Since going vegan, one thing has fascinated me more than anything — other people’s reactions. Who would have thought simply trying to eat more vegetables would be a cause for such concern among friends, acquaintances and random strangers. Some people even seem downright offended. “Are you serious?” they practically ask with a sneer. “Who doesn’t want cheese on their pizza?”
People being curious, sometimes idiotic, occasionally judgmental — no surprise there. That’s life. What’s odd is how no one used to be any of those things or continues to be any of those things when I swing to the other end of the spectrum. I can show up with a gallon of mountain dew, a large double cheese and pepperoni pizza, and a container full of cookies and no one bats an eye.
But show up with some fruit and pass on the greasy hamburgers? Suddenly, everyone looks at you like you showed up at an important business meeting and forgot to bring your pants.
For me, okay, I get it. I’m a 330 pound bearded, hobo-looking, motorcycle driving, formerly leather wearing beast of a man. Asking to pass the broccoli doesn’t exactly fit the caricature surrounding those descriptions. But it’s not just me. I hear it from everyone from skinny young girls to older male runners. It’s the same story. Drop 50 pounds, take control of your life, and then listen to day in, day out criticism.
“Lose any more weight and we won’t be able to see you. You’ll look like a cancer patient. That can’t be healthy.”
“Are you sure it’s safe to eliminate meat and cheese, to forgo fried chicken wings and ranch dressing and fat-filled cheese? You know that you can eat too many vegetables, right? I think you should be be more moderate.”
“Running will destroy your knees. Oh, you’re going to run a marathon. You realize people’s hearts give out every year while they run those? Good luck.”
But no one asks how often people’s hearts explode sitting on the couch drinking Coca Cola and eating Cheetos. Are these serious questions? When did becoming lean and giving a shit about your health become taboo? When did becoming an overweight fat-ass slob (a group to which I currently belong) become the status quo. I only ask, because it’s something I hear from everybody who says they’re trying to change their life.
Then I came across this quote a few days ago, and in my mind it all suddenly made sense.
All of us cherish our beliefs. They are, to a degree, self-defining. When someone comes along who challenges our belief system as insufficiently well-based – or who, like Socrates, merely asks embarrassing questions that we haven’t thought of, or demonstrates that we’ve swept key underlying assumptions under the rug – it becomes much more than a search for knowledge. It feels like a personal assault. –Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World