My Struggle with Acne and Self-Confidence

Pizza Face. Gah, I hate that term.

I was never known as the pretty girl growing up. Middle school was brutal, and so was my skin. I distinctly remember when I began breaking out. It was the summer after fourth grade. It was okay though, because I could hide it under my bangs. That didn’t last too long, as it spread to other parts of my face within the next year. I also remember the first time I wore makeup to hide it. I was going to be meeting my then boyfriend’s dad for the first time, and my mom put it on for me. I started wearing concealer the summer between sixth and seventh grade and there began the downward spiral of my self-image.

It wasn’t enough that I was nerdy and actually had a knack for learning and test-taking, but my body decided I also needed to be teased for having acne. Yay. The words “teacher’s pet” or “suck up” didn’t bother me that much. I knew learning and school was important and I really enjoyed it. “Pizza face” was a little different though. So was a classmate’s example of asexuality in biology. He declared to the class that I would have to reproduce asexually because I was so ugly no one would ever want to mate with me. Luckily, I wasn’t in the class to hear it myself and endure the laughter, but I definitely heard about it later from my friends who were in the class. The teasing my sixth grade boyfriend endured because of me was also too much to swallow at times. I later found out from his sister that the teasing was the main reason he wanted to break up with me.

It wasn’t like I didn’t take care of my skin. I washed my face every morning and night. I went to the dermatologist and tried all the latest acne medications. Nothing worked. I remember that damn Channel 1 commercial for Clearasil. “Be clear. The choice is yours.” We had to watch it everyday, and everyday I would just sink in my chair as I felt the whole class was just staring at me, asking why I wouldn’t just use the Clearasil and get clear skin. I emailed Clearasil. I told them if I really did have a choice, I definitely wouldn’t choose to have acne. Their commercial implied it was my fault and that I was just too lazy to fix my acne.

Makeup became the fix that I needed. It didn’t cover everything all the time, but it helped. I felt I looked better, prettier. What began as just an attempt to fit in turned into an obsession. I was ugly without makeup. And of course, all the tv and magazine ads told me that was true, too! I was surrounded with images and messages about what beauty was, and it certainly wasn’t an acne-ridden teenage girl like me.

Fortunately, in late highschool and college my skin began to clear quite a bit. It’s never been 100% clear, but on good days it was close. Since graduating college, I’ve been working hard to reprogram my brain to learn that makeup does not equal beauty. In fact, I stopped wearing makeup on a regular basis for about the past three years now. My skin even seemed to get even better once I stopped wearing makeup. It has, no doubt, been a struggle though. Undoing the belief that I am only pretty with concealer and powder (and then of course you need the mascara and blush) has not been easy. But there’s something very empowering about going out as yourself, how you really are, and being accepted that way by others and yourself.

Still, the emotional scars remain, and every time a breakout returns I just want to run and hide. Every pimple I get screams at me that I will always be ugly, that I’ll never be pretty. It’s such an emotional battle, and one that I feel unable to share or really explain. Though my skin has been better overall for the past six years, it hasn’t been so good lately. I feel like I’m hitting my head against a brick wall. I don’t even want to leave the house some days. I tried the Murad Acne Complex system, but that didn’t really do anything. I hate that all I can hear when I look in the mirror are the words of kids who (hopefully) didn’t know any better that were said fourteen years ago.

It’s more than just a battle of “Am I pretty?” though. It’s a battle of “Am I worth anything?” When you are continuously surrounded by negativity about yourself, you begin to question your self-worth. But no one’s self-worth should ever be up for question. I’m not really sure what the exact point was in writing all this out. I feel like I just needed to get this off my chest, to remind myself that I am strong and it is just acne. It doesn’t make me any less of a person. If there was a point though, it would be this: Everyone is worth something. No matter how negatively you see yourself or how negatively others treat you, you are still a human being of value, and that matters. No one deserves to live life hiding inside themselves, too afraid of what the world thinks of them to actually experience all they want and all that life has to offer. Life is incredible, mysterious, and short. No matter how hard it is sometimes, don’t let your life be cheated.

Sparboe Eggs Follow Up: The Push for Cage-Free

In the wake of the Sparboe Farms undercover video showing their gross mistreatment of egg-laying chickens, there’s been a push for cage-free eggs. My Facebook news feed was filled with declarations of people only going to buy cage-free eggs from now on. But what exactly does cage-free mean? And does buying cage-free mean cruelty-free?

Check out this video put together behind the Humane Myth and what they have to say about cage-free.

