Sometimes making healthy choices can be tough – not only on a personal level, but on a social one. So how do we deal with unsupportive friends, family, co-workers and strangers? Here are some of my personal tips; but I know you have a slew of suggestions too; so share ’em in the comments!
1. Understand their motivation.
It’s easy to feel angry and frustrated when you’re bombarded with odd looks and questions like “Where do you get your protein?” or “Aren’t you worried about osteoporosis and nutrient deficiency?” To approach these questions and concerns with a clear mind, it’s important to know where they’re coming from. Maybe your best friend is addicted to McDonald’s and facing an uphill battle with her weight and cholesterol. She might be defensive about her own diet and taking out her insecurity and ignorance on you. The people you’re closest to might be wondering if they’ll have to change too. A negative reaction usually stems from fear of change and a lack of education. Once you understand the motivation behind their reaction to your diet and lifestyle, you can build a positive strategy for communication. If your audience is open and ready to receive information and new experiences, then get ready to unleash your hot wisdom, wit, love and compassion. See tip 2.
2. Be prepared.
When you’re dealing with a skeptic who responds to facts, have some handy research and websites to lean on. If they’re a bookworm, suggest that they read a couple chapters from books like “The China Study,” “Crazy Sexy Diet,” “Becoming Vegan” or any of Neal Barnard’s many books. (Here are a bunch more reading recommendations.) Sometimes only a well-crafted film can inspire an “a-ha” moment. Check out these mind-opening flicks: “Food Matters,” Simply Raw,” “Forks Over Knives,” “Hungry for Change,” and “Food, Inc.” If you want to feel confident when put on the spot, make sure you can answer common questions about the plant-based diet. Check out The Vegetarian Resource Group’s website for lists that cite vegan/vegetarian sources of calcium, protein, iron and other nutrients. Present a few questions of your own: Ask your critics if they’re aware of how preservatives and things like high fructose sugar affect their health. Ask them if they want more energy and deeper sleep. Don’t overwhelm them, but a few friendly inquiries about their own choices might help them understand why you’ve chosen to eat more whole, fresh, plant-based foods.
3. Be strategic.
Before responding to a question or concern, take a deep breath and flash your bright smile. Let your answer come from that space, rather than a negative or defensive place. This small effort can change your entire interaction for the better. Secondly, believe in yourself! You’ve done your homework and you walk the walk, so there’s no reason to think that you don’t know your stuff. You are very smart. Feel it, believe it. During the conversation be a listener. It’s a two-way street and your companion deserves the same patience, love and understanding that you expect. If you think they’ll be open to it, use humor! Laughter, especially if it’s naughty, is a fantastic strategy. Trust me. Also, share your personal triumphs. No one can argue with the renewed energy, clear skin, better sex life (ooh la la), weight loss or lower cholesterol that resulted from your clean and green diet and lifestyle! Pique their curiosity by sharing how Crazy Sexy healthy and happy you are.
Finally, don’t waste your energy on people who are not in a place to receive information or respect your personal choices. Plant-biased vampires and toxic people are not worth your precious time, so send them off with a smile (or a bite) before they can zap your zing. When all else fails, try one of these trusty responses:
“I appreciate all of your questions, and I’d be happy to email you some resources later so that you can do some of your own research.”
“I totally understand that this lifestyle isn’t your thing. Can we just leave it at that and have a good time?”
“I’d love to just relax and hear about what you’ve been up to! If you’re still interested in learning about my diet, I’d be happy to lend you some books. If not, let’s agree to disagree.”
4. Be proactive.
Now that you’re flying high on green juice, you may want to find fellow enthusiasts. It’s so much more fun when you’re swapping tips and sharing positive experiences with people who are in the same boat. There are tons of places online and probably in your community to hook up. Check out Meetup.com, My Crazy Sexy Life, my Facebook FanPage, your local health store and veg-friendly restaurants, vegan and vegetarian festivals or join a local vegetarian association.
One of the best ways to educate others is by being you! Host a party and pack the table with your favorite vegan and raw goodies. Bring your juicer or blender with you when you visit friends and family, and treat them to a glass of green goodness. Going to a potluck? Knock their socks off with your best dish. If you are a creative whiz in the kitchen and a master of veg-substitutions, your pals will be wowed by your vegan chocolate birthday cake, and they’ll realize that this lifestyle is not about deprivation. Holidays, parties, and family dinners are prime locations for strutting your new skills in the kitchen. So get cooking, dehydrating, juicing and blending! Healthy, nourishing, delectable food is love and education in one.