WELLNESS
12/04/2014 02:49 pm ET

Turns Out, Your Vegetarianism Probably Is Just A Phase

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Proving your meat-pushing relatives right, most Americans who eat an all-plant diet really are just going through a phase.

Just in time for holiday mealtime struggles, the animal advocacy group Humane Research Council and Harris International teamed up to release new data, finding that 84 percent of vegetarians and vegans eventually go back to eating meat -- 53 percent of them within a year's time and more than 30 percent of them within three months.

Surveying a representative sample of more than 11,000 adults in the United States, the researchers found that 2 percent were currently vegetarians or vegans, 10 percent were formerly meat-free and 88 percent had never dabbled in plant-based eating.

Describing the findings as "disappointing," the researchers investigated what factors may have contributed to the 10 percent of lapsed veggie-eaters. They found that a majority of them lacked social support, vegetarian-themed group activities and didn't like sticking out from their friends. (This corroborates a pretty sizable body of research that suggests you eat what your friends eat.) Other reasons for giving up: having trouble with animal-based cravings and the difficulty of doing anything cold turkey, so to speak.

Of course, there's a more optimistic way of looking at the study's results, which is that instead of an orthodoxy, vegetarian eating can be a fluid part of anyone's diet. For example, it's not clear that the lapsed veggie-eaters intended to go meatless forever. In an age of Meatless Mondays and part-time vegetarians, many healthy and mindful eaters devote more of their plates to produce, even if they enjoy the occasional cheeseburger or, yes, holiday roast.

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