Talking About Your Food Choices

by Gena on September 23, 2011

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In the last few weeks, I’ve posted about both activism (from the perspective of someone who is new to it) and about the confusion of veganism and deprivation diets. Both of these posts prompted a lot of questions about how I talk to people in my life about my veganism. Do I ever get uncomfortable talking about my vegan lifestyle? How do I sound passionate without sounding preachy? How do I know when to share, and when to be discreet?

This is actually a topic I love to write about. You may remember my post on the power of choice, in which I tried to show you ways to be confident about eating differently than others. In my Thanksgiving Jitters post, I touched on ways you can approach a holiday or gathering without feeling like you’ll have to hide your preferences. And in my Kitchen Wars post, I wrote openly about how the way we choose to eat can force us to clash with loved ones–not because anyone’s intentions are bad, but simply because food runs deep, and the misunderstandings that surround it run deep, too.

To be frank, talking to people about my lifestyle has never been a source of discomfort for me. I’m happy to share the reasons why my way of eating works for me: it makes me feel healthy. I love the food. I believe that it’s one really good thing I can do for animals and for the planet. No matter how hard it has been for you to talk about your own food choices in the past, I’ll bet that, if you were to articulate your own motives that simply, they’d sound similar to mine. Talking about your eating habits and lifestyle doesn’t have to mean launching into a sermon or defending a dissertation: sometimes it means voicing the reasons you live the way you do in the simplest and most basic of ways.

When I first became vegan, I was so excited that I told just about everyone what I was doing. Nowadays, I talk about my lifestyle when it makes sense to talk about it. If I’m having a conversation about cooking, it’s inevitable. If someone asks me what my blog is about, I share. If I show up at a dinner party with a vegan dish, I’m always quick to mention that it’s vegan, because I want people to know that vegan food can taste great. But I also don’t feel the need to “announce” my lifestyle as if it were a nametag, either. When the details of my lifestyle are germane to conversation, I share. But as much as I love to chat about veganism, I realize that not everyone in the world is as fascinated by food ethics as I am. When people are curious, I open up: when they’re not, I withhold.

If there is one broad, overreaching piece of advice I’d give to anyone who’s eating differently, it would be this: know your audience. In the company of people who are curious, you should feel free to talk about your lifestyle choices with confidence. In the company of people who are enthusiastic, you can go a step further, sharing recipes or food ideas. In the company of people who are defensive, hostile, or thoroughly sarcastic about the way you eat, I suggest you keep your sharing to a minimum. Be honest about your choices if asked. But don’t feel compelled to engage in debates or conversations with people who are determined to disagree with you. Their need to be contrary has nothing to do with you, and you shouldn’t waste your breath in an attempt to change it.

Beyond that, I have a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to talking about my lifestyle. These are fairly specific to being vegan, but I think they apply to any frank conversation about personal choice.

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1) Be Confident. The French have a great expression: “qui s’excuse s’accuse” (he who excuses himself accuses himself). You do not need to apologize seventeen times in a restaurant for asking the server to hold the cheese. You do not have to sheepishly ask a family member to serve you extra salad at a gathering. You do not have to apologize for not eating something that isn’t vegan. You have nothing to be ashamed of: veganism is your choice. And the more you grimace, twist, and shrug in discomfort and apology, the less anyone around you will believe it’s a choice you like. Be proud: there’s a reason you’re eating vegan, and it matters much more than how anyone else perceives you.

2) Be Happy. The best way to share your lifestyle with friends, family, coworkers, and strangers is with a smile and an enthusiastic attitude. It’s very hard for anyone to criticize what has obviously made you vibrant and happy: if you want to enlist the support of people in your life, simply show them that veganism makes you happy. It’s really that simple.

3) But what if you’re not happy? After all, transitioning into a vegan lifestyle can be hard. Most people experience cravings for food they no longer eat, or grapple with secret fears and concerns about nutrition and satiety. While the first few months of being vegan can be blissful and euphoric, they’re not that way for everyone; sometimes they’re anxious and lonely, especially if you don’t have a rich support system. If you’re struggling with inner turmoil over your choice to adopt a vegan diet, don’t feel you have to be a cheerleader for the rest of the world. It’s perfectly ok to tell a friend or loved one, “Actually, this whole vegan thing is really hard. I’m struggling. But my intuition is really telling me that this is something I want and need to do, so I’m sticking with it! I’m sure it’ll get easier soon. I’d love it if you would cheer me on.”

