Saturday, January 26, 2013

Reader Advice Day: When Carnivores are Coming for a Visit

I received the following e-mail this morning. I've spent a lot of the day trying to figure out how I would cope in the following social situation. I'd like to say that I have all of the answers, but I don't. This is a very complicated issue. Please take the time to read this letter and, after careful consideration, share how you would handle this:

Dear Wendy,

I desperately need your help and perhaps you've written on this issue. Can you direct me to one of your blogs or give some advice?

My husband's cousin and her husband are coming for a two week visit. She's my husband's only living relative so we are trying to be kind. She and her husband are trying to determine if they want to move here.

We have explained in detail that we follow a plant based diet and that our doctors tell us not to bring into the house foods that are tempting. I have sent her links to your website, Fuhrman, Happy Healthy Long Life and McDougall for recipes. She picked out some recipes and I am experimenting. At her request, I sent her the list of foods that we regularly enjoy:

baked potatoes with grilled onions and mushrooms or salsa and guacamole + a salad
rice pasta with marinara sauce
spinach salad with boiled potatoes
regular salad with sweet potatoes on the side
grilled portabella mushrooms on sprouted grain rolls
roasted winter vegetables or "rockin' potatoes" with salad
bean soup and salad
Veggie burgers
Morrocan stew with quinoa
Smokey Chipoltle Chili

Then, she responded with: "Could we do pancakes, quiches and eggs and low fat sausages" and on and on...things we do not want to eat. I responded we don't eat those foods. However, we like those foods and they are tempting.

Now, as her visit is two weeks away she has written the following:

"Your regular menu won’t be appealing to Joe [name changed] (although he loves oatmeal and farina), but I could handle it. Do you think it would it be alright if I bought some regular burgers or pork chops, etc. to cook on the grill (do you have an outdoor grill?) to go along with your grilled veggies and salad? If it’s okay, I plan to do a bit of grocery shopping when we get there, so I can pick up some salad dressing, eggs, milk, butter etc. so Joe doesn't go crazy. I'm really so proud of you both for following your hearts and give you credit for making such drastic modifications. In the long run you will certainly benefit from the changes."

What doesn't she get! What she would really like is for us to share the kitchen so she can whip up her eggs with butter and cheese, cheese with crackers, lunch meats, burgers and chops. Angela [name changed] has had bladder cancer, a heart attack, shoulder replacement and arthritis. Angela is very proud of herself as she listens to her doctors. She takes 17 pills a day and is so pleased that her cholesterol is low with her Lipitor meds!

I want to tell her that I will be happy to let her know the daily menu in advance and if that isn't appealing, eating out would be their best bet. (Her husband is very picky and doesn't like to eat out.) We have explained that we will be happy to join them occasionally but restaurants are tempting for us. I told her that the day she arrives, I will take her on two of our main roads and point out all the many restaurants.

Wendy, I know this is like a "Dear Abby" letter but this is causing so much angst and concern. My husband and I are at odds about all of this and it's really causing stress. We're not perfect by any stretch of a plant based diet but we are always working at it.

We are newly retired, sold our house last June and traveling. We rented a place for five months to determine if this is the promised land. We have many people coming to visit but all are vegans or vegan wannabe's.

Over the holidays, we took our three grandchildren to Harry Potter Universal...ate terribly and got ill. It's so easy to destroy the taste buds and it's so hard getting back on the wagon.

Finally, thank you for your fun and informative blog. It's my favorite. [Awwww, I'll bet you say that to all the bloggers . . . ]

My first thought was a concept that I ponder all the time. It's a classic line from the 12 Steps, "You can't control people, places or things." I honestly can't think of any concept that is more important than that in recovery from your own substance or food abuse. You can only worry about yourself and attempting to get other people to behave like you would like them to is a colossal waste of your energy.

On the other hand, it sounds like this situation could actually threaten your and your husband's health, so I wanted a second opinion. I read your letter to the single most brilliant person I know, my husband, and I asked him what he would do. He's had a lot of life experience in matters like this, and the following is what he would say to your cousins:

"We love you and we want to make this visit enjoyable for you. We are happy to share our home with you but we are going to ask you to respect our wishes and try the food that we eat or go to a restaurant. We believe that this is a LIFE or DEATH issue for us. We feel vulnerable around the foods that we used to enjoy. There are some things that we could compromise on, like X, Y and Z, but we can't put our own health at risk.

You may think that our way of eating is unreasonable, but we see a very strong connection between our diet and our health, and we are scared of where our former diet was leading us. We feel certain that the Standard American Diet leads to a very unhealthy life and early demise. Our healthy fear is what motivates us. This isn't just a lifestyle choice or an emotional connection with the animal world. This is about scientific evidence that our former diet was killing us. You may not believe that but we ask you to respect our belief.

I think you might even find that many of the foods we eat are delicious. My husband and I don't feel that we have really given up anything except feeling unenergetic and bloated. The benefits are enormous. This isn't something that we are hoping to reap the benefits from in the future. We are reaping the benefits right now. We have more energy, we feel healthier, we've lost weight, we look better and we're off our medications.

We are excited for you to stay with us and we think that you should be excited also, just as if you were taking a trip to some exotic location like Japan or China. We were scared too, but we now know that we have sacrificed nothing. We experience more taste and more flavor. You might be pleasantly surprised too!"

What is your advice in this situation? Give in and give up or hold your ground? To leave a comment/view the comments, click on the title of this post (the orange text above). If you are not reading HGK from a PC, please click the link at the bottom to view web version.

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