Since I became vegan within the past 3 years, I have become an enthusiastic advocate of a vegetarian diet. As a result, I was disappointed to learn from the Vegetarian Resource Group’s 2009 survey that the vegetarian needle has hardly moved in the past 6 years. In fact, there has been little increase in U.S. vegetarianism from a statistical standpoint in 20 years. VRG poll responses indicated that 3% of adults were vegetarian, and about 1/3 of those could be classified as vegan (eating no animal products).
Unlike many vegans who became vegan for reasons of ethics or animal rights, my main reason for becoming vegan was to maintain and improve health. The China Study revealed that eating a plant-based diet was the best way to reduce risks for the top causes of premature death, namely cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mis-medication, and hospitalization. Because my work was extremely stressful, and there was history of heart disease and cancer in my family, I felt it almost inevitable I would fall ill, too. While there is no guarantee I can avoid that fate, adopting a plant-based diet has given me a greater sense of control over my future.
As I’ve described in previous posts, getting to the point of maintaining a vegan diet (and considering myself vegan) took time. I was deeply attached to many foods, whether from my Italian-American upbringing (i.e. meats and cheeses) and also from having lived in Japan for two decades (sukiyaki, sushi, etc). The hardest part of a vegan diet is difficulty of eating with others and eating at restaurants.
In order to avoid eating animal products (and unhealthy products in general), you usually need to prepare and eat more food at home and carry it with you, as well. I recognize the time and trouble (varies depending on the type of work you do, i.e. sales) it takes to maintain a vegan diet is an obstacle for many who would like to become healthier, too. Eating at home is healthy, but I understand it is not always practical, and some people may feel socially isolated as well.
That’s why I was somewhat disappointed in the results of the latest VRG survey. If there were more vegetarians and vegans to attract marketers, there would be social support for busy and socially active people to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, encouraging more people to become vegetarian or vegan. It would be a virtuous cycle.