FOR MOTHER’S DAY CELEBRATIONS this year, my sweet daughter Melissa took me to my favourite vegetarian restaurant, Mama Sayang in Taman Desa, Kuala Lumpur.
I love that restaurant because I can always count on its consistent good fare and friendly service. We ordered four dishes to feed two ravenous stomachs. Searing wok hot, flavourful low-sodium fresh greens cooked the Nonya way. Ah! Really hit the spot! It was an occasion for feasting and Melissa and I didn’t want any rice to accompany our meal.
Rice, although plant-based and OK with our vegetarian diet, is what we’ve generally dropped because we both suspect there’s something not quite right about that staple. One doesn’t need to be a Sherlock to realise that it’s this bulk starch that packs on the pounds, making you feel stuffed, bloated and lethargic.
A friend of mine was just talking about the bad effects of rice the other day. He’s 57 and hasn’t touched a grain in 30 years, a practice he believes has helped maintain his waistline at a neat 32 all these years.
But that doesn’t mean we’re anti-carb. He only eats wholemeal bread while we only eat noodles. The light kind. Preferably in soup. With lots of vegetables.
“It’s very easy to lose weight when you’re vegetarian,” I told Melissa. She was marvelling at how much weight I had lost over three months. I have only been fully vegetarian lately, having started and stopped and started again over the past one year. She marvels at how I eat with abandon, never skipping meals, never measuring portions or counting calories. Yet those pounds keep melting off without you caring if they did.
And that was how Melissa was convinced to try the green route. As a three-week old newbie vegan herself, avoiding eggs and even dairy, she reports that she is happy with her new food choice. She gets to explore exciting new recipes and has no withdrawal or craving for meat. Her backache has vanished, her skin has cleared, she is more active and less tired and she is happy she no longer gets those crabby mood swings. Her clothes have also begun to hang loose on her.
“You’ve lost a lot of weight,” she remarked as we were leaving for Mama Sayang that evening. “You’re flat all the way down!” she exclaimed.
Now I am not sure that that’s a compliment. But I have to admit I do look like a clothes hanger when I put on old clothes these days. But that’s because I am wearing sizes that fitted the old me. The new me can slip into skintight leggings and tops two sizes smaller and oh, ladies? Don’t get jealous now, I got my thigh gap back.
My friend, Myza Nordin, 47, also reports miracles. A relatively new vegetarian of about a few months, she says she too has lost weight, has regained her radiant, baby-buttocks smooth complexion and no longer suffers from those brain-damaging sinusitis and migraine attacks she used to get.
“I used to get these very bad migraines almost everyday, along with sinus and I would take very strong medication to control the pain” she said. But after becoming vegetarian, those migraines just disappeared. Well, not completely, she says, she still gets them but the attacks are milder and less frequent. “About once a week now, sometimes once in two weeks but I can easily control them with just an aromatic oil massage and rest.”
Of course all these miracles are just anecdotal evidence; there is no scientific proof to clinically confirm the curative powers of staying off meat. But all of us who have turned to plant-based diets are happy with the health improvements we are seeing.
I’d put it this way. I am 56. I have five large dogs to keep up with. So my mobility and flexibility matter to me. These days I am light on my feet. I can bend down and get up and sprint up the stairs two steps at a time with none of the knee and back issues associated with people of my age. So I’d say, yeah, going green has made me pretty happy.