People can be extremely insensitive to ideas or actions that they just don’t understand. Veganism is definitely up there on the “WTF are you doing?” scale, when it comes to family and friends. I remember when I told my family that I was going to swear off meat and animal products. I’ve never had so many people, so concerned about what I was eating. It was like I was being judged for my mental stability. Family members would call me, sit down with me one on one to talk about it all…like wow, I’m not dying here guys!
Luckily for me, I have an understanding family that typically supports my decisions in life, but there are still the small things that family and friends, just won’t understand about Veganism that will frustrate you and that’s okay. We can’t expect those that we love, to just jump on the Vegan boat with us, as much as we’d love that with all our heart. That’s like expecting McDonalds to have a Vegan burger patty…okay, well maybe not that crucial.
I think some of the toughest parts of experiencing that initial step of jumping into the Vegan world, is all the commotion you will cause. Now, I’m not trying to discourage you from being Vegan, but I do want to make sure you know what lies ahead so you can be prepared for some whiplash. Friends will make fun of you, your family will frustrate you, co-workers will address you as, “The Vegan,” but you know what? It takes sheer will power to be a Vegan and you just have to remind yourself that you have a heart of dedication. If you believe in yourself, AND you are happy with your decision, then that’s all that matters!
Here are some of the top things I’ve learned about how to survive your Non-Vegan family and friends:
- There’s no need to argue about what is right or wrong – Look, I get it, if you’re Vegan, you want to tell the world how wrong it is to kill animals just for our consumption of food. You want to tell everyone that it’s natural for us to live on a plant based diet. You want people to know how much disease and health problems eating animal products can cause. While it’s definitely okay to let people know the reasons why YOU are a Vegan, we shouldn’t put down anyone that is not a Vegan. That includes telling people they are wrong about eating meat, because no matter what, it’s their lives, and their choice to live it the way they want to.
- Always take the high road – It’s inevitable that friends and family will make fun of you. Perhaps you’ll be at a restaurant that has only sides available for you to eat and one of your friends comments, “Oh look, you can order the wine…I think that’s Vegan.” Or maybe an obnoxious sibling will say, “Hey, I’m going to get an extra rare prime ribeye with a side of blood…what are you going to get?” And as frustrating as that all is, you always must take the high road. Something like, “Cool, never heard that one before (Sarcastically speaking), or you give them the serious tone and say, “That’s actually not funny to me. I’m here to spend time with you, not with the food. If I was here for the food, we’d be at a much better restaurant.”
- Answer everyone’s questions with a question – This actually took me a while to understand because everyone in my personal circle would ask 100’s of questions. “Why are you Vegan? Where do you get your protein from? What do you eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner? Don’t plants feel pain too? Is this forever?” And at first, I was talking non-stop because of my excitement for educating folks, but that got tiring real quick. After the hundredth time of answering, “No.” to the question of, “So you can’t eat any dairy either?” I just had to think about doing this a different way because 99% of the time, no matter how much I educated someone on the topic, there was really no change in their behavior. I mean, sure, it will help them learn a little more truth in life, but you can get that from google if you really want answers. What I found helpful is to ask questions back such that if someone ask you, “Why did you go Vegan?” you try to better understand what they are most interested to learn. Something like, “I went Vegan for a lot of reasons, have you thought about going Vegan before?” Or they will ask you, “What do you eat for lunch?” Then you must fire back with, “I eat a variety of stuff. What do YOU usually eat for lunch?” Understanding what is important to someone is going to help you make the right answer and save you a ton of time! In all fairness, if their answers to your questions are short or nonexistent, then you don’t need to give them your answers at all!
- Understand that most people do not like change – Most people dislike change. In Derek Thompson’s book, “Hit Makers,” he talks about how people aged 33 yrs and older, don’t listen to new music on Spotify. I think that just sums it up right there! Normally, when you tell someone they can’t eat the same shit they’ve been eating for over 20+ years, they will mentally struggle with the concept and shutdown the idea real fast. It’s just too much change and too much challenge packed into one event for most human beings to handle. But, that’s okay. The best you can do is encourage people that change is awesome and change is what keeps our minds young. When someone is ready for change, they will let you know.
- Know that they love you. They really do love you! – Your family and friends will always love you for who you are, not what you eat. In the small circumstance that you should lose a friend over going Vegan, well, maybe they were never your friend to begin with. Ultimately, you must remind yourself that through everything in life, family and friends will love you and be there for you. Don’t stray away or push anyone out, because they don’t understand you. That’s not entirely their fault and they don’t want you to go. You just have to hold on and believe they are the most important people in this world to you, and if that’s the case, you can find the time to put up with all the jokes, questions, remarks…etc. After all, you made it this far!
What you will find out by going through this transition, is that there are two types of people in this world.
- Someone who seeks truths and does nothing to change.
- Someone who seeks truths and embraces change.
The best thing to do is to understand your audience and figure out what category that person falls into. Spending more time with those that have historically embraced change will most likely help you survive in the long run.