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16 Jan When Plant-Strong Feels Lonely – Plus a Giveaway!

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When my husband and I first made our plant-strong change, it was a pretty lonely feeling. All of a sudden our friends and family seemed to look at us differently. We weren’t invited out as much, people weren’t inviting us over for parties and dinners. We were the weird ones. I remembered the first time we met people who ate like us. At the time I was a photographer, and I was doing a family photo shoot. We walked into the house, and there on the book shelves were plant-based cookbooks. TONS of them. It was like some kind of code. A code that said “You are welcome here! No judgment!”

There was this overwhelming sense of relief for me, I just wanted to know there were other people in the world who did not think we were crazy. Those first few months were rough. We were questioned a lot about our eating. Even though I had been suffering from advanced Type 2 diabetes and clearly needed a drastic change in my life, people still asked me questions about what I was eating, was I eating enough (I was well over 400 pounds and this question always amused me) was I eating enough protein? What about carbs? What about fat? Where was I going to get my vitamins from?

I was unprepared for this aspect of my change in eating habits. I had this belief that everyone was going to be really excited about it, after all, I was getting better!

This happened a lot, especially when we started. It seemed like a huge deal when we went to someones house for dinner. We went to a family dinner in which we were served the vegetables from a roast, vegetables that had been sitting in animal grease and fat for hours. We went to a family reunion where the questions seemed non stop and our eating was made to be something that we should just “stop for the weekend”, make it easy on everyone else.

Admittedly there were many times it resulted in me becoming upset. I didn’t get what the big deal was.

It was about a year ago that I met Doug Lisle, PHD, author of the book “The Pleasure Trap”. I asked him why it was such a big deal to others what my food choices were. He explained that for many, how we eat is a signal to others, and many times that signal is “I’m better than you”. What we eat is such an huge part of who we are. Often what we eat signals all sorts of things. Where we grew up, what our family is like, are we conscientious, are we healthy? When we signal that we’ve made a pretty major eating change, to some this can come off not as we intended, but instead as being offensive and like we are putting the other person down. I’m not saying this is every case, but often, I have found this to be true.

So how do you avoid it? There are a few tactics you can take:

1. The “brush off “tactic. You can tell the person “It’s just something I’m trying for a few months, no big deal”

2. The “all in” tactic. Let’s say the person is really interested, go ahead and tell them all about it. You might want to give them a heads up and say something like “I’d love to tell you everything I’ve learned, but it’s an ear full”

3. The “seem strategy. This is one of our favorites, and was taught to us by Dr. Lisle. This is simply a quick response of “it seems to be working for me”. So if someone is asking you about your protein, and you’d rather not get into it “It seems to be working for me” seems to work really well.

4. The  “join me!” strategy. There have been a few times in which someone is asking me tons of questions in which I will just interrupt and say “You know, it sounds like you are really interested in this plant-strong thing, do you want to give it a try with me?”. More than often this will lead to someone responding that they were just asking questions because they were curious, and they tend to back off from the discussion, but in a few cases, this has worked out great and the person really does want to give it a go.

Still though, plant-strong can be a lonely road for some. There are some people who are alone in their family, work or community. So what can you do if you feel alone?

1. Start something. Find a group of friends to start a once a month pot-luck or meetup group. You can start a plant-strong meetup anywhere in the country, or look and see if there is one near you.

2. Stay connected online! We have a very active community on facebook, twitter and instagram! We also have our Engine 2 Extra support network, where you can chat with other plant-strong people, upload personal blogs, attend “in real life” meetups and more. There are also a lot of private facebook groups for people who are looking for plant-strong community.

3. Wait it out. Like the quote above says – at first they will ask you “why you are doing it”, later they will ask you “how you did it”. I have a lot of friends and family that gave me a hard time when I started who are now traveling down the plant-strong road. For many, they just want to see someone else figuring it out and being successful. Be a plant-strong ambassador!

4. Know that the Engine 2 light is always on! We are here for you! We are in this together with you and want to support you in your plant-strong journey. Just let us know what you need.

Stay strong! Stay plant-strong!

What would you tell someone who feels alone in their plant-strong journey? Tell us and you can win a 1 year membership to Engine 2 Extra!

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Natala Constantine
  • Adrienne Muller Goldstein

    I have found this to be so true! Even among family and friends who were vegetarian in the past… not super supportive. When I explain that I am doing it for health reasons then it is generally accepted. To someone who feels alone in this journey I would say if you want to feel less alone go out to a Japanese, Indian or Thai restaurant. These cultures have no stigma about being vegetarian and all have amazing options you will enjoy. Try Thai Pho soup – Miso Soup, vegetarian sushi with ginger – in my experience when I go out to eat with my loved ones who are not vegetarian in these situations they look over at my plate and say “hmmm that looks good”…. It IS GOOD and I don’t really miss meat… or the achy joints a meat based diet gave me.

    • JenO

      I couldn’t agree more!! When the family wants to eat out we hit these types of places and everyone ends up eating off my veggie plate! This is a process for me, so I understand others are just starting their process – each journey is different.