We hear the terms “cage-free” or “free-range” and we see images of open fields and barns, where chickens can run around at free will and do what it is that chickens do. The harsh reality is that a vast majority of these farms are factory farms, too, just like Sparboe Farms. Profit is their number one concern, not animal welfare. Remember those Perdue and Tyson chickens on Food Inc.? Those chickens were cage-free. Cage-free basically means that the barn (if you can really call it a barn) is free of the cages. Everything else is still the same.

No argument can convince me that battery cages are not inhumane, but I do not buy the argument that cage-free means everything is a-okay.

Cage-free does pose advantages over battery cages that shouldn’t be ignored. Chickens are able to move around, stretch their wings, and nest, all things which they are unable to do in a traditional battery cage. However, these chickens are not safe-guarded against having their beaks trimmed, lack of space, improper care, employee/worker mistreatment, and basically everything else that caged-chickens face. I don’t think that simply going cage-free is enough. Why stop short?

The next time you go to buy eggs, why not try buying from a local farm where you will be able to meet the chickens and see their living conditions? You’ll have peace of mind, know the direct source of your food, and support local farming. If you have the space, perhaps you can even consider getting your own egg-laying hen.

The more I know, the more I learn, the more reason I find not to support factory farms, or even animal products in general. If I want to have an egg, I want to know that the chicken that laid it is well taken care of and lives a good chicken life. Unless I’m super picky with where my food comes from and what’s in it, I won’t be happy with my dinner plate.

Sparboe Eggs Undercover Video

Sparboe Eggs

Sparboe Eggs at the Local Grocery Store

Mercy for Animals came out with undercover video showing FDA violations and animal cruelty acts at farms owned by Sparboe Farms, the fifth largest egg producer in the nation and the main supplier of eggs for McDonald’s. I’ve linked to the video below, but I’ll forewarn you that some of it is graphic. The undercover video was given to ABC who did their own special news coverage, including 20/20 and World News with Diane Sawyer episodes.

The video was released on the site McDonald’s Cruelty and I’ve seen multiple updates on my Facebook News Feed of people declaring they will never eat at McDonald’s again, though McDonald’s (along with Target) has already cut ties with the giant egg supplier. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not endorsing McDonald’s or saying that they aren’t to take any blame, but shouldn’t people be rallying against the egg supplier, too? It’s good to take action when something moves you, but I haven’t seen one update saying they will no longer buy Sparboe Eggs, which are sold right down the street and around the corner at the local grocery store. Sparboe and IGA are the two main and cheapest egg brands offered here.

I checked out the Sparboe website after watching the Mercy for Animals video and found their response to be rather interesting. The President, Beth Sparboe Schnell, had both a written letter and video on the site addressing the undercover video. She wrote:

I was deeply saddened to see the story because this isn’t who Sparboe Farms is. Acts depicted in the footage are totally unacceptable and completely at odds with our values as egg farmers. In fact, they are in direct violation of our animal care code of conduct, which all of our employees read, sign and follow each day.

Upon learning of the video, Sparboe Farms launched a comprehensive internal investigation. We have completed many interviews and reviewed audits, records and training documents. We have identified four employees who were complicit in this disturbing activity and they have been terminated. Management changes have taken place, and our investigation is ongoing. We will hold any others involved accountable for their actions. We are documenting all corrective actions taken.

Their animal care code of conduct states that hens must be given the following “five essential freedoms”:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst
  2. Freedom from discomfort
  3. Freedom from pain, injury, or disease
  4. Freedom to express normal behavior
  5. Freedom from fear and distress

I have a question for Mrs. Sparboe Schnell. After you have terminated the employees who committed the acts of animal cruelty, how do you guarantee that your hens have freedom from discomfort, pain, fear, distress, and the freedom to express normal behavior when their beaks are burned off and they are stuffed in battery cages that barely give them enough room to turn around or stretch their wings? Where they can become entangled and injure themselves? But according to Ken Klippen, the Executive of Sparboe Farms, the housing conditions of the hens are “absolutely not” cruel. In fact, Sparboe’s facilities are “state-of-the-art.” Tell that to the FDA that cited Sparboe for unsanitary conditions, including insects, rodents, and dead chickens, which can all lead to salmonella. Salmonella bacteria is commonly transferred to chickens from rodent feces, but Sparboe maintains that it has never once had a chicken or egg infected with salmonella.

