You’re not alone.
One of the many obstacles a newly turned vegan face is how to handle family members who are not on board with her or his lifestyle change. I speak from experience because I first became plant-based then vegan even before my husband did. And while some of our relatives (his side and mine) are either plant-based, vegetarian or vegan, we have more that are still carni’s. I know our topic is focused on family but you can also apply the following tips when dealing with your friends and/or officemates (read a beginner’s guide on how to shop vegan groceries).
Focus on the person, not on their food choices. Hypocrisy aside, before you became vegan, you walked the same shoes and shared the same table with them. Don’t be the next superior vegan. Becoming vegan does not give you an invisible title to treat them differently. During family gatherings, focus on the time spent with them, not the food they eat versus what you can and cannot eat (read my vegan journey).
Bring vegan food and share it with them. It is easy to veganize foods, even comfort and traditional ones for that matter. A pot of vegan chili, nicely bottled vegan ceasar dressing, mixed nuts for snacks, even just a platter of fruits! This is my trick, I bring my food in case there is nothing for me to eat in a gathering. Let them taste your dish, you’d be amazed with a lot of “wow! what?, that taste good!”. And next thing you know, you just converted one to become plant-based or vegan (read how to transition to plant-based food) !
Share your success story, only if they ask why you’re vegan. If you’re vegan for health reasons, tell them what has changed in your life or health overall. If you’re vegan for animals, tell them that you don’t need animal meat to survive. Which will lead you to their next question: where do you get your proteins? I hate to sound like a broken record, plus you can google it anyways. Plants have proteins. What do cows eat? grass, plants, proteins (read the happy side of being vegan).
Speak if you have to and be the voice of change. I have personally encountered people questioning my philosophy but because I am a healthcare professional (RN), having seen patients with diabetes, hypertension, high, cholesterol, to name a few, I always and with absolute confidence, explain the good side of plant-based/ vegan lifestyle from a medical standpoint. When you touch animal cruelty, expect to ruffle feathers so my advice to you is to speak calmly and use your own personal experience as point of reference. Having a debate with a family member who is clueless with this lifestyle is like speaking to a deaf person. Go back to tip #1, focus on the person. Veganism is a journey. Walk the talk. Speak for the voiceless. But at the end of the day, it is their life, their health, their own journey (read accidentally vegan favorites).
I hope the above tips enlightened you. I am currently spearheading a plant-based lifestyle program to our medical patients. It’s a 12-week program with different topics per week, covering chronic diseases and how plant-based food can help reverse and prevent them. Our medical doctor presents the clinical side, supported by studies, while I cover the practical and personal side, including meal planning, weekly recipes and on-site demo cooking. It’s the first of its kind in Hawai’i and I am glad to be able to create positive impact and change to our dear patients.