Raw Rehab: Dealing with Social Discomfort
April 30, 2010

Hello, friends.

TGIF. This was a long week, and I’m ready for it to be over. The highlight? Attending the opening of my mom’s current art exhibit, Illuminations, showing at First Street Gallery in Manhattan. The opening was a success, and I was so, so proud of my mother, who has been a working artist (as well as a full time art teacher) for over forty years! Here’s a little peek at what was hanging on the walls:

Go mom!

Because of the commotion surrounding the show, as well as some unrelated family sadness this week (my mom’s boyfriend’s son passed away after a struggle with cancer), I haven’t had time to devote to much un-cooking. So instead of posting a recipe today, I thought I’d check in with a little Q+A. Raw rehab, anyone?

This question comes from reader Alex, who asked:

I am newly vegan, as of March 1st, (eating a high-raw, vegan diet) and my question is about how you handle your difference in eating habits in social situations. I have become much more secure in my lifestyle choice (it doesn’t bother me anymore when people at work make comments about how healthy I eat), but I still can’t bring myself to tell my friends (who have known me before I was vegan) that I am now vegan. For some reason, I feel like I will be judged, but more so, that I will become a nuisance. A couple of my friends love to have dinner parties, and they usually make set menus – I have skipped the past 3 because I can no longer eat anything that they make, and I don’t want them to have to make something “special” for me. I think food and eating with others creates a natural social bond, and I can’t help but feel that I will be completely left out of that if I bring my own food to these dinner parties – how can I share how much I like the pot roast or the chocolate torte, if I’m not eating it? It’s not that I want to eat these foods, because believe me, I do not; rather, it’s the social bond that I will miss from eating these types of food with people I love. How have you and other readers dealt with the social pressures that occured when you first became raw/vegan?

Great question, Alex. I should preface my answer by saying that this is something I’ve touched on before, most notably in this post. But your question certainly brings to mind some immediate impressions.

My personal response is that I’m not particularly accustomed to feeling much social cohesion surrounding food. I stopped eating meat when I was a child, in a family of meat eaters; I was disordered on and off throughout high school, and still very food-conscious in college; on top of all of this, I’ve always been a picky eater, and there are certain ubiquitous foods–like onions and garlic–that I don’t enjoy much at all. The upshot? For me, the bond between social belonging and food is not a very strong one.

Now, you have to take that statement with a grain of salt: now that I eat with joy (as opposed to my fraught past), I can understand far better what people mean when they talk about collective dining experiences. Now that I’ve found a way of eating that suits my body perfectly, I can share it with the people I love. And of course, I’m no stranger to the joys of dinner parties or delicious restaurant meals. In spite of always having been an eater who was different, I’ve certainly had great restaurant meals with friends, and have attended fun dinner parties and given compliments to the chef. I work in an industry that runs on lunching, and so I also know what it’s like to do business over a tablecloth. Best of all, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing vegan foods with fellow vegans and non-vegans alike  in recent years, and it has definitely shown me how lovely it is to bond over a dish.

So I know what people mean when they talk about bonding over food. It’s just not something that I’ve experienced to the same degree as others, which means that I don’t yearn for it strongly. It’s not hard for me to go through life as a person who doesn’t eat what everyone else is eating, or does eat things that other people find off-putting. To be quite blunt, I don’t really care if people think how I eat is weird. Making peace with food, and finding a diet that was ideal for me, was a winding road. Now that I’ve reached a happy destination, I don’t much care how others perceive me.

There’s another thing going on here: I feel my best physically eating as I do. I don’t suffer from IBS anymore, and my health is vibrant. When I repeatedly eat foods that don’t agree with me–like processed foods or refined grains–I don’t feel as great. They’re totally fine once in a while, but not habitually. Which makes it extremely easy for me to eat the way I like to eat, even when it means eating things that other people aren’t. I prefer feeling great to the momentary pleasure of eating something that’s stimulating, but without nourishment. That’s just me: I’m an energy junkie, and a health nut. I eat accordingly.

Finally, there’s veganism. What began as a means of feeling better has now become a lifestyle I believe in spiritually and ethically, too.  It’s hard for me to enjoy a chocolate torte (to use your example) if I don’t really believe in the circumstances under which that torte was created. To me, the essence of a shared dining experience is shared pleasure; how can that be if one person at the table feels cognitive dissonance or discomfort with what he or she’s eating?

