Approaching Teaching with Patience
A sort of funny and unexpected thing has been happening to me over the last month or so: at least once a day, someone at the gym (CrossFit) comes up to me and asks for nutrition advice. Now, the CrossFit community is pretty notorious for being Paleo, but what I’ve been finding out over the last few months is that most people at my gym have no clue how to get their nutrition under control – which was a huge surprise for me.
Even more of a surprise is that most of them admit up front that they aren’t quite sure how they should be eating. I’ve never withheld the fact that I’m vegan from anyone at my gym, and aside from the occasional playful chiding, everyone has been more than supportive of my lifestyle – which was a relief for me. Even though I know I shouldn’t care what others think, CrossFit is very much about a community, and I didn’t want to be on the outside looking in just because of my diet and lifestyle choices. And not only did that not happen, but people have been genuinely inquisitive into what I eat and have recently wanted to emulate that.
I’ve been at my gym for about 7 months now, and it’s only been in the last month that people have approached me about wanting to learn more about how to eat healthy and how to incorporate more protein in their diet without eating more meat. Yes, huge, athletic men (and women) have been asking me how they can eat less meat! It is beyond awesome – I feel like such a proud mama bear! Once people see how well I can perform on a plant-based diet, I think it clicks with them that there is more than one way to properly fuel physical activity.
I digress. What I think I’ve determined is that getting people interested in their own health and in their diet is all about timing and openness. Rather than force-feed information to people who may not be ready to hear it, I just let them come to me when they were ready. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision, but I’m not one to push veganism on anyone – it’s more about small wins more frequently than big ones far and few between for me.
In addition to letting them come to me, I have maintained a healthy degree of openness with people at the gym with regards to what I eat, my dietary struggles, and my view on food and how it relates to performance. I fully believe that my open attitude makes me seem approachable and human to others, rather than superior or all-knowing. People want to engage in an honest discussion about diet, they don’t want to be preached to. Plain and simple.
I love helping people, especially when it comes to nutrition, and even though I don’t get into animal rights issues when doing it, I feel like I’m making a difference by getting people to see their food options differently. Patience has never been my strong suit, but in this case it has paid off. This week alone I’ve done meal planning for three people, and even though it’s not entirely vegan, it opens them up to new, cruelty-free foods that will fuel their workouts just as well as any animal foods ever would.
Some vegans will argue that creating meal plans for people that aren’t vegan is either weird or just plain wrong – especially coming from a vegan who full well knows the horrors of how animals are treated – but I think that being patient with people and guiding them towards a plant-based diet is the first step to showing them how easy being vegan really is and how rewarding it can be.
I myself went vegan for my health well before my eyes were opened to animal rights issues, so I know the value of making a gradual progression into a vegan lifestyle firsthand. I don’t believe it’s all or nothing when it comes to veganism, and if people want to start with a plant-based diet and still wear their leather belts and shoes, then that’s quite alright with me. All it takes is getting people’s feet wet, and before you know they’ll be ready to take the plunge. But letting them make that leap when they’re ready makes all the difference in their long-term commitment to the lifestyle.
Thoughts on this? Do you have any omnivores who come to you for nutrition advice?