Coming Out as Vegan

According to an article by The Huffington Post, 2.5% of the U.S. population is vegan, over double the number of vegans in the U.S. (1%) in 2009. Despite a significant increase in the number of vegans, veganism is still very much considered an alternative and, sometimes even, an unusual lifestyle choice. When we live in a society that utilizes animal products in many of its practices, from what we eat to what we wear, it can be difficult to share with others that we have made a choice to be different. I personally have experienced the struggles of “coming out as vegan” and how I approach the situation.

“Just so you know, I am vegan, so I don’t eat certain things.” I’ve found that this is the best way to start the conversation. It lets the person know that you aren’t going to eat certain foods, and it’s not because you don’t like those foods: Those foods just aren’t a part of your diet. When I started my current job, where we have weekly lunch meetings, I had to tell the administrative assistant, who orders the food, about my diet restrictions. Thankfully, I work on a college campus that is very accommodating of special diets, and she was very understanding. Sometimes, this is all it takes, but if not, you’ll have to explain…

“It affects my life more than it affects yours.” I know that all vegans are different, but I personally will not make any of my family, friends, or coworkers eat vegan in my presence. I feel that choosing to be vegan is a choice that I have made. So, when we go out to eat, it shouldn’t impact what restaurants we go to, for example. As long as there is a salad I can eat, it’s okay. I want to show others that a person can lead a vegan lifestyle without significantly changing up their routine. However, if your audience’s feathers are still ruffled from this statement, I often follow up with this…

“I won’t make you become vegan, but I will openly express my opinions.” I have friends that try to convince everyone around them to become vegan, but I don’t. If people have questions about why I have elected to follow a vegan diet, I will happily answer them, but if not, I won’t necessarily bring it up. In my opinion, pushing veganism on others is akin to pushing Christianity on others: If a person doesn’t want to practice it, they won’t. Rather, I choose to live as an example and model a plant-based lifestyle for others. I don’t want to misrepresent the vegan community by forcefully pushing veganism: I want to participate in a peaceful protest for animals.

Not everyone is going to react well to the fact that you’re vegan. One of my favorite responses to coming out as vegan was, “Wow, you must not like food then,” which is the opposite of the truth. I love food, but because I also love animals, I don’t want to eat food that was produced in a way that negatively affects them. How did you tell your family, friends, or coworkers that you were vegan? Were you met with  respect or dismay? I look forward to reading and responding to your stories in the comments.

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