Does your new diet make you feel like a MISFIT???
Anyone who has ever made a firm decision to improve their health can identify with feeling like sort of a ‘misfit’ in the process. This is because undertaking a major dietary change brings you to a place of transition which can be an uncertain and even awkward place to be!
Fitting in at a time like this is tough because the friends you normally hang out with usually haven’t made the same decisions that you have, and you probably feel that making a big deal of your new diet can be uncomfortable--especially during social outings.
While you no longer feel quite right in your old group, the idea of hanging out with a group of so-called ‘tree-huggers’ is also not a very appealing option. Yes, you’re beginning to embrace health, but you’re not quite ready to march around town with a picket sign proclaiming your new decision…and you're in no hurry to do so!
Well if this sounds like you at all, let me just say that I can relate 100%. When I began to research healthier diets several years ago, I was very intrigued by the possibility of improving my health by eating a plant-based diet, but absolutely no one I knew personally was on the exact same path as me. At the time, I was recovering from a serious health incident, so I had my resolve to live a long healthy life as momentum to carry me through the awkward lonely stage, but it was still challenging at times. Here are some of the things I did to help me through that awkward period. I hope that you’ll find them useful while you’re embarking upon your health journey.
1. Surrender the need to fit in perfectly with any particular group.
When I initially decided that I wanted to learn loads about plant based diets, I decided to attend a conference called ‘Vegetarian Summerfest’. This is a yearly conference in America where a group of experts in plant-based nutrition meet to update fellow veggie enthusiasts on the latest research, cooking trends, and anything that you can think of related to plant-based diets.
I came across an advertisement for the conference in a magazine that I happened to browse through while waiting in a supermarket queue (or line if you are reading this in the U.S.). When I saw the advert, I was really excited and something in me immediately wanted to attend. I felt that this was my chance to absorb as much knowledge as I could about the lifestyle that I was trying to develop. So, I booked my place (It wasn’t cheap and I wasn’t rich, but I considered it an investment.) I jumped on a Greyhound bus and travelled from Philly to Pittsburgh, where the week-long conference was being held. It was quite a long trip, but I endured the journey by focusing on the excitement of all the new things I would learn when I arrived. When I finally got there, I wasn’t disappointed at all. The conference grounds were very green and beautiful and everyone I met was very kind to me. However, as I might have expected if I knew more about vegetarian demographics at the time, there was absolutely no one there who looked like me. And if that wasn’t enough to make me stand out in the breakfast buffet line, most of the attendees were also three times my senior. Yes, I was an African-American woman in my 20’s who was about to spend a week with a group of mostly 65-year-old white couples…but Hey, I was perfectly cool with that because I didn’t come there to fit in; I came there to learn…and that is exactly what I did. Every session was insightful…the food was incredible and I just couldn’t get enough. It was clear that I didn’t fit in, but I didn’t care. I was on a mission and my focus on creating a healthy lifestyle was all I needed to keep me happy.
2. Be okay with baby steps!
While attending a conference like this was invigorating simply because I love new things, I must admit that I definitely threw myself in at the deep end. This wasn’t a group of newbies; in fact, in most of the sessions, the speakers where pretty much ‘preaching to the choir’ as they say. Frankly, many of the attendees could finish the sentences of the keynote speakers if they wanted to. I was there starting a new journey, and they were there to reaffirm a decision that they made a long time ago.
The conference was called the Vegetarian Summerfest, but most people there who I spoke to were actually vegans. In fact, when people approached me to say hello, they usually started with the question ‘Are you vegetarian or vegan???’ I soon figured out that the vegan group was somehow seen as better or healthier than the vegetarians to many of the attendees. After I was asked this a few times, I began to feel a little singled out by my vegetarian response. I grew up in church from childhood so this great separation reminded me of sort of a sanctimonious divide. We were all at the vegetarian conference with the same interest, yet there were some who needed to segment the ‘good’ from the ‘best’, or the ‘holiest’ among the ‘holy’ if you will. It kind of confused me, because I was so new and naive and I didn’t understand why it wasn’t just good enough that I was there and interested in learning more.
This ‘Are you vegan or vegetarian?’ interview happened often throughout the week, but I didn’t let it bother me; I just opened my ears to learn and decided to ignore any weird exchange…as I thought that this was the best way to get the most out of my trip. I am now vegan; but, I certainly wasn’t a vegan at that time; nonetheless, I was very happy in my process because I knew that I had made progress from my previous Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) so I was happy with myself and I knew then as I know now that baby steps eventually result in strides, leaps and sprints! I was on my way, and so are you, so PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t allow people to discourage you by trying to force you into a category. Just accept yourself and celebrate any small change for the better. Every step counts.
3. LEARN, LEARN, LEARN!!!!
We all know that ‘Too much Cake,’ ‘Too much TV’…or even ‘Too Much Talking’ are wise things to avoid…but in my experience, there is absolutely no such thing as too much knowledge!
The period in my life that I described at the vegetarian conference was a time when I was very new to a plant-based lifestyle. Many moons have passed since then and I am now an authority on the subject…however, I still read and learn and pursue new information, and so should you! I think that continual learning is a part of a healthy existence and if you are going to become physically healthier, you need to make it your life’s mission to absorb knowledge. Be sure you find credible sources, of course, and then become a human sponge who just can’t get enough of the beautiful thing we call ‘KNOWLEDGE’. Eventually, you will have learned enough to sift through the information and pick and choose the bits that resonate with you, and in time you’ll even begin to make informed health decisions rather than taking every new media craze on board…but please never, ever, stop learning; it’s your best chance at growing into a new, more wonderful you. And if you ever need some knowledge and guidance specifically on plant-based diets, I’m always here to help. For more information about how to transition to a plant-based diet, book a free 30-minute nutrition consultation by clicking this link today.