Just One Bite.

steak1

Hi all!

I’m glad you guys enjoyed the video. To clarify, my friend Ben who sent me the link is not the fellow in the video. But he may very well now wish he owned a pair of monkey boxers, too.

I’ve spent the last day or two mulling over a very thought-provoking note I received from a friend last week. She was recently diagnosed with Celiac disease, and on top of this, she has been making efforts to cut meat and dairy out of her diet (and I should add that she’s doing an absolutely terrific job!). She feels great, but she’s running into some of the predictable social scenarios that face us when we choose to change our diets. In her own words:

“I’ve decided that not eating animal derivatives at a meal is akin to turning down alcohol at a college party—it seems to make people feel guilty for their own consumption and many are unable to accept that someone’s choice not to consume something is as natural as their own choice to consume it. They get pushy or argumentative or tell me that I must be going through a phase and should just give it up sooner rather than later. I can’t tell you how upset my decision seems to be making everyone! Everyone except me, that is. I’m quite satisfied!”

I could not have summed the reality of these situations more astutely or succinctly. Regardless of what sort of diet you eat, there is a very good chance you’ve come crashing up against this situation before—at a party, a dinner with friends, a family reunion, or happy hour. Somehow, a small change (or set of changes) in your lifestyle manages to totally unnerve people. And as a result, they’ll be quick to judge, snicker at, or attack you.

When I became a vegan, I was shocked at the level of discomfort that my lifestyle seemed to provoke in other people. I was expecting curiosity, ignorance, and perhaps some teasing. But I was astounded to find that not eating animal products could provoke so much hostility.

I shouldn’t have been. It was all a repetition of the antagonism I encountered when I started to cut back on drinking in my early twenties (and later, when I gave it booze completely). Certain “friends” seemed personally offended that I wasn’t interested in drinking or getting drunk anymore—so much so that my sobriety became a marked source of tension between us. As uncomfortable as this was, it didn’t take me too long to assess what was going on: the fact that drinking didn’t interest me anymore was making these friends wonder why, with college a few years behind us, drinking still interested them so much. This was never a problem with friends who had a healthy relationship with alcohol and still isn’t; they didn’t care that I wasn’t drinking, and why should they have? They drank moderately and happily and for the right reasons, so they had no reason to be discomfited by someone who had a different sort of relationship with the sauce. But there were a few friends and acquaintances who seemed disproportionately put off, and it goes without saying that they were the ones who seemed to drink too much, or for too long, or too often, or perhaps out of social pressure.

This is not a complicated or revelatory psychological lesson: peer pressure and teasing (not to mention bigotry and hate) are nearly always the by-products of insecurity. We all know this. Even so, it can be downright astounding to see how poignant this tendency becomes within the realm of food. I’ve been blessed with a group of friends who won’t and don’t pass judgment on the way I eat (just as I never pass judgment on them), but I have come across a fair bit of animosity with new acquaintances and family members. And it’s no fun—especially if you’re doing your best to talk about your lifestyle choices in a fair, open-minded, and enthusiastic way.

The hostility you encounter might take one of many forms. It might be teasing: you might get flack for being a “hippie,” or “crunchy,” or asked, as I was once, when you planned on investing in Birkenstocks (for the record? I got my first pair this year. I feel OK about it so far.). It might take the form of downright hostility. And it might take my favorite form, akin to the ole “C’mon, just one drink!” refrain, which is “Come on. Why won’t you have just one bite??”—set to the motion of someone shoving a forkful of food at you.

My best advice for a scenario like this is for you to remember what’s really going on. Divest the situation of its discomfort, and consider the obvious: clearly, your choice to make any kind of healthy change (be it dietary, drinking-related, or a lifestyle choice, like quitting smoking or starting to work out), is forcing someone else to take a tough look at his or her own choices. And that person doesn’t like what he or she sees. This is too bad—as I hope you all sense by now, I feel very distressed when anyone feels guilty or insecure about food. Food is to be enjoyed, not lamented. But someone else’s insecurity simply isn’t your problem, and it is especially not your problem if they happen to foist it onto you in the form of anger or derision.

If someone seems simply baffled by your lifestyle choice, try to explain it succinctly and with lots of warmth and enthusiasm. Don’t account for your decision by rattling off facts or statistics or stuff you’ve read in books—that’s unnecessary, and it will immediately make other people adopt a defensive posture. Instead, focus on yourself and your personal health: say how great eating vegetarian, not drinking, practicing yoga, or not combining proteins and starches makes you feel. Say it with a smile and a sense of self-assurance, and I guarantee that you won’t hear another peep.

