To anyone not brought up vegetarian or vegan, the shock your lifestyle choice sends throughout the universe may be hard to handle. After all, you are now the leper to all your meat and dairy loving peers who “can’t even” imagine life without dead flesh and titty milk.
You have declared open season on yourself. For the rest of your life, so long as you abstain from meat and dairy, other people will comment on, make judgment on, and challenge you about what you eat. Were you ready for that? Did your reasons, whatever they were, for turning to this lifestyle include hardening yourself against the opinions others will have about your choice for your diet for the rest of your life? Mine certainly didn’t.
I shouldn’t complain, I had it easier than most. I’ve never really liked meat. I almost always refused to eat it as a child, told friends’ parents I was allergic to it growing up, and pretty much avoided it my whole life. Before I decided to openly cut meat out of my life, it was easy to avoid the elephant in the room that the word “vegan” seems to be. After all, who’s going to force you to eat anything you simply don’t like?
How wrong I was. From the moment I associated myself with the “v” word, the world flipped. Friends and family members had a big problem with my diet and still see fit comment on it regularly. While neither my friends nor my family were very subtle about their opinions on my lifestyle, my friends at least try asking questions and trying to work around my “new” way of eating. My family on the other hand saw this lifestyle “change” as open season for debates, endless unsubstantiated facts they “read somewhere,” and the distinct feeling I look protein deficient and pale. (For the record, I was actually closer to being protein deficient before I gave up meat and lived off spaghetti, cheese-less pizza, and Caesar salad. Also, I usually pale. That part is probably true.)
Through trial, patience, lack of patience, and acceptance I’ve learned a few things about how to handle going vegan when the rest of the world “can’t even” deal with your lifestyle choice.
Study your shit.
People are going to challenge you. People you’ve known your whole life, and some you just met, are going to think they know more about your health and diet than you do. Be prepared with facts and rebuttals on demand. If you’re an ethical vegan, study up on animal treatments and laws around the world. If you came to the lifestyle for health reasons, you better know all the facts about how meat diets and veggie diets affect your health. Actually, you should probably know your shit on all aspects and health effects of a veggie diet regardless.
Understand you are not the only one adjusting to your lifestyle.
Your friends and family have grown accustomed to your quirks, behavior, and diet. While it may seem to be a logical change for you to go from eating whatever to having dietary restrictions, it may not be for those around you. Give them time to adjust to your new eating habits. It might be a little stressful for them to try to figure out what you can and can’t eat, when you eat, and especially how much you eat. Change affects everyone differently. Answer their questions, try to ignore their “facts” about your lifestyle, and remember that they’re only concerned because they care. I still struggle with this one from time to time, and that’s okay. You don’t have to be infinitely patient, just enough to cut others some slack.
Be the planner.
It’s time to be the event coordinator of your social situations. Believe me, it’s awkward for everyone involved when you go out to eat with your friends and the restaurant has no meal options for you. This is where your inner event coordinator comes in. There is no longer an option to answer inquiries on where you want to eat with “wherever”. Speak up. Take control of your social life by suggesting safe restaurants, vegHead-friendly activities, and even cooking at home. If these options feel too burdensome, then at least eat beforehand or bring snacks.
Learn to cook.
If you’re new to a vegan diet, or even a vegetarian diet, it will be beneficial to know how to cook. Eating all your meals from restaurants gets expensive quickly, and eating only pizza and boxed macaroni and cheese is an easy way to pack on pounds. There are thousands of YouTube videos, blogs, and recipe websites to feed you for the rest of your life. Don’t let a lack of kitchen experience hold you back, because there are recipes for novices and experts. Take advantage of these resources; your budget and belt will appreciate it.
Let in and let go.
People that live their lives differently from what’s considered normal by society are always subject to curiosity and even contempt. Remember why you chose to switch to this lifestyle, and don’t walk through life with a chip on your shoulder. You may grow and evolve with age, but you’re still the same bag of bones you were before you gave up meat and dairy. Embrace the change. Remember your friends and families love your vegHead ass and will accept you. If they don’t embrace your lifestyle right away, they will in time. Remember that there are meet ups and festivals where you can connect with others who follow this lifestyle. You don’t have to go through life feeling as if there’s a separation from the rest of the world. There’s someone who understands behind this article, and I can probably relate to your journey. If not me, there’s someone else out there that does. Remember that you are not defined by what you do or do not eat. You are a unique individual made up of a complex personality, belief system, and preferences. Don’t get sucked into thinking “you are what you eat” is a literal statement; you are so much more then what you eat. I know it can be annoying to deal with questions and opinions against your lifestyle choice. Again, you don’t have to be infinitely patient with people, just enough to give them the patience and consideration you would like in return.
Switching to this lifestyle is different for everyone, some find it easy and others struggle. If you found a different way to deal with a world that “can’t even” handle your lifestyle, if you found this article helpful, or if you never experienced any turmoil in going vegHead then let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear about your experiences.