Happy Herbivore Blog

Combating Anecdotal Evidence

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: AdviceFAQMinimalist

I recently attended a vegan night at my local library. The club had reviewed various vegan cookbooks and brought dishes in. One woman brought a dish in that included bacon and cheese, and when I politely declined, she got angry.

"What this isn't vegan enough for you?" she griped. I said, "well it isn't vegan at all, but I don't eat bacon or cheese, sorry."

She got deeply offended (not my intention) and laid into me about how butter and bacon is good for me and I'm killing myself by being a vegan. She then said look at Julia Child. She put butter on everything and lived to be 94! We can ll be that lucky."

I'm sure you've heard it before. We've all heard about someone's grandfather who ate bacon everyday and lived to be 99 and that's the sole basis for why someone wants to disregard anything we say about eating healthfully or eating more plants.

Here is the thing. History is full of people who beat and cheat the odds.

My usual response to this type of anecdotal evidence is "so *one* person who ate butter and tons of meat lived to be 94. What about the 100s and 1000s of people who ate just like her but didn't live to 24? or 34? or 44? or 54?"

For those who don't know, my father had a mild heart attack last week. He is fine, and home now; and I'll talk about this later... but for now, while he was in the cardiac unit, my mother was relegated to the waiting room and this issue came up.

There she a family eating McDonalds and other unhealthy foods, while waiting for a loved one to come out of open heart surgery. Not that my mom would wish ill health on anyone, but she started feeling defeated. She said "here we are trying to eat right and exercise, get healthy, and your father has a heart attack... and these people are eating McDonalds and they are fine!"

I told her, firstly, we don't really know if they are "fine." People don't wear signs on them that say "I have type 2 diabetes!" or "I have had three heart attacks!" so for all we know, they aren't fine... but that isn't the point.

I broke it down for her like this, and I think this is how I'll always explain it; and how I'm combat the classic anecdotal evidence I hear.

We all have different jars -- different sizes and shapes, and none of us knows what our jar looks like. Every time we eat animal products, a marble goes in to that jar. How fast we fill it up depends on how often we eat animal products and the size of our unique jar... but no jar is limitless, you can fill it up eventually, and when you do, that's when a health crisis: cancer, stroke, heart attack, etc. strikes.

I, apparently, have a very tiny jar. I only ate meat for about 5, maybe 6 years in my entire life. Even then I didn't eat much and I rarely ate dairy or eggs.... still, there I was: 22 and facing the C-word. My jar was small.

I can't tell anyone what size jar they have, or how fast they'll fill it up -- just that they will fill it up by eating animal products... and the only way NOT to fill it up, the only way to prevent marbles from going in to the jar, is to eat plant foods.

The reality for one person (i.e. eats bacon everyday and lives to 99) isn't the reality for most of us, but all of us can give ourselves the best shot, can help prevent and reverse medical conditions, like cancer, by eating plants. That is the reality for all of us, and that's the reality I'm interested in.

Eat a salad for you. Eat a salad for your loved ones

Do you have any clever analogies for explaining our lifestyle to others?

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