With those who are being unkind, on the other hand, try to diffuse the situation quickly and assertively. Just say, “I’m really happy with [insert name of lifestyle choice here], so I’d prefer not to discuss it any further”—or something along those lines.

And if all that fails? Break out the brutal honesty. The last time I heard “why won’t you just have a bite?!” I countered with a very gentle and deadpan, “Why is it so important to you that I eat a bite of the food you’re eating?”

It worked. Beautifully.

I’m so glad that my friend has the self-assurance and intelligence to separate her feelings of personal satisfaction from her feelings of social acceptance or approbation. This is hard for many women (and some men, too!). But believe me when I say that it is a skill that can be easily learned. Stick to your convictions, whatever they may be.

Have a great evening.

xo

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    76 Comments
  1. I am always amazed at how my very personal choices bother someone else; it’s exactly as you say. My choice has caused them to reexamine their own choices and they don’t like what they see, so their solution is to attack mine.

  2. I find it astounding how often people get defensive about their life choices when they see others making different ones. I’m not a vegan, I drink, I used to smoke (husband still does), I don’t follow one particular diet or another and so on and so on— frankly it doesn’t really matter what I do or I don’t, I often run into someone who does ‘it’ the opposite way and feels they just have to comment/denigrate/mock my choices. Its none of their business how I live– full stop. Family dinners, I can see issues there, but when I have guests I do my darnedest to meet/accomodate their food preferences or limitations– that’s my job as hostess. If I eat at someone else’s house, they should blinking well do the same. A good host/ess makes their guest feel comfortable. There may not be much we can do about family members who have the bad taste (not referring to those who don’t understand the diet choices as to what is in or not) to run others down unfortunately.

    The best revenge of course is to be healthy and happy. I’m both and I look fantastic!

  3. Gena,

    What a great article! I’m in the process of slowly trying on a High Raw lifestyle, as well as substantially reducing my alcohol intake. I’m quite lucky to have very supportive and non-threatened friends. But I can identify with being forced to take a hard look at my own lifestyle when friends and family change theirs. If you can embrace it, it’s a great learning opportunity. It took me a while though…=)

    Also, wanted to tell you that I’ve been spending quite a bit of time going through the countless vegan and raw blogs, and that I really enjoy the intelligence, thoughtfulness, and candor that you bring to the conversation. You are definitely my favorite raw blog.

    Keep on with the thought provoking!

  4. Right on. You are such an eloquent writer. Thanks for bringing this one up… I know I’ve been on both sides of this, and though it does sometimes infuriate me when people seem to become hostile because of a personal decision I make, I know I need to come from a place of love, not defensiveness or anger.

    Thanks for a great post.

  5. Thank you Gena for posting this! It’s a great lesson in general, and the example response at the end is perfect for out-of-the-box re-use in many situations I encounter. THANK YOU! 🙂

  6. wow, this is so true. i know i take things to heart more than i should… and i’m trying! there’s still some things i’m working on accepting in my life (amidst others that i’m quite happy with), that little things seem to set me off these days. This is good to keep in mind, to help continue to move forward!

    thanks gena 🙂

  7. Brilliant post Gena. I deal with this often from family and friends, but I am learning to stand stronger and firmer in what I beleive and what is true for me. I love the question you proposed to ask – I will definitely be using that one!
    Thank you for sharing on such a sensitive topic that so many on this path can relate too.
    Namaste,
    Jill

  8. Talk about succinct! I love this post. I often get flummoxed when people grill me (with more than a little hostility) about my lifestyle, so thanks for the tips.

  9. This is all so true!! I have encountered the kind of negativity you mention countless times. I get it a lot from one close friend in regards to my starting running. She isn’t mean but if I tell her I went for a six mile run she’ll act like I am clinically insane and then counter it by saying in a not-so-heartfelt manner that she thinks it’s “amazing” that anyone can truly enjoy exercise. I know she just feels bad about the fact that she is not running/exercising or whatever but it’s really hard to tackle this with a close friend.

  10. Thank you so much for this post. It has truly forced me to take a long, hard look at myself and reconsider my views not only on the raw philosophy but also with regard to my approach to life in general and my severely insecure, competitive personality. Your incisiveness and wisdom are second to none, and I hope any negative people in your life who read this come to the same realisation that I did: that the problem lies with us, not with you. I did a whole separate post about it two days’ back so I won’t repeat myself, but I just had to tell you how much this post meant to me.

