Has your friend or family member gone vegan this Veganuary? Here are some top tips you can use to help them stay on track and love their new vegan life.
It’s the day that we all dream of. Hearing those three little words uttered by someone you love, a significant person in your life.
It’s as if you’ve been waiting for this day for a long time, hanging onto the moments, wondering if they’ll ever come to the realisation, hoping that one day they may feel the same way you do, when they finally tell you… I’m going vegan. Charlotte Willis offers some friendly advice on how to help your friends go vegan…
1. Coaching season
If January 1st seems to ring a very familiar bell inside your plant-based brain hemisphere, that’s most likely because you’re well-tuned to the fact that January = Veganuary.
January is the perfect time for coaching to begin. There’s an incredible amount of new products launching, making going vegan even simpler and easier for your coachee.
Just about every news channel, TV network and magazine has some sort of Veganuary feature buzzing around (oh, hello), feeding off the excitement and buzz surrounding the plant-based phenomenon. You’ll see vegan menus bursting with limited-edition dishes, while offers and discounts fly around the internet, enticing more people to give veganism a try.
Coaching your friend or family member through Veganuary will be challenging at times, particularly as you witness them discover the shocking truth about the meat, dairy and egg industries, and re-live some of the trials that you experienced during your transition into veganism.
However, being a vegan coach helps to not only reaffirm your own reasons for being vegan, but also brings you closer to your loved one, helping them share in a wonderful, meaningful journey into a life lived with compassion.
2. Friends make the best vegans (and vice versa)
I’ll never forget the day my best friend finally made the decision to give veganism a try. After spending almost their entire life as a vegetarian, it was January 1st 2017 that inspired them to take their first steps towards an ethical lifestyle.
Three years later, and they are one of the most dedicated vegans I have met, calling me every time they’ve tried a new vegan chocolate or pasta, or found an incredible vegan restaurant in York, where they live.
Your friends and close ones make the best vegans. Why? Because they feed off your enthusiasm and commitment to veganism. They’ll be inspired by your lifestyle, keen to become as competent and able as you are at navigating the world with an ethical mind.
Most importantly, they will often use you as a reference point, coming to you with questions regarding nutrition, supplements and recommendations for restaurants and date night destinations, or just to have a general conversation or moan about the current state of the world. You play an important role as head coach, like a plant-based Yoda, to them, you are wise and knowledgeable about all things vegan. No pressure, eh?
3. Start early
Being a good coach begins when your coachee decides to try veganism. Note, this may be at the start of December, or towards the end of the Christmas period. Be receptive to their thoughts and decisions, letting them know that you are supportive of their choice and are excited about them beginning their vegan journey. If you worry that they may sway from their intended path, my best advice is to ask them to sign up to Veganuary on the website.
Veganuary’s clever form gives participants the opportunity to select the start date of their journey (this can be anytime in January, but it is best to start on January 1st). From here, Veganuary will send emails, vouchers, recipes and e-cook books to your loved one upon their chosen date for starting their vegan journey. This helps act as a reminder of their pledge to be vegan.
Another brilliant way to sustain their enthusiasm into January is to gift them a vegan hamper or starter kit. Grab some oat milk, nutritional yeast, tofu, Vego chocolate bars and meat alternatives, and stuff them into an upcycled Amazon shopping box for a unique DIY gift to welcome them into their new lifestyle. This is a lovely way to help them begin their journey, and will encourage your coachee to retain their commitment into the New Year.
4. Create your vegan tips
Another unique way of showing your support for your friend or family member throughout their journey into a plant-based world is to create a small collection of vegan tips and recipe cards. These can be as simple as “always ask your barista if the completed drink is made using the milk alternative you have requested”, “a list of supplements to consider” and “15 minute recipe for mac ‘n’ cheese”.
Hints, tips and everyday vegan hacks will help your friend to avoid some of the pitfalls and perils of being a novice vegan, the majority of which most of us are likely to have experienced during the moments of finding our feet in a plant-based life.
You can be even more sustainable by cutting out useful recipes from magazines (such as this one) and sharing them in a scrapbook or vegan journal. Alternatively, get your friend/family member a Pinterest account, and create a shared board for their vegan journey together. Here, you can share recipes, fun DIY ideas for an ethical home, and inspire them with vegan fashion and homemade vegan skincare (sorry-not-sorry for the amount of time you’ll now inevitably spend on your phone).
5. Sponsor them
If you’re concerned about your friend or family member sticking to their commitment, why not challenge them to try Veganuary with a charitable incentive?
Rally around your other friends and family members by encouraging them to donate 50p or £1 per day to a charity of their choice, for every day that the coachee stays vegan. This will help incentivise your coachee to remain vegan, as they will feel like their journey has even more purpose.
Gift them a vegan hamper or starter kit to get them started on their vegan journey.
6. Motivate and support
Beyond anything else, being a great coach is as much about unconditional support and motivation no matter what your coachee may do. If they happen to slip up here and there, be understanding, and offer them advice and support to help prevent setbacks.
Keep your coachee feeling supported by checking in with them, perhaps on a Veganuary Whatsapp group, or just a simple text or phone call every week. If your coachee is feeling alienated, introduce them to some of your vegan friends, or take them along to the next social meetup of your local vegan group.
Help your coachee by asking them to join Facebook groups, and encouraging them to share any issues they have with an online community.
Being a Veganuary coach will help your friend/ family member feel welcomed and supported, and will undoubtedly help them to move forward with their ethical and conscious 31-day challenge, taking their new lifestyle with them into February and beyond.
Most importantly, all being well, your coachee could well influence another three or four people in their circle to give veganism a try throughout the year, and that’s all thanks to your incredible influence. Yoda would be proud.
7. Have a movie night
Vegan documentaries and vegan-themed movies are a perfect way to help educate and inform your coachee about the bigger picture. Load up Cowspiracy, The Game Changers and Okja, and prepare some popcorn, vegan pizzas, a range of dips and vegan sweet treats (and perhaps a glass or two of vegan wine) for the ultimate night of vegan movie indulgence.
I’ve often found that close friends and family are less receptive to facts and figures that you present to them. Maybe it’s because you’re close to each other, or perhaps they may think they know better. Either way, getting perspective using professional opinion and scientific evidence from a source not related to you is a great way to help reaffirm any facts you may have presented to your loved one about going vegan.
8. Show them a good time
Being vegan is as much about celebrating the delicious array of plant-based foods that you can eat as it is about avoiding animal products.
When they first go vegan, particularly when transitioning from a carnivorous diet, you may find your coachee can feel quite limited for options. It is important to remind them of just how diverse and delicious plant-based foods can be.
Take them out and show them a good time by venturing to a completely vegan restaurant (or one with wonderful vegan options) to wine, dine and celebrate together. This will help their taste buds evolve, and broaden their culinary horizons.
Find more ways to help friends go vegan here.