This is all a lot of personal stuff, I know. But the upshot, Alex, is this: it sounds to me as though you, like me, have crossed a bridge you don’t want to un-cross: you believe in veganism, and want to be a vegan. And you’re dedicated enough to veganism that “making exceptions” won’t feel good to you.

So far, you’ve handled this by avoiding certain social dining: in your mind, if  you can’t partake of a collective experience, the whole thing isn’t worth it. But what I’m trying to gesture at here is that the key to resolving some of this tension in your life may simply be a reconsideration of your notion of the “social bond” from which you fear exclusion.

What is that bond, really? In my mind, it’s not shared food so much as shared feelings: amusement, joy, sensual pleasure at the taste of food, mutual admiration. There’s really no reason why such feelings have to reside in the food itself. If you happen to bring a fun, high-raw vegan dish to a dinner party, and serve it right alongside your friends’ food (which is what I’d recommend for such an occasion), can’t you all still express your enjoyment? Can’t you all savor a good meal, even if the meal itself varies from plate to plate? Isn’t the expression of gastronomic pleasure what counts, rather than the specific food that bestows such pleasure?

What you’re really seeking to preserve are those feelings of conviviality. And they don’t have to be tethered to specific foods: what they should be tethered to is a feeling of collective joy–joy that comes from each person feeling 100% happy about what he or she is eating.

And here’s the best part: if your friends see that you’re experiencing pleasure right alongside them, they won’t think to criticize or ostracize you. I promise! What I find time and time again is that the key to being comfortable as a vegan in social scenarios is simple, unassailable confidence. If you bring a fun dish and share it with your friends; if you describe what you’re eating with a sense of enthusiasm; if you talk about your veganism in language that’s confident and positive, there will be simply no reason for anyone to make you feel excluded. And any friend of yours who would try to exclude you from the experience of a shared meal, simply because your diet is a little different, is missing the point of what dinner parties are all about.

I hope this helps, Alex. Finding your “vegan mojo,” as I like to call it, takes some time: you won’t feel 100% comfortable expressing your preferences all at once. But I do think that reminding yourself of what’s really at stake in a shared dining experience–that is, mutual respect and the shared desire for pleasure–can help you to feel less afraid of expressing yourself.

One more thing: it’s often hard for new vegans to tell old friends about the vegan shift because of shared history. You know your friends remember you from way back when, in the the days when veganism wasn’t even a glimmer in your consciousness. Won’t they “see through” this new identity of yours?

In a word, no. Any decent friend will accept that you are an ever-changing, ever-shifting being. Consciousness is always in flux, and identity is always in flux, too. Any friend who wants you to remain the same forever–especially if you’re taking a direction that, for you, signals growth and improvement–is probably threatened by the idea of evolution. And that’s a friend whose love you’ve got to question, or whose insecurity you ought to feel pity for.

Hope this helps. Stay the course! And congrats on your vegan journey 🙂

Keep the questions coming, guys. I love answering!

Have a great start to your weekends.


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  1. I really want to read this article. It’s something I struggle with but there is a google ads banner covering the bottom of it and a video playing covering half of the screen. I can’t read the article.

  2. oh my gosh, gena, im SO sorry for your mom and her boyfriend…what a hard thing to cope with – and on top of that she has the mixed feelings of happiness with the success of her exhibit opening. so sorry m’dear.

    i really enjoyed this post. some good pearls of wisdom. i am lucky to have very supportive fam and friends but there are some times for sure when im torn as to whether or not it is worth it for others’ sake to dine out. certain restaurants in nyc arent so vegan friendly and i hate the pressure it puts on my dining compananions. still, i make it work, and in the end, maybe sometimes they arent the best meals food-wise, but not everything can knock your socks off 100% of the time right? right.

  3. I’m sorry for your families loss:)
    Congratulations to your Mom what an amazing accomplishment!

    I struggled for so long on telling people I was no longer eating the meat or dairy that was on the table. I avoided social events too and I was so on edge at the ones I went to because I was afraid they would start asking questions and then the dreaded eyes would be on me. Food is so deeply a part of our lives that is seems threatening when someone refuses..almost like an insult (at least that was what it seemed in my family). I also didn’t want people making an extra meal for me and so that was hard. Yet, its my life and if I choose to have a different diet and go about it in social affairs in a kind manner, most of the time its just curiosity I get back. It is a journey to get to that safe place but so worth it!

