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The College Greens: When to Explain Yourself

Navigating Encounters: When to Explain Yourself

When it comes to our eating habits, let’s face it; we’re weird. In the eyes of many fellow Americans, we are just “health freaks” and “extremists.” They don’t understand, nor do they want to. But then, there are some people, some kind, wonderful souls, who find us interesting! Who want to know why, and are eager to learn more and expand their knowledge of food and nutrition. Surely, we have all experienced encounters with both types of people. For the first kind, it’s best to explain as little as possible. An explanation could lead to a lot of tension that is both unwanted and unnecessary. But for the second, an explanation could lead to a new friendship, or a life-changing inspiration!

So how do you know? When do we explain, and when do we just pass it off? Well, hopefully we’ll be able to help you with future dilemmas by offering our own personal advice and experience.

For the most part, we quietly flaunt our plant-strongness. We don’t shout it out to the world, but we don’t hide it. We’re living advertisements in our daily lives. We wear our kale shirts, and we eat our food. If people ask, we tell.

When you tell someone that you eat “plant-strong,” “plant-based,” a “whole food, plant-based diet,” etc, you can get a variety of responses. Almost always, people ask questions. Which can be a really good thing!! Or it can be a nightmare. The key is whether the questions are interest-based or defensive. For example: “Where do you get your protein?”… We’ve ALL heard it. But it’s not always the same question. Usually, you can tell by the person’s tone whether they actually want to know. Sometimes, they really don’t. Use your judgment.

If the person is interested, explain away! Start off with the basics, and the more they ask, the more you tell! Some people will really be intrigued. We always like to recommend a book (such as Engine 2 Diet, The China Study, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, etc) or a documentary (Forks Over Knives). That way if they want to learn more, they have a starting point. This is an exciting interaction! We love reaching out to others and expanding our plant-strong community!

On the other hand, if the person already has their mind made up that you’re crazy if you think this is healthy, then don’t try to convert them. You don’t want to preach about this lifestyle or push it onto people who don’t want to hear it. Just try to make this type of interaction as non-confrontational as possible. A great way to stay safe but also hold your ground is to use the “seems” approach. “It seems to be working for me.” This takes out any declaration of right versus wrong. It’s important that the other person doesn’t feel attacked.

In time, people usually come around to the idea and learn to accept you and your new lifestyle. For a while though, some people might give you a hard time. Though it can be rough, remember why you are doing this and try not to let others bring you down. (Don’t forget, you always have the E2 community here to support you!!) It also helps to be a good sport about it. If someone pokes fun at you, just go along with the joke. Keep things light-hearted and it will make everyone, including yourself, more comfortable.

In your plant-strong journey, you’re sure to experience oodles of encounters with SAD eaters. But hopefully after reading this post, you have some direction as to how to navigate the encounters successfully. Best of luck!!

About the author

The College Greens
The College Greens: Tara, Jenna, and Craig. Tara is a junior at Bucknell University, currently majoring in Education and minoring in Creative Writing, and planning to do a nutrition program upon graduation. Jenna is a sophomore attending Duquesne University, and she is studying to become a Physician Assistant. Both Tara and Jenna are certified in Plant-Based Nutrition through Dr.Campbell's eCornell program. Craig is a senior at Bucknell University. He is majoring in Chemistry and minoring in English, and is planning to go to medical school to become a pediatrician, where he hopes to incorporate lifestyle medicine in his practice.
  • http://twitter.com/debbysunshine1 Debby Sunshine

    I really love this post!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jaimela.dulaney Jaimela Dulaney

    It is especially discouraging when people are ridiculed for changing their dietary choices in the face of severe disease instead of being encouraged.

  • Pingback: The College Greens: When to Explain Yourself | The Engine 2 Diet | Health Advice

  • http://www.facebook.com/tonya.hershamccomb Tonya Hersha-Mccomb

    My daughter is using a plant based diet as the basis for her science experiment over the course of the next year. I’m subject A :). i have lupus and RA and the basis of her experiment is to see how a plant based diet effects a person witha chronic disorder. Well she is eating the same food as me and is being made fun of at school at lunch. She goes to a lutheran school and the first day she told them she was eating like Adam and Eve did. Yesterday they made fun of the squash/pumpkin soup I made so much that she was crying. It is horrible that people are raising their kids to make of others that way. But you know she went back today with her lunch bag filled with a veggies stir fry I made last night. I applaud my 12 yr old for standing up for herself.

    • Kiara

      It is truly sad that our culture is still perpetuating carnism, ignorance, intolerance and cruelty in this way. Your daughter shows integrity and independent thought… rare qualities in the world today. Research has also suggested that children with higher IQ’s are most likely to become vegan, and it would appear that your daughter may be one such example. :)

  • Paul

    I am a firefighter in the FDNY and recently started eating all organic whole foods. It is incredibly hard to do with the firehouse lifestyle. On top of that I am transferring to a new firehouse where it will be important to me to make a good impression, and being “that guy” who is always out on the meal because he has weird eating habits like not eating meat is a daunting proposition for me. This post contained some good tips about how to get along with having such different eating habits than others, but I am curious to see if any firefighters have more to add about our very specific situation. If Rip could give me some input that would be great. Thanks.

    • Verne

      Hey Paul i can sympathize with you as i’m a full time firefighter in Australia. Its been hard saying no to the joint meals especially when your on duty on weekends. Most of the guys are ok though and they try and eat a good diet. I am stationed at a one appliance station (firehouse) which would be easier than a station with many appliances. I agree that the diet is hard to do with the firehouse lifestyle. I also have the added burden of having celiac disease and i’m sick and tired of always having to explain why i can’t eat certain foods. Keep up the good work and you might just manage to get some of the firies to try your diet.

  • Steph

    This post was very helpful, although hard to swallow when the people who don’t want to hear about it are family members and ones making very poor choices and attacking me for mine. My own sister basically thinks I’m insane and almost flaunts her SAD diet in my face. I know my way of life is healthier after going on vacation with her and having tons of energy while she was exhausted after doing the same activities. It’s still really hard to watch her throw her health away when she could easily change her fate. She’s three years younger than me, but at this rate, I’ll outlive her. My parents are the same way. I hope I can find people interested soon, because I am starting to feel very isolated in what I’m doing. I can never go back to a SAD diet, but I want people to stop making me feel terrible for being healthy.

  • Lois

    Thanks for the helpful post and the helpful comments. It does get discouraging to be the only one in the extended family here in one location, even with other family and friends as supporters but far away. I often come find the blogs for encouragement. I will never change how I eat, even without support, however.
    I loved it: “It *seems* to be working for me.” Gonna try that next time. Thanks!

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