Becoming vegan was a transcendent experience for me. Like when I was first Saved. I had learned the truth and wanted to share it with everyone. It was a surreal experience of suddenly having my eyes opened to true knowledge. Knowledge that now seems so common sense that I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why isn’t everyone vegan?!”
Passion and excitement brewed inside me as my eyes and my heart searched for a target. Someone whose life I could help transform by sharing this new-found truth. I thought to myself, “My dad needs this!” And so I began.
Thinking back now, I couldn’t have taken on more of a challenge. Not only has my dad been a full on carnivore for 59 years, he was content with his lifestyle and wasn’t expressing interest in exploring a new diet.
I didn’t see that, though. What I saw was a man with multiple health ailments. Not just a man…my dad. I love my dad. I want him to live a long, thriving, pain-free life. On top of dealing with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and blood clots, my dad suffers from a rare disease called Trigeminal Neuralgia, which is said to be one of the most painful diseases.
While exploring veganism for myself, I had seen so many testimonies from people who cured their diseases (even cancer!) with a vegan diet. I felt like my dad would be the perfect candidate.
Where I went wrong (part 1)
I started sending my dad videos of animal cruelty and plaque being removed from someone’s artery. Trust me, I can see you shaking your head right now. I also pushed him to make smoothies in the morning, eat more fruit and cut out as many animal products as possible.
You learned in my “Why Did I Go Vegan?” post that Freelee the Banana Girl was a huge influence for me to go vegan. So I adopted her style of yelling facts and would criticize my dad if he ate any animal products.
He put up with it for a while, making smoothies in the morning and having rice dishes for dinner, but soon called it quits. I give him credit for listening to me at all. I took a very negative angle and expected him to go vegan overnight. It wasn’t his choice to cut the animal products; I made that decision for him.
Several months passed and I avoided mentioning the V-word to my dad. I, myself, felt exhausted from my epic failure so I couldn’t even imagine how he felt.
One day, as I was cleaning my apartment, I had a TED Talk on in the background that focused on healing disease through a plant-based diet. It was such an inspiring talk and, inevitably, it made me think of my dad.
I paused for a while, not letting the excitement build up in me like it had the first time. I prayed about it. “Should I talk to my dad about going vegan again?” I felt that, yes, it was time to bring up the topic again. BUT I had to change my approach. I wanted to make it an enjoyable experience for my dad and give him tools to be successful.
Where I went wrong (part 2)
As I finished cleaning, I planned in my head what I would say to my dad. I called him that afternoon and laid it all out: I explained that I felt compelled to talk to him about veganism again and that I really felt he could heal some or all of his health issues by cutting out animal products. I asked him, “Would you be willing to try again if I help you get set up with the basics?” Much to my surprise, he responded with an excited, “Yes!”
I hung up the phone feeling elated that he really wanted to give it another shot. Right away, I started planning a recipe book for him with meals that were fast and easy. One thing he mentioned is that he just doesn’t have time to prepare meals so the easiest thing is stopping for fast food. I pulled together a binder of recipes that could be made in 30 minutes or less.
A week later, I invited my dad and his girlfriend over for dinner so I could give him the recipe book and we could talk. I made my Vegan Peanut Pad Thai. Looking back, I should have stuck with something more traditional, like burgers or burritos. I’ve never really known him to be an eater of not-so-American food. He wasn’t a fan of the Pad Thai.
That night I noticed that the excitement he had on the phone seemed to have fizzled and he was now just thinking about ditching the animal products rather than committing to give it a good effort. Sensing this, I backed off right away. I didn’t want to force it on him if he wasn’t interested.
What I learned
Baby steps are vital. Rather than hoping or expecting someone will go full vegan, start by recommending they cut out red meat, or dairy, or just one animal product at a time. If they want to do more than that, they will.
If someone isn’t ready to take charge of their health, there is literally nothing you can do. As much as I care about my dad and would love to see him live a healthy life for many more years, I don’t control his decisions. If he ever wants to change his diet, he knows I’m here to help.
Speaking from love is much more impactful than being the “angry vegan”. I now live my life as an example and share food and knowledge with those who are hungry for it.
Have you had any wins or losses when trying to get someone to go vegan? Share in the comments!