Having enjoyed a plant-based diet for almost five years, I know a thing or two about choosing shots of wheatgrass over shots of vodka, kelp noodles over fettuccine and sorbet over ice cream. So when I saw that most people stop being vegan or vegetarian because they don't like how it makes them stick out in a crowd, I couldn't help but pause, put my green smoothie down and reflect.
It is true that eating healthfully separates you from the commonplace crowd. (Unless your crowd makes cashew cheese and massages kale on the regular.) But it's not true that sticking out from the crowd is a reason to sacrifice your health and give up your plant-based ways for chicken wings just to "fit in."
I know it might be frustrating to have a different diet. It might make you feel insecure, embarrassed, needy or weird. But trust me, those people looking at your smoothie like you're drinking mud, running away at the smell of your nutritional yeast-based salad dressing or denying the gluten-free and vegan chocolate chip cookie you offer them will come around eventually. They'll be fed up with feeling sluggish, overweight and lethargic. They'll be done having acne and constipation. And when they've hit a hamburger wall, they'll come to you because you always seem to be energized and fit with glowing skin and wonderful digestion.
Just stick with it and soon enough, the "crowd" will start to stick to you.
But until then, here are five fantastic tips to help you stand out less from fast-food nation.
1. Judge a movie, not a person.
The reason you're a passionate plant-eater is for yourself, right? Whether you eat this way because of the health benefits or because it makes you happy knowing you're saving animals, these are both reasons that come back to YOU. So keep it that way: inside YOU! There's no easier way to stick out (usually in an unpleasant way) than to go around preaching and critiquing. If you're that judge-y vegan making people feed bad about what they eat, you'll stick out and probably be ostracized.
People don't like to be reminded that their eating habits aren't ideal. Even if they'd push away your cheese-less veggie pizza like it's poison doesn't mean they don't realize that their stuffed crust, extra cheese, pepperoni and hamburger pizza is a bad choice. In fact, most people who eat that way would openly tell you it makes them feel lousy, giving them heartburn or a belly ache.
But they don't want to be reminded about their lack of self-discipline or their not-so-ideal choices. That's their doctor's job, not yours, OK? So when you're ordering in a group, nix the sarcastic comments about how you don't this or that. Just order your thing as if it's a totally normal order and move on. Then just smile and eat it.
2. Just do it.
Sometimes you just need a reminder that being different isn't all that bad. While it can sometimes feel hard to pave your own path and scary to reject the norm, it's a legitimate part of growing up and becoming a person who is true to themselves. We all need a little tough love at times, so here's your tough love: just eat your healthy food, be different and don't worry about it!
3. Laugh, laugh and then laugh some more.
Did you know that most comedy stems from pain? Think about your favorite comedians. They all tell stories about their most painful, embarrassing, awkward, horrific experiences, right? Because laughing about it feels a heck of a lot better than crying about it. (And painful stories are often the most universal — we can all relate.)
So laugh out loud at your pain too! When a friend makes fun of your green juice and vodka cocktail, laugh it off. When your uncle makes fun of your "chia pet" pudding, laugh it off. The more you can laugh at the remarks from others, the less it'll bother you (and probably the less they'll continue doing it).
4. Get serious.
If laughing it off doesn't work, then it's time to do the opposite and get serious. It's not the end of the world to sit down with your buddy and have a kind but serious chat about how their jabs don't make you feel all that great. You can tell them that it hurts your feelings to be made to feel like an alien. Most people don't realize you feel insecure about eating differently, they might think that you're just on a high-horse about it.
If you open up and honestly reveal that you feel insecure when they joke, they might respect it and stop jabbing all together. Try to come to a place where you promise to not make them feel guilty about their choices as long as they don't make you feel guilty about yours. After all, food judging is a two-way street.
5. [Secretly] fit in.
Just because you eat healthfully doesn't mean you can't "fit in." You can still tailgate, eat snacks at the movies, go to romantic bed and breakfasts, attend a pool party, stuff your face over the holidays, whatever you want to do. You just make your own healthy modifications.
When you're prepping for a party and you go to the store to buy snacks, grab baked pita chips and hummus while your friends load up on the potato chips and queso. Instead of getting butter-ridden popcorn at the movies, sneak your own crispy roasted chickpeas into the theater with some pieces of healthy dark chocolate to boot.
Just don't allow yourself to have a mental block that because you eat healthfully, you can't "fit in" and do all the normal fun things everyone else does. You sure as heck can do all the fun things everyone else does, and more because your plant-based diet will give you unlimited energy!
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