How to Deal with Eye Rolling?

Many times when I eat lunch in our office’s lunch room with coworkers, I get questions like “Why do you want to go vegetarian/vegan? How do you do it? Don’t you miss meat? But meat tastes so good! etc….” In the beginning, I gave my honest answer, “For compassion. No, I don’t miss meat. Vegetables and fruits taste better than meat to me. etc….”

Then I usually get eye rolling back.

Especially when I talk about how much I like animals, how cute they are, how loving they are, and why do people have the right to kill to eat them. Coworker even tried to argue with me that the purpose of having animals in this world is for human to kill and eat. Seriously, according to this coworker, that is the sole purpose of animals. That just makes me sad and angry.

I don’t like to argue. Also when it’s 10 people against 1, it’s hard to get your point across. So most of the time, I just stop talking after a while. Plus it’s work, so I don’t want to be fighting with my coworkers.

Maybe I should just eat lunch on my own….

Do you get this kind of reaction when people find out you are vegan? Or trying to go vegan? How do you deal with it? How do you react?


39 thoughts on “How to Deal with Eye Rolling?

  1. My husband and I have been vegans for more than 22 years. We have seen our share of eye rolling and a lot worse. Talking to some nonvegans is like discussing politics when you are on opposite sides of the fence. People are threatened and get angry. I don’t know why, but they do.
    We took a lot of flack in the beginning, but now I just tell people that when we went vegan, nobody in my family had lived past 61. They had died of strokes, aneurysms, heart attacks and cancer. I didn’t want to go that way. When I went vegan, my blood pressure went from through the roof to low! My cholesterol went from sky high to normal. Then they say that their blood pressure and cholesterol are fine. I smile and say,”Lucky you!” They usually leave me alone after that. You will get a lot fewer eye rollers telling them you are vegan for your health than because you love animals. Narcissism takes over their brains when they tell you that animals are hear for US! How egocentric!

    1. You described it completely about how talking about food choice is almost like talking politics with people. My husband actually gave me the exact same advice. He said just tell people you did it for health reason, then they usually don’t say too much after that. I just don’t understand why people get mad and annoyed when I tell them I don’t want to kill animals. It’s like people don’t want to face the truth that they are indeed “killers” so they get defensive about it. I think I’ll take up you and my husband’s advice, and simply answer that I did it for health reason. Maybe coworkers won’t harass me so much that way.

  2. First, let me say you are brave for being so open in the workplace. I worked at one place for 8+ years, and I knew the reaction would not be good, so for the first several years there I just ate quietly without ever telling anyone I was vegetarian or vegan. Ironically, people used to tell me how good my food looked! When I finally “came out of the closet” about being veg, many people were pretty hostile to me. There was a great receptionist who would always order me something veg for the company luncheons, but then again the president’s assistant, when catering the Christmas luncheon from an Italian restaurant, made sure there was not one single vegetarian, let alone vegan, dish. I really think that took some significant work on her part. I was then told I was “ungrateful” when I just picked at some salad … Another time she ordered all-meat sandwiches and I was told I could just “take off the meat and eat the rest of the sandwich.”

    I originally went veg for compassion for animals, too. Here in the American South (aka Bible Belt) I’ve been told not eating animals is even unChristian!

    I have found, in general, telling people I am vegan for health reasons goes over better than talking about compassion for animals, factory farming, etc. If they still want to argue with me I simply tell them that what I choose to put into my mouth and my body is my business, and I refuse to discuss it further.

    Eventually you’ll learn who is genuinely curious and who just wants to have an argument with you. For those who are genuinely curious you can share your thoughts on animals. I have also started to carry some brochures with me I quietly give to those who I think are really interested in learning why I eat the way I do.

    Good luck!

    1. OMG I am sorry to hear what you have to go through at your work place. That is so horrible what they did. There is another girl at my work who is vegetarian. Her whole family is vegetarian for religious reason (they are Buddhist). She told me she went vegetarian when she was about 12 or 13. My coworkers never question her about her choice.

      Yeah I think I’ll just say I went vegan for health reason from now on. Although with people who are interested in really listening, I will still share my honest thoughts. But for people who ask me why just to argue with me, I’ll just stay quiet.

