6 Tips On What To Do If You Are Vegan But Your Partner Isn’t

pair from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Taz, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

When you realise that living vegan is the most environmentally-friendly; most healthy (if it’s whole-food based); most ethically sound way to live with regards human and non-human animals; most effective way to combat world hunger, and the most world-peace promoting lifestyle there is; you naturally want to share this!

And of course the person you most want to share with is your partner.

But what do you do if your partner just cannot see things the way you see them?

When YOU have understood all the reasons for why vegan (or even if there’s just one reason that influenced you), it can have such a huge impact on you that it can feel hurtful and personal if your partner, the one who knows and loves you the most, just doesn’t get it.

Here are my tip-top tipz on what to do in this situation:

 

1. Communication is key.

Yes I know this sounds obvious, but it really ain’t as obvious as you think.

Remember that your partner likely has an opposite personality-type to you. This is why you were attracted to each other in the first place. ‘Opposites attract’ is a cliche because it’s mostly true. THUS, you more than likely communicate in a very different way to your partner.

If YOU are the partner that is not always direct and clear when communicating – now is the time to try and be as clear as possible when expressing yourself to your partner about this subject.

If it helps, write down what you want to say before you say it. More often than not writing something down brings clarity. Be sure to explain all your reasons for your decision, and how much it would mean to you if they would also read/watch/listen to the information that you’ve just learned.

You know your partner. Speak to their interests. If you have kids, talk about the environment. If they have health issues in their family, speak to those. If you have pets or if they had a beloved pet in their childhood, explain how all animals are the same.

But above all, be clear and express how you feel and what would make you happy. Your partner is invested in making you happy. That’s why they agreed to be your partner 🙂

 

2. Once you’ve communicated – lead by example.

If your partner witnesses you getting healthier, happier and living life with gusto and purpose – this is contagious.

Don’t forget your partner will notice this about you more than anyone else will.

As you become more confident in your plant-based lifestyle, your relationships will likely get better too – the more you love yourself (which is what you are doing by living the healthiest, most compassionate and conscious way possible), the more you can love others, right?

When your partner sees what THEY are gaining from you being this new amazing version of yourself, chances are they’ll start to think about what effect a plant-based lifestyle could have on them too.

 

3. Have fun with a little bit of sneakiness and stealth!

If you don’t like the word ‘sneakiness’ just call it ‘creative strategising’!

Nothing wrong with having fun and being tricksy if it’s all for the greater good, amiright? And what’s the greater good if it’s not guiding your partner towards living in accordance with their own ethics (that you KNOW they have, deep down), improving their health and that of the planet??

Here are a few ideas:

  • Leave some yummy vegan treats lying around open (chocolate, cookies etc), just begging to be sampled by the next person that comes along – who just MIGHT be your partner! When you can see they’ve availed themselves of the goodies you left out, just casually mention that they were vegan!
  • Take your partner out to an ethnic restaurant; Ethiopian, South Indian or Middle Eastern for example; somewhere you KNOW the vegan options are plentiful, delicious, and look far more engaging than a plate of brown sludgy-looking meat and rice. Let your partner order whatever they will, then tuck into your plant-tastic lusciousness with alacrity and be sure to make all the relevant foodgasmic noises!
  • We all know omnivores take longer in the, er, bathroom than vegans. Leave some interesting reading material in there, like, ooh, The Food Revolution by John Robbins (lots of interesting bite-size facts in there!), or Veganist by Kathy Freston.
  • Dial (or go get) a pizza, and have it made with Daiya mozzarella. Make sure there are plenty of other tasty veg on there too (olives, mushrooms, red onion etc), and serve it up when your partner comes home from work hungry and you know they’ll eat whatever’s being served up. If they are a pizza lover, I can pretty much guarantee they will enjoy it, and will not believe it when you tell them (once they’ve eaten it of course) that it was vegan. Nothing like showing people that they won’t miss out on anything when stealthily nudging them towards being plant-based!

 

4. If it feels like you are talking to the wall; like you’ve communicated in the best way possible to your partner and tried every trick in the book – you know what? Just leave it for a while.

Yup. Just leave it alone for a time.

If you are a new vegan yourself, you are no doubt still learning and facing challenges too. It can be draining going through this and trying to get someone else on board at the same time.

Conserve your energy for a while. Focus purely on No. 2 – leading by example.

And remember, it’s often in the silence; the quiet; the spaces between; (meaning, in the times when you are NOT actively encouraging your partner to go vegan) that information can settle, and register.

