IT IS GOING TO HAPPEN…someone will question your plant-based diet in a manner that makes you feel uncomfortable. It is just part of life. It may be your mother-in-law or it may be your neighbor. It might even be your doctor. I am not talking about when people ask you questions out of genuine curiosity. I am referring to those folks who ask questions in a way that imply that your dietary choices are not legitimate. The thing to keep in mind is that these individuals are actually doing you a favor because they are helping you to gain clarity on your values. But how to handle the situation when it comes up? Here are a few suggestions to ease the tension:
When to argue: Never. It is not worth the energy. If someone asks you a question that feels doubting of your choices, it is best to simply say something to the effect of “I am making the best decisions for my family’s well being that I know how. If you have some questions about eating a plant-based diet, you may want to visit www.pcrm.org.” Then change the subject. If they cannot let it go, excuse yourself and leave.
Recognize that harsh comments are the result of someone feeling threatened: Those who feel the need to criticize your personal choices are usually insecure about their own. It can be very difficult for many folks to face the fact that their diet is less than healthful and lacks compassion. Unfortunately, I could give you several examples of this kind of behavior.
I used to have a friend whose family was in the race horse business. One day, she invited me to a barbecue at her house. When the event came around, I brought some veggie fare for me to eat as my friend had suggested. My friend’s sister, a professional horse breeder who considered herself to be a real animal lover, was doing most of the cooking. When I went into the kitchen to put my veggie burgers in the fridge, she asked about them and offered to prepare some baked beans without meat for me. Naturally, I thanked her and asked if I could help, which she politely declined by saying she was all set. When it came time to eat, she served baked beans to my plate from a small pot. Right after the dinner was over, my friend’s sister announced that she had served me baked beans with bacon in them. There are some people in the world that will lash out no matter what you do or say.
Use humor whenever possible: I have sometimes found that a great way to ease a tense situation is with gentle humor. If you are able to come up with a lighthearted response to a doubting question, you may be able to avoid some awkward discourse. Here are a few suggestions for a response to the question “Why don’t you eat meat?”…
“With the economy the way it is, I have to watch my budget. You didn’t really expect me to give up cigarettes, did you?”
“My fear of heights keeps me eating low on the food chain.”
“Because burger breath isn’t sexy.”
“I’m just too nice a person to eat animals.”
“It’s easier to round up a herd of carrots than cattle.”
Every situation is different. You will simply have to feel each one out and follow your best judgment on how to handle things. What is most important to remember is that none of this is personal and that your peace of mind is more important than anything anyone has to say about you as a person.
I would love to hear some more snappy answers to diet questions if you know of any!
© Jill Powers and The Feel Good Vegan 2010.
Photo courtesy of Corel