5 Ways To Respond When People Don't Support Your Plant-Based Lifestyle

holistic nutrition plant-based Sep 28, 2022
5 tips to live peacefully with non plant-based people

Ways To Respond When People Don't Support Your Plant-Based Lifestyle

See video at the bottom.

We’ve all been there: you make a lifestyle change that rocks your world (in a good way), and try to share it with everyone—family, friends, roommates, the random jogger—so they can experience the same life-changing benefits. To your surprise, your nearest and dearest aren’t interested in what you’ve discovered or worse, they’re unsupportive, mocking your new way of life. Here are five ways to respond when people don’t support your plant-based lifestyle.


1. Understand that your decision to be plant based is not inconvenient

Changing to a plant-based diet, whether that’s through adding a meatless day to your week or becoming a vegetarian or vegan, will affect some of your interactions with family and friends. The restaurants you used to enjoy together may no longer be a good fit for you, and the grocery list may need to be edited to include your plant-based goodies. People may complain about these changes.


As a result, you may feel like your lifestyle change is inconveniencing everyone around you. Before you go too far down that path, remember that your decision to improve your health in a way that also benefits the planet is a good thing. Not everyone will “get it” or be receptive from day one; this is OK! For you to fully embrace a plant-based lifestyle, you must shift your mindset and own your decision; this means accepting that although your new lifestyle may be uncomfortable for some, doing what’s best for you doesn’t make you or your decision inconvenient. Just don’t be a jerk about it (see below).


2. Set clear boundaries (and respect other people’s boundaries!)

Owning your decision to embrace a plant-based lifestyle means setting boundaries that support your decision. If you share a kitchen with people who eat meat, let them know if the sight or smell of meat bothers you. Most people hate conflict and are naturally solution seekers. When you share a concern that may conflict with someone else’s preference or habit, suggest a solution works for everyone. 


For example, if the smell of meat is bothersome to you, offer to leave the house while meat-based meals are being prepared; this way, the meat lover can cook freely and you won’t be affected by the smell. If the sight of meat grosses you out, refuse to clean any meat residue. Communicate your boundaries in a way that’s respectful and encourage others to share their boundaries so you can respect them (note: their boundaries may have nothing to do with food!). 


3. Be inclusive

Your plant-based lifestyle may be met with negativity if you isolate yourself from people who don’t share your way of eating, instead of using the opportunity to show skeptics how delicious the meat-free life can be. The solution? Be inclusive rather than exclusive, and embrace the opportunity to share your new lifestyle.


For example, if you’re invited to a barbecue, instead of refusing to attend because meat will be served, let your host know you’re plant-based and offer to bring one or two plant-based dishes to share. Hosting is hospitality; once your host knows your dietary preferences, don't be surprised if you’re asked for a plant-based recipe or two that your host can prepare for you! Another way to be inclusive is to ask your host if any other plant-based guests will be attending that you could coordinate food with. Introduce plant-based recipes to your loved ones by trying a new plant-based recipe every week, or by hosting a plant-based meal—make it fun, an adventure, and others may soon join you in your new lifestyle!


4. Don’t be a jerk

Have you ever been convinced to change your lifestyle by someone who told you that your way was wrong and made you feel like crap about your current decisions? I didn’t think so! Vegans get a bad rap about being “in your face” with their lifestyle, which ends up turning people off. A meat-based friend’s attempt to shove their way of life down your (vegan) throat (literally!) would likely make you defend your plant-based lifestyle and reject anything they have to say too, right? Don’t waste your time: remember that you can’t change people; you can only change yourself. 


Don’t be a jerk to people who’ve chosen a different lifestyle from you. Instead, be respectful of their opposing views. If you want to inspire people to change their habits, be a good example and don’t shame, ridicule, or otherwise make others feel guilty about their lifestyle. Learn how to respectfully disagree. Focus on listening with an open mind, educating (when the opportunity presents itself), and offering solutions rather than preaching.

5. Be a reflection of the lifestyle you’ve chosen

Mahatma Gandhi is credited with the quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”; this means your decisions and actions should be a reflection of the lifestyle you’ve chosen. If you’re struggling to stay true to your plant-based lifestyle, ask yourself whether it’s worth compromising the integrity of your chosen lifestyle for the temporary pleasure of eating something that isn’t plant based.


Let’s say you’re a sucker for the cheese that your partner keeps in the house, even though you feel like crap (crampy and bloated, with skin breakouts) after eating it. Instead of blaming your partner for tempting you with cheese, remember who you want to be and why you’ve made the change, and don’t expect others to change for you. This goes back to setting boundaries: let your partner know that you struggle to resist cheese and ask them to help you by hiding the cheese or buying smaller quantities at a time so there isn’t enough for you. 


Life would be easier if those closest to you supported your decisions, but it’s more likely that you’ll be met with resistance and a lack of support. By focusing on the reasons you've made this lifestyle change and responding to negative reactions with grace and openness, you’ll be able to confidently own your choices and you may even inspire others to follow suit. But if, despite your efforts, you’re still faced with negativity, consider limiting your exposure to people who threaten your ability to maintain your positive lifestyle change.