  4. I have been transitioning to veganism for what feels like years. I am fine at home and if I am prepared but I also find myself in so many spontaneous situations that I have a hard time with. Each situation is different. I haven’t officially announced my eating habits because I don’t really like titles but what I have found is that the many questions I get when I do mention my eating habits are more questions from people who are interested in the why, they aren’t looking to be negative they are genuinely interested. I have also been in situations where I am starving and will enjoy some roasted veggies or a salad and rather then bring attention to passing up the meat on the buffet I will congratulate the cook on what I enjoyed the most. ‘Those veggies were/look delicious!’ rather then ‘Sorry I don’t eat that!’

  5. I’m so sorry to hear about your mum’s boyfriend’s son (somehow I missed that part of the post first time around). My thoughts and prayers are with you all at this difficult time. xxx

  6. i am so sorry to hear that your mom’s boyfriend’s son passed away…my heart goes out to you and your family and your mom’s boyfriend’s family…you’re all in my thoughts and prayers!

    this was such a great post gena! thanks for taking the time to write it, especially during such a difficult and heartbreaking time.


  7. This is such a great and helpful post, thanks 🙂

    You know, the longer I eat a vegan and more raw diet the easier the social situations become. I love how you describe yourself as an energy junkie and a health nut- I can totally relate to that one!

    Btw, I’m still loving your walnut and lentil pate. Awesome.

    Oh, and one more thing. I have a question, which raw food books would you recommend that aren’t dehydrator and nut heavy?


  8. I come from a Cuban background. My family loves to eat and food is snugly tied with socializing. I have struggled with restrictive eating patterns, but I know eat consciously, cleanly and healthfully as possible. By deviating from the accepted fare of rich, fried foods and meats, I have sort of severed social connection the extends beyond the dinner table. Needless to say, have had a difficult time with social situations in general; I so desperately wanted to connect with my family again, and I revert to the (faulty) idea that this can only be attained through food at gatherings and such. (Food is touchy when it comes to eating disorders, but food is NOT the real issue. It’s easy to place the focus on food, though.)However, there is something akin to the Iron Curtain present on such occasions. They want me to “be normal” again and gorge on chorizo, plantains, and other food I used to consume freely when I was a child. I can’t help but feel like my family holds a bit of animosity when I decline their invitation to “try a piece,” as if I were rejecting them along with the offered comestible. (I think they may be concerned as well. They want the “old” Mandy back – carefree, spunky, not consumed by anxiety or sulleness; the “old” Mandy used to eat “good food,” and if I ate this food again, it would reverse all my troubles. But I digress…)

    I have avoided gatherings because of the food-centrality… it is very stressful. While I can tolerate certain dishes, sometimes the aromas and such are indeed nauseating and overpowering; not only do I suffer, but my family feels uncomfortable because they know I perceive their fare as repugnant. But I sometimes get to the point where I want to chuck the feeling of isolation and eat with my family; I bite the bullet, prepare something of my own, and sit at a table with eyes ogling at my “weird food.” I feel as if I’m being scrutinized and judged… along with my meal. Not exactly the most healthy, happy environment.

    But, Gena, I’m so glad you brought up a good tip in this post: exude confidence.

    In high school, I can remember occasionally sitting with my classmates during lunch break: I would pack my nourishing, “weird” vegan lunches brimming with veggies and the like. When people would wrinkle their noses and ask “What are those hairy-looking things,” I would smile and respond “These are alfalfa sprouts. They are mild tasting and crunchy.” (Oh I remember in my tofu-eating days, I sat across a pair of boys in camo-jackets. One of them stared at the white cubes in my salad container and said with a thick drawl “Please don’t tell me that’s tofu.”)

    The point is, in school, I did not cave inward or become hostile and defensive when people inquired or stared at my meals. I found it as an opportunity to open them to something new. Many folks who have stopped by to ask the vegan what she ate were truly curious and not out to censure me. I was always friendly and secure in my interactions.

    With family, it seems to be a bit different. I DOES in fact feel like I am under hostile judgement and scrutiny. But I probably also exude insecurity. There is no simple solution to social insecurity and tension like this, as there are issues for both parties. But as Montaigne said: “Not being able to govern events, I govern myself.”

