Today we want to approach a common challenge many of you likely deal with on daily basis as a plant based eater; Social Pressure.
We are talking about dealing with friends, family, and coworkers in our lives who think they’re doing us a favour by telling us to “relax, you’re taking this too seriously, or come on, just this one time won’t hurt.”
Now I am sure they think they have your best interests at heart but they don’t realize they’re not exactly helping.
We have both been plant based eater’s for many years now (Zuzana 20+ years and Nikki 11+ years) and majority of our friends and family members understand that this is WHO HOW WE CHOOSE TO LIVE, not a phase, not a health kick, not a crash diet or crazy hippie moment, that for us it’s LIFE. However for those of you who recently had the epiphany to transform your health and take control of your life, situations like the ones mentioned above can negatively impact your journey, even make you give up altogether. We know we have both faced these challenges along our journey as well.
It helps to understand the reasoning behind all this social pressure, so let’s dig into our human psychology for a moment.
We humans are social animals. We want to fit in. We thrive in groups. We learn from and inspire each other. And because of this highly social nature, we can also just as firmly reject and pick on those who choose not to conform to these “made up social norms”. In fact, in many cultures around the world, it is a “sin” or at least an unforgivable betrayal to act against some social or cultural norm, even when it goes against what one knows in his/her heart and mind is wrong.
Today we live in a world where being unhealthy, sedentary, “dining” in a fast food joint, dependent on medication, smoking and drinking is more acceptable then the opposite. It’s not easy to step out of the box and be different, however if you are serious about your health it’s a MUST.
I do my thing and you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, And you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful. If not, it can’t be helped. ~Fritz Perls
You see, when you give in and break under the pressure of your social circle you give up a tremendous amount of personal power. You spend most of your time trying to be whatever everyone else wants you to be, wearing all kinds of masks and costumes based on the role you are expected to be playing, you begin to lose yourself.
You become so obsessed with this idea of being accepted and approved of by everyone you come in contact with, you run around like a mad person, masking your own beliefs and needs. You begin to think that you are just like the rest. And in the end you get lost in the crowd, becoming one of the millions, if not billions, of people who have no idea who they are and what they stand for.
Here’s the challenge: deep down you know you are not being true and honest with yourself. This could create a lot of turbulence and resentment within you. And that’s not a healthy way to live! So we challenge you to be “different”, to step out of the box. Dare to give up living your life to other people’s expectations and start living it Your Way instead.
I finally know the difference between pleasing and loving, obeying and respecting. It has taken me so many years to be okay with being different, and with being this alive, this intense.~ Eve Ensler
Below are some suggestions to help you overcome social pressure that you might encounter while adopting a plant based diet or a healthy lifestyle in general. You never know, you might even become a positive example for your friends and family.
You see these people more often than probably anybody else in your life!
For 8-10 hours a day, you share the same building, desk, and lunch room. Because of that, your interactions with them almost play out like a high school drama complete with cliques, secrets, gossip, and… yes peer pressure!
When a co-worker brings in a dozen donuts, he’s embarrassed if he’s the only person eating them so he wanders around your office, finding other people to help him power through. If he gets to your desk and you politely decline, you might even hear something like “oh come on! It’s just a donut!”
These are generally the same people who make fun of you for bringing in your own salad and green smoothie when they’re stuffing their face with unhealthy, processed food.
Expect that your dietary choices will jokingly be mocked by your coworkers.
Why? If your coworkers are unhealthy and uninterested in making smarter diet choices, then the thought of somebody in their office making great life changes, exercising, and adjusting their diet might make them feel inadequate. After all plant based eating requires self-control and discipline. So rather than watch you succeed and then feel bad about themselves, they would rather keep the status quo and drag you down with them.
Here is the truth!
It’s time to suck it up!
Build a thicker skin. For the first few weeks, I’m sure you’re going to get lots of funny looks when you bring in your own meals. You might get made fun of. However, as you start to transform, the “why don’t you eat this with us?” comments will start to switch to “wow, you look good, where do you get all this energy from?” then, “how did you do it?” and eventually, “Can you help me?”
The beginning is going to be rough – be proud to stand out and be different!
As the old saying goes, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.”
There we go! You are born into a family – your mom is your mom and your dad is your dad, and you’ve inherited whatever eating habits and lifestyle habits they have. It’s tough I know, many of our clients have out of shape or unhealthy families and are struggling to break free of that mold.
Are you part of big meat eating, unhealthy, close-knit family and you want to change your life?
