Food is one of those things that brings people together. It’s a reason to gather and a way to share love. Making food for others is a love language for many and being cooked for is also a way that many of us are able to receive love.
When we suddenly change the way we eat, the people around us may feel rejected when we suddenly decline the food they prepared for us with love. They may feel judged as if us choosing to eat differently was a direct criticism on their way of living. They may feel like we are disrupting the harmony of the group and therefore threatening their belonging. They may unconsciously blame us for disconnecting from them, as if the food was the only thread keeping us together. Some people will feel triggered by our choices, and some of them will project things onto us. They may criticize, question, ridicule and pressure us.
Humans are a social species and no matter how much we might want to be an island onto ourselves, we cannot escape our biology. We are wired to seek acceptance, validation and belonging in a group. The bad news is that this lifestyle will set you apart from almost everybody around you.
This is why many raw vegans eventually change their social circles and might even start a completely new life somewhere else. They quit their jobs, end relationships, create new ones, and move to a new more raw vegan friendly environment. If the people around us cannot embrace and accept our authentic selves we really have only to options: 1) Abandon our authentic selves for the sake of belonging, or 2) Choose ourselves, accept being the weirdo and then find people who love us because of that!
The second wave of criticism
The social pressure does not end with the foods we eat. The second wave of this challenge comes into play when we start going through a healing crisis. Almost all of us who transition from a cooked vegan diet (let alone standard western diet!) to a raw vegan diet, experience some level of detox symptoms and many go thru an intense healing crisis where our bodies start purging out waste and weak tissue. I personally lost a lot of weight (went from 60 to 52 kg), I lost hair, I experienced skin flare ups, and I just felt constantly weak and foggy in my head.
People around me were concerned. They thought I was being obsessive and was harming myself. They concluded that my new diet was clearly not working and that in fact, it was making me ill. It’s hard to talk logic to people with a lifetime of indoctrination behind them, who are very invested in NOT having to question their own lifestyles.
I felt very alone in the beginning of my journey, having NO ONE close to me who had done this before, and with only a handful of youtubers for my company and comfort. I’m so grateful that at least I had that! With the help of pinging Dr Morse’s videos, I found the will and the courage to stick with the diet and I started getting better. I trusted the process but it was a long and lonely road.
Responding to criticism
In terms of how to respond to all those skeptical comments about protein, passive-aggressive snarls and witty jokes, what I have found works the best is to not try to convince anybody. For me what has worked the best has been to share from personal experience. It really helps to not present raw veganism as the ultimate truth and one size fits all lifestyle. This will simply make you seem arrogant and dogmatic. Here are some things you can say that people tend to receive well:
- “This is what works for me right now and I feel really good.”
- “This has worked for hundreds of others so I will try it out.”
- “I’ve done a lot of research on this and now I’m doing a field experiment.”
- “These are the benefits I’ve experienced so far.”
- “According to XXX, these symptoms are the result of detoxification that everyone goes thru.”
- “I would really appreciate if you respect my freedom to choose what to eat.”
If you are dealing with someone with whom you wish to maintain a close, intimate relationship, you can try to understand what might be behind their strong reactions. You can direct the focus back to them by asking questions and trying to guess what they might be feeling:
- “I wonder what it brings up for you that I’m doing this?”
- “I’m sensing that you might feel abandoned because I no longer go out to eat with you and no longer eat your lasagna. Is that true?”
- “I really understand that you are worried because I’ve lost a lot of weight. I would never hurt myself and I need you to trust me on this.”
- “I’m curious what makes you say that? I wonder if you are feeling triggered?”
Finding your grounded confidence
Besides responding in a non-defensive and non-provoking way, I’ve found that the most important thing in dealing with discouraging people is to find a grounded confidence in your truth. Once you truly own the fact that this is your path, once you know why you are doing it and you truly believe in it, no one can sway you, and frankly, what others say will no longer matter. Interestingly, when you find this grounded confidence and trust within yourself, people will stop bothering you. Instead of questioning you, they will ask questions, but from a place of curiosity. They will start seeking your advice and they will get inspired by you.
One day my colleague told me “I just had to get watermelon for breakfast when I saw you eating that”, and my mom exclaimed with excitement, “I’ve started making smoothies in the afternoon for your dad and myself” and my friend said “you’ve inspired me to start eating more raw foods. Can you share the recipe with me for that salad you made the other day?”. You standing in your authentic truth will start causing ripples in your environment, impacting everyone you come in contact with (Read my article Standing in Your Raw Truth).
It seems that when we are doubting ourselves and seeking validation from others for our choices, we attract experiences that cause us to feel more doubt. We attract people questioning the healthfulness of our diet, and even the validity of our motivations. However, as we gain confidence in our choices and we start embodying our truth, something in the external shifts, and we begin to attract experiences that reaffirm the validity of our choices. Eventually, we will start attracting people into our lives that are curious about our lifestyle and who accept us completely. We will find people who inspire and support us and who encourage us to grow and unfold into our unique authentic selves.