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vegetarian diets

The Healthy Book Club girls in Miami

So you’ve finally done it. You’ve made healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle and you feel great. In fact, you feel better than ever. But, there’s just one thing missing. You’re friends and family aren’t exactly on board and it’s driving you a little batty. There are those times when they conveniently “forget” and plan a fast food lunch or maybe they even tease you and challenge your new healthy habits.

Never fear. With a little patience and some strategy you can get the support you need from the people you love. When I declared myself a vegetarian at the age of 13, I wasn’t the most popular person in my family. But I had thought my decision through and was firm in my beliefs. I was willing to prepare my own meals (my caring mom never actually made me do this) and tirelessly, yet lovingly, reminded my grandparents that I no longer ate meat (difficult being the granddaughter of a butcher). Twenty years later (though it didn’t take quite that long to get the fam on board), my family still accepts my lifestyle even as I continue to make changes.

Suffice to say, I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, but have learned a whole lot more. Here are my top tips for ensuring you have stellar support.

1. Forgive: It may sound far-fetched but the best way to counter negative reactions to your new lifestyle is to respond with kindness. If you are experiencing teasing or friends and family who challenge your healthy decisions, recognize (inside) that their reaction may be based on their own fears – perhaps they have wanted to make similar changes but don’t know how or aren’t ready yet — say a prayer wishing them happiness and stay focused on your own positive changes.

2. Give a Little: Sometimes all it takes for friends and family to understand your decisions is to invite them over to your side – just for a night. Offer to have them over for dinner, organize a pot luck where you can cook up and share some of your own healthy creations or invite them to your favorite healthy restaurant. Letting others into your world gives them a taste of what you are up to and shows them that being healthy can be fun and delicious.

3. Create New Rituals: Sometimes new lifestyles require new friends and new activities. Find friends who share your beliefs and enjoy doing the same things you do – sharing recipes and health tips and engaging in healthy activities. You know the old saying, “make new friends and keep the old?” Now is a good time to put it into practice. For example, I’ve connected with a group of Health Coaches I met at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and together we created a Healthy Book Club. It’s our own little way to get together, support each other and read books about health and wellness while sharing healthy food. It’s one of my favorite GNO’s (Girl’s Night Out)!

4. Be Gentle: Being forceful or militant in your beliefs never worked for anyone. Understand that there is room for everyone in this world. Just be you and treat everyone as your equal wherever they may be on their own journey. The more those around you see your glow from the inside out, the more interest they will take in what you’re all about.

5. Educate and Believe in Yourself: This one should arguably be first on the list. Know what you’re doing and why you are doing it and do whatever it takes to get there.Read, work with a coach, take a class. I caution anyone who adopts dietary changes because they are trendy. Determine if and how this lifestyle will work for you and only you. If you are eliminating whole food groups, know how you will supplement the nutrients those foods provide. The more you know about your new chosen lifestyle and the more you believe in yourself, the more respect you will gain.

Kathy Freston, author of The Veganist and Quantum Wellness, recently spoke at I conference I attended and she gave the best advice for adopting a healthy lifestyle: “Lean into it”

Wherever you are on your journey, take care of yourself, lean into it and take it one day at a time.

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