Vegetarianism seems to be the all-new food trend. You hear of actors, actresses, sports stars and even former presidents going on vegan and vegetarian diets. Maybe you tried a vegetarian diet for a little bit, too. Or, better yet, maybe you currently are a vegetarian. How do people actually do it, though? Is it actually possible to be a vegetarian for life?

I am 19 years old - just turned 19, actually (yes, yes, thanks for the late birthday wishes) - and since day one of my existence, I have been a vegetarian. Crazy, right?!

Of course, that doesn't mean I've never eaten meat. There were a couple of times I consumed meat products by accident. But, by volition, I have been a lifetime vegetarian. Whenever I tell people this, of course, I get a lot of questions. So, I decided to create a little "FAQ" section answering questions based on my lifetime vegetarianism.  

Q: Why have you been a vegetarian all your life? You're missing out, dude...

A: I was born into a family who was vegetarian by religion. So when I was young, I was vegetarian really only because my religion mandated it. Around the age of 16, however, I decided that I wanted to be vegetarian by choice - regardless of religion. I realized that vegetarianism facilitated a much more healthy and simple way of life. 

Of course, my peers were always talking about how tasty their crispy bacon was or how tender their medium-rare steak was, wondering how I was missing out on this experience. But, given that I had never been a meat eater, it was never difficult for me to continue my vegetarianism. I've never known anything but vegetarian food, anyway! So, no, I don't feel like I've been "missing out."

Q: Did you say vegetarianism led to a "simple" way of life? SCREW that! What actual benefits are there from vegetarianism?

A: The "simple" lifestyle part of vegetarianism is a personal choice. I've never been a person who relished in luxury, so a simple lifestyle just fits my personality. That was my reason for embracing (and continuing to embrace) vegetarianism, but there are many other (more practical) reasons, too. 

A big game changer for me was a book I read called The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. In this book, the author describes his experiences exploring various sectors of the food industry, and it really opened my mind. We have all probably driven by vast corn and soy fields in the "middle of nowhere" on long drives before, but only after reading this book did I learn that most of these crops were grown as feed for poultry animals. Basically, each pound of meat that is produced requires nearly twice as much vegetable feed in weight. Instead of just directly using all the corn and soy to feed humans, the corporate industry grows them to feed animals because it leads to the highest profit margin. Not to mention, this practice has a terrible impact on the soil. 

And, it's not like those animals are really treated nicely, either. Pollan describes how many of the poultry animals are kept in disgusting conditions. For instance, pigs are kept in cells so narrow that they cannot even turn 180 degrees. Hundreds (or even thousands) of chickens are stuffed into tiny sheds. Cows are congested into small spaces and biologically exploited for milk. It was absolutely gut-wrenching to read. 

The way vegetarianism combats all of this is by reducing the demand for meat. If more people go vegetarian, there will be less demand for meat, so meat production will decrease. That means less inhumane treatment of animals, and less consumable crops invested in animals instead of humans.

If you care at all about the environment, you should really check out Pollan's book. He just might convince you to become vegetarian. 

Q: Wow ... now you're talking! My only concern is ... How hard is it to stay vegetarian? Won't I miss meat?

A: I hear a lot of struggles from people who attempted to go vegetarian, but who simply couldn't live without the meat - or, at the very least, without meat substitutes made from products like soy. This was really not the case for me, because I was born into an Indian family. India is a country with a large vegetarian population, so Indian cuisine has adapted to that. There are numerous, diverse vegetarian options within Indian cuisine, so my family has never had the need for something like a meat substitute. 

In my experience, anything that you like is hard to give up at first. I once tried a no-unnatural fat diet several years ago, and that meant completely erasing any kind of chips from my diet. I absolutely loved chips, so for the first few weeks, I really struggled. Over time, however, I became so used to my new diet that after I finally decided to end it. I was disgusted even by the sight of chips. Becoming vegetarian likely works in a similar way: It's hard at first, but once you become used to it, you won't look back. 

Q: But, one more question. What's the difference between veganism and vegetarianism? Is one better than the other? 

A: A vegan is someone who does not eat any animal products altogether. That means no cow's milk, cheese, eggs, yogurt, or any dairy products. Vegans often substitute these with soy products, like soymilk and tofu. Vegetarians, on the other hand, simply don't eat meat - but dairy products are still permissible to consume. Whether one is better than the other is really up to personal preference. Personally, I would have a very hard time being a vegan because I am allergic to soy (and I love dairy). But, I know several people who are successful vegans, and they talk about how their diet really revitalizes them and helps them be more mentally and physically productive with their day. So, it's really up to you - if you have the determination and self-control, you can do anything with your diet.

Hopefully, after reading this, you can go with a better understanding of how and why many live their lives as vegetarians. Perhaps vegetarianism could be your thing, too.