  3. It has been my experience that the kind of person you speak of is quite ignorant. Maybe they don’t know the plight of factory farming but most of the time it is self-imposed ignorance. They choose to look the other way. You are looking at the issues head-on and taking a stand. You are brave. They are afraid. They are afraid of breaking from the status-quo. They are afraid to acknowledge that human animals are not the only sentient beings on this planet. They are afraid to change their habits and mind-set because it is easier to do as they have always done. We see how eating other animals effects the planet and we choose to change.
    When people try to argue with me I simply say, “we all make our own decisions.” Because it is a decision. I decided to show compassion every day of my life. They choose to support unimaginable suffering. It might be helpful for you, if you haven’t already, to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible so that you can calmly and accurately dispel their incorrect assumptions. “But chickens lay eggs every day no matter what.” Chickens do not want to be in battery cages, stuffed 5 deep, their claws growing around the wiring, their beaks sheared off their faces. “But cows make milk anyway.” Not true. Like all mammals, they make milk for their offspring. Cows are kept constantly pregnant, their calves ripped from them at birth, male cows immediately imprisoned in veal crates. Spent cows turn into a burger.
    You see my point. Don’t let them anger you. Don’t get riled up. You are fighting the good fight, and they know it. People who argue that other animals are only here for our consumption are trying to assuage their own fears and guilt.
    My favorite thing to say is, “I have compassion for all animals, human and otherwise.” It helps remind people that we aren’t so special. Hope this helps. Don’t let them run you out. Instead, let them see how nourishing vegan food (ie, FOOD) is and let them ask questions. If you are kind, they might begin to see the light.

    1. Yes yes yes! That’s exactly right. Those people are afraid to face the truth! And I know I used to be one of those people. When I was a meat eater, because I like how meat taste, I was afraid to face the truth that the so-called delicious food in my mouth is actually a piece of dead animal that was cruelly killed. Every time I feel a little bit of guilt, I just turn off that thought in my head and continue eating. I was weak.

      But now, I feel strong. I have a strong believe, and I am doing what I believe in. Even though sometimes those people makes me feel mad or sad, I am going to stand my ground and keep on doing what I think is right.

      I am going to read more about all the good things of going vegan and expand my knowledge. Thank you so much for your comment. It really helps!

  4. Stand strong; What you eat is none of their business, and it shouldn’t affect their way of looking at you. I get it too sometimes but just as VegCharlotte said here below me, health reasons are usually easier for people to digest than the whole animal-rigths-thing. It’s less hostile, people tend to feel as if you’re calling them bad persons or immoral for eating meat when you bring up the animal issue, and no one wants to feel looked down on. Try to stand your ground in a non-threatening way, it’s easier to avoid conflicts than to win them as a vegan. Luckily I just moved in with 5 girls who are really open minded and even curious about my food, (they’ve never tasted tofu before, so they actually asked if they could have a piece to try once!). I think it’s a question of age as well, I can imagine it’s harder to teach old dogs new diets.

    1. I think you are correct about why do people get mad when we talk about animal right. Especially I talked about it during lunch time when they were chewing on a piece of meat. haha…. I don’t want to preach people or try to change other people’s choices. I don’t even talk about it unless people ask me. I think I’ll just reply it’s for health reason in the future to avoid conflict at work.

      Your roommates are so lucky to have you! Hopefully they will like tofu. 🙂

  5. I love meats, and being your long time blog reader, I also respect your choice of trying to go Vegan, and I do find your new posts regarding the veggie dishes very interesting.

    This is just to say that I think your coworkers just don’t realize that eating choices can be very personal, like politics and religion. Arguing or trying to convince on the choice is really not a smart thing to do.(plus there would never be a conclusion)

    Try to smile and relax next time your coworkers make you feel uncomfortable again (or try to let them know) because you know the reason why you’ve chosen to quit meats and you don’t really need others to agree with you to persist on this choice.

    Thanks for sharing your vegan restaurant finds (altho I am not in LA anymore), and your creative vegan dishes here. Altho I am not turning to a Vegan, I still enjoy reading your posts and those colorful pictures. =)

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words, Nico! I respect people’s choices, and I just hope others respect mine as well. I will always smile even when people don’t agree with my choice because I know I made the right choice. 🙂

      Are you in Taiwan now? I’m so jealous. I really miss the yummy food in Taiwan!

      1. Yep! I went working in China for a while and now back to Taiwan. If you have a plan visiting Kaohsiung sometime in the future, let me know, cus there are so many tasty vegetarian restaurants here now.

