How to Go Plant-Based When Your Loved Ones Don’t Want to Know

By Luke Jones. Connect with him on Twitter.


BE THE CHANGE

A few weeks ago I shared with you a few quotes from some of the pioneers of the plant based movement, to give those of you who are transitioning to a plant based diet (or thinking about it) a little inspiration.

Inspiration is all well and good, but alone it’s not enough to spark significant changes. There’s still a wide gap between inspiration and taking action. Whether we can bridge that gap or not depends on a number of factors.

One of those factors, as I mentioned in this post on New Year’s Resolutions, is having a solid support network. People to turn to if things get tough. People that will hold you accountable and keep you on track.

I’m lucky that those close to me are supportive, and have pretty much backed me up all the way with my dietary changes. But not everyone has that luxury, and it can be difficult to navigate things alone.

I hear about it time and time again. You’re inspired to start making changes; perhaps you read a cool article (or maybe you checked out my eBook, Plant Based Diet 101). You’ve heard about all the potential benefits of eating plant based, from improved health to reducing your carbon footprint (and maybe even losing a bit of weight too). You’re raring to go, ready to drop the animal products and pick up the plants, but there’s one thing holding you back…

The people you care about the most aren’t on board, and still want everything wrapped in bacon…

Maybe it’s your spouse, or your husband to be. It might be your children, your friends, or even your parents. Whoever we’re talking about, even if they’re not joining you on your plant based journey (which is fine), they’re far from being supportive, and it’s getting you down. If you’re not sure where to to turn next, hopefully I can give you a few ideas.

I talked about why people might not respond well to your dietary choices a few months back, but let’s take a look at what you can do about it, in the various scenarios that might pop up. To relieve some of the tension, set the record straight, and increase your chances of achieving your goals.


Problem One: Your loved ones don’t want to make changes with you.

All the benefits of this plant based diet seem to good not to share, and you want everyone you love to experience them. But your loved ones don’t want any of it. For all they care, you can do what you want with your tofu and kale, but they’ll be sticking to ‘real food’. Thank. You. Very. Much.

Solution One: Back down, and just do you.

That might not be the response you wanted, but I think it’s the only one that works. Food is a sensitive issue, and any time you start preaching, most people go on the defensive and shut off to what you’re saying, whether it’s helpful or not. Their brain labels you as another one of those wacko crazy people who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Did you even do a degree in nutrition? 

As Gandhi famously said (and the damn Health Ranger then nicked) ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world”. Instead of preaching, lead by example. Who knows, one day your loved ones might start to ask about your secret to having so much energy and avoiding illness. Until then, keep it cool.

If they come to you for help, by all means give it to them or point them in the right direction, but be patient, and stay grounded. Slowly they might start making changes for themselves, but don’t hold your hopes on it. You can only control your own behaviour. Everything else is out of your hands, so learn to let it go.


Problem Two: Your loved ones are dead against your decision.

They read an article about those crazy vegan folk the other day, and it said that they get all kinds of deficiencies. Protein, calcium, iron – err’thing. So you definitely shouldn’t do it. You should stop with the radical ideas and just eat normally!

Solution Two: Ask them to trust you.

Thank your family/spouse/friends for their concern. Genuinely, because although they might be going off false information, it’s nice to see that they care for you.

Ensure them you’ve really done your research with this (you have done, right?), and you’re gonna go about it the right way. You’ll be eating lots of healthy, whole, plant foods; and staying away from foods that have been shown to make you sick. You’ll be trying new recipes, making gradual changes, and learning even more as you go along. You’ve seen countless others turn their life around and unlock their potential from doing the same thing, so you’re gonna give it a go.

As a back up, if you’re loved ones get rowdy, say that it’s an experiment. If it’s not working out after a few months, you’ll go back to ‘normal’, whatever that is…


Problem Three: Your loved ones are indifferent.

You realise that having a good support network is an important part of making lasting changes. Your loved ones aren’t completely against what you’re doing, but they’re not interested in giving you support, and you’re scared that you’ll fail without it.