What can you do? It’s time to channel your inner Superhero. Ok, jokes aside, but honestly…
You can’t force others to change. The best you can hope for is to inspire them with your actions.
This is all a change in your frame of mind… rather than thinking “awe man, nobody in my family is healthy, nobody understands the power of a plant based diet, I’m all alone.” Instead, tell yourself “it’s an opportunity to change the health and mindset of my family and it’s future generations. It starts with me.”
Kind of cool, huh?
Be strong in your convictions – “Hey mom, can I help cook dinner tonight? it’s going to be a healthier vegetarian option because I’m really staying committed to making healthier choices.” Similar to situations with your coworkers, although they might not initially ask for help, after you transform yourself, you might start to get a few questions “Hey, your father and I are trying to drop few pounds, any tips?”
Don’t force them to change… that will absolutely backfire. Instead, be strong in your stance and set a shining example for others to follow.
These are people that we have grown up with, formed a tight bond with over many years, and do everything with. They are a big part of our social life that generally involves around going out for dinners, drinks and engaging in activities that no longer support our healthy changes.
The problem is, some of your friends may have absolutely NO interest in embracing your new lifestyle – or supporting you.
Yes, it’s tough. These are your buddies! The guys/gals you hang out with after work and on weekends! Because they might be lazy and unmotivated it’s WAY easier for them to drag you back down to their level rather than watch you take off and dominate life. As they say,”misery loves company“ well so do overweight, out of shape, unmotivated people.
Fortunately, there is hope. You have a few options:
- Get them interested – this is usually a pretty tough sell. Let them know that you’re trying to adapt to a new lifestyle and that you would like their support.
- Do it alone – accept the sarcastic comments, the rude remarks, and go about your business. They might make fun of you for bringing your own food to a party or going for a run before you meet up on Friday night, but who cares? Remember if that’s what you WANT to do, don’t sacrifice NOT doing it for someone else. That’s what friends are for – to be straight with you and toughen you up.
- Find some new friends – this one is brutal, we know. And we’re not saying abandon your old group of friends completely, unless they’re truly miserable and really sabotaging your efforts. It is said you are an average of the five people you associate most with. Why not associate with people that you admire? People that make you want to be a better person? Seek those who have experience, who are smarter, stronger, faster, and more successful than you and learn from them. It’s great to surround yourself with people you can admire and look up to.
This one is the toughest of them all, and the one we get the most questions about.
You are serious about changing your dietary habits and getting your health back, but there are a few challenges – the person you are married to or dating:
- Is a big meat eater
- Doesn’t want to change their eating habits and get healthy
- Doesn’t want YOU to change or get healthy
These situations suck…
But don’t give up, there is hope, our friend!
Just because you had an epiphany and decided to give up meat and animal products doesn’t mean that your partner will feel that same urge and follow in your footsteps. Explain to them your reasoning behind the decision, however allow them to have their own opinion. No judgment, no resentment, understand we are all individuals and need to find our own path.
You can show them ways to lead a healthier lifestyle by finding an activity that you two can enjoy together. Hiking, running, frisbee, yoga, dancing, whatever! Find something that you both enjoy, and find a way to do it a regular basis.
Once you start acting healthy, it’s easier to start thinking healthy and you never know, maybe your partner will be more open to explore your enthusiasm for a plant based lifestyle.
Offer to cook! Maybe you don’t do the cooking normally, and the meals are mostly non-vegetarian, or you always eat out in a steak house. It’s time to grow up and learn how to cook a vegetarian meal! A romantic healthy dinner by candle light is totally gonna score you major points 😉
Ask them for support. We believe that most friction in any relationship is caused by lack of communication. The support of your partner is perhaps important to you but did you tell them how much it means to you? Explain to them that you want to live a better life, and the support from them would mean the world to you.
Sharing your life with somebody who doesn’t have the same healthy, ethical or moral values as you is difficult, but doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. You have the power to be a leading example – however, be careful not to attach yourself to the result. Be patient, change takes time.
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
We would bet that your positive example and improved outlook on life will have a positive effect on your wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/parents/coworkers/children… Don’t judge them or insult them for their choices or force them to change – just be awesome, and they will follow.
If you have been down this road before and fell of track due to social pressure, in our AV Coaching we provide weekly emails that help you stay motivated. Basically we become your support system. We provide you with all the tools to help make your transition (or commitment) to a plant-based lifestyle easier – we also target and help you break through all of these “usual” sticking points along the way. If you’re ready to make that change for yourself, or just need help staying on track – LEARN MORE.
Dedicated to your well-being