These kind of events aren’t isolated either. It’s not like Sparboe Farms is the only factory farm with problems. All of them have problems. Remember the salmonella outbreak in eggs just last year? Two farms in Iowa, Hillandale Farms and Wright County Egg, that recalled eggs due to salmonella contamination, were found in serious violation of FDA regulations. Not only are these filthy and terrible living conditions bad for the chickens, but they are bad for our health. We should not be supporting practices that put profit before human and animal health and safety. These factory farms like to operate in secrecy for a reason. As the saying goes, if they had glass walls, we would all be vegetarians.

Links to the undercover video and others of interest:

So I’m interested in knowing, are you going to do anything different with what eggs you eat?


Forks Over Knives

I just watched Forks Over Knives, and I have to say it was really good. I was shocked. I was outraged. I was saddened. I was surprised. I really learned quite a few new things and really enjoyed that people were talking after the movie, trying to learn as much as they could.

The most alarming part of the movie was when a study was referenced that showed a direct correlation between the consumption of dairy products and the growth of cancer tumors. The study was done on mice that had been exposed to a known carcinogen. Then one group of the mice was fed 20% casein (milk protein) while the other was fed 5%. The group that was fed more casein developed tumors while the ones with the lower casein diet did not develop any. A second study was then done with just one group of mice that was exposed to the carcinogen and then fed a diet that varied back and forth between 20% and 5% casein. The mice did develop tumors, but it was discovered that the growth rate, and if I’m not mistaken the size, decreased when the casein was decreased to just 5% of the diet.

Now, what I want to know is, why the hell haven’t I heard this anywhere before? I know this was just a study done on lab mice, but if there’s a study that shows there’s a possibility that something in a diet will make tumors grow faster or slower, why isn’t that information shared?! When Mom and I asked Steve, one of the chemo doctors my Stepdad saw, if there were any changes in his diet that he should be making, Steve replied that diet was just “hocus pocus” when it came to cancer. Hocus pocus? Gah…I feel like I could punch him in the face. What if cutting diary out of his diet slowed the tumor growth? Or what if they recommended trying cutting out all animal protein in addition to the chemo and radiation? Would have there been different results? So many what ifs, and I hate that I’ll never know. I hate that Steve just dismissed our concerns and questions. Had they really looked into alternatives to chemo and radiation? No one once suggested he do anything with his diet, only that he eat ice cream bars to keep up his calorie intake or eat nuts because his magnesium was low.

I know I don’t know everything about the study and it’s premature to jump to conclusions. I’m definitely going to look more into it. Also, I want to check out more about that graph they featured showing death due to heart disease in Norway. It showed a decrease in heart disease related death when the Nazi’s occupied the country and confiscated all the livestock. Then, once the occupation was over and the people of Norway got their livestock back, death by heart disease increased. I don’t really know about what happened in Norway during WWII, but it’s certainly possible that a large number of people were killed by the Nazi’s and that’s why death by heart disease was so low during that time. Without all the information, it’s hard to make a definite conclusion from the graph.

Overall, I really liked the movie and highly recommend it to everyone. It should be obvious that the typical western diet is not healthy. We need to eat more unprocessed, whole foods. We need more fruits and vegetables!

No Dairy Trial Completed

So the two week trial run of no dairy has come to a close, and I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed it. I did pretty good at watching what I ate, checking all the labels and having no cheese added to my meals. The only exception I made was this past Sunday when I had a piece of of my mom and stepdad’s wedding cake. It was their one year anniversary and my stepdad wanted to save the top layer of the cake to eat. I wish so much he could have had a slice with us. I also think that the restaurant we ate at to celebrate the day cooked my stir fry in butter instead of oil. I thought stir fry would be a safe bet! At least I tried.

Overall, I feel bit better. I don’t really notice a drastic change, but I do feel like I have a bit more energy. I don’t feel weighed down. I definitely noticed a difference in how I felt Sunday night. My stomach felt heavy and my insides felt sluggish.

I know the two week trial is over, but I really don’t feel like eating dairy that much again. Yes, the cheese cravings were almost unbearable in the beginning, but now it’s not so bad. Who knew that you could go through cheese withdrawals?

Apparently, you can go through withdrawals. The main protein in milk is casein, which breaks down into casomorphins in your body. Casomorphins are opiates. Cheese has the highest concentration of casein of any dairy product, and therefore the most opiates. That’s why cheese is so freaking good. And that’s why cheese can make you constipated, just like opiate painkillers. I never would have guessed that, but biologically it does make sense. Babies should always want to come back for more of mama’s milk.

But I’m not a baby, so I don’t need milk or it’s soothing opiate effects. I have high-impact cardio, yoga and meditation for that. Which reminds me, I really need to start meditating on a daily basis. Permanently breaking the dairy habit will be hard, but I’ll eventually get there. I think I’m going to start off with no dairy on weekdays, but weekends I won’t be as strict.