    Cultivating confidence and joy within may (or may not) spread happiness at the table. At least I can feel at peace with my choices and realize that my family’s desire for me to eat the way they see fit is their burden. Not mine. (Oh… one can persuade his or herself, yes? As the saying goes, “Fake it ’til you make it!”) Thanks for the post. :o)

    Also, Gena, I wish you the best during difficult times. Take care, m’dear. I know you will. ♥

    • (Oh my goodness – I apologize for such a lengthy post! I did not realize how much a rambled!)

  9. Great response! It was a little weird for my family at first, but they were actually the first to adjust! Some of my long-time friends are still in adjustment phase – I know some still think it’s a phase. However, overall it has not had any adverse affect on friendships, which, as you mentioned, would be a clear indicator of who your real friends are.

  10. As always, thank you for the well-thought and relevant post. I’ve recently transitioned to veganism after a lifetime of dabbling in vegetarianism, and it seems like I face adversity at every turn from the people around me, although for my personal purposes, it’s entirely uncomplicated and easy. It’s really tough to feel like I have to defend myself against my mother, who thinks that because I don’t eat dairy I’m really missing out on major nutrients (no matter what I tell her, she just keeps harping on the fact that there are things I “don’t” eat and how complicated it makes HER life, even though we don’t live together and I never make a big deal out of it), or my friends who respond, “Ewwww, why!!!” when I’ve supported them in much less healthier choices than choosing to eat all plants.

    In my culture, food IS integral. I know, you coming from a Greek background, can relate, but I’m still struggling with facing my family (and my future in-laws, to whom meat is such an integral part of the cultural/social ritual that I’m sure i offend them by just existing, le sigh). Reading all your thoughts on the topic are really, really helpful. Thanks!

  11. Wow, your mom’s work is beautiful! Sorry to hear about the passing.

    Great post, I’m happy to say that I no longer care what people think of my diet, but can relate with Alex during the early days of my transition. I believe a lot more in separting food from relationships and experiences, a birthday party is a great opportunity to connect with friends and family – not feel obligated to eat cake. Part of it is respecting each persons eating habits, not judging or commenting with my beliefs, so they respect mine. I think Alex will get more comfortable with being open about his diet preferences as he experiences the benefits and builds more confidence in it.

  12. Oh wow, congrats for your mom! Her art is beautiful!

    I identify with this situation quite a bit. When I simply started eating healthier, it was awkward eating with my family. That I did not want my potatoes slathered in butter or sour cream. That I didn’t chow down on an 8-ounce slab of roast beef. That I went back to the crisper to fish out some extra veggies…my mom was in flip out mode! It was complicated by the fact that I did have some issues with food, even if the stuff my parents served was definitely unhealthy in a lot of ways.

    But I stuck to my guns. I tossed in extra veggies. Then I started making dinner myself, and my parents liked what I cooked, so that made things a lot easier.

  13. Sometimes, people doesn’t react the way we think they will. Over time, I realized it’s not always the best to try to seee what is in other’s people mind. Having a different lifestyle can bring very interesting discussion, and people might be much more open minded than you think. I know many people that don’t really share my way of living (I’m really into nutrition and ecology), but I found that people widely accept this. Even at my workplace, every time we had a business lunch or dinner, everybody always made sure that I had something that suits my eating habits. Even chefs at restaurants were happy to take the gluten free challenge. So if you feel that being a vegan really appeals to you, I would say go ahaed, jump in the boat.

    Thank you for this very inspiring post.

  14. I’m so sorry about your family’s loss. 🙁

    Thank you Alex for such a great question! I’m right there with you. Thank you, Gena, for such a beautifully written response! I will most certainly use this advice to find my own “vegan mojo.”

  15. First, Gena, I just want to say I’m sorry about your loss. I’m sending good wishes to you and your family.

    I also wanted to pass along a piece of advice I received yesterday about a totally unrelated situation. When someone comments on or questions your eating choices, it can be helpful to think, “What is this person really saying?” Your response may vary according to the answer to this question. When I take my vegan self home to my omnivorous family, for instance, and my mom asks, “Why are you so RIGID about your food?”, I know she’s really saying, “I know you have a history of disordered eating, so do I need to be worried about you?” In this case, my job is to be relaxed and reassuring. Similarly, when a dinner party host asks why I’m not eating this dish or that, I know he or she is really asking if I’m having fun. Again, I need to be cheerful and supportive.