Again: confidence.

4) Be Generous. As I mentioned in my activism post, sharing delicious vegan food is one of the best and easiest ways to tell your family and friends about your lifestyle. Don’t get bogged down in talking points: simply show them that you’re choosing a lifestyle that offers you tasty, nutritious, and rewarding food. Most people have a hard time imagining an entrée, let alone a whole lifetime, without animal foods, and verbiage is unlikely to help. A wonderful vegan meal, on the other hand, is a wonderful way to help them visualize and understand that your new lifestyle is as pleasurable as it is conscientious.

5) Be Prepared. Imagine this: it’s the weekend of a family reunion. You end up at several restaurants with zero vegan options, and are forced to nibble on tiny salads or tepid vegetable plates. There’s no food for you at the reunion itself, so you walk around empty handed, attracting scrutiny and concern. You’re hungry, cranky, and all you can think about is how much better off you would be if you just ate like everybody else. Do you really think you’ll be able to talk to others about how much you like being vegan under these circumstances?

Of course you won’t. To avoid this, all you really need to do is plan. Grocery shop with a family member and bring a vegan dish to the reunion. Call the restaurants you’ll be eating at ahead of time, and work with them to construct a vegan entrée. Carry snack bars and trail mix and other vegan goods in case of an emergency. Assuring that you will be well fed is the best way to both enjoy the occasion and also to show your family that being vegan doesn’t mean starving quietly when you’re not at home in your own kitchen.

6) Be Unassuming. If you’re a new vegan who is headed out into the world, try to abandon the pre-conceived certainty that you’ll be called upon to defend your eating habits. Instead, assume that you’ll be left alone. All vegans (and eaters with strong preferences) have gotten into scenarios where we’re unfairly attacked, but those situations are not the norm. I’ve dealt with my fair share of critics, but most people express admiration when I tell them I’m vegan. Assuming the worst in other people will only lead you to be defensive and uptight, and that in turn will make people more critical of you. Instead of preparing all sorts of retorts to snide comments—or worse, arming yourself with health statistics and studies to rattle off to anyone who challenges you—prepare enthusiastic and friendly comments. Some of my favorites:

“Why vegan? Well, compassion plays a big part. But I really love how wonderful and being vegan makes me feel!”

“I know it sounds limiting, but it’s not! There are so many great things you can make with vegetables, legumes, grains, and fruits. I love being in my kitchen.”

“Miss things? Not really. I’m so focused on how much I love plant based foods that I never think about some of the things I used to enjoy.”

7) Be Forgiving: When faced with ignorant or unkind or thoughtless commentary, remember: once upon a time, you ate without thinking, too. Most of us grown up fairly ignorant of the things that make us become veg*n later on in life—ethics, the environment, health, or other. So, be forgiving when you bump up against ignorance. Being vegan is all about compassion, and that extends to your fellow humans, too.

I hope these tips are helpful. And just remember: when all else fails, let the food speak for you. Last night, I had dinner with my cousins, Aunt and Uncle. They aren’t vegan, but they are tremendously enthusiastic and supportive of my lifestyle: in fact, they’ve even begun to recommend my blog to friends!

With that said, I still see my meals with them as a chance to serve as an ambassador of good vegan food. For the occasion, I whipped up some of my famous black bean and sweet potato enchiladas, which have quickly become one of my top ten most popular recipes.

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Truth be told, they weren’t my strongest batch, but the group seemed impressed anyway—and they were likewise impressed with the raw kale salad! Maybe I can inspire one of my loved ones to go meatless for one night by sharing a dish like that. Isn’t that the best way to “talk about” my veganism with others?

I think so, anyway.

What do you guys think?

Happy weekend!

xo

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Fit Chick in the City September 23, 2011 at 10:44 am

Thank you! This is a great topic and I appreciate your helpful insights.

