How to be more social

It is really tough to socialize on a whole-food, plant-based diet, especially if you are new to the lifestyle. Everything feels like a list of don’ts.

I was talking to a friend recently about how difficult he thinks it is. Before he tried a whole-food, plant-based diet, his food choices involved a lot of drive-throughs. Not only were they convenient, but he found them to be less expensive as well.

It doesn’t take much effort to get an inexpensive, healthy meal in less than 10 minutes either, but we’ll get to that later. First, I want to talk about why we find that such a difficult change to make.

Because what is really behind the excuses we make to ourselves, like “it’s too difficult” or “it’s too expensive” is we aren’t motivated enough to make the effort.

There is a difference between wanting the results of a change and being resolved to the change.

Desire

Let’s take weight loss as an example, since most of us struggle with getting to our ideal weight. The first thing we feel is a level of motivation we can call desire. We want to be a certain weight. We know we would feel or look better and we truly desire to be there.

But when it comes to meal time, our only motivation is to get food into us. Now. We feel we don’t have time to think through the consequences, so we never actually make a significant impact on our weight.

Desire + Action

The next level of motivation is desire plus action. We want the change enough that we start taking steps. Maybe we join a weight management plan, or stop eating so much starch, or some other tactic. It’s effective, but it’s not good enough for the long haul.

Resolve

What we need is a whole different level of motivation, what I call resolve. In the book of Daniel in the Bible we read about how Daniel “resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food.”

Talk about socially unacceptable, Daniel had a few things stacked against him. First, he was a captive. Prisoners shouldn’t be asking for special diets, especially one the king is trying to treat well. He had been offered the best food and drink of the kingdom, the stuff the king ate. And the king he lived with was ruthless. He was known to murder people on a whim, in all kinds of heartless ways.

Daniel’s request could have killed him.

Also, Daniel was a teenager at the time. What teenage boy would turn down the offer of excellent food and drink? (If you’ve never been around a teenage boy, let me tell you they’ll usually eat anything offered to them, without reserve.)

But Daniel resolved to eat only what we would call today a whole-food, plant-based diet, and he got special permission to do so.

What is resolve?

Resolve is the kind of motivation that makes things happen, even in the face of giant obstacles. But we can only find resolve when we have a strong reason to back it up.

Daniel’s reasons were motivated by his faith. He wanted to please God and for him that was a strong enough reason to have a strong resolve.

For me, my reasons to fully commit to a whole-food, plant-based diet are based on health. It is the only way I know of to be able to fully take charge of my own health and avoid diabetes.

If you’re struggling with thinking a whole-food, plant-based diet is too inconvenient most of the time, check your resolve. If you truly want to do something, there is always a way.

Inconvenient resolve?

Even a strong resolve doesn’t remove some of the inconvenience. I find it is difficult to go to a buffet dinner or eat out with others. I want the social time. Connection with others is as important as our food choices when it comes to a long healthy life. But I don’t want to compromise on the food I eat, so I find a way.

For me that includes:

  • Making a dish or two I can share with others at shared meals
  • Eating something before I go to an event so I can participate (often there is a food or two I can eat while I’m there so I can still be food social)
  • Choosing restaurants that will have an option that is at least a yellow light food, when I decide to dine out

Healthy meals in minutes

And for the day-to-day, a healthy meal in 10 minutes? Yes. Once you have a resolve, getting a meal on the table fast, requires changing just a few habits.

Instead of driving through a fast-food restaurant for breakfast, if you need food fast, take a smoothie (or find a place where you can buy one --- they are more prevalent than ever before), or slather whole grain bread with nut butter and grab some fruit --- dried, fresh, or frozen.

For lunch, start going to the grocery store instead of the fast food counter. It takes only a few minutes longer but the cost is about the same. For example, you can get a pre-made salad, some beans and some whole grain bread. Put about a half cup of beans on your salad, sprinkle it with vinegar, and eat up! Or buy some low-oil humus and cut-up vegetables and some berries. Dip the veggies, savor the berries. Or get a can of vegan soup, warm it up, and serve it with some whole-grain crackers and pre-cut-up veggies.

For dinner, if you want pizza, choose a low-sodium and oil pre-made crust and pre-made pizza sauce, and sprinkle your favorite toppings on it such as mushrooms or black olives or onion or garlic or a combination. Use a vegan Parmesan, or skip the cheese altogether. Serve it with a salad topped with some legumes such as edamame.

Or make pasta with tomato sauce (again, find a low-oil, low sodium premade sauce). Serve it with a tossed salad and some green peas (which is another way of eating beans) and some fruit for a fast and filling dinner.

Or cook a sweet potato and top it with a can of drained beans heated with some frozen mixed vegetables, some Italian seasoning and a splash of lemon and you will have dinner faster than you can get in the car and get takeout, with very little clean up.

It is possible to eat a whole-food, plant-based diet with little to no more effort than a meat-based one. The difference is found in a simple question. What is your resolve?