    On the other hand, when one of my (obnoxious) male friends makes a comment about my eating, he’s usually asking why I’m not playing the good woman and reaffirming his choices/making him feel good about himself; in this case, a little witty resistance is called for. As you’ve mentioned in previous posts, Gena, women are often socialized to be conciliatory and to facilitate the needs of the group (which can be a good thing, I think), and that it can be hard to step out of that role. The good thing is that, in my experience, it gets easier every time.

    Good luck!

  16. Gena, so sorry about your loss. The Universe is so … capricious.

    I’m sad to say I’ve succumbed to the social pressure to eat “normally.” While I never went to far as to eat the free donuts at work or the cheese and crackers at artists’ receptions, I definitely relaxed my own uber-healthy eating standards a lot … ironically, as a way of proving that I was recovered. It was only after a decade of so called normal eating that I woke up (after returning from a long trip to Brazil that I would have enjoyed a lot more than I did had my digestive system been functioning) and realized it wasn’t me with the eating disorder, but rather, our culture. I no longer apologize for what I eat (or don’t eat). No exceptions.

    I was interviewed about my eating habits last year (a prelude to a conference I was organizing on “food politics”), and after the interview (in which I’d talked about my celery-dandelion juice and picked apart the interviewer’s so-called “healthy lunch” – a turkey sandwich and an aspartame-laced yogurt), I panicked. I worried that my “weird” eating habits would undermine the seriousness of the work I was trying to do. But surprisingly enough, the interviewer took me very seriously and was actually led to re-think what is healthy.

    My point being that often we’re more self-conscious about our choices than we need to be. Don’t forget, thanks for movies like Food Inc and the work of conscientious omnivores like Michael Pollan, there’s a lot more knowledge out there in the mainstream about the horrors of factory farming, confinement dairies, etc. I’m also seeing more awareness around food allergies, etc. The deleterious health impacts of cheap, fast, processed food are now well known (thanks to Jamie Oliver and others), and awareness of the environmental hazards of industrial food production is growing daily.

    I can’t imagine anyone giving you a hard time about your food choices at a time when the arguments for such choices (for ethical, environmental, and health reasons) have never been stronger. Your food choices might create some awkwardness, sure, but the worst that can happen is you get your friends to make their own food choices with greater awareness. A not bad thing.

  17. Gena,

    First of all, I am so so so sorry to hear of your loss. 🙁
    It does not make for the best of Friday’s.

    On another note, I think your mom’s artwork rocks, and this post was fantastic.
    I am moving to Dallas, and already the thoughts have crossed my mind… “here we go again…” “No, I will not have a bite of your steak, burger, etc.” 🙂

    Confidence is key… so is making fantastic meals that you can share with everyone. Surprise the audience, and guests, and show them that, “heavens! raw, vegetarian and vegan foods can taste amazing!” I think it is really about educating people. Whether they want to learn, or not… there taste buds can never disagree. It is also about breaking down the misinformation that people have about vegans– we do not sit around and eat carrot sticks, tofu, and lettuce leaves all day 🙂

    Great post.


  18. I love this post, Gena! Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Confidence is key. If you know in your heart that what you are doing is right, that will shine through. And I really love that you mentioned true friends won’t be mean or judge you. I know that was true for me. I realized some people weren’t really good friends when I went vegan, they couldn’t stop making fun of me or saying…”but you used to love bacon”…or “this won’t last.”

    But my true friends were incredibly supportive and curious because they realized this choice made me happy and made me feel good, and that was the important thing.

    Thanks for another awesome post!

  19. Gena, really wonderful post, I agree totally! as a non-vegan, and a cookery and recipe and foodlover, though sometimes struggling with it (have a past with a severe eating disorder, so I do more than other people, understand the struggling with dinner parties.), I must say I have a really good experience with adapting to new habits of friends that I would love to share with you guys;
    One of my new colleagues told me last year she was vegan, and on my birthday I thought it would be fun to try to bake a vegan goodie.
    I brought two whole carrotcakes, one by my favourite recipe, the other one vegan. End of the day…. the vegan one was favourite among all of my colleagues! They loved trying both versions next to each other, and while eating the cakes, started asking her about the reasons why she became vegan.
    It made some of us reconsider our own diet-habits. So really, for some of your friends it will be fun if they really like cooking, they can try new recipes!!