 

5. Know where you end and another person begins.

This is the title of a podcast episode by Colleen Patrick Goudreau. If you want to listen to the relevant portion it’s at around 30 minutes in. The caller is talking about her family, but it’s relevant to anyone you are close with.

Ultimately, you CAN’T change your partner. They have to have their own realisations and their own, in Oprah parlance, ‘AHA moments.’

All you can do is share information, lead the way, and make it easy for them to transition to a vegan lifestyle as and when these revelatory moments happen.

Again, it’s often in moments when you are least expecting it that dots get joined and consciousness shifts. Be patient.

 

6. Never give up hope

No, never!

You never know what’s down the line.

Even if right now, your partner is chowing down on a big bacon sandwich and gurgling ‘…ooh, yummy, yummy flesh’ – I can promise you that far more unlikely people have gone vegan.

You want examples?

Check out the plant-fuelled trucker; or this chef that previously loved meat and cheese; or this Cajun guy who was raised on rich, fried traditional food.

John Robbins (author of The Food Revolution) was heir to the Baskin-Robbins ice-cream legacy, but went vegan and walked away from it – how unlikely is that? Dr T Colin Campbell (author of The China Study) was raised on a dairy farm and actually started his career trying to prove that animal protein was the optimal protein for humans. Again, he is NOT the person you would have expected to go plant-based.

There’s plenty more examples where that came from.

Your partner will never be the most unlikely plant-based candidate, so stay optimistic!

 

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The Healing Power Of A Plant Based Diet, Part 4 – Asthma

Inhaler from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 allispossible.org.uk, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Asthma seems to be SO common doesn’t it?

Don’t you know at least, like, 6 people that have it?

I know I do.

What’s more, I used to be a chronic sufferer myself – twofold, in fact.

What on earth do I mean by twofold? Well, I had good ol’, plain ol’, regular standard asthma; and I also had chronic atopic asthma as an allergic reaction to fur.

Yes, you SHOULD be jealous – I had ALL of the fun.

If you’ve never experienced asthma, let me tell you that it can be horrific. Breathing in oxygen is our most basic need, and when you can’t do this effectively it’s frightening. Try breathing through a straw. A VERY THIN one. Sometimes it’s just like that. Sometimes it’s worse.

In the late nineties, I heard that eliminating dairy products might help my asthma and eczema (eczema is closely related to asthma in terms of its causes). This knowledge has clearly been around a long time.

I had suffered enough to want to give this a try.

If you’ve read my ‘about’ page, you’ll know that I succeeded in ridding myself of asthma by going vegan. To be more specific; my ‘general’ asthma has completely gone since going vegan – I haven’t had an inhaler in years.

My atopic asthma as an allergic reaction to fur has also significantly improved, and I can enjoy a visit to the house of a friend that has a dog or cat, which I couldn’t before. The allergic reactions haven’t completely gone, I still have to wash my hands thoroughly in hot water after stroking any furry animal, otherwise they itch like crazy; and if, say, I’m visiting a house with a cat or dog in winter, with all windows closed and heating on; I’ll start sneezing and my lungs will definitely let me know THEY KNOW there is an allergen in the vicinity. Some allergies I believe are too systemic to completely disappear.

However, this is a vast improvement on before – and I just avoid putting myself in the ‘hot, stifling house with fur’ situation, so I’m asthma-free all the time!

I personally know of two other long-time asthma sufferers that had always used inhalers. They went vegan fairly recently and after a while no longer needed medication and now consider themselves asthma-free.

So that’s my personal story and some anecdotal evidence – but what happened when actual scientific studies took place?

Incredible huh? (BTW – if you haven’t already subscribed to NutritionFacts.org, you really should. Dr Michael Greger is an expert on all things plant-based and health related).

And in this article on Dr T Colin Campbell’s nutritionstudies.org website, we see that dairy consumption is linked to many diseases, including asthma. The original article was written in 1997 and updated in 2015 – so again, this information is NOT new!

Seemingly, even Hippocrates back in 370BC knew cow’s milk wasn’t the universal health elixir it is cracked up to be:

‘Hippocrates first observed and wrote about negative reactions to cow’s milk around 370 BC, since when, the prevalence, awareness and understanding of this allergy has increased. Milk allergy is one of the major allergies in infants and is caused by the proteins present in cow’s milk’ ~ The Food Safety Hazard Guidebook, by Richard Lawley, Laurie Curtis, Judy Davis, 2008

No-one ever got asthma by eating broccoli. Or brown rice. Or apples.