        My dad has 2 veggie days per month due to religious reason and we’ve been exploring good vegetarian restaurants. I will have to say that there are so many varieties of heathy veggie restaurants now cus more and more people have chosen to eat lighter and healthier. And my favorite is the veggie buffet!!!! So many dishes you can try there with different cuisines, and it costs a lot less than regular buffet. You’ve got to try it once you visit Taiwan. =D

      2. Years ago when I was living in Taiwan, I often go to those vegetarian buffet place, and I wasn’t even vegetarian back then. I just love the food. There is this home-style vegetarian buffet place that you pay by the weight of the food. It’s just in a little ally near my work in Taipei. They make some of the best vegetarian dishes! If I have plan to visit Kaohsiung, I will definitely ask you about good places to eat! Thanks, Nico! 🙂

  6. Since my mum went vegan for a few weeks then went back, as did some friends even an abolitionist of many years, I have been speaking about environmental issues and health benefits too and lastly I’d bring up something along the lines of for instance. Animal farming is a crime against humanity (if the law wants to disregard animals, as it does) even on a small scale because of the risks it carries. End of debate, if there was one, but I’d like to think some have a heart or that one can find their heart through their stomach sometimes 😦

    1. My husband and I went to the Pet Expo this year. I was at the farm animal section and petting this little calf. He has the most gentle and pretty eyes with long eyelashes. I looked into his eyes, and just felt so bad about the steak I just had the night before. I always remember that look in his eyes, which is actually a big reason for my decision to go vegan.

      One day at work, they ordered Chinese catering for lunch. I was eating my veggie fried rice, and a coworker asked me, “Mmmmm this Mongolian beef is so good. Don’t you want to have some?” I said, “No, thank you. I don’t eat meat.” She said, “Why not?” I answered, “Because I like animals and I don’t want to eat them. I petted a calf at the Animal Expo and look into his eyes. Have you ever look into a cow’s eyes? I feel….” She didn’t let me finish my sentence. She laughed, rolled her eyes, scoffed, turned around to another coworker, “Did you hear what she said? Have you ever look into a cow’s eyes? Oh my god.” Then she turned to me, “Eileen, you are so weird.” That was the end of conversation. I just kept quiet after that. 😦

    1. Just the other day, coworkers talked about how good whale meat taste, how delicious deer meat is (especially the young one she said), how rabbit meat is really good…. One girl even said she wouldn’t mind eating dog meat.

      I hope there is reincarnation and karma!

  7. Thanks for this post. I’m sure a lot of us have run into this: when you say “I’m vegan,” other people hear “I’m judging your food choices.” So when I say “I’m vegan” and other people say “Oh, I love meat, I could never give it up…” etc etc, my go to is a confused “…that’s nice?” The same sort of reply you’d have if you said “The weather’s nice!” and someone replied “I love meat!” Totally off-topic, totally irrelevant, and they’re the weirdos for going there.

  8. I’ve been getting these types of responses from my house mates and honestly, it’s difficult. It’s really upsetting, not to mention triggering. Food is such a complicated issue, and I really think people should eat the foods that work for them best in all four faculties — physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally. I personally eat vegan because it’s the diet plan that best fulfills these four faculties for me. Long story short, I don’t go around pointing out how disgusting some people’s meat intakes or processed foods are, so I don’t understand why it’s okay to go around questioning why someone might want to eat vegan or vegetarian. It’s the same thing with being skinny vs. fat — it’s somehow okay to imply that a naturally thin girl might be anorexic or a neurotic over exerciser, but it’s not okay to tell someone they’re over weight, lazy, at risk of heart disease, etc. etc. etc. Does that make sense?

    That said, there are some people who are genuinely interested in alternative diets, and asking out of curiosity/genuine interest. These people, rare as they are, I am ever so eager to chat away with all things food, vegan or no!

    1. Exactly! We don’t question people why do they eat meat. So why do people question us why we don’t eat meat? Honestly, ever since I went meat-less, I have been feeling so good in all four faculties as you described: physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally. I don’t care what other people say, but I am sticking with what makes me feel good. 🙂

  9. I don’t understand why people are so hostile and mean about other people’s choices. What you put in your mouth is really no one’s business. Has Dr Park joined you? If he hasn’t, how do you deal with the cooking at home?

    1. He “semi” joined me. haha…. I only cook vegan meals at home. He never complains about that. When he eats lunch at work on his own, he can eat anything he wants. When we go out to eat, if we are ordering our own dishes, he order whatever he wants. But if we are sharing family style dishes, then we only order vegetarian dishes. And since I went vegan, Dr. P stopped eating 4 legs animals. Now he only eats chicken and seafood. I’m really glad I have an understanding and supportive husband. 🙂

  10. Generally, when I get lip about being meat and dairy-less, I use health as an explaination. Since, everyone’s body is different, they usually don’t persist after that…usually. Especially when they learn I don’t eat dairy, they get all concerned that I’m not getting enough protien, calcium, this that or the other. These are teachable moments… these are times when I get to use what I’ve learned about nutrition to educate people. Meat and dairy aren’t the only sources for these nutrients, and they contain many other things that aren’t essential for good health.
    Stay strong, eat well and when they start rolling their eyes, ask them what’s so interesting on the ceiling!
    Have a delicious day!!

