I’m going to be honest with y’all, I’m not an American. However, when I arrived in this beautiful town of Johnson City, a year prior to being officially accepted as an ETSU student, I was introduced to the notion of the infamous “Freshman Fifteen,” but that can apply to upperclassmen as well.

A year later, I was that typical female girl, psychologically bullied by the notion of the freshman fifteen. I was so terrified of gaining weight, not only because of the stereotype of women gaining 15 pounds, but because of the beauty standards that western women have been stuck under. Then, I nearly got aggressive with a man who told me that I had a fat derrière. I didn’t know that America had started to favor that beauty of the body, in all shapes and forms. This threw me into a rut.

After finding that I was going to be accepted, IF my butt and my waist fit in, I freaked out! I thought I was an alien, disputing the fact that I was a foreigner. The thought that my naturally broad waist was not OK became instilled in me, so I started busting a sweat at the CPA, given that I was a student and my budget was strapped. Once there, I found that all body types were accepted.

Now, after watching the Netflix documentary “What the Health” I realized that an animal-free diet would benefit my body, I became a vegetarian. Coming from South Africa, a country where we eat meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I looked up many academic articles in many medical journals and found that the human body thrives on a vegan diet.

I don’t know about you, but when an incredibly fit and attractive American Ninja Warrior pops up on TV and tells you that their vegan diet made them even stronger and agile, I can’t help but melt.

I tried the vegan diet for about two days, but that grilled cheese sandwich just yelled my name. In the end, I found that products like veggie chicken nuggets and burgers are available and tasted exactly the same. My very typical American, anti-vegetarian boyfriend even asked me if someone hadn’t ironically changed our nuggets out as a joke, it tasted that similar.

I became more comfortable with my body by choosing to be a vegetarian. My severe adult acne eased up in the process and I felt a surge of energy. I’m not going to be that stereotypical vegetarian who forces my diet on anyone, but honestly, if I had known that there was an alternative as a freshman, I would have felt so much healthier if I had stuck with it. So, next time you compare that gross-looking bland chicken breast in the cafeteria to the pile of steamed broccoli, choose an even bigger pile of broccoli, because it not only adds more protein to your diet, but it adds more calcium than the health department multi-vitamin adds to your regimen.

Either way, every body build is beautiful. Just be the best healthy you that you can be and love yourself to the end.