Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Being Vegan in a Hostile Environment

For those of you outside the United States you have to understand that when I talk about the South I mean Florida, Georgia, The Carolinas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia . I grew up in the South. At age 11 I decided to become a vegetarian. My parents were supportive, although I'm sure they thought it was just a phase and it was probably a pain in the ass for them to figure out meals.  

The interesting thing about growing up in the South is that there is literally meat products in EVERYTHING. I mean traditional southern cooking involves vegetables being cooked in pork fat! So as you can imagine being a vegetarian posed some problems. There have been times when I have been unable to eat at a restaurant because even though they had vegetables on the menu, they weren't vegetarian vegetables.

The fact that I even had to write the phrase "vegetarian vegetables" kind of epitomizes the idea of a hostile environment to a vegan diet. When you have to question the green beans at a restaurant, you really do have to wonder how the hell you can keep a animal product free diet.

There are two ways to go about handling this. One is to question everything, and I mean literally everything. You will be a royal pain in the ass, but you also will only have to ask the questions once. If you don't want to ask at a restaurant then call ahead and ask. We live in a wonderful age where we have the Internet in the palm of our hands. Usually you can look up a menu and a phone number within a few minutes, and take care of your dietary needs even before you walk through the door. It's a lot easier than what I had to do growing up, and you can feel safe in knowing that you actually talked to someone who knows, versus the waiter, who depending on their mood may lie to your face (I've had that happen).

The second way to handle it is to just not go out to eat. Pack your food and bring it with you. I'm pretty sure I could live for two days with the food I have at my desk at work, and not necessarily in a totally unhealthy way! I have a fruit bowl, soups, protein powders, soy milk, raw vegan meal replacement bars, and cereal. My work bag always has a vegan meal replacement bar in it, as does my workout bag.

Bottom line, like everything about living a healthy lifestyle, you have to plan ahead a little bit. Know what you are getting into, where you are going, and think of your needs. Don't be afraid to be a pain in the ass, and don't be afraid to say no. It's your life and your health, choose what's important to you!