So you're thinking of going plant-based but something keeps holding you back?
You're afraid. You are, and it's OK. I know you're afraid because I was afraid, too — and because I've talked to hundreds of plant-based beginners who almost let fear stop them.
I'm sharing five of the most common fears people have about starting a plant-based diet and how to overcome them so you can live the life you want. (I promise, it gets less scary with each plant-based meal!)
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It's OK to be afraid at the prospect of going plant-based, or any change. Change is scary and disruptive by nature. I don't pretend to know you're specific situation, and fear is such a complex emotion, but I want to tell you that not only is it OK to be afraid, but also that you won't feel this way forever. And I want want to help you move beyond your fears so you can do what you want to do, whether that's simply have more energy to spend with your family or conquer a serious health issue.
After going through my own plant-based transformation nearly five years ago and talking with countless others on their own plant-based journeys during my time here at MamaSezz, here's what I've gleaned are some of the biggest challenges keeping people from starting a plant-based diet — and how you can hurdle these obstacles so that you can live the life you want.
1. You're Afraid of Social Repercussions
I hear this from plant-based beginners all the time. "I don't want to be the only vegan at the table." Or "I don't want to make going out to eat weird." Or "I don't want to do this alone!"
I hear you, I really do. And I'm not going to lie to you; it can definitely be awkward, especially at first. And even more so if you're family's resistant to your dietary changes.
To this I say, buck up.
I know — not what you wanted to hear! I'm sorry, but I wish someone had said it to me when I just starting a plant-based diet so here I am, saying it to you. (It's with love!)
It totally stinks feeling like an outsider or bucking tradition, especially if so much of your family life centers around food. But if any of your friends or family members has a problem with you going plant-based, what they most likely have a problem with is themselves. Your starting a plant-based shines light on their own dietary habits, and it might be making them feel insecure.
How to Overcome:
If this is the case, there are a few things you can do to try and get the support you need as a plant-based beginner.
Need help navigating social gatherings? We've got tips for that, too.
As for dining out, your restaurant days aren't over! Sure, there's a learning curve but trust me, it gets easier every time. And no, you don't have to just eat at vegan restaurants if you want to stick with your plant-based diet. Here's how to order plant-based at any restaurant. You can do this!
2. You're Afraid You'll Lose the Joy of Eating
Speaking of going out to eat, a lot of plant-based beginners lament that they don't want to lose the fun of eating. I felt this way, too! No more chicken wings? No more ice cream? No more cheese?! Will eating become a chore?!
How to Overcome:
It's time to change your mindset. Once I stopped thinking about the things I "couldn't" have and instead, embraced the rainbow of foods that awaited me, I calmed down a bit and was able to see just how much more joy I could get out of food that not only tasted good, but nourished me, too.
And at the risk of sounding salesy, there's always MamaSezz when you want comfort foods that fit the plant-based bill but don't really have the time or energy to cook. I'm five years in to this lifestyle and while I fancy myself a pretty decent plant-based cook, I still order MamaSezz at least twice a month because I have a toddler and a job and a life and there just aren't enough hours in the day.
3. You're Afraid to Look at Your Current Habits, Straight On
Often times we're afraid to make a change because it means looking at our current habits and recognizing them for what they are...not so good.
Once we acknowledge that our current habits aren't serving us, we either have to let go of them or keep them knowing they're doing us harm, so it's easier to not acknowledge them.
Many of us use food as a coping mechanism. I certainly did. I had a stressful job and a lot of anxiety and I used my post-dinner "treats" as stress relief. While "eating your feelings" may feel good in the short-term, it not only breeds regret/guilt/shame about those unhealthy food choices, it also stops us from confronting what we're actually feeling.
How to Overcome:
Be honest with yourself about why you don't want to give up certain foods. Is it a physiological thing (i.e. refined sugar and even cheese is addictive!) or are you trying to fill an emotional void? I know, big questions to ask but this is a key step if you want to finally make healthy changes.
Ready to get started? Find freedom from food cravings by taking these gentle steps.
4. You're Afraid to Leave Your Excuses Behind
Oh boy, do we love to make excuses. And we make about a million of them when we're faced with a big change, like going plant-based.
I don't have willpower. Heart disease/diabetes/hypertension runs in my family; why go vegan if I'm destined to get sick? I don't know how to cook plant-based recipes. It's too expensive. My family will never do it with me.
Our excuses are security blankets that keep us shielded from the truth, which is: you can do it, it's not out of reach — you are the only thing holding you back.
Willpower will only get you so far. Yep, sometimes chronic disease runs in the family...even more reason to eat plant-based and change your future. You can learn to cook plant-based recipes. (Or you can order MamaSezz ready-made meals.) Eating plant-based doesn't have to be expensive. You don't need your family to change — you need you to change.
How to Overcome:If you're super prone to letting yourself off the hook, that's OK. Making excuses is a habit that'll take a bit to break but you can do it! The first step is figuring out why you're making so many excuses to begin with. Are you setting goals that are too big and overwhelming? Are you afraid to depart from the status quo?
Here's an exercise from Meg Donahue, the co-founder of MamaSezz, that can help you pinpoint the patterns tripping you up:
- Take a piece of paper and number it 1-10 on the lefthand side.
- Write down ten memories, one for each number, of a time you tried to make a change and it didn’t last.
- Read through your ten memories and see if you notice similarities or patterns in any of the times you failed to reach your goal.
- Then ask yourself if you’re willing to let that pattern/excuse go.
5. You're Afraid to Fail
And last, but definitely not least, you're scared of failure. Who could blame you? Nobody likes to fail. But too often, the fear of failure is so strong that it becomes bigger than the desire to succeed. And when this happens, we miss out on so much.
How to Overcome:
Make small goals, instead of large sweeping ones, to avoid the big Overwhelm we can feel when we're faced with a HUGE task (you know, like changing your diet and lifestyle overnight).
And then, bear with me here: let yourself fail.
Oh my gosh, scary, I know!
But seriously, you're going to fail. You'll eat the cake at the birthday party. You'll accidentally buy the pasta sauce with milk in it (whyyyy do so many packaged foods have milk in it?!). You'll eat fast food at the airport because you're starving and you forgot to pack healthy snacks.
Deep breath! Failure is part of the journey. Going plant-based for your health isn't about doing everything "right." It's about progress, not perfection. Give yourself grace, my friend. And for Goodness sakes, stop comparing yourself to others, OK?
- Fear of change is very real and very normal and it might be holding you back from finally living the life you want.
- People are afraid of starting a plant-based diet for plenty of reasons, but often times: they're afraid of social consequences, they're afraid they'll stop enjoying food, they're afraid to truly look at their current habits, they're afraid to stop making excuses, they're afraid to fail.
- The good news is, all the fears can be conquered!
By Ali Brown
Ali is a mom, wife, and nutrition and lifestyle writer and editor. She has her Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.