Those Dang Vegans!
Ever talk diet with friends and family? Can’t get family to listen? What’s the point of discussing food if we can’t hear each other's perspective?
If you haven’t noticed, the subject of nutrition is supercharged with emotion and angst and we seem to be in an age where conversing with a sense of camaraderie is over. We pull at our threads of information as if everything we’ve poured into our brains is pure gold. Not only is it impossible to obtain pure facts or excellence in our endeavors, but it’s also an unrealistic notion. In the age of information, it’s become a critical skill set to learn how to sift through information, and more so important to have a strong base in the subject we wish to debate. The Google machine has made us all into our own versions of experts on everything, and this tarnishes our ability to hear what knowledge is available to us through the spoken word. We’re all skeptics of everything we hear from others, yet not of the “studies” or “documentaries” that the latest media group or big business has financed, many of which are tainted with strongly biased information. This creates what is more of a hodgepodge of “factual information” in our brains. When in fact to be skeptical is to be a critical thinker, but we have to learn to have our skepticism in check and our ears wide open. The concept of having two ears and only one mouth should reinforce us to use our ears twice as much as our mouths, yet we can’t keep our mouths shut.
We’re stuck in our know-it-all attitudes, although, when you speak to well-rounded individuals, they’re not afraid to admit the opposite. The internet has so many answers, but to be on the enlightened path of exploration and understanding is to validate a lack of knowledge and understanding. It’s a complete and excellent understanding of the subjects one doesn’t understand. This is contradictory to the ever-popular behavior of acting like you know everything and never accepting or admitting shortcomings. This is the path of a blind donkey, yet how do you convince a blind donkey he can’t see? Persuasive techniques and looking to understand other’s perspectives seem of little consequence but are apparently essential in the process.
Understanding that silence and acceptance of an unwinnable battle may be the only option in certain situations. Sometimes, however, the same silence may be your first move, hearing the objections of the unintelligible and allowing them to unwind their confused interpretations. This is what has worked for me in the recent past, and I’m glad that I gave my friends the opportunity to express their concerns…
My wife and I sit down to dinner with some long-time friends. She and I are for health reasons, on Whole Food Plant-Based Nutrition(Nutrition focused on plants), however, we’re not always strict on this diet. This said, when on vacation and on the rare occasion when they’re no other options, we’ll allow meat or diary to slip onto our plate. As my wife and I sit down with three of our friends, we’ve found the conversation strongly shifting to the topic of GMO’s(Genetically Modified Organisms). Something, to be perfectly honest, my wife and I have next to no knowledge of. As we continue this conversation that continues to become heated, we’re unsure as to what is the goal of the conversation. But by this point, I could sense the intensity, and found myself responsibly keeping my mouth shut. My reasoning? Don’t have anything nice to say so I might as well say nothing.
As the conversation continues and my wife continues to ask questions to seek further understanding and clarification of the topic at hand, we could easily feel the growing tension at the table. This was personal, and although my wife and I were open to conversing a topic without all the emotion, this wasn’t their modus operandi. The table soon recognized I had pulled out of the conversation and had silenced my opinions as they weren’t going to be heard anyways, and as they had now noticed minutes later, they requested my return to the discussion. I initially declined, but at this point my wife was ready to unleash the hounds, giving me “the look” and the green light.
I thought about it and tried to find my way away from the conflict because I just didn’t see the point of debate that had no middle ground or open-mindedness. This seems like a complete waste of everyone’s time… Eventually, though, I caved-in and started in on them. My goal was to clarify our standing as well as theirs. I felt we were misrepresented by their opinions of us and they were misrepresented by their sheer lack of understanding of the topics they were presenting.
I started in:
“What do you want us to understand regarding your understanding of GMOs? And, how do you feel that the information you’ve provided to us should be applied to our daily lives?”
Without giving the opportunity for them to begin their answer, I interjected again, stating our mission statement for our diet. This interjection was allowed, as they had asked for my return to the discussion as they now wanted my participation.
“You see, my wife and I follow a whole food plant-based lifestyle, and the reason we do isn’t that we want to save the animals. It’s because we believe this to be one of the lifestyles we can sustain in our lives that will increase our longevity, overall health, energy, and aid us in obtaining our fitness and lifestyle goals. When we are debating this topic, we’re trying to find further details we can implement into our lives to obtain further progress towards our goals. It’s not about being right or wrong for us, it’s simply about living the best lives for ourselves.”
