The Social Challenges of Eating Plant-Based (and How to Deal with Them)

NMA Radio co-host Doug recently attended a bachelor party, where while discussing meals for the weekend, it became clear that one of the guys wasn’t comfortable with Doug’s being a vegan.

We’re all having meat. What are you going to eat, Doug? Carrots?

We’ve all been in this situations like this. It’s that moment at a restaurant, party, or dinner when all of a sudden people realize you’re vegan or vegetarian, and don’t know how to react. Before you can even say a word, someone gets defensive or pokes fun of your diet.

So what do you do? Usually, we react in one of two ways. Either:

  1. You use it as an opportunity to make a point, defend your diet choice, and maybe even convince a few people, or
  2. You brush it off and keep the mood light, in an attempt to make veganism appear as normal as possible.

I’m not saying either of these better than the other; I respect both choices. But I know the one that I choose, almost every single time.

In today’s episode, we discuss these two approaches, and how Doug and I handle the uncomfortable situations at parties, with family, and while out to dinner. We also share the rest of Doug’s story, and how by the end of the weekend, he got that same guy to take interest in the vegan diet.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • Why your diet makes others uncomfortable
  • Matching a joke with a joke to defuse an uncomfortable situation
  • Is eating cheese worse than wasting cheese?
  • Why Doug ate a non-vegan dish at a family breakfast … and why he thinks this was the right choice

Click the button below to listen now:


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  1. Beth R. says:

    My husband and I follow a vegetarian diet because it feels right for our bodies. When in South Korea with friends, it was reminded to me on several occasions that South Korea is a “meat-centric” culture. Many asked what me and my husband would do, but we told them not to worry; we’d be fine. (I also packed emergency protein bars, just in case.) We were fine with the idea of eating fish and meat in certain places because we didn’t (and still don’t) want to miss out on cultural opportunities, but it should be on our terms. However, one woman in our group, kept pressuring me, making me feel as though my choice to be vegetarian was wrong. While at a fish market, I told her I didn’t want to miss opportunities and tried different fish dishes–but secretly hoping she’d get off my case. I also felt pressured to eat meat because of her. As I was eating still wriggling octopus tentacles, she sat at the market the entire time and complained because she didn’t like fish and refused to eat any of it!

  2. Deserae says:

    I find that the response can be flexible to the situation. I’m not a very good vegangelist, and I’m comfortable enough with my decision to ignore lighthearted jabs and well meaning advice (you really should eat a steak now and then). I’m also ready and willing to share with anyone who has questions or interests.
    I do have one particularly abrasive relative who had taken it upon himself to dish out snide remarks and put downs at every opportunity. I finally had to shut him down by giving it right back. Not my typical style, but fitting for that one particular instance.

  3. I don’t eat meat regardless of any peer pressure and just brush off ignorant comments. If anybody continues their harangue, I just tell them I don’t eat dead animal flesh because my body is not a graveyard.

  4. Great podcast, relaxed and informative. I wish I had these wisdoms when I first became vegan twenty five years ago! Very cool.
    It would be great to listen to women’s contributions too.

  5. Many similarities with the question “why don’t you drink” at a dinner party. I’m not vegan, but I don’t drink and the manner in which you guys deal with these questions is nearly identical to the similar question to a nondrinker!

  6. Sigh. It really gets me down when people freak out at the mere mention of veganism. I’ve been vegan for three years and mentioned it for the first time on facebook recently (about how veganism has helped me as an athlete), and like five minutes later a person I barely talk to but thought I was on good terms with goes on a vaguebook rant about how people who “act superior” because of their diets are so alienating and how it’s so stupid to avoid food that you’re not allergic to. I’m certain this was directed at me and now I’m super bummed because it dawned on me that there are probably other people in my life who secretly think less of me because I’m vegan. That’s what I get for trying to share something positive on social media, I guess.

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