I would say that almost half of the emails I get from people regarding going plant based for health are not to do with the person themselves, but with someone else. It’s a father who is overweight , a sister with diabetes, a Grandmother with cancer, a sister who is obese, a wife who is depressed all the time. These e-mails are always so heartfelt, and filled with so much concern. Family, friends who do not want to see their loved one suffer, or worse, who have read up on going plant based for health reasons, and see the benefit of it, but they do not know how to talk to their family member or friend about it.
Currently, in my own life there are several people that I am so concerned for. People who are headed down the road that I went down. I know the road, it is horrible, and painful, and I would not wish it on my worst enemy. These people in my life have seen me go through hell and back, and so you would think that they would be the first to jump up and say “I NEED TO GET HEALTHY FAST!!!” and they would come over and we’d make tasty meals, they would want recipes, and they would start to change their health. In a perfect world, that’s how I see things going, but unfortunately it’s a really tricky and hard thing to talk about and to approach.
As someone who was probably the subject of many concerned conversations, I feel like I can shed some light on the subject..
1. Do it for yourself first.
The best example is a real one. Go plant based, there are a TON of reasons to eat a plant based diet aside from health, and not to mention that you yourself will avoid some potential nasty problems later on. But if you are not plant based, and then suggest to someone else that it is the answer, you won’t get very far.
2. Be respectful.
There are a lot of reasons why people are the way they are. Understand that the reasons why someone might be overweight, or why they might engaged in other unhealthy behavior is something MUCH more deep than they just like to eat.
3. Get to know them.
This might sound ridiculous, of course you know your husband/daughter/best friend! However, I think a lot of people hide some of the deeper issues. The biggest question is: Do they care enough about their life to save it? Think of how many people are unhappy about their life, they might hate their job, their commute, their relationships/or lack of relationships. Talk about some of the deeper stuff, if they are happy in their life, and start there.
4. As hard as it is try not to push it all on them.
This is the hardest for me. Mostly because I almost lost my life to diabetes and obesity, and I don’t want to see anyone go though what I had to. There are 2 kinds of people in this:
The person standing a few feet from the trains: this is a person who is sick right now, who might have diabetes, be obese, who you know does not have time to mess around. It is a person who is standing a few feet from a train that is seconds from running them over. In this case, in my opinion, there is no time to take your time in talking to them. The best way to approach this is to say something like “Hey look, I know you might be angry with me for saying something, but I love you and care for you so much, and I can’t think about not having you in my life for a very long time. I am really concerned with your health. And I’m willing to help you in anyway that I can. I’ve been reading a lot on people who have cured their health problems by going plant based, and I’ve done so myself, and I can tell you it’s really really easy, and not extreme. I know that you have tried many times, but it seems like this is a really good and well researched answer to a lot of stuff. If you want we can read through some of it together, and we can do this together. I just want what is best for you.”
or… the person who is just coming up to the train tracks… This is a person who has a few really bad habits, or who has been “lucky” so far with their health. Usually the best way to talk to them is to talk about what you are doing/eating stories you are hearing, and offering to make meals as well. You might need to tread lightly with this person, and just decide that you are going to be an example by the life you are living, not the life you wish they would live.
5. If you are living with the person you are concerned for: CHANGE the kitchen.
Tell them you would like to shop for new stuff, find time in your schedule to cook and try things out. Tell them that you are concerned for yourself.
6. Know the facts.
Pick up some good books like China Study, Becoming Vegan to get some information under your belt. Know the answer to things like “Why is dairy bad” and “But doctors say that meat is okay”.
7. Reassure the person that you love them and that they are beautiful, especially if this person is married to you.
Let the person know that they are a wonderful, beautiful person, and that the reason you want to find out about a plant based life is so that they both of you can make the best decision for you and your family.
8. If they don’t want to hear it, let it go. This is the hardest one.
I’ve had to stop talking to some people who I really love about the plant based life because they do not want to hear it. Often it’s like hearing someone say they just don’t care enough about their life. It can be really hard to see. But you have to know that you tried, and that sometime in the future there might be something that they can remember or hang onto.
9. Be glad for ANY progress.
I’ve also struggled with this, when someone tells me that they want to go plant based or vegan, but then say they only had fast food 2 times this week. I’ve had to realize for them that might be HUGE and something to be celebrated. Try to celebrate the small victories along the way. If they tell you they tried a vegan recipe or tried a new fruit or veggie be really happy for them.
10. Be patient!
Remember that if you are vegan or plant based you were not always that way. It took something for you to change, and more than likely it will take something for someone else to do do the same.