    1. Yup, health reason seems to be the good answer when people ask me questions in the future. I need to do more study about vegan nutrition so I can answer properly in the future. Thanks, OrganiCat!

  11. Just don’t bother telling people you are vegan! Just enjoy your food, smile at other coworkers. If they comment, just tell them this diet works for you and is better for your health.

    I tried vegan 15 years ago, and it didn’t help me. I developed a soy allergy and gluten allergy. I eat what I can eat and can digest, and I don’t ask other people to follow me. I have since been able to clear my soy allergy, but still have to eat gluten-free. I tell people I have to eat gluten-free for my health, and they DON’T have to join me!

    The one thing I did learn from that short 1 year vegan diet is how to prepare more vegetables dishes 🙂 Veggies are delicious.

    1. Vegetables truly are delicious. Sometimes I don’t even like to season much when I cook because I want to taste the original flavor and taste of the vegetables. I am going to keep on smiling, and eat the food I want to eat. Thank you, tenjo! 😀

      1. I agree! Have you tried RealSalt (the salt from Redmond Utah?) It’s really really tasty salt. I am also seasoning more simply these days. Realsalt, white pepper, mushroom powder (the one from Singapore that’s really all mushrooms, no weird stuff) and Japanese kombu powder from Marukai market (it is pure seaweed ground very finely) These are my 4 main standbys 🙂 Hope you get to try them too.

  12. I usually just educate them on how much healthier a plant based diet is and how animal proteins increase your risks of cancer and infact help grow tumors. Also that our ancestors did not eat as much meat as they do, hence why they are overweight or have higher risk of illnesses. If they continue to tell me I’m crazy I just tell them i rather live a long healthy cancer free life then a short painful one. People that have no compassion don’t understand ethics and think they are at the top of the food chain. But science can help them understand or at least shut them up. I am sick of people annoying me about it at the moment as well, so I have little patients. But I find when I cook for my friends they are always pleasantly surprised when they discover that vegan foods are tasty too. I think people just hear the word vegan or vegetarian and think the worst without considering the benefits or the potential for great food.

    1. I remember from Forks over Knives, they said that some people think vegan diet is extreme. But what is more extreme, vegan diet or open heart surgery? I think most people believe in the wrong information that meat and dairy industry is trying to feed us. You need meat for protein. You need to drink milk for calcium. Blah blah blah. I once believe it also. For people who cares, I love to share my thoughts. But for people who don’t care about their own health, I shouldn’t care either.

      When my husband goes surfing on weekend mornings, sometimes he’ll bring his surfing friends back to our house for lunch. Those guys just exercise in the water for 3 or 4 hours. But they are all very happy with the vegan meals I prepare for them. Plant based food is truly delicious!

  13. I’ve found that I get the least eye rolling when I answer something about feeling healthy and light. I think most people feel at least a little bit guilty deep down and that’s why they’re so defensive. But who can argue with feeling better?

  14. Your post has inspired to write my next post on explaining this further. Thank you! Great job on your vegan journey. All the recipes look amazing.

    – Jenn

  15. Great topic. Like you, I hate arguments. Especially at mealtimes. Most people who’ve asked me about my veganism don’t get much more aggressive than “I could never do that,” to which I simply smile, since when I went vegetarian, I thought “I could never be vegan…it’s so extreme!” Then I learned a little more about the dairy and egg industry, and the choice was simple.

    However, before I was vegan, I had a close vegan friend who supplied me with lots of awesome vegan dishes (yay!) but would lecture me about the evils of my then-nonvegan diet (boo). What I learned from him: education through delicious food works! Education through unsolicited judgment does not.

    I don’t know if you like your coworkers enough to want to share some of your very tasty-looking food with them, but I know I’ve had a lot of success with bringing goodies to group events and not bothering to announce that they’re vegan until most people have downed seconds and thirds. “Oh, you liked that? Yeah…it’s vegan.” Topped off with a smug little smile.

    1. I agree with you that education through unsolicited judgment does not work. I don’t try to convince people to go meatless at all unless they are genuinely interested and ask me about it. Yeah I think in the future I can try bringing some good vegan food to work for coworkers to try. Thanks for the great comment!

  16. We’re vegetarian’s… it’s the worse when people realize are kids don’t eat meat. They’re 3 & 1… nothing like “how can you make that choice for your kids?” Last time I checked at 3 and 1, I make ALL the choices for my kids, when they go to bed, whether we go to church. Choosing to eat meat is the same as choosing not to. My hubby is lucky, he’s a vet, he’s rarely judged for it. 🙂 There’s always several other co-workers who are also vegetarian or vegan.

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