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How to Handle Unsupportive People

May 11, 2011|32Comments|


Congratulations! You’ve taken the first steps toward living a healthy lifestyle or maybe you’re already a wellness warrior vet. In any event, you’ve grabbed the unicorn reigns of your present and future, and for that I want to give you a virtual hallelujah! Yet, sometimes making healthy choices can be tough – not only on a personal level, but on a social one.

So how do we deal with unsupportive friends, family, co-workers and strangers? Here are some of my personal tips. (I know you have a slew of suggestions too; so share ’em in the comments, love!)

Step 1: Be perceptive. Understand their motivation. It’s easy to feel angry and frustrated when you’re bombarded with odd looks and questions like “Where do you get your protein?” or “Aren’t you worried about osteoporosis and nutrient deficiency?” To approach these questions and concerns with a clear mind, it’s important to know where they’re coming from. Perhaps your mother only knows about animal-based sources of protein and calcium, and she’s genuinely worried that you’re going to damage your health. Your sister might fear that you’ll never enjoy another night of bonding over movies and vanilla milkshakes, which has always been her most treasured moments with you. Maybe your best friend is addicted to McDonald’s and facing an uphill battle with her weight and cholesterol. She might be defensive about her own diet and taking out her insecurity and ignorance on you. The people you’re closest to might be wondering if they’ll have to change too.

Mostly, a negative reaction stems from fear of change and a lack of education. Once you understand the motivation behind their reaction to your diet and lifestyle, you can build a positive strategy for communication. If your audience is open and ready to receive information and new experiences, then get ready to unleash your hot wisdom, wit, love and compassion.

Remember, judgment sucks. No matter what side of it you’re on.

Step 2: Be prepared. You can’t be a teacher without going to school yourself! When you’re dealing with a skeptic who responds to facts, have some handy research and websites to lean on. If they’re a bookworm, suggest that they read a couple chapters from books like “The China Study,” “Crazy Sexy Diet,” “Becoming Vegan” or any of Neal Barnard’s many books. (Here are a bunch more reading recommendations.) Sometimes only a well-crafted film can bring on an “a-ha” moment. Check out these mind-opening flicks: “Food Matters,” Simply Raw,” “Forks Over Knives” and “Food, Inc.”

If you want to feel confident when put on the spot, make sure you can answer common questions about the plant-based diet. Check out The Vegetarian Resource Group’s website for lists that cite vegan/vegetarian sources of calcium, protein, iron and other nutrients, so that you’re not at a loss for words when asked how you survive without the moo juice. While you’re at it, you may want to ask a few of your own questions. Point out the benefits of checking the ingredient lists on packaged foods, and ask your critics if they’re aware of how preservatives and things like high fructose sugar affect their health. Ask them if they want more energy and a better night’s rest. Certainly Crazy Sexy Diet can help with that – cellulite too (um, but be gentle with the cellulite thing. You may offend. Asking your Aunt Ruth if she wants to lose her jiggly ass fat is probably not an effective go-veg strategy!) Don’t overwhelm them, but a few friendly inquiries about their own choices might help them understand why you’ve chosen to eat more whole, fresh, plant-based foods.

Step 3: Be strategic. Dealing with unsupportive people comes with the territory when we become “Prevention is HOT” cheerleaders. In the health trenches, communication and education are part of our mission, and we have to be willing to take some knocks. If you want to be a visionary, you can’t play it safe or small; but you can play it smart! Before responding to a question or concern, take a deep breath and flash your bright smile. Let your answer come from that space, rather than a negative or defensive place. This small effort can change your entire interaction for the better.

Secondly, believe in yourself, tootsie! You’ve done your homework and you walk the walk, so there’s no reason to think that you don’t know your stuff. You are very smart. Feel it, believe it. Early in my journey, I was faced with moments of brain-freezing panic while at conferences with a bunch of white coats, talking to hundreds of people about their health. Suddenly, I wanted to crawl under the table! In these situations, I have to be my own biggest supporter and trust that my knowledge, research and experience will carry me through. It’s all at my fingertips when I take a breath and trust. If you do that, you can’t go wrong.

