I’ve spent the last six months transitioning to a vegan, gluten-free diet. Problem is, my friends and family not only think I’m crazy, but they’re fed up with having to accommodate me. Any tips on making this transition smoother? – Discouraged
First of all, I commend you for doing what’s right for your body, your health and the planet.
Second, who the hell are these people you call your tribe?
It’s true that “special diet” people can be a pain in the ass. But you’re a pain in the ass that’s doing something valuable. It’s not like you’ve decided to join a freaky robe-wearing, Reebok-sporting cult that requires the blood of a virgin and your first-born son for membership. You’re changing your diet, love. That’s all.
What I’ve noticed is that people have the capacity to get real weird when you start openly challenging their treasured ideas about “what has always been.” But don’t get me wrong – it’s not like you’re deliberately challenging them (unless of course you’re being one of those preachy vegans; don’t do that). No, no. But just by opting for something new, something healthier, it’s throwing in their faces a whole shitstorm of questions that, deep down, they probably have about their own choices.
So first off, leave the guilt trip at the door. You’re not doing anything wrong by now having “special” needs and needing a little accommodation.
And as for making the transition smoother, your question reminds me of a fundamental truth about life: when you’re in the middle of a rough spot, the hardest part is to remember that it won’t last forever. So while it might seem like you’ll never enjoy pizza night with your posse or family dinners ever again, buck up, kiddo. It’s going to get easier.
For now, take a deep breath, arm yourself with information, and prepare to bring your own food to every social function for a while. Suss out the spots you can safely order something on the menu that jives with your needs. Yes, it’s a bitch. And yes, it will get easier with time.
The easiest way to show your friends and family that your weird dietary needs aren’t really a problem is to lead by example. Show them how to bake a mean batch of gluten-free brownies. Explain how easy it is to find meat-free substitutes at the store. Take them by the hand and lead them into the fires of vegan hell. Make them have a look around. They’ll see it’s not so bad. And once you blow their narrow minds with logic, reason and education, they may stop giving you a hard time. Hell, you might even convert a few people.
Lastly, ever thought about finding some friends that are in the same boat? Just about every city has a vegan or vegetarian Meetup group. Get on the Internet and friend-hunt. Post fliers on the dorm activity board. Having a few support people who know what you’re going through is invaluable.
Above all, don’t get all holier-than-thou. Congrats – you’re officially a healthy badass. But demanding that everyone understand and be as badass as you are? That ruins the charm. Live and let live, pumpkin. Everything’s easier that way.
Beezus is the incarnation of your snarky best friend, your no-nonsense Italian grandmother and your church pastor. She loves clean sheets, loud music, the smell of basil, and helping you figure out your life.
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