Ever since I started eating a vegetarian diet, I often get bombarded with questions when the topic of food comes up. What do you eat? What don't you eat? Don't you miss bacon? Why would you give up steak? When do you think you'll give up and start eating normally again? Are you really going to eat that? Is it really healthier? How do you get enough protien in your diet? You don't even eat turkey on Thanksgiving? Are you sure you don't want some of this? When you have kids are you going to let them eat meat? What made you change your mind? You miss cheeseburgers, dont you? And the questions go on and on.
At first, I was glad that they were interested, but then I got annoyed. Sometimes the questions seem more judgemental than curious and it bothered me. It's my choice, it's what I put in my body, why does anyone else care? But whether the questions come from curiosity, ignorance, disbelief, disagreemnt or misunderstanding, they are still asked. So how should I handle them? And how should you possibly handle them if you're ever in the same situation? I promise, eating in solitary confinement is not the only option!
1. Educate Yourself. No matter what type of diet you eat, it is important to be educated. Food is the way we keep our bodies going and it is so important to know what you are putting in your body. Google information (only trust reliable sources), get a book out from the library, subscribe to a magazine (try Vegetarian Times or Vegnews), or watch a documentary (Food Inc., Vegucated, Forks Over Knives, etc.). This is plenty of easy to understand information out there and being educated not only will help you answer the questions, but also make the best decisions for your body.
2. Take a Breath. In most situations, the questioners mean well and are simply curious. If you feel a heated debate coming, avoid it by changing the subject and return to the topic later. Otherwise, take the opportunity to share the valuable knowledge you have learned and maybe the questioner will begin to think about the way they eat as well!
3. Cook For Them! A lot of people wonder what I eat. I think this is a little silly because there is so much I can eat! A good way to show this to others is by cooking for them. Bring a dessert or appetizer to a party or invite your friends over for dinner. If you need crowd friendly recipe ideas search for vegan/vegertarian recipes on pinterest.com, allrecipes.com, or blogs such as chocolatecoveredkatie.com.
4. Ask Them Questions. Ask them what they eat and what they know about the food they consume. Most likely if you are a vegan/vegetarian you are passionate about food and like having discussions about it. Don't let a few ignorant assumption or annoying questions get in the way of a good converstaion about a passion of yours!
5. Don't Make Up An Answer. Lastly, if you don't know the answer to a question, don't just make it up. Tell the person you've haven't considered that before or done much research on that and you'll get back to them. Making up a lie won't help the person respect your decision more once they find out it's not true.
Sometimes I feel like I should carry around a FAQ sheet, but educating myself, gaining confidence in my diet decisions, and learning a lot of tasty recipes to share has helped a lot. I am no longer tempted to eat alone or say that I'm allergic to something just to avoid the questions and you shouldn't be either.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.