I have been reading a book entitled Diet Cults by Matt Fitzgerald that I have found very interesting and thought-provoking, and highly recommend it. One of the things he wrote about had to do with group identity and diets. One reason we might choose a diet or a health plan that seems to 'resonate' with us more than another may have to do with the psychological and social factors that compel us to belong to a group, and perhaps you are friends with someone who follows a particular diet or plan and that gets the ball rolling to start following that particular diet. Some diets have larger followings and more opportunities for social connectedness than others, and this, too, could be a compelling factor. Basically, Matt Fitzgerald writes, most diets can work well for most people for most of the time, but some may be more successful [excluding other factors] due to the group identity of the people who are part of that diet's or plan's following.
This reminds me of when I first chose to become a vegetarian. At the time, I made the decision on my own and I knew of no vegetarian groups or activities [this was in 1981 and in Texas; if you know anything about Texas, you know that beef is a pretty big industry there]. However, I was committed to being a vegetarian due to ethical reasons, not health reasons, and my compassion for animals and my desire to contribute as little as possible to their pain and suffering (to the extent I was aware of it at any given time) was a huge motivator for me.. Eventually, I was able to find a group of people who were also interested in the vegetarian diet and started hanging out with them more often, and that led to being an animal rights activist, which has a large contingent of vegetarians and vegans. I became a vegan in 1989 when I learned about the connection between veal and the dairy industry [without calves, there would be no veal]. I was heavily involved in these types of groups for at least 18 years [or more] and they definitely were my 'tribe' or group and, as such, heavily informed my identity. I was also involved in the civil and women's rights movements, and was a bit dismayed at times by these groups' lack of awareness [in my humble opinion] of the link between human and animal oppression, and so at times felt much less part of those groups [a less strong identity with them] than with the animal rights and vegetarian groups. I find this all quite interesting.
At this point in my life, I live in paradise [Hawaii], but unfortunately, there are very few regular, active groups to which I feel I could fit in or belong that have as the core something along the lines of vegetarianism, veganism and/or raw foodism. There have been a few people who have created social networks of raw fooders with gatherings, but those fizzled out. Every now and then, I'll see an advertisement for a raw food certification class or something similar, but this is a temporary event, and not an on-going social network or group type of thing. So, even though it is very easy to be a raw fooder in Hawaii due to the weather and availability of a wide variety of fresh produce, it is harder in that group identity and belonging is more difficult to create [I'm guessing that this is due to the small population, as well as how spread out people are on the island]. I do miss belonging to a social group with which I feel a belonging and a social identity and where I can make friends and participate in regular, on-going activities around a subject that is integral to my life: an ethically-based, raw food vegan diet.
I can see why many people might start a diet or new plan, but don't receive enough social reinforcement, for example, for it to continue. Or, they find the restrictions too much to deal with, especially if they don't have the social support. Much research has gone into trying to tease out how much dieting and losing weight have to do with differing factors, such as the diet plan [what is allowed and what is not], the psychology of the individuals involved, genes, social support [one thing that Weight Watchers is based one], or others. And, likely these different factors will have different importance at different times for different people. Also, for some, an online support group may work out just great, while for others, it will not be 'enough' support or reinforcement. So, when considering your own diet plan or thinking about getting into raw foods or veganism, how important is social support to you, where will you get it, how often, and will it be enough for you?