The New Year is a time of new beginnings, a time during which many choose to make resolutions to better themselves. Quite often, those resolutions fall flat without a good support network. If one of your friends or family members is thinking of going vegetarian or vegan for the New Year, make every effort to be the support they need. Here are six ways you can support those who choose to live a meatless life:
1. Swap Recipes and Cooking Duties
When you’re becoming vegetarian or vegan, you’re creating an entirely new relationship with food that might be daunting. If you think back to your own early days as a vegetarian, you might remember feeling hopeless as you read the labels and tried to figure out what in the world you would cook with seitan or tofu. Help your newly budding veggie friends by offering up some recipes, or maybe offering to cook for the two of you a couple times will help them experience some of the flavors, textures and options in the world of vegetarianism beyond meat substitutes.
2. Model Good Behavior
If someone you know is making a move toward veg*ism and you’re someone who already lives that lifestyle, now’s your chance to show them some good behaviors: be the vegan or vegetarian you know they can be. When embarking on a new diet, they may copy your food choices and habits, especially if they’re feeling lost or overwhelmed. Asking them about how strict they want to be with their diet is always a good start when providing sound advice.
3. Be Understanding When They Slip Up
Being judgmental is never helpful, especially when someone is trying to follow through with a New Year’s resolution. Your friends might slip up and scarf down something that doesn't really fit with the changes they want to make. A lifestyle change is a big undertaking and no one needs to have a guilt trip laid on them – chances are they already know and they already feel disappointed in themselves for slipping up. Suggest appropriate solutions instead of being judgmental. Work together to come up with doable actions that would have avoided the slip up. Be supportive, encouraging and uplifting. Missteps happen and they can always do better tomorrow. The world will not end over the fact that one new vegetarian slipped up.
4. Be a Listening Ear and a Shoulder to Cry On
Making a lifestyle change is hard. Transitioning from a meat-based diet to a vegetarian or vegan diet eliminates a lot of foods that most people take for granted every day. Your new veg will likely experience plenty of frustration at first. Be ready to listen and be a shoulder to cry on when they can’t find a veggie substitute for their favorite treat or discover that their favorite brand of shampoo contains animal byproducts. These things might take a little time to get used to and compensate for. It’s normal to miss the things you lose when you make a such a serious commitment – so be ready to offer what comfort you can to the new veggie in your life.
5. Sometimes the Best Help is No Help at All
Sometimes people are determined to make big changes by themselves, which is okay. As excited and happy as you are that your friend or family member has chosen to become vegetarian or vegan, you might need to take a hands-off approach when it comes to supporting them. If your well-intentioned help or input isn’t wanted or needed, they’ll make it pretty clear. Be a silent pillar of support and offer help only when specifically asked.
6. Make it Fun
Sometimes choosing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle can be seen as being boring, bland and devoid of any humor or good times. This can be discouraging to new veggies who might think they have to give up their beer and wine, their junk food and their sodas. Show your new veggie friends that you can still have a good time even while adhering to a plant-based diet. Sure, you might need to spend a little time sourcing an ethical beer or wine for your girls’ night out, but you can still indulge.
The kind and amount of support needed by anyone who resolves to go meatless in the New Year depends largely upon their individual needs and preferences. Use their cues and conversations as a guide to support them and try to keep things positive and upbeat.