Being the Bearer of Bad News
by Tara of The College Greens
Most of the time, I love it when people ask me questions about the way I eat. I enjoy showcasing my love of plants and sharing what I have learned about the plethora of positive effects that come from eating a plant-based diet. But that being said, sometimes answering people’s questions makes me the bearer of bad news, and that’s not always the easiest role to play.
Craig and I found ourselves in this situation last weekend. We were visiting friends, and as it sometimes does, the conversation turned toward questions about our eating habits. They were interested in our answers, so the questions kept rolling. As I said above, for the most part, I love when this happens. It’s a great opportunity to educate people and be a positive influence! But it comes with a downside as well. It can be difficult to be in a place where you are contradicting much of what people have always believed to be “truths” in regards to nutrition. As we were explaining the myths about protein needs, the ability to reverse diseases like type-2 diabetes and heart disease, or the way that the dairy industry has tricked society into believing that dairy products are not only healthy but necessary for proper nutrition, we began to feel like conspiracy theorists. As we listened to ourselves talk, we realized how ridiculous we must sound to someone hearing all of this information for the first time. We had to be careful in the way that we presented the information, not only because we wanted to be believable, but also because we didn’t want to make our friends feel bad about themselves. (Especially because we had just finished eating dinner, and both of them had eaten meat and dairy-laden meals.) You don’t want to talk down or make others feel stupid for their current/prior understandings about nutrition. That’s not the point. The point is not to bring people down, but to lift them up; to empower them.
It helps to remember that this information could save people’s lives. By influencing them, you have the opportunity to bring better health and well-being. You can help people to find not only longer lives, but also a better quality of life in general. You are an amazingly valuable resource. So don’t push, but don’t completely hold back either. It’s definitely a balance, one that can be tough at times, but one that is important to keep within your awareness.
In some cases, it may be best to let someone else do the explaining. Instead of rambling off the facts you’ve memorized or describing your personal opinion on the matter, direct people to another trusted source—such as a book, website, or documentary. Some of my favorites are Forks Over Knives, The China Study, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Dr. Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes, Engine 2 Diet, or My Beef With Meat. I will suggest different things depending on the person’s personal characteristics. For instance, for a science-minded person, I recommend The China Study. For someone with heart disease, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. For someone who isn’t a big reader or nutrition guru and just wants an overview, Engine 2 Diet or/and My Beef With Meat. And watching Forks Over Knives is always a great suggestion to introduce people to the idea of a whole food, plant-based diet. Know your audience and their personality traits, and evaluate from there as to what the best suggestions for them would be.
And with the bad news comes good—no, GREAT—news. Yes, it is “bad news” that people have been mislead to believe that low-fat dairy products, eggs, poulty, seafood, olive oil, etc., are healthy for them when they are far from health-promoting—the exact opposite, actually. And yes, it is “bad news” that they should give up their beloved cheese or salmon. BUT, it is great news that they can reverse their chronic diseases and conditions by changing their diet. It is great news that they can prevent future ailments like cancer, osteoporosis, or Alzheimer’s; that they can improve athletic performance; and that they can lessen the occurrence/symptoms of MS, rheumatoid arthritis, acne, constipation, migraines, and much, much more—all by putting plants instead of animal-products on their plates.
Focus on the positives. Instead of saying how much they are hurting themselves by eating meat and dairy, focus on how much they could benefit themselves by choosing to eat a plant-based diet instead. Focus on empowerment. Focus on the amazing ability that we have to control our fate (not completely, but to a very large extent) through the foods that we choose to eat each and every day.
Oh, and of course, focus on the deliciousness factor of eating this way. It can seem daunting for people to think about cutting out two of their major food groups (which, lets be honest, shouldn’t even be food groups), but in reality, eating plant-strong expands our palates to eat a greater variety of foods, textures, and tastes than ever before!!
So even though we are sometimes the bearer of bad news, it helps to remember that we are, even more so, the bearer of good news. There is a time and a place for sharing information (never push, never preach), but don’t pass it up when it comes your way. Be a living example, be a promoter, be the change you wish to see in the world
Knowledge is power—share it!