Objective: Young adults frequently experiment with vegetarian and weight-loss diets. Comparisons of their experiences on these two different diets may help in the development of approaches to improve long-term adherence to weight-loss regimens. In the current study vegetarian and weight-loss diets were compared on how long and how strictly they were followed, and reasons why they were initiated and discontinued.
Research methods and procedures: From 428 college students surveyed, four groups were delineated: 1) 59 participants had been following a vegetarian diet but not a weight-loss diet (Vegetarian), 2) 117 participants had tried a weight-loss diet but not a vegetarian diet (Weight Loss), 3) 133 participants had followed both a vegetarian and a weight-loss diet (Both), and 4) 119 participants had not tried either diet (Neither).
Results: Differences were examined by comparing the Vegetarian and Weight-Loss groups as well as by comparing the two diets within the Both group. Duration of the vegetarian diet was much greater than the weight-loss diet; most participants in the Vegetarian group (62%) remained on their diet for more than 1 year, whereas the majority of the Weight-Loss participants (61%) followed their diet for 1 to 3 months. Similar results were found when comparing the two diets within the Both group. How strictly the two diets were followed, however, did not differ. Analyses revealed that reasons for discontinuing a diet varied; participants were more likely to cite boredom as a reason for discontinuing a weight-loss diet than a vegetarian diet (53% vs. 5% between groups and 30% vs. 10% within the Both group).
Discussion: The longer duration of the vegetarian diet relative to the weight-loss diet warrants further investigation. Results could possibly be applied to behavioral weight-loss treatment to improve long-term maintenance.