Hi Everyone- I am new to this (it has been three weeks with only one mess up) and having a hard time "coming out". Generally I just feel bad when I go to someone's house (especially older) and think that Vegan is being Vegetarian. My poor grandmother made a special "vegetarian lasagna" for me becuase she didnt understand the difference between vegan and vegetarian. I ended up eating it because i felt so terrible and because she was being so sweet. After that I just started eating a vegan meal before I went anywhere and bringing a salad. I am also nervous about getting made fun of by my family who thinks I cant stick to this (I tried to be vegetarian before and it didnt go well) or people groaning about how i am one of those "impossible dinner guests". Does anyone have any advice? Honestly I feel really good this time...and I dont miss meat at all. Thank you for your help in advance....and thanks Alicia for creating a place where I dont have to worry about being made fun of for trying :)
Hi Caitlin, I'm new at this as well, and have folks who think I won't follow through, so you aren't alone! First, I don't count things like Grandma's lasagna as mess-ups or failures. Don't forget that this is ultimately about being kind, and while its not ideal, anything made with that kind of love needs to be accepted, right?
It sounds like your grandmother is a good cook, so you might try asking her to help you find ways to 'veganize' some things you really like. That way she can learn about ingredients like vegan cheese, and you can learn how to make a kick-**s lasagna.
For other occasions, try letting the hosts know you are vegan and asking if you can bring a dish to share. That way you aren't putting them out ,and you get to introduce folks to some great plant-based food.
Just stand your ground. If anyone has a problem with it, that's THEIR problem. It would be different if you were telling them to go vegan, but if you're not, they also have no right to tell you to eat meat or dairy. It's YOUR personal decision and you have the right to it. That does suck if people make fun of you for it, but how ignorant of them? I would not even want to associate myself with these types. The situation w/ your grandma, however, really does sucks since she was trying to be nice about it. I'm still a bit worried about confronting these types of situations myself. I suppose it's just best to make your veganism crystal clear upfront if at all possible and/or bring a dish of your own to ensure you have something good to eat. Good luck w/ it. And remember:
If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.
I have had similar problems. I had a boss that treated me badly while I was transitioning to veganism. There are just so many perpetuated misconceptions about vegans and veganism. You are doing the right thing. Read the jungle and fast food nation. Do you research on veganism and know your reasons. Is it animals, environment, your health, what is it? Then, have an educated conversation with people that inquire. For those whom are ignorant and insist on promoting their ignorance do not tolerate it anymore than you would tolerate any other type of harassment or discrimination. Stand you ground and stand proud. Being a vegan is one of the best things you can do in this world.
The best advice I can give in my experience is to not pay attention to anyone that teases you or gives you a hard time. You have made a choice and to be honest, it is NO ONE'S business but your own. I am extremely lucky that my family has supported my decision, but although they support it I definitely get teased quite a bit. You can't let other people get in your head, just stay strong and be confident in your choice.
I would say that at some point you should probably just sit down with your family and just have a conversation about your decision, why you've made it and what it entails. This will clear up any confusion about what you will and will not eat. I agree with Janine that a great way to solve the dinner guest situation is to offer to make a dish to bring with you. That way you are guaranteed a meal and will also be able to show that vegan food can be hearty and delicious.
Just be true to yourself, no matter what choices and decisions you have made. Once your family sees that you are committed, hopefully they will support you.
I concur with what all our fellow vegans are suggesting: primarily, when going to a non-vegan home you can offer to bring something to share, and introduce them to the amazing world of vegan foods.
If you are uncomfortable with the "I'm a vegan...What's a vegan?" discussion, then you don't even have to explain why you are bringing your own dish...pawn it off as a kind gesture you insist upon doing, and then after others partake in your yummy food, you can explain, "By the way, this is vegan."
I find that to be a much more effective way to bring up the discussion on what it is to be vegan. Since their taste buds have already said "this food is good" they will be more willing to listen when you explain why you have a different lifestyle. Otherwise, they'll immediately dismiss you and think (like many others mistakenly think) that vegan foods are boring and tasteless.
Another approach (which is the one I take 95% of the time) is to speak in a language that is understandable for most of the population. I switched to a vegan lifestyle for health reasons after I had my gall bladder removed in February. When the doctor said "no red meat, no dairy, no fried foods..." to me it was silly to try to justify eating chicken and fish when the doctor was telling me cows were bad for me. I made a personal decision to cut everything out...and after it changed my entire body, it began to change my spirit. I am now seeking ways to change other parts of my own life to be kinder to all life.
Certain religions have dietary restrictions (like Islamic or Jewish), and certain individuals have dietary restrictions (diabetes, ciliac disease, etc). So, if I told someone I had to do it, why do they judge me less than if I simply want to do it? Pointing this out to them leaves them with the burden of explanation, not you! :)
When I first went vegan about a year ago, I didn't mention it to anyone unless there was a reason to do so. This has the advantage that people find out organically by seeing your meal choices or asking how you lost weight. Lighten up, don't worry about what people will think, be open about your reasons, don't be defensive, admit you might fail or change your mind. Treat the obstacles more like a game - hmmm... interesting challenge, how can I eat out with my friends as Sloppy Joes as a vegan?
My approach was to say - I read this book - I found it compelling - so I decided to start eating vegan as an experiment. This takes the pressure off - if you stop being vegan then its just the end of the experiment, not a personal failure.
There's an art to eating out with friends and finding vegan options - but normally the restaurant staff will be more than happy to put something together if you ask - don't feel bad about this - it is an opportunity for them to earn a good tip.
If you are going to someone's house - let them know before hand and offer to bring something. They will probably be enthusiastic to try and accommodate you.
If you can't find something perfectly vegan, go nearly vegan and don't feel bad about it. It will get easier overtime as you and the people around you learn to adapt.