If you eat vegan because you enjoy being a contrarian pain-in-the-ass, you can stop reading now. This advice is not for you. You’re like –
Bring on the haters, I grow stronger the more they resent my dietary restrictions.
If, however, you are a person who wants to relate to others and not alienate everyone and their mother, you might find your vegan diet throws a wrench in the works on this front. People find out you are vegan and immediately assume:
- You think they are terrible people for killing animals.
- You are a smug, nature lover judging their enormous carbon footprint.
- You know nothing about humans and what they are *supposed* to eat. (cavemen, ftw)
- You are judging their weight. (especially if you are a thin vegan)
- Your personal failings now have a clear cause – your protein deficient diet is sapping any energy you might have had if you ate correctly.
- You eat grass.
Good points, all.
My advice for dealing with these assumptions is fairly simple:
Dodge the Vegan 3rd Degree by being vague and noncommittal, and – don’t be a dick.
To me, the Vegan 3rd Degree is totally understandable. You are throwing out everything you probably grew up eating in terms of food and what many of your loved ones and the greater society still eat.
Why are you doing this?! It’s so confusing!
And, thus, the annoying questions.
Don’t act all shocked that this is the perspective of a non-vegan. Doesn’t the confusion make sense to you?
For example, what if your friend stopped wearing shoes. She was like, “Wearing shoes doesn’t work for me and my body,” and she just walked barefoot everywhere.
You might be like –
No shoes, no service, idiot! Now we have to eat at home because of your ‘lifestyle choice’ and, like, what about winter and snow and the long-term effects of pavement on your feet and don’t you know that even cavemen fashioned primitive shoes out of bark and vines and, don’t worry, I didn’t buy these shoes from a company that uses sweatshops. Did you think I did?! Do you think I’m destroying the earth!? I’m not! I hate you.
Now, maybe you’ve built up a bit more of an understanding of alternative lifestyles from eating a vegan diet, so maybe you wouldn’t judge your friend’s ‘shoeless’ policy so harshly.
Then again, maybe you’re a judgmental jerk like the rest of us. If so, maybe now you understand a bit better the confusion of others when you say you eat vegan.
Ok. How to dodge and weave and not deliver punches yourself.
PART 1: Be Vague and Noncommittal.
Here are my answers when people ask the following questions:
Q: Why do you eat vegan?
A: Some good friends started to eat vegan and so I decided to try it too.
(hahaha – self deprecating, actually a little true, stupid – makes people relax a bit)
A (cont’d): Also, I think it uses fewer resources to eat vegan and I like that lighter footprint.
When people start to dispute this, if they do, I usually respond – “I know, it’s crazy complicated. I’m always trying to figure out what works. For now, tofu!” Or something equally self deprecating and stupid so that we can move on and get back to enjoying each other’s company. Don’t worry, they’ll ask again. But, I like a peppered in version of a vegan coming out and not a single-serving grand inquisition.
Ok. Is this a spineless reply?
You might really feel strongly about animal welfare or the effects of animal protein on the human body or the impact of livestock on global warming. Why not say so?
If you noticed, I did say so. I’m not really in it for the animals (though that’s a bonus) or health, but for the environment. I really do feel that way so I drop that into the convo.
BUT, do people respond well to pedantic, finger-waving vegan lectures? Well, do people respond well to being guilted and made to feel ashamed in any area? Doesn’t seem like the most conducive way to being heard by people is if they are on the defensive…
Q: Do you get enough protein?
A: Ah, the great protein question. Well, I’m dead, so obviously not.
A (cont’d): Seems like I’m getting enough because my energy’s good. Plus, if you eat the right combo of foods, you can get a complete protein, which is what is contained within meats. Anyway, the amount of protein necessary is probably overstated in this country. Many countries eat a veg diet and keep on ticking. But, I do like to have a high protein breakfast to last me until lunch. It is something I do think about. Do you feel your energy is lacking if you don’t get enough protein?
I’d like to think this question has been mocked enough to have stopped being asked but, alas, I think it still comes up. It’s good to make fun of people for it a lil’ because maybe it will help them see that it’s probably not as big a deal as they think.
The above is my current perspective on protein. There are more scientific perspectives. Asking the asker a question at the end initiates a dialogue, rather than an inquisition, and, anyway, it’s interesting to learn what others struggle with in terms of diet – you might actually learn something!
Q: Don’t you know humans are omnivores?
A: Yeah, meat and dairy don’t actually bother me, health-wise. There are some people who think even if they don’t acutely bother you, they can over the long-term – that chronic ingestion of meat and dairy causes cancer and other diseases. Honestly, the research is all over the place there and I don’t really know. I think eating vegan works for me because meat and dairy is so overly consumed in this country and I want to curb it. I think using it modestly for flavor or protein could maybe work but that for sure is not what we do. By being strict about eating vegan, it allows me to be flexible when the circumstances don’t permit me to be strict – like eating out, traveling or eating at someone’s house.
This is true. I will go to Thai restaurants that use fish sauce. I’m not sure eating vegan cures cancer. I’m not sure humans are *supposed* to eat vegan. I like moderate living and I don’t think the American diet is moderate. A vegan diet might be an extreme correction but, given that it doesn’t seem to have a negative effect on my health and that there are times I deviate from it anyways because it isn’t the norm, I like leaning in that direction.
Whatever your answer to these questions, talk in terms of what works for you and not what you know to be absolute truths. Because…
You might be wrong.
I know – how could this be?!
Whatever your vegan motivations, they might be ill-founded, stupid, illogical or simply a matter of perspective. Seriously. Do you really want to put your (now former) friends in their places when that could be the case?
Which brings us to:
PART 2: Don’t be a dick.
Not being a dick should already be scattered throughout your answers to the grand Vegan 3rd Degree but it’s also a matter of perspective.
You actually have to believe that your friends aren’t assholes for not being vegan. You have to believe you might be wrong (whatever that means) about your decision to eat vegan. You have to believe someone can be an environmentalist, animal lover, healthy person and still eat meat.
Keep an open mind. Have a dialog. Make fun of yourself for being so contrarian. Make fun of others for being so boring and predictable about their questions.
Some bonus tips:
- Don’t define yourself by your veganism. It’s just a thing you do, not who you are and so you don’t have to be defensive about it.
- Stop talking about eating vegan so much – you’re only bringing on the inquisition.
- Get some vegan friends – it is SUCH a relief to cook/bake with vegan abandon and not even have to think about it. (meetup.com, anyone?)
- Learn to make some vegan food that appeals to non-vegans. And don’t go on and on about how, “See! Eating vegan is really good.” Be cool, man. Be cool.
Also, everyone comes to eating vegan for different reasons and so your answers to the above questions might be different and thornier. Get in touch if you’re especially having trouble dealing with your answers or comment below.
WANT HELP GETTING STARTED?
Download a vegan grocery list for beginners.
Taylor Dorothy says
This was a very interesting read.
Definitely got me to follow. I’ll have to save some of these pointers!