Dealing With Friends And Family When Transitioning To a Vegan Lifestyle

Dealing With Friends And Family When Transitioning To a Vegan Lifestyle

The one thing we love most about the blog is connecting with our readers. If you read TMV, you’re likely interested in what we’re interested in which is just awesome!

When you signup to get our free cookbook, we reach out to you to find out what your biggest frustrations are as it relates to a minimalist vegan lifestyle. We do this because we want to connect with you one-on-one and get a better understand of how we can help you.

A few weeks ago, we received an email from Stacey outlining her three biggest frustrations. Her feedback was raw and completely relatable. She’s happily agreed for us to share her challenges on the blog and to see if we can offer some advice. At the end of this post, we would love to get input from the community in the comments.

Here’s what’s challenging Stacey at present:

  1. How friends and family keep offering up non-vegan options and thus throwing off her momentum.
  2. How difficult it can be to find simple vegan recipes and simple ingredients.
  3. How to deal with extended family from a different culture that completely doesn’t support veganism.

Today we’re going to tackle frustration number one and we will look at addressing her other queries in future posts.

To give you some proper context, here’s what Stacey wrote in her email:

Everyone watches me like a hawk, waiting for me to slip up, offering me clearly unnecessary and unhealthy options (“just one unhealthy snack/meal, etc won’t kill you!”) . People don’t understand that one must build up a momentum, in order to develop lifelong healthy habits. And to build up that momentum, means you are building and learning the new healthy habits; and that means you cannot take a break and have that one unhealthy snack or meal. Because if you do that, then you break that momentum and screw up the program.

I can absolutely relate to Stacey’s experience regarding momentum. After watching Earthlings almost 18 month ago, I became vegan overnight and have never looked back since. Some people prefer to ease their way in, slowly substituting animal flesh and secretions for plant-based alternatives. This sounds sensible and totally works for some people. But personally I struggle with this approach.

In some ways I think you need to be more disciplined to ultimately reach your goal of being 100% vegan, with the strategy of easing your way in. If you’re making the change for compassionate reasons, you’re constantly feeling guilty every time you eat meat or diary. Even if you are making gradual progress.

Sometimes it’s easier to fully commit with a clear conscience. Figuring it out as you go along. It will be uncomfortable at first and you might have to rely on repetitive food options for a while until you figure out how to get more creative with your cooking. But at least you can look yourself in the mirror and know that you’re placing your ethical vote every single time you eat a meal.

But when it comes to dealing with friends and family, particularly in your transition period, it can be extremely frustrating. Even a little comment like, “oh it’s just one a bit of cheese, it’s not the end of the world”, can completely set you off. You don’t quite understand why the people closest to you won’t support your decision. After all, it’s not affecting their lives, right?

Looking back at our journey into veganism, we realised that we made a huge mistake. We were so amped up and keen to make changes that we forgot to take the time to explain our reasoning to our loved ones. In a way, we felt like we shouldn’t have to explain our stance and people, especially close friends and family should simply accept us for who we are.

But that’s not the way humans think. We all seek some context, especially when it comes to food. For a lot of people, not eating meat, eggs or diary is quite an unusual and a challenging concept to get their heads around. Many people still don’t know what a vegan is!

Stacey, what I recommend you do is block out some time in your calendar this week to organise individual conversations with those who are closest to you, or at least those who are bothering you.

When you make significant changes in your life that are different to what your personal network has been accustomed to, they will naturally resist. You need to remember that they probably used to really enjoy talking about how good that double stack beef burger was with you. And now that you’re vegan, you can’t have those same experiences.

In this instance, it helps to simply explain or perhaps reiterate why you became vegan (in a non-judgemental way of course!), and express that you would really appreciate their support as you try to navigate through this new lifestyle and chapter in life. Reassure them that you understand how it might be frustrating or weird that you’re eating differently, but there are other ways you can connect with each other. Just because you’re vegan, doesn’t mean you’re a completely different person. You still like all of the same music, TV shows and sports, you just choose to live more compassionately towards animals.

