I’ll get straight to the point. For the next seven days I will be embracing a raw food lifestyle. That means no meat, no cheese, no bread and no pasta and among other things. It is going to be tough and I’ll be letting you know how I fare through this online diary, which will be serialised on gulfnews.com every day this week.
To give you a bit of historical perspective, I was a very fussy eater until about the age of 13. I was reluctant to try anything new and for some bizarre reason I freaked out when various different food items touched or overlapped on my plate. No matter how hard my parents tried I refused to move past the traditional British childhood staples of chicken nuggets, fish fingers and beefburgers.
Quiz: Know your food?
Video: A healthy diet?
Things slowly began to change as I progressed through high school. By the time I reached university I was a pretty adventurous eater. However, financial concerns ensured I lived the stereotypical student lifestyle; the one characterised by oven food, pot noodles and takeaways. Fast forward to the year 2010 and I have come full circle since my early teenage years. I will now eat virtually anything, which means there is a whole raft of items I am going to miss this week.
The reason I am doing this? Well I never had much choice. My editor said he wanted to see if I could live like my colleague Jaye Lentin – a full blown raw food vegan – for one week and that was pretty much that. The very notion of me attempting this diet has amused many friends who are used to seeing me tearing into a chicken leg in the early hours of the morning. However, my parents back home in Scotland have vowed to follow the very same diet in a bid to provide moral support. So I will be a raw food vegan for one week and I promise not to cheat; there will be no pies on the sly, I promise...
DAY ONE - Friday, June 4: Off to the market
Weight – 116.2kg (18st 2lbs)
Height – 189cm
No lavish brunches or outings to a suburban supermarket this Friday. I have swapped the gleaming chrome of the supermarket shopping trolley for a rickety-old wheelbarrow at the Fruit and Vegetable Market in Ras Al Khor. As the Scots would say, the place was ‘hoaching’ (very busy) with vendors keen to convince you they have the sweetest mangoes/juiciest watermelons/ripest bananas.
However, I was accompanied by the raw food guru himself, Jaye, and the vendors know not to mess with him; he knows his stuff when it comes to all things fruit. He has visited this market almost every Friday for over a year and he knows every nook and cranny in this maze of fresh produce. About an hour or so later, my wheelbarrow was full with 12 coconuts, 2 boxes of mangoes, a box of bananas, three massive watermelons, three pineapples and a small box of oranges from Lebanon – all of which came to around Dh300. Fruit will form the cornerstone of every meal I have over the course of the next week. There is no real need for lunch today, however, due to the sheer amount of free samples consumed.
I spent the remainder of the afternoon in a semi-conscious state on the sofa drifting in and out of sleep; awakening only for a bowl of orange segments or a handful of carrots. My other half is keen to concoct a few things from an e-book by Dubai-based author Alison Andrews. It contains various raw food recipes – available here - for snacks such as smoothies and lettuce wraps. My afternoon snack, therefore, was a ‘cheese’ made from raw cashew nuts, sun dried tomatoes, garlic and lemon juice, which was washed down with a chocolate milkshake of dates, coconut milk and frozen banana pieces. To be honest it all tasted quite nice and my only real moment of weakness came around six o’clock when I felt a strong craving for a bacon roll.
Bizarrely, in a bid to take my mind off food I spent the evening watching the two people whose lifestyles I was replicating. Jaye and his wife are part of a band and they were performing an acoustic set at a hotel in Satwa. I was given some valuable advice tonight such as to always eat something savoury in the evening (might keep the bacon roll cravings at bay) and, amazingly, to eat as much as I liked, a piece of dietary advice I had never received before. As the night wore on and the decibel level got louder with the arrival of the next band it was time to head home to bed. If there is one thing I have learnt from day one it is that heavy metal and bottled water don’t go well together.