UNLESS you live in a cave, you’ll have noticed that the past two or three years has seen a sudden shift in the health scene. Everyone and anyone is talking about healthier eating options and lifestyles.
The other day I was chatting with a colleague, a 30-something woman who has been eating cheeseburgers consistently and fries for the past X years (with a waistline to match), and even she started talking about chia seeds and “superfoods”. That was when I realised that the healthy eating movement has literally spread everywhere.
Perhaps it’s just a trend, but perhaps it’s also the awareness that lifestyle-induced diseases are really on the rise. About two years ago my father, an avid gardener who managed his own fruit orchard, was diagnosed with hypertension and three blocked arteries. Despite his busy and active lifestyle, it turned out that all those unhealthy meals had begun to take their toll. Simultaneously, all around me, it was evident that office-based work and not practising conscious eating was affecting everyone. Some of my friends, who used to be lean and sinewy, were now overweight and lethargic, and I too was gradually shifting in that direction.
Realising this, two years ago I decided to commit to a promise to become a full vegetarian every Monday, a full day dedicated to eating natural, clean food. I signed the imaginary oath and here I am, two years later, still fulfilling that promise at least once a day every week, all year round.
“Why on earth would you want to be a goat one day a week?” asked a perplexed friend.
PLANT-BASED FOOD AND THEIR BENEFITS
Ironically, the idea of having meat-free Mondays actually came to me one day when I was watching TV while eating a pepperoni pizza. Jamie Oliver was enthusiastically explaining how we need to eat five portions of vegetables a day. Over my half-chewed pizza, I realised that I had only eaten a few slices of cucumber (from a plate of nasi lemak) in the past three days, far from meeting my daily vegetable requirement.
I began to think about the reasons why I had failed to consume ideal dietary portions in my meals. One, I did not consciously make an effort to prioritise vegetables. I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted without really considering nutrition in the whole equation. Two, vegetables are boring. An image of a vegetable dish is usually a bland salad, or worse, overpriced soups that make you hungry again in exactly two hours.
However, committing myself to a full day of vegetarianism seems to have fixed a lot of these issues. For one, I am forced to plan my meals for that whole day. Planning results in conscious eating, which allows me to really think about what I consume. For instance, there really isn’t a point of a meat-free Monday if you end up eating a pile of French fries.
Consciously devoting a whole day to plant-based food is what makes the whole thing more exciting — I find myself going through online recipes for healthy vegetarian options (that’s not salad, thank you very much), and making tasty packed lunches which, let’s be honest, makes it easier on the wallet too.
Much to my perplexed friend’s amazement, I did not at all have to be a goat one day a week, munching on nothing but raw leaves and gulping green juices all day long.
TIPS TO KICKSTART YOUR MEAT-FREE DAY
It has been two years and I have absolutely no regrets about having meat-free Mondays. It’s hard to begin, but once you have the momentum going you’ll find that it’s rather effortless to maintain.
To start, entice yourself by doing a bit of research. You’ll find so many resources that explain the benefits of going vegetarian, even on how it affects the environment! Delve into some appetising recipes online that prove vegetables don’t have to be boring. I’m talking beautiful vegetable curries, tarts, roasts, stir-fries, and yes, even healthy pizzas. They will keep you from missing meat and, more importantly, make the whole vegetarian premise more exciting. I started off with recipes from deliciouslyella.com, but there are hundreds more of these online.
Secondly, go easy. If there’s an office potluck this Monday, you can always be flexible. Switch your meat-free commitment to another day of the week but do follow through with it. Otherwise, it will be like that time you told yourself you’ll clean the closet — you postpone it again and again, and eventually it never happens.
Lastly, remind yourself constantly why you’re doing it. I want to travel and do all sorts of fun physical activities even when I am 50, and this keeps me motivated to look after myself better. Some people are more prone to hereditary diseases (as I am), and this should drive us to keep tabs on our lifestyle.
Whatever it is, there is something for everyone when we make a conscious effort to eat right, especially in tackling vegetable consumption which seems to be a challenge to many people. Hopefully, through initiatives such as meat-free Mondays, we can all encourage ourselves to be healthier, and still be able to try skateboarding when we’re 50.
A GEOSCIENTIST BY DAY AND ASPIRING WRITER BY NIGHT, AMAL GHAZALI
PONDERS ON EVERYTHING, FROM PERPLEXING, MODERN-DAY RELATIONSHIP DILEMMAS TO THE FASCINATING WORLD OF WOMEN’S HEALTH AND WELLBEING. ALL DONE OF COURSE , WHILE HAVING A GOOD LAUGH. READ MORE OF HER STORIES AT BOOTSOVERBOOKS.COM