  11. I really liked this post! It’s amazing how many people can turn on you in an instant just for turning down another beer or a piece of steak. How strange it is that we all have to see and deal with this when we are trying to better ourselves.

  12. Hey. I loved this post. This past year I’ve been slowly changing my dietary lifestyle, mainly because I have a four year old who is developmentally delayed. The changes I’ve seen in him have been amazing. He has been progressing at a very fast pace. Most people do not understand the changes I have made. Most seem to think that I am somehow depriving my son because I refuse to let him drink kool aid and eat cheese puffs. Most of the critism comes from my family and is very hard to deal with, especially when i see them giving him potato chips or candy and then telling me that it won’t kill him to eat differently for just one day. They know exactly where I stand on this issue, yet still try to defy my decisions. Thank you for the advice on how to deal with this situation. I never thought that their own insecurities could be what is causing them so much discomfort over my decisions.

  13. I love this!
    I’s so true. Ppl can get crazy! I’ve done it to others and had it done to me – most recently by my daddy, who asked if I’d be “foraging in the park” for dinner.
    It was funny as hell though!

  14. I’ve been following your blog for a while (it a completely non-creepy way haha) and I just wanted to finally comment and say I loved this post. I transitioned to veganism a few months ago and when I announced it to my parents they seemed disappointed. Ever since then, my mother has been jabbing at me to eat an egg. Everyone seems to think I’m torturing myself by eating veggies and that I can’t possibly be meeting my nutritional needs without consuming animal products. I’ve definitely gotten the “just one bite” line a few times. I feel akward in these situations because I don’t want to get angry or start ranting over food. I like the advice to look at the other person and note that they’re dealing with their own insecurities. I’m going to keep this in mind 🙂

    And on a completely unrelated note, I tried your raw italian pizza cheese the other day and promptly bought a huge bag of cashews so I can make it many more times

  15. I absolutely love this post, Gena. I constantly get pressure from my bf, in a cute way, to just “have one bite”. He gets concerned whenever I lose weight, and he eats about a zillion calories a day, so naturally in his boy mind that = normal. haha. But he has started listening when I say, “Why is it important to you that I eat unhealthy food?” and that comment just shuts him up.

    My family also took it badly when I announced that I would be transitioning into becoming a vegetarian. It seemed almost personal, like they were offended that I wouldn’t be consuming animal products any longer. Weird!

  16. I find that people are very, very emotionally attached to their food. That alone warrants some personal inquiry! When others act angry, I agree, it’s because they feel that you are implicitly judging them for their choices. I try to go out of my way and affirm everyone for making the best choices they can for themselves at any given time.

    We’re all just walking the path!

  17. Gena, this is a great post! Totally spot on and a subject I’ve been planning to discuss as well! I have also found that the same hostility holds true for food allergies as well. I often get the, “But just take a bite! A bite won’t hurt you.” Or “There’s not much in there, you can eat this.” Um, no I can’t because I’m allergic. People who don’t have food allergies don’t quite get it. 🙂

  18. I love this post and all the comments it spurred. Hardly anyone I know bothers me about not eating meat but I do sometimes get random comments like “you can’t not eat meat forever,” etc. I kind of think they don’t believe I’m serious about this (it’s been 8 months now, if it were a boyfriend, I think we’d be getting serious)! I love all this advice though because I’m sure I’ll get some comments during the holiday season.

  19. Great post. I think I get to a place of self-loathing when I perceive other people as dieting to the extremes or obsessing about food, diet, calories, etc. It’s not intentional, it comes from a place of pain and extreme shame of the disorder I suffered from for almost a decade (anorexia). I find that disease disgusting, including the denial and defense of the disease, so I have a knee jerk reaction to “friends” who are dieting. I lost so much of myself for so long, and it was such a terrifying lonely experience, that I think I am forever affected by it. Honestly, if it wasn’t for those friends who bugged me about what I did or did not eat, I doubt I would be alive today. So there is always the other side of the coin. Thanks again for this.

  20. Great post Gena!! Loved this peer pressure and teasing (not to mention bigotry and hate) are nearly always the by-products of insecurity. . And your response at the end 🙂

  21. i have experienced this so many, many times. the reactions people have about food and health are so surprising to me, and so often frustrating. i think i’ve learned a lot in the way of confidence because of it though – i’m becoming more comfortable standing by my choices now, and it’s certainly made me more accepting of others’ as well.

    i love love love reading your thoughts and advice!

