You may be lucky to have supportive friends and family even if they are new to the concept of someone among them eating vegan. If not, you may experience some pushback, even some gentle mocking. Stay true to your convictions because eating vegan is not just about what you do not eat — it is as much who you are and the principles you value.
Expect that your friends and family will challenge your dietary convictions, but know that it is often without malice. Become well-informed on matters relevant to your diet and answer them with grace and empathy. You will not win over everyone, but learn the answers to commonly asked questions and you will earn the respect you deserve for your choices.
Among colleagues and friends at events with no vegan options, it is easy to feel estranged. Without being sorry for your diet, be polite, positive and assertive about your choices. Do not be deprived — prepare beforehand by speaking to event organizers or have a meal before the event. But, there is no reason to shrink away from or push away people you know.
It can be disappointing to realize that many people, even those closest to you in your life, are not as interested as you in the compelling reasons that have motivated your choices. Avoid judgement and give your family and friends the time and freedom to make forward progress toward your beliefs.
A colleague may gift you a steakhouse dinner or a friend may mistakenly prepare a meal for you with an animal product you no longer eat. In these situations, it may be tempting to hide the truth to avoid embarrassment for others. But, choose honesty and deliver it with tact — despite the short-term discomfort, your forthrightness will do long-term good for all.
Advocacy is not the same thing as being preachy. You have chosen a new diet for excellent reasons — do not apologize for it and never be embarrassed by it. Be an advocate for your values, but being preachy is not the most effective form of advocacy. Do not compromise your message, but use good discretion to tailor how you say it and when.
If you are not getting the support you need from friends and family, reach out and make new friends who share your beliefs and patterns of eating. Enjoy this bubble of friends because there is no shame in needing a foundation of social support. But, bubbles have a way of distorting one’s perspective and it is healthy to always have one foot outside.
If you have chosen to eat vegan as a way to do more good, it is an admirable form of direct action — but, it is also an opportunity to influence others to make positive change. Heavy as it might be, shoulder the burden of setting an example and being a role model — it may be the most effective way to bring your friends and family around to your way of thinking.