This post is by contributor Sherry Zitter, MSW, LICSW*
It’s Barbecue season! Besides the major holidays, this is possibly the toughest time for vegan clients and therapists alike.
Why would this be? Don’t vegans eat with meat-eaters all year long? Yes, but certain times of year focus even more on the animals to be eaten and often expect vegans to join in on this commentary or be considered “spoilers.” The summer barbecue culture often leaves vegans feeling isolated, depressed and bit…grilled.
What’s the best ways to support vegan clients feeling stress and anxiety about the approaching summer?
Identifying and working with feelings and triggers:
When any client recognizes triggers in a situation, the result can be relief and empowerment. If a vegan client can explore their anxiety/stress, frustration/anger or depression, it can lead to a recognition that a part of them gets triggered by not feeling heard or understood, by feeling rejected by the group, or other childhood pain that gets amplified by being in non-vegan situations. As they learn to honor and heal the childhood pain, the current pain of animals being needlessly killed can be handled with more compassion for oneself, the animals – AND for non-vegan friends. After all, most vegans were not born that way, and we can remember when we too did not know the implications of our daily food choices. This remembering can ease the stress of even a barbecue situation.
Help them review their options:
We support clients dealing with any challenge by helping them look at their choices and pick the healthiest one for them at this moment in time, given their current skills and where they are in their journey.
Some options could be:
- To avoid barbecues altogether: to create more innocuous social opportunities such as picnics or meeting at restaurants;
- To attend or host vegan food-only summer gatherings; either with vegan friends or a mixed group, with vegans providing all the food, or if someone else offers, requesting they bring a vegan dish and provide options: Could you bring the wine/beer, or chips and salsa, or pick up ice?
- To attend barbecues and offer to bring vegan dishes. The easiest and most socially acceptable options could be to bring Beyond Meat burgers (that many meat-eaters say taste a lot like meat), other meat substitutes, or some of the many familiar prepared vegan dishes available such as German potato salad or corn on the cob (with Earth Balance rather than butter).
For vegan clients who enjoy cooking or baking, almost any dish can be googled to find a delicious vegan version. (Oh She Glows, Minimalist Baker or Vegan Yack Attack are 3 great places to start.) This is a welcoming way to introduce meat-eaters or dairy-eaters to delicious vegan food, without seeming preachy or critical – which would obviously create a negative cycle among friends and loved ones.
I have found that skewers of tempeh and vegetables with vegan marinade are always welcomed, and the person in charge of the grill is often open to cooking those or veggie burgers before the meat, or cooking them on foil.
Have support available before and after the event:
12 Step groups call this “book-ending:” have a friend or support person know before a tough situation and check in with them afterwards, like bookends holding up books. If a vegan or vegan-sympathetic loved one can support your client through an event that centers barbequed animals and understands the stresses associated with that, then the vegan can feel understood and held, and is more likely to maintain compassion for self and others — human and non-human — during the situation. And feel the job was…”well done.”
*This post is by contributor Sherry Zitter, MSW, LICSW.