Dealing with Criticism for Being Vegan

by Stacey Sommer
(Lagrange Park)

Dealing with Criticism for Being Vegan



My husband and I met some new people. My husband is a tattoo artist, and we went to their home so he could do tattoos for our new friends. These are BIG TIME meat-eaters. The man is about 350 pounds, his wife about 250. Their preteen kids are closing in on 200 pounds each. Big people, BIG meat eaters.

Naturally, they wanted to feed us dinner. My very supportive, very sweet husband told these people in advance that I was a vegan. He told them not to worry, just serve a salad with dinner. My husband has seen me have to eat when I get home from many events.

Well, these new friends of ours did not know what vegan meant. They bought TONS of "vegetarian" food for me... not vegan. They went to the trouble of buying and cooking Mac and cheese, chips and creamy dips, cheese balls and crackers. UGH. I felt AWFUL. I ate a couple bites of each. About 2 hours later, I had to RUN to the bathroom. No one noticed I was sick, besides me. My body wasn't used to all that dairy. It was ugly.

Anyway, we went back today. My husband had to finish a tattoo that started on the "mac and cheese day". Well...they had cooked up a POT of Italian Beef! They asked me if I was okay with a beef sandwich. I told them "NO." The man rolled his eyes, and said "Oh, get over yourself!".

I nearly cried. These people are so nice on every other topic. On this topic, I think they are trying to convert me to a meat eater.
This is troubling to me. My husband likes these guys and so do I! I need to come up with a very tactful, none offensive way to tell them to stop trying to feed me! I don't want to be a bitch...but I am not eating a beef sandwich! I have worked out a very "PC" spin on defending my morals, but any advise is welcome!!! This ever happen to any of you???


Answer:
Ugh, we feel your pain, Stacey. We've all dealt with criticism for being vegan at some point. That's a horrible situation, but ultimately, it seems like they're more the ones with the problems, and not you.

Food is a very sensitive subject for many people, maybe even most people. I think part of it goes back to the fact that many of our parents/grandparents went through a really tough time with the Great Depression in the 1920s, and with other similar food shortages in other countries throughout the ages. Not having enough food sticks with people, and that mentality is then implanted in their children and their children's children.

Another source of this food angst is that since the 1950s (at least in America, but probably in other countries as well), food production has been at an all-time high and we've switched from eating predominately plant-based whole foods to predominately animal-based processed foods. It's doing a number on our bodies and our health. As you mentioned above, sometimes those avid meat-eaters are also the ones who are overweight. However, this doesn't stop people from being extremely attached to eating meat.

What you need to remember is that you follow your lifestyle for your reasons, and while you can't convert everyone you come into contact with, others will feel that you are trying to do so. They can feel threatened by your convictions and worried that they are doing something wrong. And deep inside, it seems like they know they are hurting their bodies. So, sometimes people will lash out at you.

I suggest that you take those criticisms with a grain of salt and realize it's not about you. It's about them. If you can just keep your cool and laugh a bit, it will ease the tensions. Perhaps the next time you go over to their house, eat before you go and just let them know you're full. They might roll their eyes some, but the subject should fall by the wayside. Maybe you could also offer to bring over a very omnivore-friendly dish to share.

Keep using your PC moral-defending phrase and always remember that the problem isn't with you, but with people who can't accept you for what you believe in. It doesn't sound like you went in there with anything but the best intentions to be friendly and accepting, so the fault is with them. And, really, it's not even their fault. They probably have some food issues to deal with, and they probably never learned about what good, meat-free food can do for your body, soul, and spirit.

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Standing up
by: Nicole Lana

Eva, I agree with you. Yes instead of feeling defensive and bad about a different (and more ethical) diet choice & lifestyle, I think vegans should stand up and be proud...and speak up. And perhaps be unafraid to "rock the boat" if need be.

Many of us are taught to be "good girls/boys" and be "considerate" but there are times when being fierce and standing for yourself can really help. When you have this energy, people can sense it and will less likely mess with you (I am learning this myself too)

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Vegans Stand Proud
by: Eva

I think it's time vegans start to defend themselves, I don't mean to sound harsh, but really...enough is enough! Carnivores are often times not aware of the environmental impact and health implications they are contributing to simply by eating animal foods and products, they just don't get it and they should be the ones feeling out of place, after all agriculture is the #1 contributor to global warming and the destruction of our planet. Food first no matter what the cost and they roll their eyes at us in disgust. I get it all the time at the grocery store as I roll up my cart full of wholesome, cruelty free food...some are simply curious but others are clearly furious. I am no longer going to hold back when I get made fun of or confronted for being vegan...I will am proud and every other vegan should be too..I will defend myself and not take the jokes lightly anymore and just brush them off, rather I am going to push back. For every person who calls me a kale eating tree hugger I will call them a animal killing meat eater. Power to the Vegans....we are doing the right thing and need to make more noise.

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How do you know a Vegan at a Party
by: Anonymous

"And deep inside, it seems like they know they are hurting their bodies. So, sometimes people will lash out at you."

