Vegetarian Lifestyle: Dealing With Unsupportive Family And Friends

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Published: June 25, 2014


Being a vegetarian in Nigeria is challenging because status quo tells us that meat should be the at the centre of the plate. Consequently, how do you deal with the friends who constantly give you a hard time about your vegetarian food choices? How do you tell your nagging aunties that although you can afford it, you are feeding your husband and children a plate without meat at every single meal? As committed as you think you are to the lifestyle, unsupportive family and friends can literally break you and lead you back to old eating habits. There are however, a few things you can do to fend off the negativity.

  • Remember why you started

The reason you became vegetarian is the most powerful tool in warding off objection and scepticism. If your reasons are superficial or based on fad diets, you are less likely to be successful than if your reasons are based on solid convictions such as improved health, increased healthy nutrient intakes, decreased carbon foot print and better treatment of domesticated animals.

  • Take the time to educate

People are afraid of what they do not know! When you find yourself defending your lifestyle, take the time out to educate rather than ridicule. Many people do not know that well planned vegetarian diets are much healthier than those that contain meat, or that some commercially produced animal products are packed with antibiotics. Share your convictions with them and educate them on why your choices make sense. Once educated, most people will soften up and become more tolerant of the lifestyle.

  • Plan! Plan! Plan!

Nigerian hospitality is deeply rooted in the serving of food. We show care, welcoming and love by offering our guests something to eat. It, however, is disheartening to cook a meal for guests only for them to reject it because it contains an ingredient they do not eat. When visiting, be sure to inform your host of your chosen lifestyle in advance and advise them that a simple meal like fufu and vegetables will do. There is no need to request elaborate vegetarian meals. You will be amazed at how accepting of the lifestyle people are when they are not burdened with the task of purchasing additional ingredients and planning a meal for the non-meat eater.

  • Show respect

Don’t scorn the people that, despite your best efforts to educate them, continue to have misconceptions about vegetarianism. Learn to accept and respect their opinion and ask that they respect yours. You will never be able to convince everyone to view the lifestyle as you do and once you know and accept that, you will find yourself on the way to a healthier state of mind.

  • Laugh it off

Let’s face it, there will always be the uncle who never stops teasing you about your food choices, or the friend who tries to sneak in a piece of chicken on your plate. Have a sense of humour about it and simply laugh it off. Laughter diffuses tension and makes light of the situation. Before long, everyone will forget to give you a hard time and you may find yourself inspiring others to follow suit.

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At the end of the day, it is important to acknowledge the fact that people are afraid of the vegetarian lifestyle because it is strange and foreign to them. However, despite all the joking, teasing and ridiculing, most people become more accepting of the lifestyle when they are educated on it and observe more around them engage in some aspect of it. If you are transitioning to a vegetarian lifestyle, expect weird glances and snickers, but rest assured that you are amongst the pioneers of healthy, wholesome plant-based lifestyles in Nigeria and beyond.

Here’s to your health!

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About Cordialis Msora-Kasago

Cordialis Msora-Kasago is a Registered Dietitian (R.D) and a pioneer in the discussion of modern day healthy lifestyles in Africa. She is the founder of The African Pot Nutrition - an organization that improves the health of African people through sustainable diet and lifestyle programs. Follow her on twitter @africadietitian.

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