Posted by: Antonia Ciccolo | August 28, 2010

Hesitation in Houston

I was hesitant to start a project in Houston as a vegan, especially since I was meeting an entirely new client and project team. Would they think I was weird? Would they never want to go out to lunch or dinner with me? Would I be labeled as difficult? Now, after six weeks on the project, and having gotten to know my team pretty well at this point, I am confident that every answer to those questions is a resounding “no.” In fact, my project team – about four other co-workers – has been more supportive than I could have ever imagined.

I started this new project in Houston during my third week as a vegan. I tried to hide the subject during my first week. It’s easy to be sneaky in a corporate cafeteria because everyone goes their own way and picks out their own food. I chose the vegetable soup one day, a veggie wrap the next, and a veggie burger the day after that. On the fourth day, as I was walking into the corporate café with my team, my project manager (Joey K) said, “So are you straight up vegetarian or like vegan?” I said, “Actually, I’ve been eating vegan recently.” “Cool!” he said in front of the rest of my team. Cool? That was not the reaction I was expecting at all. Granted, Joey K is from Denver so he might have a slightly different and more liberal perspective than the average Texan.

When we sat down to eat that same day, Nicki Shoes (a manager on my team who was born and raised in Houston) sat next to me and said, “You know, I was vegan for a year and vegetarian for 15 years.” Wow. It was great to hear her stories and challenges with the vegan lifestyle and to have someone on my team who really understands. Shoes has been unbelievably supportive: recommending vegan-friendly restaurants, bringing in vegan snacks (snack bars, nuts, and fruit), and most recently, bringing in a vegan meal from My Fit Foods. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive team.

Does that mean that everyone I tell will be as supportive as Joey K and Nicki Shoes?  Should I mention my vegan lifestyle to others or wait until they observe how I eat and say something to me?  I do not want my eating habits to become an issue for my team members or my clients, so I will probably only talk about it if others bring it up.  This is a lifestyle choice for me and I am certainly not on a mission to convert or convince others to follow.


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