Thirdly, during the conversation be a listener, use humor (if they’re open to it) and share your experiences. It’s a two-way street and your companion deserves the same patience, love and understanding that you expect. Laughter, especially if it’s naughty, is a fantastic strategy. Trust me. These interactions don’t have to be a frickin’ drag. If you can get a few chuckles out of them, you might be able to open their mind and heart a little more. The entire experience will seem less serious, annoying and intimidating so that both of you can chat more freely. Also, share your personal triumphs. No one can argue with the renewed energy, clear skin, better sex life (ooh la la), weight loss or lower cholesterol you know you possess as a result of your clean and green diet and lifestyle! Pique their curiosity by sharing how Crazy Sexy healthy and happy you are.

Finally, don’t waste your energy on people who are not in a place to receive information or respect your personal choices. Plant-biased vampires and toxic people are not worth your precious time, so send them off with a smile (or a bite) before they can zap your zing. Recently, I coached a gal who had reunited with a college pal who was still clinging to their long-ago days of debauchery. She wanted the old Sally back and accused her of losing herself. Unfortunately, she couldn’t see the joy and fulfillment Sassy Sally had found in her life after she let go of burning (and boozing) the candle at both ends. Instead of being happy for her, she picked apart her diet and lifestyle over dinner. Sally was exhausted. Her responses were met with blank stares and their visit left her feeling frustrated and unsettled. Rather than spending hours dissecting Sally’s approach to eating and living, she could have identified that the conversation was going nowhere fast and used trusty, holstered responses:

“I appreciate all of your questions, and I’d be happy to email you some resources later so that you can do some of your own research.”

“I totally understand that this lifestyle isn’t your thing. Can we just leave it at that and have a good time?”

“I’d love to just relax and hear about what you’ve been up to! If you’re still interested in learning about my diet, I’d be happy to lend you some books. If not, let’s agree to disagree.”

Step 4: Be proactive. Now that you’re flying high on green juice, you may want to find fellow enthusiasts! It’s so much more fun when you’re swapping tips and sharing positive experiences with people who are in the same boat. There are tons of places online and probably in your community to hook up with these radical radishes. Check out Meetup.com, My Crazy Sexy Life, my Facebook FanPage, your local health store and veg-friendly restaurants, vegan and vegetarian festivals, or join a local vegetarian association.

One of the best ways to educate others is by being you! Host a party and pack the table with your favorite vegan and raw goodies. Bring your juicer or blender with you when you visit friends and family, and treat them to a glass of green goodness. Going to a potluck? Knock their socks off with your best dish. If you are a creative whiz in the kitchen and a master of veg-substitutions, your pals will be wowed by your vegan chocolate birthday cake and they’ll realize that this lifestyle is not about deprivation. Grandma’s butter cookies don’t need to be trashed at the next holiday gathering, but maybe you’ll start your own tradition by bringing a delicious vegan cookie that makes mouths water. Why not bring the recipe too? Holidays, parties, and family dinners are prime locations for strutting your new skills in the kitchen. So get cooking, dehydrating, juicing and blending! Healthy, nourishing, delectable food is love and education in one.

OK, your turn! How do you cope, share, educate, listen and grow with the people in your life who might not be up to speed yet with your diet and lifestyle? Share your knowledge and personal experiences in the comments below!

Peace & patience,

Kris Carr

Photo credit: cayoooSweetOnVegthegreenganster



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32 responses to How to Handle Unsupportive People
  1. Kris, THANK YOU for this. I’m very fortunate to have a husband who is very supportive and willing. At home he indulges in all my vegan dishes and loves them. He will have his dose of meat in restaurants on occasion, but always comes home requesting for veg juice and salad dinners. I feel sharing this lifestyle by action supported with words is best. “Remember, judgment sucks. No matter what side of it you’re on.” — I take this as a personal reminder. Whenever I come across a very unhealthy person dining on “stuff” that is clearly not aiding their condition or filling their lungs with death, I have to consciously keep the judgmental hat from settling on my head.

