by Sarah Miles, VLCE
posted Feb 16, 2021
For most, going vegan is no easy feat. It can involve grappling with long-held beliefs. Or mustering up the courage to learn how to cook. And maybe even getting used to new tastes and textures of food. So why, after putting in so much work to begin this journey, do roughly 80% of vegetarians and vegans abandon this new way of eating?
This staggering statistic came from a 2014 Faunalytics study. It brings to light a reality for many trying to go vegan: living without animal-based foods is drastic, difficult, and restrictive. And yet, there is a growing number of people who become vegan and stick with it. So why do some people succeed at eating health-promoting, sustainable, cruelty-free food, while others do not? I believe there are three key mistakes people make when beginning the journey to vegan/plant-based eating.
Mistake #1: Lack of Foundation
The first mistake people make when beginning this journey is jumping into it without a solid foundation in place. This is similar to climbing a mountain without preparing—without first taking time to research the mountain, train and prepare with the necessary tools, there is little chance of successfully making it all the way to the top. Similarly, the chance of sticking with this decision is slim if you do not take the time to figure out your “why,” learning foundational aspects of good health, or just starting slowly. Without a stable foundation, this decision can feel overwhelming instead of exciting, and people often end up having a negative experience because they did not set themselves up for success. And seriously, don’t feel bad for not being able to go vegan overnight (I definitely didn’t). If you need to take time to learn how to cook new foods or learn more about this new way of eating, do it, especially if it means you’ll stick with the decision once you make it.
Mistake #2: Restricting Too Quickly
Now let’s say you do set a foundation for yourself. You’re ready to make this jump into being vegan, so you cut out meat, dairy, eggs, and most of your snack foods all in one go. This is great in the beginning, but a few days will go by and you might start craving all the foods you just cut out of your diet. What ends up happening? You’ll probably end up succumbing to these cravings, which brings up mistake number two: restricting yourself from food too quickly. In doing so, you set yourself up to crave these foods because you didn’t give yourself a weaning period, which is totally alright to do! Instead, take it one food group at a time. Go a few weeks without meat, and see how you’re feeling. Then, reduce your consumption of eggs, and then dairy. Eventually, the day will come where you are ready to have your last breakfast with bacon, eggs, or butter. You might be surprised how easy it feels when you approach it this way.
Mistake #3: Lacking Diversity
Once you’ve set the foundation for yourself, and you’ve cut out all the animal foods you used to eat, you’re most likely left eating only a handful of foods. This is the third mistake: you’re eating the same small group of foods day in and day out. You pick these foods because they might be the only plant-based foods that seem easy enough to base meals off of, or they are the only foods you know how to prepare. Either way, your happiness and satisfaction with eating this small range of foods will not last forever. So many people quit here because they think this way of eating is restrictive and unsatisfying. Thankfully, this is easily remedied when you take the time to explore the wide range of foods you can eat. Whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables can be used to make a plethora of meals, if you just take the time to explore, learn, and try new recipes! Once you do, you’ll see why so many people are able to stick with this decision and enjoy doing so.
The number of vegans in the world is still small, but the number of people who attempt, and unfortunately fail, to eat this way is substantial. If you avoid these mistakes the next time you try to be plant based, you might be surprised how well eating and living this way works for you.
Sarah Miles is the owner of Plant-Based with Sarah, a plant-based lifestyle coaching business, and a Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator through the Main Street Vegan Academy. She empowers transitioning vegans on their journeys by removing the confusion surrounding plant-based foods so they can feel confident, excited, and dedicated to this new way of eating and living. Sarah is inspired through her daily yoga practice, where she learns patience, cultivates focus, and develops curiosity for everyday experiences.