The Daily Beet

09 Jan Plant Strong Swagger!

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It’s time to get some plant-strong swagger!  If you don’t have swagger it’s time to develop some or borrow it from your friend.

Seriously, it breaks my heart to hear about plant-strong people being too shy to ask for a dietary accommodation at a work sponsored event, or a restaurant.   Or going to an event with family or friends and *hoping* there *might* be plant-strong food.  You know what they say about failing to prepare…and failure is really not necessary.  With a giant dose of confidence and a few simple tools for effective self-advocacy we can successfully navigate these situations.

C’mon, you are all on the leading edge of the next big thing….the coolest thing to be is plant-strong!  You’re just an early adopter of what will become a mainstream idea and lifestyle. Plus, it’s the smart thing to do for health…your own health…and that is your responsibility.

People require dietary accommodations all the time.  It’s normal to be different.  We are living in the age of hyper-individualization.  To the non-converted rest of the world your plant-strong lifestyle is just another accommodation request in a long list of requests they get every day.  But to you, it is essential that you can ask for and obtain the food you need.

Why apologize for your plant-strong ways?  Why *hope* when you can *do*?  Being plant-strong is what your friends will all want to be someday.  It matters that you are comfortable being your new plant-strong self…yes, it means you may need to try new things in different ways you haven’t done before and that can be scary, but so is going out on date and most of us manage to do that too.

So think of it like dating….when you’re getting ready for a date (or in my case think BACK to when you got ready for a date) you cleaned up and made sure your clothes looked cool.  Maybe you even bought a new outfit or shirt, or borrowed an outfit from your cool friend.  At any rate, you PREPARED and you did NOT leave success to luck or the wind or whatever. You took steps to make yourself successful.  You also did not show up for your date and apologize for who you are or what you’re all about….you SOLD it….you were COOL….and you came across as ATTRACTIVE…and if you felt quivering inside or desperate you didn’t show it because you had your SWAGGER ON!

What’s the matter?  You don’t feel your swagger?  Not confident you can pull it off?  That’s what practice is for.  None of us are good at something without a little practice….remember in dating?  You probably practiced a few conversation starters, or neutral responses to deflect possibly loaded questions.  You might have even practiced your coolest moves in front of the mirror (!).

  1. Find a role model with swagger and study them.  Rip Esselstyn is a good role model, he has TONS of swagger!  Watch his videos, watch the words he uses and how he presents himself.   Then when someone asks you if you drink smoothies you just casually tell them….”you know, I prefer to chew my food.”  And stop talking and just let that hang there.   Resist the urge to tell them all the reasons that scrambling our food in a blender, breaking up the carbohydrate chains and separating food from its fiber so that we are drinking concentrated fructose with nutrients may not be the way we are designed to digest food….skip all that and just be like, “no dude, I chew my food.”  Enough said.  What about when someone asks, “are you on some sort of diet?” my favorite response is simple and to the point, “yes, I eat plant-based foods.”  Full stop with a big smile.
  2. Ask for what you need.  Remember, you are making a dietary accommodation request.  My E2X friend Robin has swagger in spades and also the best dietary accommodation request strategy I’ve seen.  On Engine2Extra she shared an example email she uses and with her permission, I’m sharing an example of how I modified her request. My husband and I have both used Robin’s request email in multiple situations successfully to request in advance and obtain plant-strong meals at receptions, restaurants, business meetings, weddings, you name it.  We’ve found that chefs at restaurants have appreciated a challenge to make something different. You can of course modify the request to suit your needs.  What I like about Robin’s approach is it is simple, clear, and provides the chef or meal coordinator with very specific information of what you need.  It is important to communicate using SPECIFICS. Thank you Robin!

“I’m requesting a dietary accommodation.  If you could forward this email on to the chef or meal coordinator I would greatly appreciate it.

I require Plant-Based  (No animal products, No dairy), OIL FREE, SALT FREE, NUT FREE meals. I’d appreciate if you can make basic whole foods available to me such as: basic vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruits that are simply prepared without any of the usual dressings, no oils or other accompaniments.

