Veganism is on the rise and this couldn't be a more exciting time to be a vegan. It isn't surprising when you consider Uber stars such as Beyonce & Jay Z going vegan (even if it's temporarily) and promoting the lifestyle on their platforms. We have more people wanting to take control of their health. However, while many people thrive on their newfound plant-based diet, others fail and go back to eating meat.
There are many reasons why people fail as vegans and think that it isn't for them, but I'm going to discuss the main reason why I believe most people don't make it.
In a report called Top Trends in Prepared Foods 2017, Americans who identify as vegan has risen to 6% of the population, that's a 600% increase from just 1% in 2014. The report also found there is a higher demand for more meat substitutes as well as plant-based 'milks'.
On the converse side, 84% of Vegetarians and Vegans return to meat. In the article by Psychology Today, they cite a study by the Humane Research Council, and explain some of the reasons why people go back to eating meat. The reasons are varied from age, but most of the ex-vegetarians and vegans tended to be older and more conservative. Now, this is a study from 2014, and a lot has changed since then, but there are still some great pieces of incite that we can glean from the study.
As a vegan, one of the main complaints I come across, and what I will discuss here, from folks who told me they tried to go vegan/vegetarian but it didn't work from them was because their bodies craved protein. Perplexed, I asked them what a protein craving felt like, and they just basically said their body wanted meat. I had the opportunity to pose this question during a live webinar to Dr. Garth Davis, author of 'Proteinaholic' and his response was most likely it was a cultural thing (I'm paraphrasing of course).
There is this protein myth that has been pervasive in our culture that we need a lot of protein. While protein is an essential building block for almost every part of our body, most Americans eat 2x more protein than we actually need. I see so many people adding protein powders to their shakes, imagining this will make them healthier. If you look at most food commercials, they usually call out the amount of protein in their food, and usually that protein is in an isolated, highly processed form.
When I listen more to ex-vegans and really peel back the layers to understand why they failed (it wasn't for lack of protein), it was usually for lack of enough calories and nutrients period. And good options of food to eat.
Our culture rewards bad eating habits. It's much easier to grab a burger and fries while out than it is to find a healthy and fulfilling vegetarian wrap. Walk into a restaurant, tell them you're a vegetarian, and the first thing they'll show you on their menu is the salad selection (I don't want no daggon salad, sir!).
I find the biggest disservice our culture does is misinforms us about food and health. Unfortunately, doctors are taught nutrition in medical school (I know, both of my older sisters are doctors). We, have to take it upon ourselves to be our own health advocates and decipher through all the different articles on what is good for you and what is bad (breaking news: Coconut oil is bad for you again)
Transitioning from a meat-based diet to a vegan diet can be a shock to your system and lifestyle. When I started my journey, I was a junk food vegetarian. I ate pizza, bought Lean Cuisine and barely touched a vegetable. When I started eating healthy, meaning adding tons of vegetables and drastically reducing the amount of processed food I ate, my body felt miserable at first. As my body was adjusting to a healthier way of life, it was still craving the crap that I used to eat.
When your body is craving the old food, it's actually adjusting to the new way of eating. Your body is creating the new enzymes that you'll need to break down all the plants that you're now eating. That bloating you get after eating beans, is because you don't have the enzymes yet, but if you continue to eat them, you will feel the discomfort going away.
Your gut bacteria also changes. As new and excited research emerges on the microbiome, we are learning how our bacteria changes when our diet changes. Researchers are discovering how these changes can turn on and off the risk of certain diseases. For instance, in an article by Live Science, "People on the animal-based diet had higher levels of a bacterium called Bilophila wadsworthia, which grows in response to bile acids and has been linked with inflammatory bowel disease in mice, according to the study."
In order to thrive as a vegan, and really as a human period, is to make sure you're getting all of your calories through a diverse diet. When you're getting all of your calories, your protein intake takes care of itself. One way people fail is by not adding good fats such as avocado, nuts and olives. Plants, by themselves don't have a lot of calories and fat, so if you're living off of salads or green smoothies, you'll find yourself hungry. Add healthy fats, beans and legumes to make sure you're getting other nutrients that you need.
Your body will need an adjustment period. If you've existed off of a Standard American Diet your whole life, your tastebuds have essentially been hijacked. You'll be going from eating processed foods and artificial flavors to natural foods and flavors. Once your tastebuds adjust, you'll really start to enjoy the flavor of real food.
Next time you think you need protein, really ask yourself if you've had enough calories and what other nutrients you might have missed in your diet. This is a good stream of thought for anyone on any type of diet.
If you want to make sure you're getting as many nutrients as possible, you can check out Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen Checklist. Below are some other resources to help you live your best, healthiest life.
Scarlett is a business owner and lover of pretty things. She started this blog to share some of her witticisms and favorite things.