“I’m going vegan,” I announce to my flatmates one morning over a cup of tea. And I wait. Wait for the hostile responses, the mockery and mild contempt that comes with mentioning the dreaded V word. “Why?” One meat eater asks with a raised eyebrow. And I explain: I want to have an educated opinion on the lifestyle trend gathering pace across the UAE and the rest of the world. So many vegans say that after four weeks of eating plant-based you will lose weight, feel energised and of course sleep easier knowing you are making a positive impact on the environment (animal agriculture causes seven times more greenhouse gas emissions than a vegan diet). The growing community adds that after a month it’s unlikely you’ll go back to your former carnivorous ways. Let’s see, shall we?
After recently discovering Dubai-based, organic and gourmet food service Veganity, the team kindly offered to send me a meal plan for two weeks. From avocado and cacao mousse to mushroom soup, fruit salads and gluten-free pancakes with maple syrup, they made eating plant-based super straightforward and stress-free.
But I must admit, for the first week my stomach ached and felt extremely bloated, which I believe is linked to the increased carbohydrate consumption (I was eating a substantial amount of rice, potatoes and bread) and at the same time my body was detoxing from meat and dairy. Interestingly, after exactly seven days I completely adjusted, and found my stomach was noticeably flatter and my skin clear and radiant.
Eating out in the city was another challenge. Most restaurants failed to understand the difference between veganism and vegetarianism, and I regularly witnessed eye rolls from friends as I asked for various menu changes and ingredient run-downs. On the plus side, I fell in love with Wild and The Moon, a super-cool vegan café serving delicious tacos and vanilla-pod smoothies, and post-brunch junk food cravings were satisfied with moreish vegan pizza from Pinza and tasty cauliflower patty burgers topped with avocado sauce from Vurger.
It’s important to mention that being vegan doesn’t necessarily mean you’re eating healthily (as my junk-food binges highlight). Vegan diets are naturally low in calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin B12, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, so it’s key to stock up on protein from nuts, seeds, lentils, chickpeas, tofu and quinoa. And while it’s true that you can find vegan alternatives – from sausages to butter and cheese – these come with a hefty price tag.
Diet dealt with, next, let’s talk about energy levels. Most evenings I head to the gym with my colleagues for a 7pm HIIT class, and after eight hours of work I find it hard to suppress a yawn or five. But ten days into vegan life, I felt more energised than I ever did in my meat and cheese-feasting days. I completed classes with increased stamina and still didn't feel exhausted by the end. I was seriously impressed.
So, is it worth it? The longer you stick with the lifestyle, the harder it is to veer back to old habits. You start looking at meat and dairy products with a critical eye, and you definitely grow a more thoughtful approach to where your food has come from. And while it’s pretty delicious being a smug vegan, personally, the diet is too restrictive for me to live by devotedly. However, I’m enthusiastic about incorporating more plant-based meals in to my week and reducing my carbon footprint. Going forward, I’m also determined to defend the vegan community. The act of being vegan means you are unfairly judged for being different or difficult, when actually you’re making a pretty great, in both senses of the word, sacrifice for a cause you believe in. And I have a lot of respect for that.
For more information on Veganity’s meal plans, see myveganity.com
Photos: Supplied and Instagram @wildandthemoon