  22. amazing post gena! being harrassed about something as simple as what food we put in our bodies is something that no one should go though, but we do. i love your insight on what to say back and how to approach the situation without an ounce of anger or hurt [though we might feel that way on the inside].

  23. This is a very insightful post, Gena! I can empathize with your drinking story. Though I was never a “heavy” drinker in my early college years, I did indulge along with the rest of my friends. By senior year, guzzling cheap beer had lost its thrill for me, and I was surprised that my decision to cut back seemed to offend some of my friends. When asked why I wasn’t drinking, or why I cut myself off at 10pm and switched over to water, I found myself wondering why it mattered so much. Did the fact that I wasn’t plastered mean that I was ruining my friends’ night? I eventually came to terms with the fact that I was okay with my decision, and my true friends wouldn’t judge me for it. Bravo to you for discussing this topic!

    On a lighter note…
    a) I’m thrilled to have learned a new way to open a banana :).
    b) I shared your recipes for banana soft serve and raw whipped cream with my mom, and she is hooked! You are a raw foods genius, my dear.

  24. Um, there’s a picture of steak on your blog. Just thought you should know. 😉

    But I’m glad you address the social side of making lifestyle choices we see best for ourselves. I can sit in my apt. alone with a mountain of vegetables and be happy as a pastured pig in shit, but take me to a restaurant/party with non-like-minded folks, and it all goes to hell. That’s why I was so proud of how that July 4th BBQ went so well for me–I stuck to what I really wanted to eat (for my brain and bod), explained that I felt best eating that way when questioned, and endured only the mildest self-consciousness on the part of those around me. Note for future reference: mentioning that I’m a healthy eating blogger didn’t hurt! That actually shut a few people up, in a way–like as soon as they knew it was my “job” to eat this way, I wasn’t interrogated at all.

    Not everyone is as lucky as me on that front, as described in your post and in the comments above, and that’s not to say I haven’t experienced my share of discomfort regarding my choices to clean up my health act. But thank you for arming us with the tools to deal with what is arguably harder than adopting [insert lifestyle choice] habits themselves.

    Please to revisit this again–regularly. 🙂

  25. Gena,

    I’ve been in recovery from alcoholism for 3.5 yrs and really appreciate this post. As a twenty-something person in recovery, I find this to be so true:

    “undue hostility usually hails from a place of self-loathing”

    Only within the 6 months or so have I really started taking a good look at my habits regarding fitness and nutrition. Overall I find your blog so helpful and this alcohol/food analogy was particularly insightful and helpful to me.

  26. Hi Gena,

    Thanks so much for posting about this topic (and it’s not the first time you’ve posted on those uncomfortable yet important subjects and provided GREAT advice).

    I’ve encountered this type of antagonism a little bit in regards to my own food choices since I was a little girl! (Way back when whole grains and vegetarianism was still a bit unusual in the schoolyard).

    Through experience, I’ve learned that my best two strategies are to:

    1) Inform and be kind (explain why and don’t make people feel like you think you’re better than them)

    2) Hold up a mirror! (Turn their antagonism around! Just like how you asked your friend, “Why is it so important to you that I take that bite?”) It pops their bubble and makes them realize that the problem is theirs if they find issue with your diet (not their business!)

    Thanks again for the fab post!

    Alex

  27. Thank you so much for this post! I have been vegetarian for 6 years, and have been trying to transition into a vegan lifestyle. Surprisingly enough, my family seems ok with my eating habits. It’s my close minded co-workers who give me grief about it. Lately I’ve been having the most trouble avoiding cheese, and it’s like people are just waiting for me to “screw” up. They seem to personally enjoy my struggles with the lifestyle.

    So thank you again. I will definitely be using some of your tips.

  28. “Food is to be enjoyed, not lamented.”

    So true! Since I don’t wave a banner stating my lifestyle choices, for the most part they go unnoticed and I easily slip by the animosity. For the most part I just get the question “what made you become a vegetarian?” And I am very secure in my reasons and I think not throwing in statistics help because it’s important to be down-to-earth about it. And usually they’ll just leave it at that. I love this article.

