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It's unfortunate, but most of us will come into contact with a "naysayer" when we switch to a plant-based diet. If that never happened to you, you are very lucky (and we're all jealous) but chances are you've experienced a naysayer, or you will at some point in your life.
Before I talk about ways to respond and deal with naysayers, there are two things you need to know (and keep in mind).
1. If someone is attacking you (and this is true for anything — not just when it's about diet/food), it's never about the person attacked, but the attacker.
You are a mirror. When people act hostile and are confrontational about your diet, it’s because your mere existence makes them reflect back on themselves and they don’t like what they see. They then attack you to make themselves feel better.
(For further reading, see my post: "The Secret to Handling Confrontation and Dealing with Negativity")
2. Every time someone asks you a question — even the utmost annoying "where do you get your protein?" — remember that they are presenting you with an opportunity to plant a seed and spark a curiosity. You've got their undivided attention. Use it wisely.
That said, here's how to respond to naysayers. I asked the Herbies on Facebook, "How did you deal with the naysayers in your life when transitioning to a plant-based diet?"
And here is their advice! My favorite, above all, is what Sue said:
“Don't argue your lifestyle. Live your lifestyle. The changes in you will be argument enough and you won't even have to open your mouth.”
"Smile on the inside while thinking about all the health and emotional benefits I will receive from a plant-based diet." — Hannah
"Learn to ignore
them. Defending my choices and actions weren't worth it. Some people are
set in their ways. I guess ignorance is bliss." — Melanie
"I show them the facts....and the truth... if they don't like it or don't believe it, that's their problem and I ignore the ignorance." — Teresa
"Actions speak louder than words; the results speak for themselves." — Dana
"I loved the Nay-Sayers because they are what kept me going in the beginning. All of the "you won't stick with it" made me all the more determined to do it. And when I was tempted to cheat, I just thought of them and how much I wanted them to be wrong. Now, I'm strong on my own, but they will never know how much they helped me." — Kay
"Ignore them. They normally just feel threatened and that's why they need to challenge you. The more you engage in rationale or reasoning, the more fuel you give them to be combative." — Patricia
"I say, 'Thank you for your concern. My doctor says it's okay, and actually, better.'" — Monica
"I tend to question them about their diet the way they question me. Makes them realize their diet sucks." — Katine
[Editorial note: Lindsay likes to ask people where they get their fiber, when they ask her where she gets her protein in a nasty way].
"I just compassionately stand my ground and play the, "I do not wish to add to the suffering in this world, the suffering felt by, especially, farm factory animals." — CA S.
"I make them something to eat. And then they quiet down." — Val
"Naysayers shut up after a while when they realize you REALLY ARE enjoying your food and if you make a point not to criticize theirs. Food is a personal choice. If you don't make it a big issue, they usually won't." — Joy
"I tell them "well I've lost 50 lbs., cured some chronic medical conditions, look better than I ever have in my life, and I'm at peace with the food choices I make. Seems to be working pretty well for me... how's that calorie restriction diet working out for you?" — Kelly
"The only people who have a problem with it are those who are defensive and unsure of their own choices." — Sarah
"I say, "Do I LOOK like I'm starving?" -—Laura
"Take advantage of every educational opportunity: if they ask, I tell, spill the beans. Some others, I just kept my mouth shut." — Raquel
"I just advise they get a blood test and the results and then TRY plant-based for 6-8 weeks and get another blood test. Kinda says it all." — Elise