Disappointingly, on the NHS website you have to click through to the last menu option ‘living with asthma‘ and right down at the bottom it does mention that cow’s milk (along with other animal products like eggs and shellfish) can be a trigger for asthma.

Given the amazing results of the Swedish study in the video above, you think they’d mention this on their asthma homepage.

They also put links to the Asthma UK website where I eventually found an option called ‘asthma triggers’ (really not obvious to find at all in amongst a tonne of other options), and then had to click on ‘food’ (again, this was in among 17 other options; it wasn’t even the first one). I clicked on food, and it DOES cite milk and dairy products at the top of the list of food triggers, but is not very positive and encouraging about avoiding them, and gives FALSE information regarding the impact of dairy on calcium intake and bones!

Milk and milk products – You may have heard there’s a link between dairy foods and asthma, but only a very small percentage of people are allergic to milk products. For them, eating these foods may result in wheezing. Dairy allergy is more common in children but they often grow out of it as their digestive system matures. Calcium-rich dairy products are essential for healthy bones, especially for children and adolescents. And people with asthma can be at higher risk of bone disease osteoporosis (which causes thinning, brittle bones and increases risk of fractures) because of the use of steroid medication. So you should only avoid dairy products if necessary, ensuring you replace them with other sources of calcium under the guidance of your GP, nurse or a dietitian.

Again, the results of the Swedish study conflict drastically with this.

Ugh. Just…Ugh.

It seems that as well as avoiding dairy, including lots of fresh fruit and veg in your diet also helps reduce asthma symptoms; so we can easily surmise that a whole food, plant-based diet would be your best bet for improving asthma, and maybe never suffering from it again.

If you’re an asthma sufferer and haven’t tried avoiding animal products yet in a bid to improve your condition – what are you waiting for? Why suffer needlessly? I mean, why?

I know parents of children with asthma who, despite me passing on the above information, are reluctant to take dairy out of their children’s diets.

Now, when parents are advised to do other things to treat disease in their children, they DO it – like giving them antibiotics for example.

Antibiotics have side-effects, while avoiding dairy only has benefits, so why wouldn’t you want to treat your kid in a non-harmful, plenty-beneficial way?

The only reason I can think of is that they genuinely fear their child would miss out on nutrients, or maybe just not be receptive to the idea.

If your child has asthma and you’d like to make their diet more plant-based but don’t know how open to this they would be, maybe this post will help.

If you need more reasons (besides just curing yourself of asthma) to give up cow’s milk and dairy, read this.

If cheese is your downfall, read this.

You know what? If you don’t think you can do it long-term just commit to three weeks. See how you feel then and re-evaluate.

Life is waaaay too short to lose any of it to wheezing and spluttering and feeling like your lungs are about to explode. Take back control over your windpipe and lungs! Don’t let the dairy and animal agriculture industries commit you to a wheezy, hacking, breathless future.

 

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Here’s What To Do If Your Parents Aren’t On Board With You Being Vegan

motherfather2© 1900 Powerhouse Museum, Flickr | PD | via Wylio

Last week, in this post, I gave all the reasons your folks might’ve been a tad wary when you told them you were going vegan – or why they are still wary since you became vegan.

Now, I’m not promising that the following suggestions are going to turn your parents vegan overnight;  but they may help to keep peace, relieve tension around your new lifestyle, and just make them comfortable with it.

If, right now, you’re thinking that it’s not up to you to keep the peace and that they should be automatically accepting of your choices because they are YOUR choices – read my post from last week again.

Think of it this way; the more your parents feel secure that your new lifestyle will not change certain things they hold dear, and the more they are convinced that you are healthy and happy; the more peaceful your life will be, so you’re really doing this for YOU!…If you see what I mean.

If your parents are totally cool with you being vegan and if your dad just made you a soy matcha latte to wash down the quinoa and black bean soup your mum made you? Good for you! You are one lucky mofo – be grateful (I’m sure you are 🙂 )

This post is for the rest of us whose parent(s) have not yet been enlightened to the benefits and joys of plant-based living!

When you tell your parents you’re going vegan, what first hits them may be sub-conscious fears that they aren’t able to fully verbalise. Sometimes irrational fears crop up just because something is ‘different’, (which veganism is, in their eyes), and they can be difficult to express. If you think it might help, show them my post from last week to see if they relate to any of the fears I listed.

On the other hand, they may realise exactly what they are feeling which might make them defensive. Depending on their generation, they may not be comfortable with ‘the feels’ and would rather be defensive than talk about how you going vegan is affecting them.