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Nikki (fresh young coconut) September 23, 2011 at 10:56 am

This is a great post. I am the only vegan in my family and I’ve found that just being my happy, healthy self has led to most everyone being supportive and curious about my choices. I’m always willing to talk to them about it if they bring it up, but I tend to take the “proof is in the pudding” approach. I love my lifestyle and it shows through and through without saying a word. My mom & my sister are on the verge of going vegan because they’ve seen how well it works for me, and it’s been all about being a positive example. Thanks for posting this as we’re about to turn the corner to holiday season. Staying positive and trying to avoid getting defensive is a winning strategy :)

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Aimee September 23, 2011 at 11:19 am

I have been slowly transitioning my diet into a more plant based diet. I am reluctant to label myself anything, but friends and family members have noticed the difference in how I eat. I come from a big Italian family with somewhat old fashioned ideas about meal time. It has taken years to convince my mother that she doesn’t need to serve lasagna at every holiday. I am open to talking about the changes if others want to know more, but I don’t necessarily start the conversation. Thank you for this post. It is very helpful. Your blog has been such a great resource for me.

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Jenn September 23, 2011 at 11:38 am

Great post Gena! It’s so important to try and put a positive spin on other people’s negative attitudes. You can’t control what anyone else says or does, but you can absolutely control how you react. I love your thought provoking posts!

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Rachel @ Eat, Learn, Discover! September 23, 2011 at 11:47 am

Thanks so much for this post! While I am not vegan, I eat a mostly plant-based diet (mostly high-raw and vegan things), and almost no processed foods. I have definitely been quicker to criticize others’ food choices lately, so this was a great reminder to just relax and remember why I choose to eat the way I do. I think you are so right, others will be much more inclined to be open to your eating habits if it’s something that makes you happy, and not a source of conflict.

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Carissa September 23, 2011 at 11:48 am

Great post! The tip about being confident really spoke to me, both for eating and in other aspects of life. I do apologize sometimes because I feel like I’m making someone go out of their way to accomodate me. In addition to what you said, I also think it can make the other person’s actions go unappreciated. Sometimes it would be better to say “thank you so much for thinking of me” than to apologize that they had to.

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Gretchen September 23, 2011 at 12:21 pm

My biggest concern was my mom (and I’m sure I’m not alone in that!). I gave her several examples of how eating vegan was helping some health and digestive issues I had, and emphasized how good I felt. I was lucky enough to be living in a city with lots of restaurants that catered to both vegans and omnis, so I’d choose those when we went out and made sure she saw me eating something other than a salad, and eating a lot of it. The same approach worked for several other people, although I changed the emphasis from health to ethics to maintaining a healthy weight to whatever if it made sense for the conversation. By far the best thing in my arsenal is a list of vegan-friendly restaurants that omnis will love – makes things way easier, and people often try whatever I’m eating!

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Tejas September 23, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Talking about my vegan choice is no issue for me except at one place. In temple, we consider cow holy and milk is part of pretty much all Hindu religious ceremony.
In fact, two years ago, someone donated almond milk at temple and I was kind of annoyed with ‘vegan vibe’ from this person. It took me one year to let go my emotional attachment to milk/yogurt (cheese is not involved in religious or traditional cooking)

I do take milk based Prasad (offering to god) at temple but now I know why dairy should not be part of our diet.
Also, in pretty much all social situations, we have all vegetarian items but very few vegan options.
I am very confident in restaurant/ work place to say I am vegan and will not take any animal product.

However, among my friends who are vegetarian and use ‘dash’ of diary in form of milk/cream, I feel I am hurting them. Part of the reason is that I have gone thru this transition from being attached to dairy to quit, I think I can relate to them.

Growing up, we never consumed meat or other animal product. But we loved diary in form of milk and yogurt. We never owned cow, but my mother will take out god’s portion and cow’s portion of food before she would serve us. Then we would take that food and walk few blocks to give this food to cow. In those days, each cow had name so we knew that milk we are drinking because ’Suneeta’ had baby and she is sharing her milk with us and her baby.
I get it now why this is not acceptable but milk being side product, it is everywhere.
I have started talking about why dairy should be out of diet most based on very basic science fact and the fact that cows are not protected and respected. So when we buy this product, we are telling diary business to keep doing what they do.

My transition was slow from vegetarian to vegan so I feel for my friends and I pray ‘Take us to light from darkness, Take us to truth from lie’

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bitt September 23, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Very interesting to read your perspective!

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bitt September 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Great post! So needed for beginners and great reminders for those of us who have been doing this for awhile. Everyone runs into people who are less than supportive now and then, but as you said, most people I interact with are supportive. Otherwise why would I want them to be part of my life?

