Why Do Some Succeed and Others Fail on a Vegan Diet?

Trying to go vegan isn’t always a walk in the park. You might wonder why some people thrive while others wilt on this plant-based path.

The truth is success or failure often hinges on factors like metabolic differences, social pressures, and a keen understanding of nutritional needs. Navigating these waters can be tricky, but with proper meal planning, you can avoid common pitfalls like bloating and nutrient deficiencies.

So, if you’re curious about why some people flourish on a vegan diet and why others don’t, you’re about to uncover some illuminating truths.

Key Takeaways

  • Metabolic variations, like the body’s ability to convert beta-carotene to Vitamin A, the state of your gut microbiome, and the amount of amylase your body produces, can greatly impact your success on a vegan diet.
  • The social stigma associated with veganism can also be a hurdle for some people. Negative perceptions and lack of support can make maintaining a vegan diet challenging.
  • Proper nutritional balance is crucial to thriving on a vegan diet. Understanding how to meet nutritional needs through plant-based sources is key to preventing deficiencies.
  • Meal planning is an essential part of a successful vegan diet. It helps ensure you’re getting a wide variety of nutrients and can help prevent common pitfalls like bloating.
  • Bloating is common when transitioning to a vegan diet due to increased fiber intake. Gradually increasing fiber intake can help avoid this issue.

Metabolic Variations

Your body’s metabolic variations can greatly impact how successful you are on a vegan diet.

Factors such as how well your body converts plant-based beta-carotene to Vitamin A, the state of your gut microbiome, and the amount of amylase (an enzyme that helps digest carbohydrates you produce) all play significant roles.

Let’s dive into these points to understand better why they matter.

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Vitamin A Conversion

Knowing how your body converts plant-based sources of Vitamin A can be a key factor in whether you thrive or fail on a vegan diet. People vary in their ability to convert beta carotene, a Vitamin A precursor, into retinol, the active form of the nutrient. This process is driven by the enzyme BCMO1.

Vitamin A Conversion

Taken from: https://dnalabs.ca/bcmo1-vitamin-a-and-immunity/

Some people have gene mutations that reduce BCMO1 activity, making it difficult to obtain enough Vitamin A from a plant-based diet. In contrast, those with normal BCMO1 function can convert sufficient Vitamin A from carotenoid-rich vegan foods.

BCMO1 FunctionVegan Diet ImpactVitamin A Source
NormalAdequate Vitamin APlant Foods
Reduced due to mutationPotential Vitamin A DeficiencyMay require supplementation

Therefore, understanding your individual vitamin A conversion ability can aid in optimizing your vegan diet.

Gut Microbiome

Another critical factor you’ve got to consider when navigating a vegan diet is your gut microbiome – specifically, its ability to synthesize vitamin K2.

This nutrient is crucial for your overall health, and while it’s readily available in animal foods, it’s scarce in plant-based alternatives.

Food and Vitamin K2 chart

Taken from: https://patch.com/new-jersey/ramsey-nj/k2-longevity

Your gut microbiome, teeming with a diverse array of bacterial populations, can produce this vital nutrient. However, if your gut health isn’t optimal due to genetic factors, environmental factors, or antibiotic usage, your vitamin K2 levels could seriously decline when you switch to a vegan diet.

Conversely, if you have a robust, K2-synthesizing microbiome, you might be able to maintain adequate levels of this vitamin while enjoying a plant-based lifestyle.

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In the realm of metabolic variations, a significant factor influencing your success or failure on a vegan diet is the quantity of alpha-amylase your body naturally produces.

This enzyme, found in your saliva, plays a crucial role in how you metabolize plant foods, particularly starchy ones.

If your body makes a smaller amount of amylase, adopting a vegan lifestyle might be more challenging for you. Consuming a vegan meal high in starch can lead to steep, prolonged blood sugar spikes.

However, if your body is perfectly capable of producing plenty of amylase, you’ll likely thrive on a plant-based diet.

Amylase LevelsEffect on Vegan Diet
HighEasily metabolize starch, promoting a successful vegan diet
LowStruggle with blood sugar spikes, causing difficulties

This metabolic variation could explain why some struggle with a vegan diet and return to old eating habits while others succeed.

Social Stigma Around Veganism and Vegan Diets

Dealing with social stigma can be a major hurdle you’ll face when adopting a vegan lifestyle for health benefits or ethical reasons. One of the reasons why vegan diets fail is due to the negative perceptions of veganism. Research shows that sharing meals strengthens relationships and reinforces cultural beliefs.

