x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Observing Life: Veering towards veggies

I understood that my general lack of well-being was the price I paid for my junk food addiction, but I wasn't ready to give it up. Until I went vegetarian, that is.

I was looking through my bookshelf this morning for my newest vegan cookbook when I stumbled across one of my old diaries, a shabby notebook full of my messy handwriting outlining the thoughts of a 13-year-old me. Instead of getting up to find my shoes so I could head to work, I sat down, cross-legged on my bedroom floor and started leafing through the journal's thin pages, my eyes skimming hastily scribbled paragraphs and my usual obsessive to-do lists.

One of the lists was wistfully titled "Steps to Self-Improvement" and it included such things as a pledge to eat healthier, exercise more and, last but not least, to lose weight. I shudder now when I think about what (and how) I used to eat. My meals back then mostly consisted of chicken burgers, french fries and all sorts of chocolate. I would not touch an actual fruit or vegetable unless it was forced on me. I considered myself fairly healthy for adding lettuce to my double-cheese, mayonnaise-laden chicken burgers and drinking mango juice instead of a can of Mountain Dew.

I subsisted off this unhealthy diet for most of my life. Needless to say, I wasn't faring very well physically or mentally. I felt sluggish and inexplicably tired most, if not all, of the time. I had terrible acne and I felt permanently bloated. I understood that my general lack of well-being was the price I paid for my junk food addiction, but I wasn't ready to give it up. Until I went vegetarian, that is.

I decided to go vegetarian after a morning spent at an animal souq in Oman watching baby lambs frolic as buyers haggled over prices. That night at the dinner table I could not stomach the sight of my usual evening burger. My vegetarianism, which eventually evolved into veganism, launched me on an exciting journey that completely revolutionised the way I felt about the food I ate.

Thirteen-year-old me would be astounded by my current diet. From living off greasy food, high in fat and empty calories, my diet has been transformed completely. I mostly live off fruits and vegetables nowadays, with a decent portion of delicious grains, beans and nuts thrown in for variety. Instead of eating the same thing day in day out, I hardly ever cook the same meal twice thanks to the amazing variety of recipes I have been able to find with a little research.

I eat and feel better than I ever have before. I realise that eating healthy can be challenging, but everyone can start by adding more fruits and veggies to their everyday meals and cutting out overly processed food. The best way to add more fruit to your meal is by trying out this one-ingredient ice cream recipe; just pick a nice ripe banana, chop it up and toss it in the freezer overnight, then blitz it in your food processor until it has a nice, creamy consistency. You can add all manners of yummy things to this recipe and, trust me, you'll never look back.

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