Kudos for this comment by the way. It is spot on. I think on a subconscious level the argument is(the meat eaters are thinking to themselves) " It takes a lot mental strength to just up and change your diet. She must think she is better than me." It's endless if you feel guilty about eating meat, don't attack the vegan: here's a hit(GO VEGAN!) This type of behaviour is endless, kind of like the kick the dog mentality as opposed to focusing on the real issues that haunt you. Veganism is not an esoteric members only club.

Btw about that joke. . .How do you find the Vegan in the room, they'll tell you. Why is that a funny? Is being vegan a secret?

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Handling anything that makes you different
by: Anonymous

I agree. These people are very ignorant. Also, they don't want to know.

I became vegan and stopped smoking and am I Seventh Day Adventist who honors her Sabbath. When I dropped weight and the self esteem went up and I moved on to doing healthier things for myself, everyone around me would look at me and just kind of laugh.

Take it with a grain of salt. I have learned, food, religion and quitting any bad habit is going to get a reaction.

Stick to your morals. Applaud yourself for doing what is right for you. People don't like change and being vegan is a lot of sacrifice for dairy loving, meat eaters. They don't want to hear it.

Change makes others look at themselves and they don't aways like what they see.

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these people are ignorant, don't worry :-)
by: Dee

Hey Stacey,

I don't think you are judgemental (haha... I think the anonymous poster is). I think you have been very tolerant with this man and the whole situation.

Meat products cause cruelties and horror to animals and damage to the environment - no matter whether people "believe" in climate change or not.
Usually, anti-vegans are non-informed.

Being vegan is the right thing to do and every informed person is able to see that.

It's up to us vegans to provide this kind of information to uninformed people.

And, in general, people who are rude towards you, because they do not share your world-view (even if it is compassionate, considerate and wonderful), no matter whether they are informed or not informed - they are not your friends.

Friends treat you with respect and try to be good hosts and don't invite you in order to make fun of you and call you insane behind your back.

These people treat themselves without care, they don't care about animals and the planet, and they don't care about the people they invite to their house.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of these people, and they think they are right because the majority of people is that ignorant. That is very sad and we can only change it by informing them - but, still, those that don't want to listen, won't, and it's obvious that they are the ones with the problems.

Don't let them turn their problems into your own ones. It's bad enough that we all have to live with the consequences of THEIR poor choices, we don't need to tolerate their intolerance.

I try to stay away from these kind of people at all costs and that's what I recommend.

They will always find other targets and never question their own way of living.
They would also make very bad vegans, because this is a character issue.

One either treats other people with respect - or not. And these people are not nice, period.

I hope you are not angry at them anymore, because they are really not worth it. They will get their "reward".

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Unbelievable!
by: Cathleen Woods

Stacey,
I can't believe you guys had to go through this. The things this man said and did are incredibly offensive and hurtful and I'm proud of you for responding as well as you did. I think the recent actions just prove that he is really dealing with some issues and is very intimidated by you. I do hope you never have to deal with another person who is this angry about your personal decisions again. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I am sure it will help others.
-Cathleen

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FINAL update on this family....
by: Anonymous

This is a final note on our new friends.

This man (nameless) called my husband back a couple days after hanging up on him. He apologized, and told my husband that he is always welcome at their home. He said "You are an AWESOME tattoo artist!" He then went on to say "just leave the wife at home"!!!!!

WOW.

Usually I am a pretty good at reading people. I was all wrong here.

I promise you all, I was never pushy or rude. I am actually a quiet, shy person around new people. I am even afraid of our dog trainer because she is pushy and bossy! LOL!!! I even found myself saying SORRY for my beliefs on more than one occasion! The only reason I even MENTIONED that I was a vegan, was because they were putting meat on plates for me and asking what was wrong. Clearly, by just being ME, I offended them.
My husband just said "Go f*** yourself", and hung up. He also told me how sorry he was. It was NOT my husband's fault...but he feels bad now too!

Clearly this family was just using my husband to get tattoos at a low price..."playing nice" at first. They were not nice at all. I was SO WRONG.

This is FOR SURE the worst reaction to telling someone you are a vegan. I am sure this won't happen to many people, or to ME again anytime soon. Just like I seem "extreme" to some, these people are "extreme" on the OTHER END of the spectrum.
I did decide to still donate to his son's wheelchair basketball team.... against my husband's wishes. His 14 year old handicapped son will benefit....and none of this is HIS fault!

Stacey

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update...
by: Stacey

We have had dinner at this family's house again, and I brought some vegan food.

We also went over to watch a game and just hang out. Other than the fact that they didn't care for my dish, things were going really well. They actually made fun of it to my face. I laughed it off, and THANKED THEM for their honesty! My husband told me he was hurt and mad at them, after we left. I told him to "chill". LOL!

Last week, my husband called them to follow up on plans we were making with them for after Thanksgiving. The man (still nameless) kept asking my husband tons of questions about what I cook for Thanksgiving. My husband keeps things light, and humerous...but told him the food I make is very good. Blah, blah...seemed like a normal coversation. Then, this man (our new FRIEND) went on to tell my husband that I was "nuts" and "mis-informed". He said I made choices based on "crazy PETA lunatic" opinions, and not my own.