So important is #1. I run into more problems at restaurants because a lot of other people just give up. I have friends in the restaurant business who think sometimes any requests are ridiculous, because they hated them as servers. So I stick to places that already meet most of my needs if I can (like vegan and veg joints) and at other times work with the servers in the nicest way possible.

I can see how people might think it’s a lot of work to go out of the way to plan ahead or call ahead places. And sometimes it is I like to think that it’s society’s fault, not mine so I don’t feel guilty about it. I don’t feel animal deserve to be killed, and it’s not my fault others aren’t on the same page. I like to think eventually society will change. And, you get used to packing extra things with you and it soon becomes second nature.

Hope this makes sense. I wanted to write even though my brain is foggy and I’m sick.

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tracey September 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm

That was encouraging, Gena. I can apply these principals not only to my way of eating, but other areas of my life as well. I really lack confidence even about those things I am passionate about. I do think “actions” (if you will) speak louder than words.
I had my dad and stepmom over for dinner and I always struggle with what to make (for all omnivores). I decided on carribean black bean and sweet potato stew with zucchini cakes. My stepmom said “this is different” several times. She finally added, “but it’s good!”
Any good brunch ideas?
Happy Friday!

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Lindsay September 23, 2011 at 1:53 pm

What a great post. I’ve struggled with a lot of these issues since becoming vegan 2 years ago. In fact this year I’m debating about whether to spend Thanksgiving with my family or go to a vegan gathering and I’m still unsure about how to open up that conversation! Thank you so much for your insight.

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Marie-Christine September 23, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Hello Gena,
“qui s’excuse, s’accuse”
That’s how we say it. I love how you present your ideas about food choices. It is really hard coming from a french culture to understand veganism, I know my parents and in-laws aren’t there yet.Thank you for your advices and it is true that sharing great vegan food with family is usually a good way to go for opening their minds. I know that I have a lot of work to do with my father in law who completly doesn’t understand why someone sane would give up meat and butter. Even coconut oil scares him ;)
Bonne journée à toi

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Sondi September 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Wonderful post. I especially liked your first point about being confident. I find myself constantly apologizing for my food choices and not wanting to seem difficult or burdensome. This is a great reminder that I should not feel guilty for eating the way I do.

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veganlisa September 23, 2011 at 2:42 pm

One of the best pieces on talking about veganism that I have ever read.

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Ryan September 23, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Thank you so much for doing this post! I just told a few of my friends that I find myself getting defensive when I am questioned about my food and I needed to work on how to answer them. My friend had an interesting view of my issue, she said that she thought people may ask or make snarky comments regarding my food choices because they are afraid of me judging their food choices.

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Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga September 23, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Gena this post is great!

I like this
“Their need to be contrary has nothing to do with you, and you shouldn’t waste your breath in an attempt to change it. ”

And also the #3…but what if you’re not happy point.
““Actually, this whole vegan thing is really hard. I’m struggling. But my intuition is really telling me that this is something I want and need to do, so I’m sticking with it!..”
That is really such a great succinct, perfectly well-said, way to just be upfront with others. Not even on being vegan but on anything from unhappy with your job to your relationship, etc…not every day is easy in every thing we do and sometimes we have to stick it out and persevere before making any changes and wait for things to level out.

Love all these talking point! Re-post this one before thanksgiving dinners b/c it will be so helpful for folks!

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Hannah September 23, 2011 at 3:41 pm

I’m not even a full vegan, but I do have a hard time expressing my positive views about veganism with other people, particularly my nutritionist and my friends in recovery for ED’s. None of them see how veganism can fit into a recovery lifestyle, which makes me more apprehensive to take the leap because of their opinions, which I value, as well as my own fears of doing it to restrict things that I truly enjoy.

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mikaela September 23, 2011 at 4:19 pm

very apropos! Thanks to your past posts, I feel comfortable politely (but confidently!) requesting vegan options while out dining. Recently, however, I was VERY nervous to call the admissions offices of the medical schools I will be interviewing at to inquire about vegan lunch options (most are providing a catered lunch on the interview day). I felt as though someone in the admissions office might slap a Post-It to my application: “WEIRD DIET,” “KIND OF A PAIN,” or sonething of that nature! To my surprise, they were very responsive and accommodating!

