Thursday, November 14, 2013

When Others Just Don't Get It

I gave a speech at a conference once that was mainly composed of vegetarians and vegans.  A woman approached me afterward; she was very obese, with stringy hair and bad skin, with a serious scowl on her face.  She said, “Sarah, I really loved your speech.  Thank you so much for coming.  I have a question for you:  I’ve been vegan for 3 years now, but when I try to tell people that they had better change to a vegan diet because they’re going to kill themselves eating all that fast food and crap that they eat, and that they are contributing to the deaths of innocent little animals and the destruction of our planet, I can’t get anyone to listen!  They don’t listen to me!  I practically scream at my parents and siblings about it every year over the holidays, yet they continue to stuff themselves with turkey and pumpkin pie!  How do I get them to listen to me???”

I really felt for her.  I think at some primal level, many vegans just want to scream at the world to wake up and see what we see, to learn what we’ve learned.  But I encourage you:  Stop, and remember when you used to eat turkey and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving; when you didn’t know about the horrors of the slaughterhouses (and I mean really know – not just heard fourth-hand from someone, but read or watched about it yourself.)  Remember a time, even, when you did know about something but didn’t open your mind to really take it in. So it is with everyone’s journey.  People won’t hear you give a few sordid statistics at the dinner table and decide to go vegan right then and there.  However, if you approach them right, you might just open their minds at your first encounter with them over veganism … you might just set a great example at your first encounter … and that could be the beginning of someone else’s life changing as dramatically as yours has.  So here are a few tips for being a vegan…

  • Don’t get angry
  • Be understanding (you were probably once where they are now.)
  • Have patience (most people won’t believe you’re going to stick with it.  It may take years for people to believe that you are serious and actually start listening to you.)
  • Set a good example (you may want to wait on touting the health benefits until others can actually see an impressive difference in your health.)
  • Let people come to you
  • Cook for others (when you’ve figured out some really great vegan recipes, start inviting people over in small groups of about 6-8 – so that if someone asks about your diet, the whole table might actually hear what you have to say.)

Finally, remember to always keep this in perspective:  If no one ever listens, if no one ever cares … wake up each and every morning with the beautiful knowledge that today you will save another animal.  That today you will be healthier.  That today you will do your part to save our planet.  At the end of the day, you can encourage and inspire and educate others until you exhaust yourself, but you can only control what you put in your mouth.  Let your food choices be a poem of compassion for all who witness.


  1. Seems like part of their reluctance might be due to their family member's appearance, too - if she had been vegan that long, yet her appearance (excess weight, less-than-healthy skin and hair, etc) failed to convey the benefits of a vegan diet and lifestyle, they might think "why should I do that when you do it and this is your result?" I'm certainly not casting judgment on her or anyone else - excess weight, dull skin, thinning hair, etc, can all be caused by a variety of illnesses and not be related to diet, of course. Nobody likes to be preached at. I knew a vegan in 2007 - never in a million years did I think that just two years later I would start to be interested in it myself and finally make the transition in 2013.

    I would like to let you know that I have been a vegan for nearly a year now, largely helped by your book and also "Main Street Vegan". I lost roughly 20 pounds just in the first 4 months. I have remained in the mock meats and mock cheez crutch phase for the most part, though, which is probably why I've stalled on all fronts and don't feel as good as I could.

    New year, new resolution: more whole foods, less mock meat crutch foods.

  2. I want to become a vegan, because my daughter allergies to dairy have openly eyes about the link between disease & animal products.Tomorrow will be my first day . I hope to see a benefit in my health soon.