So I’ll ask you again, “What do you want us to understand regarding your understanding of GMOs, and how do you feel that the information you’ve provided to us should be applied to our daily lives?”
The literal answer, “Well that’s just it, it’s not clearly defined which is better or worse organics versus traditional farming, GMO’s vs non-GMO’s.” Then the conversation continued down a religious route and away from science as a whole, and this was where we finally made progress to an understanding of each other. It seems today that the whole goal of the conversation for them was to impress upon us the importance of understanding how warped the world of GMO’s are and to agree with their current understanding. Secondly, to agree that since GMO’s are so widespread, that no specific diets are essentially healthy anymore because they’ve been diluted with the impurities of GMOs. To which my rebuttal was, “so how are we to apply this to our lives and habits for benefit?” There it was again, the repeat of no clearly defined villain or savior to their argument, it was simply a statement of opinion with no tangible goal in sight.
My wife and I noticed that once we had clearly stated our mission statement and goals for our own nutritional choices, the conversation could finally taper off to a more manageable intensity. My wife and I both felt this was partially an attack of insecurity as my wife is vocal on her social media to share her journey, in which two of the three individuals do follow her on social media. We’ve both made mistakes and found things that don’t work, and we’ve now been primarily plant-based for years, and it’s been terrific for us, but it’s not for everyone. Obviously to us, they had been reading this information from my wife’s social media and making blind accusations regarding why we were what we were. My wife shares this information for no other reason than to share her journey and encourage the same benefits we live every day to others as they’re open to receiving them.
The conversation itself doesn’t make sense, as we didn’t understand the concept of GMOs, and we were trying to obtain some form of credible argument for change in our lives. This conversation felt as though it was an intervention, so we were waiting for the intervention, and it never came. Thankfully neither my wife or I lost our cool, but it was intense to see how out of control it became in zero seconds flat. Our mistake was believing they had an agenda. They didn’t, other than to poke at the nutrition guidelines that we operate by with some thread of information they had on an adjacent topic.
The real kicker…We both had dairy products on our plates, and I for sure had some fish tacos, which goes to show you how strict we really are. We’re far from perfect, these are just the guidelines we try to operate within, and we certainly don’t stuff the advice down people’s throats. We accept this isn’t an option, and that people have to discover their own path, but I do believe by keeping our cool and keeping the conversation rolling, we did offer an opportunity for growth on both sides of the table. My wife and I are learning about GMO’s on our own time now out of curiosity, however, we’re struggling to find sufficient evidence to support anything specifically, but we’re only at the beginning of that journey. The difference is, we’re giving it a shot and will continue to do so until we prove or disprove and find some shred of useful knowledge that can be applied.
Neither my wife nor I am overweight, and we work hard to maintain a healthy body weight. We’re in the gym a few times a week and do multiple work-outs at home every week. This is a lifestyle we’re dedicated to maintaining, but we love the positives and find it’s a nice balance to our lives. The rest of the table wasn’t fit and lean, they would be considered at minimum overweight. I’m never surprised by the tenacity of someone who isn’t able to maintain above-average results, telling someone off who is able to maintain above-average results. We all have insecurities, but if we can’t open our eyes to the obvious, we’ll likely be a blind donkey wandering the wilderness with no obvious direction in sight.
The Take-Away…FOOD FIGHT!!!
Um, no. Start slow, listen, and don’t jump down someone’s throat over anything, ever. It’s not the way to win someone to your argument. It’s a sure way to not be heard and to piss people off. Find common ground and try to state your intentions if conversations become heated. When I stated our mission statement, the conversation cooled significantly. Don’t point out their insufficiency, first look to your own and don’t be afraid to admit shortcomings. This adds credibility contrary to popular belief. People who can’t admit weakness or shortcoming, are often the ones with the most obvious unsolved foibles who are doomed to repeat them until they face the music. It may be hard, but trust a friend to hear you say you don’t know something or request help understanding something. This is a sure way to help them find some credibility in your character, and maybe you’ll learn something in the process. You only lose a debate if you lose your composure, so stay calm and find ways to move the conversation forward without insult. Play nice or don’t play at all, and if you don’t have anything nice to say, consider not saying anything, it may be your “ace in the hole”.