How to turn your family vegan
How I convinced my family to change the way they eat is a question I get asked ALL the time, so I thought I'd dedicate a post to this important topic.
Truth is, you can't (and shouldn't!!) force someone to become vegan, or change any other aspect of their diet or lifestyle. In the end, only the person themselves can change what they put in their mouths, so it must be THEM who is willing to make that change too!
When I first went vegan, my family wasn't very happy about it, even though I'd been vegetarian already for many years. They, like most people, thought a vegan diet was extreme, inadequate and also just another form of my eating disorder trying to take control and restrict what I could eat. But by sticking to my beliefs and showing them how passionate I was about veganism - and that it was neither one of those three things - eventually, they began to accept and even support me being vegan. And slowly start to take some little steps in the same direction!
It started by switching from cow's milk to plant based alternatives and reducing the number of times they ate meat per week. Now my Dad has been fully vegan for almost a year, my Mum is mostly plant-based (occasionally eating cheese or seafood when she eats out) and my sister is vegetarian! And I am so proud of them.
I've condensed what I think helped plant the seeds to the idea of making these changes into 5 points, to hopefully help you in guiding your family to make some positive changes to their lifestyles too!
1. Educate them
The key here is to find the balance between gently educating the people in your life about where their food comes from and the many different consequences that different food choices have vs being pushy and preaching about it, which often scares people away. Asking your family and friends to watch a documentary with you (see my suggestions here) or showing them a short video (or tagging them in some on Facebook!), is always a great place to start.
If you have a family member that has certain interests or passions, such as healthy eating, fitness or environmentalism, you can also recommend or give them books and articles to read concerning this particular subject. People are far more likely to react positively and show interest when the topic is something they themselves are passionate about!
It's also very important that you know your facts, so you are able to answer any questions they may have and help plant some seeds!
2. Be a role model
One of the single most effective things you can do to inspire someone to change their lifestyle is by being a positive role model and the healthiest, happiest and most vibrant version of yourself!
By showing others how passionate you are about veganism, how much energy you have and how much of a joy it is to be vegan, people become interested and are often inspired to give it a go themselves. Being positive about veganism, showing your family the delicious and abundant foods you can enjoy, and taking good care of yourself to ensure you look and feel healthy and thriving is a wonderful way to spread the vegan message. The best part of this point is that you're not really even doing anything, instead just inspiring people to make positive, conscious and healthy choices all by themselves!
3. Vegan food
Everyone loves food. And food is also one of the main things holding people back from becoming vegan, as they believe vegan food is boring, bland, restrictive and difficult. It's your job to change their opinion!
Offer to cook for them and show them how easy, delicious, satisfying and versatile vegan food is, how you can eat in abundance! The internet, blogs, magazines and cookbooks have a wealth of recipes for you to try out and see if you can impress your friends and family! Cook vegan versions of their favourite foods (think pizza, spaghetti bolognese, mac'n 'cheese', veggie burgers...), make them delicious cruelty-free treats and take them to vegan restaurants to eat.
Mock meats and other plant based alternative products, such as vegan cheeses, yoghurts and ice-cream, also make the transition to plant based eating a lot easier, so embrace all the wonderful and diverse options that are available from our supermarkets these days!
4. Don't be pushy
This is very important. Being that pushy or preachy vegan will annoy most people and often has the opposite effect you're hoping for, turning people away. It's important that people feel in control of their choices and aren't pressured into doing anything. This way they themselves will become passionate about it, resulting in sustainable and long-lasting changes, because they made the decision for themselves!
Keep in mind that food choices are often a very sensitive subject, so it's important to know when it's time to back off and leave it for another day. And never make anyone else feel bad about what they are eating. Remember, most likely you were in their position too a while ago!
5. Be patient
This follows on from the last point in not being pushy about it and instead being gentle and supportive of small, positive and lasting changes!
These things take a lot of time. Sometimes there may be a few steps backwards or you might feel like you aren't making a difference, but you have to believe me when I say: YOU ARE! Over time, even if your loved ones don't become fully vegan, I can guarantee they will be inspired and informed to make more educated and ethical choices in their everyday lives and slowly start to make the connection. Showing love, compassion and empathy to all are the core values of veganism, and these apply to fellow humans too, even if we do horrible things sometimes...One step at a time.
Lastly, always remember: In a world were you can be anything, be kind.
I hope this post helps you in feeling more confident in how to support and inspire your family and friends to make some positive food and lifestyle choices. And I would love to hear any of your own tips or experiences! xx