Why is Life so Complicated?

I just want to know where the easy button is. Has anyone found it?

Sometimes my life feels like such a fog. There’s hundreds of things I want to do, with no means of doing them, lack of motivation, and feeling so overwhelmed I have no idea where to begin. Have I made the right choices so far in life? What if I mess it up?

Damn those people that belittle and judge others. Life is hard enough trying to figure it out on your own. It would majorly suck to have someone breathing down your neck telling you that you are living your life wrong. It does suck.

I get really mad at God sometimes. Not as often as before. I don’t know anymore what I think who or what this entity is that has power over all things, but if he really is some guy sitting up there that decided to take my stepdad away, then a;ldik;nvera him. And then my grandpa three months after? Like my mom wasn’t going through enough pain already? Are you kidding? My stepdad was the only man in my life that I wanted to call dad. I can’t even begin to put into words how I feel, and every time I try, I just break down into tears.

I know anger is part of the grieving process and it’s normal, so I’m not going insane. And for anyone that wants to get on my back for being mad at God, the nun at grief support said God can handle it. So back off.

I feel like I’d be lost if I didn’t exercise. It’s really gotten me through so much. It’s something that I know I am doing right, plus the endorphin high is amazing.

I never imagined I would be buying a house here, but we are. We feel it’s the best thing to do. Some people think we should’ve be moving out of my mom’s. Others say the house is too far or that the particular house we chose is a bad decision. But we like it, we think it’s a great deal, and hey, my mom is even excited for us!

I’m just so tired of other people telling me what I should do! Do they really have their life all figured out so it’s all picture perfect? What does it matter to them what house we buy, what job I have, what causes I believe in? It makes me want to scream. I’m just trying to do my best to live my life the best way I know how.

Sorry, I just really felt like I needed to rant right now.

Day Three of No Dairy

Last Thursday, my mom and I went to Applebee’s to take advantage of their half off appetizers. We got the veggie patch pizza, onion rings, and spinach and artichoke dip. Yum! It was all really good, and really cheesy. Lots and lots of cheese.

After driving home with a super full belly, I thought to myself, “Where did that cheese come from?”

I’ve already given up meat that comes from factory farms or unsustainable sources. The only thing I really eat is venison my father-in-law or husband shoots, and most of the seafood is fish they’ve caught, and it’s not that often. What I haven’t really made an effort to cut back on is dairy. Now I’m giving it up for two weeks, and I’m on day three. Yesterday, I was craving cheese like crazy.

Not really sure if I feel any different or not. I am lactose intolerant, along with large percentage of the population, so cutting back on dairy is a plus for me.

But lactose intolerance aside, the dairy industry isn’t a very pretty one and not one I really want to support. I don’t really know how the cows that supplied the milk for my IGA cheese were treated or what antibiotics or hormones they were injected with. Recalling some of the undercover film clips I’ve seen from dairy farms makes me cringe. Also, what other mammal still drinks milk beyond infancy?

There’s a lot of concern from people when you tell them you are cutting out diary. “Can you get enough protein, if you don’t eat meat, too?” “What about calcium?” You can still get proteins and calcium from plants. Combinations of grains and legumes and nuts and seeds provide complete proteins and you can find calcium in greens.

So for two weeks, I’ll be eating more nuts, grains, legumes, seeds, and a wide variety of greens. It won’t be hard though. I already eat quite a bit of them. I’m pretty much vegetarian, at least that’s what I tell people because it’s easier to say that then explain why I don’t want to eat their hamburger or chicken salad. I flirt with the idea of being vegan in my mind. Maybe one day I’ll get there. I could do weekday vegan.

I wanted to spend some more time writing about dairy for this post, but I don’t have a whole lot of time to do it. Late night always seems to creep up on me. I’ll definitely do a follow up post.

My First Protest

Occupy The UP Protesters - Washington St

Today was my first protest. It was exciting, fun, and, to be honest, a little disappointing at the end.

I went with a friend to take part in the Occupy the UP protest in support of the world wide October 15th demonstration day for Occupy Wall Street. There was chanting and sign waving and speeches on a soapbox. There was definitely energy in the air. My favorite sign was one stating, “Corporations are not People.” 🙂 Citizens United v. FEC was a mistake!

We protested first outside of Wells Fargo and then outside the post office. I don’t think there was any symbolic reason to protest outside the post office. It’s just a place a lot of people protest at because of the high traffic, I’m sure.

