As new and even veteran vegans, many of us often deal with an unsupportive family. Our family may not agree with our personal choice of becoming vegan. Whether it is because they are traditional and don’t believe we can survive without eating animal products, or because they are afraid we won’t get enough nutrients, or they think that a vegan diet is too restrictive, families often get very concerned about this transition and make it even harder on the new vegans among us.
In this blog post, I will address how to deal with an unsupportive family as a vegan. I have combined the advice and tips of 4 awesome vegan bloggers who, like many vegans, have had to deal with these situations. They each have their own unique approach about how to deal with an unsupportive family, and I have also added my top tips as well. I hope these will be helpful to any of you who are struggling with a family member who gives you that look (or comment) at the dinner table, or those of you who really want your family to go vegan and you don’t know how to talk to them about it.
If you’re a newbie vegan reading this and want more tips on how to go and stay vegan, read my mini-guide post: Becoming Vegan: How to Transition to a Vegan Diet + a Raw Food Diet. It’s loaded with great information that will support you on this journey.
And if you want to hear some funny vegan family stories and more of my tips, check out my video:
Now, let’s get into some great tips on how to deal with an unsupportive family as a vegan.
How to Deal with an Unsupportive Family as a Vegan: Set an Example
Many family members have probably told you that you are pushing your vegan diet on them. Whether you actually are or not, it is quite possible that they will perceive you as pushy if the concept of veganism is very new and strange to them.
Janine says, “Try and come from a place of understanding and not push your family and friends too much (even though that might be hard at times). Show them how great you feel on the Vegan Lifestyle and be an example of all the benefits it brings. When they see how well you are doing they will become interested and will want to know more about Veganism. Don’t force them.”
Tiasha says, “just be the example and show them what’s possible. Live what you preach and the results that they will see on you will naturally get them curious. This is exactly what we want. To get them curious. But don’t try to convince them into something because it will not work. If we begin proving something to someone, we are actually telling them that we are smarter than they are. And by doing that we only destroy their ego. We will never be able to influence them like that. Also, nobody likes a “know it all”, so don’t come out like you have all the answers, this will again make them feel like you are superior to them in a way. Instead, make them curious and get them to ask questions.
If they want to argue with you about it, they are probably concerned. They are usually asking questions like: “But where do you get your protein?!” or “No, you cannot survive without meat!!”… What I would do in this case is not try to win the argument, I would just say: “Hm.. I’m not really sure. Where do YOU get your protein?”, or to the second argument that you cannot survive without meat, I would just say: “Yes, maybe. But this is currently working for me. I feel better than before but you may be right.” By letting them know that you’re not so sure about everything yourself, it actually has a positive effect on the relationship. This way, you are reassuring them.”
I have a great example of being able to do this in my personal life. When my partner and I started our vegan journey, his family were very confused of what we were doing. They often mocked us, lovingly, and blankly stared as we chugged our giant delicious green smoothies.
While my partner would often harass them with, “your intestines are probably rotting right now because of all the animal carcasses you just ate”, I took a different approach. Perhaps it was easier for me to do this because I didn’t feel comfortable yelling at them…
Every get together with them, I’d bring a delicious vegan or raw vegan dish, and ask them to try it. The more time went on, the more they could see how serious we were about being vegan. That it was not just a fad, but a wonderful lifestyle for us. They saw how good we felt and looked, and also really enjoyed the food we brought for them to try.
His parents are now mostly vegan, and are striving to completely cut out animal products from their diet. It took over 5 years of being an example to them, but it was so worth it! They always tell my partner that this switch is due to my calm, loving, and understanding approach towards them throughout the years.
Similar to my approach, Sivan Berko also suggests meeting people where they are at, and trying to understand where they are coming from. “If you know a person likes a specific food/ingredient that is vegan, you want to mention it too. The more vegan options and positive light you show the vegan diet, the more open they’ll be in their subconscious mind. It might take a while, but eventually they’ll get there”.
Now, what happens if your family isn’t vegan and you are eager to help them go vegan, whether it is for health reasons, or ethical reasons? In the next section, I will address this question.
How to Deal with an Unsupportive Family as a Vegan: Backing Your Choice with Research
As Olivia Budgen points out, backing your vegan choices with research and knowledge is a great way to show your family that this is indeed a wonderful way of life.
She says,“It is important to kindly and gentle educate your family about a plant based lifestyle through appropriate tools like films, books and articles. A lot of the time family members will open up to the idea of something when they hear it from someone else. So providing reliable, credible sources about the lifestyle is a great way to get them to think about it. Some films include Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives, Earthinglings, and Live and Let Live. Books include The China Study, Making a Killing, and Eat to Live”.
Perhaps your family is worried that you are not getting all of your required nutrients on a vegan diet. Or that your diet is too restrictive and unhealthy.
In this case, I highly recommend showing them the website and youtube channel, www.nutritionfacts.org. On there, you will find a plethora of scientific research on the vegan diet. The website collects data that clearly points to a whole-foods plant-based diet as a way to overcome, prevent, and reverse most of today’s leading killer diseases!
In addition, here are a few blog posts with research-based information on leading nutrient concerns that can help you argue your case as well:
How to Deal with an Unsupportive Family as a Vegan: Know the Nutrition Facts
Sivan Berko also has some great advice about how to respond to questions about vegan nutrition. “A person’s diet is usually a very sensitive topic. When people first hear about the vegan diet, they don’t have a lot of knowledge. It’s hard for them to imagine how it can work because they’ve never experienced it. So you might be their first “exposure” to the topic. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself on how to do it right and in a healthy way. Be prepared for questions. For example, a lot of people would like to know how to get their protein, iron, calcium, etc.
So a smart thing to do will be to learn about the content of macro and micronutrients on the vegan diet and walk people through the list when they ask you about it.
Since we are so programed to think about animal products as the source of protein in our diet, people never even stop to think if there is another option. But there are lots of protein sources on a vegan diet. They just haven’t thought about these foods or are not familiar with them. Things like: tofu, beans, lentils, tempeh, quinoa, leafy greens, etc.
Same goes for calcium; we grew up thinking that dairy products are good calcium source and great for your bones. But actually, they are your bones’ worst enemy. Because of their acidity, your body actually takes calcium out of your bones to help the body return to an alkaline state again. And that’s not the only damage dairy products cause in our body. There’s a lot of information and research about it online. Where can we get calcium on a vegan diet? oranges, leafy greens, tahini, broccoli, tofu, almond butter, beans and more”.
Indeed, there are so many misconceptions out there about veganism. This is a great opportunity to turn those around, in a loving way.
Hope these tips are helpful for you when you discuss veganism around family and friends. Do you have any additional questions or suggestions that weren’t mentioned? Post them below!
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