Here are some easy meal options that work well:
A plain baked potato or sweet potato and any steamed veggies (LOTS of veggies please)
Brown Rice or Quinoa and lots of steamed veggies
Salads with no dressing – just balsamic vinegar and/or lemon wedges on the side
Brown Rice or Quinoa with Beans (of any type: lentil, pinto, kidney, black, garbanzo) and veggies

For breakfasts, oatmeal prepared with only water (no dairy milk or oils)
For dessert I can eat fresh whole or chopped fruit with nothing added to it.

I really appreciate you taking the time to pass this info on to the chef.  Let me know if you or they have any questions.  I’ll be sure to also check in with the staff when I arrive.”

3. If going to an event with family or friends, I’ve found that showing up with a crock pot of plant-strong stew or another favorite dish of mine is always welcome and requires zero explanation.  Who doesn’t love the friend or relative who brings delicious homemade food? Easy!

4. Skeptical about your swagger still? You’re already a courageous plant-strong person, and asking for what you need is something you deserve to do for yourself. You can also join Engine2Extra and ask your fellow members how they handled a situation to get the benefit of the community’s experience.  I’ve found Engine2Extra to be a place of generous, thoughtful, cheerful assistance.  Remember, anything worth doing involves a little risk.  Practice makes me feel more comfortable trying new things or taking a risk, and I just remind myself what the real risk is… poor health, yikes!

Let’s share how we do navigating these situations.  We all have them…we can share successes and ask for help when we need it… and we can all cheer each other on.  We can all have plant-strong swagger!

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Anne works as a strategic account manager for a global media and sensory branding company. She's inspired by music, art, plant-based nutrition, and wandering the great outdoors.

  • Tara Fraser Kemp
    Posted at 11:28h, 10 January

    This is a fabulous blog post!! PLANT-STRONG PRIDE!!!! 🙂

  • Jennifer Edwards
    Posted at 11:40h, 10 January

    Thank you for posting that email template; I’ll definitely keep that for future use. Professional conferences and events tend to be the trickiest to navigate.

    When I first started this journey 8 months ago, I was very timid about speaking up about food! I wouldn’t tell people about it and avoided bringing it up in conversation. Now you can’t shut me up! A 45 pound loss is empowering! 🙂 Its so true that the more we love our choices, the less we need others to love them.

  • Haley B
    Posted at 11:43h, 10 January

    Great ideas!

    One of my favorite restaurant tricks is to bring a pen and scrap of paper; review the menu and if nothing is plant-strong by itself, use the ingredients listed to create something new. Try and keep it in the same family as something else on the menu so they don’t have trouble pricing the item. Write out what you would like on the piece of paper, including a please and thank you, and hand it to the server. It saves them from trying to explain what you want to the chef, and they usually appreciate the effort.

    For example, at a local bistro pub that my colleagues frequent, they serve a buffalo chicken lettuce wrap. I will write out on the note that I would like a lettuce wrap with ONLY the following ingredients (usually carrots, cucumbers, avocado, tomatoes, slivered almonds, oranges, etc, which are typically available in most restaurant kitchens), and I usually include a smiley face for good measure!

    Also, I always have food of some kind in my purse/backpack; especially since I have a 4yr old, it’s a rare day when I don’t have a piece of fruit, granola, dried fruit, almonds, etc on hand. It may not be enough for a full meal, but it will get you through until you can get something plant-strong and keeps temptation at bay!

  • Jennifer Dempsey
    Posted at 11:45h, 10 January

    We sent a message to our favorite restaurant in Gulf Shores, Alabama before we went there for Thanksgiving (third year in a row to go, first time plant-based). They were more than happy to accomodate our requests and we had one of the best dinners we’ve ever had in a restaurant that night! You never get what you don’t ask for! 🙂

  • Jenny
    Posted at 13:28h, 14 January

    I know Anne and she has swagger and is inspiring to all those around her. Good job Anne!

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