    XO
    Katharina

  29. Very well written! I couldn’t agree with you more, good tips on how to diffuse/deflect too! I’m really enjoying your blog! Thanks! 🙂

  30. ps. tried your creamy zucchini soup yesterday…and it rocked my face off

  31. what a much-needed post. it’s something that i think a lot of us with unique eating styles have to deal with. the hard part for me is when the people really have good intentions (like FAMILY) and you have to turn their food down. that one’s been kind of hard for me… especially since they surround me with delicious and very unhealthy mexican food 😉

  32. This was such a good post! I was vegetarian for a few years until this past fall. During that time my family–particularly my mother–would get down right angry with me because I wouldn’t eat meat. My reason for going veggie was mainly due to tummy issues and SO many people did NOT understand that. I started eating meat this past Oct. and everyone was SO pleased–no matter that I started having stomach pain EVERY day!! I am now off of meat again and my tummy is better–not perfect, but improving. The funny thing is, this time my mother doesn’t even realize yet that I am not eating meat again:) I am dreading that first encounter when this will become obvious and hoping I will be able to stand strong and do what is best for MY body!

  33. Wonderful as always. I used to get a lot of comments from family about diet, but did have one aunt who would stick up for me and say, “she must be doing something right b/c she is the only one not over weight.” I think that is what a lot of teasing about food is about in my family – the insecurity of them overweight and me thin. My comment is pretty simple, “just eat more veggies.”

    I don’t drink, in college or otherwise, and have gotten harassed about this more often than not. People are amazed that someone has no interest in drinking cocktail after cocktail. I’ve found a lot of people drink to feel less inhibited so they can have more fun. But if I’ve never wanted to depend on alcohol to have fun.

  34. once again Gena, great post! You are so right about the reason that we’re affected by others opinion… most of time is from our own insecurity. If we’re 100% confident about what we do (which is the best for us), we should just ignore those people who just want to make us feel bad about ourselves…. that we’re the odd people. And of course, be offensive to those who really have no other intention than hurt us! 🙂

  35. Great post, and it’s actually something I plan on talking about this weekend (when I get blog motivated).

    People don’t understand why I don’t drink anymore. People don’t understand how I could prefer broccoli to burgers. There have been people who were toxic to my mental health and although it can be a wee bit lonely at times, I know I have to do what’s best for me.

    Those that truly know and respect me respect my decisions and support whatever I do. Those that are insecure and uncomfortable with their own choices have the option to either support me or make different decisions.

    I bring up the timeliness because my birthday is tomorrow–“Are you going out partying? Are you going out to eat?” It seems if you don’t get drunk and binge, it’s not a proper celebration to some people…

  36. I often have two separate experiences, one in your shoes and one in the shoes of the “other.”

    When I am the one with the healthy(ier) habits, people often comment by acting as though I am sort of food Nazi or the like. “Why do you eat so many vegetables?” “Why can’t you just have a little bit?” Well, I don’t want a little bit. I eat what I like (mainly), and that is usually healthy – why is that bothersome?

    But I have also been the other person. I do drink on occasion, and I try not to get drunk or anything, but I have had several potential boyfriends or just friends act holier-than-thou for not drinking. I think drinking is kind of a touchy subject. People, especially Christians (of which I am one), are kind of two minds on this one, and if you are a drinking Christian (albeit a moderate one), some people act as though you are a great sinner. I hate this attitude, so I tend to get touchy. Now, I do know some people do not drink for many reasons: taste (e.g., my own father), alcoholism in the family, how it makes them them feel afterwards, etc. I don’t mind this. I just don’t want to have to hear the nondrinker elaborate on her/his choices again and again. I get it, you don’t drink. Now please shush and have fun with us. 🙂

    Sorry, long comment, but I guess having been on both sides makes me unable to have a short one!

  37. Thanks Gena for a great post! I had this problem when I first cut out dairy about 10 years ago. i was new to it all and missed it so I even had some although it made me ill! Since then I´ve cut out gluten and most animal products (I have fish occasionally). I feel so much better and the people around me are used to it by now. If I get a question from other people I just tell them that I get ill and that it´s not worth it because I feel so bad, that usually is enough. I´m newly high raw so I haven´t had much grief yet! My mums really supportive though (she sees how much happier I am and how much healthier I look and feel) which is great!

  38. What a great post! I go through this drama all the time with both food and drinking. Food, just b/c it’s still too weird for people to accept a high raw veggie lifestyle and are always asking “so what DO you eat anyway”? or making other rude comments that we’ve all heard before. With the drinking…I used to drink, before I got pregnant. And I am nursing my daughter who is 2.5 years old. So, it’s been about 3.5 yrs since I have drank. Other mom friends are like, oh but you CAN drink and breastfeed. And I always say yes, I could, but I don’t. And then they get defensive and rattle off stats about how it’s “okay to drink and nurse” blah blah. It’s like yes, it’s fine for you but my personal choices are to abstain. And then they start feeling like I am judging them, which I am not, but the same insecurities you describe creep up. So this interesting phenomenon of one’s choices and others getting defensive just crops up all over now, doesn’t it. P.s. Because of your blog and a few other awesome bloggers out there, I recently started my own. Thank you for the inspiration!