Give them concrete examples of how some situations could be dealt with differently in the future. You want to make sure that they fully understand. Lastly, get them to commit. End the conversation by asking, “so is that alright with you?” or “does that sound reasonable?”. Once they say yes, you will likely find that you won’t be getting those comments in the future 🙂

It’s important to be aware that when having these conversations you may get questions or comments that sound like judgement. And in some cases, it is. But most of the time, your loved one may be concerned, or feel like he or she is a little boxed out from your life and is sincerely seeking to understand where you’re coming from. Remember, these people have known you for a long time, and they all do care about you, even if you eat differently to them.

Don’t make the same mistake we did by not fully explaining yourself and slowly building up frustration and in some cases resentment towards those who didn’t support you.

Your relationships might change in the future, but as for now, these are the most important people in your life and they at least deserve an explanation.

If you find after you’ve had a conversation, nothing changes, then you might need to revisit your starting five. But most of the time a good old chat will do the trick.

Hope that helps!

How do you think Stacey should deal with this situation?

We would love to see what you think in the comments below. It doesn’t just have to be about veganism. You could have an experience making any change in your life and felt that those closest to you were trying to sabotage your momentum. How did you deal with it?

6 comments… add one
  • chiara 24/01/2016

    hi guys, great post!
    Personnally I find it more difficult with families as changes are more difficult to accept.
    But it’s also a very good chance to see how really the people around you are by noticing how they react to different approach to life, food and so on. so it’s a good opportunity to really know people, keep the good friends, let go the judgmental…

    • Hi Chiara, glad you liked the post. Love your approach! It certainly is a great opportunity to see who is supportive in your life, regardless of what you believe in. Thanks for sharing.

  • Sarah Wooding 24/01/2016

    I totally agree, friends come and go from our lives at different times for different reasons. It is ok to let go of friends who put a dampener on your goals or sabotage things that are important to you. Making friends through sharing an interest, passion, hobby or sport often creates opportunity to be yourself and the people you meet accept their new friend at face value. I Live in country victoria and am involved in a range of horse riding pursuits which means I am often with some major carnivores at meal times. Whilst it is difficult to sit with people eating BBQ type meat especially, I have enjoyed the conversations about being vegan as they often lead to more general conversations about health, other life goals etc and have only been positive before moving on to another topic. Family can be a different matter. I just take my own food, or eat before I go and laugh as I re-state the fact that “I knew you wouldn’t cater for me anyway!” I am again labelled as the slightly difficult one…but it’s my life, my choice and I choose to be proud and enjoy the health choices I make.

    • Thank you for sharing your experiences with us Sarah. It’s great that you see an opportunity in such situations as it can often be difficult to face these conversations. It’s interesting that you go out of your way to make your own food and not be an inconvenience to others yet you’re still considered to be difficult. Anyway, you have every right to be proud of your choices!

  • Ashley Woodward 11/10/2017

    Starting a comment with “every change is difficult” sounds so obvious, doesn’t it? But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s difficult if you jump into veganism over night as much as when you go through the transition gradually. I personally was a vegetarian for a few years before switching to veganism almost 8 years ago and still had few ups and downs along the way, especially when kids came along. The thing is, veganism shouldn’t replace who you are, I’m still Ashley, and I introduce myself as Ashley not Vegan, Ashley before was the same friend as vegan Ashley is. I gradually changed my lifestyle and a diet, but I was always a compassionate person and an environmentalist, no matter my diet or now “no leather shoes zone”. If I’m invited to a BBQ without vegan options (yes, it happens even after all these years) I just skip the meals (usually have a snack packed just in case), but still enjoy hanging out with my family and friends, don’t pout in the corner. You have your reasons and views and you want people around you to understand them, and they are just the same. Point is, you answer questions and clarify, but you don’t have explain yourself. It’s your life and your reasons. Plus, in my experience you can’t make people do anything no matter how loud you are, you can just be an amazing example of a beautiful compassionate and cruelty-free lifestyle.

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