Ok, I Admit It: I’ve Underestimated You

 

Ok. What I’m about to say isn’t so easy to admit in a public forum, but I’ve got to come clean.

A little backstory: My best friend called me a few weeks ago to tell me that she’s going vegan! I was surprised and thrilled and couldn’t stop smiling from ear to ear. But deep down, I was kind of horrified: I’d never even considered truly talking to her about veganism. Maybe we’d had a few conversations about it over the years, but she asked me point-blank: “Why didn’t you tell me all this was happening?” As she uncovered more of the truth about the stomach-churning ways that farm animals are treated, she couldn’t believe that I’d been so mild mannered about it.

Then I realized: I’ve been underestimating you. All of you. For the last ten years, I’ve been in my own quiet corner over here, being vegan, hoping you’ll notice, but doubting that anyone that I met would actually make the change because of me. I was resigned and cynical that the world around me could ever possibly care about the lives of animals more than they cared about their tastebuds. When I think back on it, I wonder: why did I even go vegan if that’s what I really thought? To pat myself on the back? To feel righteous? In my defense, saving 3,650 animals in ten years is definitely rewarding. But knowing that I could have saved more is something that was really sticking in my craw. Why had I been so silent for so long?

And then I came across the below image depicting a theory called “The Spiral of Silence.”
spiral of silence

Read more about the Spiral of Silence theory by Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann here.

Awwww…look at me being a sad little dot called “Person with Minority Viewpoint” sliding down the slinky spiral into an abyss of silence. I realized that my entire attitude while communicating about veganism lived in that tiny space called “Perceived Discrepancy.” The most important thing I realized is that the discrepancy is perceived.

No wonder I felt so isolated when talking about veganism! I had created a distance between myself and others. When I think back on conversations where acquaintances asked me about being vegan, I remember feeling impatient with the typical conversation. They’d say “Oh, I really don’t eat that much meat” or “Where do you get your protein?” or “But what’s wrong with eggs?”and I’d sigh. It felt exhausting to respond and explain to the same questions and conversations over and over again. I realize now that was the one turning it into the same conversation. While the questions are almost always the same, the people asking them are different. The answers apply to them differently. I’d ignored the possibility that I could help someone learn or think about their choices in a new way.

This one realization has led me to completely re-examine how I perceive what’s possible for myself and the people around me. It’s very ordinary to slip into being “reasonable” or “rational” or using “common-sense” when talking with people about a polarizing subject. In reality, these are terms that we use to keep ourselves safe from our fears of failure, rejection, and what we perceive to be utter calamity: WHAT IF THEY DON’T LIKE ME?!?!? But what if we challenged ourselves to push past that point of comfortability? To challenge ourselves to have those “same old conversations” with people in a new way every time they pop up? I’ve been practicing this recently and I am blown away by the results. People listen and care when you do. I’m not advocating for preaching or arguing, but truly connecting with other people on a meaningful level. The object is not to win an argument or even to persuade them to agree, but to share with them who you are and what you care about, and see if they need your help!

Over the years, a few close friends of mine have gone vegan without any persuasion on my part.  One of my friends mentioned that seeing me living my normal vegan life helped her to go vegan- knowing that it was possible to be vegan, happy, well-fed, and not a socially-awkward weirdo (except on businessy voicemails…because that is 100% my kryptonite.) It’s made me feel incredibly inspired each time someone shares with me that they’ve decided to go vegan. I’m hoping that now that I can actually talk about it, I’ll see more and more of my friends and family making the change.

So that’s it. Being honest with you has made me feel better! What do you dread talking about? Where in your life do you feel like an outsider? Are you holding on to a perceived discrepancy that may or may not exist? I’d love to know what’s going on with you. I know you’re reading this. Don’t be afraid to speak up!

Ok, I Admit It: I’ve Underestimated You

Is Being Vegan Healthy?

Not inherently.

The truth is, that eating vegan is not synonymous with eating healthy. Many people think that if you’re vegan that means that you claim to eat “better” than other people. I’ve had someone assume that I don’t use the microwave because I’m vegan. Or that I don’t eat gluten. Or that I do juice cleanses and drink smoothies every day. But the truth is, that being vegan is a framework for choosing what to eat, but it has very little to do with how to eat.

Full disclosure: My go-to empty-fridge meal is called hummus pasta. It’s just cooked pasta covered in a heaping spoonful of hummus. I’m not proud of it and it’s definitely not winning any blue ribbons for “Most Nutritious Dinner,” but it’s delicious and in a pinch, gets the job done. Many people have that one vegan friend who just eats french fries and pasta all the time.  Fatty fried foods can be vegan. Sour Patch Kids are vegan. Red Bull is vegan.

Eating vegan is simply the avoidance of animal protein in any form. Intrinsically, eating vegan has nothing to do with health.

On the other hand, eating a plant-based diet can have an enormous positive impact on your health. A thoughtful vegan diet consisting of adequate nutrients, vitamins, and minerals is not particularly challenging to adopt. Prior to going vegan, I wasn’t eating very healthfully. I ate junk food late at night and never thought about the quantity (or lack thereof) of the vegetables I was occasionally eating. I’ve always enjoyed fruits and vegetables, but I hadn’t spent much time intentionally consuming them. When I went vegan, I decided to avoid animal protein and improve the quality of my diet simultaneously.

While there are so many fantastic resources on the internet for finding nutritional information, I think it’s easy to get a bit lost in the shuffle when you’re first going vegan. You can read on one website that you have to take a B12 supplement, while another website tells you that your vegan diet is whole and perfect and better than any other diet. But who can you really trust to give you great nutrition advice?

The answer, in my opinion, is your intuition. Or rather, experts whose advice and credentials you trust and your intuition. Not bloggers on the internet.

If you are considering a vegan diet, I suggest you read up on everything you can in published sources regarding nutrition. Shortly after I went vegan, I took a college course in nutrition. My professor, Dr. Lisa Young, is an expert on portion control and adequate nutrition through whole, minimally processed foods. During her class, I gained valuable insight into the body’s relationship with the nutrients that we provide for it. From my experience in that class, I’m confident that the way that I eat is healthy and beneficial. I know that I’m healthy because I eat a well-balanced diet and my blood tests confirm that, despite the occasional dinner of hummus pasta.

 

Is Being Vegan Healthy?