Vegan Voices: A rewarding transition

Assile Beydoun and Rebecca Henderson share their inspiring tale of choosing a sustainable plant-based lifestyle and leaving behind eco-friendly footprints.



By Farhana Chowdhury

Published: Fri 15 Jan 2021, 4:09 PM

Alysse Beydoun

Five years ago, a transition to a vegan diet and lifestyle completely changed my life. It started as a feeling of compassion towards other animals, but I was fascinated to see the health benefits that came with it - from weight loss to increased energy to finally curing my anaemia - I was seeing my body transform before my eyes. That is when I immediately knew I had to share this with the world. I started Dubai Vegan Community to create a movement to spread awareness and outreach. I am also the author of upcoming book, Lettuce Live Better that helps people transition into a plant-based diet and a vegan lifestyle.

This lifestyle started as a choice to create a more humane and caring world, but really the internal benefits I saw were also fantastic. I know I am not perfect, but I believe I have a responsibility to try and do my best for the animals, for the planet, for my own body.

Discovering veganism

Five years, 10 kgs and 600 bowls of hummus ago, I was at a BBQ for 20 people, and sat right in front of a giant grill that was crammed with hotdogs, beef ribs, chicken thighs, lamb shanks... I wasn't sure how that exact thought came about, but I found myself thinking about how our meat consumption has become too excessive. I was suddenly completely turned off by the idea of eating animals. At that time, I was anxious, anemic and borderline obese. I suffered from low energy, low self-confidence, and was clinically diagnosed with depression. After transforming my ways, my life has changed in two different ways:

Physically: I lost a lot of extra weight and I feel better than I did as a teenager. I have enough energy to exercise every day, I have clearer glowing skin, and I no longer suffer from anaemia. Spiritually: I now know that I am living in alignment with my values, with kindness and compassion, by causing less harm around me. As the sustainability director for a leading FMCG company and as a mom to a six-year-old, I care deeply about the planet we will leave behind for the next generation and a vegan diet is one of the best ways a single individual can make a difference. 

Overcoming obstacles

Though people think it would be with the food choices, it is not. The biggest challenge was dealing with my social circles when I made this decision. There were times when I felt alienated, left out and constantly attacked. I overcame them by being open and honest about my choices, by explaining that this is not a "trend" or a "fad" but a personal choice and an ethical belief. I also made an effort to spread awareness about the great health benefits that most people don't know. I started Dubai Vegan Community to meet like-minded people where I felt a sense of belonging and made a lot of new friends!

Busting myths

One of the biggest misconceptions I hear is, "But I need to eat meat for protein".  This is largely misplaced. The reality is that a varied plant-based diet of whole grains, vegetables and beans can easily meet your daily protein needs without the health risks or moral dilemma of having to consume animal products. Just like the world's most muscular and strongest animals - the gorilla, the elephant, the rhino, and the giraffe - we can get our protein from plants!

Fav dining spot: Home! I have learned to love simple plant-based cooking! But Dubai is an amazing place for delicious vegan food like Soul Sante Café in Dubai Marina or SEVA in Jumeirah.

Fav vegan dish: Anything with lentils or eggplant stew.

Fav vegan brand: I love Eurthlin. It is a luxury cruelty-free brand that specialises in handbags.

Rebecca Henderson

 

I work in facilities management and live with my husband and our nine-year-old rescued dachshund. In June, I will complete my sixth year as a vegan. If I had to describe my journey, it would be a conscious focus on eating more plants.

Discovering veganism

There were few things that pushed us towards veganism. Among them was a documentary film called Earthlings, which was very graphic, and a compelling speech by Gary Yourofsky on animal rights. These two factors led my husband and I to go vegan overnight. The transition was rather simple for us, as we were already vegetarian. It has also encouraged me to be more creative with cooking and we are always on the lookout for new recipes and ingredients to try.

Overcoming obstacles

As a vegan, finding alternatives for recipes I previously enjoyed that contained milk and eggs were one of the major challenges. To ease this and understand the lifestyle better, I'd joined several vegan groups on social media where people from all over the world share ingredient substitutions and recipes. It also encouraged me to try my hand at making my own cheese, alongside sponge cakes, cookies as well as meat substitutes! I think I can make anything vegan now!

Busting myths

One of the common myths I hear is that eating soy means that vegans are contributing to rainforest destruction (as rainforests are being cleared to plant soy). In reality, almost 80 per cent of all soy is fed to livestock. So, I believe that if you want to reduce your soy consumption, then reduce your animal consumption.

Fav vegan dish: Vegan pad thai.

Fav vegan brand: Will's Vegan Store. I found this online store when I was on the lookout for good quality boots in Scotland. They make the best pairs and shoe styles for all seasons, as well as clothing and accessories.

 


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