FYI you will be happy to know that Georgetown was among the medical schools very willing to accomodate a vegan diet. I will be interviewing there on October 5th, so excited!!!

also, for any of you hesitant to inquire about vegan options while out dining out of a fear of annoying your server – just remember that even at a steak joint, your server could be vegan themselves or exploring veganism or a friend of vegans and you just might make their day! I waitress at a mexican restaurant where seemingly EVERYTHING is smothered in cheese and filled with meat. When someone orders a bare bones salad, hold the cheese, with a sad look on their face- I ask if they are vegan (they usually are) and if so I enthusiastically hook them up with an off-menu delicious steamed veggie burrito smothered in ranchero sauce! The same burrito I have the chef make me after my shifts.

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Nada (One Arab Vegan) September 23, 2011 at 4:31 pm

That’s so sweet! If only all servers were as accommodating as you. I once had a waiter in Egypt bring me “vegan” vine leaves that were cooked in a beef stock. Not cool.

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Nada (One Arab Vegan) September 23, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Gena – this is such a great post! I’ve definitely struggled with talking about/sharing my food choices with people, especially when it comes to family. Vegetarianism is only just starting to become more mainstream in the Middle East, and even so people generally have a very hard time understanding it, let alone Veganism.

I think the problem I had is that I spent so long NOT speaking up about my choices that when I finally did I wasn’t exactly sure how to articulate myself. In my head I know why I choose to eat the way I do but when I come out and say it I get caught up in all the specifics, so boiling it down to simple terms is a great tip. Also I totally agree with you – the best way to talk about it is to share. I love cooking up tasty dishes only to have someone try my leftovers and tell me it’s delicious! It’s all about finding common ground – and who doesn’t love good food?

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Ela September 23, 2011 at 5:09 pm

This is just awesome. Great advice, interesting self-revelation and many good points to ponder. How we talk when we talk about food and to whom we’re talking are such huge issues and it is really worth paying them attention.

Thank you for laying out your perspective and suggestions so very clearly.

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The Delicate Place September 23, 2011 at 5:15 pm

talking about food choices can be difficult especially when people don’t want to listen AT ALL. my own mother didn’t believe i was allergic to gluten until i showed her my doctor’s report and blood work results?! seriously. i try to be as understanding to those with other diets mainly because i have to exclude foods from my diet to fell well. it’s give and take, ah life the great compromise!

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Ali September 23, 2011 at 6:04 pm

I love this post. I totally agree with your idea of sharing food. I bring people treats ALL THE TIME, and I can’t tell you how many people are shocked that something raw and vegan could taste so good! I have even had people decided to give vegan a go because the food is so good. And it is true, vegan food is often more flavourful that meat based dishes, because we think about flavour more, as well as the fact the plant based foods almost always have more flavour in and of themselves than a piece of meat does. (ever tried eating ground beef just plain?) Also, I think it is really important to be light about it. Make jokes, take the edge off. It does not have to be this big serious thing. People are far more likely to listen to you if they sense a lightness in your attitude, then if they sense that you are a vegan natzi out to convert the world. Have fun with your life, right?

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Mama Pea September 23, 2011 at 6:14 pm

I really appreciate this post, Gena. As always, you are mature, intelligent and respectful. And that is why I call you “friend.”

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Julie September 23, 2011 at 6:45 pm

I think your advice is great and it’s how we should conduct all conversations – not just with food, but religion, politics etc. They are all personal choices and we don’t all have to agree with each other but we should respect everyone’s opinions.

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Gwen September 23, 2011 at 9:10 pm

This is a great post Gena. You are so right, there is no need to apologize about our food choices. And you are also right, food runs deep and people can get downright offended when I tell them I don’t eat meat. But as soon as I explain my reasons, they almost always are understanding. Thanks for the tips.

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Katie September 23, 2011 at 9:26 pm

I think there are a ton of good points in here that can be used across the board in terms of diet, and just personal choices overall. But as a non-vegan, and very conscientious eater, I take serious offense to the comment that you should “be forgiving”. Maybe this is just my interpretation, but that whole statement comes across as sounding incredibly condescending. I’m an environmental scientist with a PhD in Biology and am intimately familiar with the issues surrounding diet, the food industry, the environmental concerns, all of it. I teach a college course on the subject. I am not vegan. Every single one of my food choices are based on thinking. I never “eat without thinking”. And I am not “ignorant” of any vegan issues.

