Updated: Feb 26
Welcome to Stirring The Pot. Thank you for joining me.
I am a 57-year-old woman with four grown children between the ages of 20 and 27. So I know a fair bit about being a parent. Which is not to be confused with knowing a lot about parenting. I know very little about parenting - my kids will attest to that. Four years ago, my youngest wanted to go vegan. I supported her decision and cooked for her so that she would be eating healthy food. I also decided to join her. I loved the food, I felt better on it, and I'm still vegan four years later. This makes me sound like the perfect parent, and although I am in many ways, in this respect, I'm not. Because what you don't know is that for the previous ten years, my second youngest had wanted to give up meat, as she hated the taste and texture of it, and I refused to allow it. So what changed? In the interests of public service, I have submitted my psyche to a certain amount of analysis in order to answer this important question and this is what I've come up with. If getting inside the heads of your parents is too frightening a thought, then skip to the last paragraph.
Think about the world we grew up in, because that is the world that shaped us, just as your world is currently shaping you. In our world, meat, dairy and eggs was the normal way to eat. There was no reason to question it. That was the food that was put on the table for us as children, just as it was for our parents. It was complete nutrition eaten by generations before us and reinforced by the burgeoning television advertising industry. We didn't wonder about the food we ate any more than we wondered about breathing. Absolutely no one that I can remember ever spoke about climate change, animal welfare or the health impact of our expanding appetite for animal foods. We inherently don't question something that is deemed to be 'normal'. And 'normal' is very hard to shift. Imagine if, in 30 years time, I said to you that what you currently believe to be true is in fact...not. You very likely wouldn't believe me, but for arguments' sake, let's say you did. You would be forced to dig very deep into your core belief system for a re-evaluation. Now let's take it a step further and pretend that I'm now saying that in order to follow this new belief system you have to change something that is fundamental to your daily routine, your relationships and many of the fondest memories you have had in your life. This is what you are asking of your parents. Their reluctance to go vegan is not a reflection of their love for you or their respect for the planet and its animals. It's a reflection of the environment that shaped our generation and with it our values and beliefs.
So why did I go vegan so readily? I'd like to say that it's because I'm very enlightened and I wanted to help save the planet and all of the animals on it. I would be lying. In hindsight, I think I did it because my daughter suggested it and the time seemed right for the whole family. I was approaching my mid-50's and I knew about the health benefits of those lentils that forever sat in my cupboard, uneaten. I saw it as a chance to reboot our eating habits and I wasn't disappointed. Perhaps this is the approach you should consider with your parents. I think that to a degree, much of my generation believes that climate change will be addressed by national and international initiatives. I also feel that when I talk to my peers about cruelty within the animal agriculture industry, they start to think I'm a conspiracy theorist, because why have they never heard of any of this before? Health, however, resonates at a personal level and most people my age are starting to deal with health issues and declining energy levels. This is where you can lead by example. Your parents have spent their lives trying to be a good role model for you. Now it's time to return the favour. If your parents can see that you are feeling great and looking healthy on your vegan diet, then they might start to take notice. If you're existing on vegan junk food and not looking after yourself, your argument won't be convincing. Make them healthy delicious vegan meals occasionally. If you can see that they're busy working, cut them up some fruit as a snack. These simple gestures will show that you love them and that you really do care about their health. Ask if they want to curl up on the sofa with you and watch The Game Changers or What The Health. Most of all, don't nag. Parents hate it when their kids nag.
How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one, but the lightbulb has to really want to change. This brings me to my final point. It is impossible to change another person unless they are willing. You can lead your parent to a big mango and cucumber smoothie with spirulina and chia seeds, but you can't make them drink it. By all means, have these important conversations with your parents, but ultimately the choice is theirs. If they decide not to change, don't take it personally. But don't give up on them either. Continue to set the example by living your own healthy vegan life. And keep making them vegan biscuits for their cup of tea. Old people love tea and biscuits.
If you think your parents would be interested, I'm offering a 4-week Healthy Basics course that is a gentle introduction to starting a healthy plant-based diet. It starts March 8th, 2021. It's also free of charge, so is great value for money. If you would like to read more about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, have a look at the About page, or read through the Blogs.
Please be aware that a plant-based diet is a very effective way to lose weight, so if you are taking medication please consult your healthcare professional as medication doses might need altering as you become lighter and healthier. Also, anyone on a purely plant-based diet requires vitamin B12 supplementation of at least 10 micrograms a day or 2000 micrograms a week (British Dietetic Association).