    After an evening at the hockey rink one night, a group of us went to a pizza joint. 5 of the 6 of us ordered a pizza. I had a large salad. It was the only thing on the menu I wanted to eat. I got some looks, but no questions. When I started to put aside the bits of cheese that topped my dinner, was when I got the question. I just replied that dairy doesn’t sit well with me, which of course wasn’t a lie, but the conversation then casually grew to friends or relatives they knew who were intolerant to dairy and other foodstuffs. With an extremely overweight person at the table, everyone eating processed meat and some drinking diet cola, I wasn’t prepared to “confess” that I lead a vegan diet. -Grace

  2. Such a great blog Kris, thank you!

  3. I was at my kiddos dr. yesterday as he had a 103.6 fever, we had to see a diff dr. and the first thing she said to me was that he was behind on his visits and shots, and looking at me like a very bad person. I quietly said we weren’t doing shots and after saying that we put coconut oil on his eczema and give him probiotics, etc I started to feel like I was a person from another planet. Should I tell her he drinks green smoothies?

    It can be so hard to be judged sometimes. Especially when it comes to choices with our children. Thank you for this piece Kris.

  4. Hi Kris, you are my “Shero”!
    I too am learning to live a healthier lifestyle and I want to juice every morning, but It doesn’t come out right. I bought a Vita-Mix and I want to use it to juice! I haven’t had any luck with it though, juices are thick. I already have a Breville, but I want all that veggies have to offer.
    If you have any suggestions please fill me in, the Vita-Mix is a big investment and I want to use it and not collect dust.
    Your juices come out looking Green and pretty, mine come out not so pretty looking, or tasty. YUCK!
    Thank you in advance.
    Michele

  5. Tara said on May 11, 2011

    If anyone asks why Im veg I Keep it real simple and simply say ‘it just makes me happy’. That covers the animal, environmental, spiritual and health reasons in one foul swoop.

  6. Amy said on May 11, 2011

    Kris, Empowerment is key for me.

    It’s how I am taking baby steps to support myself to make big changes in my lifestyle. After I spent the weekend at Kripalu with you and Terri, I scheduled about a month later a day where I invited my parents & sisters over and I called it Crazy Sexy Family.

    My intention was to educate them in what I’ve learned and encourage us to focus on creating abundant health. First, I led a five minute meditation. Next we watched your documentary. They were so moved by your film. They then so willingly came into the kitchen where supplies were set to green juice! I taught them how to make quinoa and a new way to make sweet potatoes. We sat down shared a meal, toasted our green juice, and taken from The Family Dinner cookbook, we each went around the table and shared our best laugh. Finally, I challenged each of us in the next year to hold a gathering with the focus on sharing a meal together that is vegetable-based. With parents who turn sixty this year, beautiful sisters with husbands and children, and my own family, there is a dozen in my family. It all started with one – ME and now I am beginning to see the awareness and support carried to each of them and their own health goals.

    This had tremendous value and I would encourage more to have CRAZY SEXY friend/family gatherings. We all have so much to share and teach and learn from each other.

  7. What a much needed post. Most everyone in my life is supportive, but you always run into a few, right? My sis-in-law always makes fun if I send her any articles on vegetarian info, she always teases me and says “ok when are you eating meat again, this is just a fad” & always makes sure at every dinner or event to state out loud that she will be eating meat, she needs it for protein and being healthy. Starts to irritate me and I’ve tried to tell her why it is right for me, but she doesn’t want to hear it. She believes her way to be the only way. Aaarrrggghhhh! It is just frustrating. I don’t judge her for eating meat, why judge me?
    Anyway, thanks for this post.
    Suzanne

    • Hi Suzanne,

      You are not alone! I stopped eating meat when I was 10 years old and ever since (I’m 30 now) my older brother has done the exact same thing, including shoving meat in my face and saying “mmmmm!”. I’ve found the only way to counteract his negativity is to let him see how healthy and happy I am and leave it at that. Any time I try to make a comment it just leads to an argument with him needing the last word, especially now that I’m vegan.