However they react – you can cleverly pre-empt any negativity and neutralise it with your stun gun of reason!

ZAP!

KERPOW!!!

Exactly like that.

Use whatever within the following information applies to them and what you think will resonate most:

 

  • I talked about food memories last week, and how your parents have many memories of you that relate to food; whether celebratory food, or of you all eating a beloved family dish etc.

Remind your parents that the most important part of these memories is not the food. It’s being together WHILE eating the food; it’s the communal participation in something. Often, the food in question isn’t necessarily even LIKED by all of the party; it’s purely about being together. For example, even before I was vegan, I haaaated pretty much all Christmas food. Christmas pudding, turkey, Christmas cake, the lot. I’d rather have had a curry any day! But I loved being AT Christmas dinners. Why? Because we were all together, laughing and joking, being Christmassy, pulling crackers etc…But, food-wise, it wouldn’t have mattered if I was vegan or not for the amount of food I ate, it wouldn’t have been noticed. What mattered was the being together and celebrating.

Reassure them that you will still participate in celebratory family meals to come, and you’ll either help by suggesting and helping make fabulous plant-based dishes with them, or you’ll bring some with you for everyone to share. Paint an exciting picture of all the new memories there are to be made.

  • The best way to stealthily attract people (even parents!) to veganism, is to lead by example.

Explain to your parents carefully WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. Be sure not to say that you think they should do it too, just say that you’ve discovered this information, and it’s made you want to try it, and you’d appreciate their support. Breathe, be calm, and don’t talk over the top of them. I know it can be difficult (God knows I do!)  but this is for the long-term benefit of everyone. If they see you are calm, focussed and reasonable, they’ll have more faith in your decision.

  • Involve them. Sometimes parents might get weird and feel judged if you start living your life differently to how they do. The best thing to do is to get them involved. Go shopping with them, make fun dishes with them, and let them see that you are eating amazing, healthy, vibrant food. Buy them a copy of your favourite vegan recipe book (make sure it’s one with lush, mouth-watering pics!).
  • Did you used to go fishing or hunting with your dad? Did you used to bake something at an annual event with your mum? (I know! This is sooo gendered but it still happens!)

There are plenty of new bonding plant-based activities you can ritualise. For example, if I visit my dad’s house in winter, he’ll always roast us some chestnuts. Nothing better than cracking open freshly roasted chestnuts on a cold day. This is something we did before I was vegan, and luckily this didn’t need to change. Yay for chestnuts!

It doesn’t matter what the bonding activity is, if it’s gentle and meditative and leaves room for talking AND shared silence, then it’s effective. If you went fishing with your dad, it wasn’t really THAT much about the fishing, was it? It was more about being in nature, sitting quietly, mulling things over, being contemplative, and having a feeling of achievement if you caught something. Well you can get all that with many different activities that DON’T involve animal cruelty.

You can go foraging for mushrooms and wild herbs, picking berries etc. How about vegan beer or vegan wine tasting?

The same with cooking a particular dish in the kitchen if this is a family ritual. It doesn’t matter what the dish is. Maybe you could just veganise whatever it was?

  • Assure your parents you are well informed on the nutrition side of things – show them my protein post if they try and pick the old protein argument! Assure them that it’s as simple as making sure you eat a range of different coloured veg, fruit, beans and legumes, with lots of energy-giving whole grains and you’ll be fine – BETTER than fine in fact!
  • This is a good one! Remind them that there are (depending on their generation) plenty of things their parents ate that they now wouldn’t dream of eating. For example; my grandparents would’ve eaten lard, bread and dripping (I have no idea either!), spam, and they cooked everything in animal fat. My parents wouldn’t eat any of this now because they’ve learned that these foods are unhealthy. People DO better when they KNOW better. This is all you are doing – which as you’ve just shown them, is something they have done themselves.

 

Bottom line – keep talking. Keep making them (or showing them how to make) tasty food. If you find a great vegan restaurant, take them. If they have health questions, email them facts from reputable websites (anything by Dr T Colin Campbell, Dr Michael Greger, Dr John Mcdougall, PCRM). Talk with them, share information with them (you don’t have to share everything, just anything you think they might relate to; if one of them has a cholesterol issue for example, you could explain how it’s only animal products that contain cholesterol and that plant foods don’t contain any), and involve them.

You’ll soon get those walls down – and you never know what might happen. It might end up being THEM whining about all the Tofurky being sold out at Christmas!

