By Ghanim al-Sulaiti
Veganism is everywhere. It’s all over social media, we’re seeing an increase in vegan options in grocery store aisles, including here in Qatar, and more people in the last year have made the switch to veganism than ever before in history.
Whether people choose a plant-based diet to improve their health, save animals, play their part in protecting the environment, or just to know what they’re putting in their body is better than anything you’ll find in any other diet — the very concept of veganism is now largely understood, and that’s a great thing. However, something no one talks about is the reasons why many vegan diets ultimately fail.
According to a recent study, of 11,400 U.S. adults, nearly three-quarters — 70% to be exact — of those who have tried a vegan diet end up abandoning it. The numbers are even higher for vegetarians. Alarmingly, the survey found that there were five times more ex-vegetarians/vegans than current vegetarians/vegans.
Firstly, we must recognise that veganism isn’t a diet — it is a lifestyle. A diet is something you can go on and off for any given amount of time to achieve a short-term result.
A lifestyle includes diet with other aspects of your life into an ongoing, long-term goal.
While going vegan isn’t hard, going vegan for the wrong reason can definitely make it that way. The most important question you will ask yourself on your vegan journey: “Why do I want to go vegan?”
A lack of nutritional or culinary knowledge and creativity is usually to blame for many reformed ‘vegans’ going back to eating meat, or dairy. Many people become overwhelmed by the learning curve and changes involved with a vegan lifestyle.
At my vegan restaurant in The Pearl, the most common response I hear frequently from guests is their amazement at “this is a fully vegan dish?!” — revealing that many still consider the idea of vegan food to only be a lettuce and kale — a stereotype far from the truth!
One message that the vegan industry should be pushing is how new vegans discover the foods that make meals easy, pleasurable and varied.
Helping people make a realistically paced transition is key as well. For me, I always tell people to start their journey to veganism by replacing an existing meal with one vegan meal every day. This means replacing your ordinary breakfast, lunch, or dinner with a vegan meal. If you’re able to stick to creating a dish that consists of plant-based foods that are organic (for extra goodness), that’s a bonus. Once you’re ready, ramp up your journey by replacing the second ordinary meal of your choice, with a vegan dish. Before you know it, two thirds of your daily meals will be vegan, which will set you on track for a stronger journey.
Managing temptation to consume snacks you are used to consuming is going to be a factor for anyone spending a lot of time at home, so try to make sure there is enough food, snacks, kale chips, nuts and seeds, healthy vegan crackers, hummus, peanut butter and apple slices, fruits to keep you going.
Education is key – and falling off the horse doesn’t need to be an option if you’re committing to veganism for the right reasons, and then beginning your vegan journey in a way that best suits your individual needs, cravings, lifestyle and more.
We have to do better not just in convincing people to try veganism, but also in helping them stay vegan.
Once you make the connection, you’ll stop looking for excuses to give up, and start finding reasons to keep going.
There’s a reason vegans are more likely to do yoga regularly, or engage in activities like Pilates, or exercise routines: the stronger you are in body, mind, and spirit — the more likely you are to uphold a lifestyle you know is benefitting you in many ways.
As always, should you have any questions about your vegan journey…feel free to contact me via Instagram.
* The author is an expert in vegan wellbeing and health. Instagram handle: @Ghanim92
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