      I’ve also found it helps to repeat my favorite Gandhi quote in my head: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

      :)
      -Kate

  8. Great post! This is one of the hardest things to deal with and people do get very defensive! Smiling and staying positive is a great suggestion! I find that if I am patient people either come around or at least stop worrying so much and I get the benefits of having a positive attitude!

    It helps to have such a supportive boyfriend. It also helps to have cool, funny, attractive people like you talking about this stuff! I think my boyfriend has a little crush on you actually. :P He has started many sentences with, “You remember when Kris Carr said…?”! The last sentence he started that way was… “Remember when Kris Carr went to pick out her engagement ring in “Crazy Sexy Cancer”, would you want to do that?”. So… obviously no complaining here!! Ha! Thanks again for all that you do! I am thinking of going to Omega for your workshop so I might see you then! Good luck in all your current projects and have a great day!!
    -Steph

  9. Dena said on May 11, 2011

    “You sure are eating a lot of weird foods lately,” says a relative I’m visiting. “Make sure you take it all with you because otherwise it’ll just go to waste.” But all I have to say to her or anyone uncomfortable with my choices is what my oncologist told me last week:

    “You’re too healthy to be in here,” he said.

    That and the fact that I have an oncologist in the first place is enough to shut most negativity down. Who can argue with someone who is stock piling nutrients to ward off cancer? Not that I go around dropping the cancer card but if pressed, it makes the point.

    I’m not a vegan, vegetarian or even 80% raw and yet the changes I have made in my diet, in light of some of the tasty nuggets in CSD, has resulted in dropping a few pounds, feeling more motivated more often and getting sick less often. Occasionally, someone will ask about my diet and exercise habits and I gladly share what I’ve learned. I remember these people when I encounter negativity, their open minded interest always wins out.

    Kris = the bomb. Your positive energy sparkles through your writing and is utterly contagious. And the research you’ve done has helped inform many of my choices. I happily tell people about CSD all the time. Thanks for more great tips!

  10. When people ask me about being vegan I always say the same thing “It is the best thing I have EVER done for myself.”

    They then ask me if it is hard to stick with, I always respond “NO”

    People seem surprised by this, but it is the truth, it just comes naturally at this point.

    Since becoming vegan I have experienced many rude comments and looks, my favorite was when my guy friend (who is big into hunting) asked if he could borrow the book I read that made me go vegan (Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet). I said, “OF COURSE” thinking he wanted to learn more. His response “good, I just want to look it over to make sure it has its facts straight”. Needless to say, I didn’t give him the book. Nothing he read was going to change his mind.

  11. Meg said on May 11, 2011

    My boyfriend is pretty good at eating all my vegan meals and he doesn’t buy meat. BUT, he will eat it if it’s given to him and he has the metabolism of a 6 year old. I try and tell him that even if he has this metabolism his whole life he still needs to be nourishing his cells with healthy food. Just because your skinny, doesn’t mean you are healthy. But he is healthy for the most part. I get very discouraged when I don’t have my food planned out. It’s some much easier to eat unhealthy in this country then it is to eat healthy. I HATE THAT!! My mission and goal is to make it easier for people to be healthy. I admire you Kris. You are so strong and such an inspiration. I am glad I stumbled upon your blog, books and movies. Keep em coming.

  12. I’m newly diagnosed, March 7th 2011. I’m still wrapping my head around the whole thing. Your book and site have been an amazing resource Kris, thanks for them. I have a follow up with my doctor in June and hope that the diet changes I have made yield positive results.

