#RealTalk: A Story of Acne, Depression and a Vegan Diet

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I love food, and I was a big carnivore.  In fact, I loved beef more than chicken, and my steak was always ordered medium rare.  My all-time favorite breakfast was eggs and beef sausage. For lunch, I used to eat only rice and meat and leave the vegetables. And why not grab a smoked turkey sandwich, with melted roumy cheese for dinner? Koshari was not considered a proper meal to me because it doesn’t include a “protein” (before I knew that lentils are actually protein). I was addicted to potato chips and Cheetos. No really, I WAS ADDICTED! Saturdays were my favorites, not because I would enjoy a movie night, but because they were KFC nights!

But I was ok with this lifestyle. In fact, I wasn’t really seeing it as an unhealthy one.  My weight was ok, my face was ok, my life was ok…or at least that’s what I thought.

The word ‘healthy’ was not in my mind. I thought I was healthy, I thought that as long as I’m not fat then I’m healthy. Then, the most traumatic event I have ever experienced happened to me; my father passed away.

Losing the most important person in my life was a big shock for me. I got depressed, so depressed. The pain I experienced led to some terrifying panic attacks. I couldn’t get out of bed, would sleep 16 hours straight, and was so tired all the time. Migraines were my constant companion, I looked pale, down and blanched. I was losing the color in my face and skin.

One day I woke up and didn’t recognize myself. Although it’s true that depression can change the way you look, this was not the reason. The main awful reason was the amount of acne I had all over my face. It was red, painful and looked so hideous that I actually hated looking in the mirror. I had even developed an “acne beard” along my jawline. A beard? Yes, inflamed acne cysts running from my ears down to my chin. I didn’t want to go see a dermatologist. Honestly speaking, the only energy I had was reserved for going to the bathroom.

I needed to make a change. First, I had to pull myself out of the wretched days I was living in, and secondly, I had to find a solution for my acne problem.  I came across some online articles saying that consuming cheese leads to a heavy appearance of acne. “What? Are you telling me I should give up my cheese-lust relationship? Of course I won’t…Well let it burn, I don’t care.”

Five days later, I was looking at some old pictures of myself from the summer of 2015. There was this photo of me at an engagement party, where I remembered my dad told me, “You are shinning. Keep shinning”. My world had paused here. I wanted to shine again, just for him. I spent three days toying with the idea of cutting cheese out of my daily meals. Then, I decided to break up with cheese just for two weeks.

I read more articles online and came across studies about a plant based lifestyle and how animal protein is not so good for our health.  I started to watch videos online about vegan lifestyles. Initially, I just gradually replaced my snacks with fruits. I had almost forgotten how fruits tasted. My mom was surprised; I would usually grab a white glazed doughnut for a snack than ever think to have an apple.

Finally, I gave up all dairy products, meat, poultry and fish, and because my mom is a typical Egyptian mother who believes that adding some butter to my grilled vegetables is not a big deal, I did not trust her in preparing my dinner. (Sorry mom, I love your food and your amazing ro2a2, but it’s time to change.) I started to prepare my meals myself.  Breakfast was my main concern, as I used to have cheese every day for this meal. I had to find a healthy way, so I started to make smoothie bowls with muesli or granola and fresh fruits. I learnt that there are A LOT of vegetables that are packed with protein and that protein is not limited to beef or chicken. I started to eat beans, lentils, broccoli and quinoa. I cooked so many tasty meals with a minimal usage of oils. I started to cook all vegan desserts and they were amazing, healthy and always satisfying to my sweet tooth.

The two week challenge became a month, and now I have been vegan for 45 days. I don’t want to stop. I love it. I can eat chicken when I want (I’ve had it twice in the past 45 days), yet surprisingly, I don’t crave cheese, chips, Cheetos or doughnuts.

Not only did my acne disappear and my face became radiant, but also I became healthy. And I know now what the definition of a healthy person is. I started to be positive, to think positively, and I’m now more energetic, active and less anxious. It helped me fight the depression I was going through. I’m living a better life; connecting more to nature and earth. It turned out that it was the best decision I have ever made.

Don’t ever think that you cannot give up meat or cheese; I’m living a proof that you can. Always be sure of the saying, “A healthy body means a healthier mind”. I will continue in my plant based lifestyle; for my health, for the animals and for my happiness!

Now I’m shinning, Dad.

You can follow Omneya’s healthy journey on Instagram: @veganvistana

 

 

Note: The before picture for the feature image was after only 2 weeks on a plant based diet, when the acne had started to reduce. I don’t have a picture from when my face looked swollen from the redness of the pimples.

Omneya graduated from the American University in Cairo with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism. She then continued her post-graduate studies in London, where she received a MA degree in Media Management, from the University of Westminster. Omneya now lives in Cairo and works in advertising. She’s passionate about writing, food and fashion, and is also a digital media enthusiast, avid coffee drinker and professional dog walker. You can get more of Omneya's recipes through her Instagram account @ohhshecooks.

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