People threatened by vegan diet

A place to get your questions answered from McDougall staff dietitian, Jeff Novick, MS, RDN.

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People threatened by vegan diet

Postby Melinda » Wed Jan 14, 2009 6:48 pm

Jeff, in your experience, why do you think some people feel so threatened by a vegan diet? Certainly not all, but some. Any thoughts?
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Postby kpolninja » Thu Jan 15, 2009 2:36 pm

This was such a huge issue for me when I switched a little over a year ago and I've come to believe that the reason people are so hostile about the idea of a vegan diet is because it immediately makes them feel like they are doing something wrong so they decide to become hostile as a method of defense.

They either think they are not eating as healthy as they should so they want to "put down" your method of eating, or they have a twinge of guilt about slaughtering animals and the immense cruelty that goes with eating meat and consuming dairy.

I've toughened up about it now, but it was really hard for me. When people try to tell me the animals don't face a cruel fate or what they are eating is not that bad I just say "hey, what ever helps you sleep at night!"
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Don't call it vegan, tell people what you do/do not eat

Postby suzyg » Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:41 pm

I have learned over the years of transitioning to a more and more healthful plant-based diet that it is less threatening to people if you tell them what you do eat (vegetables, grains, fruit) and do not eat (animal products, oil, nuts, avocados and olives) than if you use a label (vegan). Labels create distance.
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Postby Steve » Sat Jan 17, 2009 10:47 am

Hi Melinda.

KP this was a huge issue for me too, pre-Pleasure Trap. I wish I learned Suzy's wisdom on day one. It will be interesting to hear Jeff's take.
Another place to look for the answer is the Doug Lisle DVD, The Pleasure Trap. I think it is in the third lecture that he explains exactly what is going on. He explains why folks are offended / threatened and become defensive, and most importantly what to do about it. I highly recommend the DVD. If I had this information from day one it would have been easier for everyone.

Good luck,

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Re: People threatened by vegan diet

Postby JeffN » Sun Jan 18, 2009 8:03 am

Melinda wrote:Jeff, in your experience, why do you think some people feel so threatened by a vegan diet? Certainly not all, but some. Any thoughts?

Hi Melinda,

Psychology is not my areas of expertise though I am fascinated by human behavior.

Many people are threatened by anything that challenges their status quo though this may not be a bad thing. Our status quo, as long as it seems to be working for us in our eyes, is our status quo and comfort zone, and changing our status quo or comfort zone can be challenging and often difficult and even often seen and/or felt as a "loss." Hence, the threat. I am sure each one of us has belief systems or principles (religious, political, dietary, economic, etc) we follow that we have become comfortable with, which we would feel threatened if someone challenged them.

I also do not like labels and do not use them. There is no label that can clearly identify my overriding philosophy, lifestyle, and beliefs so I don't try to use one. I have personally found labels such as vegan, vegetarian, natural hygienist, raw fooder, etc etc more limiting than beneficial though I do understand that they can be of benefit to many by providing a connection point for those of like minds.

Personally, I have also found several topics much more volatile than others and therefore, I try to avoid them unless I know I am in a situation where the people involved are truly interested in having an open minded discussion. These include religion, politics and especially animal rights and diet. I do not discuss my lifestyle or philosophy with others, unless I can sense a real sincere desire from them, and even then, I will only do so in the proper circumstances and environment (of which, while eating is rarely one of them).

For those who are interested, much of my philosophy is espoused in my writings and I can always just direct someone to them.

I have also found that when people feel threatened in my presence, I also have to ask myself what it is about me that may be contributing to the situation. Am I coming off as threatening in any way?

I also don't let others engage me in their arguments/debates.

I have always found Ghandi's approach interesting...(and let us remember, he was able to change a whole nation with it)

A reporter once asked Gandhi, "Bapu (Ghandi), give me your message for the people." He instantly replied from a moving train, "My life is my message." I have always tried to live by these words.

Also, the words on his own funeral pyre were: "Those who believe in the simple truths I have laid out can propagate them only by living them."

Those are (just) my thoughts. :)

In Health
Last edited by JeffN on Sun Jan 18, 2009 8:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Letha » Sun Jan 18, 2009 8:23 am

Very nice response Jeff. Although I don’t comment much in your forum I read everything you post and I am both impressed with your communication skills and grateful for your presence in the forum. Best wishes.
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Postby Melinda » Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:36 am

'thanks for a great post, Jeff! I am sure I will refer to it several times. That struck me when you referred it to politics or religion, or any other strongly-viewed subject. I had never thought of eating in those terms before. The people that are threatened by it in my life are few, but they certainly have strong views on the subject.
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Postby momof4 » Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:48 am

I recently watched the following lecture from

Harold Bloomfield, M.D. -- Making Peace with Yourself, Your Family, and Your Diet (Sept 2008).

The first twenty minutes were a little slow IMO, but the rest of it was very good. He talked about the silliness, really, of how people argue their viewpoints, as if their lives depended on other people following their ways. It was nice to see yet one more thing to help us get along better with other people with differing viewpoints.

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