Whole Food, Plant-Based Social Connections

One of the things I hear from many people trying to follow a whole food, plant-based way of eating is they find their social calendar begins to have less and less in it due to their friends, and in some cases family, not wanting to invite them to functions involving food. And what function doesn't involve food? This is a problem for many reasons. For one, we are social beings. It's not healthy for us to live without social contacts or with a limited number of social contacts. Having a friend you can confide in is considered important for longevity and good health.  But secondly, many people end up falling back to their old ways rather than give up on their social life. And that's sad because they know eating WFPB is healthier for them. But it's also sad because giving up on healthy eating and healthy lifestyles is not an answer to the social problem.

There are a couple of answers to the social problem. Some, most of us know about. For example, always offering to bring a dish that will not only allow you something to eat but will also feed others at the social event. And when doing so, it pays to really show off your best dish so that people will want you to bring food to their events. Sometimes, if there are multiple courses, you might even have to bring a couple dishes. For example, you might bring a main dish for yourself, which doubles as a side dish for others, along with a dessert that you can share with others. If you find out a chocolate cake is in the plans for dessert, then you could bring a nice cream that would pair with the cake for others at the event. And then you just eat the nice cream.

Those are little tricks that we know about. But I want to talk about another idea that comes out of the Blue Zones, and in particular out of Okinawa. In Okinawa, where the longest-living women are, they form moais for life. What is a moai you might ask? It is a small group of friends that begin getting together in childhood and those groups, with the same friends, continue to get together for life on a regular basis. So, when you see a moai of one hundred year old women, you can know that that moai has been in existence for almost one hundred years.

Dan Beuttner has brought the concept back and has incorporated it in many Blue Zones project communities. In this case, people form in to their own small groups and usually with a purpose. The purpose might be to form a walking moai or to form a pot luck moai. But I'd like to suggest something even broader than that. And I say broader than that because it's too easy to go into a pot luck group or into a walking group and get together once a week or once a month but not really get to know each other all that well. You end up going to fulfill the purpose of the group as opposed to establishing lasting and important friendships.

I think the Okinawan moais had a much broader purpose. I think the women who formed them and stayed within them for ninety to a hundred or more years did more than just walk together once a week or do a pot luck together on some designated schedule. And that's what I suggest we do as well. Find a group of like minded people, maybe around ten people total, and commit to work toward establishing true friendships. Invite each other into your homes. Go out together to restaurants and to shows and to baseball games and to wherever you might want to go out. Walk together too. Help each other out when help is needed. Build lasting relationships. And with these new lasting relationships, just as we crowd out animal-based and processed foods by focusing on whole plant-based foods, these new relationships will eventually crowd out the older relationships that are no longer working.

The benefit of course is you can build solid personal relationships and social interactions with people who are like minded about what they eat and how they take care of themselves. And that gives us a very supportive environment, which is important to our success.

And this should be done even if you are in a large community of whole food, plant-based eaters. Of course, the nice thing about being in a large community such as my own Eat Smart Live Longer Club is that it makes it easier to find like minded people to form a moai with. And even if someone else in the moai from such a community isn't totally whole food, plant-based, you at least know they are sympathetic to your needs and they won't be trying to sabotage you or shunning you.

While club and organization leaders can promote this kind of activity by holding social events that allow members to meet each other and to form their own individual moais, people don't have to wait for leadership or depend on leadership to do this. Members can seek out other members to do this on their own.

For those who don't belong to clubs or organizations focused on whole plant-based foods, the task may be a little more difficult but not impossible. Today, with social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, it becomes possible to more easily seek out people with similar interests in your area.

The advantage is, your social life will continue and build on itself. Eating whole food, plant-based won't be a negative for your social life. It will be a positive. And you may develop some serious friendships as a result. That is the goal.