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  • Jeremy LaLonde

Navigating Family & Friends (how to survive the fucking holidays and general get-togethers)


So you’re ready to come out to your family about eating nutritarian/plant-based/vegan/whatever-the-fuck. Or they already know and this is your first time doing it. OR you’ve been eating this way for years and sick and fucking tired of all the nonsense you have to deal with… well… this one’s for you!

Even when I started simply being a pescatarian over ten years ago it was a major shift for my family to accept. I grew up in a small town where we ate a pretty standard diet of whatever-the-fuck we wanted. Lots of meat, salt, fat, and sugar. You know, stuff that tastes super good when you’re used to eating that way. I come from a big family with lots of cousins and aunts and uncles and get-togethers were often and a lot of fun. And they’re awesome, they really are. When they knew I was making a shift they always tried to have something for us to eat - and at that time my wife and I were still eating dairy and gluten so it wasn’t that big of a shift. But even then it was a challenge - and I know there were times where I got judgemental as all fuck about it. Ten years later - and a waaaaay more different eating style than what my extended family does - I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it and have come up with a bit of a survival guide for you.



DON'T JUDGE


Look - your family (and friends) love you (I hope). They care about you, but chances are that they are ignorant as fuck when it comes to health. They know what they know and they’re happy. The worst thing you can do is show up and be all high and mighty about the way you eat over them. If you make it a You Vs Them thing no one fucking wins. It’s just shitty and gross. You have to keep in mind that so many traditions and memories in families centre around food. The food that your grandparents made you, or still make, etc… so it can be heart breaking for them to learn that you’re not going to enjoy it with them. They might even be insulted and not understand why you “can’t make an exception just this once.” It’s enough that you’re not going to eat it, do not make them feel bad about their choice to eat it. You do you. Don’t come in preaching about how evolved you are - be humble and silent and fly under the fucking radar and just focus on enjoying spending time together. (more on this in a bit)

If the food thing is a HUGE issue maybe try to come up with some traditions for your family that aren’t based around what you put in your mouth. A big family walk, games, whatever the hell they and you like. Be creative. Too much focus is put on food and family is about way more than that. Don’t let your get-togethers get fucked up over the fuel you put into your bodies. If you find they’re harping on it/you then just shift the conversation - ask about them and their lives. People fucking love to talk about themselves. Avoid any conversations about your lifestyle choices if you think they’re trying to build a case against you. If it’s not positive, shift it to something that can be.


LET THEM ASK QUESTIONS (and know the fucking answers)


If your family is generally curious about what you’re up to, let them ask questions. There’s sometimes a mixture of curious and concerned and if you don’t want to (or can’t) just avoid it, then you’ll want to make sure you know what you’re talking about. Hopefully you’ve made these choices for a reason and done some fucking research, but if not here some primers for common questions you’re going to get asked below. But first and foremost - I find avoiding talking about it to be the best - but let them come to you. Be open - try your best not to be snarky or uppity about it.

Where do you get your protein/calcium/whatever-the-fuck nutrient?

Suddenly your family is going to think they’ve got a degree in fucking nutrition for some reason. Some ignorant fuck-wad in your life is going to ask you this question (more than once). You need to be able to speak to this. Most meat eaters just think about their own plate and take the giant hunk of meat off of it and imagine that that’s what you eat. It’s not their fault. They don’t know any better.

So how do you answer this? You can be a smart ass and just turn it around and ask, “Where do you get your fibre?” since animals don’t have any… But here’s the real answer: I get it from food. Seriously. All the nutrients you need are in plant food. Sure protein is in beans, etc… but it’s also in vegetables in large doses. One of your smarter relatives will probably bring up B-12 - and YES - you do need to supplement that. But guess what? B-12 isn’t an animal product. It’s made by bacteria - and the person asking you that question is also probably deficient in B-12 (40% of North America is) and doesn’t know it. Or it’s being supplemented into the animal that they’re eating. We used to get it naturally from dirt on vegetables, but we clean our food before we eat it. So if someone asks you about your B-12 - ask them how they did on their last B-12 check - they probably have never checked it and assumed they’re fine. They probably aren’t.


Humans need some kind of animal product to survive, don’t they?

No. They don’t. As mentioned above there’s no magical nutrient that we’re missing that we can’t get easily from a plant or over-the-counter-supplement. Eating animals to get B-12 is no different from taking it through a supplement because it doesn’t exist naturally in animals. Your supplement is in pill form - theirs is in meat.


What are you allowed to eat?

So many things. You can list your meals for them, they might actually be curious about it. Say that you don’t focus on the things you don’t eat anymore, but the things you enjoy eating. They’re going to say stuff like, “But bacon is delicious! Don’t you miss it?!” And you can smile and say, “I’m glad you dig it. I have other things I dig and that’s cool. I’m not punishing myself by not eating whatever-the-fuck-they-couldnt-possible-live-without.”


We’ve always eaten meat - it’s natural!