    And one solution if you REALLY do not feel comfortable.. Give as much dinner parties as you can yourself, cook them a lovely vegan meal, and over dinner you can then explain and talk about it in a comfortable environment, all enjoying the vegan food!
    Hope this helps!


  20. I know exactly how Alex feels. I became vegan my last year in college, and all of my friends made fun of me. I didn’t know how to defend myself, as I had never been bombarded with opinions on MY diet and lifestyle. They were “concerned” with my health, as I lost weight, and had many questions that I did not yet know the answer to. All I could say in reply was that I felt better than ever, I wasn’t getting sick every few months, and I was no longer contributing to factory farms. I thought that was enough to know, but suddenly everyone was a nutritionist (even though we were all actually architecture majors!), and wanted to know where I was getting my protein and iron.

    Now that I have established myself as a healthy vegan (I am no longer withering away) and everyone knows what a vegan is (You still eat fish, right?), it is easier. But, geez, that first few months were torture. For dinner parties, I always offer to help with preparing the meal, or I bring a dish or two that everyone can enjoy. I don’t ask for special treatment, but my friends love to learn how to make something vegan or learn a new dish.

    Thank you, Gena, for the wonderful article. You are my favorite foodie blogger!

  21. I don’t frequently comment on here, but this post really hit home for me. Also, I just want to reassure this new vegan that things WILL get better.

    Transitioning to veganism, raw foodism, or any “weird” diet (weird to a sad eater) can be tough, but social situations will get easier over time. Also, I know everyone says “if they’re really your friends, they’ll respect your choices,” but the real problem for me at potlucks and dinner parties is not MY friends (the hosts) not being accepting of my lifestyle, but rather their other friends being rude. Be prepared for this to happen.
    One of my best friends is also really close with an aggressive, pretentious female chef. I recently went to a potluck that she was at and brought my own vegan dish; I got tons of compliments on the dish from omnivores, but she took one bite and said: “Sorry, but I just can’t stomach this vegan shit. I just don’t like it. I just don’t.” This would be fine if it were an isolated event. I’m used to being teased about my veganism (and you should get used to it too), but the problem is, I see this girl ALL the time and she constantly makes these unsolicited comments.

    What I’m basically trying to say is: you will encounter teasing (hopefully it won’t bother you), and you will encounter outright bitches like the one I mentioned. This will probably irk you, but over time, you’ll get used to it. It might be hard to be open about your diet, especially if you’re kind of shy, self-concious or don’t have the highest self-esteem (like myself), but things will improve.

    This whole social issue is the main reason I haven’t gone (high) raw yet. My confidence and self-assuredness have steadily grown enough for me to be confident in my vegetarian and now vegan ways, but I have never been able to stay raw for more than a few days because of social pressures to eat vegan junk food. Even my boyfriend thinks I’m “already super healthy” and there’s no need to go raw (how drastic!). I know eating raw would make me feel happier, but if I can’t even get some support from my boyfriend (or my mother, or my friends, many of whom think veganism is too extreme as it is), where the hell am I going to get some reassurance? Lately I’ve come to the realization that it just needs to come from within.

    Ending point: it sucks being healthy in an unhealthy world. Sometimes I think I’m the crazy one for being a vegan (and now a ‘raw-enthusiast’). The truth is, it’s not crazy to care about ethical issues, the environment, and your own body. It’s great that you’ve committed to this healthy lifestyle, and you will learn to embrace it and share it with others. I’m still struggling with this and I’ve been a vegetarian for over 4 years. However, I feel 100 times more confident now than I did when I first made the switch. Good luck on your journey!

    P.S. Love your blog, Gena.

  22. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss, Gena….

    Your mother’s artwork is just stunning! I still sometimes find myself in situations where I am made to feel awkward, embarrassed, or guilty because of my food choices, but thankfully for the most part my family and friends are accepting of my choices and I love nothing better than “tricking” an omnivore into falling in love with a vegan version of their favorite food!

  23. This is a wonderful post, you did such a great job hitting on all the points. I too struggled with disordered eating as a kid and became a vegetarian at a very young age. I often felt the social pressures and insecurities about needing “special treatment” when it comes to food. I went off the veg diet for a few years, and just recently decided that it was best for me to go back on it again. This is the exact anxiety and questions I have been struggling with because my husband and my family really enjoy eating out, at a lot of places I can not find things to eat. I haven’t “labeled” myself just yet…however, this post really helped me feel a little better about the social aspect of it, especially since I am considering going “full vegan” for many reasons. Thank you for sharing.