 

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Here’s Why Your Parents Are Not Thrilled About You Being Vegan

mother father© 1900 Powerhouse Museum, Flickr | PD | via Wylio

Ha! This is a juicy subject.

There are ways to talk about being vegan with regular non-vegans: then there are parents.

How the dynamics can shift!

If you have parents that were completely on board with your decision to go vegan, and in actual fact wanted to go vegan with you JUST to support you – yay you! And can your parents adopt me please?

But DON’T be downhearted if this didn’t happen to you; the above scenario is definitely the exception, not the norm.

Now you know as well as I do that if your parents are giving you crap about going or being vegan, it doesn’t mean they are shitty parents – far from it.

I mean, they could be shitty parents; I don’t know them; but most likely they are not.

What it means, is one or several of these things:

 

  • Your parents taught you how to eat. They fed you your first foods. For most of us, they decided exactly what your body was going to ingest for at least the first 16 years of your life (sneaky candy splurges aside 🙂 ). They completely informed your food likes and dislikes, and passed their own tastes on to you.

You going vegan is making them feel that you think they were, and are, wrong. That you’ve moved on from, and away from them and the life they gave you

  • Your parents watched with pride as you ate your first boiled egg on your own, ate your first shellfish, and your first piece of French cheese. They have many profound memories that surround you and food. They fear these memories will be negated; that they’ll not now mean as much to you as they do to them.

Don’t forget that the whole food association thing goes further back than you and your parents. Your parents learned about food from THEIR parents, and they have many food memories associated with THEM. And your grandparents would’ve taken on THEIR parents’ food habits, and so on. This goes a loooong way back, baby. You going vegan, in the minds of your parents, is just changing (and ruining) everything.

  • Your parents knew you loved spaghetti and meatballs/cheesecake/pineapple-upside-down-cake, and liked to make it for you when you visited. They fear that they won’t have the same way of connecting with you through food as they used to; that you won’t ever again feel pleasure because of something they cooked especially for you.
  • Maybe you used to go fishing with your dad (why don’t mums go fishing?) and bring the fish home and cook it. Maybe you and your mum or dad always made a special non-vegan dish together at Christmas or Thanksgiving. Food and the acquiring and preparing of it has always been a bonding familial experience for many of us.

When you initially tell your parents you’re going vegan, they may well fear that that’s the end of something they cherished and always looked forward to (it’s most definitely NOT, but I’ll talk about communication with veganism-averse parents in another post).

 

This next one is common:

  • Your parents brought you into this world and wiped your poopy butt; wiped snot from your nose and cleaned your ears and belly-button. Much as they love you and as much as you are the centre of their world, you will NEVER know better than them (about anything!) in their minds, no matter how old and clever you get.

Now, there are not many bigger authorities on a plant-based diet than Dr Neal Barnard of PCRM, but even HE tells this story about his mother being uninterested in going plant-based, even though he’d written fifteen books on the subject and had many times carefully explained to her about how it would lower her elevated cholesterol levels. It was only when, due to her experimenting with going plant-based for a few weeks, her own doctor noticed an improvement in her cholesterol level and told her she was doing the right thing, that she acknowledged that this diet was best for her health. As Dr Neal Barnard says – sometimes the source has to be unbiased. Lots of parents just won’t take information from their offspring, no matter how accomplished.

From my own experience, it’s happened several times that I’ll give my mother a specific piece of dietary advice hundreds of times over a period of years, and I’ll be blown off with a derisory ‘hmmm, that’s nice.’  Then one day she’ll tell me excitedly about how a man she just got talking to down the road told her the EXACT SAME PIECE OF INFORMATION, and how it must be true and she will try implementing it in her own life.

Bless her.

Or something.

Yes, it’s always a facepalm inducing moment.

  • Your parents are not health and nutrition experts (oftentimes even if they are doctors or dieticians!), and are not informed on how a plant-based diet is actually and factually the optimal diet for health and wellness. They are the people that care for you the most in the world, and they just fear that you might be risking your health.
  • They are probably also influenced by all the negative connotations associated with the word ‘vegan,’ and fear that you will become isolated socially and become a massive pain in the ass to people and lose friends.

 

In another post I’ll talk about how to communicate with your parents about veganism, based on the above stumbling blocks.

Fret not; it’s not difficult when you understand the reasons WHY they are freaking. These reasons are mostly just unfounded fears, and there is nothing that a little bit of meaningful communication, sharing of information and creative thinking can’t overcome.

 

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