It’s important to have support in anything that we do. If we don’t have at least a small level of support, we can feel alone and uncertain. This can lead to a loss of motivation, and sometimes, even worse — failure.
But there’s also a flip side– some people are motivated by a lack of support (there are just too many different types of people in the world for this not to be the case). They see it as a challenge, and it pushes them to succeed. Maybe not the healthiest way to proceed with things, but it’s reality.
Personally, I’m a mixture of both– I’ve had my moments where I felt like I didn’t have any support, and used that to drive and push me further. But I also relish in having support from friends and family. When and where each side pops up is usually contextual and depends on what’s going on.
When I went vegan, I wasn’t sure how the whole support thing would go. I decided to change to a vegan diet on my own, almost on a whim. I thought it through to a small degree, and I also feel like it might have been a natural occurrence of a (possibly?) destined path for me, but overall, it could definitely be classified as a whim. I had one person who I had discussed my decision with on and off– my friend Rita. But she wasn’t a catalyst for anything. So going in, I wasn’t expecting her to hold my hand through the process.
Then there was family. I decided to do this right before Thanksgiving– right before the start of the holiday season. My mom always cooks for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. I felt bad asking her to make food specifically for me that didn’t include any meat, dairy or butter– all items she uses to cook various dishes with.
And then there was extended family and friends. I don’t see my extended family often–usually only during major events. And the same with friends– we get together sometimes when we can, and sometimes (well, often) our gatherings involve food in some way, shape, or form.
So I didn’t expect extended family and friends to jump through hoops and wheels to accommodate my new dietary needs.
But I was actually surprised at the level of support I received.
Rita was amazing. She cooked food with me, and made me food, which is even better 🙂 She also went to vegan restaurants with me, so I was able to explore NYC’s vegan food scene with someone and I didn’t have to do it on my own. She suggested places I hadn’t even heard of yet, and would even randomly take me on late-night vegan food runs– I didn’t even think that could be a thing. So Rita, I ❤ you for supporting my vegan journey so much, especially when you had and have so much to do in your own life!
As for my mom, she offered a tremendous amount of support also. Not only did she end up making me stuff to eat for Thanksgiving, but she literally made them from scratch– she used new recipes entirely as opposed to just omitting the parts I couldn’t eat. I was so happy that she put that much effort into supporting my journey. And now, six months later, she still makes me veggies to take home — in fact, some of the stuff she makes me is featured on my Instagram food page so check that out! And thanks mom — you were already greatly loved you but this just makes me feel even more appreciative to have you!
As for friends and extended fam, this is still unfolding. Mostly all my friends know I’m vegan now, and I haven’t been out to eat with non-vegans often– I went to a birthday outing in April that included going to a non-vegan restaurant…luckily the place we went to had some vegan options. I also went out to eat with a couple of friends who are far from vegan. In fact, one of them is a fellow foodie and I did a foodie collaboration with him recently — his page makes it a point to clearly state that practically everything posted has meat in it. BUT… he and another non-vegan friend went to a vegan restaurant with me!
I haven’t been to any major family gatherings since going vegan, but needless to say, I’m already preparing for the possibility of having to bring my own food. But considering the way things have been going, that isn’t the worst thing in the world.
So support is important. If you have friends or family who are vegan and want to help as you transition to a vegan lifestyle, realize how amazing that is! They offer moral support at times where you may question if this lifestyle is sustainable or worth it– I now think it’s impossible to feel that it isn’t worth it, but I know it is possible and it’s only become “impossible” for me because I continue to learn about why this lifestyle is important and impactful. And a support system helps with that too– providing knowledge! They reinforce what you may already be learning about a vegan lifestyle, but they can also provide info you may not be familiar with, especially in the early stages.
Here are a few more reasons why it’s both important and helpful to have a support system:
1. They offer real-life experience stories.
It’s one thing to Google how things go when someone tries a new vegan food or tries omitting food groups from they’re diet or tries to go raw vegan for a week. But there’s something about getting info on these various things from someone you know who can offer support. The info feels more real and personal, and it might also be less politically correct and without filters, so you get the real-deal from people who care.
2. They serve as a reminder of why you’re doing it in the first place.
Like the old saying goes: “you are who you hang out with”. I no longer believe this to be entirely true– I think it’s possible to be an individual despite being around others who share different viewpoints or live different lives. But I do believe that whatever we are exposed to the most can rub off on us, whether consciously or sub-consciously, even if just a little bit. So being around a support system that understands and supports what you are doing reiterates why you’re doing it. Whether your support system is made up of vegans, non-vegans, or both, if they’re offering support, then they’re reminding you that you’re living this way for a reason. For example, maybe you’re still a new vegan and you used to eat meat. And now you’re craving a burger. Or cheese. Or a cheeseburger. And you know the horrible processes that go into producing that burger. But then, your vegan friend comes in with the best and most perfect timing and invites you to go get vegan burgers and fries. And after feeling slightly guilty for wanting to eat a poor cow, you realize that it’s not the beef you miss, but the smoky flavors and juicy textures of a burger. It’s the pickles and sauces that come on the burger. And all of that can be created with a plant-based burger. And there you have it…your vegan friend just reminded you how awesome being vegan truly is.
3. They give you food and lifestyle ideas!
Maybe you’re still exploring the food options you have as a vegan. Any support can offer meal ideas or combinations of foods that are yummy that you didn’t think of. Also, a lot of vegans often expand their vegan lifestyle into other areas that include becoming more eco-friendly. Support systems can offer help there too– telling you things that they have already done or giving you ideas of things you can do that may be easy to incorporate into your new life.
4. And sometimes, they just give you food!
I include my mom in my vegan support system and she is not vegan. At all. But she supports me by making me a container filled with delicious veggies that I can use in my meals. Also, your vegan support system may just gift you with vegan goodies. When I was still exploring becoming a vegan, my pal Rita gave me a mason jar of chia pudding. It was my first time ever having chia pudding, and now I’m hooked!
And finally, they just offer support! They may ask you how your health is doing since going vegan, they may ask how it is being vegan, and some of them may just say that they think it’s admirable or awesome, even though they could “never do it”. Basically what most vegans have said before they went vegan.
So find your support!
If you don’t have support near you, join vegan communities on Instagram and Facebook. Or trying looking for groups that meet near you on a site like Meetup.com. It’s 2018 so finding support online may not be as hard as you think. And veganism isn’t such a foreign concept anymore. It is likely that you can find some source of support– be it people, a local restaurant or a even a vegan club. And if you still can’t find support, hang on and stay strong and remember that your health, the Earth and the animals are thanking you for your efforts. Soon enough, you’ll be able to find a support system!