  • Kristi Bowman

    This is all so familiar. Finally now after a nearly a year and 30+ pounds and much better health people are starting to ask about it. And although some think it’s great and I look great and everything is great, the next comments is oh no I could never do that.
    I have a small group of friends who are plant based and when we get together (not nearly often enough) it is amazing. There are a few non plant based people there too but the majority of the food is for us and they just bring meat to add to it. It’s wonderful to have a big table full of food and you know you can have any of it without having to wonder if it’s right for you.

  • Cecilia

    I generally assume that when people question me about my diet, or are hesitant to invite me to dinner parties, etc. it is because they just don’t know what I eat, or how to prepare food for such a diet. I try to ease their concerns by giving a simple explanation (no meat, dairy or oils), and saying I will bring a dish to share. This makes people much less anxious about preparing food for the vegans, and it makes me feel confident that I will have something healthy and delicious to eat wherever I go. Almost always I have found that people are interested in trying the foods and learning more about the health benefits of a plant strong diet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/candyce.loescher Candyce Loescher

    I’ve also found that the “I’m doing it for family health reasons” keeps a lot of objections down, but people are still reluctant to invite us over or out. Even when I’ve offered to bring things and done so there is still a stigma of being different. Engine2 Extra has been a saving grace for me to have people to “talk” to and to share with. Now down 40 lbs. and with 2 of 3 medications cut in half people are starting to ask how I did it. When they respond that they could never do this I tell them what I discovered – the idea of it is more difficult than the reality of it! It is the best thing I have ever done!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mharshbarger Maryalice Harshbarger

    I am going through this now. It is a huge adjustment for my family of 8, but I have Type II diabetes and was experiencing many health issues. I have never been a huge fan of most meats anyway, but I still cook them for my family. When someone asks me why I am doing it, I point to the most obvious reason — I need to get control of my health! I invite the curiosity because I want others to know that I appreciate their concerns about me and my health. We are fortunate to live in an area where fresh produce is abundant during the growing season, and I point this out to my more hesitantly accepting family and friends. I also am pretty passionate about food, so many times I will explain that I am exploring new tastes/cuisine/etc.
    I would advise someone who is lonely in a plant strong diet to stay the course and just keep open dialogue with family and friends. I never judge or criticize people who don’t “get it” because I think that tends to alienate people or make them more stubborn about at least trying to move toward a more healthful way of eating. Offering to host a potluck and utilizing the vast array of delicious vegan recipes that are now so abundant is a good way to show others that eating this way doesn’t have to be bland and boring, but can offer so much flavor! Maybe even plan a recipe swap. Or invite a friend or family member out to an ethnic restaurant that you know serves vegan meals, which can be another fun way to stay social but stay plant-strong.

  • Alisa

    I have mostly been using the “It’s something I’m trying” strategy and “I’m doing this for my health and it seems to be working.” Friends and family are seeing my dedication to improving my health and have been supportive overall. We recently hired someone at work who is 90% vegan so it’s been great to have an allie. Can’t wait for the conference in April to learn more!

  • Tiana D

    Although you may feel alone, there are a great many of us plant string people out there. Try finding a meet up or a class. You might find people in the most unexpected places. And never give up.

  • Kirsten

    When I first started, it was pretty lonely even at my house as my husband did not really want to embrace too much of this ‘lifestyle. However, over the past year he has gradually added more and more plant strong choices to his diet, and minimized a lot of animal protein. We just recently we ‘re-watched’ all the great plant strong videos and this seemed to re-energize him even more! While it can be difficult to eat with other non-herbivores, it is getting easier. I brought a great kale waldorf salad to Christmas dinner, and even had my son in law asking about the ingredients in my plant strong spinach artichoke dip!

    Toughest has been at work, especially since I work at a dairy filled with carnivores! I know that each day I eat my salads and plant strong foods, people watch and look and wonder what strange things I’m eating. I try not to ‘shove it in their face’, as that doesn’t work. I just occasionally will mention how good I feel, or the weight I’ve lost. I just tell people I’m doing it because of the history of cancer and heart disease in my family (mom AND dad both died from cancer). They respect that. I’ll wait until they ask for more information!

    I love the Engine 2 Extra community as it’s a great place for support from other herbivores…I’ve gotten some FANTASTIC recipes from other members and have made some great friends on the site…it makes being plant strong not so lonely :)

  • Gwen

    What would I tell someone who feels alone in their plant-strong journey?
    “We can do this together.” :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/amylynncarmichael Amy Carmichael

    I’m new to the plant-strong lifestyle as well. But as I am learning, I am quickly learning that there are so many people out there that live the same lifestyle. Start out by talking to others on any of the social media sites like Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest to get the feel of the lifestyle and then start to find people/groups locally for your support. I am learning so much!

  • Angela

    1. Read The Pleasure Trap by Dr. Doug Lisle

    2. Know that you are doing the right thing for you. Eventually people will come around and get used to your “weird diet” and get tired of asking questions. But in the mean time see if you can find at least one friend to be your supportive ear when you’re having an especially rough or lonely time. Even if they aren’t interested in changing their diet, hopefully they care enough about you to help you through a rough time.

