The Daily Beet

18 Jul Obstacles to Plant-Strong: When there is no support at home

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(when trying to spread the plant-strong message, don’t use the Sue Silvester approach)

You watched Forks Over Knives, you read Engine 2 Diet, you watched Kitchen Rescue. You picked up a few  Happy Herbivore cookbooks, and you are ready to go. How could anyone not want to dramatically improve their health? You want to shout it from the rooftops and get the world plant-strong! Trouble is, that you can’t even get the people under your own roof to consider being plant-strong. A lot of emotions come up when we change our diet. It is especially hard, because knowing nutrition truth and knowing how most diseases are caused, it is very hard to watch as others continue to eat food that will lead to things like heart disease, t2 diabetes, Alzheimers and more.

There are 2 different types of people:

1. The relatively healthy person in your house who does not want anything to do with your new plant-strong life.

2. The very unhealthy person who is in immediate need of a drastic change, a life or death situation.

Let’s start with the first scenario.

Let’s say your spouse loves meat, they have somehow managed to keep a normal weight, and they have  no current signs of heart disease (high cholesterol or high BP). They might not see any reason to change what they are doing. In addition, depending on how long you have been plant-strong, they might not think you will last a long time on the new eating plan. Chances are, you have tried many other plans, and maybe you have even changed the way you cook in the house, or tried to convince them that another way of eating was really the best thing. Your spouse could be suffering from what we call “spousal diet fatigue”.

This is when, as the saying goes “they have heard it before.” It’s no wonder they aren’t really interested at first, they aren’t even sure if you will be all that interested. So what do you do ? If you, yourself have health problems, talk to your spouse about really wanting to make changes to the way YOU eat. Not the way they eat. This is about YOU and your health, not your spouses health. Tell your spouse that they are more than welcome to eat whatever they want, however, you can’t prepare it anymore, because it is just too difficult to stay on track if you have to cook completely different meals. Encourage a ‘prep day’ where you and your family prepare the meals they want to eat that week.

For children: The only thing that we believe that should be an absolute line in the sand is dairy. Dairy can cause irreversible auto immune diseases that will last a life-time. We’d urge you to sit down with your spouse and watch Dr. McDougall’s lecture on dairy to clear up any questions. Of course, switching children to a plant-strong diet is the healthiest thing you can do for your children, but sometimes it has to start slowly. If your family is not ready to jump on board 100%, start making some small changes to meals.

  • Have fresh fruit and vegetables cut up and ready to go, so that snacking is easy.
  • Get rid of the junk food from the house. Pop tarts, fritos, soda and lunchables have no place in any kitchen. You can start cleaning up the worst offenders (including dairy) to start getting your family on a more healthy path.
  • Have your family pick out some recipes from your new cookbooks that look good to them. You can also check our Pinterest page which has 100’s of plant-strong recipes with photos for easy browsing!
  • Have a taste test! This is especially important when you are removing dairy from the home. Pick up some plant-strong non dairy milks and let your family test them out to see which they like best. Be prepared, you might have to have a few different non-dairy milks in the house to meet different tastes. Be sure you serve the non-dairy milks cold and shaken, and serve with a plant-strong cookie or mighty muffin.
  • Have healthy plant-strong sides. Serve things like whole grain pasta, potatoes, sweet potatoes and vegetables that your family DOES enjoy.

Bottom line, your family/spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend might not be as thrilled about your new plant-strong life as you are, you might have to ease in a little more slowly with them. In the meantime, you have to do what is best for you, and set a great example to the people around you.

The person in an emergency health situation:

We refer to these people as standing on the tracks, and the train is a moment away from hitting them. If this was a real life scenario, chances are you would do something pretty quickly to get that person off the tracks. We would guess you wouldn’t just whisper “hey, you, there is a train coming right for you, you might want to move, I guess, if you want to.”

More likely you would run at them like a charging bull, screaming at the top of your lungs. Now, we’re not suggesting you do that with the way you introduce the plant-strong life to someone who is in immediate need of changing their diet.

