When we go vegan, the first few weeks can be a bit of a learning curve!
We learn to cook with new ingredients, we learn where to get our protein, and we even learn to navigate a restaurant menu to find the vegan options. But there is one thing to learn that is the hardest of them all. Learning to deal with unsupportive friends and family members.
You know the ones I'm talking about. The moment you tell them you're going vegan, they'll usually come back with something like...
"Humans are meant to eat animals. It's the circle of life, man."
"But where will you get your protein, bro? Don't be such a pussy. Besides, how will you live without bacon?"
"Did you know that plants have feelings too? I saw it on a documentary once. How will you live with yourself killing all those innocent plants?"
At some point on our journey we will all encounter these kinds of people. They will judge, criticise, and even laugh at you for your new lifestyle choice.
As much as it is hard, try to remember that this isn't them deliberately being a bad person! More often than not, this lack of understanding is simply a result of years of social conditioning. Since they were a small child they have been told that animal products are part of a balanced diet. Admitting that they are wrong can be a very difficult thing for some people to do.
Remember that you do not have to justify yourself to anyone. This is your life and your decision. No one else's. With all that in mind, here are a few ways I deal with people who don’t understand.
How to deal with people not understanding your plant-based lifestyle
Explain your why
We all have a reason why we went vegan. And whilst the diet itself can still come as a culture shock to a lot of people, they are much more likely to relate to the reasons why you went vegan. Next time someone asks you why you turned down the steak, use it as an opportunity to calmly explain your why. For example…
“I love animals, so I no longer want to pay to have them killed for my mouth pleasure.”
“Animal agriculture is the leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. I love this planet and want to protect it, and removing animal products from my diet is the biggest thing I can do to achieve this.”
“I eat the foods that make me feel good and avoid the ones that don’t. By eating plants I feel energised, focused, and healthier than ever.”
Make it as easy as possible for them to understand. This isn’t a fad; it’s a way of life.
If you find yourself invited to a non-vegan friend’s house for dinner, explain to them in advance about your diet so they don’t feel offended when you turn down their lovingly prepared lasagne. Don’t be the awkward dude who sits down at the table and causes a drama because there is nothing you can eat.
Make it as easy as possible for them to make you feel welcome. Tell them that you can just have the roast potatoes and the side salad. If other guests ask why you’re not eating the main dish, politely tell them your reasons. Chances are a polite answer will capture their interest and they will want to ask more questions. And who knows where things will lead from there…
Don't take it personally
If someone laughs at or makes fun of your lifestyle choice, never take it personally. Their response is simply a lack of understanding; not a lack of love or respect for you.
Put yourself in their position before you found your ‘why’ and truly understood what the vegan lifestyle was all about. A few years ago I’d probably have laughed myself if a friend of mine told me they were going vegan!
Whenever anyone is presented with something that challenges their belief systems, the immediate response is to defend those belief systems with everything they’ve got. With enough guidance they will begin to question those beliefs over time. Just like you did.
Don't be a dick. Ever.
As a vegan it is our responsibility to be healthy, athletic, positive people. The best way to encourage someone to try a vegan lifestyle is not to belittle them, to judge them or to criticise them. It is to educate and inspire them.
As difficult as it is, NEVER get angry when someone fails to understand your new way of life. Don't criticise them for being close minded or ignorant. Don't call them out on their flaws or tell them how going vegan would get rid of their pot belly.
Just be the healthiest, happiest, most positive person in the room. People will soon notice and want to know your secret.
And if that all fails...
Make new friendships with people who support and understand your decisions. You have no obligation to stay static and maintain old relationships that no longer serve you. If a so called ‘friend’ is a constant source of negativity and derision, question whether or not they are a beneficial presence in your life.
In 2020 it is easier than ever before to make new friends who truly share your values and ethics. Go to local events and meet ups, join a new class, or even just start a blog or Instagram account. Who knows where it will all lead.
Your friends don’t have to be vegan themselves (most of mine aren’t), but they do have to support and stand up for your lifestyle choices. There are plenty of amazing people walking this earth. Open your eyes wide enough and I promise you will find them.
That’s all from me today! How do you deal with unsupportive friends and family members? Let me know in the comments below!
Catch you soon,