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Gena September 24, 2011 at 7:59 am

Hi Katie,

You’re right, that point demanded clarification. What I meant was, “when you’re faced with ignorant or insulting commentary about you’re lifestyle,” be forgiving. Not, “forgive people who have thought hard and long about food issues, and chosen a different lifestyle than you for their own reasons.” Obviously, the latter sentiment is ridiculous, and I’m glad you brought it up. I think the issue here is, how do we deal with people who unkind to more conscientious eaters?

G

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Midge September 24, 2011 at 12:00 am

Gena, thanks for this great post. I have been a vegan for the past 15 months and I have to admit it’s been a challenge. It’s quite untypical, even unheard of, for Filipinos to be vegan. Our dishes tend to be quite meat-heavy, thanks to Spain who colonized our country for over 300 years and heavily influenced our cuisine, and who would want to give that up. But I continue to press on and persevere because I know this is the best choice for my health, the environment and the lovely animals. Sometimes I still struggle with responding to questions about my choice, but I only engage in conversation with folks who sincerely want to know more. I’ve learned that acting defensively does not help the cause.

Once for a co-workers birthday, I very politely and humbly asked my boss, who was ordering breakfast burritos, if she would be able to include a few veggie and potato ones in addition to the typical bacon, egg, cheese and potato. She happily did, however she made them appear very unappetizing when she described them as “just plain veggie and potato” to the folks deciding what kind of burrito to get. Most of my co-workers walked past them. When someone commented that they were the “where’s the love burritos”, I felt a little upset by it, but just ignored it. But I got even more upset when my close friend started talking about how an animal gave its life so she can have her bacon. As upset as I was, I still didn’t feel that was the appropriate forum to start a debate. It was someone’s birthday after all and I felt that the person is more important than the food. I hope that doesn’t make me a pushover.

I had dinner with a good friend once and he jokingly asked if I was judging him because he was eating a burger. That kinda caught me off guard. Of course in my mind, I thought it would have been nice if he ordered something else, but I simply responded that it was a choice he made and it’s not my place to judge. I wouldn’t want to be judged for my choice either so why can’t it go both ways? I did say that veggie burgers are great :).

I would like to make it my mission to win people over by continuing to prepare tasty vegan meals to take to family gatherings and potlucks. So far I have received great comments, which thrills me. It’s so awesome to have the food to speak for itself. Someday when I’m ready, I might tackle veganizing some traditional Filipino dishes.

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Persephonie September 24, 2011 at 1:08 am

This is something that I have been struggling with for the past few months into my new vegan lifestyle. I found your thoughts and suggestions to be very realistic and helpful. Thank you for this.
Persephonie

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Nixie September 24, 2011 at 3:25 am

I just read this chapter in “Becoming Vegan” about how to be a diplomatic vegan. I agree 100% that the best way to get people to understand is to serve them delicious food. For the skeptical ones, it’s best to make something, let them eat it, and tell them it was vegan later. =D Works every time. My dad used to try and get me to eat chicken. Now, I get him to eat tofu and he likes it. As long as food tastes good, omnivores don’t care what’s in it.
Great post. Tamales look delicious!

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Heather September 24, 2011 at 7:17 am

Inspiring post, Gena! Especially number 7. It is so easy for us to forget that we too were newbies to veganism at one point. And the people who inspired us were not impatient or forceful, but calm and welcoming. We must be that strong vegan force and lead by example!

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Kaitlyn@TheTieDyeFiles September 24, 2011 at 10:19 am

Thanks so much Gena, your posts are always so logical and well thought out. I agree that it’s so important to be confident and prepared, whether the person with whom you’re conversing is supportive or judgmental. At first, I lacked the confidence to speak about my lifestyle with others. Now that I’m far better educated I’ve realized that the best way to get people thinking about their lifestyle choices is to talk about mine in a calm, sensible, educated manner. I also think your final point about being forgiving is extremely valuable advice. While I don’t outwardly judge people whose lifestyles are different than mine, I do get frustrated with how seemingly ignorant some people are. And when it comes to people I love, I always find myself wishing they’d adopt veganism for their own sakes. I need to learn to teach by showing rather than telling, and so you’ve inspired me to cook a vegan birthday dinner for my parents tonight!

