Surviving the Holidays as a Vegan
Out of the 23 Holiday Seasons I've experienced in my time on this Earth, 20 were just regular, omni holidays. I then spent 1 of them as a vegetarian and 2 of them as a vegan. As I prepare for my third holiday season without any animal products I begin to feel the anxiety that has become standard for this time of year. If you don't eat a "normal" diet, you may understand what I mean. As we get nearer and nearer to family Christmas, I begin to think more and more of how I will handle those days amongst family. I am by no means an expert, but let me share with you what I've learned so far and what I plan to implement this year to survive the holidays as a vegan!
Now, in my ideal world, my family would eat 100% vegan while we're together. To be fair, I've never asked them to. I don't want to force feed veganism to my family, as I know it will only push them further away. But despite that I find myself thinking; "You've had countless meals to eat whatever you want since the last time we saw each other, and you know how I feel about consuming and using animal products. Can't you just go one meal, or one day, without hurting animals?"
For those of us who are ethical vegans, the holidays are an emotionally fraught time. I am lucky enough to be marrying a man who shares my values, and therefore live in a 100% vegan home. That means that the only times I have to break bread with non-vegans are in the lunchroom at work or if I go to a non-vegan restaurant (not a common occurrence). But at the holidays? I may be spending as much as a full week eating every single meal surrounded by death. It's not fun.
I love my family, and I want to spend as much time with them as I can. But I DON'T want to spend all of that time incredibly stressed and trying to hold in the sadness, anger, and frustration I feel as I watch them destroy their health, the lives of animals, and our environment so that our time together can be pleasant.
So this year, I'm making a plan. I'm going to think of as many different circumstances and conflicts I can ahead of time and find solutions so that this year the holidays can be a joy like they're meant to be (as much as possible). And I'm sharing it with you so that you can have the resources you need to survive the holidays as a vegan, especially if it's your first one!
P L A N A H E A D
Since you're reading this article, you're definitely on the right track! Grab a notebook and a pen or pencil to take notes on the points that apply to your family and life and get prepared for a happy holiday season!
M A K E A L I S T
Of every single person who you'll see at the holidays. Every single one! If you have a big family this might take a while, but this will be so helpful for maneuvering this tricky time.
Made your list? Good.
Now I want you go down that list and think about each person individually. What are they like? Have they every commented on your diet, or the diet or someone else, before? What did they say? Do they like to ask a million questions? Get into debates? Make jokes? Poke fun? As you ask these questions about each person I want you to turn to a new page and jot down every comment, joke, or question you can imagine being asked by these people about your vegan lifestyle.
C R E A T E C A N N E D R E S P O N S E S
This tip is a LIFESAVER. Once you have your list of potential questions and comments, I want you to come up with a handful of responses that fit each eventuality. This is perfect if you...
A) Aren't great at thinking on your feet or get flustered easily, or;
B) Tend to get upset or angry quickly and can't think of a response OR say something that will hurt the other person (or the cause!), or;
C) Are really shy or afraid of offending people.
Some examples would be:
- (Where do you get your protein, iron, calcium, etc.) From plants.
- (So how do you like just eating salad?) There are over 20,000 types of edible plant foods and I love the huge variety in my diet!
- (Why won't you eat what I made for you? I worked so hard on it just for you!) I love you, and I would love to eat anything you made for me if it was animal product free. But I can't compromise my values no matter how much I love you and your cooking. I hope that being here and spending time together will be enough to show you how much I love and appreciate you!
- (Humans are omnivores. We're meant to eat meat, just like it's natural for lions to eat gazelle.) You are not a lion. And you're not a carnivore. You don't chase down your victim and catch it in your teeth. You don't rip into their living flesh and start eating them raw. You don't eat every piece, every organ, of their body without discrimination. You are NOT meant to eat meat.
- (Being vegan is dumb. Vegans are weak hippies. Why don't you care more about people than you care about the animals?) I don't discriminate against ANY living being, regardless of its species. That's why I'm vegan. I don't wish pain and suffering on any living thing, including humans. Did you know that if every person went vegan we'd have enough food to feed the entire human population?
B R I N G F A C T S T O B A C K I T U P
If you don't feel confident holding your own in a debate, use your list of potential questions, criticisms and comments to do research ahead of time and jot down facts and figures with sources. You can just pull it out of your pocket and read it to them! Another option is to download and print off my Vegan 101 pamphlet and pass it around to friends and family. I created it in a printable format as well as a PDF appropriate for reading on the computer or a mobile device, so you can also send it to them if you'd prefer to save paper and ink! Fill out the form below and I'll send the link to you, 100% free.
U S E T H E B U D D Y S Y S T E M
Everything's better with an ally. Is there anyone in your family who is vegan or vegetarian, or even just a little more sympathetic? Talk to them beforehand, if possible, and ask them to help back you up with certain family members or if you're being ganged up on. Make sure they know that you don't expect them to agree with your stance, if they don't, but that you just need that support and someone to tell others to take it back a notch if it gets to be too much.
E A T B E F O R E H A N D
Not sure if there will be anything you can eat at Christmas dinner? Eat before you go! If it's just a dinner thing, or if you can manage to sneak out for a half-hour, try eating a full meal ahead of time so that you won't have a hard time sticking to the few vegan options. If you know there will be a bit more for you to eat I still suggest as least a big salad, or something else light yet filling, just in case! It also helps for those of you who are new to veganism and are still having cravings or trouble with motivation.
B R I N G O R M A K E F O O D
For everyone to try! This is my favourite thing to do at the holidays, because it helps to show that a vegan diet can be more than salad, and that it can taste GREAT! This year Jason and I plan to make dinner for everyone - shepherd's pie, vegetable soup, and apple crisp for dessert. I bet no one is going to miss the meat or dairy in that hearty meal!
You can also ask if you can help out in the kitchen and make suggestions to make dishes vegan. You can explain how if the carrots are cooked without butter you can enjoy them too, and everyone else can put as much butter as they like on their own carrots - everyone's happy!
C O M P R O M I S E
If you normally eat a fully raw, vegan, low fat diet, you may need to compromise with a cooked vegan diet, or foods with a higher fat content for a couple of meals. Or say a family member bought you vegan cookies with oil, and you usually avoid oil. It is far better to make an exception than to uphold a perfectly healthy diet and hurt someone who has tried so hard to accommodate you. Perfection is the enemy of the good. Being vegan is important to you, and it's important for the world. You don't want to compromise on that! But don't let an all or nothing attitude about your 100% clean diet ruin all of your hard work. A couple of days of vegan junk food won't hurt you, and it may just show your family that veganism isn't quite as scary as they may have thought!
I hope this post helped you, just as I hope the original conversation with my newly-vegan friend, Amanda (which inspired this post) did! If you haven't already, be sure to scroll up and fill in the form for your free Vegan 101 booklet! I've been working on it for a while and I think it will be a great resource for those of us with omni families. If you're a Plant Based Bride newsletter subscriber you will receive your link automatically, as you do with all free resources as soon as they go live!
Happy Holidays and good luck!
Until next time,
What's your number one tip for surviving the holidays as a vegan? Let everyone know in the comments below!