I mean, sure, if you want to go back far enough and talk about all the things that humans did that was “natural” then you’re going to have to include rape and murder - we did a whole lot of that back in the day and didn’t fucking blink about it either. You also didn’t ride a horse and wagon to get to your uncle’s house I bet. You used a more modern approach. We don’t live back in that time anymore. We’ve evolved. You don’t need to eat animals to survive in the world we live in, that’s the bottom line. There’s still a lot of people who grew up in a world where everyone smoked and thought that was natural too. We’ve come a long way. High-five human race!


It’s too expensive to be vegan!

Rice and beans are the cheapest fucking foods on the planet. In fact the poorest people in the world eat pretty much a plant-based diet with the occasional meat for celebration. The Palaeolithic people (for which the stupid-fucking-paleo diet is named) were not primarily meat eaters. They didn’t have a non-stop source of meat. It was hard to get and they ate is sparingly and in small doses - most of their diet was plant food ‘cause that shit always has been in abundance and has the added value of you not having to chase it down and stab the fuck out of it before you can cook and eat it.


I can’t stop eating animal products - I would miss (whatever-the-fuck) too much!

This is one you can just smile and nod through. Or say that you thought you’d miss it too, but you don’t. It’s personal preference, really. You’re good with not eating it - or maybe you’ve found a plant based substitute that does the trick for you. Again, people who make judgements about the way we eat are often just ignorant. They know what they know. Teach them a little - but in a not-shitty-way.


Animals kill other animals!

Yup. And they rape each other too. And those are animals that are carnivorous. Humans are omnivores. We don’t have the same digestive systems or biology as most animals. Different species need different things to survive.


Don’t you know that plants have feelings too?

With what central-fucking-nervous-system do plants have feelings? Just because they’re “alive” and can react to stimulants doesn’t mean there’s much else going on there. Stab a plant - listen closely to hear if you think it can feel pain. Now stab an animal - I bet you’re going to get a much different reaction. Next time a meat-eater throws this shit at you ask them if they’d rather go apple picking to get their own fruit or a slaughter house to murder their own meat? Which would they take their kids to on a family outing?


What do you eat when you go out?

Well… depending where you live this answer will change - but I don’t know if your friends and family have noticed but pretty much every major fast food chain has realized that there’s money to be made in plant-based options so it’s actually easy-as-fuck to eat this way when you’re on the run. But also - we tend to do research before we go somewhere and we don’t eat where we won’t have options. Or we pack our own. It’s not that hard.



MAKE YOUR OWN FUCKING FOOD


This is a big one that we finally just accepted. Your aunt or uncle or cousin is going to want to include you, but if you let them cook for you they are going to fuck it up. They are not going to mean to, but they will. They won’t realize that milk or cheese or eggs or whatever-the-fuck is included in the things that you don’t eat. Again - it’s not their fault. And so the best way for you to end up eating only side dishes (if they aren’t slathered in butter, etc…) is to put your meal in someone else’s hands. Just bring your own fucking food. Enough for all your courses. And enjoy it in silence. They’re already going to judge you for not eating their food, you don’t need to make a spectacle out of yours.

That said: bring way more food than you need. Your family is probably going to be awesome and curious and they’re going to want to try yours. My wife and I used to joke that when we went to a party everyone wanted to “sample the vegetarian pizza” and often the vegetarians never fucking got any because the meat-eaters ate it all as their “side dish”. The same can happen here. Assume people will want to try your food - and if they don’t then you’ve got left-overs! It’s a win-win, really!

And if there’s a favourite meal you love at a particular holiday then make a version of it that you can eat. I fucking promise you that there are enough plant-based food nerds out there that someone has tried to make a version of your favourite meaty meal and posted it on their blog. There’s probably multiple that you can pick between. Google is your friend. You can check out the these websites that kick-ass to find a couple of the ones I use.


CHEAT A LITTLE (if you want)


Last but not least - it’s the holidays. If you really want to dip away from your lifestyle for a meal or two then just fucking do it. There’s no plant-based-police that are going to kick the door down and haul you away. Just go right back to it the next meal. But do it because you want to do it, not because it’s easier for your family or because you’re feeling pressured. Advocate for yourself and if it’s genuinely your choice to take a vacation from yourself then just fucking do it and own it and be okay with it. Healthier eating is about the long-game, not the short one. A few meals here and there aren’t going to derail you. Just get back to your usual way of eating on the next meal.



THE BOTTOM LINE


Holidays and family can be stressful as fuck - and it’s usually because there’s some weird unspoken competition going on - passive-aggressiveness and whatnot can run rampant in families. Make the choice to keep it positive. Engage in conversation when people are genuinely curious, otherwise shut-the-fuck-up. Do not preach to your family about how your way of eating is better than theirs. Let your aunt ask you if you’ve ever heard about the documentary or book that you’ve read or watched a long time ago and that they recently discovered and thought you’d like - enjoy that they are curious and trying to connect with you. Enjoy your family, even if they suck a little, it’s part of the challenge of life. Who knows, you might rub off on them even…


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