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As you may have gleaned from the food photos on this blog, I’m mostly vegan. Occasionally I do eat eggs, seafood and dairy products, but I’m trying to eliminate those completely as well. I’ve not touched other kinds of meat including chicken, beef and pork for quite some time. Frankly, I can’t stomach the taste of them anymore and even the sight of raw meat repulses me. I guess it’s a rejection mechanism that my body has adopted.

Why Vegan? I view veganism not only as a diet but a holistic lifestyle and attitude. A combination of many factors in my life drew me to this movement. One of them was the videos on factory farming my sis shared with me. The cruelty towards animals I witnessed disgusted and shamed me. The fact that we could be so blasé about where our food comes from when we hold the lives of countless creatures in our hands, that somehow our eating habits justify such treatment, is extremely disturbing to me. It’s true that our Neanderthal ancestors were hunters and meat-eaters, but do I have to be one? Am I biologically ‘wired’ as such? Do I need meat for sustenance and health?

The difference between us and our Neanderthal ancestors is that they didn’t cause prolonged suffering to animals by confining them in small spaces, separating them from their babies, etc. I reached the conclusion that with the resources available in the modern world, it’s not necessary for me to eat meat anymore. In fact, this brings me to another reason for becoming vegan- I’m convinced that meat is not essential for health, and is even a detriment to health.

Around the same time that I was grappling with the ethical issues of my diet, I was dealing with the problem of acne. I’ve had acne in varying stages of severity since puberty, but it worsened when I graduated from high school/ junior college. I’ve tried all kinds of supposed cures, from cleansers and pimple creams to antioxidant pills and antibiotics. I stopped short of doing something drastic like Accutane, because instinctively I was scared about how my body would handle it. I’d applied steroids and chemicals to other parts of my body for prolonged periods to treat my eczema. I did not want to absorb any more of that stuff.

I researched endlessly on possible causes of acne, from hormones to underlying health disorders like leaky gut syndrome. I came to realize that my skin is a reflection of how I am on the inside. It is a result of the accumulation of toxins, chemicals and stress. If I want to heal my acne, I have to heal my body. I started reading books on diet and health, including The Okinawa Diet Plan and Healthy at 100. I learnt that the cultures that thrived in terms of health and lived the longest were those that ate mostly natural, unprocessed fruits and vegetables. I knew then that I was a victim of the modern diet, of processed carbs, refined sugars, meats with saturated fats, salt etc. Cutting down on those improved my skin tremendously, along with exercise. I also removed the harsh cleansers and opted for more natural products, including Dr Bronner’s Soap and olive oil as moisturizer.

I don’t have completely clear skin yet, as I’m still recovering from the abuse I put my body through. The drugs, stress, insomnia, crying jags, unhealthy eating habits and harsh cleansers have all took their toll. Who knows what damage all those steroids have done? I look back on the way I treated myself and can’t help cringing. I remember being upset at comments that I was too skinny as a teenager, and forcing myself to eat meat to put on weight. Then later on I got obsessed about staying thin.

The funny thing is, I’m probably considered completely normal and healthy in this modern world. That’s what aggravates me. Doctors think it’s ok to just prescribe drugs that actually mask the problem, not get to the root of it. Once, I started a new antibiotic for my acne and immediately felt so sick that I knew something was wrong. I respect people like Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who dedicate their lives to researching and educating people on nutrition. People just don’t stop to question their diet or where their food comes from. And the fact that a teenage girl is made to feel uncomfortable about her own body? That’s just wrong.

Increasingly, I find myself thinking about what kind of world I want to create for my children. I think that’s a responsibility we all share. Given the prevalence of venereal diseases in developed countries and the problem of global warming, the future seems bleak. Because of rising meat consumption, the livestock industry is straining our natural resources and  polluting the environment. Being vegan is a choice I make for ethical, health and environmental reasons.

I call it a diet of love and abundance, because it’s about loving the Earth, the animals, and yourself. In no way do I feel deprived. Sure, I get cravings especially in the early stages, but my taste buds have adapted. I crave the freshness of fruits and vegetables more these days. The sensation of biting into a ripe, juicy peach, its sweet juices filling my mouth, is indescribable. I think the main reasons people eat meat, including me, are for taste, pleasure, convenience, cultural customs, habit and social acceptance. None of these are compelling enough for me to want to hurt another living being.

So what’s the next step? I’ve been gravitating towards raw foods after watching videos (check out Megan Elizabeth, Rawfully Kristina and Ka Sundance). I believe that the less processed the food, the higher in nutritional content. Raw fruits and vegetables are pure unadulterated goodness. Ultimately I wish to have a diet that’s completely sustainable- something that comes from my own garden and goes right back into the earth, generating zero waste. I envision myself living to a ripe old age and remaining hearty and strong, like the Okinawan centenarians. I want to defy the notion that illnesses are inevitable in old age. Why not, if we free ourselves from what society dictates?

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