    My live in partner doesn’t think diet change is beneficial. I of course disagree. He is not very supportive and it is difficult. “Remember, judgment sucks. No matter what side of it you’re on.” This statement prompted me to write a comment. I was looking forward to a smoothie yesterday after a long day at work. I get home and he tells me my frozen blueberries melted because he was cleaning out the freezer and had to be thrown out! I had a major meltdown to say the least. They say there are no accidents, this article came at just the right time. Thanks again.

  13. It’s crazy how I’ve been that person of resistance to my vegan and vegetarian friends. I’ve made a huge change in my lifestyle, mostly from having health conscious friends being slow and steady in their lifestyles. Also, my super health crazy gf is a huge source of inspiration to me.

    This post is refreshing. I am not full blown vegan or anything, but I am walking slowly to that path :)

  14. I think It is the label that scares people. I tend to not call myself a vegan or vegetarian. (Depends on the day for me.) I just make healthy choices. I must say the longer I live healthy, the more people I find catching on and joining in. All my sister-in-laws are now addicted to juicing, my mother-in-law makes quinoa regularly, and many friends have made positive life changes. I think seeing is believing, and when your family and friends see a healthy, happy, sparkling you they will want a taste of what you are eating! HEY KRIS IF YOU ARE READING, DO YOU EVER TAKE VITAMINS??

  15. I definitely have run across some resistance, mostly because I’m healing myself holistically from cancer, so the diet and the no chemo freaks people out. I blogged some tips about being a Vegan Freak here: http://existingstricky.blogspot.com/2010/10/vegan-freak-being-vegan-in-non-vegan.html

    Great post Kris! You continue to be an inspiration :)

  16. Kim said on May 11, 2011

    Thank you so much! I’ve been having trouble explaining my diet to my Mom (very old school) and most of my friends. I don’t know any vegetarians, let a lone vegans! Could be because I live in Texas and well, they are meat eaters! I love your book and your energy!

    kim

  17. Great post Kris and very useful for people. I eat a plant-based diet but don’t call myself vegan as I totally understand that’s an entire lifestyle. If people ask I say I prefer a plant-based diet for health reasons, and they usually don’t ask or say any more. I’m not here to convince people. But when people tell me I look great, or have great energy, or ask if I REALLY lowered my cholesterol 40 points in 5 weeks, I tell them how I did it. On my blog, all my recipes now are vegan, but I still provide other ideas/alternatives, as people are all over the spectrum and I want them to feel welcome and to try the super-delish recipes. So far, so good!

  18. Thank you for this post. I became a vegetarian several years ago. After reading several books, seeing several films and reading Crazy Sexy Diet, I have been strictly vegan for the past several weeks. For many years I have done fruit smoothies in the am. I just started juicing. I have NEVER felt better. Who knew broccoli could taste so good?! :) I am a family physician. I constantly get questions from patients, family and friends about diet. I think most judgement comes from other people not wanting to be judged themselves for the way they are eating. After all, the Standard American Diet is mainstream. So, most people see that as normal. It may be the norm but it isn’t normal. These were great tips to deal with how to handle the barrage of questions.

  19. Hey Kris,
    I’m trying to stick to you’re FABULOUS diet plans but I cannot live without ciabatta bread and I HATE spinach & kale.
    In response to your blog I have once had a very bad experience for being vegan. One day at lunch
    I couldn’t open my thermos of vegan nacho sauce,so I asked my friend Lena to open it for me. Lena did and said ” EWWW that’s GROSS I’m going to puke!” And she ran out of the cafeteria. I switched spots so I could eat my lunch. When Lena came back she found me and said ”I really DID puke you know” she said it like i was guilty or something! And Lena OBVIOUSLY didn’t puke she was gone for,like, 30 seconds. I told Lena I moved so I could eat my lunch and she’s all, well so-ry and I couldn’t eat my lunch I was totally starved all day. That night I was crying SO hard my mom called her’s, and her mom made Lena apologize.
    But Kris you are an amazing inspiration for me thank you so much! I’m only 9 and your my role model!