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Jess @ Jess Go Bananas September 24, 2011 at 11:34 am

I LOVE this post! I will definitely be using some of these tips, if not all of them at my next event, or even sometime today! I feel as though these could be useful for everyday situations! Thank you Gena! :)

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Amanda @ AmandaRunsNY September 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I love this line: Being vegan is all about compassion, and that extends to your fellow humans, too

I couldn’t agree more. There’s no need to get up on a soapbox and lecture on the virtues of a vegan diet. And I have found a lot of people are curious about all the “weird” things I eat. In fact, several times a week, my homemade lunches get comments on how delicious it looks. One girl even told me that she can always tell which salad is mine in the fridge cause it looks so delicious!

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Katie (quickcookrice) September 24, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Really useful post, especially because I’ve been thinking about these conflicts lately. Life has been busy, and I’ve found myself in situations with many non-vegans, many of whom love to go out to dinner and out on the town. I love that too, and that’s something I loved before I became vegan, but when I went vegan, I will admit that I became a little less social. And it’s definitely something I’ve struggled with. Now I’m more confident about calling restaurants or hiding food in my purse. It wasn’t always easy, and it’s nice that you’re showing people it’s OK to question and it’s OK to occasionally feel uncomfortable.

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JL goes Vegan September 24, 2011 at 3:10 pm

These are great tips, Gena.

I learned much at Vida Vegan Con, including how important is to respect people where they are (which goes to the no need to preach concept). But also to not apologize for being an ethical vegan.

To me, the ideal compromise is that I do not make disparaging comments to omni’s eating meat, but I also have no problem, when asked why I’m vegan, to say that consuming animal products goes against my ethics of nonviolence (I got that from Colleen Patrick Goudreau).

I think there is a middle ground in approaching others. You are a good example of that.

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GetSkinny GoVegan September 24, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Gosh……even though I am such a loudmouth on my blog, I’m pretty quiet about it in real life. It’s almost something I care too much about, so I tend to not advertise it. At the same time, if I see any opportunity to mention it in passing, well, I take it. It seems like it makes other people feel like they need to defend their lifestyle, sometimes just by being present. But now a lot of people think it is healthy, so lots of people either assume I do yoga or am a healthy person, not that I see zero difference between a pig and a dog. And if they are receptive to that, I don’t mention a pig or a dog. I figure people care about what their butt looks like and if they are sick or a loved one is ill. I am jaded, but I think lots of people only care about stuff if it affects their lives directly. So while I have always been in it for the animals, I tend to focus on the health part of it. Being in the midwest especially, God & Jesus, and the rest are brought into it-the “Bible”, Eating meat, etc…..I don’t even go there because any religious text can be interpreted in any manner you want. But honestly, I do feel that a lot of peeps here don’t even question it and use religion as an excuse. I often wonder who is more “Christian”. I don’t read the Bible or believe in “God” as a typical “Western” perspective. At the same time it’s REALLY hard to understand how a “Christian” person can ethically choose to slaughter things he does not need, to rape the earth of it’s resources so others die, can believe in the death penalty while being pro-life, etc….I RARELY bring it up, but after a very pushy girl tricked me into going to a “Christian Bookclub” in a church basement, and after our Puppy Mill amendment barely passed, I did say I do not believe you can be Christian and eat meat. It is my personal belief. It is probably different in other parts of the country-but I live in St. Louis, Missouri. And it’s a wild crowd here.

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Kristen September 24, 2011 at 6:22 pm

Such a good post.
I’ve recently brought up something similar here:
http://ksvegrecipes.blogspot.com/2011/09/oh-youre-vegetarian.html

And here:
http://ksvegrecipes.blogspot.com/2011/07/vegan-month-completed.html

I’m vegetarian right now, but recently tried a (self-inspired) “vegan month” challenge, and LOVED it. In addition to awesome new recipes, it also made me think about food and my stance on things (still thinking about it), but I came to the conclusion that skirting the issues isn’t the way to go. I got really annoyed when my mother had the wrong impressions about veganism (crazy restrictionism, etc, etc), but I realized- that’s when you cook a few meals for them to show the non-believers through TASTE just how non-restrictive, satisfying, and delicious vegan food can be.

Thanks for your wonderful blog & thoughtful posts. I may have some vegan questions for you at some point, as I navigate through my food journey…

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Gena October 21, 2011 at 8:18 am

I’m so glad you’re enjoying the month! Please do keep reading :)

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Teresa September 24, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Thanks Gena !
You are amazing !