Solution Three: Let them know how important this is to you.

Talk to them about the big reasons why you’re doing this, and how much their support would mean to you. They don’t have to play a massive role. Perhaps it just means that you keep them updated every week with your progress. They could hold you accountable for your weekly goals, and keep you on track.

Regardless of whether they’re joining you or not with the dietary shift, getting your loved ones involved with the process can help their understanding, and may even perk their interest over time to make changes of their own.


Problem Four: They do the cooking, and would be offended if you opted out.

This is probably more of an issue if you’re a teen living at home with your parents. They’ve been cooking you the same meals all your life, and suddenly now you want to go against tradition, and they’re not happy.

Solution Four: It’s not them, it’s you.

Tell them how much you appreciate their cooking, and their culinary skills are not the reason you’re making the change. Again, try to involve them in the process, and come to some form of compromise. Maybe you could agree to do most of your own shopping and cooking. Maybe as a family you could eat a plant based meal together once a week. There are definitely ways to work around these things, and as your family get used to your new habits, they become the new normal.


Problem Five: You do the cooking, but your spouse (and maybe kids) still want meat.

A controversial one. Perhaps your spouse is always late home from work, so you’re head chef. They respect that you’re making changes with your own meals, but they still want their steak cooked medium rare.

Solution Five: Don’t go against your values.

Your response will depend on your big reason ‘why’. If you’re in it for ethical reasons, then cooking with animal products is probably a big no-no, even if it is for someone else. It goes completely against what you believe in, and your partner should respect that. However, if you’re in it more for the health reasons, cooking meat might not gross you out as much, so you might be able to compromise. Even still, knowing that what you’re cooking could make your loved one sick might not be easy to do…

So it depends on your values, and how important the change is to you and your family. A potential solution that works for some is to cook your plant based meals, and then your loved ones can add their animal products at the end. That works well for plenty of plant based recipes, like this simple vegan curry.


Problem Six: You eat out a lot.

Your family or friends enjoy sampling restaurant food on the regular, but with your new dietary preferences it looks like you might spoil all the fun…

Solution Six: Go with the flow.

There are plenty of ways around this one. Start with scoping out your area using Happy Cow to find veggie/vegan friendly restaurants near you, and add them to your safe list.

If you’re ever heading to somewhere you know there might be an issue, you can either ring the place before hand, or pull the waiter aside for a quick chat when you get there. Most places will be happy to whip you up a bowl of veggies or salad. It’s rarely as big of a deal as we build it up to be. You could always pre eat before going out too, just to make sure you’re already stacked full of nutrients and wont go hungry.

Alternatively, you could suggest everyone comes to yours for a home-made treat one day. Crack out some badass vegan burritos, and try not to roll your eyes when everyone tells you how they could eat them all the time, if they were vegan…


Problem Seven: They’re worried about the cost.

Eating healthily is expensive! Quinoa, tempeh and organic veggies look like they could add a lot to your weekly food bill, and your loved ones are concerned.

Solution Seven: It doesn’t need to be expensive.

Eating healthily can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Perhaps share with your loved ones some of the ideas from my article about eating a plant based diet on a budget.

You can stock up on grains and legumes, which are dirt cheap. Frozen veggies are another good option, and the clearance section in supermarkets at the end of the day can be your best friend for reduced fruit and veg. Planning your meals ahead of time can also help you reduce waste, as does cooking in bulk and freezing meals.

Long term, you’ll save money by eating less meat, and by cutting the amount you spend of medical bills. Think of it as an insurance fund, made of plants…


Whatever your current situation, I hope you found some of the ideas helpful!

Can any of you relate to the situations above? If so, how have you dealt with them?

Let me know in the comments below (and don’t forget to share the article if you found it useful)!


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Luke Jones

Luke Jones is a mover, blogger and wellness enthusiast. He spends his time exploring and sharing ideas in mindful movement, healthy living and adventure.

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