By Camilla Marais | Culture Editor
About one year ago, I decided to cut chicken and red meat out of my diet. I also unofficially began limiting my dairy intake, only splurging on my favorite ice cream or really good cheese.
While this is a lifestyle change, it is still fairly miniscule compared to those who go full vegetarian or vegan. Still, especially around the holidays, the lack of turkey, ham, or Brussel sprouts with bacon on my plate raises an eyebrow from many friends and family members.
Of course, those who have limited the animal products in their diet are not strangers to a lieu of customary questions, such as, “How do you get your protein?” and “Don’t you miss burgers?” These questions prompt me to reflect on why I chose this dietary change in the first place.
I feel very strongly about is climate change. Seeing the negative effects mankind has brought upon on earth breaks my heart for the nature around me, and future generations. After learning that cattle farming is the second leading cause of CO2 in our nation, I felt compelled to cut out all meat that doesn’t come from the sea. Additionally, learning about the impact that excess dairy and animal meats has on the human body was information I could not remove from my mind.
Another reason why I made the slight lifestyle switch was because of the impact it had on my wallet and my health. First off, as a college student, money is always tight. From saving $2.00 on my burritos at Chipotle to much more at the grocery store, plant-based protein is significantly cheaper than animal meat.
Secondly, the less animal products I ate, the better I felt. I found that plant-based proteins did not leave me feeling heavy, but fueled. Dairy-free options satisfied my cravings without disrupting my hormone levels and digestion. All these reasons are essentially what run through my mind when others prompt me.
However, as I’m sure you’ve noticed reading through this article, these reasons are valid but often can make the receiver of this information feel uncomfortable (especially as your friends go for a weekly In-N-Out run, so time and place for this topic is key).
Those who hear why others chose to limit or cut out animal products can often feel they are being guilted or shamed for their lack of conviction.
But this is absolutely not the purpose of sharing information about my lifestyle change. I do not believe I am better than those who continue to consume animal products, nor do I want them to believe so. This led me to the pivotal social question of, “How do I be honest about my lifestyle change without making others believe I am bashing on them?”
Powered by Produce offers some tips to navigate these uneasy waters. First off, do not bring up your lifestyle change unless specifically asked. As convicted or excited as you might feel, declaring your reasoning out of the blue can be seen as abrasive. Continue to catch up with family and friends, enjoy your time together, and only bring up your dietary change if a member specifically asks what your diet is.
Secondly, keep your explanation short. This is not the time to reenact the entire “Food, Inc.” documentary and describe how the meat industry is killing our earth. Simply state your reason on whether it was due to a book, film, or choice for your health. Then, leave it at that.
The third tip is for your message to have a positive nature. Powered by Produce describes this tactic well, “Nobody likes a Debbie Downer (even if you’re discussing something as morbid as clogged arteries). It is better to discuss how vegetarianism is good, rather than how eating meat is bad. This is as simple as changing ‘meat-eaters are five times more likely to die from a heart attack,’ to ‘you can reduce your risk of heart attack by 90 [percent]by giving up meat, dairy, and eggs.’’
The fourth tip goes along with the latter, as it is not your job to condemn those around your table. Try to focus on the positives within your diet, and how the same benefits are available to those around you.
In conclusion, let your actions speak for you. Instead of spending hours talking about how much more energy you have, demonstrate that. If it has given you much more peace, let that shine for those around you. A changed life is the best testimony, so let your life speak for itself. You’ll be surprised at how convincing it can be.