Ok, my husband got REALLY mad. I guess he told him to "mind his own business," and told him to "worry about his own family". Then he hung up on my husband. They haven't spoken since. This was not my choice, I told him he could be friends with anyone he wants to. My husband said "I want to be friends with YOU, HE was the nut".

Oh well. I was never rude to them. I actually tried my best to avoid food topics with them. I never implied they were "gross" for being overweight. My MOTHER is obese!!! I would never come across rude, I would never bring it up to a new friend...PERIOD.
I hope the person that posted that comment, the one that said I may have "implied" something, can see that I misjudged this man. He seemed really nice, at any size, meat-eater or not. He wasn't stupid for not agreeing with me. Sometimes emails, posts and blogs lose something in translation. I am in no way "judgemental", I am a strong church-going christian. I volunteer at 2 homeless shelters, one of which I cook MEAT products for people. My mother, father and brother are all "obese"...which is a medical term.

I was happy we found some new friends, but it didn't work out. I feel like it is because I am different, and they didn't like it. That makes me sad enough. Thanks for all the advice and tips though.

Talk to you all soon!
Stacey

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I'm sorry, Stacey!
by: Natasha

I felt like Cathleen's response was perfect. But after I read the man's last rude statement to you and the negative comment by Anonymous above, I just wanted to tell you that I hope you didn't feel too bad.

A 300lb man is huge, let alone their whole family is obese or approaching (medical term, not rude).

Obesity IS unhealthy and horrible (I worry about my obese BFF and her ever ballooning children). The family WAS ignorant; they didn't know common vocabulary - vegan and vegetarian are different. It didn't seem at all as though you came off rudely toward them. The man rolled his eyes because your glowing face and healthy body intimidated him. He felt his constant back pain and sweaty rolls (I've had a few, they ARE disgusting, Mr. Anonymous) and lashed out, as Cathleen already stated. You don't sound judgmental at all, just hurt.

I hate that it's so easy for the lesser person to lash out! Keep goin!!!

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Use Your Sense of Humor
by: Anonymous

I find that approaching meals with carnivores with a sense of humor helps. They tease me a bit, I laugh, they relax and sometimes ask me questions about being vegan. They tend to really listen to me then and aren't so defensive.

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HUGE meat eaters
by: Anonymous

I feel your comment begins on a rude note. You criticize your new "friends" because they are HUGE and it seems like you hold it against them. You imply that they are horrible, unhealthy, disgusting people and imply that they are stupid because they don't understand what you want. I sure hope you didn't come at them the way your letter reads because if you did, no wonder this man rolled his eyes!
Maybe you should explain to them what being a vegan means and the difference between veganism and vegetarianism is. Maybe you should take your own food and explain that you like having dinner with them and you like the company, but you don't eat what they do, so you brought your own.
And don't be so judgemental.

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killing plants
by: Anonymous

I also hate it when meat-eaters tell you how painful it is for vegetables to be picked and eaten and that killing a plant is just the same as killing an animal. My response of late has just been, "Well, I want to start somewhere, so I'm starting by not eating the animals." Remarkably, this quiets them down quickly :)

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The simple way...
by: Elizabeth

.. is just to smile, say 'thanks for the thought, but meat really isn't my thing'. If they press it and try to 'convert' you, you just say, 'with respect, I don't want to eat meat/I don't feel I'm missing anything/I don't feel I need any nutritional advice/I'm perfectly happy this way'. Big smile all the time, change the subject as soon as possible and talk of other things you DO have in common. Don't let it bug you, it's not worth losing sleep over.

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Finding the Right Words
by: Ellen

I go through the same thing with people in my family, with co-workers and now with dating. It seems to me that we need to have some good lines to throw their way in response - respectfully done of course. But, it has begun to anger me that they are so disrespectful. Everyone has the right to their opinion - I get that. I understand that. But, everyone has also the right to be shown respect. I could understand them to ask us many questions - wanting to understand why we eat vegan - what we eat as a vegan. But rolling eyes, insulting our way, putting us on the defensive is not respectful and that I think should be dealt with. I just haven't figured out how. I haven't figured out what I can say with respect and yet get my point across. Any suggestions???

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thank you
by: Stacey

The things you said mean so much to me. I also thought about bringing a dish to their house to share. My vegan potato and "cheese" casserole even fooled my cheddar loving mother!
We are going back to their place in mid-November. I will let you know how it goes.
You are right. They do have a problem, but they are in some kind of denial about it. I watched the 350 pound man roll his eyes at me, then choke down a whole sausage in 3 bites. He is a diabetic too! He is killing himself, and his young children are following in these dangerous footsteps. It almost hurts to watch this. Still, they are more like most Americans than I am. I am the "extreme" to them. I am a vegan, they didn't even know what that was! I am a normal weight, my cholesteral level is so low that it shocks doctors, my blood pressure is perfect, and everyone comments on my nice skin, hair and nails. All that, and I am 35 years old, not a teenager! Being a vegan does all this and MORE.
Somehow, I am the whacko though.
Like I said, I actually LIKE this family. I just want them to take me for who I am. I hope it gets to that point.
Thank you again for your understanding kindness.
Stacey

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