  20. Samika…. I love you honey.
    You guys rock! xo kc
    Ps — yes, I take supplements. More on that in another post. :)

  21. Hey Samika,
    Thank you for sharing your experience. Good for you being healthy! Forget Lena! ;) At only 9… you are an inspiration!!! Good luck with everything!!
    -Steph

  22. Wow! Thank you, Kris and all the lovely comment writers, for this amazingly comprehensive conversation on how to handle unsupportive people.

    When someone says something unhelpful, I try to remember a great suggestion from the late, great Elizabeth Edwards. She said, “When someone says the wrong thing, try to remember they meant to say the right thing.”

    I truly believe people don’t want to be hurtful, and assuming positive intent on their part really helps me to clear up any misunderstanding and hurt feelings.

    Thanks again for this awesome post (and comments)!

  23. im a vegan and loving it…check my healthy lifestyle and how do i enjoy it with my family check my blogsite…http://drritamarie.com/blog/

  24. I wanted to share a story about my dad, who is 79. He sees a doctor pretty regularly because he has had many health issues and concerns. Although he eats well now, he didn’t till about 10 years ago. Since his lifestayle change he is much healthier, but still dealing with the baggage of that other life. He is very knowledgeable and has read (and continues to read) all the great books we have at our disposal, such as The China Study. Recently, he saw his doctor who has on more than one occasion expressed concern about my father’s diet. The doc said he felt my dad didn’t understand what he was doing to himself. My dad said with all due respect, he probably knew more than the doc did. The doc asked my dad if he would just humor him and take some blood tests. So, he did. Several days later, my dad received a letter from the doc who started it by saying, “well, Larry… if I had a hat, I’d eat it.” The blood tests all showed that all his levels were perfect… even his proteins… .

    I am hoping that this little experience will motivate this doc to learn more, and maybe in a few years we will see him in the trenches next to us.

  25. This is great- but one point, that whole helping with cellulite thing? Yeah, it might help some people when they go vegan to reduce it, but if your genes cause the cellulite, like it does with most women, going vegan may not help at all. I dropped 10 pounds when I went vegan but my genetics do not allow for cellulite reduction even with no junk food. I certainly agree it will most likely help you get healthy and lose weight overall, but it doesn’t fix every little thing.

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  28. Loved the article! Full of excellent points, and helpful to know I’m not alone in experiencing difficulties and strained relationships with others who don’t (or won’t) understand my vegan lifestyle. I have taken most of the steps discussed, but it was a great reminder to avoid getting “sucked into” someone else’s negativity. Rather, diffuse the situation with humor or deflection (share valid research at another time).

    There is no reason to feel that I owe anyone an explanation for my choices. It is only out of respect and love that I address any concerns. But, always, my motivation is to positively affect their health and well-being.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  29. Undeniably believe that which you stated. Your favorite reason
    seemed to be on the internet the simplest thing to be aware of.

    I say to you, I definitely get irked while people
    consider worries that they just don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

  30. I started exploring on how to become a vegan about three weeks ago. It was when I first watched vegucated and food matters. Honestly I started telling everyone right away. The first person I told was my husband, he was very very supporting especially because on my side of the family there’s a lot of sicknesses like diabetes high blood pressure cancer(breast, stomach, ovarian and colon), so he still supporting me all the way! Then I told others like my mom my sister brother and dad, cousins and some friends… The only negative reaction came from one of my cousins he was insulted and called it my religion. One of his first questions was Where are you getting your protein? And before I even respond he said you are probably going to get it from artificial products! Of course he was shocked when I answered with nuts, edamame, hummus, chickpea etc…. He had nothing else to say….. It really helps when you are well informed….. By the way I’m hispanic (mexican to be exact)! It’s really hard to be vegan in my family but little by little people are starting to be interested like my sister she has joined me so now I have a buddie!

  31. There’s definately a great deal to learn about this subject.
    I like all of the points you’ve made.