We got a lot of honks of support from the people driving by. I think that was my favorite part. It was cool seeing that we were out there standing up for what other people believe in. I felt like we were doing the right thing, acknowledging and making known that the American people are upset, even in the UP.

The part that was disappointing was the meeting after the demonstrations. It was a smaller group of people, and a lot of them seemed very concerned with defining a creed for the group. My thoughts were, “Wait, what?”

How are we supposed to define a chapter of a movement that has no real definition and no definite leader? Isn’t that, while the biggest criticism, also the biggest strength of the movement? There’s a bunch of different people united for a generalized reason, we’re mad about the government catering to those with the money, when they make up only a small percentage of the population that the government is supposed to serve. These corporations, these financial institutions, take our money and do who knows what with it and we have no say. We don’t get to influence the laws that govern what happens with our dollars, the corporations do! We are all united in that voice that we aren’t going to take it anymore, but by trying to define the Occupy movement by declaring its members (like it’s a club) either democrat or republican, or in favor of that law, or against this candidate, tends to just draw lines and begins to alienate people.

I thought this CNN article on Occupy Wall Street was just fantastic and really nailed it:

“In fact, we are witnessing America’s first true Internet-era movement, which — unlike civil rights protests, labor marches, or even the Obama campaign — does not take its cue from a charismatic leader, express itself in bumper-sticker-length goals and understand itself as having a particular endpoint.

“Yes, there are a wide array of complaints, demands, and goals from the Wall Street protesters: the collapsing environment, labor standards, housing policy, government corruption, World Bank lending practices, unemployment, increasing wealth disparity and so on. Different people have been affected by different aspects of the same system — and they believe they are symptoms of the same core problem.

“Are they ready to articulate exactly what that problem is and how to address it? No, not yet. But neither are Congress or the president who, in thrall to corporate America and Wall Street, respectively, have consistently failed to engage in anything resembling a conversation as cogent as the many I witnessed as I strolled by Occupy Wall Street’s many teach-ins this morning. There were young people teaching one another about, among other things, how the economy works, about the disconnection of investment banking from the economy of goods and services, the history of centralized interest-bearing currency, the creation and growth of the derivatives industry, and about the Obama administration deciding to settle with, rather than investigate and prosecute the investment banking industry for housing fraud.”

Think Occupy Wall St. is a phase? You don’t get it. by Douglas Rushkoff, Special to CNN

I really think that a small group taking it upon themselves to declare an agenda for everyone as a whole just isn’t going to work and will only inadvertently divide the people. And as far as taking on additional causes, why not get behind those organizations that are already in place and provide them with support? For example, why don’t we help out Save the Wild UP or the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve instead of recreating our own environmental committee to take on things like local pollution and protesting the Rio Tinto Kennecott mine? It just seems we would be spreading resources too thin and trying to redo what has already been done.

In all, I have mixed emotions about the Occupy the UP movement. Relating to the book The Starfish and the Spider, I’d like to think of Occupy as more of a starfish, not a spider.

A Wannbe Activist

It’s pretty exciting watching the Occupy movement sweep the country, spreading even to Canada and Puerto Rico. Mainstream media has finally deemed it important to cover, so people are really starting to notice how widespread the movement really is. Tomorrow is a nation-wide demonstration, and there’s one happening twenty minutes away tomorrow. It starts at 8:00 am with an assembly, speeches, a march, a protest outside Wells Fargo, and ends again with another assembly. Of course, as an aspiring activist, I’m stoked to go!

But here I am, sitting at my computer, at 2:12 am, writing this blog post. I should be in bed sleeping, getting rest for the big day tomorrow. Instead I’ll probably be arriving late. Gaaaah. But at least I’m going, right?

Hello, I’m Kristen. Author of this blog and wannabe environmentalist, health nut, and activist. 🙂

There’s a lot of issues I care about. There’s a lot of things I want to do something about. Alas, I’m a little on the lazy side. Or maybe it’s not the lazy side, maybe it’s…okay, I’m lazy. That’s where my new blog comes in. It’s a way to motivate myself and keep me active on the issues I care about. Now, I better stick with it and not procrastinate writing.

Ideally, it would be great to have a site that gave instructions on how to implement social change or fight against pollution, or gave definite facts and figures on the pressing issues of today. It would be really great to have a site like Tree Hugger. However, all this girl has is a personal blog, and all I have are thoughts and ideas that I want to share. Perhaps I can get enough people thinking and then change will begin to happen. With a blog and tweeting and liking links, hopefully I can influence enough to get people to start challenging the status quo more and more. It’s all about sharing information! Of course, if you’ve been paying attention to the Occupy movement at all, people are waking up.

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