Educating Your Community on a Plant-Based Diet (Guest Post by Aurora!)

A big question I get via email is how one can spread the Herbie love. Specifically, how can they talk to others about living the plant-based lifestyle and without being preachy or overbearing.

I talk a lot about outreach (and how to tailor your message so your hearer hears it) in my new book, The Happy Herbivore Guide to Plant-Based Living, but today Aurora is sharing HER experience with outreach in her community.

Remember: You can lead a horse to water, but you can't force him to drink. However, leading by example is dynamite. If you lower your head to drink the water, then start moaning over how refreshingly delicious it is, the horse may very well get curious and give it a try!

My husband and I began our plant-based journey about 3 years ago. It was bumpy in the beginning and like most people venturing down this path, we learn as go. At first we had the basics down, no meat and no dairy. Then we read more and we removed oil, coffee and juicing.

Once we were officially plant-based, we saw improvements everywhere. Not just weight loss, which for me happened at a rate of about 7-9lbs a month; but post workout recovery is almost completely painless as well as menstruation. Old aches and pains are gone. Seborrheic Dermatitis is virtually non existent with zero oil. Our energy levels far surpass a kid who eats SAD (Standard American Diet), and the list goes on and on.

After seeing results, reading books/blogs by Dr. Esselstyn, Neal Barnard, Dr. Campbell, Dr. McDougall, Rip Esselstyn, Jeff Novick, and Lindsay Nixon, taking the Cornell Plant-based certification course and attending plant-based conferences, it was hard to keep quiet and watch others around me suffer from aches and pains that were completely avoidable.

It’s not a losing battle to reach out to an individual or family member who is struggling with problems due to a SAD diet, it’s just frustrating. I see many people (whom I have spent countless hours talking to and coaching) give up because they fail to educate themselves or they fall into the temptation of fast food’s quick and easy marketing strategies. Sometimes I have found that it was the doctors themselves who were the ones to turn people off from eating only plants. Of all the reasons to turn away, those in the medical field can be the hardest to influence because of their training. I can only imagine the turmoil going on in their heads as they try to wrap their minds around this idea of eating only plants and eliminating meat, dairy and oil.

I did not have the time to help each individual who was interested in trying a plant-based diet, but I certainly wanted to figure out how to reach more in one sitting. So I thought, “I’m going to start with my small town, Roanoke, TX.” To do this, I began hosting cooking classes. I invited a handful of folks to gather around my kitchen as I demonstrated 5-7 recipes while educating them on why I am using certain products and sharing my plant-based knowledge. Between dishes, I have everyone point their attention to the TV while I show snippets of Forks Over Knives. This is great because it gives me time to clean up a little and prepare for the next round of cooking. These demos are done as often as I can do them. I have had nurses, doctor’s wives and nutritionists attend them.

In addition to reaching out to individuals, I also like to invite those in the medical field over for plant-based dinners. For these events, I usually make a small feast of about 4-7 dishes; just enough for everyone to have a sampling. And like the cooking classes, I’m educating as I am introducing each dish. Talking to professionals in the field really keeps me on my toes because they tend to understand more about how the body operates than the average person; so I have studied beforehand. I review my Cornell course notes from my plant-based certification course as well as reread parts of Dr. Esselstyn’s and Dr. Campbell’s books.

It’s not hard to reach out to your community and community professionals. Most folks will not turn down a good meal and almost everyone loves to watch cooking shows, so demos and dinners are perfect. The most important message for anyone to hear is to be consistent. By this, I mean you must always believe in what you preach. If you want others to feel your passion, you have to be a good role model and example.

Over the summer, I was returning a borrowed pool toy to a neighbor. Her husband Mark answered the door, took the toy and said, “Oh and by the way, I’m thinking of doing 30 days of a plant-based diet to see if it will help me feel better. I might be coming by to get some good recipes.” Of course this is a great surprise; but what’s more exciting is that I have never spoken directly to him about changing his diet. I live a plant-based life. When we have potlucks, I bring a plant-based dish. When someone asks me how I get my skin to look so clear and smooth, I tell them it’s my diet. When asked what’s my weight loss secret, I blame the diet. When parents watch me play hard all day with their children and ask me why I still have so much energy all while seeing their kids passed out on the couch, I answer, “I eat plants.”

My lifestyle is my plant-based testimony. It affords me the opportunity to tell others about this way of living without putting them into the offensive by offering unwanted advice. With so many diets out there, folks tend to hear the word “diet” and think “temporary.” They say, “I’m doing the Paleo Diet this month,” or “I’m on the Whole 30 to figure out my allergies.” Often people assume a Plant-Based Diet is like those, it’s just temporary, but that’s not true. It’s a way to live life without self-inflicted pain like heart disease, menstrual pain, arthritis, etc. caused by eating SAD.

I have been asked if it costs a lot to host the demos and dinners. For the demos, I actually charge $5-$8 a person depending on the menu. I only make 1-2 servings per dish and everyone samples. All the leftovers go into the fridge for our family to eat later. So in a sense, I am being paid to make a few meals ahead of time. A great example would be when I made Happy Herbivore Light & Lean Drop Biscuits and Olive Gravy. I made 5 biscuits but tore apart 1-2 biscuits and put a dollop of gravy on top. This was a sampling. If you’re making lots of dishes, you don't want everyone to eat too much because they will be sampling so much during the demo. The remaining biscuits and gravy went into the fridge for us to munch on later.

As for the medical professional dinner, that does cost you, but so does any dinner party you are hosting. The good news is, it’s going to cost less because it’s all plants. Plants in general cost much less than meat and dairy. At a recent dinner the guests brought me a hostess gift. Where a traditional bottle of wine would have been the perfect gift, I was greeted with a basket full of colorful veggies (pictured above). The cost of those veggies alone was probably half the cost of the meal they were eating. It was probably the best hostess gift I have ever received.

If you are interested in learning how to host your own demos and medical professional dinners, please leave a comment below and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.