  • Emilia

    In this life we are dealt a lot of cards. Some may suffer from the diabetes, cholesterol and heart disease cards, others may be working to overcome the food disorder cards. Still others are working with mental and emotional effects cards and maybe a combination of all! But as Pastor Rick Warren has stated, you have used the card with the greatest power and that is the God-given card if CHOICE! You have chosen well and because you have, you can model to the world what good health looks like! What a blessing! Carry on and be fruitful in your long life and stay focused. Most importantly, thanks for showing me how it’s done!

  • Lynnette

    I would tell someone who feels alone that IT IS WORTH IT. Even if you are alone, stick with it. YOU are worth taking care of and YOU matter.

    Keep making good choices and celebrate yourself for them. Don’t beat yourself up when you fall short.
    There is a large community on-line and over time you may be surprised how many others come around, or you end up finding.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lisa.f.wilkins Lisa Furr Wilkins

    When my husband and I saw what eating ‘plant-strong’ did for friends of ours, we jumped in, too. What would I tell someone who felt alone in this walk? Oh Honey, just tell your friends you have “gone to the ‘Dark-Green’ side” (in your best Darth Vader voice!) and look for us E2’s on FB! You can cry to us! We have veggies! (and great recipes!). Getting Healthy is so worth this journey :)

  • healthygirlskitchen

    I would definitely tell someone who feels alone in their Plant-strong journey to hook up with the world of online bloggers. Subscribe by e-mail to as many of these blogs as you can find. Start commenting, become a part of the conversation. Ask questions, provide support. We may be alone in our neighborhood, but we are not alone AT ALL in the world. Every day I feel connected to my brothers and sisters who have chosen this road, not because I live in the same place as them or call them my family, but in some way, we have formed a family online. It’s up to you–you can take what is easily there for the taking!

  • Phykes203

    I’m lucky in that I’ve survived the Big C (cancer) so it allows me to use that as a reason. When people ask why I won’t eat certain things, I tell them I don’t want cancer again. The down side is people aren’t convinced it will help and so I’m now used to responding, “I’ll let you know on my 100th birthday if it works.” They usually smile and understand that not getting cancer isn’t measurable like carbs and toxins, and then let it go.

  • http://twitter.com/Rebobkat Rebobkat Gockenstein

    I would tell someone who feels alone that they are indeed
    NOT alone. In an age where we have information at our fingertips, there are a
    plethora of ways to feel loved and supported through online communities,
    whether it be on a Facebook page, Twitter, blogs, etc, we are all connected and
    can love and support each other. I find myself beaming with pride when I upload
    one of Engine 2’s recipes to Twitter, and the smile grows wider when I receive
    responses!

    Feeling alone can also be a good thing, because it will
    motivate you to go out and find others that are like-minded. Check out your local
    health food store such as Whole Foods. Many of them have groups or programs.
    Does your community have a healthy-eating or vegan society? Not only is it a
    great way to find support, it’s a great way to make new friends!

    Once you’re full into the plantstrong lifestyle, it will
    show, and your naysayers will want to join your side. And if they don’t.. there’s
    always someone who will. :

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000313741872 Elaine Kean

    Natala thanks for this and your great list of tactics ! I think what Doug says about others feeling that you are “better than them” because you are eating this way is true even though that is the the furthest thought in your head! I have made a real effort to read blogs and pages that are supportive of this lifestyle!

  • http://twitter.com/AKBeth Beth Imig

    Nothing convinces people more than when they can’t upset you because you’re so happy about the change. I have a hard time remembering the folks that give me the “crazy” look because there’s so many that want to tell me about the little changes they’re making. And eating out is a lot easier than I would have expected (as long as I stay strong, there’s always something).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Terri-Jones-Cole/1514543136 Terri Jones Cole

    Keep your sense of humor! I was recently reminded of this when I was complaining about disparaging remarks. The person I was complaining to thought it was quite funny. Now when I’m asked “What are you eating, tree bark?” my response is “Yep, tree bark, and it’s delicious!”

  • Jenna Z

    Every body is different and everyone does what is best for their own body. Why should you be expected to eat the same as anyone else? I feel less lonely when I think about other people’s diets as their individual choice, not as my diet against the SAD (standard American diet). That way it feels like EVERYone is doing their own thing and you’re not alone, you’re just one of many!

  • Jennifer Edwards

    I think I would tell them to read as much as they can, watch all the youtube lectures they can, and stay on the blogs. Staying informed was the key to feeling empowered for me; now when people ask me questions about my lifestyle I can field them confidently and with ease. Nothing can shake me now!

  • Melody

    I have used a variation on that saying that goes something like, “If you keep doing things the way you’ve always done them, you cannot expect to get different results.” So, when someone starts on my new way of eating, I tell them that I’m tired of being unwell and am trying this to get myself well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shontae.alston Shontae Alston

    I would tell them to connect with a group of individuals that are also plant strong through local and online communities and host a potluck for inquiring minds- this can create an opportunity for education and understanding.

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