  39. Thanks for this reminder – just what I needed with some family gatherings looming. I find that my own struggles make other people’s reactions that little bit more hostile/baffled and harder to deal with: how do I explain that yes, there was a period when I didn’t eat x, then I ate it again, now I’m trying to give up again…

  40. I love this post! Thank you so much for addressing this issue. I will definitely link back to it in the near future, because, as you say, no matter what your dietary choices are, you will get food-pushers who try to sabotage you…

  41. This post is so helpful! I have almost completely cut out processed food and I don’t eat meat at all. I feel as though I have to DEFEND my choices almost daily. In fact, I was vegan when I met my fiance 4 years ago and within a year I had compromised my own diet partially due to the stated or unstated social pressures associated with eating a vegan diet. The “just one bite” comment is something that I deal with often. I love your suggestion for a response to this. Thanks so much for posting 🙂

  42. Brilliant post Gena. Highlights the issues so many of us face and so often very tough to deal with. Thank you! X

  43. I had an interesting conversation along these lines today with my meat eating mother. I was telling her all about Food Inc. (she could care less) and once I got done ranting about the factory farms she said, “Well, I can’t have Thanksgiving without the turkey!” I told her that now that I have freed myself from the chains of what I should be eating, how much I should be eating, what society deems I should be eating, what the frickin’ day on the calendar says I should be eating, that I can enjoy the occasion, holiday, company, etc. so much more.

    Sweet sweet freedom.

  44. you cant even imagine how many times ive had the same reaction as you (and your friend) described. the reasons are often just as you said, stemming from that person’s own issues, so i know i shouldnt be bothered, but it can be SO frustrating. my family and friends are usually pretty great, its the more peripheral people (coworkers, friends of friends, etc) that dont understand my decisions and dont seem to want to either. instead they seem to want to pressure me into changing my mind on the spot. ummm. not so much. anyways, lovely post as usual.

  45. This is an amazing post! My parents think whole grains are some type of foreign substance and think I’m so weird for heating healthy! My brother make fun of me for eating veggie burgers and I have, infact, been called a hippie before because of my lifestyle.
    I think people are just uncomfortable with things that they don’t completely understand! And maybe they are feeling bad about their health and what they eat and take it out on people who choose to eat healthier! When you change your diet to be more healthy it’s almost as if people treat you like your a snob, or think that you think that you’re better than everyone else and they immediately get on the defensive.

  46. Great post as always Gena! I don’t believe I have celiac, but I do have a strong gluten sensitivity/intolerance, so about two years ago, I cut it out completely because I am just so much happier without it. And though I never miss regular bread or cake or cookies, I am always getting the comment from people “How can you not eat bread!? I would eat it anyway if I were you!” It’s just so rude! They have no idea what I feel like after I eat it. I always try to be gracious, but it gets really old. Fortunately, there is more and more awareness about going gluten free these days, so that’s a good thing!

  47. You are so right! My clients deal with this all the time with social pressure from friends and family. And since I’ve started eating gluten-free, I definitely need to work on having the confidence to stand behind my decision in difficult social situations.

  48. I can completely relate with your friend. As a Celiac who has recently cut dairy from my diet and who is slowly cutting meat out of my diet, I am constantly feeling pressure to eat certain foods so as not to inconvenience others. When it all comes down to it, I just need to eat what makes my body happy. It doesn’t matter what others think. What matters is how I feel. I would rather be healthy than make others happy.

  49. so happy to read this one! as a 15 year old, i have definitely taken some shit for being vegan, much less raw. luckily no one is too hostile, but it does take some adjusting to to have 10 people asking you what the hell youre eating every day. i get the “just one bite” all the time! i generally refuse to argue with people and instead let them see how great i feel and how clear my skin is becoming. better proof than anything i could tell ’em

  50. Amen to that. My mom said to me today “do you know how hard it is going to be to cook for you all (meaning me and my husband and my sister and her husband) at Thanksgiving and Christmas?! I calmly told her “no, mom, it won’t be hard. You know what we can and cannot eat…. it’s not that different from what you eat. We’ll bring lots of our ‘own’ food for everyone to try- don’t feel like you have to make the whole meal. Make turkey for you and dad, and something else you like a lot and we’ll bring the other stuff. It won’t be that big of a deal, not for us, anyway. I’ll make some raw things and some vegetarian things that we all can have- it’s fun for me to try new recipes and to have others enjoy them too.” Well, believe it or not, she didn’t get fussy, she didn’t get in a tizzy (like normal)… everything was fine.

