The plant-based diet has grown in popularity over the recent years. So too has the community, which we consider as one of the most beautiful, kind and supportive groups we have ever come across.
However, as with many things in life, a legion of supporters is not without its own group of critics.
When we started our journey, we weren’t blind to the controversies of the plant-based or vegan diet. The majority of people were genuinely curious about the lifestyle and wanted to know more. But there were people who weren’t particularly fond of this style of eating and wanted their opinions to be heard. Either way, as we went deeper into our journey, we found ourselves engaging in a lot of plant-based discussions.
We know that discussions can take place anywhere, with anyone and can go in all sorts of directions. This is why we’ve compiled 6 tips and strategies that we always use when talking to someone about the plant-based diet. These tips ensure the discussion becomes meaningful and enriching while prioritising our energy and mental health.
1. Be Open-Minded
The number one rule going into any discussion is to be open-minded. Regardless of where you are in your plant-based journey, whether you’re a seasoned devotee or a newbie, having an open-mind will make the discussion much more worthwhile. For us, we 100% know that the plant-based lifestyle is for us and that we won’t ever revert back to our old eating habits. However, this doesn’t stop us from being impartial to a discussion, otherwise, what’s the point of it anyway?
We love listening to the different things people say about the plant-based diet. Whether it is a true fact, a not-so-true statement or just a personal opinion, we believe that our minds become enriched regardless. Either way, we learn something, educate someone or appreciate a comment, it’s all part of the journey. In some cases, when we hear an misinformed opinion about the plant-based diet, the gears in our minds are working so we can research it and deliver it on this blog!
2. Dissociate Your Personal Self
Always remember to dissociate any personal feelings from the discussion. While this is healthy for your mind, it’s also the truth. When debating on a subject, we always make sure to keep on track and void ourselves from feeling offended or hurt. If someone disagrees with the our plant-based lifestyle and expresses certain comments about it, they’re usually at strife with the subject itself, not at us. We don’t take it as an insult and we also know (or sometimes give them the benefit of the doubt!) that the other person certainly doesn’t want us to feel that way either.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bring in personal opinions, anecdotes and feelings about the subject into the conversation. A discussion would be plain without these human touches. However, having a heightened personal reaction and bringing in too much emotion can cloud the discussion and make you feel unnecessarily bad. This is similar to why doctors can’t provide medical care to any of their family or loved ones!
3. Be Kind
At Embody Nourish, we really believe in kindness. It brings people together, allows for understanding and makes the world a better place to live in. Being kind in a conversation can be even more powerful than what you say. That is, people are more willing to listen to kind people rather than someone who is aggressive. Similarly, people tend to generalise a community based on who they know or have talked to. If we are kind, it gives our other friends in the plant-based community a little booster too.
Whenever we read the comments section on a popular Facebook post, we always end up feeling shocked at what we see. More often than not, people engage in meaningless discussions with personal insults and derogatory comments that leave both parties feeling enraged! Person A may start the unkind words but Person B soon follows suit. We believe the best way to handle anything of this nature, as it can appear in many plant-based discussions, is to never go down that path… just kill them with kindness as they say!
4. Be Prepared and Confident
This tip takes us back to uni where we had to prepare for tutorials and lectures… in case the tutor asked us a question on the spot. In a similar vein, knowing your stuff well will allow you to be more confident during a discussion. Those who are genuinely curious about the plant-based diet, or even those who have a more aggressive approach, will ask lots of questions. Even in the case where someone rattles off their opinions and beliefs (which may be unsupported), we would feel obliged to say something, in which case, knowing our stuff well will really help.
We recommend reading The Nourished Edit where we talk about the benefits of plant foods and eating a plant-based diet. As doctors, we believe in an evidence-based approach and that’s why we also link the studies that we’ve referenced. But it’s not just about facts and figures. A common question that people ask is, “why do you want to go plant-based?” Knowing what to say and preparing it briefly in your mind can help you articulate your points out better!
5. Agree to Disagree
In an ideal world, we would all agree to agree. In this world, we have to learn to agree to disagree. Some people won’t change their mind despite being provided with endless evidence (facts, figures, studies, anecdotes). Understandably, this is frustrating. However, we like to envision ourselves in their shoes and think about the other things that we may strongly believe in, that other people may not (for example, religion, a food we love but others hate, politics). This way, it’s easier to accept that it’s best to agree to disagree.
6. Know When to Walk Away
We lied… we think this might also be the number one rule going into any discussion. Know your boundaries and know when to walk away. A discussion uses up a lot of your mental, emotional and social energy. Think back to an argument you might have had with a friend or family member, most likely you would’ve felt exhausted by the end of it and it might’ve just soured the day.
We have a some red flags we look out for when engaging in a discussion. These are our boundaries and we know that the discussion becomes futile once these flags appear. We walk away from the conversation if there are personal insults or early on, underlying intentions or the person gives us reasons to believe that they have a very fixed mindset.
For example, a common Vietnamese dish we often eat has bitter melons stuffed with tofu. For many people who didn’t grow up in a Vietnamese (or Asian) family, a bitter melon is one unusual vegetable. Frankly, it looks like a pimply cucumber and the tastes exactly like its name. We had it for dinner one night and I brought leftovers to uni. Upon seeing my lunch, a guy in my year level started questioning me about it. However, he wasn’t. As I was trying to explain what the unusual looking dish was, he was on his phone, taking a Snap of my lunch and gleefully thinking of the caption to go with the photo. He laughed as his friends on the other side of the room opened up the snap. There wasn’t an inch of quizzicalness after the Snapchat ‘moment’ or expectation of me to continue my explanation… and that’s when I realised he didn’t really want to know.
While that’s not an example of a plant-based discussion, it’s an example of something I wouldn’t put more thought into continuing the conversation.
Discussions Should Be Meaningful and Enriching
Throughout your plant-based journey, you will encounter like-minded people and also not-so-like-minded people. Some people will be respectful, others will not be. Always remember to do yourself a favour and remember that you’re doing this for yourself, not anyone else.