Advice for the Initiated: Don’t Be THAT Vegan

Confessional time (cut to the closet that “Real World” cast members sat in back in the day): I’m not a good vegan.

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In fact, I don’t even like calling myself vegan.

((double gasp))

It’s such a loaded word, and tends to push people away from the goal, which is eliminating animal products from your diet.

I would call my eating about 98 percent plant-based, 1 percent vegan and 1 percent “It’s summer in Texas and I’m going to eat BBQ.” I previously opened up about struggling with veganism, and I still go through that from time to time.

Recently, I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of people who are interested in transitioning from eating meat and dairy to embracing a diet that consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes…basically all foods except for ones that used to breathe or came from a creature that breathes. It’s exciting to see people take a front seat in managing their health and moving beyond the “This is the way I was raised” trope that has so many people dying from preventable illness like heart disease and failure, diabetes and other ailments.

Even more thrilling is that I’ve had friends call on me to help them navigate being plant-based or to counsel a friend who is interested. To be considered as someone with any kind of knowledge in this arena is an honor, and I’m happy to share what I’ve found along my way.

However…and you knew there was a rebuttal coming…I have to call out my fellow vegan/vegetarian/plant-based eaters who think that bullying people who choose to eat meat is a path to getting more people to go meat-free.

You know who they’ve are. Maybe you’ve seen their posts online or, god help you, been stuck sitting next to them at a group dinner. Their level of snotiness and self-righteousness seems to rise in relation to the number of carnivores in the room. Quick to tell you how animal fat is rendering you into a gelatinous, unhealthy blob, the uber-vegan judges your well-being solely based on your inability to stop eating meat. They know all the stats, and will recite lines from Forks Over Knives and What the Health (vegans’ newest documentary obsession) whether you want to hear them or not.

Basically, they’re DRAINING.

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My call to arms today is to not be that vegan. Whether your dietary beliefs are due to wanting to improve your health, cure a gut illness, animal welfare concerns or just trying something different because your sister-in-law’s baby cousin Tracy did it (props if you recognize where that line came from), the last thing someone wants when breaking bread with you is to hear a lecture.

Not only is this a kindness that can save you being on the receiving end of some words you may not have expected, it’s considerate for those who are trying to (respectfully) navigate your needs. I recently accepted an invitation to a friend’s private lunch, and boy did she and her team pull out the stops.

Multiple courses, wine pairings and great company; I couldn’t ask for more, especially considering the meal was prepared at no fee to the guests. As we departed, I had a moment to give my heartfelt thanks to the hostess, and she said “I was concerned when I saw you accepted because I saw that you don’t eat meat.” As I told her, I accepted knowing that I was going to be offered food that I don’t usually eat but I would never consider dictating the menu to the host or hostess and that I was grateful for the meal.

This may not be the experience some plantbased and vegan people would want to have, but I valued the experience over the cuisine. I wouldn’t go as far The Atlantic did recently when a writer recommended that vegetarians should bend their own rules as a way to persuade more people to eliminate meat. If a friend invites me to their house and serves me meat, I’d politely decline the plate rather than eat the meal as a way of pacifying the carnivores in my midst.

Bottom Line:

Find a balance between leading by example and being open to conversation when the right opportunity to share your philosophy with the curious opens.

What’s been your worst experience with someone who is WAY into their way of eating, from vegans to gluten-free to dairy-free to GMO haters?

 

12 Replies to “Advice for the Initiated: Don’t Be THAT Vegan”

  1. You ate the meat dish at the private lunch but your later paragraph says, “I’d politely decline the plate rather than eat the meal…” Was it just a special exception for the private lunch?

    1. Yes, it was! The invite was open to all so I sought out the experience, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to dictate the menu. The hosts are also acquaintances so I didn’t expect them to cater to me. But if I’m at a friend’s house, they know I don’t eat meat the majority of the time, so I’d feel far more comfortable turning down the meal.

  2. i am surrounded by people with different beliefs and idea and while I respect their choices, it sometimes when it bothers me that people without any life-threatening health conditions are so rigid & borderline obsessive…their demands are really draining. i really love the flexible outlook that you have 🙂

    1. It’s because they “chose” the lifestyle, therefore they are far more intense than need be. Returning their rigidity with kindness is the best way to go…that and keeping clear of them at meals!

  3. Yes to all of this! I haven’t had a negative personal experience with a “that vegan” however, I have seen it on social media and it sucks. I am more comfortable saying im plantbased vs vegan. You’re right it is a loaded word and it makes people uncomfortable. I don’t pressure anyone to eat the way I do, but I happily share information when someone ask.

    1. People will shut down upon hearing the word vegan. The connotation is of a person that is inflexible to change. I would rather eat majority plants and dip into meat a few times a year and not deal with the guilt than to be so rigid with my diet and feel guilty when I “fall off the wagon.”

  4. Yessss, I definitely don’t have room for judgmental, holier-than-thou people in my life, be it with food, fitness or any aspect really. Plus it just defeats the purpose when you have someone incessantly bullying you about how to live your life.. it just makes you want to run in the other direction. I love leading a plant-based lifestyle but I still enjoy animal protein; it’s definitely all about balance, flexibility and doing what’s best for oneself at the end of the day.

    1. Right on, sister! In seriousness, I would much rather bring someone over by espousing what plantbased diets look like for me, how I make adjustments and how to incorporate it in small steps/stages, rather than beat my drum over someone’s head.

  5. I love this and so appreciate your openness and flexibility when it comes to food. I like that people are starting to self label as “plant based” more so than Vegan because of the political/societal stigma that’s attached to it. So glad we shared such a delicious meal in Vegas!!!

    1. Those brined chickens were everything! Yeah, veganism is too rigid for me, and I don’t want people to feel pre-judged just based on how I describe myself. Plus, no one wants to be around the person asking all the questions and eyeballing other people’s plates.

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