However, you might have to be a little more firm about the way you approach them. First, approach the person with love and respect. No one enjoys being yelled at or lectured to. Tell the person how much you love them and how you are concerned about their health. You can tell them that the reason you are saying something is not to be judgmental, but because you want that person around for a long time, and you do not want to see them suffer.

Ask them if they would be willing to watch Forks Over Knives (note, it is available on Netflix, Amazon Rentals and Hulu) with you, or read a book on plant-strong nutrition. It doesn’t have to be our book, there are a lot of great ones out there like “The China Study“, “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease“, “Dr. Neal Barnards Program for Reversing Diabetes“, “The Starch Solution“.

Ask them to help you. Sometimes people want to feel as they are contributing in someway. Going on the plant-strong journey together can often help in a lot of ways.

Ask them if they would be willing to hear you out for 30 minutes. Most people will be willing to listen if they know that it is for a set amount of time.

See if they will just try it for 28 days.

Above all, approach the topic with respect and love.

You might want to pick up the book “The Pleasure Trap” to help you understand why changes in diet can be so difficult for some people.

The bottom line in sharing your newfound plant-strong joy is to do so with respect and kindness. Remember it took you time to find out about being plant-strong, so you might have to give others a little time as well.

What advice do you have for people who want to spread the plant-strong message? What has worked? What hasn’t worked?

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Natala Constantine
  • Kristi
    Posted at 07:44h, 18 July

    Great post!! My husband is somewhere in the middle. He doesn’t have any obvious health issues but they are there, I told him how I feel and I want him to be around and healthy for a long time. He’s not budging so he’s pretty much fending for himself these days, actually eating worse than ever because I’m not doing it. I know it’s his choice but it’s hard. Thanks for the tips!

    My health has improved dramatically but I think I’m struggling with one of those auto-immune diseases as yet undiagnosed. But day to day I’m doing so much better since changing my eating but it’s still too easy to over do it and bring on the fatigue. I am a work in progress!! 🙂

  • Sara M
    Posted at 09:34h, 18 July

    Great post. I think the scenario in the paragraph after the two types of people was written about me! (especially “spousal diet fatigue”). I started plant strong in Jan/Feb/Marchish (and have been about 90% plant strong since then) and told my husband that if he wanted meat, he could cook it himself and have it alongside whatever I was cooking. To my surprise he didn’t really cook any. The best moment was when we were traveling up north and out of the blue he said to me that he would use non-dairy milk on his cereal! I couldn’t believe it. Currently he eats whatever I cook at home but eats meat and dairy at restaurants. He just started reading the Engine 2 Diet book and we started the 28 day challenge on monday! We plan to have our cholesterols checked at the end of the month. I think the key for him was to cook good food (Thanks Happy Herbivore!) and not pressure him. He has come around on his own after reading all of the health benefits this diet will give him. I think if I had forced the issue early on, he would have resisted. Funny enough the one thing he is having a hard time letting go of is oil. It is a work in progress.
    Thanks for everything and the support!

  • Karla
    Posted at 12:16h, 18 July

    Luckily, it’s just my daughter and myself under one roof, and my daughter embraces the lifestyle. What we experience is more along the lines of hostile opposition! Everyone around us is either Atkins or Paleo (or just a junk food junkie) and constantly tells us we’re on the path to obesity and diabetes (yes, it’s true). To quote both my mom and my brother, “Potatoes go straight to your pancreas!” Of course, each of them said that with alcoholic beverage in hand… I keep seeing posts and hearing rants about “vegangelicals” telling omnivores what to eat. The irony is, I have never in my life told someone what to eat, but everyone seems to feel quite free to tell me what to eat! I’ve found the best approach is to pick my battles wisely, which, most of the time, means abstaining from any kind of response. Occassionally I defend myself, but have found it merely opens the door to further useless dialogue. They’re not going to change my mind, and I probably won’t change theirs. I’m not out to change the world, but I do need to make choices I can live with. For me, that means knowing animals don’t need to suffer and die when there’s like a million different species of plants I can choose to eat. If I end up being healthier for it, great. If I’m not, well at least I didn’t take any innocent animals down with me 🙂

  • Jennifer Edwards
    Posted at 16:12h, 18 July

    I think a lot of times, the results are so dramatic that they speak for themselves. My boyfriend saw me drop 15 pounds in two months. That was enough for him to get on board. My aunties, mom, and cousins are know all sort of dabbling right now.

