One of the largest health trends in the 21st century that many people have subscribed to, or at least tried for a bit, is the vegetarian and/or vegan diet. The growing consciousness of a "healthier" lifestyle led to the popularity of going completely green. The shift from omnivore-carnivore to strictly herbivore has been easy for some, and a struggle for others. But a recent study found that going green isn't as easy as it's often made out to be. In fact, the gradual relapse and going back to a meaty diet was observed in more than 80 per cent of vegetarians.

The data, which was a product of three years of study, was released by animal advocacy group Humane Research Council and Harris International. Also included in the study are the reasons why one has decided to be vegetarian/vegan and what led to one's decision to return to being carnivorous. 

There were 11,000 Americans respondents in the survey, with only 2 per cent of the respondents admitting to not eating meat at all. On the other hand, a whopping 88 per cent said they have never tried being vegetarians or vegans. And of the 12 percent who have tried a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, five out of six go back to eating meat at some point.

This is equivalent to 84 per cent of the vegetarians and vegans eventually giving up on their lifestyle choice.

The study found that more than half (53 per cent) started eating meat again within a year, and almost one-third (30 per cent) relapsed within just three months.

When asked why the respondents had shifted to a vegetarian diet, most reasoned out  the benefits it could give to the health. About 58 per cent of them gave better health their main motivation. More than 60 per cent said they transitioned to a vegetarian diet in just a matter of days or weeks.

However, as quickly as one converted himself or herself into a pure vegetable eater was his or her reconciliation with meat. Around 63 per cent of "returnees" said that they disliked how their diet made them "different" from the majority.

Meanwhile 43 per cent ate meat again because they found it too difficult to maintain a 'pure' diet, with chicken the food being the most difficult to resist.

New York nutritionist Lisa Young explained that sudden conversion to a purely vegetarian diet has an effect to one's diet. "They say, 'I'm never going to eat that again,'" said Young, who warned against an all-or-nothing approach. Gradual shift is more advisable. "If you start by eating smaller portions of pork or chicken, then cutting out all meat and dairy for a month, you can get a better feel for it," Young said.

On a more hopeful and positive note, almost 40 per cent of the respondents expressed their desire to go vegetarian or vegan again in the future.

Vegetarian and vegan are terms that have resonated in the world of health, especially when a U.S. study claimed switching to a vegetarian diet could help reverse diabetes. Others have proven a diet rich in vegetables lead to a better quality of life.