  24. Great points, Gena. I also liked that point about how social eating is about shared feelings and PLEASURE, instead of just shared foods.

    As a non-vegan, I have to say sometimes, I do fret over whether the vegan/gluten-free/lactose-intolerant guest is enjoying herself or not. I really do not mind if she (or he) is only eating the salad, as long as she is truly and genuinely enjoying herself.

    The problem comes not just in the vegan guests, but the host — I’ve come to learnt that people with these diets DON’T want to have me fussing and clucking over them…that’s annoying, and a sure way to guarantee a very UNpleasant time for both the host and the guest indeed! So it comes both ways: The host (and everyone else) has got to learn to not make a scene, and so does the guest (meaning, please don’t preach abt the evils of meat while I’m devouring my steak. hee hee).

  25. You can always win them over with vegan cupcakes! I know the feeling, the more I refine my diet (recently eliminating even more stuff like gluten) the more challenging it gets for certain situations, but it’s worth it! Your site looks great Gena, love the new look.
    Eco Mama

  26. Great post Gena! I find it so hard sometimes to balance my healthy eating with social situations because so many people comment on it. It’s so true though that you have to find your own “mojo” and people/friends/family will/should accept it. I find it’s hardest at work when I don’t want to eat pizza or bagels, people always make comments. I try to just brush it off and not say anything. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss. I’ll be thinking of you.

  27. I’ve been testing out Eat to Live, raw food, and most lately veganism for the past year and I feel better than I ever have. I share my newfound enthusiasn with anyone who will listen–friend or stranger. I don’t feel embarrassed or shy. It’s the opposite really. I used to be really uncomfortable around food and people because I was overweight. Any eating for me felt bad. Now that I am eating mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, etc. I am happy when I am eating. So sharing food with others has become a newfound joy for me, even if I am not partaking in everything that all of my friends are eating. In fact, I just went away for a girl’s weekend with 5 non-vegan friends and had meal after meal with them. They would share food in restaurants and I would order what works for me and we all still had a blast. They even agreed to have a totally vegan pot luck in a few months–boy will the husbands be surprised!

  28. that was a great post. i can totally relate to that. to up the question even more, its hard to tell people about how i eat because my when people hear that they automatically picture twig skinny and i still am over weight. I think thats another reason why it is hard for some people to share how they eat, because people judge it when they look at you and don’t see the picture in their head.

  29. Another thought for Alex. I like to cook and have dinner parties, and I actually enjoy the challenge of cooking for someone with a specific diet. It makes me feel good that I can accommodate my friends. It might be a fun idea for Alex’s friend to come up with a vegan meal or at least a vegan dish within the meal.

  30. great answer! this can be a toughie for people. i have found it is not so much me who is upset that i can’t participate but others upset that i am not doing what they are doing (enjoying nonvegan food). if i reassure them i am ok, then we get over it and move on.

    that being said i have found it helpful to make some friends who DO get it and are vegan and recently, raw foodies. i like having friends from all kinds of diets, so i can geek over greens with some and talk about politics with others.

  31. Great post Gena! I agree with you in that I am finally happy of where I am with my eating habits and choices because for me I am looking for the foods that provide me with energy and make me feel great all time. It took me awhile to tell others about my change in eating habits, but once everyone knows you can move on and enjoy life and food again. I agree it can be hard at first to take that leap to let others know, but we all should not feel bad about our food choices especially if it makes us feel great. We should be happy for others you have found their ideal ‘diet’ or lifestyle and be happy for them. I know that is not always the case though. I don’t think my dad still understands it completely 😉

  32. Spot on, Gena! Wonderfully articulate post and superb sentiments – gastronomic pleasure, tethered to collective joy. I must’ve said a dozen, “uh-hUH!” and “you go, girl!”‘s throughout this post! Thanks for the great Friday afternoon reading.

  33. I found it really hard to tell people I’d stopped eating meat and then that I was gluten-intolerant. More because I felt like it was inconvenient that they had to accommodate my new eating requirements. But as soon as I told people they were more than okay with accommodating me! I was pretty surprised.

    You’ll be okay too, I promise!

  34. I’m vegan and I eat with my family and friends all the time! You’re going to have to come clean, though…if they’re your friends, besides some good-natured teasing, they’ll be totally fine with it! You can always offer to bring a dish!

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