Building Plant-Based Community & Support in 4 Easy Steps
Having spent an entire professional career observing human behavior as a licensed clinical social worker and certified professional coach and witnessing the sheer determination it takes for people to make permanent changes to improve the quality of their lives, I thought it was time for me to reflect on what I see as some of the biggest challenges we face as change agents trying to show others the benefits of eating a whole food, plant-based diet (WFPBD).
How many times have I heard graduates of the T. Colin Campbell Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate say, “I just don’t know what to do with all this great information now that I’ve earned my certificate” or “I have this idea but I don’t know how to bring it to fruition.”
I’d like to explore this issue of moving from intentions to actions but before delving into this, let me first address the notion of courage. I think it is fair to say that all of us are confident that we could improve the health and well-being of others if they only knew what we knew about the research supporting a WFPBD. What we often find when trying to deliver this life-saving message to others is that they are not always open or ready to hear what we have to say. It can certainly be discouraging when they continue along their merry way with no intention of changing. It can also be quite frustrating and cause us to question whether we have the fortitude to “stay the course” and continue to speak what we know to be true. This is where true courage comes in. We are courageous when we realize that not everyone will be open or ready to hear our message but never give up on trying to improve the lives of those we encounter because we know that if we reach even one person, we will have changed the course of his or her life for the better—forever.
So we try to live by example, hoping that what others see in us will motivate them to give our lifestyle a try. We persevere, always aware that we are role models for healthy living as we continue to “plant the seeds for change” in others. Sometimes we see the results when someone decides to move towards a healthy diet; other times not. What is important to remember is that you never really know what impact you might have upon another human being.
I remember sitting next to a pastor at our dinner table at the 100th birthday party for a dear friend in Boca Raton, Florida, a few months ago. He and I started chatting, and I quickly learned that he was struggling with high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. He ate the standard American diet and was curious about the vegetable plate I was having for dinner that night. I gently told him the story about my near-death experience from a heart attack and emergency bypass surgery eight years ago and what I had since learned to save myself from having this happen to me again. He listened and seemed very interested, albeit letting me know how much he enjoyed his meat and ice cream every day. I told him about Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, and also about the book I had recently published, entitled Staying Alive—Healing from Heart Disease, A Survivor’s Story. Several weeks went by and one day I checked my reviews on Amazon to see what people were saying about my book. And there it was. The pastor said he had recently met me and talked with me at length about the subject of disease prevention and health and that he was excited to read my book. So, you see, you never know when those “seeds you have planted” may take hold and grow.
Change is never easy, but change is always possible.
So how do we continue to plant these “seeds for change” when we sense the resistance to a WFPBD all around us. Here are some suggested steps as to what you can do to turn your good intentions into positive actions:
- Set a realistic goal for yourself. For example, if you love to cook (as I do), say to yourself, “Ok, I love the food that I eat and want to show others how to prepare and enjoy it.” You might do as I’ve done by creating a Meetup group that brings people together to learn how to cook this new way. Remember, that any goal (big or small) is a great one and a good start.
- Consider obstacles you might face. Using my cooking club example, you might not have a kitchen that can accommodate very many people. What might you do to overcome this hurdle? There are many things you can consider. Perhaps you could you reach out to a high school in your neighborhood to see if you could use its home economics room, or you might contact a church, synagogue or community center nearby to ask if you could use their kitchen to hold a class. All of these venues will most likely have kitchen equipment available for your use. I myself hold the key (literally) to a church about a mile from my home that I have at my disposable for larger group cooking activities. The pastor at this Lutheran church was more than willing to help me out.
- Move forward with initial actions. This is probably the scariest step. One of the things that holds us back from doing something new and courageous is the worry about failing. Let’s face it, it is a bit intimidating to take a risk. I often tell my clients when they are embarking on something that causes them anxiety, “You have to fake it till you make it!” Tell yourself, “I’m going to do this new thing even though I’m scared out of my mind because it’s important to me and I’ll try my best to not focus on worrying about its success or failure. I’ll just do it!” I can’t tell you how often I have had to say these very words to myself. Here’s the thing though. There is always a feeling of pride and a true sense of accomplishment when you do something that you thought you have never tried before. After all, aren’t taking risks how we continue to challenge ourselves and grow as individuals? So, following our cooking club example, the action might be to hold your first class at a local church. You’ve already created a Meetup group, have a dozen people signed up to attend, and you’re on your way.
- And finally, deliver on those actions. You’ve made a plan, you’ve considered all of the obstacles and surmounted them, you’ve taken action to get them started and now you continue to deliver on your goals. What this would mean in terms of our cooking club example is that you’ve selected a few simple recipes, shopped for the food, set up stations at the church where your first class will be held, printed out recipes, and set the tables for enjoying the food together as a group once it’s cooked. You might even post the recipes on your Meetup site or start a Facebook group or blog about what you are doing to try to change the way Americans eat.
Change is never easy, but change is always possible. We are all capable of doing great things with the knowledge acquired through Dr. Campbell’s Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate. We just need to figure out what our strengths are (cooking clubs, public speaking, book clubs, serving plant-based foods to family and friends, organizing veg fests, etc.) and never give up on the idea that you are “planting seeds” with everyone you encounter. It really does take a village to promote the change that we are all hoping for. As the African proverb teaches,
If you want to travel fast, go alone.
If you want to travel far, go together.
The time has come for all of us to travel together as we put our intentions into actions.
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