The Daily Beet

08 Sep Adventures with Ami: Peer Pressure

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John: This stuff is great! Here’s some for you!

Tom: No thanks.

John: Really? I got extra because I knew you’d want some.

Tom: I’m good, but thanks for thinking of me.

John: Come on, just try some! A little won’t hurt.

Tom: What difference does it make?

John: You only live once, relax and live it up!

No, this isn’t an 8th grade lecture dealing with peer pressure about drugs or alcohol, although it could be.

It was a conversation overheard between a plant-strong person and a S.A.D. person (Standard American Diet).

It always fascinates me that people care about what I eat, or more precisely, what I don’t eat. People never cared what was on my plate when I was eating the S.A.D. No one ever said: wow Ami, are you really going to eat that burger? No one got in the way of me buying boxes of cookies from the little girls in green by the case – because they only come once a year. The freeze well right?! No one said a word about me eating myself sick. I just got heavier and sicker. The only person that ever said a word to me about eating differently was my sister. She has been vegan for years. I used to poke fun at the dishes that she made and brought to holiday dinners at our Mom’s. Why would I want to eat that stuff? – for what it’s worth now many years later… I’m sorry Keri.

The minute people find out that I am plant-strong, the questions flow. Sometimes friendly, sometimes as friendly as an election year debate. “No meat? Sure, I have heard of people doing this before, but you still eat chicken right? Oh. No dairy? Not even cheese? No ice cream? Seriously? I could never do that. No oil? Now just wait a minute! How can you do that? Oil is good for you, I’ve read studies!” – this is where the conversation usually takes a turn for the worse. But why?

People are passionate about their food. From memories and emotions surrounding food to the heady mix of fat, sugar and salt that make up so many so many of Americans favorite dishes. Talking about food can be as controversial as talking about religion or politics. The ritual of eating, especially the ritual of eating TOGETHER can bring your new plant-strong habits to the spotlight. Sometimes this brings out the curiosity in others, sometimes the hostility 🙂 Any time someone deviates from the usual, it can make people uncomfortable. Most of the time, people just want to understand what you are doing and why. Sometimes the information can cause inner turmoil for the person trying to understand your new habits. Some people take what you are or are not eating personally. Some take it as a challenge to their status.

So what do you do?

I think my best advice is to understand why people freak out about this sometimes. I cannot recommend enough the knowledge I have gained from reading The Pleasure Trap by Doug Lisle, PhD. Read this book, so you can know how to pick and choose when to impart more information and when to deflect or minimize what your doing. Every time someone asks doesn’t mean an argument has to ensue. Sometimes, you can choose to just shrug it off without explanation. There will be those days when you find yourself in a conversation much like that between John and Tom. How will you handle it? What’s in your plant-strong tool box for dealing with the peer pressure of others? Here are some of my tips:

Say no thanks and change the subject.

Say something like: I’d love to explain my eating habits to you sometime, but tonight I’d rather hear about what’s up with you/your new job/ the new grandchild/that basketball game etc.

Bring a dish that you can eat that others would like too: pasta salads are great!

Say This is just something I am trying for a while and I’d appreciate your support.

Plan ahead, read menus, call ahead to the restaurant and ask to speak to someone about your needs.

Eat before you go and have a small salad at dinner and enjoy the company you are keeping.

Have confidence in your choices and take care of your needs.

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Ami Mackey for Engine 2
Ami Mackey

Ami Mackey is the Curator of Creative Content at Engine 2. She is also a food coach at Engine 2 and has been plant-strong since 2011. When she isn't attending to all things Engine 2, she is the Program Director at St Louis All City Boxing a nonprofit youth program. She has earned certificates from eCornell in Plant-Based Nutrition & Fitness Nutrition from NASM.

  • Kelly
    Posted at 11:28h, 09 September

    Perfect timing, it’s funny I haven’t had an pressure, but on Friday’s blog that Natala wrote I saw it for the first time, someone saying that you guys are too strict, and they have a little bit of this or that, and what harm could it do. I thought to myself, I’m glad that person isn’t saying those things to me in my life, I need all the support I can get! I don’t think people realize that what they say can actually influence others. I used to be an alcoholic as well (20 years sober now) but in the beginning my friends who were not alcoholics would do the same thing or make me feel like it wasn’t that big of a deal. “You are being too hard on yourself”, “It’s ok to have a drink every now and then”, “If you are so strict you are going to completely fall off!” I could see the same thing being said about food now, ha!

  • Christopher
    Posted at 15:11h, 09 September

    Great topic and yes, this comes up almost daily. I am a Chef and people are schoked at my change in eating as well as my 59 pound loss. What I say to people is,”That could be that a “little won’t hurt” but for me it would… see once I have a little, I will tell myself that I can have more and more and then I start to “test” results and before you know it, I am back where I started, on medications and back to the road of a Heart Attack. Would you offer a former smoker “one cigarette won’t hurt”? Of course not, so you see, it would hurt,, but thank you so much for offering and it looks lovely. Now if you don’t mind, I am going to indulge without conviction some beans and rice!

  • Jane
    Posted at 15:24h, 09 September

    I feel another kind of pressure…
    I am trying to recover from anorexia. This diet appeals to me because it seems like if a person ate this way, even if they ate a lot- they’d still be healthy. It’s easy enough for me to politely decline everything from donuts to lasagna; my problem is allowing the good stuff in.

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