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sharon September 25, 2011 at 12:38 am

What a lovely post Gena! i am a newly converted vegetarian. For the last 3 months i’ve really enjoyed my food and how i feel when i eat veggie. What made me switch was watching a video of a slaughterhouse. that woke me up from my mindless eating where in my own mind, i knew *theoretically* that an animal had to die for me to enjoy my meal. i know it sounds crazy but in my mind the chicken in the neatly wrapped paper in the supermarket was so far removed from the lively bird that i could somehow close myself off from the reality of the situation!
Anyway we eat vegetarian at home. in 8 days we’ll be travelling to France to visit with my in laws. france isn’t exactly veggie friendly, and am worried about that…especially with refusing to eat what my mother in law will cook. it scares me to refuse something someone has cooked for me. maybe it’s my culture but Africans do NOT refuse to eat what has been prepared with care for them it’s taboo. i think i might have to eat meat there and when am in my own house i can have more control

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Pure2raw twins September 25, 2011 at 11:15 am

Gena great tips! I go through periods when I do not mind talking about my food choices and why I eat the foods I do. Because I am happy with them. But then I meet people who give me a hard time, or like to make fun of the way I eat, and I get frustrated and sad. But keeping it fun and sharing, and practice forgiveness are great things to do daily!

xoxo
michelle

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Jo M September 25, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Thanks Gena! People often give me a hard time about my food choices.

Over time, I’ve become less and less interested in explaining. They often stop listening anyways, but what can you do.

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Rose September 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm

This is great! I’ve encountered plenty of people with food restrictions (other than vegetarianism) that are very defensive and want to tell everyone exactly what they can and can’t eat and why.
I was 17 when I first became a vegetarian and I was one of those obnoxious people. Now that I’ve matured a little bit in this lifestyle, I’m just as pushy the other way. If I’m asked about it (usually at meal time, of course), I tell them I won’t talk about it while we’re eating. Honestly, I would NOT want someone telling me what was wrong with my food while I’m putting it in my mouth, so I’m not going to do that to someone else. I stick by that, because then if they follow up with “Oh, it doesn’t matter, I’m still going to eat this” then obviously I’m wasting my breath by talking about it anyway.

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Amanda J September 26, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Hey, nice post. I have just recently eliminated meat and dairy from my diet, I have found it difficult at times to explain myself but I am going to keep this post in mind when talking to people, especially the point on how to know when to talk to someone about my choices. Thanks again!

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Josie May 8, 2012 at 11:26 pm

I found this blog whilst looking for recipes but have had several revelations from reading the additional material about veganism. I’m not a proper vegan but I don’t eat much meat because I find the preparation unappealing and left to my own devices; I have no passion for it.

A couple of years ago I got sick. It was like food poisoning but I hadn’t eaten anything bad in particular, I just suddenly became somewhat sensitive to wheat and dairy. It was confusing, frightening and frustrating – never knowing how much I could get away with eating without spending the next day crippled on the couch. Eating raw fruit and vegetables was the only way to recover from a bout of wheat intolerance and build up to eating protein again.

When I eventually decided to adjust my diet to eliminate the foods causing the problem, I began the agonizing task of having to be selective with food when out and about and at family events. I was often so panicked, then annoyed, then starving! I have recollections of sitting with nearly all the people I love at one point or another and thinking: WHY ARE YOU TRING TO POISON ME!? The worst part is that very few people have got used to the idea. It was years ago that I stopped eating wheat, but my close family and friends continue to plate up the same old food for everyone. The conversation usually goes the exact same way:
You cant eat wheat? Really? All wheat? What happens if you do? Why haven’t you seen a doctor? The last one really annoyed me because when I don’t eat wheat nothing goes wrong! What would a doctor say? Probably just: good job.

I have some vegan and vegetarian friends who I see out and about. I was always curious as to why they were not panicked and annoyed like me (your blog has illuminated this for me!). I was envious that they had decided not to eat certain things and had somehow made peace with the situation. I felt trapped and restricted. And hungry. I was probably rude. I was doing the opposite of each of your points! As you have written, the answer is to be prepared, happy and generous and share what we can eat with other people. Instead of me asking why I was being poisoned, I can ask how to bring delicious fresh things I love to the people I love.

Thank you. My friends and family will also be thanking you.

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