I have been happily vegetarian for eight years of my life. I truly love my diet of beans, vegetables and fruit — and that will probably never change. However, ever since I got to college all I can think about is how much I crave chicken.

I am not even talking about fancy rotisserie chicken. I am talking about the good stuff: Panda Express Orange Chicken, Popeye's Fried Chicken and classic chicken nuggets. But why?

Here are my best guesses. If any other veggie lovers are going through this struggle, let me know what you think it may be!

1. I am surround by people eating meat (especially fast food) all the time.

Whether it is chicken nuggets from Chick-Fil-A on campus, or a bowl of orange chicken from nearby Panda Express, I seem to find people eating meat everywhere. Before college, I was rarely exposed to these types of food. The only meat I really had growing up was Dino Nugget — those mouthwatering, memory-evoking and all around delicious treats. I still daydream about those little creatures of goodness all the time. Seriously. 

Unconsciously, I found myself staring down people eating chicken, salivating over the thought of biting into that hot, juicy, nugget. Creepy, I know. I can't help myself!

2. I no longer live with my supportive, vegetarian mother.

My mom has been vegetarian for 40-something years. She was part of the reason I became vegetarian (I loved to copy whatever she did). In fact, she is is probably the main reason I eat like a rabbit now. However, I didn't really know any better when I lived at home, and being vegetarian became something of muscle memory. 

Now that I am on my own in college, I could hypothetically reach for a a piece of fried chicken from KFC, not worrying about my mom's glaring eyes. While this is true, I haven't yet caved in. Maybe due to the fact that there is a tiny "mom" voice in the back of my mind, keeping me on track. Or it is the constant pictures of eggs, kale and veggies I receive from her on the daily, reminding me of who I am. 

3. Eating beans and tofu can get boring very, very quickly. 

dairy product, cheese, milk, candy, tofu
Lauren Kaplan

At my home back in San Francisco, I was blessed to be able to eat different forms of vegetarian protein. I was treated with tempeh, seitan (fake meat made of gluten) and lentils on the daily. Don't get me wrong, I love my edamame and eggs, but when that is all I am eating on the daily, I start to lose my patience. This is where it gets controversial. 

Instead of turning to sources like protein shakes or protein bars, I tend to crave chicken. It's something so different from my day-to-day food consumption that it actually sparks excitement. However, a quick memory recall of that one photo I saw of a chicken farm in sixth grade puts me back in my place. 

4. I am scared of standing out from the larger crowd that does eat meat. 

Peer pressure, fear of being different and fear of being difficult. I have felt all of these things being vegetarian, and even more so now in college. Whether my friends and I are cooking one night or deciding where to eat, I always feel like the fact that I don't eat meat makes everyone's lives harder. I always have to look up menus ahead of time, making sure there are enough options for me. This can get tiresome and, again, boring. Additionally, if I happen to end up at a restaurant like Buffalo Wild Wings, I am yet again tempted by the juicy, sticky, wings. 

Even in the dining hall on campus, I sometimes get self-conscious walking around with a plate full of veggies and beans. Do people judge me? Maybe, maybe not. But I feel their eyes on me. When I eat with my friends, they always (jokingly) ask me if I want to try some of whatever meat they are having. I am truthfully always tempted, but sometimes it just feels like I am being teased. Is it time to give in or stay strong (like my 20/20 eyesight from all the carrots I eat)?

To nugget or not to nugget?

Will I quit my years long practice of steering clear of meat? I am honestly not sure yet. At this point I find myself craving meat, yet moments later I change my mind. I am scared of what my body will do if I go back to eating meat, so it would have to be a slow introduction if it happens. When I get over the crazy urges I have to eat hundreds of McDonalds chicken nuggets, I realize that my basic diet of veggies and beans has sustained and kept me happy for years. So why change now?