Let’s face it: whether by experience or by accident, Vegans have acquired a reputation among non-Vegans for being picky, judgmental, even preachy about how they eat. You’ve decided to go for it and making big habit changes is hard, especially with food. The last thing you need is the added pressure of people assuming you’re going to be difficult to be around because of it. So, don’t be ‘that guy.’ I’m going to give you some suggestions on how you can still socialize with your friends, stick to your new lifestyle and not impose on anyone.

No Preaching

First off, don’t tell your friends how to eat. I know you’re excited about your changes. You’ve already lost weight, you’re regular for the first time in decades; all these changes are awesome and you want to celebrate with your friends by encouraging them to try it. Remember, it wasn’t so long ago that you were eating just like your friends. Some friends will probably take an interest, but don’t be offended if others don’t. Just lead by example and don’t judge them if they don’t follow along. You certainly didn’t become a Vegan to make them feel bad, so don’t!

Eat First, Socialize Later

This is easy – eat at home before you go out. It will take a little longer to get ready, but then your belly will be full of the foods that are right for you instead of getting grumpy because you’re hungry and couldn’t find anything to eat, and you won’t feel tempted to indulge in what the others are eating.

Make Socializing About Being Social – Not Food

Make your friends the focal point of getting together with them – not the food. Move conversations away from the buffet table. At a restaurant? Find something innocuous on the menu that you can nibble on so you’re not the only one without a plate in front of you, and engage in their company. Take the emphasis off the food, and make it about enjoying time with your friends and loved ones.

Let Your Server Serve You

Your waiter or waitress is there for you – let them be. I went to a fundraising dinner as someone else’s plus one. It was a last minute invitation so I didn’t have time to eat before I went. Everything from the hors d’oeuvres to the entrees was either deep-fried, meat on a stick, or drenched in cheese sauce. I was starving and there wasn’t a thing for me to eat. So, I spoke to my table’s waiter. I pulled him aside and explained, making sure that he understood that Vegan means no animal products of any kind, including no butter. When the plates came out, I was presented with a plate of cookbook quality vegetables. The waiter felt good about helping me, I felt great for sticking to my diet, and I didn’t suffer in silence.

When Your Best Efforts Still Miss

You are doing everything in your power to keep Vegan. No butter, milk or eggs; no hidden cheese anywhere. But sometimes, the worst case scenario happens anyway. If you find yourself with a plate full of butter-soaked vegetables, explain the mistake to your waiter and be polite about it. Don’t be confrontational or condescending. Just explain that buttery veggies are just as bad for you as the prime rib everyone else is eating. He’ll get it if he knows that the butter will make you sick (who wants a sick guest at their function?) While commercial kitchens are learning about the Vegan lifestyle and other dietary restrictions, they may not know the rules yet. Make this a learning opportunity.

You chose to pursue a healthier life and that’s going to be uncomfortable at first, when you step back into your world. But, it doesn’t have to be hard or painful.

Lead by example, create opportunities for others to experience the healthier, happier you. @hayleyhobson (Click to Tweet!)

As you find recipes you enjoy, share them. You might be pleasantly surprised by the interest you generate, and the support you receive – ESPECIALLY when they see how great you look and feel.

Oh, and congratulations and welcome to the Vegan world!

Hayley Hobson is an author, speaker, business coach, yogi, Pilates instructor, and holistic nutritional expert based in Boulder, CO. Her unique and intelligent style promotes strengthening while softening—empowering her clients to heal not only their physical bodies but their hearts and minds as well. To learn more about her nutritional courses, events, and custom programs, visit hayleyhobson.com or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.