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    Growing up, I was infatuated with the SAD (Standard American Diet) lifestyle, and boy, it was truly sad. I would not eat or drink anything other than chicken nuggets, Sprite, and potato chips. If my parents wanted me to eat my vegetables, it had to have cheese smothered all over it. All this consumption of processed food may have made me feel good while eating it, but it eventually began to take a toll on my health.

   Once I was in third grade, I started to have cystic acne all over my face, neck, and back. My skin was covered in red bumps and scarring. It got so bad many of my fellow students in my class would ask me if I had a disease of some sort. I would cry to my parents telling them I looked hideous and I felt I would never have a clear complexion. My parents did whatever they could to help me with my skin by paying for everything they could. They took me to doctors upon doctors and bought product after product. I did everything: face washes, acupuncture, laser treatments, face masks, pills; I did it all. By the time I was in my freshman year of high school, I had seen ten dermatologists, three doctors/experts that specialized in Eastern Medicine, and I had done five painful laser procedures. My only plan left was to take Accutane. After jumping through every hoop and hurdle, I was able to finally start the treatment. The treatment, at times, was tough; I had to avoid some foods, mainly spicy foods, so my lips would not swell and I had to wear a lot of moisturizer and lip balm since my skin was so dry and cracked. The side effects, though hard, were worth it in the end. After completing the six month cycle, my skin completely cleared. It was amazing! I finally felt better about myself knowing I could feel my skin without feeling bumps all over my face. But after about two months of clear skin, my arch-nemesis started to return. While it wasn’t as bad as what I had in my early schooling days, it was still around and I could not bare the thought of having zits on my face. I wanted to go back to Accutane, but the trouble of waiting thirty days, completing pregnancy and drug tests, and having my mother wait for hours to get the prescription cleared by the government wasn’t worth it.

     I ended up resorting to just doing a regular cleanser and moisturizer routine to tame my skin, but at the same time though, I knew that I had to make better lifestyle choices for myself if I wanted clearer skin and a healthier body. When I was in elementary school, working out and eating healthy was not my cup of tea. As I got into middle school, I gave up soda for water and I started incorporating vegetables in my diet, but I was still out of shape. One day in the summer of 2013, my sister and I went jogging so she could get in shape for volleyball tryouts. After that jog, I didn’t and haven’t stop running. Running got me into the groove of wanting to eat healthier. I started to eat more salads and veggies. I even lost some weight and my skin started to see a little bit more clarity, but it still wasn’t where I wanted it to be. It wasn’t until January of this year did I see a video that changed everything.

    I was on YouTube, and in my suggestions, I saw a link by YouTubers Nina and Randa about their experience dealing with cystic acne and how consuming a vegan diet rich in fruits and veggies while living an active lifestyle helped cure their acne. I was really amazed and it made me think back to previous doctors’ visits I had when I was younger. Two out of the ten doctors suggested to me that while most of my condition was hormonal the rest was due to diet. They suggested to me to give up anything unhealthy or anything containing animal products, like eggs and dairy. One of the doctors said dairy was more than likely the biggest culprit for why I and many of her patients were dealing with acne. She said that due to the heavy hormone content in ice cream and cheese, it can cause heavy inflammation in the stomach and skin. At that time, though, I wouldn’t listen. I remembered telling my mom that I might as well just die if I could not eat whatever I wanted. However, watching Nina and Randa and other fellow vegan Youtubers, like Freelee the Banana Girl talk about the benefits of veganism made me really think about taking it seriously. I was a bit hesitant, but I knew this was probably the best plan for me so I wanted in. I immediately started the next day.

    As I started out, it was really hard seeing my mother make my favorite meals that all involved some part of an animal. Yes, there were definitely times when I would consume a product and totally not see that it contained dairy, eggs, or gelatin in it, or temptation would get the best of me and I would take a bite out of that steak. However, as time went on, I saw different ways to make my favorite non-plant based foods plant based, so it eventually got a lot easier for my mind and body to abstain from non-vegan based foods. After taking the lifestyle seriously for the first real week, the effects were immediate. I had more energy, and my sinuses even went away. I used to get up as early as two in the morning to blow my nose because I had trouble breathing due to my sinuses; I wasn’t sick anymore. Most of all, I had finally achieved clear skin. The effects were and have been truly breathtaking.

   As I progress in my journey, I have found it to definitely be a learning experience. Absolutely, I do have times where I forget to check the labeling (I’m only human) or I go to a restaurant where there is only meat offered, (this is the South after all) but I try my best to work around it as much as possible. While challenging at times, the extra work is worth it for the benefit of having a healthier mind and body.

    It has almost been a year since I decided to go vegan and remembering what I went through when I was ten with all the awful doctor’s visits and bullying, I just think, “ If only I started veganism earlier.” But, I then say to myself that it is better late than never. I am truly grateful what veganism and living a healthy non-sedentary lifestyle has done for me. I would not change it for the world for just a bucket of ice cream and fried chicken.