At age 18, I got my hands on Fast Food Nation, a book about how unsafe, unlawful, and often ethically corrupt the food industry can be. My mind was blown.
Growing up, I'd eaten meat, but I had never really thought about it. But suddenly, after reading the book, I couldn't look at my diet the same way.
Over the next few years, I gradually shifted toward an animal-free lifestyle. Of course, I still occasionally craved a slice of pizza, despite my allergy to milk. But overall, it's been pretty easy and my body felt great.
I never feel deprived or stressed about getting enough nutrients — especially protein — and I rarely worry about calories. But it seems others are concerned about my veganism. Below are the responses and questions I've received from friends, family, strangers, and even first dates:
1. "You have the flu? Eat a steak."
2. "You have the flu again? It's 'cause you don't eat meat."
3. “Mostly, I question whether you're truly getting the nutrients you need. Also, I question the reasons. If they're ethical, then OK. But because you believe it’s better for you? I disagree.”
4. "How can you deprive yourself so much? Meat's so good."
5. "Am I allowed to eat meat in front of you?"
6. "Dating you must be a pain in the ass!"
7. “Have you ever had bacon? How could you be a vegan knowing how good bacon is? Also, does veganism grant you telepathic powers?”
8. "How do you live?"
9. "What exactly is vegan?"
10. "You're 98 percent perfect, but you don't eat meat. I have to be with a woman who will enjoy a steak with me."
11. "Where do you get protein?"
12. "I just don't understand. What do you eat?"
13. “When I hear vegan, I think I'm about to get a lecture from a pretentious person to include how many marathons they've run, how many rescue puppies they have, and the power of kale, Vitamix, and kombucha.”
14. “Damn hippies.”
15. “You must be hunnnnnngry!”
16. “Funny word. Sounds like a Star Trek character.”
17. “Are you starving? What do you eat? What does fake cheese taste like?”
18. "I just don't really understand how you don't eat meat or cheese."
19. “You don't get to pick the restaurant.”
20. “We could never date.”
21. “I could never not eat cheese — fuck milk and meat — but not cheese!”
22. "Oh … and you seemed so cool!"
23. “To each her own ... Now move outta the way so I can reach my cheeseburger!”
When people learn I’m vegan, their questions and judgments are abundant and sometimes overwhelming, so I’ve had to learn how to laugh them off.
And yet, as much as I try, these humorous and slightly ridiculous claims occasionally get to me. I try my best to filter my reactionary thoughts and just smile. But sometimes I reply, "You only eat meat? You're missing out on delicious kale!"