I’ve noticed something sort of disturbing in the last couple of months since we’ve started eating vegan as a family. It didn’t used to bother me before. In fact sometimes it made me nod my head in sympathy and commiserate. Sometimes with a qualifier, but often not. Sometimes I ignored it, but not often, and sometimes I got angry. It’s the non-vegan responses to my lifestyle choice that include these comments: “Oh, I can’t give up _____!”, “How can you not eat ____?”, “Why does eating healthy mean giving up everything good?”, “Oh that’s nice but it takes too much time and is too expensive for most people.”. Sometime in the last couple of weeks these seemingly innocuous comments have begun to grate mightily on my nerves. No longer do I nod my head in sympathy and understanding at the idea that I no longer eat a 4 egg breakfast with bacon or a gooey mound of mac ‘n’ cheese. It’s beginning to feel as though the people most inclined to accuse vegans of pushing their lifestyle choice onto others are often the very first to comment on mine, usually with a combination of disbelief, a stunned “why?!?!?” and dismissive negation. Now I find myself biting my tongue to stop the comments from pouring out of my mouth…
1. YES, you CAN give up _____. Be honest with yourself. You simply don’t want to. You have made a choice, the same as I have, and yours includes _____ in your diet.
2. How can I not eat ____? It’s simple, I just don’t eat it. Yes, sometimes I miss it and sometimes I even eat some at a time when my committment wavers but I’ve decided that I would miss my family a great deal more if I were to die from heart disease or diabetes. That tends to put ______ into some rather harsh perspective.
3. Eating a healthy plant-based diet DOESN’T mean giving up everything good. And if it does then I can’t begin to imagine what you must be eating. Eating a healthy plant-based diet means that everything you eat is good and if YOU can’t find a way to make it tasty and exciting then you might want to consider some basic cooking classes and simple cookbooks. In a day and age when you can order pretty much any spice, condiment, utensil, how-to guide or gadget over the internet and have it dropped on your front door like a Jehovah’s Witness with a fresh copy of the Watchtower, resorting to raw broccoli, lentil cakes and nutritional yeast in hot water is just plain lazy and maybe even a bit passive aggressive. I mean, it IS the perfect excuse for not eating healthy if is looks awful and tastes worse, right?
4. According to a recent Nielsen study, the average American spends almost 160 hours a month, over 5 hours a day, watching television. Now tell me that those very same people don’t have time to prepare and cook a meal. The more correct assesment is that many Americans don’t TAKE the time to cook healthy meals. If someone can’t manage to boil pasta, heat up sauce and throw together a salad while watching Dancing With American Idols or whatever it is that passes for entertainment these days then they have bigger problems that we can address here and none of them involve efficient time use. Just because commercials for processed foods bombard you day in and day out with the idea that cooking and family meals are quaint but unrealistic goals in your busy busy life doesn’t mean that we have to buy into this thinly disguised manipulation. As for expensive, well yes it is, if you choose shop at high-end yuppie stores. But, if you take the time to locate mom and pop produce stands and watch your grocery store flyers for sales on fruits, veggies, and bulk beans and grains you can eat veggie or vegan quite cheaply. I know. We did it on food stamps, feeding a family of 4 for $246 a month.
The thing is, deprivation is a state of mind. If you view eating healthy, feeling better, being more active, having fewer stomach upsets or nights of gorged incapacitation and extending your life as being deprived, then yes, you ARE deprived. If you want to view the glass as half empty then that is exactly how it will appear. And that is your choice. But this is MY choice. I don’t view deprivation the same way anymore. I see losing my life early to preventable disease as being deprived. I see missing out on Christmas eve’s, cheap movie matinees, Saturday morning coffee, summer days at the beach and family dinners as being deprived. I see an inability to enjoy outdoor activities because I’m too ill or incapacitated as being deprived. I see having to tell people “No, no… don’t tell me about it, it’s too upsetting” when it concerns the abuse and torture that food animals endure as being deprived. It might have taken me 45 years to get here but I enjoy my life, my family, my hobbies, my dreams and my goals too much to willing sacrifice them for a cheeseburger or sausage gravy.
And really, if you think about and if you are truly honest with yourself, who among us on our death bed will say, “I wish I had eaten more fast food.” or “I wish I had spent more time with a grilled cheese sandwich.” I think it far more likely that most of us will say, “I wish I had been a more compassionate person. I wish I had left the world a better place than I found it. I wish I had more time. I would give anything for just another day, another minute, with the people I love.” Isn’t it better to recognize that now when you still have a choice?