    Oh the joy of it all… why is it so hard to eat healthy… REAL food? Pretty amazing if you ask me!

  51. Wow! This was a really wonderful post. Thank you so much for putting it so bluntly. I’ve been given a lot of grief since I became vegetarian six years ago, mainly by my meat-loving brother-in-law. Surprisingly, I’ve gotten a better response from my family when I became a raw vegan. Other people still give me a hard time and don’t understand my desire to not drink or go out nearly as much as I used to. Being 22 and not drinking is a tough one to explain (even to my mother) but being a raw vegan just confuses people. They give me these funny looks and ask odd questions. I try to just take it with a grain of salt. Kind of like your friend. People need to learn to not take these things personally, if someone is rude about it, it’s their own insecurity with their lifestyle.

  52. Wonderful post, Gena. I’ve been on both sides of this dysfunctional situation, and it absolutely does come down to insecurity. The overweight people at office jobs who’ve told me that I’m “too skinny” or “too healthy” and thus need the cake that everyone is eating were clearly concerned about themselves. Likewise, I’ve found myself feeling guilty for ordering meat around vegetarian friends, even though I was the only one doing any judging.

  53. Love this, Gena. It is a continuous struggle for me to eat what I want to eat without feeling pressured to join the crowd. I always get this anxiety that people won’t want to hang out with me anymore if I say “no” – I mean, don’t get me wrong, I don’t jump off a bridge if someone asks 🙂 But I do find it difficult to straight up look them in the face and decline…I more so mumble “um..n-n-noo thanks.” I’ve gotten a lot better in the past year than I ever was before, but posts like this one are a good reminder of where I still could improve. Thank ya, darling!

  54. I’ve been harrassed before and its so annoying. Why can’t everyone eat what they want and get over what everyone else is doing?! I’m just glad I have off-campus lunch so I don’t have to deal with kids my age saying stuff, what a nightmare!

  55. Wonderful post – I wish I would have read it when I went vegan 8 years ago. My first Thanksgiving with my family I was lecturing them all on the evils of eating meat! I cringe now to think of it…live and learn! My grandmother still thinks chicken is part of a veg diet and tries to get me to eat it EVERY TIME I see her LOL! So her intentions are good – she just doesn’t understand what a veg diet is no matter how many times I explain it.

  56. cheers to this.

    i don’t drink either, by the way. i’ve stopped making excuses about it. i just say no; it’s that simple.

  57. I totally agree with everything you said. I live in a small town where the majority of people are retired or of a much older age. They just don’t understand the “vegan thing” and are constantly making fun of me for how I eat….if I workout and if I “can eat this or that.” I get so tired of having to defend my lifestyle, when it really should be them who have to defend stuffing down burgers, fries, and cans of soda everyday. Since when did eating a healthy, morally concious diet make you a target for scrutiny? So silly. Anyhow….I just found that saying, “I feel great,” or “I just like to eat real food that wasn’t once living,” shuts them up everytime. I appreciate your comments and hope that as a healthy online community, we can change people’s perception about these things 🙂

  58. This is such a true post. My own mother bothers me daily about my diet choices, and I tell her that I feel better/healthier/happier because of it!

  59. I stopped drinking quite awhile ago which still weirds out a lot of my friends. They dont’ really say anything most of the time, but I can tell some stopped calling because it was like I might judge them…which I never did. I mean hubby enjoys his beer and I don’t care, it just wasn’t for me.

    • I actually had the opposite happen to me. A friend quit drinking and dropped all of her friends who imbibed, without explanation (we didn’t even know she’d quit). She was so insecure about stopping drinking that she dumped us before anyone might have the chance to dump her! Too bad, because we really would have supported her and gone out of our way to create plenty of non-drinking events, which we already did do, and invite her to them. Unfortunately, in doing this, she pretty much lost the goodwill of most of her community, who felt hurt that she didn’t trust them enough to be given the chance to support her.

      Ah well, we all learn at our own pace.

