Do you want to know a sure fire way to gain weight? Do an executive MBA and work full time. Free time becomes the time I spend in the bathroom. Exercise is something that is set for homework by the Professor. And late nights partying is replaced by, well, nothing. Partying is essential to any well rounded MBA, and I got a distinction in event planning and cocktail selection.
Put that together and a year into the MBA I gained at least 10kg. Disaster. At the time I was eating a paleo diet – lots of protein, eaten first. No white carbs (white rice, bread, pasta, potatoes). Some oats and sweet potato. Dairy limited to yoghurt (and ice cream). And vegetables. Minimal fruit.
I don’t know about you, but I love a good diet and exercise fad, so combining the Paleo diet with Crossfit worked well for a while and also gave me lots to preach about. Then came the MBA and I had to gave up Crossfit and scheduled classes, and took up personal training and free weights instead. But despite a 5 day a week exercise regime, I curiously started to get a little softer around the edges.
It was in Tel Aviv last May, 2015, that I expressed to my boyfriend the frustration I felt about my weight and general well-being. He had been reading the China Study, a long-term study of diet in people living in geographically unconnected Chinese regions and suggested the following practical steps for me to take whilst in Israel: fill your plate high with vegetables and eat them first; fill up on them. Next, eat fruit if you want. And only at the end of the meal should you have animal-based products (meat, dairy), a cheeky dessert or bread if you are still hungry. And maybe not drink so much.
I thought it sounded wacko but thought what the hell, I am desperate, I love a good diet fad, I need a distraction, I’ll try it.
Slowly but surely over the space of about seven months to December 2015 I found that I was getting to the end of the vegetable and fruit courses and I didn’t feel like meat or dairy. By January 2016 I found had become an accidental Chegan (a vegan who cheats). It took me another few months to admit it even to myself that I had completely given up consuming animal products.
I am writing this in July 2016 and I essentially eat a plant based diet of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes. I don’t add too much dressing to things. I eat as much nuts and seeds as I want. But I do cheat. From time to time I will have some chocolate or butter or a piece of birthday cake. I won’t have a nervous breakdown if something has egg in it. Or if I want a piece of toast with butter and jam.
For me this balance works. And also, I feel like I am doing my part to save the environment, or at least I can offset my next leather Prada handbag purchase.
I have found that there are enough places now like Whole Foods, Planet Organic, Frame Cafe or Mae Deli that have truly decadent vegan food and desserts – which I eat on a regular basis so that I don’t feel deprived. That is actually an important point. I eat when I am bored or have a lack of aesthetic around me. If I have been in a board room meeting all day whilst the sun is shining outside, then I am desperate for a pizza and a huge piece of cake with ice cream: I eat my aesthetics. So having access to delicious and soul-happy food is essential to make sure I am not feeling deprived.
On top of this, and just to sound completely bonkers, have completely modified the timing of my meals. I used to either intermittent fast until midday and then eat my way into the evening, or have a small breakfast, larger lunch and huge dinner. However from September last year I turned this completely on its head and now I eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.
Let me explain. Breakfast for me now will be very large, often 3 courses. I may then have a snack before lunch if I am hungry, a largish lunch in the early afternoon and then my last snack is at about 5pm. After 5pm I generally don’t eat anything else. If I am hungry before bed I will have a handful of berries or some cucumber (anything low calorie). Below you will find a typical food diary.
I cannot even begin to tell you how great I now feel. My skin is clear, my mind is clear. I lost 10+ kgs super easily. I have heaps of energy where I used to feel sluggish and flat. I don’t get the 3pm slump. I never go to bed feeling that awful fullness that I used to have. I wake up early ready to eat a huge breakfast, but surprisingly I am never starving in the morning. I never worry about counting calories so I don’t beat myself up when I eat something naughty. And I have saved myself 2 hours in evening where I used to think about, shop for, prepare, cook, eat and clean up dinner.
Look, to be honest, if my boyfriend didn’t eat in the same way, then this would be impossible. And it’s harder now to go out and eat exciting and nourishing food, but places are definitely becoming much more vegan friendly. I have also shifted a lot of my socialising to brunches or lunches rather than dinners. At night I would rather go for a walk with girlfriends or my boyfriend rather than to go for dinner or a drink.
I realise that to most people this sounds completely insane. But this is what works for me at this stage in my life and makes me feel happy and energised.
So I bet you are curious, what do I eat on a regular day?
Hot water and lemon
Iron tablet with vitamin B12 (the only vitamin that you can’t get on a plant based diet), vitamin D tablet (I live in London. It is impossible to get enough sunshine).
Vegetable fry up including for example buckwheat noodles, broccoli, zucchini, kale, spinach, za’atar mix (oregano, thyme, sage, sesame seeds), lemon juice, tomatoes
Instead of a fry up I also love soup laden with vegetables or a large salad
Granola with almond milk if I am still hungry at the end or if I need decadent food
Some combination of:
Vegetable crudités and hummus and peanut butter
Punnet of berries
Spoonful of nut butter (lovely drizzled over the berries)
Green smoothie (if not at breakfast)
Very large salad with falafel, quinoa or buckwheat
Piece of fruit
Some delicious gooey vegan dessert like an avocado mousse or a cake or an ice cream
WelleCo vegan alkalising protein shake with almond milk
I realise that to most people this sounds completely insane. But this works for me at this stage in my life, and living this way makes me feel happy and energised. And on that note, I am off to eat a quinoa bowl with vegetables and mushrooms and a gorgeous vegan dessert before it gets too late.
Get to know Alexi Rosenwax, the writer of this article:
Alexi “Lex” Rosenwax is an Australian-born investment principal working in asset management with new market development, corporate strategy, origination and M&A experience, supported by a background in law and management consulting. She holds an Executive MBA from Cass Business School, a double undergraduate degree of Law and Commerce from University of Western Australia (with a semester at Uppsala University, Sweden) and is admitted to the bar in Western Australia and New South Wales, Australia.
Lex is a keen supporter of charities and was involved in her own charitable start up – BT4BC Black Tie for Breast Cancer (www.bt4bc.org) with close friends to raise money for the Prince of Wales Hospital Cancer Centre in Sydney. She also authored the newsletter at, and ran events for, global women’s charity, Zonta. She is currently a Young Patron of The United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA) in the UK. She is a lover of all things aesthetically pleasing including, but not limited to, shoes, bags, summer, hiking, beaches, yoga, boxing, Spanish, vegan food and styling men.