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The holidays are quickly approaching. For some of us, this means quality time spent with family, friends and the ones we love. Unfortunately, for some, this time of year can also create a lot of anxiety. Fear of dinners and events spent answering questions and defending how you choose to eat. Today I’m here to help with some tips and tricks to help you deal when people don’t support your food choices.

 

 

Try to Understand Where They Are Coming From

 

Before we can decide how to handle a situation, it’s helpful to get an idea of where people are coming from. What’s triggering their lack of support or judgement of your food choices? Let’s explore some of that now.

 

 

Fear of Judgement

 

We like to think that when we adopt a healthy lifestyle, it doesn’t affect anyone else. It’s your health, your food, why would anyone else care, right? Wrong.
 
 
Say you go out to eat, and you’re celebrating. You’ve been eating pristine at home, and this is your opportunity to splurge a little. Perhaps you choose a meal a little richer than you normally would have, or maybe even a vegan dessert. Now, what if the person you’re eating with orders the healthiest option on the menu, and doesn’t splurge at all. It’s their meal, you shouldn’t care, but I’m willing to bet most of you are going to feel a little insecure in that situation.
 
 
This is the same when you sit down to a meal with others who don’t eat the way you do. You’re busy trying to make a plant-based meal out of the dishes available. This means you’re likely only eating the healthier options. This can lead some to feel insecure and worry that you are judging their food choices. Essentially, they are tucking into foods that you have deemed unworthy of your plate.
 
 
How do we combat this?  Pretty simple, don’t judge, comment or critique anybody else’s meal or food choices. Whether internally or verbally. Instead, keep your eyes on your own plate. Enjoy what you are eating without paying any attention to what those around you are having. This is likely not the best setting to explain why you eat the way you do unless specifically asked.

 

 

Cognitive Dissonance

 

If you haven’t heard this term before, cognitive dissonance refers to the psychological discomfort one feels when faced with information that goes against a core belief they hold. Think about this for a moment. Most of us were raised on the standard Western diet, full of meat, dairy and processed foods. When you decide to avoid these things, you unknowingly become a source of cognitive dissonance for those around you.
 
 
Some will deal with this internally, and you’ll never notice the turmoil bubbling under the surface. Others will deal with this in less-than-delightful ways. Perhaps taking pot shots at you and your ‘strange’ lifestyle. Or asking aggressive questions, trying to tear down what you believe.
 
 
The most important thing for you to realize here is that this kind of behaviour is not about you. This behaviour is about their internal feelings and how they attempt to soothe them. Do not forget this.
 
 
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Lack of Knowledge

 

Sometimes we have to admit that nutritional knowledge is not where it should be. All the misinformation thrown around the interwebs has left people confused about what they should and shouldn’t eat. Sadly, this is exactly what certain industries want.
 
 
We still have doctors telling mothers to wean their babies onto cow’s milk despite the negative health effects. Many people take their doctor’s advice as gospel, not realizing that their doctor has barely any nutritional training. In some cases, even less than the patients they are counselling.
 
 
So, if you find yourself feeling annoyed at repetitive questions, understand that for some, this is a completely new concept. They could be genuinely curious, so answer any questions openly and compassionately.
 
 

 

Concern for Your Health and Well-being

 

A lack of knowledge may leave loved ones genuinely concerned for your health and well-being. There are many that still believe we cannot survive without animal products. If this comes up, you can calmly mention that you’ve done your due diligence and understand how to get all the nutrients you need. If you start encountering some argument, try telling them about websites like nutritionfacts.org, where they can look at evidence-based nutrition on their own time.

 

 

 

Brunette woman sitting alone at a table with text overlay - how to deal when people don't support your food choices

 

 

 

Things to Remember

 

 

Food Choices Are Deeply Personal

 

Food is the new politics it seems. Opinions on good nutrition are skewed and highly polarizing. Just as you would avoid talking politics at a potentially tense event, it’s best to avoid food as a topic of conversation at a holiday meal. Especially if you know that those around you are unsupportive of your lifestyle. If it comes up you can’t help that, but don’t be the one to bring it up. Instead, talk about the things you do have in common.

 

 

Check Yourself

 

Sometimes we don’t always come across the way we would like. Have you ever said something and then realized the tone you used was completely unintended? This can happen a lot more if you’re feeling stressed or anxious. If you’re starting to feel this way, keep an ear out for your tone. Are you coming across as cocky, arrogant or judgmental? This will only make matters worse. Keep a level head and be sure your tone and mannerisms aren’t part of the problem.

 

 

You Can’t Force Someone to Change

 

Save your sanity and just accept this fact. No amount of advising, cajoling, pushing, or anything else, will make someone change if they don’t want to. It doesn’t matter if it comes from a place of love or concern. If someone is not open to change they will not change. Simple as that. Don’t be the person who’s constantly pushing someone to do something they are unwilling to do. It will only result in frustration on both sides.

 

 

 

Tips to Help

 

 

Answer Questions Calmly

 

I mentioned it earlier, but try to answer any questions calmly and compassionately. Some questions may be out of simple curiosity. Don’t bite someone’s head off, even if you are tired of explaining where you get your protein for the 40-dozenth time. It just makes you look like a villain and will add to the tension of the situation. Try to avoid getting defensive too, this really closes down communication, which will make matters much worse.

 

 

Find Support Elsewhere

 

It can definitely sting if you don’t have the support of your family and friends, but it’s not the end of the world. There are all kinds of groups online that you can join to get the support, advice and guidance you need. Search around and find one that works for you. There are lots on Facebook, and more are being created every day. There might even be some local community and social groups you can join. You may be surprised by the options you find.

 

 

Make Recommendations

 

Sometimes people can’t see where you are coming from. After all, it’s not always easy to see someone else’s point of view. If you get comments to that effect, try suggesting books or documentaries that inspired you to eat this way. They may not be open to change, but if they watch or read your suggested book or documentary, they may better understand where you are coming from. This could go a long way in bridging the gap.

 

 

Adopt a Live and Let Live Mentality

 

I know it can be tough at times. When you adopt this lifestyle, you start to feel so good that you want to shout it from the rooftops. Sometimes those shouts will fall on deaf ears. Save your energy for those who approach you with openness and curiosity. When dealing with unsupportive people around you, it helps to adopt a ‘you do you, boo’ mentality. You do your thing, and let them do theirs. No judgement, no snide remarks. Stay in your lane and do what works for you. Don’t focus on what others are doing, it’s not your choice to make.

 

 

Moratorium

 

If all else fails, declare a moratorium on the topic. It’s perfectly acceptable to decide that you are no longer willing to discuss your food choices with others if it always ends in arguments. However, you better hold up your end too. You can’t tell people you don’t want to talk about what you eat while continuing to make comments about what they do. Besides, there are tons of topics to discuss other than food. Explore those topics instead. Although I’d suggest that you avoid politics and religion as well. 😉
 
 
 
 

The Bottom Line

 
 
It can be incredibly tough knowing that you don’t have the support of the people you love or are in contact with regularly. Don’t let that deter you, though. Your health is important and taking steps to invest in it is a good thing, whether others support your decisions or not. Don’t let it get you down. Keep eating those plants and enjoying the health benefits. Over time, others will likely come around. Even if they don’t, you keep doing what makes you feel good. You don’t need anyone else’s approval to live the life you want. 
 
 
 
If you found this post helpful, please don’t hesitate to share it with your friends. Also, be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out on new posts and recipes designed to make plant-based living easy. 

 

 

Related Posts

How to Eat Plant-Based When Your Family Does Not

Cognitive Dissonance: The Powerful Force No One Talks About

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Feature image credit: Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash

 

 

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