Sometimes when you get a wake-up call or open your eyes towards the truth, you can get really excited. It feels like you’ve finally come in touch with something really important, authentic, and wonderful. Unfortunately, the world around you doesn’t always immediately change the way you do. But how can you be vegan when your family is not?
Making the decision to make a diet and lifestyle overhaul is brave and doing it on your own can be tough enough.
So what if you are surrounded by people who don’t support your choice at all? When you have to swim against a stream of arguments as to why you’re doing something useless, maybe even harmful?
It seems like the media has done a great job brainwashing people’s minds into thinking we would need:
Even most doctors and many nutritionists have joined in, and together they praise the importance of animal foods – even though there are plenty of studies who prove this wrong.
It’s no wonder that your friends and family believe this too – which is why they aren’t particularly positive towards a plant-based. They continuously offer you animal products, comment every single cough with “malnourished/deficient”, or even try to ridicule you for your choices.
Let me tell you this: you are not wrong. And you’re probably not making the wrong decisions here. I know what it feels like to be standing alone against so many people being worried about you, or even insulting you for being weird and crazy.
So, what are the best things to do in this case?
How to Be Vegan When Your Family Is Not
We hope that the following 5 tips will help you feel less alone, frustrated, or even like giving up. Most of us have "been there" and we highly encourage you to join our free community and online eCourse to get support and even more tips or ammunition.
First off, it’s important that you get to know the reasons behind the whole idea of eating plant-based foods and switching to a vegan lifestyle. Your personal emphasis can range from not harming any animals, to protecting the environment, getting healthier, losing weight, or becoming fitter.
There are endless reasons for taking on this path. When you get behind all of this and grow a knowledge base, you can easily refute their arguments with actual science and proof. You’ll get more confident, motivate yourself, and are prepared for any half-baked statement coming your way.
For beginners, I would suggest you watch the documentaries Forks over Knives, Vegucated, and Cowspiracy. If you’re into reading, then check the books The China Study, How Not to Die and The Starch Solution. Here's our full article on the best 40 vegan books!
Whether it’s obvious or not: there’s always a reason as to why people think and react the way they do. Like I wrote above, many believe what the media and doctors tell them without questioning it.
No wonder they think you’re doing something wrong (a.k.a. not behaving like everyone else), harming yourself, or are downright lunatic. Their inner blockade can be a result of honest worry about your health, or even jealousy they might not be aware of.
You see, by taking action and changing for the better, you show everyone around you that they are NOT doing it. That they stay kind of unsatisfied and stuck because they are not proactive. Maybe they themselves have failed in the past and don’t think you could actually succeed in changing your diet for good.
Opening their eyes to reality and truth can be painful and come with many consequences – not everyone is there yet, and that is okay. You should allow them to arrive at their own time and pace.
Invited over to a dinner party or grandma’s house? That’s always a little challenging. Especially when you’re a newbie and not everyone knows about your lifestyle change yet or is accustomed to it.
Let’s face it, many people simply forget about the current dietary preferences of their friends and family members, especially since there often is a lot of changing from one fad diet to the next these days. You can’t blame them here.
But what you can do is taking your own little dish with you! Of course, not every occasion calls for this type of move, but most of the time, people are a lot more confident with you bringing your own food to enjoy – so they don’t accidentally mess something up and you end up eating nothing at all.
A good idea is to prepare a huge batch of your favorite food and bring it along for everyone to take a look at, maybe even try a bite. The experience of it tasting delicious, despite being a vegan dish, can be eye-opening. Talk about convincing people on a whole different level!
Being very strict about what you do and don’t eat can not only lead to a lot of awkwardness and discussions with people around you, but also make you unhappy or even obsessed. Believe me, I know what it’s like to dive head over heels into the topic of health, animal welfare, and changing yourself for the better.
But what you have to realize is that change does take time. You have a lot of habits to unlearn, taste buds to retrain, and brain wiring to undo. Most people ease into a new way of eating and being, and I would suggest you do the same. And no, we don't suggest you keep on eating animal products when you're not at home, but a little bit of oil or sugar won't hurt you too much.
So when you’re invited for dinner and the host tried to create a great meal for you but forgot to not sprinkle a certain ingredient on top of it – you could consider honoring the gesture, giving them a quick tip for next time, and then just eat some of that food.
It’s not going to mess up your diet, it’s not being weak or out of control. You ate this food a lot of times in the past without thinking of it as being a “bad food”, I am sure of that. So forget about that label, do what feels best for you in that moment – and what won’t make you sick afterwards of course.
When going out to restaurants that aren’t completely vegan, you can never be sure whether all people involved in the process of preparing your food succeeded in not adding any unwanted ingredient.
There is a fine line when it comes to obsession and I would love for you to not get caught up into details all of the time. All the healthy food in the world won’t make you feel better if your mind is constantly stressed and preoccupied.
If you’re not lucky enough to have vegans or at least vegetarians in your family or circle of friends, you can always go online and reach out for like-minded people. Back when I chose to become vegan, I didn’t know a single soul who was thinking the same way I did.
But luckily, there were a couple of forums and even a few YouTube channels that made me feel less alone. For the first year or so, these were the only motivators I had to keep me going. When I finally got a Facebook account, the number of people I met who were eating the same way I did increased exponentially.
Read More: The 50+ Best Vegan YouTubers
Today, there are endless possibilities and platforms where you can find food buddies, meet up in person, organize an event, and so much more. Sharing tips, tricks and even personal struggles can be very beneficial to you as well as the whole community! By learning from each other, inspiring and motivating, you will be a lot more successful and create real friendships.
What are your biggest struggles when it comes to non-vegan family and friends? What do you commonly hear from them and how do you stay true to your decision? Feel free to share it with us in the comments below.
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Alena has been eating a plant-based diet for 6 years and is passionate about sharing her learnings in the fields of nutrition, wellbeing, and vegan ethics. She is the co-creator of nutriciously and loves music, reading, nature, traveling, yoga & good food. Alena received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy, and social work.