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28 Jul My One Thread

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This blog is from one of the Engine 2 Extra Fire Marshals – Anne T.!


Let’s face it, navigating friendships when you’ve transitioned to a plant-strong lifestyle while others haven’t can put stress on relationships. Engine 2 and Dr. Doug Lisle do whole seminars just on how to handle these sticky situations because, well, they’re sticky!

We are social beings and so much of our culture and how we see ourselves within our community context revolves around food. So when we transform our eating style it’s no surprise that it can stir up a lot of feelings, and challenges us to think in new ways to avoid upending our important relationships. I know, we’re talking about food here, people. But it’s just one of those things that I think we as humans have managed to weave into the fabric of our social systems.

So, here are a few simple things I learned over the past two years as I’ve taken my one thread and weaved a new plant-strong pattern.

You Be You. People will ask you lots of questions about what or why you’re eating a plant-based diet. Some of them are genuine; some of them might feel antagonistic. All of them reflect the curiosity and very possibly the fears of the person asking. Yes fear. Don’t get too hung up on other people’s reactions or bother feeling criticized. That’s just other people projecting their own stuff. Do be 100% true to yourself. Do not compromise your health for someone else’s social comfort. Up to you how you answer questions (and there are great resources from Engine 2 on this topic), just don’t take it personally because it’s not personal about you at all. Eventually people will see that you are serious about your health and they will accept that you’ve made a change.

Let Others Be Who They Are Too. Many of us who practice plant-strong nutrition have experienced very positive results. It is not uncommon for people to report feeling that their lives are transformed. That’s fabulous news! When that happens we want to shout it from the rooftops and help everyone else too. But people can feel threatened and judged about their own choices so be careful to not be braggy, judgy or preachy. Be extra kind to your friends who are not interested to hear about your lifestyle change. Let them know that you accept them for who they are, not for what they eat. Instead, talk about their interests.

Stay Connected. You may worry about what you’re going to do if your social life used to revolve around backyard BBQ’s or going out for burgers. This is reasonable, and you need to think about other things to do with your friends that do not make food the primary focus. Being with people really doesn’t have to mean making an Olympic sport out of eating. Redefine getting together to be: take a walk, go to a concert, go to a movie, go to a lecture, go to a museum, play a game, ride a bike, go shopping, take a yoga class, you get the idea. You can show your friends that there are many dimensions to your friendship beyond what you eat.

Be an Inspiration. Really? Yes, really! By being true to yourself while still accepting the choices of all those around you, you will likely become a living example. People pay attention to what other people are doing, whether you advertise it or not. When you take care of yourself and take charge of your health, the evidence is written all over YOU and people will notice. Don’t be surprised if you find your friends start to pick up ideas from you and implement them in their own life. And when that happens you know you’ve been an inspiration….and really, there’s no better feeling!

This is a very exciting time when we make healthy changes in our lifestyles. It causes us to grow in new ways. When we can embrace that growth with positive energy it can deepen and strengthen our friendships in profound ways.

Please share your thoughts and ideas on how you’ve navigated your important relationships while on your plant-strong journey!
Anne’s Bio:
Anne is passionate about practicing plant-based nutrition. She found her own health to be transformed after attending an Engine 2 retreat in 2012, which is great because now she can enjoy her other passions to travel and learn about other cultures with even more gusto! She holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from eCornell and is currently working on learning how to play Brazilian drums.

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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.

  • Sharon
    Posted at 20:25h, 31 July

    Thank you for this post. I related to the very first sentence. I quickly felt stress in my relationships at home when I began to change the way I wanted to prepare food for me to eat as well as add some different foods for my kids & husband. I was surprised at the negativity. However, I will except others as they are & be diligent in my quest to become healthier.

  • Matt Jager
    Posted at 11:26h, 01 August

    Such an important issue Anne, and well addressed here.

    Our social networks are much more influential than we might think. Some studies have suggested that if a friend becomes obese we are 57 percent more likely to become obese, too! Learning how to navigate social situations with a plant-based lifestyle is critical to success and your tips are well taken.

    I myself went through the preachy phase, and learned that I had to unconditionally accept the choices of my close friends and family in order for them to accept mine. It made a huge difference. Thanks for the article!

  • justme
    Posted at 10:44h, 03 August

    “Do not compromise your health for someone else’s social comfort.”

    Easy to say. Hard to do. But…it’s way easier than being sick.

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