It seems becoming a vegetarian and staying a vegetarian are two very different things. A whopping 84% of vegetarians end up eating meat again, and most people shift back within a single year, according to a new study. Specifically, 53% of vegetarians are meat-eaters again within 12 months, while more than 30% go back to meat within three months, the Huffington Post reports. Of the 11,000 people studied, 2% were vegetarians, 10% former vegetarians, and 88% lifelong meat-eaters. A major reason for lapsing, it seems, was social: Those who returned to being omnivorous didn't have enough support among friends for their vegetarian lifestyles.
Earlier research points to health issues from staying meat-free, the Smithsonian reports. Some 35% of respondents to a separate survey of lapsed vegetarians said their own poorer health drove them back to animal flesh, Skeptoid reports. "I will take a dead cow over anemia anytime," says one respondent. And in the Guardian, a lapsed vegetarian writes about the inconvenience of avoiding meat, as well as the feeling of "every cell in my body screaming 'protein—that's what you need.'" Perhaps the writer would agree with the conclusions of the new study, as Co.Exist reports them: "A message focused on reduction instead of elimination of animal products may be more effective to create an overall decline in animal product consumption." (Read about a veggie burger that "bleeds" like meat.)