    My rules of engagement are: never bring food up in conversation first. When it does come up, only engage if someone is willing to have a reasonable discussion.

    • Tania
      Posted at 17:38h, 18 July

      Well said, Jennifer! I completely agree with you on this one (after some trial and error, that is). At first, I really wanted to tell people all of the health benefits of eating mostly plant-strong, but now, as you say, I let them see my transformation and ask the questions.

  • Louise
    Posted at 17:31h, 18 July

    I am currently visiting my brother, who is a Doctor in family practice, and his wife who is a nutritionist. I have an iron deficiency and was told by them to eat meat. They eat a lot of fruits and vegetables but also have meat, fish and oil on the food. I am not free to talk about plant strong in this house. I just go to the store and buy what I need for breakfast and only eat dinner with them. I am visiting because my Mother is on her last few days of life and I want to be by her side. However, she has a lot of phlegm that is cause gasping, raspy breathing and I cringe when they give her milk and her meds are given with ice cream or pudding. I asked my Doctor brother about the milk products with the phlegm and he said he didn’t think it made a difference. So it’s hard for me right now but a conversation about it here is really not possible.

    • Jennifer Edwards
      Posted at 15:28h, 24 July

      I feel for you during such a difficult time. You are in my thoughts, fellow plant strong eater!

  • Denise
    Posted at 20:35h, 19 July

    My husband doesn’t want anything to do with my new plant strong lifestyle. He says things like I’ve been taken over by aliens and that I am well on my way to being a tree hugger. I had the talk with him about wanting to have a healthy, happy, long marriage, but it didn’t change anything. He now shops and fixes his own food and I do the same. I offer him whatever I am fixing but he makes faces. He continues to try and tempt me to eat the bad stuff. I thought the results would speak for me too…I’ve lost 128 pounds, am off all my medications, and no longer use a cpap machine. My biggest fear is that I will be a young widow because he won’t change, but I can’t force him so I try and stay plant strong!

  • Marian
    Posted at 11:12h, 21 July

    Thank you all for making me realize that it’s not just me. I have two boys who are 15 and 10. They watched ‘Forks Over Knives’ and ‘Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead’ with me and both agree with me that we need a change, but reality is that meat was always the staple of our meals and finding recipes that they will even try is hard. Being recently widowed also gives me the self-pity excuse. It’s just easier to order out. I want to be plant-strong and my brother and sister-in-law are both great support (they are both down 60 pounds and feel great) but I have to push myself every day to get re-excited about it. Most days, easy wins. I go to the grocery store and spend $200 and have a packed fridge, and the kids go for a snack and say “there’s nothing to eat”. Teachers are also killing my kid’s focus. They insist on telling the kids that they need milk and meat. When my kids tell them about E2 and the science to support it, they pass it off as a fad.
    I find that most people I tell about this lifestyle assume that it’s about weight loss. I try to focus on getting HEALTHY, not skinny. The weight loss is just a bonus. Also, the prep day is almost essential for success, because I’ve tried doing it day-to-day and you can spend 3 hours in the kitchen. I hate to cook. All I can say is keep trying. One day at a time. One hour at a time.
    Good luck.

    • Jennifer Edwards
      Posted at 15:33h, 24 July

      Oh my goodness! So sorry to read about your loss. You are in my thoughts also…just go easy on yourself; you’re dealing with a lot right now.

  • Kathy
    Posted at 12:28h, 21 July

    We did the taste test for our kids (ages 12 and 9). I put 9 half-filled dixie cups with different plant milks (soy, almond, rice, hemp, flavored, unsweetened, etc). I marked #’s on the bottoms of the cups and made a list so I knew which was which. They had to give more than “like or dislike” comments. I was pleased they both preferred the same milk (sweetened almond milk) to help manage our pantry. We haven’t purchased cow’s milk since!

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