Saturday, December 5, 2015

Vegan Holiday Blues (Problems + Solutions)

Common vegan dilemma:

Just imagine, you are at a Christmas party that you have been looking forward to attending for weeks. You walk in the door and are greeted by your family and a few close friends. You walk to the food table and offer your contribution of veggie sticks and hummus. You pick up a little plastic plate and soon realize that your little snack is the only item at the party that does not consist of meat, dairy or eggs. As you snack on your celery sticks and catch up with your great aunt, she might insist that you, "just stop being vegan for the night and enjoy the food!" If you are a new vegan, the idea might be tempting- but you realize that you want to stick to your values. More carrot sticks, until hunger panes ensue. Pie and ice cream are brought out, while you sip on sickeningly sweet fruit punch. Your sister offers you a piece of cake that she made from scratch. You politely decline, but feel kind of mean because you know she put a lot of work in to baking that cake.

If this sounds familiar, let's talk about solutions! This is no way to get through the holidays as a vegan. (In fact, it is all too common for people to give in to social pressure in these kinds of environments) Holidays should be fun, there is no reason to be miserable.

Let's talk about problem solving.

Problem: There is no vegan food at the party.

First of all, I have learned that it is very misguided to assume that there will be something to eat at any given house party. (Unless if the hosts are vegan) Even when the people hosting know that I will not eat anything off of their meat and cheese tray, I have to remember that I am not the only guest and the host has a lot on their plate to think about.

Solution: Plan on bringing the food that you are going to be eating throughout the course of the evening, and don't forget to bring a dessert! Bring food to share, but also bring food just for yourself in case if it's a huge party and your offering gets consumed before you get a chance to have your share. Have snacks, an entree and a dessert ready to go.

Problem: People might think I am rude if I turn down their offers of home made food

This is a tough one, and I have handled this situation a lot of different ways. You will have to figure out what works for you. Over the years of flip flopping between vegetarian and vegan, I would sometimes indulge in a baked good prepared by a well meaning friend over the holidays. The truth is, I am not used to eating dairy and it wreaks havoc on my digestion. Additionally, it has caused me to fall down a slippery slope of not eating all-vegan. I don't blame anyone for making an exception here and there, but I personally am better off mentally and physically if I just stick to eating vegan all of the time.

Solution: Communicate with family and friends before anyone makes a special, extra frosting dairy cupcake just for you. Prevention is the name of the game here, people! Before the party, mention to the host and anyone that might be making food that you are eating a special diet and will be bringing some of your own snacks. (Sometimes, a host will be very generous and offer to make you something special. Even if they do this for you, don't expect that you won't need to still bring your own snacks- it could just be one small thing that everyone is sharing!)

I know that there are a lot of vegans out there that like to make a fuss. Good for them- but I am not one of those people. I like to be polite, I like to be a good guest and I don't want to come across as a food snob. However, it is important to let other people know what my dietary considerations are. If no one knew that I was vegan, and I simply declined a baked good without elaborating- it would leave the other person guessing.

Even if I do a stellar job of communicating, sometimes people will still buy or make me food that is not vegan. I have found it to be important to be gracious when declining the offering and appreciate the fact that they thought of me in the first place.

Problem: Other people won't leave me alone about my vegan lifestyle!

This problem can be complicated, because there are often a lot of dynamics going on here. Whether other people are teasing you or pressuring you to eat animal products, it can feel stressful. I have also had the reverse situation with people who think my vegan diet is so fascinating, and they just won't change the subject.

Solution: What has worked for me is to take the spotlight off of myself and put it on the other person. Holiday time is precious for catching up with people that we don't get to see all that often, so it's really important to ask them questions and listen to how their life is going. Tell them about a book or movie you have read, make a joke- it'll be a better conversation and it will feel good to connect with the other person. They probably won't even remember you are vegan- until they offer you a cupcake.

I hope my little troubleshooter was helpful to you! Feel free to comment below if you have any other tips and tricks to get through the holiday season.

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