The Daily Beet

29 Aug Being the Bearer of Bad News

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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!

Tara 🙂

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The College Greens
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.

  • Jean Hayes
    Posted at 17:14h, 29 August

    Great article Tara! I like your advice about keeping it positive.

  • Cindy Plachinski
    Posted at 06:41h, 30 August

    Great advice. We have walked this walk for sure, people always asking…long ago we got tired of seeming to preach our life choice, so the publications you mentioned above are exactly the ones I refer people to go read! Hey, we did our homework, let others do theirs! Survival of the fittest, what do you think? Those folks who take the time to study will increase their health, those who don’t, well, doctors have to make a living, no?

  • The Kitchen Skinny
    Posted at 09:02h, 30 August

    Thank you for this message. It is a dance for sure. And some weeks it seems harder to be the bearer of bad.news. Thanks for the reframe and reminder to focus on the positive, speak up, and remember to focus on all of the benefits that result from this amazing lifestyle.

  • Wendy
    Posted at 09:54h, 30 August

    Tara, great article! Everyone is always commenting me on how good I look, and I want to tell everyone to be plant strong but, you really do have to be sensitive to the people you talk to, and how you present things. I am still learning but with tell anyone that asks : )

  • Leah
    Posted at 04:31h, 31 August

    This is soooooo timely! We just went through this last week while staying with a friend of a friend who is a cattle farmer. 2 other guests at dinner kept asking us questions about the health effects of a plant-based diet vs. eating dairy and meat. Even though we tried to answer their questions and simply as possible and not “preach” anything at everyone else at the dinner table, you could feel the intense tension of everyone there.

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