  60. This is a really important topic to me, so thanks for sharing your thoughts. The line you suggested — “Why is it so important to you that I eat a bite of the food you’re eating?” — reminds me of a situation I had with a certain guy a while back. He was getting really worked up that I wouldn’t have a piece of his non-vegan granola bar, and I told him we could agree to disagree about our personal food choices: mine vegan, his not. When I asked him why my eating his snack bar was such a big deal to him, and he said it was important to him because he wanted to share it with me. He told me it was a gift he wanted to give me.
    I thought his further explanation was lame and irrelevant.
    Throughout the relationship, I would tell him things that bugged me or that I disliked — for example, I don’t like getting flowers, and I don’t want to eat animal foods. I was actually pretty emphatic about seriously hating getting flowers, and what did he did later on? He got me flowers.
    I explained to him later, when he said he offered me foods or gifts (the flowers) because he wanted to share things with me, that he has to think about the recipient of those “gifts.” Gift-giving should keep the receiver in mind. Why would you give a gift that you KNOW the recipient doesn’t want?! It baffled me, and still does.
    But coming back full-circle, I think people can be hostile to food choices and lifestyle changes because they think they will have less in common with us, that they can’t share things with us anymore. I think the boy I mentioned felt uncomfortable that I wasn’t accepting him, when what I really wasn’t accepting was the meaning behind his gifts. I tried to tell him that sharing himself was enough — just because I want to eat vegan foods, not meat, doesn’t mean I don’t accept him or his choices. I told him I didn’t judge him for what he ate, and that he could do whatever he wants. I do think he felt threatened, judged, or some other feeling by my being vegan. I am still trying to wrap my head around what exactly bothered him so much about my being vegan…and I just think it was fear.
    Anyway, this was a great post! Thanks for helping me reflect further!

  61. DAMN this is amazing – I’m lucky that my family members do not pressure me in any way, but I wish MORE people could be so accommodating.

  62. This is such a great post Gena and I’m really glad your friend is doing so well with her choices. I have never been a drinker during any part of my life, mostly because I witnessed and went through a lot of hard times with my older brother who drank, dabbled with drugs, etc. I’ve always felt good about my choices but I have NEVER put pressure on anyone else not to drink. I completely accept their decision and I’ve always wondered why the never respected mine. It wasn’t until later that I realized maybe, just maybe, the envied my abililty not to give in to peer pressure and say no with confidence. Or perhaps maybe they just thought I was a stick in the mud..LOL. Regardless, I know how uncomfortable it can be to stand up for our choices not to drink, smoke or eat meat, etc. I did exactly what you did with someone one time – he was pushing me to try a bite of steak which I knew I did not like and I finally said to him, “I’m not forcing you to eat my food, why is it so important that I eat yours?” He backed off.

    Great advice! Sorry I hogged your comments..

  63. I face this hostility from particular people SO often, and it gives me SO much grief, that I am going to restrain from posting about this because I would like to keep my blood pressure down haha.

    Regardless, it was a great post Gena and if I think of it I’m going to link back to it in one of mine tonight since I think it bears repeating – especially for those people who give me a hard time 😉

    I love this kind of advice, keep it coming, please! 🙂

  64. i experience this almost every time i go over to my cousins’ house. always from my uncle. nobody else really cares that i don’t eat animal products. they accept is as who i am. my mom loves that i’m vegan, and is definitely my biggest support. but my uncle! he feels the need to defend the way he eats every time i’m around him. i’m not the one who starts the veganism conversation, and i never boast about my food being healthier than his. his insecurity is just SO obvious, and i almost feel bad for him for not being able to accept the way i eat. what it REALLY shows is that he doesn’t accept himself. people are intimidated by others’ healthy choices because it makes them feel inadequate. it can be so frustrating. but often i find that the simpler my responses are, and the more i’m able to ignore people like this, the more they back off. as much as i want to defend myself and my choices, i hate arguing about veganism with people because most just don’t get it. thank god my mom understands veganism and actually likes the concept. if she wasn’t so supportive, life would be a lot harder! 🙂

  65. Yet another fantastic post, Gena. Thank you!! These points make so much sense, and it definitely reminds me of situations I’ve encountered in the past. I’m also looking forward to keeping these ideas with me for future situations!

    Rock on, girl!

  66. amazing post! I will definitely keep this in mind. I definitely have the social pressure to drink more often than I enjoy doing so. And I have a hard time explaining to people that on occassion I enjoy a drink or two, but I don’t need to do it several times a week, since I often don’t feel fabulous afterwards. anyways, I digress as usual!

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