Thinking about going plant-based for the month? Perhaps you’re even a week in and still feeling all wobbly like a young deer? This will be my 23rd January as a vegan, so let me share from my experience.
It is your right as a consumer in a free market to eat or not eat whatever you want, and to buy or not buy whatever you want. Mine too.
It is SO easy now!
There are vegan options almost everywhere now, from the baseball stadium to Hooters to Costco to basically every fast food chain. It’s even easier when you travel to almost anywhere outside the US, including Iceland. You can also find absolutely millions of fully illustrated recipes and cooking videos online. There are even cookbooks devoted to all your favorite comfort foods, junk food, and desserts of every description.
This should be a relatively laid-back and fun experiment for you, not like the bad old days, she said darkly…
I quit eating meat in 1993, and then quit all animal products in 1997. At the time, this led to constant trolling and criticism, and by this I mean physically thrusting meat in my face and wagging it at me. Trying to trick me into eating stuff with meat in it. Outright lying about ingredients through the first round of questions. The peer pressure was endless and it went on like that for years.
Fortunately, my spirit animal is a little critter named Zero Fox.
What enabled me to carry on with my lifestyle was mainly my utter condescension for social pressure. I had been bullied all through school, and this made me despise groupthink. There were no insults I hadn’t already heard, and I’d even had groups of cruel schoolmates trick me into putting horrible things in my mouth. By this time in my life, I had the backbone to do whatever I wanted, no matter what anyone said.
Not everyone does. For those who are vulnerable to peer pressure and social comparison, this might actually be a really excellent area for personal growth!
I haven’t had anyone bother me about my lifestyle in several years now. Not sure exactly why. Somehow, our culture shifted, or at least it did in the beachy SoCal area I call home. Every now and then someone makes a faux pas, like announcing in front of fifty people that “Jessica will just have to pick out the cheese,” and someone other than me will collect them and deal with it. Generally everyone in both my professional and social circles knows I’m vegan, and the only time it comes up is when someone guides me around the snack table.
This is how much things have changed: My husband and I do martial arts, and most of the instructors at our academy are full-on lifestyle vegan. Their potlucks are LIT.
It’s so common now that you probably know a few plant-based people who don’t bother to mention it. It’s much more common in athletic and entrepreneurial circles than among ordinary suburbanites.
On the off chance that you are so unfortunate as to be surrounded by amateur insult comics, you may be starting to realize that you could use a little help in dealing with them. That’s where I come in.
I tell people that I’ll give them a nice flat green American dollar if they can tell me a vegan joke I haven’t already heard. So far many have tried and all have failed. The only real vegan joke is “Vegetarian is Native American for “lousy hunter,”” which is problematic and hasn’t been funny for thirty years. I can recite it along with them.
Actually there are two jokes that you can tell in any audience, one vegetarian and one vegan:
Q: “How many vegetarians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?”
A: “I don’t know, but where do you get your protein?”
And the other:
Q: “How many vegans does it take to screw in a lightbulb?”
A: “Two, one to hold it and one to read the ingredients.”
They follow up by stating that plants have feelings. Uh. The animals that you eat, eat more plants than I eat. If you honestly believed that then you would quit eating meat. It only ever comes up when people want to… whatever it is that they want to do. Save me from myself? “Own” me?
I’m a Mensan, a Distinguished Toastmaster, and a practicing standup comic. Bring it.
“It’s so sweet of you to be so concerned about my health! How thoughtful! I didn’t realize you felt that way!”
About that “where do you get your protein” question: it’s based on 1930’s-era concepts of nutrition. I tell people that even iceberg lettuce has protein, and then ask them where they get their magnesium. Almost all Americans are deficient in this vital nutrient and they have no idea what it does for the body or what foods contain it.
See, people do have genuine questions about food, legitimate questions, and they have no clue who they can trust to give them any guidance. Our doctors aren’t taught nutrition in medical school, and it’s not like our teachers or parents were either. We rely on advertisements and marketing campaigns. The idea that what we eat has anything at all to do with our physical wellbeing, emotional or mental health, or longevity is unsettling to say the least.
Attacking someone who is exploring new ways to eat is a lot easier than confronting the boogeyman. Is there a better explanation for why someone in the 95% majority would act so threatened and defensive?
Part of why I have an easier time dealing with haters, trolls, and naysayers is that I’m visibly doing really well. I’ll be 45 this year and I haven’t eaten meat since I was 17. I can pass for 30, I’m on no medications, and I have no issues with such common middle-aged problems as high blood pressure, cholesterol, or diabetes. I hate to say it, but three or four of the people who used to tease me about my health nut ways have… already died. People my age.
The things that people will say to a teenager or young person in her twenties are along the lines of “You’ll find out one day what you’re doing to your body.” People feel quite free to bother girls about our health and imply that if we eat anything other than the Standard American Diet, we will lose our minds. Once they realize that you’re middle-aged, it changes. My doctor told me, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it,” which most people my age don’t get to hear too often.
My husband is turning 52. He still eats meat once or twice a month, which is his business, and which I feel gives me added credibility as a non-insane, apolitical non-extremist. He isn’t on any medications either. Apparently that’s some kind of medical miracle. His total cholesterol is 130.
Assume that anyone asking you questions is walking through a set of standard responses, exactly the same as they do in other novel social situations. For instance, I have a parrot, and people always ask 1. If she can talk and 2. How old she is. What people have been taught to say when they meet a vegetarian is “How do you get your protein,” “soy milk is bad for you,” and “plants have feelings.” After that they’re out of ideas. You may be the very first non-standard eater this person has ever met, and you can turn it into a neutral, maybe even positive, experience.
Do this with a good sense of humor and one of the top-three dishes on the potluck table, and eventually whatever you want to eat will be a non-issue. I hope you like hummus.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
This website uses marketing and tracking technologies. Opting out of this will opt you out of all cookies, except for those needed to run the website. Note that some products may not work as well without tracking cookies.Opt Out of Cookies