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On the Verge of Veganism

No one is born vegan. Even if your crunchy mama pushed you out head first into a plastic kiddy pool in the living room, she probably had you suckling within moments. And it wasn’t soy milk you were guzzling.

What is a Vegan on the Verge?

Every current vegan had a tipping point— a “come to veggies moment,” if you will.  It may have been the result of viewing an emotional documentary on food preparation, an experience with a beloved pet, or perhaps as an alternative treatment to illness. My hunch is that this tipping point is different for everyone, but I have become increasingly interested in the series of events that leads up to the vegetable conversion. What brings the curious, would-be vegan to the verge of an entirely plant-based diet?

I am currently witnessing such a conversion before my meat-eating eyes, and in the paragraphs that follow, I will explain how my wife has stepped to the edge of the vegan frontier. Perhaps you also will identify your wife, girlfriend, sister, or mother as a vegan on the verge.

The Great Meat Migration

The meat in our house is migrating, and as with the buffalo of the Great Plains, extinction is near. It has gone from star of the meal to side-dish supporting actor. After a recent viewing of the pro-plant documentary Forks Over Knives, I heard my wife repeat the following idea: “Meat should be more of a garnish.”

A garnish? At this rate, meat is destined for the spice rack. Pass the salt and meat flakes.

Lean vs. “Bulky”

I shed a few pounds recently. A couple of guys I see regularly at the gym commented that I was looking much leaner. My soul mate spotted me without a shirt later that day, and remarked,“You’re looking kinda bulky. Yeah, your neck looks thick and chunky.” Turns out we had a meatless soup that night. I think I saw her look disapprovingly at my neck as she ladled out my portion.

Enter Ryan Gosling

Nothing like a little positive peer pressure. The guy’s a good actor,  he’s good looking, and he’s absolutely shredded. Skinny shredded. The perfect justification for the conspicuous absence of meat on the plate. “Ryan Gosling is really lean,” she said. “You could look like that.”

Could. If I stopped eating meat. Talk about setting the table. Without meat.

The Color of Money. And Protein.

My wife now orders protein powder—vegetable protein powder. I didn’t realize you could make protein powder from veggies, and it’s only fitting that cash money and plant protein fly the same colors. Like a couple of green gang members.  (2 pounds of veggie protein costs the same as a 5 pound tube of whey protein from Costco).

She’s Reading The China Study and Watching Forks Over Knives

I haven’t read the book, but I have been told and read on multiple occasions that this is the main argument:  diets high in animal protein cause problems (namely cancer). Forks Over Knives is a documentary (I’ve seen it), which touts the virtues of the China Study, and proceeds to demonize a diet high in animal protein. This is where she got the idea of meat “as a garnish.” Like parsley. Only it’s meat.

There’s That One Bodybuilder Who Is Vegan

Both my mom  and wife have told me stories of “that one bodybuilder” who doesn’t eat meat. Then the highlight of Forks Over Knives was the vegan MMA fighter who looked amazing and felt fantastic. Get that? He is THE vegan fighter, as in the only one. Theoretically it’s possible to gain and maintain muscle mass while eating a diet of plants, and I accept that.  Theoretically it’s possible to drop out of high school and make millions.

That may be an unfair analogy, but my broader point is that we know about these people precisely because they are anomalies. There is no “the bodybuilder who eats a diet consisting of lean protein, lots of fruits and vegetables, and a few whole grains,” because that’s what most do. If she mentions the vegan bodybuilder, she’s probably on the verge.

She Turns the Tables

The vegan conversion is probably near completion. This step involves finding an area of weakness in the main objector to the vegan lifestyle (me), and then presenting veganism as a solution to that problem/weakness. It is clever, effective, and it is an undeniable trait of a vegan on the verge.

My particular problem is that I am cheap, especially when it comes to fancy health foods. I don’t like to pay extra for organic produce, I’ve boycotted Sunbutter because of the cost (incidentally, that boycott isn’t going so well. Sunbutter is simply too delicious), and I ride my bike to work because I don’t want to pay for gas, insurance, or a car loan.

So why should we cut out meat? The cost of course, and she’s got me there. Even if we bought the crappiest cuts of meat plumped up with hormones, animal flesh is almost always the biggest chunk of the grocery bill. If I’m really serious about cutting our expenses, I need to consider reducing the amount of meat we consume as a family. She’s turned the tables, and I’m speechless.

Waiting for Conversion

My wife is a vegan on the verge. I don’t know what the tipping point will be, but I am emotionally prepared to accept full blown vegan conversion if and when it occurs. A lot of good may come of this new lifestyle in the end: We’re eating more vegetables as a family, we’re saving money on groceries, (not counting green protein), and I’m learning a lot about health and nutrition from my wife.

Veganism isn’t for me, and whether you want to prevent it, encourage it, or simply prepare your friends and family, it helps to see it before it happens. Spot your vegan on the verge, and make your choice: intervene, accept her decision, or leap of the cliff with her. I’m choosing acceptance, and I have a feeling my dietary life will never be the same.

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