Every once in a while I meet someone who used to be vegan, but for whatever reason, eats meat again. I am always surprised by this, but I don’t worry. I know the vegan diet is not a temporary fad.
I, like you, have met countless people who tried Atkins and now eat carbs, tried Weight Watchers and no longer count points, tried the Zone Diet and no longer eat their food in perfect ratios. In fact, when a friend tells us they are starting a new diet, we expect they will not stick with it. Studies show that only a tiny fraction of dieters ever succeed in keeping weight off in the long run.
But most people I know who have gone vegan never go back to eating meat and dairy products. In fact, only a tiny fraction of vegans I have ever met have not succeeded in sticking with the diet. It happens, but only so rarely that I am surprised when I do hear about it!
Why is it that the vegan diet, which is seemingly so strict, has so many life-long converts?
I think the reason lies in the motives: People who want to lose weight so they look better simply don’t have enough motivation to stick with it; vanity clearly isn’t as important as we might think or people would have the motivation to stick with fad diets. So they try diet after diet, but continually fail. However, people who learn about the ethical reasons for going vegan (animal cruelty and environmental impact, for example) have plenty of motivation; they can envision the cruelty that went in to the meat sitting on the end of their fork, for example, and literally cannot get themselves to eat it anymore.
I am not an overly dramatic person, but I cannot even walk through the meat section in the grocery store anymore. All I can see when I look at the meat cases are animals that have been slaughtered. So, in an interesting twist of irony, people who end up caring about something other than themselves often find all the motivation they need to stick with the seemingly strict vegan diet, and never look back.
What does the future hold?
As the vegan diet gains popularity, I think we’ll see more people try and fail, but only because they are trying it to follow a fad, hoping it will get them looking like Kathy Freston. For those who actually read vegan literature or watch vegan documentaries that go beyond just the weight loss benefits of a vegan diet, I think they will stick with it, because they will finally have sufficient motivation. This is the exact reason why I started my book, Vegan in 30 Days, with a chapter on “What is Your Motivation?” You need a strong motivation to make any change. But what I have found over and over again is that if you have the right motivation, you will not need any willpower. Being vegan will become effortless with just a little bit of dedication up front.
To get all the motivation you need, try reading these books and watching these documentaries. This is not a complete list, so if I’ve left your favorite off the list, make sure you comment and tell everyone what it is!
Sarah Taylor is the author of Vegan in 30 Days, and runs the popular blog "The Vegan Next Door".
She has a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell University, is on faculty at Joel Fuhrman's Nutritional Education Institute, and has been featured on many television and radio shows internationally.
Her next book, Vegetarian to Vegan, will be available in 2012.