In the beginning, the hardest part about giving up all those savory animal-based foods could be telling others that you gave up all those savory animal-based foods. Compared to that, the diet itself can be easy!
Why do I say that? It’s because of how people react to this seemingly devastating (to them) news. Often they are shocked by it. Often they are disappointed, as if they just lost their best friend. They may fear that you just joined some kind of cult. They may be afraid that you won’t be any fun anymore. They may worry that you didn’t think this through (and secretly hope that it won’t last). They get quiet. You can almost see the wheels turning in their head as they process this new information.
Then come the questions: WHAT?!?! REALLY?!?! WHY?!?! How are you going to get enough protein? Where will your calcium come from? (Same place cows get their protein and calcium) Suddenly everyone is an expert in nutrition. Can you still eat chicken? (No) Can you still eat fish? (No) But at least you can still eat eggs? (No) What’s left? (Tons of veggies, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds).
Then come the knowing comments (they also become experts on the effects of a plant-based diet): You know you will get tired and weak, it’s just a matter of time. You know you won’t be strong enough to work out. You know this can't be healthy. You know you will need to take protein supplements. You know this can't last. You know you will…. You know you won’t…. You know….
And, of course, EVERYONE has a story about someone they know or someone they heard of through a friend who tried to be vegan, and then got so weak, tired, and sick that they had to start eating meat again (what they don't know is that the person was eating only doughnuts, chips, and soda - that's vegan - and that's really why that person got so weak, tired, and sick).
The idea of consuming only whole plant-based foods seems foreign (and crazy) to most people because generations of us have been raised under the same dietary guidelines devised by the USDA telling us that we need meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs to be healthy. The only problem is that many of those who have served on the USDA panels that created or updated the dietary guidelines also had/have interests in those very industries whose foods are recommended by the USDA’s guidelines. Hmmm.
It’s no wonder that people react the way they do when you tell them that you adopted a whole food plant-based diet. They don't believe it's healthy. And typically all they can think about is what you’re giving up without considering what you’re gaining in return.
They probably don’t know about all the amazing healthful benefits, such as increased energy, feeling light, weight loss, looking and feeling younger, stable blood sugar, complete reversal of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, glowing skin, clearing of acne, elimination of migraine headaches, elimination of erectile dysfunction, reduced risk of ever getting a chronic degenerative disease, likely reducing and possibly getting off any medications, and improved survival if you already do have a chronic degenerative disease to name a few.
They probably also don’t know about the many winning triathletes who adopted a whole food plant-based diet for more energy and better recovery times and found that their performances actually improved with the diet.
Although, they are likely to notice and even admit to a marked change in you. The first things they will probably notice is that you've lost some weight and how healthy and vibrant you look. They will notice that the bags that normally live under your eyes are gone. And although they won’t quite trust the diet, they may become more curious to learn more about it.
I like to think of being on a whole food plant-based diet as being the kid with the helmet. When I was a kid, nobody wore helmets when riding bicycles or skiing. Anyone who wore a helmet got picked on. Eventually, as statistics revealed the toll of not wearing helmets, we learned that something had to be done, and began wearing helmets to keep us safer. Now nearly everyone wears a helmet on a bicycle or on the slopes. Those who don’t are the ones who get picked on today.
Right now those of us who have adopted a whole food plant-based diet are the “kids with the helmet”, and we get picked on. As the majority of people become more and more aware of the toll of consuming the Standard American Diet, and that controlling their own health is as simple as choosing whole plant-based foods over animal-based foods, like wearing helmets, eventually more and more people will embrace and adopt a whole food plant-based diet.
Until then, all I can say if you’re a “kid wearing a helmet” is to get used to the questions and come up with good answers that hopefully help to educate those around you. Eventually I believe that almost everyone will be “wearing helmets”.
Add a comment below telling us your favorite story about breaking the news to your friends and family.