I think we have all known someone who has wanted to go vegan, and when they started they were super excited, but after a couple months they fell off the bandwagon and went back to eating meat. And as a vegan of roughly 8 years, and formerly vegetarian for even longer, I always wondered what makes someone stop being vegan?
But let me first preface this by saying that this is an opinion piece. I don’t know all of the answers. I’m not a sociologist, or a psychologist, or a scientist. But what I can offer is an idea of a reason why some vegans fail, as someone who’s been vegan for a long time.
This also doesn’t take into account other reasons why people stop being vegan. Or why someone isn’t vegan in the first place like: geographical barriers, financial obstacles, etc. This is simply one idea as to why some vegans don’t stay vegan for long.
Now what do I mean by outside motivation? I think that to be vegan long-term you need to do it not for yourself, but for an outside source, whether that be for animal welfare, reducing your environmental impact, or for any other reason outside one’s self.
You might have heard the phrase, “vegan isn’t a diet, it is a lifestyle.” And it really is true.
It can be hard to go vegan. Most vegans don’t just change what we eat. We also become conscious consumers, analyzing and changing all of their product choices, from food, clothing, to bath products, and more.
If someone’s motivation for being vegan was for, say, animal welfare (outside source), or even animal welfare and improving their physical health (personal source), then I do believe they’re more likely to maintain their vegan lifestyle.
Because once someone knows the ins-and-outs of animal agriculture, and has built up empathy for non-human animals, it can be hard to go back. (Given that they don’t have an issue outside of their control, like previously mentioned at the beginning of this post.)
Veganism As a Diet
Diets don’t work. In fact, 95% of diets fail. I think most of us understand the diet model. Lose weight quickly, gain it all back, and wash, rinse. repeat. So if someone treats being vegan as a diet, which is the case for a lot of people, they will get discouraged and quit just like any other attempt at a diet.
Coupled with the fact that veganism requires a lot of discipline, and with statistics already stacked against dieting, it’s not surprising why treating veganism, which can already be hard as is, as a diet hardly works out.
A Final Note
Going and staying vegan requires a lot of self-discipline. I believe in order to stay vegan, you must have an outside source that is keeping you motivated. And instead of treating veganism like a diet, you must treat it for what it is- a lifestyle and mindset shift.
If you’ve been looking to go vegan, I don’t want you to feel discouraged. Just like setting a new goal or breaking a bad habit, it could take a thousand and one tries before it works for you. So keep at it. The vegan community will be here for you cheering you on.