About the author: I got into lifting weights and eating to get bigger and stronger about a year ago. Since then, I’ve gained 30 pounds and made significant increases in size and strength. Warning: I am in no way a professional trainer or nutritionist—but I’ve found what works for me, and I’m happy to share it! Follow me and hit me up on Twitter. I’m happy to help with any questions that you might have, and I’m always open to advice and suggestions as well!
Congratulations! You’re vegan! You’re doing an extraordinarily admirable thing. You’ve cut animal products out of your life. However, you realize that you’re in the minority and that people who don’t share your views or who haven’t truly looked into this sort of thing might get defensive. It’s human nature. In a world where being kind to animals isn’t fully understood, it’s important to lead by positive example. Animal rights is a cause that will change the course of our political, economic, and social history.
There are no rules when it comes to loving and helping animals, but after more than a decade of being vegetarian or vegan, I’ve figured out a few tips for reeling people in and some surefire ways of pissing people off.
1. Post Wisely
If your entire Facebook Timeline consists of photos showing baby chicks as they are ground up alive (yes, that’s a thing), no one is going to want to hang out with you. Instead of sad or frightening images, try posting pictures of delicious food you’ve prepared. Nobody likes a Debbie Downer. The point is to show that a vegan lifestyle is fun and rewarding and that more people should join the party. You catch more flies with agave nectar!
2. We Get It—You’re VEGAN!
To many people who follow a typical American diet, the word “vegan” has a stigma. It’s remarkable how at the drop of that word, eyes will roll—but if you say “plant-based diet,” suddenly Uncle Otis is intrigued. Sometimes I even annoy myself with the redundancy of “I went to this vegan restaurant. It had vegan mac and cheese, vegan burgers, vegan baby lamb, vegan duck ….” We get it!
3. Hit the Gym
At some point or another, the health expert friend of a friend you never knew you had is going to come out of the woodwork to pick apart your body if he or she knows you don’t eat meat. Being in shape is a great way to prove that your lifestyle is completely beneficial to you and to animals. When I lost body fat and gained 30 pounds of muscle because of weightlifting, people noticed and started asking questions. Actions speak louder than words. Destroy the wimpy vegan stereotype one squat at a time!
4. Watch What You Eat
Just because it came from a plant doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. Enjoy your favorite vegan junk foods in moderation, but remember what those foods can do to you in the long term. Starchy carbohydrates and sugars can cause some serious weight gain and even do a number on your skin. Eat clean, look clean. While there are myths about how you need more protein than you really do, you still need your protein, people! Eat your greens and get plenty of iron. Your complexion and build will send a message to others who might be interested in eating a plant-based diet.
5. Plan Ahead
It totally sucks to show up at a restaurant and order a plain side salad or French fries because that’s all you can eat. Know what you’re getting into going out to eat with your friends, and they’ll be less likely to tell you that you’re “missing out” on their chicken fingers. Do your research or eat something great ahead of time. You can even keep some nuts or protein bars handy if you’re going to be a crankypants.
6. Confidence Is Key
When my friends used to razz me about being vegan, I could tell that half of it was in good fun and that the other half was to try and actually cut me down. It sucked. After proving to them that I’m living my lifestyle to its fullest potential and that I’m completely happy, the malicious razzing stopped. Keep your head held high, prepare some great comebacks (not too rude!), and remember why you do this. Don’t be afraid to explain yourself, and don’t let them think they put you in your place.
7. Lay Off the Clichés
Saying “meat is murder” is going to get you a few laughs. Telling someone that they’re “wrong” for eating meat is a huge open-ended existential argument. Try some of these talking points instead if you want to be taken more seriously and encourage discussion:
- It takes up to 16 pounds of grain and 2,500 gallons of water to produce just 1 pound of meat. We could put a serious dent in the world hunger crisis if all those resources were used to feed people directly instead.
- Animals raised for food suffer their entire lives on factory farms—all for what? Five minutes of pleasure at lunchtime? For me, that’s not worth it.
- Being vegan is a win for literally everyone. Raising animals for food is killing the environment by contributing more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the trains, planes, and cars combined. If every American skipped eating chicken just once a week, it would be like taking 500,000 cars off the road.
8. Do Something Cool
Channel your love for your compassionate lifestyle into something productive, informative, and fun. Check out these cool people:
- I found Natalie Slater’s website Bake and Destroy at a crossroads of my three favorite things: vegan snacks, punk rock, and pro wrestling. And one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, CM Punk, wrote the foreword in her cookbook, Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans. It’s a must-have for anyone looking for a good read and good food!
- My good friend Dallas McCulloch used to eat a lot meat and drink a lot of booze. He sobered up, went vegan, and put all his passion into something that is great for your body: yoga. Check out Vegan Yoga Punk to see what he’s up to and where he’s currently vinyasa-ing.
- Peter Singer wrote the book on animal liberation—literally. It’s called Animal Liberation, and it came out in 1975. He’s a moral philosopher and a professor of bioethics at Princeton University who’s provided a unique and brainy way to look at animal rights. He’s constantly writing articles and giving lectures that are definitely worth checking out.