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!