So now I eat pork and beef.”

I’m not exactly sure what the best way to detox from mercury poisoning is, but Swank was obviously advised that going back to a vegetarian diet would potentially jeopardize that recovery. Still, it’s been over 7 years since the film and for someone who “doesn’t like eating meat”, I wonder if she could make the transition back?

What say you commenters? Anyone have experience with this?

About Michael dEstries

Michael has been blogging since 2005 on issues such as sustainability, renewable energy, philanthropy, and healthy living. He regularly contributes to a slew of publications, as well as consulting with companies looking to make an impact using the web and social media. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his family on an apple farm.

View all posts by Michael dEstries →
  • wordsmith

    This story doesn’t exactly add up. She wasn’t a vegetarian if she was eating tons of fish. I eat the same type of diet. I eat vegetarian most days but refer to myself as a “land vegetarian” because I eat fish–usually when I eat out. The fact is that’s not a vegetarian diet and if she got mercury poisoning from eating tons of fish, she can’t really blame the vegetarian diet for it.

    I haven’t suffered from mercury poisoning and have no expertise on the matter but I imagine you need to do things to detox your liver and tissues. Not sure why that would require pork and beef.

    • Michael dEstries

      I think she probably meant to say: “I was 29, I was a vegetarian, but then I suddenly started eating so much fish that I got elevated mercury problems.

  • Richard Diaz

    Dear Ms. Swank,
    I have experience in this area. The best way to detox is naturally with Garlic (roasted), Onions and distilled water. Epson Salt is very useful. Be very, very careful that you don’t over do it and make sure someone is aware or supervising you as you do this. If you need to go to a doctor, find a “Industrial Hygene” doctor or get one from the American College for the Advancement of Medicine or http://WWW.ACAM.ORG.

    Also, you might try a Swedish Sauna in combination with the above. Sweating is a good way to eliminate mercury and other metals.

  • Jen

    She wasn’t a vegetarian to start!!! This is one of my biggest pet-peeves. She was a pescetarian!

    • herwin

      so instead of giving up fish and going veg, she started to ditch the fish and gobble on the meat. Duh, thats the dumbest thing i heard for a couple of days..
      Jen, thanks for using the good term “pescetarian” and not “pesco-vegetarian”. ;-)

  • Karina

    First of all, Hilary Swank was NOT a vegetarian in any way, shape, or form if she was eating fish. Second of all, only an idiot doesn’t know that fish is full of mercury and if you stuff your face with it, chances are you’ll get mercury poisoning. It’s people like her who give vegetarians a bad name – especially when they falsely call themselves vegetarians.

  • Genny

    My question is who told her she needed to start eating all that fish to beef up. I’ve seen some incredibly muscular vegetarian and vegan professional athletes so why didn’t she look in to what they do? She just sounds like another celeb (or person) who didn’t watch thier own diet and decided to play the blame game instead of try and fix or understand their dietary needs. Sure veggie isn’t for everyone but I hate this thing where people say ohhh it made me so sick, it is so evil, my body craved meat blah blah blah… I know people who are vegans because they will die if they eat any animal product so ya know it goes both ways.

  • Christine

    She states that she had been a vegetarian for many years but added high amounts of protein in the form of fish specifically to bulk up for the movie. She is not claiming to have been a vegetarian while eating fish. She also did not blame her vegetarian diet for getting sick – she developed symptoms of mercury toxicity when she added high amounts of seafood to her diet.

    Yes, I recovered from mercury toxicity and high levels of mercury can do several things that make a vegetarian diet very difficult. First it can cause intestinal dysbiosis – a lack of healthy bacteria and an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria and yeast. The best diet for restoring balance is very limited carbs – no fruit, low grains. The other issue is you can develop allergies to so many foods (due to intestinal imbalance and immune dysfunction) that it is hard to find foods that don’t make you sick – allergies to gluten, casein, wheat, soy, egg, etc. are very common.

  • G

    Spurious reasoning. She sounds like an idiot. I have a hard time believing she was ever a real vegetarian.

  • Whoever…

    “Swank was obviously advised that going back to a vegetarian diet would potentially jeopardize that recovery”

    Who was the idiot that reached that ‘brilliant’ conclusion and advised her not to go back to a vegetarian diet?

    And wasn’t because suddenly she was eating so much fish that she got elevated mercury problems!?

    And changing her diet to eating pork and beef will make her all better!?

    How can anyone be so ignorant!?


  • k

    It was not only the fish, it was the protein shakes. Studies have shown that they have high levels of lead, mercury, cadmium and other heavy metals.

  • Mika

    Fish are friends not food!

  • Lori Wheeler

    I have a friend that had severe mercury poisoning from eating a lot of fish while living in Sweden. This wasn’t just her saying this but the doctor. She did not starting eating meat to make her better, she went vegan!