Yet, a 2019 study found that non-vegans often distance themselves from vegans, both physically and verbally, which can make the process of maintaining a vegan diet quite challenging.

Negative perceptions of veganism can include:

  • Believing that veganism is pretentious
  • Associating aggression with vegans
  • Fear of being socially excluded for adopting a vegan lifestyle
  • Difficulty in maintaining cultural traditions with a vegan diet
  • Feeling unsupported in their vegan journey

Moreover, an earlier 2018 study has found a concrete link between the perception of veganism and political ideology, with those of conservative beliefs being substantially more likely to return to traditional, animal-based diets.

Ultimately, if you aren’t blessed with an accepting and supportive environment or simply can’t bear the stigmatization, it might lead you back to meat eating.

It’s essential to understand these challenges when considering a vegan lifestyle in order to prepare and successfully navigate through the social hurdles.

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Proper Nutritional Balance

Understanding how to balance your nutrition properly is something you’ll need to master to thrive on a vegan diet. Your nutritional needs must be met through plant-based sources of these nutrients, and adequate nutrition knowledge is crucial to prevent common nutrient deficiencies.

Here’s a quick guide to some essential nutrients and their plant-based sources:

NutrientPlant-based Source
ProteinLentils, tofu
Vitamin B12Fortified foods
IronSpinach, quinoa
CalciumAlmonds, broccoli
Omega-3 Fatty AcidsFlaxseeds, walnuts

Ensuring a proper nutritional balance can often seem daunting, but armed with the right information, it becomes easily manageable. It is much easier to succeed with the vegan way of living when you understand the importance of variety in your meals and know how to replace animal-derived nutrients with plant-based alternatives.

Meal Planning

woman in white scoop neck shirt holding brown wooden chopping board

The reality is vegan diets are substantially harder to plan and prepare than your average diet.

This is often because vegan-friendly versions of traditional meals require some creativity and an understanding of how to substitute animal products with plant-based alternatives.

Not having a clear plan or the necessary knowledge can lead to the nutritional deficiencies mentioned above, which might make you feel unwell and potentially cause health issues in the long run. 

However, with a well-thought-out meal plan, you can avoid these pitfalls. Meal planning involves researching vegan recipes, understanding nutritional content, and preparing meals in advance to ensure all your nutrient needs are covered, and you remain in good health while on a plant-based regimen.

Here are some tips for effective meal planning and preparation on a vegan diet:

  • Create a Weekly Menu: Having a nutritious menu can help you stay organized and ensure that you’re eating a wide variety of foods to meet your nutritional needs.
  • Batch Cooking: Prepare large quantities of plant-based food (e.g., tempeh or tofu) at once and store them in portions. This can save time during the week and make it easier to follow your well-planned vegan diet.
  • Snack Smart: Always have healthy meals and snacks on hand like fruits, nuts, or hummus to prevent hunger pangs and help maintain your energy levels throughout the day.


Transitioning into a nutritious vegan diet can often lead to bloating, particularly if you’re not gradually increasing your intake of dietary fiber. Bloating is a common issue – a 2022 survey revealed that nearly 14% of Americans experience it frequently.

The main culprit for bloating is dietary fiber, which is abundant in plant-based meals. Unlike proteins or carbohydrates, these indigestible plant fibers pass through your digestive system intact.

If you’re switching abruptly to a vegan eating you’re instantly introducing more fiber into your diet. This sudden increase can cause your digestive system to react, leading to bloating. The resulting discomfort can discourage you and make you feel like you’re failing on a vegan diet.

However, you can avoid this issue by gradually increasing your fiber intake during your transition. Start by incorporating small amounts of vegan options like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes into your meals, and gradually increase the quantity. This approach gives your digestive system time to adjust, reducing the risk of bloating.


Succeeding on a vegan diet is not just about cutting out animal products. It involves understanding and navigating your unique metabolic variations, dealing with societal pressures, and mastering the art of meal planning and nutrition balance.

It’s about having a thorough understanding of your body’s nutritional needs and how to meet them through plant-based sources. While challenges like bloating and social stigma may arise, they can be managed with patience, knowledge, and preparation.

Ultimately, remember that every step you take counts, so don’t get discouraged if things don’t go perfectly at first. Keep learning, keep trying, and most importantly, keep going!

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